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January 27, 2012

I Am Now Leaner and Stronger Than I Have Ever Been In My Life

By Guest
106 Comments

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!

As a kid I was always a physical fitness derelict. While I loved hiking and walked everywhere I could, I did not enjoy sports (I was clumsy and had poor coordination) and hated gym class. From the age of 10, a macaroni-fueled spare tire was a constant companion, sometimes rather large, other times deflated, never gone completely (till now!). By the time I was a senior in high school (1975), I was not so much chubby, as skinny-fat.

1975

When I turned 18, right before I went away to university, I discovered running, which I did off and on until I turned 41. I started weight training when I was 22, Nautilus, which I also did for a year, and then started up again in 1982 with Nautilus workouts until I finished grad school in 1988.

My life changed dramatically once I started teaching full time and driving everywhere. In 1990 or thereabouts I started running again, no more than 3 x 10K per week, and joined a local gym. In 1994, because the gym where I had been working out was closing, I switched to what turned out to be a better gym, learned to do exercises with free weights and began to research diet regimens. I was also a major consumer of supplements of all kinds. It was while I was learning about weightlifting in the mid 90s that I discovered the Zone diet. What persuaded me, besides the biochemistry angle, was that Barry Sears’s family medical history and mine had one crucial feature in common: both our fathers died young of heart attacks (my dad was 52). I managed to do OK on the Zone diet, as long as I tweaked it (not enough protein; I kept losing muscle mass). The downside: when it was time to eat, it was time to eat. Zone-hunger made me a grouch.

1998

In 1997, I moved to Norway permanently to be with my partner, and continued my diet and exercise regimen there: Zoning, plus weight training 3-4 times a week, and running 8-10K 2-3 times a week, with stationary bike for cardio in the winter (at 39 I was too old to take up cross-country skiing) and Body Pump once a week. By 1998 I was in the best shape of my life till then.

However, in 1999 (at the age of 41), I had a setback that began my “lost decade”. I suffered an acute psychotic episode (from which I recovered quickly), followed a month later by a severe clinical depression, triggered by a “translation job from hell”, which lasted from July until October 1999. As a result, I began to take citalopram (the antidepressant of choice in Norway at the time), in addition to 2.5 mg olanzapine (as a mood stabilizer, even though at the time this was an off-label use). I stopped taking olanzapine in November 2001, but after I stopped taking citalopram in March 2002, I had another psychotic episode and was put back on 2.5 mg olanzapine, which I took until May 2010.

2004

In 2000, my partner and I moved to a suburb of Oslo, where we drove more and where the gym was no longer within walking distance of home. I worked out intermittently, but had a crappy diet, because thanks to the meds I stopped caring. As a result, we both put on a lot of weight, and by Christmas 2005, I weighed 85 kg and was fairly bloated. I had already decided during a trip to California earlier that fall, that our car-centric suburban life was not only not sustainable, but literally killing the both of us. We eventually found an apartment in town that was located within walking distance of both our jobs (for me a 35 minute brisk walk one way) and moved back to town on March 1, 2006. Just from that change, I lost 10 kg in about six months. I joined a local gym, and attained what I considered to be fairly good results. I was Zoning again, but the tire persisted. The Zone didn’t seem to work the way it did when I was 35 or 40. Was I just getting old?

2005

In October 2009, I read about a book called The Primal Blueprint on 2Blowhards, one of my favorite blogs. Hm, I thought, sounded intriguing. So I ordered the book (from your website, not Amazon). I found the evolution-based approach convincing, and I started eating and moving according to Primal principles. It wasn’t long before I began to see amazing results. However, what I did not know till I Googled it a year later, was that my meds were actually keeping me fatter than I otherwise would be, given my 85/15 adherence. It turns out that the reason those who take olanzapine gain weight (and eventually become type 2 diabetics) is that the drug inhibits glycogen formation in the liver. This means that any glucose that is not needed for fuel will be stored as fat only, in an unattractive location. I did not need to read any further. So, in consultation with my doctor, I tapered off the meds over the course of May 2010, and have been meds-free ever since. Once my metabolism could heal completely, Primal principles really began to pay off.

Thanks to my 85/15 adherence, I am now leaner and stronger than I have ever been in my life. I also notice the benefits of lifting heavy things and sprinting on my mood and personality (the additional testosterone my body produces beats “happy pills” as a mood elevator hands down). Other people have begun to notice too.

I recently became Facebook friends with an acquaintance from grade school. One day I had boasted on my wall that I was able to do 5 sets of 5 reps of 70 kg on the bench press, which is my current body weight, something I could never do before. His comment: “I never thought I would say this, Norman, but I think you could kick my ass.”

Thank you, Mark, for helping me to discover my inner kick-ass underwear model! I am absolutely convinced that this is what 53 is supposed to be like.

October 2009
May 2011
September 2011
December 2011

Sincerely,

Norman

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101 Comments on "I Am Now Leaner and Stronger Than I Have Ever Been In My Life"

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Cat
4 years 10 months ago

Brilliant story, well done Norman and good luck with the rest of your journey!

Love the comment about you being able to kick ass btw. Just remember – with great power comes great responsibility 🙂

Oh and FIRST! Enjoy your Friday y’all!

Bruno
Bruno
4 years 10 months ago

Hell Yeah, Norman! Underwear model ftw!

Jessica
4 years 10 months ago
Wow, awesome story. Love Fridays! You had me at your first sentence — As a kid I was always a physical fitness derelict. LOL I can relate to that. Mostly due to peer pressure that it wasn’t “cool” to like physical activity, I avoided it in my MS and HS years as much as possible. Two years of PE were required in HS but I managed to only take 1 and with lackluster participation. It makes me sad that I missed out on a lot, socially and physically by doing that. Thankfully as an adult I’m getting out and doing… Read more »
Anne
4 years 10 months ago

Wonderful story! I’m still laughing at the ending!

Nicely done, Norman!

Joy Beer
Joy Beer
4 years 10 months ago

HOLY. MAMA! Norman — Wow wow wow! I agree with Jessica–what an awesome start to a thoroughly readable and humorous account. Inner Underwear Model. I’m glad your grade school FB friend knows that you can kick his a** and admitted it! Just loved this. Fridays rock.

Michelle
4 years 10 months ago

Wow! Great job Norman. I am impressed. And congrats on learning about your meds and how they effect your health. As an RN, I see too many drugs that are over prescribed. Most patients take them willing without investigating them thoroughly first. So good for you and keep up the great work.

Ande
Ande
4 years 10 months ago

Awesome transformation, congrats! Those pics at the end speak volumes.

Lex
Lex
4 years 10 months ago

Dayum! That sure is the picture of happiness and health at 52.

Beth
Beth
4 years 10 months ago

Interesting perspective for a Friday Real Life Story highlighting the mental benefits of great health and fitness! I can imagine that switching countries would have added greatly to your stress level during the hard times. Way to go taking control and overcoming! So impressive! 🙂

PN
4 years 10 months ago

Awesome story Norman, congrats. I love this line as I can completely relate to it

“From the age of 10, a macaroni-fueled spare tire was a constant companion, sometimes rather large, other times deflated, never gone completely (till now!).

Still working on getting rid of mine completely, but I’m starting to see abs!!

Peggy The Primal Parent
4 years 10 months ago

You look like you’re having so much fun taking pictures in the mirror! That made my day right there. Isn’t health a wonderful thing?

Laura
Laura
4 years 10 months ago

Gratulerer, Norman!

I’m also in Oslo – we should start a meet-up! 🙂

Fonda LaShay
4 years 10 months ago

Gratulerer!

To bad I am in Stavanger! Wish we could get a meet up going here!

Jess
Jess
4 years 10 months ago

You look fantastic! I love the idea of finding one’s inner underwear model – lol. Very inspiring!

Alyssa
Alyssa
4 years 10 months ago

I loved that line as well 🙂 And you succeeded, for sure! You look great!

leida
leida
4 years 10 months ago

Oh, boy! Yet another story I am forwarding my hubby! I hope that eventually he would get inspired!

Peter
Peter
4 years 10 months ago

Wow, great job…I’m 51 so this definitely a motivating success story for me. I’ve had great success, but still working on a little bit of that spare tire…very slow progress as I approach my goal. Also great to hear, once again, how primal living can take the place of meds for various maladies. Awesome.

So here’s the usual request…how about a quick overview on your specifics, i.e. workouts, frequency, and what (and how much) you’re eating?

Thanks for sharing your story, and congratulations.

Norman Robert Spencer
4 years 10 months ago

Thanks! Click on my link and I’ll respond in a private e-mail. A) this is not my website and B) I don’t want to bore people with the minutiae of my diet and exercise regimen….

Peter
Peter
4 years 10 months ago
Thanks…I looked but the “contact” me link is not live…maybe I need to have a blogger account to access that. In any case…if you choose to share any details on your lifestyle/program, I can assure you that nobody hear would be bored, and in fact would eagerly read it. And not to speak for Mark, but I do believe he’d be happy to let you share the building blocks to your success here on the site 🙂 In the end…the elements of living primal are all spelled out here on MDA and Mark’s books. But I know most people enjoy… Read more »
John
John
4 years 10 months ago

I heartily second Peter’s request – at 53 and struggling with the remaining spare tire, I’d love to hear more details as well…

Alyssa
Alyssa
4 years 10 months ago

Agreed!! Specifics are always helpful 🙂

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 10 months ago

Agree!

Age 59 and would like to hear more, too.

Nichole
4 years 10 months ago

Such an inspiring story! Thanks so much for sharing, Norman.

Pattymary
Pattymary
4 years 10 months ago

Way to go Norman!!!! Congrats on your accomplishment! I hope sometime this year I can discover my inner Sports Illustrated swimsuit model!

Carla
4 years 10 months ago

I love Fridays on MDA! 🙂

Amazing progress and a great story Norman!!!

Caleigh
4 years 10 months ago

WOW! That’s extremely awesome! I totally understand the macaroni spare tire thing as a kid. I’m still holding onto it, but your pics have convinced me to keep trying! Congrats on your success!!

jakey
jakey
4 years 10 months ago

this one was great! cheers to you, sir.

gilliebean
4 years 10 months ago

Woohooo! Well done!

But why is 39 too old to start cross-country skiing?! I love cross-country skiing!!

peggy
peggy
4 years 10 months ago

agreed – I’m about the same age as Norman. I didn’t start snowboarding until age 44 🙂 I love xc & telemark skiing too. telemark is my main snow love.

gilliebean
4 years 10 months ago

I would love to try telemark someday!

MissJelic
MissJelic
4 years 10 months ago

True! I started at age 51 w no probs. I’m skate-skiing now and faster than most of the younger people in my class (I’ve been about 90% primal for about 10 years and I’m sure that makes a BIG difference).

Also, x-c skiing is a great sport to take up late in life as it’s quite low-impact and can be as challenging or as gentle as u like.

MissJelic
MissJelic
4 years 10 months ago

PS and you look AMAZING, Norman! Very inspiring!

Elsa
Elsa
4 years 10 months ago

I just started learning to x-c ski last year, at 53! Never too late…

Alice H
Alice H
4 years 10 months ago

39’s not to old to learn skiing. I started learning downhill skiing (definitely more risky) at 36, and I was quite obese when I started learning. Skiing is a huge motivator for me getting in shape – I know my extra weight isn’t helping my knees, and I need to keep my knees healthy for turns!

Sabra
Sabra
4 years 10 months ago

I agree. I am 40 and feel more balanced since being barefoot the past 2.5 years. I planned to ski and snowshoe this year, but every time the snow falls, it’s gone the next day. Maybe next year.

Primal Toad
4 years 10 months ago

Great story Norman! Now go and inspire others to live Primal!

Sharon
Sharon
4 years 10 months ago

Now that’s an amazing 53 year old body!

Alison Golden
4 years 10 months ago

Whoa! I love hearing stories about people who’ve kicked meds. Makes me smile. Congratulations, Norman.

Cathy
4 years 10 months ago

Congratulations and thanks for sharing your story. This is definitely what 53 should look like! You look awesome!

Virginia Williamson
Virginia Williamson
4 years 10 months ago

I too have had ups and downs, truly an inspirational story. I have been on medication as well, which most women are on (birth control-depo provera) for 14 years =( by the 31st of this month I will be off for good and I can’t wait till my body gets back to normal and starts burning fat for fuel versus storing it. I know my primal way of eating will get me where I want to be fast =)

julie
julie
4 years 10 months ago

@ Norman- I take xanax and wondered if it too inhibits glycogen formation in the liver. I wasn’t able to find any information. Where should I look?

Arty
Arty
4 years 10 months ago

Wow, awesome transformation, congrats on your success.

Michele Lauren
4 years 10 months ago

I love Fridays! Norman, congratulations! It is so wonderful that you healed yourself! I love stories like this.

HillsideGina
HillsideGina
4 years 10 months ago

You look fantastic Norman, congratulations! At 52 and 54, my husband and I feel great and look pretty darn good too. At a recent social function, people we had not seen in years couldn’t stop commenting how young we look. This thing works, y’all, and works at every age!

Becca
4 years 10 months ago

Yay for getting off the meds… and looking fantastic!

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 10 months ago
Great story – and great comments, too! Could say “ditto” to so many of the comments. I hope that you and Laura do have a “meet up” in Oslo. I bet you could share local sources of primal foods and more. Isn’t Norway a great place for cold water fish and berries, plus more? And, I agree with gilliebean about wondering why 39 is too old for cross country skiing. Maybe your less fit 39 year old self passed – but what about your more fit 53 year old self? My husband is first generation Norwegian -American and its his… Read more »
Tracy Seman
4 years 10 months ago

I look forward to every Friday so I can read another great success story! Congratulations Norman on changing your life!

Marianne
Marianne
4 years 10 months ago

I’m so happy for you Norman! You are a great confirmation that meds aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be–AND that getting older can be mean getting better, not worse. In your case, waaaay better 🙂 Congrats on the new healthy happy you!

rabbit_trail
rabbit_trail
4 years 10 months ago

You look great. Good for you. I’m PBing my way off of meds too.

Emily Mekeel
Emily Mekeel
4 years 10 months ago

Way to be, Norman!

Angel
4 years 10 months ago
Thanks for sharing your story Norman – you look great! I also was on the Zone diet for awhile, and I lost weight, but I always had to add extra carbs, otherwise it felt like my blood sugar was too low – I’d get irritable and have difficulty concentrating. I also didn’t have any luck losing weight on the Zone diet the second time around. I know now that some metabolisms are more flexible than others, and that’s probably why I always seem to need extra carbs (because mine is not very flexible). Here’s a great blog post at Gnolls.org… Read more »
Fonda LaShay
4 years 10 months ago

Yay for American Primals with Norwegian Partners in Norway! Felt like I was the only one!

Gratulerer med din suksess!

Jacky Lau
Jacky Lau
4 years 10 months ago

Wow norman It is tough to battle depression and through this, you made the best of the situation. Kudos my friend!

Page
Page
4 years 10 months ago

Inspiring story — just one question — were you kidding when you said 39 was too old for cross-country skiing?

Norman Robert Spencer
4 years 10 months ago
What I meant was that 39 was too old to take it up. Learning to cross-country ski in Norway, by no means a flat country, is not as easy as people think. Nobody who has lived here more than a year has not seen Norwegian toddlers on skis without poles learning to balance on rather steep slopes. You need to be a “native skier” if you want to ski safely into your 50s and 60s. I know too many foreigners who learned to ski “as a second language”, but who suffered severe injuries from falls once they had to “think”.… Read more »
rarebird
rarebird
4 years 10 months ago

Thanks for the explanation. Sounds wise. Btw, my husband’s plans to cross country ski into his senior years involve manicured trails, flat land, and frozen lakes in Michigan. And, that hobby is in lieu of his motorcycle hobby. Relative risks, IMO.

Peter
Peter
4 years 10 months ago

I get that! I live in Park City, Utah, and just started x-country skiing 2 years ago (at 49 years old) and definitely keep to the flats…getting up even a little speed on those skinny little classic skis (and even harder with skate skis) is really intimidating…and I can see getting hurt.

I just went for 90 minutes this afternoon for the first time this winter…and am feeling some muscles I forgot were there!

Patrick
4 years 10 months ago

You look great Norman! I’m sure looking great makes you feel great, and vice-versa. Congrats on getting off the meds too!

rarebird
rarebird
4 years 10 months ago

Hey, Norman –

Great blog post on your blog (below)!

TORSDAG 23. SEPTEMBER 2010

Obese children eat too much “healthy food”

That’s exactly what I have discovered for myself as well. I rarely ever ate junk food, especially sodas. Was always health conscious. Was a vegetarian in my younger years – lots of “healthy” soy and whole grains, of course!

Well, discovering primal eating “late” in life is better than never! I know that I won’t take it for granted.

What is Paleo
4 years 10 months ago

These weekly stories are what have pushed me to embrace the lifestyle. Sidenote… i am 43 hrs into an unplanned fast … feast or famine!!

mixie
mixie
4 years 10 months ago

*wolf whistle* =)

Cheers!

Marcia
Marcia
4 years 10 months ago
Wow, you look amazing!! It’s funny that you said your suburban life was killing you. I JUST was talking to a couple of coworkers at lunch about this. I live 10 miles from work. My spouse and I drive to work (separately) every day. Therefore, I almost never see my best friends anymore, because they live very close to my office, and I just don’t want to drive out on my day off. One of my coworkers said “it’s 10 miles, you are so spoiled”. I didn’t want to get into it, but I was thinking later “no, it’s you… Read more »
Dave PAPA GROK Parsons
Dave PAPA GROK Parsons
4 years 10 months ago

…………….YOU GROK…>>>>
I SEE HAPPY AND HEALTHY AND SMILES FOR MILES…IT SEEMS AS IF YOU AND AN IDENTITY YOU APPROVE OF HAVE BECOME ONE AND THE SAME…WELL DONE MY FRIEND…WELL DONE INDEED>>>

TruckerLady
TruckerLady
4 years 10 months ago

Norman! How nicely you have grown! Such a beautiful man.

Patrick
4 years 10 months ago

Hello Norman, you look great! I am 50 and started the lifestyle change 30 days ago. I tried to email you for more info of your regimen etc but was unable to find a email link on your site. Can you help with that? Thanks

Norman Robert Spencer
4 years 10 months ago

E-mail contact link fixed.

primalzen
4 years 10 months ago

Looks like you discovered the fountain of youth.

fritzy
fritzy
4 years 10 months ago

Way to go, Norman!! Really impressive. And yes, I believe and hope) this is the way 53 is supposed to feel.

Keep “kicking ass!”

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