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

I Am in Harmony with My Body and Mind for the First Time in a Long Time

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 2Hi Mark,

It is an honor to be able to submit a Friday real life success story. I have gained so much from your website, books, and the shared stories within. I can only hope that my tale may help someone else start walking on their own primal path.

A decade ago, where I’ll begin my own story, I was so far away from health and a healthy lifestyle that today truly is like a new life for me.

While each present Friday I can enjoy clicking on Mark’s Daily Apple for updates, information, and inspiration, 10 years ago, each Friday I was making a weekly sojourn to my dermatologist where I would be receiving hearty injections of methotrexate to combat a severe case of psoriasis.

I began to exhibit symptoms of psoriasis in my late teens, and it slowly and surely progressed from a few dime size spots, to a head-to-toe calamity by the time I was 30. This left me with inflamed and painful skin, and the added bonus of the startings of psoriatic arthritis, a condition that progressively had me walking and moving about like I had cobbler’s nails in my shoes. Just imagine that your epidermis is an ill-fitted suit, a few sizes to small, and quite unsightly. That’s about where I sat.

Stepping back just a few years more: I was born in England, and moved with my family to America, and Cleveland proper, when I was 8 years old. I was raised, dietetically speaking, having British parents, and American friends, and thus ate a hybrid Britannic/Standard American diet. That included English delicacies such as beans on toast, pork pies, assorted sweets, crisps, and pop, to everything a growing American boy would want: McDonalds, burgers, pizza, and pop. Despite my prodigious food intake, I was always healthy and active, and had those ruddy cherubic cheeks that I though meant good health through my teenage years.

But as time marched on my diet became equally unsightly. Despite working as a cook for many years in a quaint Italian, make-it-from-scratch restaurant, knowing my way handily around a kitchen, and having been trained by great cooks; left to my own devices my diet became, in a word, horrific.

At almost 30 I had begun my career as an outreach social worker, which had in turn springboarded a latent smoking habit to unforseen levels, and left me largely as a “dashboard diner” on a daily basis. I fell into pattern of eating by proximity, meaning if it came near me, I ate it.

It is hard to admit that a not uncommon breakfast would have been a packet of Ho-Hos, a big Pepsi, and a couple of Camels….ughh. Lunch would be something equally sinister, and for dinner, I would prepare a nice carb-laden meal replete with breads, pastas and hearty desserts. I believe I would have eaten a house brick if it was properly seasoned.

During this span of time I gained 50+ pounds. There I was, cigarettes, soft drinks, and a belly full of foods, that were only food in the sense that they can be ingested. It is no wonder my skin and autoimmune system was launching a full stage rebellion against me.

After several repeated blood tests showed that the methotrexate was affecting my liver function, I opted to stop that treatment all together, and just lived, however limited, with what I was beginning to accept as a chronic illness that made each progressive day just a little bit harder.

I would rely heavily on every lotion, ointment, and emollient that I could get my hands on to get me through the day. Most mornings I would find myself having to douse my skin in several lotion concoctions just to be able to get out the door to work, and I’m certain that on a bad day I would have single-handedly affected the strategic petroleum reserves.

Through all of this, most thankfully, my wife was unequivocally supportive and loving, which I credit for really getting me through that trying and difficult time.

It is, as I found out, easy to feel hopeless and lost in a cycle of futile behaviors that only perpetuate each other.

photo1 8

This first photo shows me inflamed and sweating in front of the Biltmore Estate on an otherwise lovely vacation. One of the pains of psoriasis at my degree was that it relegated me to long sleeves and pants on the hottest of summer days. My activity level at this time had been reduced to next to nothing. While I used to love to bike and lift weights in my early 20′s I had since given up on doing either of those, or anything above the most modest level of movement.

I had married my lovely wife during this time, and had begun to see my family physician instead of a dermatologist as I no longer had any health insurance. I was knocking at 250 lbs, had borderline high blood pressure, and any number of other risk factors. My doctor had sagely advised me on losing weight and eating healthy, he also advised me against taking any more oral steroid medications due to risky side effects; the steroids had been a a quick-fix measure I had often fell into yet offered no long-term resolution. At this point, I was just hoping for a break.

I had always vowed that given a chance I’d do my best to get my life back on track. Shortly thereafter I spied a secondhand UVB phototherapy machine for sale locally. UVB therapy treatment’s a time-consuming and expensive treatment that I had never tried before, but always been interested in. I was able to get support from my doctor to begin treatments in my own home.

Within a few weeks, I had begun to clear my skin enough to begin “moving again.” This started off with creaky painful walks , of 1/2 to 1 mile, then 1 to 2 miles. I then made up my mind to quit smoking, which thankfully I did, and then I finally got back on my bike after a 10 year hiatus, pedaling, literally, till the cranks broke off the bike.

Unfortunately, through all of this I still never saw the corrolary between diet and my illness. I was always treating it from the outside in. With ointments, topical steroids, occlusive dressings, but I never was seeing, what I so clearly see now – that what I was putting into my body was the probable cause of inflammation in the first place. I then spent the next several years fighting my way back to relative “health.”

photo2 6

This photo shows me with what I then considered a “healthy meal”- the endless bowl of whole wheat pasta, of course with the obligatory garlic bread.

I was no longer smoking, and I was working out daily, but my diet was far from healthy. Pepsi was still an everpresent companion, as were sugary snacks and heavily processed foods of suspect origins and varieties. I was so jumping-for-joy happy to be moving and back in the land of the living that I still wasn’t putting all the pieces together. My workouts at this time were all over the place. I would spend an hour on the elliptical at full speed, then get so hungry I could eat my own shoe soles, and within 15 minutes of being back home I would have systematically put back on all the calories I just expended. I would “lift weights,” but in essence I would do 150 sets of bench presses and curls, with no compound movements or variety at all.

The fortunate part is that i discovered that the human body is indeed a forgiving thing. After all the toxins I had ingested, and put into my body, I showed huge gains in that first year and a half. Within one year I went from biking one mile painfully to a 100 mile bike ride, from bench pressing 130 lbs to 275. Then from running two miles on a treadmill to my first half marathon (admittedly I couldn’t walk for two days afterwards, but sometimes you need a goal to keep you going). But my workout routine, as thankful as I was for it, felt just like that, routine…

I was still largely tethered to using a UVB machine regularly, still using topical steroids frequently, and still not losing weight despite what I thought was the standard accepted workout. Treadmill, elliptical, lift repeat…..

Then fortuitiously I went to visit my best friend “Ed,” a helluva personal trainer in Chicago. He was supportive as always, and thrilled to hear about my newfound energies, and he handed me a book within a few minutes of arriving called The Paleo Diet. He explained the science behind it and told me first thing I should do when I get home is look at Mark’s Daily Apple.

This, most thankfully, I did, and I quickly devoured all the information I could on The Primal Blueprint, the science and what I saw as a simple approach to the primal lifestyle. I remained in touch with Ed as he guided me to the leaping off point into my full primal escapade. I purchased The Primal Blueprint and cookbook on January 1st, 2012.

One year ago this week I began my primal journey. This included giving up all those things that had been holding me back on truly seeing my full potential.

Dietary:

A Coda for Soda: Since childhood, I had been a Pepsi hound, but when really seeing this is just a calorie and sugar delivery vehicle, it was easy to let go of it. Now it’s water or nothing. Despite its reputation for flammability, Cleveland’s water supply is delicious and clean right out of the tap, and I drink it by the gallon.

Against the Grains: I was always a “bread guy.” I always thought the healthiest part of any meal was that hearty helping of bread; pita, Italian, toast, chips, crusts, bagels, waffles…you name it and I normally ate it by the faceful. I can truly say I don’t miss it at all.

I rediscovered my cooking mojo. I’ve always known how to cook, but now I really and truly appreciate the art and fun of cooking again. I’ve learned so many new recipes from the primal/paleo community that I truly know I will never be hungry again. And I finally realize what food is, and what it isn’t. I won’t go into details, other than that I appreciate the simple delicacies of food more than I could ever have imagined.

And how has this affected me over one year?

Following the 80/20 model, my skin has been 98% clear with no steroids/anti-inflammatory needed, and I’m sure that if/when I go to the next level I will be 100% clear.

I now know what calmness of body feels like. I used to literally feel like a boiler, and all the foods I was ingesting were systematically inflaming me through and through. Now I feel like a…well I can’t think of an exact comparison, but something so much more efficient, tuned up, stable… If you follow the Blueprint, you’ll know this feeling soon enough.

I went from a size 38 waist to size 32, from 215 lbs to 175 lbs. And I have energy for days on end.

I was also able to take those warm-weather beach vacations, something I hadn’t been able to do in a long long time.

Here are two photos of my wife and I for a before and after comparison:

photo3A 1 photo3B 1

My workouts are also radically different. I left my gym membership and built a primal garage gym: homemade pull-up, dip bar, gymnastic rings, sandbag training, jump rope, dumbbells and kettlebells.

I lift heavy things, run like a middle-aged mountain lion, and do farmer’s walks up and down the yard in all seasons.

A great addition to my workout routine has been my dog (Olive). We go to the park, to run and sprint in the wind, snow and rain. We hurdle up hills, jump, play frisbee, hike and hug. If you model an afternoon at the park after your dog’s behaviors, trust me, you’re having a primal good time.

I work out frequently, with high intensity, for a short or long duration depending on what my body tells me, and always fully enjoy it.

Four months into my primal journey last year I ran a Tough Mudder here in Ohio with great group of people. I finished without worry, and woke up the next day feeling splendid and not even a tweak of soreness; a true testament to the primal workout regimen.

photo4A 1 photo4B 1

My skin? It is quiet, clean, and natural. I am in harmony, for lack of a better word, with my body and my mind for the first time in a long time. The best part is, I still feel like this is just the beginning. Just one year in and these are my results! I can’t wait for the next year, or the next 20 for that matter. I’m blessed with a beautiful wife, and a beautiful life as these pictures clearly illustrate :).

I’d like to think that the improvements make a better husband, friend and social worker.

I can’t say whether the Primal Blueprint will help all those who suffer from psoriasis, but I can truly say it has worked for me and urge you to try it too.

I am indebted to my wife, who supported me through thick and thin, and to MDA for showing me weekly, and daily, how to live the life you truly envision.

Sincerely,

Craig

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. this story made me realize that mark needs to have his own primal blueprint rubber wristbands! and dam this guy is the shiz haha

    brandon clobes wrote on March 8th, 2013
  2. Your wife must feel like she won the lottery! Yikes, what a transformation! Congratulations and best wishes to you both.

    Siobhan wrote on March 8th, 2013
  3. Loved your story! I grew up around Akron (same general area as Cleveland), so I’m familiar with gray, cloudy days. The Cleveland area is one of the cloudiest in the country. I went to college is Cincy and the weather was radically different – as in, what’s that bright orb in the sky? I still have a soft spot for Ohio and still have family there, but I’ve gotta have sunlight! All the best in your new life.

    BootstrapsOnMyFivefingers wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • Thanks so much, my wife is from Akron. Sunshine is always welcome here, sometimes you just have to imagine it though! Thanks

      Craig wrote on March 8th, 2013
  4. Craig, you look incredible! I did a double take to make sure it was the same person, but of course, that cheeky English grin gave you away!

    I think the difficult part for most people, is making the connection between diet/environmental exposure and illness. Actually, it doesn’t even have to be illness, it can be merely a “lack of wellness”. Unfortunately, doctors are too often clueless in this regard, being trained to treat the symptom rather than discover the cause.

    Because of your story, I’ll bet there are a lot of light bulbs going on out there…..

    Best wishes!

    Helga wrote on March 8th, 2013
  5. What an awesome transformation! Thanks, Craig, for sharing your story
    :-) The hubby in the before pic is smiling, but suffering; the one in the after pic is a new man, rocking a tan and just beaming! It breaks my heart to hear how you underwent years and years of pain, but how wonderful you have found the natural path back to health. Many years of health and happiness to you and your mrs.

    Carol B wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • Thank you, that about sums it up:)

      Craig wrote on March 8th, 2013
  6. A fabulous and inspiring story, and I love the way you can turn a phrase; my favorite is “primal good time”. I’m going to remember this as I go out this weekend to do the same with my favorite canine. Thanks so much for sharing with the community.

    Trish wrote on March 8th, 2013
  7. Your results are inspiring! You are also a wonderful writer! I LOVE FRIDAYS!

    JoAnn wrote on March 8th, 2013
  8. Craig. you have tenacity and found a path out of a grueling situation. I am inspired by your story as I follow a path out of having eczema. Thank you for sharing such a great inspirational story along with the before and after pictures. II think you are quite a guy with a terrific wife who is not only beautiful, but supportive. Way to go!

    Starr Saam wrote on March 8th, 2013
  9. Wow!! Craig, this is such an awesome story. So inspirational! This definitely has to be one of the best success stories I’ve read in a while. Congrats and keep up the great work!

    Ashlys Gone Primal wrote on March 8th, 2013
  10. I love these stories that highlight the unexpected benefits of the diet. The effects not typically credited to diet. What we eat really does effect how we function. What a novel idea!

    Joshua wrote on March 8th, 2013
  11. Wonderful writing, Craig, and wonderful transformation! I’m thinking you should have your own blog–love the English humor! Thanks for the inspiration!

    Connie wrote on March 8th, 2013
  12. This is the best transformation I’ve seen on here so far – you just look so happy!

    Julia wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • Thank you, Craig, for putting diet and skin together so powerfully. For those who still battle these skin disorders even after going primal, the missing piece for me was discovering histamine intolerance. (There are some extremely helpful posts on histamine intolerance on the MDA forums.) I’d assumed I had a lot of severe environmental allergies that made my skin inflamed, even though the blood tests I’d taken showed only very mild allergies. Primal eating and a daily antihistamine made my excema/psoriasis/frequent hives more manageable, but a recent two-week experiment with making and drinking large amounts of coconut-water kefir nearly put me in the hospital! The histamines I ingested in foods were making me super-reactive and inflamed in response to even mild allergens. Kefir (and fermented foods generally) is very high in histamines, as, alas, are my erstwhile primal stapes of canned sardines, sauerkraut, tomatoes, and red wine. Eliminating these and staying primal has made a world of difference.

      Congratulations, Craig! You look radiantly happy and well.

      MD wrote on March 8th, 2013
  13. Fantastic story, Craig! Congratulations on your amazing transformation and being able to finally conquer psoriasis which seems like it must have been quite a trial to live with. Best wishes to you and thanks for sharing.

    Tina wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • And, thanks for that tidbit about the Primal gym. May steal that idea. You look GREAT!

      Tina wrote on March 8th, 2013
      • Thanks so much, the simple primal gym set up, accessible at any time, has really been a great thing .Best wishes to you!.

        Craig wrote on March 8th, 2013
  14. Craig, You are a great ambassador for whole living! There is one thing your forgot to mention…how your changes have inspired others. For example, two of your sisters in law! Watching you over the last year has been such an inspiration to me. Thank you for that. Thank you for introducing me to MDA (I finally signed up for a username today) and helping to lead me to the path I am on now. Thank you for your kindness and encouragement. It means the world to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    UnderFattack wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • Thanks so much! I was indeed remiss in not mentioning you , but you were there with me, and i truly, truly appreciate that. Can’t wait to read your story:)

      Craig wrote on March 8th, 2013
  15. so many changes its amazing :) look how bigger and brighter that smile got

    steffo wrote on March 8th, 2013
  16. Great story! Very inspiring, keep it up!

    Samuel wrote on March 8th, 2013
  17. Wow, you look amazing! And congrats on quitting smoking and beating the psoriasis.

    b2curious wrote on March 8th, 2013
  18. Same here…eczema all over my hands for three years. Go paleo and live!

    Victor Vianale wrote on March 8th, 2013
  19. Craig – your story is so inspiring! Great work!

    How long did it take before you started noticing a reduction in psoriasis? I don’t smoke, and I am about 4 weeks primal and it seems like my scalp psoriasis is getting worse before getting better.

    Amy wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • I was fortunate in that I got a head start in clearing from the UVB machine, but it took 6 weeks before I really saw an appreciable difference. I think it takes that long for your system to reboot so to speak. Best of luck to you , Thanks!

      Craig wrote on March 8th, 2013
      • Thanks for responding, Craig. Since I am still adjusting to primal I will wait a few more weeks before trying an elimination diet.

        Amy wrote on March 9th, 2013
  20. Fantastic story, love reading these in Scotland every Friday night. Well Done, what a transformation!

    Caro wrote on March 8th, 2013
  21. Craig – What inspiration!! your story brought tears to my eyes. your new lease on life is nothing short of spectacular. congratulations to you and your obviously kick-ass wife. life is good.

    Heather wrote on March 8th, 2013
  22. LOVED this one! You look SO much younger in your pictures, it’s crazy.

    Kristi wrote on March 8th, 2013
  23. wow, I’m so impressed! Would love to see an update in a year!

    Patrick wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • Thanks, i’ll look forward posting one.. full steam ahead till next year!

      Craig wrote on March 8th, 2013
  24. Just Brilliant. A wide-eyed and arm raised Holy Sh*t!salute to you.

    Yours and Shane’s (he’s the one who documented his year on Primal with Excel spreadsheets) are the most motivating to me, as I am in my late 30′s and have a young son. It’s true, after some inital pain of adjustment, your body is very forgiving. I’ve dropped 13 pounds (193 from 206, and I’m 6′ 1″ non-smoker) since January following a 60/40 Primal rule.I’m gradually moving to the 80/20 and beyond.

    I managed to get a case of ‘idiopathic’ hives on my body when we were expecting our son last year. I do remember at the time putting an excessive amount of whole grains in my system (Pasta, Pizza, Bread). I mercifully no longer have hives, but it was a 2 month ordeal I’d rather forget.

    It sounds like your wife loves a man she can respect, and if you struggled but didn’t give up, it’s no wonder she’s by your side. I got one of those too. Of course humor and cooking skills are also good hooks.

    Keep on kicking ass/arse!

    George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • Thank you! All the best to you in your success. Hope your every step you take is a good one forward!

      Craig wrote on March 8th, 2013
  25. In a venue of consistently inspiring stories, yours is among the best. Congratulations and Thank You to Craig and to your lovely wife for joining you on this journey!

    Mike M wrote on March 8th, 2013
  26. Great Story! I can relate since I have Seborrheic Dermatitis which two Dermatologists have told me is incurable and I will have for the rest of my life. I always hating getting hair cuts. 2 months on paleo and guess what, 90% gone (along with my acne, aches & pains, +++) Apparently its a from of yeast and what does yeast live on? Sugar! Haha. Think of all the yeast thriving in bread. Glad I’m no longer feeding it! I happily got a hair cut just recently– embarrassment fee! Loving my new life :)

    Katie wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • That is great to hear Thanks!

      Craig wrote on March 9th, 2013
  27. Craig, I am so excited for you. My story is
    Almost the same. My trigger is any dairy. Primal blue print has “saved my bacon”. My psoriasis was so bad that anything other than water gave me chemical burns. My active life style was squashed. I am now a MDA evangelist. I am now compleatly cured, no more arthritis or psoriasis!

    Queenbolete wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • That is so wonderful to hear. Preach on! and I’ll do the same ;)

      Craig wrote on March 8th, 2013
  28. Congratulations Craig! My husband had eczema and seborrheic dermatitis all his life (along with most of his family members). We found by accident that Bentonite clay helped. But after going Primal, his skin problems disappeared altogether. Gone!

    I hate the term auto-immune. I feel the medical establishment uses it for conditions they don’t understand the root cause of. I have an acquaintance with Psoriasis that will not consider modifying her diet because her doctors have told her diet has nothing to do with her problem. GAH! Another friend just had her appendix and gall bladder out, and is now being treated with chemotherapy (!!!) for “auto-immune” disease because she continues to have inflammatory digestive system issues – they can’t figure out so they’ve labeled it auto-immune. Double-GAH!!

    I’m so glad you found the way to treat yourself and lead a better life.

    Pure Hapa wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • Couldn’t agree more. It’s so unfortunate that people put so much trust in doctors, especially in the Information Age where we have so much access to anecdotal evidence.

      Ara wrote on March 9th, 2013
  29. The last two pictures say it all…
    GROK ON!

    skeedaddy wrote on March 8th, 2013
  30. Hi Craig,

    Another Craig from Sydney, Australia looking for your perseverance and paleo success!

    Great work! I hope one day I can get the same results.

    Regards,

    Craig

    Craig wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • Thanks & Cheers to your perseverance! wishing you all the best & success! Craig

      Craig wrote on March 9th, 2013
  31. Congrats Craig! You look absolutely bloody fantastic. I hear you with the old notion ‘health comes from within’. When you feed the body with real food it rewards you with energy, vitality, a mental clarity and not to forget – clear skin! Keep it up, your journey is inspiring. I love the garage idea, and your wife is smokin’ :)

    eggsforalice wrote on March 8th, 2013
  32. Craig, you rock! Our whole office is gushing over how awesome your photos are. Way. To. GO! You must feel amazing after all these years being trapped in your own body. GROK ON!!!!

    Nick wrote on March 8th, 2013
  33. Another disease process bites the dust. Just goes to show how desperately those eating SAD need EDUCATION. Congratulations on the health transformation!

    Erin wrote on March 8th, 2013
  34. Well done sir! Do you know the chef Michael Ruhlman? He lives in Cleveland.

    Paleon Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • I know of him only. location-wise,
      I think I am fortunate in that Cleveland has really proven to be a simple location to go primal/paleo.
      There are whole, natural, organic, locally sourced items everywhere, and always within a short jaunt on the bike or by car. that makes a huge difference in meal planning.

      Craig wrote on March 8th, 2013
  35. Love your story Craig.

    I also suffer from Psoriatic arthritis. It was my search for a non-medical solution that led me to this site. I don’t wish to be taking methotrexate for the rest of my life. Two months down the track and I’ve gone from 85.5kgs to 78.5.

    I’ve started crossfit and I can say that I’m feeling the best that I have for years (I’m 52). The arthritis is slowly clearing and I can’t wait to finally tell the rheumatologist that his services are no longer required. I just know that he won’t believe that I’ve fixed myself by diet alone.

    Well done sport! You look great. Finally, a big thank you to Mark Sisson. I’m now one of the 10,000,000.

    Spiny Norman wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • That is such wonderful news! All the best to you in your success story!

      Craig wrote on March 8th, 2013
  36. Wonderfully inspiring! It’s sure worked for you…and happily, for me too. How did we ever get fooled into eating garbage thinking it was good for us??

    Cathy Johnson (Kate) wrote on March 8th, 2013
  37. Great success story Craig – congratulations!

    Lisa wrote on March 8th, 2013
  38. Fabulous & Congratulations! I am going to remember you next time i eat 200g of almond-filled milk chocolate in a row (which happens very rarely, but, still). :)

    You look great and your wife is very beautiful (tell her!).

    Patrícia wrote on March 8th, 2013
  39. This was such an inspiring story to read today. Craig, congrats on this new amazing life of yours. I can’t imagine what relief you must feel not having to suffer from the constant skin issues every day. And what a lucky man you are to have a faithful companion through it all. This whole story just makes me happy!

    sapphiric wrote on March 8th, 2013
  40. Wow! Amazing progress. You are an inspiration to all of us with skin ailments.

    TornadoGirl wrote on March 8th, 2013

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple