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. That is one awesome story! :)

    Sarah wrote on March 8th, 2013
  2. Great story! Awesome for you, and inspiring for everyone. Congrats on taking control and making your life your own again. I do love Fridays!

    HB wrote on March 8th, 2013
  3. Great testimony Craig. As a fellow sufferer of whole body psoriasis I wonder if you continue light and topical therapy for the control. I have only been on the paleo diet for a couple of months and the skin improvement is minimal though my fat loss has been explosive. My uv is only sun but being in FL makes that exposure pretty regular. Any secrets would be greatly appreciated.

    Jimmy wrote on March 8th, 2013
    • Thank you. I do use the light therapy during the dark winter days as Cleveland has very very few sunny days between december thru february, that in conjunction with the diet keeps me clear and steady. Best of luck to you!

      Craig wrote on March 9th, 2013
  4. Craig, I am just as impressed with your great attitude when you were struggling to find solutions as I am with your fantastic transformation once you obtained that vital information, that was a key to your success IMO.

    George wrote on March 8th, 2013
  5. Great and inspiring story!

    Serge wrote on March 9th, 2013
  6. Like you I have a hot wife who married me when I was a sloppy neolithic mess. Hats off to our spouses, let’s raise a glass of Cleveland tap water! Well-written and inspiring, thanks.

    Barefootking wrote on March 9th, 2013
    • I’ll drink to that:) Thanks.

      Craig wrote on March 9th, 2013
  7. Fantastic story. I love Fridays here.

    Jack wrote on March 9th, 2013
  8. Hi Craig, i thoroughly enjoyed reading your story. I too am from the Cleve! even in the cold here i make sure to take advantage of our park system. Makes for great exercise and it is so peaceful. Good luck on your journey!

    alison wrote on March 9th, 2013
    • Thank you! I’m fortunate to be just a short walk/jog from several entrances to our Metroparks. Cleveland really does have a lot to offer us. Best of luck to you too.

      Craig wrote on March 9th, 2013
  9. You called it “pop” instead of “soda.” That’s a sign of a Clevelander right there!

    Impressive results! I have skin problems, too, that are pretty stubborn, but that could be because I’m all-or-nothing and haven’t struck balance yet, even in four years of eating this way. This gives me hope still!

    Deanna wrote on March 9th, 2013
  10. Amazing transformation!

  11. Craig, wow…thank u so much for this very inspiring story & photos…u & ur wife look beautiful, esp together!!! I am so happy for u both!!!

    Denise wrote on March 9th, 2013
  12. Thanks for sharing your story, it’s awesome! I hope that it gets shared many times over and reaches others in need of this information.

    Ara wrote on March 9th, 2013
  13. Thank you for sharing! I just sent this to my sister who takes methotrexate for psoriatic arthritis. I hope she reads it.

    Sarah wrote on March 9th, 2013
  14. Wow. You look 15 years younger now. And happy. You look really happy. Such a great story. Thanks for sharing it.

    meat with a side of meat wrote on March 9th, 2013
  15. What a fantastic story – very very inspiring – and you look great in your “after” photographs

    Catherine wrote on March 9th, 2013
  16. Grok on!

    Catherine wrote on March 9th, 2013
  17. What a great story, thank you for sharing. Your comment about treating yourself from the oustide was spot-on and a great summary comment on so much of what is wrong with the standard approaches to so many health and wellness issues.

    Mitch wrote on March 9th, 2013
  18. congrats on changing your life! You are a great role model and inspiration

    Melissa wrote on March 9th, 2013
  19. Craig,

    Great story and really glad to see you take back control of your health. Hope to catch you at one of the mudders.

    An old friend,
    Bill

    PS. OK i’m interested now and will pick up tuphe book.

    Bill P wrote on March 9th, 2013
  20. Craig,

    Very nice story. So glad to see you take back control of your health.

    An old friend,
    Bill

    PS OK.You’ve got my attention and I’ll pick up one of the books.

    Bill P wrote on March 9th, 2013
    • Thank you Bill! great to hear from you, hope to cross paths soon. – Craig

      Craig wrote on March 9th, 2013
  21. My mom has always suffered from psoriasis and the misc. treatments for it are horrid (methotrexate! eesh), and now it’s progressed into her hands, shoulders, and feet as arthritis. I’m going to show her your success story, and perhaps she’ll at least try the 80/20 proposition… she’ll never give up her potatoes though.

    You look fantastic! Thanks for sharing your story!

    Kristina wrote on March 9th, 2013
  22. Very inspiring Craig, my 50 years of psoriasis suffering will hopefully be history.

    Phil wrote on March 10th, 2013
  23. Amazing!!!

    Helen wrote on March 10th, 2013
  24. This was my first time to read the Friday success story and I almost cried! What an inspiration! Bravo for you, and your lively wife.

    Helga wrote on March 10th, 2013
  25. Wow – hugely inspirational & amazing photos. Starting my primal transformation now & feel so encouraged reading your account and seeing what a difference it made to you. I will show my husband too – he is at that stage in life where he thinks nothing can work for him- he’s a runner but eats too much post training session & so the weight remains (& sometimes increases) & he feels down & unhappy with himself. Your account shows this doesn’t have to be the case. Thank you.

    Bravetank wrote on March 10th, 2013
  26. Great story Craig ! I’m an RN and love examples like your story to tell people I know with skin conditions that there is hope, and there are natural things they can do…if only willing to try something different and non-conventional. (by todays standards). Medical people today are too quick to whip out a prescription pad. They forget that food IS medicine….good, wholesome, natural un-processed food, that is. Proud of you. Way to go!!! Enjoy your new life.

    Nurse Nic wrote on March 10th, 2013
  27. Wonderful! I’m from Cleveland as well, so it’s heartwarming to see someone local who had such great success. Grok on! :)

    Anju wrote on March 10th, 2013
  28. Craig, great story…I too have sufferred from psoriasis since I was a teen, and since I’ve been on the blueprint, it has mostly all cleared up…

    Keep moving! ken

    ken wrote on March 10th, 2013
  29. Beautiful!
    Every Friday I’m eagerly awaiting these stories while at work at a busy ER in Colorado!!

    Keep up the GreAt work.

    Kamila wrote on March 10th, 2013
  30. Amazing story Craig, congratulations! I love reading success stories showing that the paleo/primal approach is about more than just losing weight (though you’ve certainly done that too!)

    Michael Corayer wrote on March 11th, 2013
  31. Wow, what a story. This newbie to Primal/Paleo is very impressed.

    David wrote on March 11th, 2013
  32. Great job! You shed the fat, grew some muscle and now you look like a (gasp) proper Clevelander!

    Great transformation. You look 10 years younger and infinitely healthier and happier. Another north shore primal success story. Yes we can resist Pierogies and Panini’s sandwiches, hard as it may be. Grok on!

    Dutch wrote on March 11th, 2013
  33. WOW! You look like a completely different person! Congrats and what an inspiration!

    Cindy wrote on March 11th, 2013
  34. Wow. Good stuff man.

    Matt wrote on March 11th, 2013
  35. Craig- You Are a Stud! Great story, inspirational. And kudos to your wife for all of her support. Thanks for sharing.

    JImMcBoulder wrote on March 11th, 2013
  36. Hi All,

    I too have skin stuff going on! And for a very long time, but worse recently. It seems to come and go by itself.

    I wonder if some food toxin which is eliminated by the diet change is the underlying cause?

    Suggestions most welcome! GMO, glycophosphate or its metabolites, From what I read there is not much real information available? Websites?

    I doubt simple phytic acid?

    I hope there are some suggestions out there!

    Thanks.

    John

    john wrote on March 12th, 2013
  37. Craig, that’s a tremendous story. Many congratulations on what you’ve achieved. Your story resonates with me as I myself am on a path to beating psoriasis (having previously beaten psoriatic arthritis), and I’m encouraged that the paleo approach (which I also follow because I’ve been utterly convinced by the science for quite some time) has led to such impressive results for you. I haven’t quite reached your level of P clearance yet (though I’ve dropped some weight, albeit not from an overweight level), but I’m making strides. Congrats again to a Pom who is not whingeing, but winning!

    JA wrote on March 12th, 2013
  38. You bring me to tears. Thanks for sharing. You inspire me.

    W. J. Purifoy wrote on March 12th, 2013
  39. Congrats, Craig, from a fellow Primal Clevelander!

    koalabear wrote on March 12th, 2013
  40. Very inspiring Craig, and great work !! Those 2nd and 3rd photos are enough to make me rethink my priorities. I hope to get my story here someday as well.

    john wrote on March 12th, 2013

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