Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
25 Mar

How I Lost 160 Pounds and Reclaimed My Brain by Going Primal

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

real_life_stories_stories-1-2In June of 2011, I received my Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering at Bilkent University in Turkey, with a GPA of 3.28/4.00 (you will see why I shared my GPA later on.) At that time my weight was 358 lbs. Then I followed up with my Master of Science in Electrical Engineering at Arizona State University. (I am currently doing my PhD in the same program with a MS degree already in hand.) When I realized that I was coming over to a completely different country (even continent), I made up my mind on becoming healthier, taking control over my life and losing the extra weight I had been carrying on for years.

Me & My dad at dinner after graduation ceremony June 2011

One of the first few days I arrived to Arizona State USA January 2012So at first, I started cutting calories, eating very little and exercising regularly. I’m not going to lie: I was losing weight. I had lost about 60 lbs that way in one year. However, I was constantly hungry, lethargic and foggy. After the first semester in my Master’s program, my term GPA was 2.89/4.00. So unless I did something about my health, I was going to fail the graduate program, be kicked out of school and forced to return to my home country. (When you have a GPA of under 3.00/4.00 after one year, you are done.)

Don’t get me wrong. I love my country, but I wanted to build my future here in the USA. So I stopped the calorie counting and exercising for one semester to save my education. I got a 3.78/4.00 (which increased my overall GPA to 3.33/4.00) in the next semester and secured my spot in the university for another year. But with that sacrifice, I gained some of the weight I had lost and was almost close to where I started. On the other hand, I was able to pass my classes with high grades and at the end I actually got my Master’s degree. As soon as that was done, I was admitted to the PhD program, but there was one problem: I was still unhealthy and obese. I knew there was a way to lose all the weight, get high grades and make contributions to the engineering world at the same time. So as any other engineering student would do, I started taking a deeper dive into the research in order to find out how I could get out of the unhealthy habits of dieting to lose weight and actually excel in my study at the same time.

during masters

Enter Primal living. I found out about your blog, which led me to reading peer reviewed publications and amazing books. I wanted to give it a shot because it all made sense. The picture I had understood back then was simple: If I eat what nature provides and keep my body moving/playing, everything will be in order. And like our ancestors, I will strive. It was simple as that, at first at least (after a while, I dug into more research and learned about human biochemistry and everything else, all thanks to you.) So I started eating more fat from good sources. I fell in love with avocados, which I never even tasted back in Turkey. I cut down on my carb intake. I started eating my carbs at dinner on my hard training days. I started enjoying grassfed/pasture-raised healthy ground beef and turkey, which I tried to stay away from for years. I started eating wild caught seafood like salmon, tuna, halibut, cod, scallops and shrimp. Then I finally tried wild caught sardines. OH MY GOD, I love eating sardines now.

turkey

Two years into my PhD program, I have a GPA of 4.00. It’s actually more with all the A+’s I got, but overall GPA does not go above 4.00. :)  What is more is that I now weigh 190 lbs with some of my abs showing up, which you can see in the attached photo. I feel more energetic and more focused than I have ever felt in my entire life. I currently live in Phoenix, AZ where I get my sunlight every day, sleep eight hours every night and eat what nature supplies from our local farmers.

before_after

Let me explain a little bit more about what I did after finding out about Mark’s Daily Apple. After starting to read more and more on MDA, the information resonated with me. I began to understand what I should eat, how I should move, and how and when I should sleep. For example, some of the things I started implementing were: getting eight hours of sleep at night and cutting out the awful-tasting bread slices and “healthy” fruit juices (those sugar filled evil drinks) in my breakfast. For exercise, I stopped running on the treadmill like a hamster, and started lifting some weights like Grok, sprinting every once in a while, and my favorite: just moving around and walking in nature.

February 2016In Phoenix, there are tons of hiking trails and the beautiful sun is out almost 11 months of the whole year. Hence I started hiking more often, discovering new trails and I even started making new friends who were hiking the same trails. One thing I want to share here is that after walking around in nature, I realized that my sleep quality became better. After reading a little bit more about this, I realized that this was thanks to being close to the beautiful vibration of earth and getting the whole spectrum of the sunlight. Here is an example of a weekly workout:

  • 2 days of heavy lifting: 5 reps of squats, deadlifts, over-head press, bent rows
  • 1 day of sprinting or walking on a treadmill
  • 1 day of playing basketball with my friends or hiking

And the rest of the days, I just simply walked or tried to stay active. It was that simple. I was not locking myself inside of a gym for hours and hours. I was just simply applying the good information put out by Mark.

So, thank you so much for putting this outstanding, incredible information out there. I’m trying my best to pay it forward by sharing my story and explaining to other people how a lifestyle change can impact our lives.

Thank you,

Mehmet Bugra Balaban

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. What an amazing transformation! Handsome and super smart. Congratulations and thanks for sharing your story.

    Donna wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  2. Simply awesome!! What a transformation. You should be so proud of yourself. Congrats on the amazing test scores, too!

    Jesse wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  3. Woah!! Congrats on your journey, Mehmet! What you’ve accomplished is truly inspiring.

    Derrick wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  4. Mind blowing. So much good stuff, Mehmet. Keep up the AMAZING work! Everyone here is rooting for you to nab that PhD and start changing the world for the better like you did for yourself. 😀

    Arnold wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) it really takes time to get this PhD done, but as Coldplay sang: nobody said it was easy :) I will see it done

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  5. Great work! Health is key and I can relate to your engineering-root-cause-problem-solving-approach to your health. I originally found Art DeVany, which later led me to Sisson.

    After you start earning some serious money you might start wondering about money and economics- that is if you haven’t done so already. Been there and done that. Applying an engineering approach to the insanity that is modern economics reveals most qualitative economics is bunk. I suggest a few “primal econ” basics: The Law by Bastiat and What Has the Government Done To Our Money by Rothbard. Both free at Mises dot org and quick reads. From one gEEk to another, grok on!

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • You are so right, Paleo Bon. I’m also an Engineer (ME). My research into nutrition resulted in a 3-foot high stack of books and ended up with the Primal Blueprint having a permanent spot on my coffee table. The “right answer” is out there, we just have to go and find it. My research into economics led me to the same conclusions outlined in the Rothbard book (and “Paper Promises,” another good read.) Thanks for providing the information.

      OctoberAmy wrote on March 25th, 2016
      • Von Mises was the man. Krugman on the other hand, is dangerous.

        Noconago wrote on March 25th, 2016
        • Bob Murphy and Tom Woods break down the errs of Paul Krugman each week in the ContraKrugman Podcast.

          Even if one leans toward or walks the Krugman line the show is worth it just to take in an educated and logical alternate view. No need to get your safe space ready, Woods and Murphy’s barbs are objective and gentle.

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) I will keep that in mind

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
      • Mehmet, my pleasure. Regardless if you choose to follow through with the Econ recommendations you should know that Hans Hoppe has chosen Turkey to currently live in. Food for thought.

        Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 25th, 2016
      • Curious, have you coded a Raspberry Pi while eating raspberry pie? It’s techalicious…

        Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 25th, 2016
        • Hahaha. That’s a job for the Digital guys. I mostly work with semiconductor fabrication/testing and material analysis. But I’m also the head Teaching Assistant for Senior Design class so I help a lot of students working with that :)

          Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  6. Wow, WHAT a transformation in body and mind! Congratulations and best wishes to you :)

    BeckyD wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  7. Congratulations, Mehmet! You look awesome. One of the biggest things I notice about grains in particular is the brain fog I seem to get. I’m still eating too many carbs to lose much weight, but I feel good most of the time by eating fresh fruit instead of bread. I’m so happy that you were able to get your grades up. I wish you the best in all of your future endeavors. Enjoy!

    Laura Routh wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  8. A totality of awesomeness!!!!!

    You represent your homeland so well!

    John D wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  9. Great story and congratulations!

    Kitty wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  10. Such an inspiring transformation, Mehmet! Thank you for sharing!

    I love how you took your scientific, investigative, curious, figure-things-out mind beyond your studies…and into your lifestyle. Way to go!

    Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) I’m glad I did it that way which led me to learn a lot more

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  11. Great job thanks for the inspiration!

    Mark wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  12. abicim what a great transformation i am proud of you :)

    ender kulan wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) Eyvallah Ender :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  13. Merhaba Mehmet ve Teşekkürler for a great story. I’m currently in Turkey and really having a hard to adjusting. My transition has been stressful to say the least. Aside from connecting geographically, your story about eating correctly and clearing your head really not home!

    Julian wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Hit home

      Julian wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) I hope you enjoy your time there, I will be visiting Turkey this summer, can’t wait

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  14. May I ask what sort of food people eat in Turkey?

    It’s pretty well known that Americans got obese from the Food Pyramid, refined carbohydrates, dwarf wheat, high fructose corn syrup, and vegetable seed oils, all of which are generally American inventions. Does Turkey have all those crap foods? If not, may I ask how people can become obese in Turkey?

    oxide wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • They eat a lot of wheat bread, which is a staple. They also eat a lot of sugar and sweets. And not just Turkish delight.

      Anna wrote on March 25th, 2016
      • Anna kind of already answered your question. The food pyramid is somewhat similar. But fast-food chains like McD, BK, Dom, KFC are everywhere around the world which were the main reasons I was obese. If you look for crap, you will find crap anywhere in the world unfortunately.

        Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  15. Wow,Mehmet, what a story!! The physical transformation is amazing, but it’s equally cool that you are getting even better grades and truly enjoying life. Thanks for the inspiration!! (Oh, and I’m crazy for sardines too!)

    Elizabeth wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) Go Team Sardines!! I can’t have enough of them and to celebrate this I shall have some tonight :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  16. Straight outta Turkey, indeed. Love the health and humor in your story. Congrats.

    Noconago wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) Bringing smiles to people’s faces always bring more smiles on my face :) I’m glad you enjoyed it

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  17. critical thinking and perseverance – life skills that will make you a successful engineer and person.

    Michael wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  18. Love the workout regime! And with that reminder, I am going to shut off my computer and take the dog for a walk (in nature). Thanks!

    Christina wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) I feel like kettlebells today for some reason :) But I’ll do a long walk this weekend

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  19. Amazing transformation! Congratulations to you. Here is my favorite sentence of the whole thing: “I stopped running on the treadmill like a hamster, and started lifting some weights like Grok,”

    Jenny wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) Yeah, not that I have anything against hamsters but treadmill and I are not best buddies for sure :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  20. I am absolutely speechless! This type of post are so motivating! Great work and keep on motivating others :)

    Olivia Ramsey wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) I will definitely do that

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  21. Thank you everyone for the responses so far. You can add me on social media @BalabanMB everywhere (facebook, instagram, twitter) if you have any specific questions about what I do. I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on the web but I can tell you what I do :) Or we can communicate through here as well :)

    Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 25th, 2016
  22. Another Sun Devil! It’s a delight to have you at ASU. If you ever come to the Polytechnic campus’ gym then I hope to run into you!

    Christopher Henderson wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) Same here if you ever come to Tempe campus

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  23. Wow! So impressive! I like the “engineering” approach! You took a really difficult problem and you SOLVED it! I bet your family is very proud and happy for you.

    On the intelligence aspect, I’m 55, and the more closely I stick to the primal way of eating, the smarter I feel (no GPAs to prove it, but I’m 100% sure). My short-term memory is definitely *improving* — should be going the other way at my age! :)

    In fall 2015, I ate a few pieces of bread and some cake at a dinner party, and it took me 2 days to get over the brain fog. No more!

    MIssJelic wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Yeah I’m glad I solved it on my own. it led me to learn a lot :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  24. Thank you, handsome Mehmet, for that inspiring story! What incredible progress you made-mentally and physically!

    Chris wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  25. Great story. Great transformation. I love how the interwebz brings people from all over the world together with a common goal of regaining health and vigor. Keep on paying it forward.

    David wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) I will

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  26. Such a great story! Your positive attitude adds to the inspiration! 3 weeks into my primal journey, I’ve lost almost 10 pounds by eating more fat and less hamster running on the treadmill. Can’t wait to see my transformation look as great as yours

    Sandy wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) Good luck on your journey. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I hope you’ll keep that in mind :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
      • Trust me, I know! My real journey began in 2008 when I was almost 200lbs at 5’3″ after having my son. I lost all the weight, but after moving to a different state this past summer, I burned myself out with cardio, diet restriction, bad diet advice from others (LOAD up on carbs…you need them. Um no, I don’t!). I lost a lot of my strength gains and endurance. And I gained fat…alllll around my midsection. Really only gained about 5 pounds so I’m lighter now than I was when I was already at a “normal weight”. But NOW, I have energy, I’ve lost that midsection fat and I know I can work on getting those strength gains back! Heck of a marathon, but I’ll take it!

        Sandy wrote on March 27th, 2016
        • correction: I don’t need carbs they way they told me I do :)

          Sandy wrote on March 27th, 2016
  27. Fantastic! You look great. Very inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing and paying it forward. Hope you continued success in all aspects of your life.

    Debbie wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  28. Astounding! Shared it with my threadmill hamster friends. I do my best to refrain from bringing out that good ol’ religion sermons; but stories like this inspire me to inspire others. Thanks.

    Robert wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :) World needs “hamsters” :) But definitely less of them

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  29. Yay, good grades and some ab muscles. Fantastic!

    Vanessa wrote on March 25th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  30. Great story Mehmet – you look fantastic! Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

    Grokesque wrote on March 26th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  31. Congratulations Mehmet! You’ve really transformed yourself, and all while excelling in a rigorous PhD program. I’m sure your family in Turkey will be amazed by the ‘new’ you.
    I know too well how much bread is eaten in your country–I lived up the street from an Ek-Mek (pardon my bad spelling_) bakery when I lived in Inçirlik. The aroma tempted me everyday! Coupled with all of the sweet chai everyone serves constantly, it’s a wonder the whole country isn’t obese and diabetic.
    Keep up the good work, and enjoy the sunshine!

    Jessica wrote on March 26th, 2016
    • Thank you :) Yeah bread can very dangerous there as we’d like to have them every meal

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  32. Wow…That’s definitely one of the more impressive transformations I’ve seen. Great work man! Congratulations on meeting your goals and then some!

    Mitchell wrote on March 26th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  33. Badass transformation. Are you doing the strong lifts 5×5 program?

    BJJ Caveman wrote on March 26th, 2016
    • Thank you :) Not necessarily, but I do those movements. I don’t hit 5×5 every time.

      PS. I read a lot about what you put on your website at some point as well. All your n=1 experiments and results were great….. assuming you’re that bjjcaveman :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  34. Rad. I live in tucson, that arizona sunshine can’t be beat!! :)

    Hannah wrote on March 26th, 2016
    • Thank you :) Yeap I love it

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  35. That is one fabulous motivating story. Congratulations on your success. A primal lifestyle led to that success, but your determination amazes me.

    JJ wrote on March 26th, 2016
    • Thank you :) Adjusted lifestyle just needed some time to work its magic :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 26th, 2016
  36. Thanks for your story!

    Organic Mars wrote on March 26th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 27th, 2016
  37. Greatly motivating story, Mehmet! Thank you so much for sharing it! The pics are wonderful. You are cute, funny and sexy! Good for you!

    Denise Mooney wrote on March 27th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 31st, 2016
  38. OMG, that is sooo amazing!!!! Such a good work. Only one question: how on earth did you manage to have no loose skin after such a weight loss??

    gin wrote on March 27th, 2016
    • I actually do :/ It’s just under my super strong-sexy arm 😛 :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 31st, 2016
  39. Congratulations! Graduate school is a long haul, and I’m glad you will have your health–and a fog-free brain–to help you get through.

    Patricia wrote on March 27th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 31st, 2016
  40. What a wonderful story. I’m glad you found your true self Mehmet……good on you and keep up the great work!

    Ivan Bader wrote on March 27th, 2016
    • Thank you :)

      Mehmet Bugra Balaban wrote on March 31st, 2016

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