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

I Have Never Felt Better in My Life

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!

The beginning of my success story starts out as most might, with very unhealthy eating habits. I can remember as a kid in 4th or 5th grade making my own version of a milkshake which consisted of a whole row of Oreos that was mixed up with milk until it was a consistency that was near impossible to drink. Around that same time I also became addicted to Pepsi cola. It seemed like I had 2-3 cans a day and this continued throughout high school. I was a somewhat active kid and I did not seem to ever put on weight.

After high school I attended an art college where food took a back seat to my artwork. When I would eat, it was the typical college food, e.g. cafeteria pizza, breakfast bars, steak-ums and a lot of frozen microwavable meals (especially taquitos), while changing my consumption of cola to 4-6 Dr. Peppers a day. On the outside I seemed to be very healthy, but inside I was doing great harm to my body daily. I weighed about 130 pounds at 5’7” with barely any muscle at all.

Shortly before I graduated college I was physically assaulted. I had one side of my face crushed so badly that the bone fragments became so small I ended up having to have two six and a half hour surgeries where titanium plates were implanted and a bone grafting had to be done. To say that I was depressed is a gross understatement. My time after that was invested in personal creative projects. I shut myself off from the outside world and with the exception of the artist in me I really didn’t care about myself. I could feel myself declining into a sad state mentally, physically, and emotionally. Around this time I also noticed a gut forming.

About a year and a half after I graduated college, I landed a salary job which included a yearly travel season. Between my newfound income and not having a kitchen on the road, I was eating at restaurants and fast food joints daily. My favorite go-to food at bars were deep-fried breaded appetizers. I kind of knew these were not the healthiest decisions, so when I would buy groceries I tried to counterbalance it by buying anything that said reduced fat or fat free. Little did I know back then that saturated fat should have been my friend and that sugar and carbs should have been avoided. I assumed that fat made you fat and sugar and carbs just gave you energy. So I kept eating tons of snack food while at home and continued drinking 2-3 cans of Dr. Pepper daily. Over a five year period my weight shot up from around 135 to over 180 pounds.

Now, at a weight of over 180 pounds I put a lot of effort into pretending that I was happy. I have always been a comedian, if you will, always joking around, but I wasn’t kidding myself, I was miserable inside. I would wake up in the morning having to pop my back into place because, while sleeping on my side, my gut would twist my back out of whack. Almost daily I would throw up stomach acid, which, let me tell you, was not a great way to start the day. Headaches were a daily occurrence and I was always tired after lunch. As an artist, I did not just work from 9 to 5. I continued working on art and other projects well into the night wearing myself thin and getting stressed out way too easily.

In 2010, I can remember having a typical busy day and stopping by the grocery store after work. I decided to take my blood pressure in one of those machines by the pharmacy. I ended up doing it three different times because after I saw the first result I knew it had to have been wrong. It wasn’t. I was borderline stage three hypertension. During my next doctor appointment I was told that I had to take blood pressure medication and that for my height I was technically obese. I remember thinking to myself that the guidelines were a joke. What if it was all muscle? Would I still be obese? I was in denial.

When I turned 30 in March of 2011, I started to question my health and purchased my first scale. I had taught myself how to make sushi rolls at that time and thought it would be a great way to lose weight and “get healthy”. I actually made a sushi rolling station in my living room and ate tons of the stuff. This approach definitely did not work. My next approach was to purchase a little blender and make fruit smoothies. I was successful with making something that tasted extremely good but there was so much sugar in the drinks that my weight did not budge; it may have even gone up. Was I doomed? Was I always going to be unhealthy?

My next doctor appointment was in May of 2011. My blood pressure with medication was still in stage 2 hypertension and I was still right at the obese mark. I remember thinking that I really needed to change my life around and not knowing how to do it. I couldn’t settle with failure.

I had been reading a blog almost daily that posted an array of different authors from different websites with the common theme of personal liberty, economics, health and wellness, among other subjects. When I read the articles from what I now know was a godsend of a website showing success stories of how people were able to lose weight and become healthier by eating bacon, I knew it was too good to be true (just like all of the gold that was waiting for me to pick up in a Nigerian bank account). Around August of that year I noticed a friend of mine losing weight who told me it was easy. He was following what Mark’s Daily Apple talked about daily. I said I would give it a try. I knew it was going to be a challenge since I was going into my travel season and so much of the food I ate was on the list of what not to eat.

Wow, what a leap of faith. Eating more of the foods that I was taught were bad for me (bacon, eggs, butter, and other saturated fat filled foods), however, eating no sugar or grains (wait no pasta, I’m Italian, that’s not possible!). The first ten days of not eating grain or sugar was pretty difficult, but noticing the 10 pounds that shed off “effortlessly” without exercise was a great motivational factor. I was very strict with sticking to this but maybe once every 2 months I would cheat by having a piece of cake or pizza to avoid being “that person” at a social gathering. I did not cheat weekly like I hear some people do because honestly I did and still do digest grains, they are just in a liquid and fermented form. I really enjoy craft beer and did not want to give it up, and the fact that a bar opened up right by me with almost 600 different beers makes it pretty difficult to stop drinking them.

At the beginning of my travel season I started going on all my business trips with a bag of organic apples and almonds as my snacking foods, and avoided all of the foods that I had learned were bad for me. I noticed that the weight kept coming off without exercise. And when I would occasionally look at the FDA’s recommendation for a daily intake of saturated fat I was usually double or triple what they called for so I stopped reading that daily percentage and just focused on the ingredients. I used to get a kick out of it when I told people, who said they were “nutritionists,” that I would randomly eat spoonful’s of coconut oil out of the jar.

On a mission, I wanted to see how much weight I was able to lose without any exercise other than daily walking. In about 5 months I ended up losing 47 pounds and took myself off of anti-depressants and my blood pressure medication. For the first time since I can remember I was looking forward to my next doctor appointment.

As I started to think even more health consciously, I became a huge fan of kale and spinach and would blend them (with my Vitamix blender) with other vegetables like carrots and beets to add some natural sugar. An all-vegetable smoothie actually did not taste bad, it just looked god-awful to the layperson. So when I went confidently to my next doctor appointment with my smoothie in hand I was hoping for a rewarding experience. I was a little nervous because I had heard stories that doctors go crazy when you take yourself of medication. I honestly had not taken my blood pressure for quite some time because I knew I felt healthy. I did the typical weigh-in and then sat in one of the rooms. The doctor that came in looked at my chart and immediately asked what the heck I did. I was ready to have my blood pressure taken, which I used to be very nervous about, but this time I wasn’t. When he got the results he shook his head from side to side in amazement. My blood pressure was 108 over 66 with no exercise, just diet! From that point forward my doctor appointments have gone in reverse. Now they are asking me questions and apologizing for having so many to ask. They actually agreed that the FDA works hand-in-hand with big pharma and that the food pyramid was definitely way off course.

In the past two months I actually started to exercise. At this point, my main workout is doing pull ups with my door-frame bars. On my lunch breaks from work I try to do as many of them as possible as quickly as I can which adds cardio along with strength training. I never thought in a million years I would be at this point. My weight actually dropped all the way down to 127 pounds even with all of the additional muscle. During my physical 3 weeks ago, I had my cholesterol check and the results are: Total:180, HDL (good):74, LDL (bad):84, Triglycerides:109. Before I left the doctor he told me that I was a great “role model”. I don’t think I have ever heard someone tell me that before. I have never felt better in my life. Every day I am getting stronger mentally, physically, and emotionally, and Mark Sisson I have you and all the other paleo health advocates to thank along with my doctors who were so supportive. I hope my story inspires and helps others the same way that other Mark’s Daily Apple success stories have helped me.


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. Wow, Michael, your story is very inspiring! I love all the energy and LIFE you have! What a great journey from being in the dumps to health!

    Jenny wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • Comparing the first “before” picture to the last two “after” pictures, the weight loss and muscle tone is obvious. But so is the change of expression; a somewhat sad looking person in the first picture compared to the person who’s eyes shine with a zest for life in the last. Bravo, and congratulations :)

      Shelly wrote on November 23rd, 2012
      • Shelly – Thank you! The sad thing is that that was the first time I saw that sculpture I made in person and should have appeared to be much happier :(

        Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
        • Think the best part of the photos is you did not wax your chest like so many “before & after” photos out there!!

          Well done Michael, awesome story

          Patrice wrote on November 26th, 2012
  2. Good for you dude!

    Cody wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  3. I’m still in a bit of shock from parents not caring if their 4th/5th grader had 3 cans of pop on a daily basis. But then my 2 year old grandson gets one a day.
    Congratulations, Michael, for finding a way to health even without help from the medical community.

    Kathy wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • When I was in middle school and high school I probably had 2 or 3 sodas a day too. But I did lots of sports so I didn’t put on weight.

      Wayne Atwell wrote on November 23rd, 2012
      • My boyfriend is at uni and he drinks up to 2-3 sodas a day too, he also plays sports and doesn’t put on weight, but it still can’t be that good for you??

        Actually I saw this young boy (about 4 foot tall) walking home from school the other day with a giant 750ml can of energy drink, couldn’t believe it, it was almost as big as him!!

        Sarah wrote on November 23rd, 2012
        • I agree, it isn’t healthy. I just didn’t see the negative side effects of weight gain because I was so active. I’m glad I kicked my soda habit. I was pretty bad about drinking soda even 2 years ago.

          Wayne Atwell wrote on November 23rd, 2012
        • Weight gain is only one of the many problems with eating too much sugar as it pointed out on this site all over the place.

          JohnC wrote on November 23rd, 2012
        • JohnC – very true. I should have stated that I appeared to be healthy when I was young.

          Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • Kathy I would drink them mostly without my parents knowledge – and just like Wayne said, I was still healthy because I was young and active. If I could go back I would have substituted it for water with lemon. Be careful with your grandson’s sugar consumption but then when I was a little older than that crawling around on the kitchen floor I used to eat brown sugar out of the kitchen cabinets – HA

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • I had at least three cans of soda a day, too, in middle school. In high school, there were soda machines all around campus. I lived on twix and soda during the day but ran cross country so didn’t (apparently) have the effects. I don’t believe it is a matter of parents not caring necessarily, it is other factors.

      Liz wrote on November 24th, 2012
      • Information was twisted then. Sugar may have been considered empty calories but they were still just calories…everyone knew the problem was saturated fat and cholesterol foods that were bad for you. Energetic kids *needed* sugar. Juice was a health food and it was better to skip the fat or have a small serving of margarine instead for balance.

        Oly wrote on November 24th, 2012
    • So proud of my three year old: this weekend she had her first sip of Coke, and when she tasted it she screwed up her face, took a dramatically hard swallow as if she had just tasted something disgusting, and said, “Yuck!”

      Our relatives were shocked that she responded this way. I was chanting, “Rah rah, sis(son?)-boom-bah!”

      defrog wrote on November 26th, 2012
  4. So handsome, what a great smile, you look so happy! Inspiring!

    Juiettegold wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  5. Great story. I love the fact that got to surprise your doctors. I never was able to do that because even at my heaviest I still had pretty reasonable physical measurements because I exercised so much, I just weighed 40 pounds more than I wanted.

    Wayne Atwell wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • I love it even more that Michael’s doctors were open-minded enough to ask questions and to believe the answers. Let’s hope they pass it on to other patients!

      oxide wrote on November 23rd, 2012
      • +1

        Kathy wrote on November 23rd, 2012
        • Please tell us what you eat in a typical day- Your change is amazing!!

          ella wrote on November 23rd, 2012
      • It’s great the doctors were supportive. When I went the other day I was told I shouldn’t eat bacon because it’s too fatty and my dr was worried about the nutrients I was missing from grains. I had to keep from laughing. Let’s keep educating the dr’s!

        melissa wrote on November 23rd, 2012
        • For school (working on teaching credential), I had to take a health class in which we evaluated our personal health. I wrote about my new change over to a Primal/Paleo diet. My instructor wrote on my paper that he was concerned about my health choices and hoped I would go back on a more sensible diet. Eventually they will learn, right?

          Hilary wrote on November 24th, 2012
        • Hahahahahahahahahahaha!

          I am a doctor, and a completely converted Paleo. I can’t wait to hear what my doctor has to say about my diet…

          Tapsticks wrote on February 16th, 2013
    • Thanks Wayne!! I am so luck to have such great doctors!

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  6. I don’t even know where to begin. You’re story and transformation is both incredible and inspiring.

    Mike wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  7. Right on!

    GrokHard wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  8. This is my first comment ever but I had to say, you look soooooo happy and fit, and healthy. Congratulations, lots of blessings to you.

    Carola wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • Thank you!!

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  9. Once again, the joy in the after photos speaks volumes! Not just a “Wow I am thin” smile, but a real inner joy that is captured on film. Love it!

    Pam wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  10. Michael — you look fabulous. I love the last pic with a background of what? Tire track art? or maybe paleo big-game skeletons? I vote for the latter.

    Diane wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • Thanks Diane! It is actually my work. Large-scale non-objective experimental piece where I show the idea of a brushstroke at an enlarged scale. The “paintbrush” I used was actually a trashcan filled with paint with a slit cut out at the bottom. But I do like your take on it :)

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  11. Fantastic! Some of these friday stories just speake more to me then others even though they are all great. This is one of them. Great job!

    Lisa wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  12. WOW!

    Siobhan wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  13. Fabulous! Tell us about your art if you don’t mind!

    wendy wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  14. “a milkshake which consisted of a whole row of Oreos that was mixed up with milk until it was a consistency that was near impossible to drink” I realize now that as a child I was small time with just cookies and milk. You were a kid with a vision. Nice.

    Congratulations on your success! Awesome.

    Chris wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  15. Michael- you are glowing from the inside out. It is so wonderful to hear about how you got off of your anti-depressants. Food is healing, it is medicine, and it is the first step to overcoming things such as depression. I did the same and I continuously try to urge my family to follow. It’s hard getting them aboard, but stories like yours continue to drive the point home. I will show everyone your story later- well done. :) You look awesome.

    Christina wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • Thank you so much! The success stories of the past helped me to get on board so I am so happy to be able to pass it on! My parents are now pretty much on-board – good luck!

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  16. Great job! Your story is very inspiring, keep up the good work.

    Wes wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  17. awesome very inspiring
    i love coconut oil too

    stuart wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  18. Mark, thanks for posting this story. What a tremendous, well written autobiography. I felt like I was able to relate and understand Michael’s choices and that is something I cherish. For me, the points that I remember and have taken away are: personal commitment and finding your own “reasons” for making new choices; Respect for this fantastic gift of a physical body; and lastly, a renewed vigor to make choices that improve my body and soul. Thank you Michael.

    Boyd wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • You’re very welcome!

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  19. Dude, awesome!

    Anders wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  20. There should be a Facebook-esque “like” button for this article! :-)

    gcb wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  21. thanks for the inspirational story, Michael. you made it! when one of us succeeds, it feels like all of us do – to a certain extent. that’s why i feel good after reading every single success story.

    einstein wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  22. Michael,

    Congratulations amazing story. I love hearing about the health gains, particulary the mental health side…really inspiring. Focus on health and the physique follows! I would have love to sat there listening to the docs ask so many questions. Sounds like the movie “Fat Head”

    luke depron wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  23. This story is crazy. So inspiring. And you are very handsome!

    Charmaine wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  24. I absolutely loved this. Some success stories just hit me and this is one of my favourites. Your eyes are full of life and confidence. The look on your face says it all. Blessings on you!

    Jennifer Jacoby-Smith wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  25. One of my favourite success stories ever featured on MDA! Thank you for sharing, Michael.

    I’m curious to know if your art changed while your health was changing? As a fellow artist, I can say the things I want to work on now, and the creativity I have, has changed since going paleo. I’m wondering if it was the same for you.

    HeatherJ wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • Heather – Thanks! To answer your question I have more consistent energy rather than spurts and my head is clearer and more efficient at coming up with concepts now that I’m paleo. Earlier this year I put together a solo show in under a month with a day job on the side, so my drive and passion is definitely revving. I wish you all the best in your future are endeavors!

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • +1 Heather.

      Madama Butterfry wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  26. You look gorgeous and so happy! Congratulations!

    alexandra wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  27. Michael, your cheesy, beer-toting facade has disolved to yield an amazing creative glow, a balanced, beer-enjoying energy and happiness exhuded from deep within. I choose you as my inspiration this day. Thank you for your gift. And please have the courage to sustain…..

    Kelly wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  28. Awesome work!!

    Chance Bunger wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  29. What was your cholesterol before the change? I am super-impressed and inspired. Especially about the not giving up the craft beers. (One a day?)

    Steve wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • Steve – I know that my cholesterol levels were not as good before, but I have been waiting for my next doctor appointment to get the exact numbers. Those are my numbers while averaging easily more than a dozen eggs a week. I actually don’t limit them (craft beers) to one a day but usually look at total carbs for the day and limit that number to 100g – Usually my carb intake is much lower though.

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  30. Great job, Michael! You look great and you look like you FEEL great! That sounds like quite a milkshake you used to make. It reminds me of making my “Chip Ahoy Sandwich” when I was little. 4 cookies between two slices of white :)

    Kathleen wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  31. WOW, you look great! Congratulations on the success.. you remind me of Gerard Butler from 300 in the last picture 😉

    Allie wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  32. Very Inspiring!!! You look so healthy and happy!

    Laura wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  33. Wow, great transformation! I love how you just look so happy! I’m always so inspired to read the Friday stories. Love it!

    Nora wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  34. Awesome, Michael! Love your story!

    gibson wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  35. Michael, what a great transformation! You look so happy and healthy. A great inspiration, truly!

    Gillian wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  36. What an inspiring story!! One of my favorites so far -and I read them religiously every Friday. The difference is dramatic! Keep up the good work, and keep us posted!

    Rene R wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  37. I’m so happy for you! To go through what you had to then find yourself, wow, truly an amazing story. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Tanya wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  38. Inspiring, thanks for your story.
    I’m so inspired that I’m going to eat two more pieces of bacon.

    J wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  39. Awesome story, man. Very inspirational. Way to go and keep it up.

    freddy wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  40. Bravo!

    Robert wrote on November 23rd, 2012

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