Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
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 MarksDailyApple.com 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.