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.
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.
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.
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?
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.