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!

real life stories stories 1 2The 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.

montecarlo 1

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.

mattswedding 1

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.

porcelain 1

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.

left 1

Michael

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. Good job man. Those after pictures really capture a great inner spirit, kudos to you and the photographer.

    As a completely side note as an artist do you face a lot of flack from your peers for living paleo?

    (I don’t know if this is universal but I’d be hard pressed to find a meat eating artistic type around these parts, strictly yoga, granola and poorly cooked veggie eating types with few exceptions.)

    JohnC wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • Thanks! One of the perks of being an artist is having friends that are photographers – props to Julie L.

      I’ve gotten a lot of flack from a lot of people…lots. Usually people who have studied diet/nutrition.

      Keep brushing the flack off your shoulders.

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
      • If you’re feeling like a paleo pimp go on brush your shoulders off

        Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on November 24th, 2012
  2. You look wonderful and so happy!

    Amy wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  3. I just LOVE it when I hear that the doctors are shaking their heads!

    Scott O wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  4. Wow! Maybe I CAN do this!

    Amy wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • YES you CAN!!

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  5. Michael…to say I loved reading your story is a gross understatement. First of all, you’re a great storyteller but man, this is inspiring stuff.

    It’s amazing that with all of the ‘think positive’ cliches out there, how changing diet can transform your inner world too. You’ve created a positive feedback loop with your mind/body and it’s only going to get better. Cheers!

    Victor Dorfman wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • Thanks a ton Victor! I’ve never been told I was a great storyteller either! You’re right about the mind/body loop. Cheers!

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  6. OMG I love Saturday mornings, I wake as nature intends (the sound of fish sploshing in the creek) I make myself a lovely coffee with my coconut oil, I frantically scramble to get my iPhone onto MDA and I read the Success Story of the week. Then I cry.
    Michael thanks for getting my nose running and tears a-flowing mate. Nothing like a joyful sniffle on a Saturday morning….

    I love Saturdays!

    Jane xo (ps in Australia the SS come out on a Sat morning)

    Jane wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • I love Saturday mornings for this reason too Jane! I get my son a meat muffin and quickly log on to see the Friday success story. Love it.

      Congratulations Michael! You look like you feel amazing.

      Helen wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • Wow Australia!! I’d love to be there right now – is there a good art scene there? Coffee with coconut oil? Tell me more.

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
      • Depends where you are. I am in regional Australia, and the art scene is spread pretty thin, but the cities have plenty of vibe. Just checked out your website, just when do you sleep? Love the sexy red glass!
        Great story to read, well done. My art changed when I disconnected with sugar in particular. Sugar is actually a depressant, and removing it from my diet made me euphoric. Come on down, I am sure you would be blown away by what Australia has to offer :)

        Heather wrote on November 24th, 2012
  7. Congratulations. You look great. Keep on Grok’in.

    James Earl Hunter wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  8. Right on brother!!!!

    Bill wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  9. WOW! You look amazing! I love the paleo/primal/real food way of eating!!!

    Carol wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  10. Amazing job!!! This is inspiring :)

    Carol wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  11. :D :D :D

    :)

    Patrícia wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  12. You were a cutie before the switch. The word that jumps to mind now is …Tasty! Great job!

    TruckerLady wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  13. Okay, I’ve been a lurker for a while… I have to say, amazing story, michael!

    But, I have to ask…. how do michael and others on here go from no exercising to doing pull ups so easily?
    I’m a woman, so that might make a bit of difference, but pull ups are not easy. I’ve not fully gone Paleo because it seems like I would have to exercise a lot more to be able to even do the WOWs.
    Anyways, impressed by Michael!

    Kristin wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • Kristin, as a fellow woman, gotta say, being female makes a huge difference. I’m not saying it as an excuse, but I have working on getting pull ups for 8 months or so, and only recently am I almost there. My unofficial theory is that in general, men are prone to more upper body strength, and to make a long story short, I’m pretty sure men are growing muscle faster due to testosterone

      (“Men generally do produce enough natural testosterone (the ultimate muscle-building hormone) to get big, and most of us still have trouble building a significant amount of muscle. Just imagine how difficult it is to bulk up for a woman. Read more: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/strength-training-women/#ixzz2D6S5jYiA“) which might explain part of it. A lot of it is previous background as well, Michael does say he was “somewhat active” kid vs someone like me who was hardly ever active, which just adds to the difficulty of growing muscle in a place that had absolutely none.

      K wrote on November 23rd, 2012
      • It makes sense, of course, about the great male upper body strength. Yet, Ladies, remember to give ourselves credit for having to pull up the dead weight (in the pull up context) of gorgeous, child-bearing hips. I remember getting more raw push-up scores than most of the males in my Army NG platoon, and some of them complained that, “Well, she has nothing to push up because she’s small!” I pointed out that not only was I pushing up a small person WITH a small person’s arms, but that unlike them, no matter how fit I was, a good portion of my weight and power was in my thighs and tush, which were effectively just a load of bricks on the push-up ride. I told them to stop whining and do some dang push-ups in the months BETWEEN PT tests, like I did.

        This was years ago, btw. My recent pull-ups really have been an accomplishment, and I don’t hold myself to the male standard for a count, exactly because I have the feminine shape low on my body that I must just hoist, and hoist I do, and so I rule. So there. :-)

        Joy Beer wrote on November 25th, 2012
        • That might come off combative to men, but it is not. I greatly enjoy seeing the men at my park bang out scores of pull-ups. And I’m very proud of my own distinct count. Rather, I’m trying to help my fellow women to understand that 5 pull ups by a curvy woman is really a different thing from 5 pull ups by a slim-hipped man. To appreciate what a feat it really is to do this as a female. It is empowering that first time your face rises above the pull up bar. It is so freaking cool and worth trying to experience.

          Joy Beer wrote on November 25th, 2012
      • Yes, men have about 25 percent more muscle mass if I remember correctly, and 60 percent more in the arms.

        Erik wrote on December 7th, 2012
    • I’ve went from hanging on the bar only to banging out 10 pull ups. You just do it. I highly suggest the book Convict Conditioning.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on November 24th, 2012
    • Hanging on the bar like PRB said is great. Another approach if you want to move would be to start with “Body Rows”. I’m a 47 yo woman and a few years ago started with body rows, then would just squat under one of those low dip bars along the running path and just pull up while assisting with one leg… and then got my door frame pull up bar when I discovered I could actually finally pull myself up. (MDA shows how, actually, using actual pull up bars, but this is how I did it on my own.)

      Joy Beer wrote on November 24th, 2012
      • Thanks for the responses, everyone!
        Joy, I think your idea is one I should do. I’ve tried that (pulling up on a low bar) before, but not with regularity. I think I will add that to my regular routine.
        Great point, K. I know it will be harder for me than it is a man, but it’s nice to know you’ve been making a lot of progress over 8 months!

        Kristin wrote on November 28th, 2012
  14. Cool story. I love Italians. I especially love artists. Here’s a quote I read and kept from a sign the other day;

    “Beware of Artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous.”

    Madama Butterfry wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • HA – I really like that quote.

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  15. This story is again another testimonial that our bodies were never intended or designed to eat 1/2 the stuff that is eaten. If you fed a Lion or a Tiger oreo cookies and cakes, how long would it survive? Sure, this is a bit of a stretch as an example, but it is the truth. Period. Michael, you have done your body a good thing and hopefully more will follow your incredible example!

    Brian wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • Lions and tigers might have been more likely to eat oreos and other bad foods if they were able to understand television commercials. The “As seen on TV diet” If there is an advertisement for it don’t eat it! Obviously I am “partly” joking.

      Michael wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  16. I can relate to the “Oreo Milkshake”….when I was in the 8th grade I would come home and make sugar sandwiches!
    To prepare: Take a piece of Wonder bread, spread with margarine and pour on sugar until it spills off the sides, then top with another piece of Wonder bread spread with margarine. Serves one.

    skeedaddy wrote on November 23rd, 2012
    • Oh yeah, our mom taught us how to make those back in the day. We loved her for it, that’s how we rolled back in the 50’s.
      But it’s not a sandwich unless you make two pieces, which we always did!

      Bayrider wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  17. Wow!! You are happy. I am happy for you! Such a quick change! !

    Patrick wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  18. Great job man, you dropped a lot of weight and you’re looking great. Most importantly you are dodging those medications, every drug I have ever taken has had side effects as bad or worse than the condition it was supposed to ameliorate, they are largely a scam.

    I started Sept 1st pretty strict except for beer, I liked 2 or 3 per day. It seems I have kind of plateaued at the belly fat though so I have just this week dropped to 1 per day. I leaned out very nicely all over and put on the most muscle of my life, except I still have a belly hanging out, I’m wondering is that the very last fat to go for guys? Anybody that can weigh in on that I’d like to hear from and get any advice.

    I’m 5’9″, 58 yrs old, down from 176 to 166 lbs, body fat down from 19% to 16.5%, I figure I should drop another 10 lbs and see what the BMI will be.

    Bayrider wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  19. I laughed with pleasure to see your ‘after’ photos. You look so full of life now. Congratulations! (And I’m assuming that’s your painting behind you in the last photo? I love your work!)

    Lel wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  20. I love fridays posts! Thanks again! What a great story!

    Heather wrote on November 23rd, 2012
  21. That’s an awesome success story, well done! And may I say that your topless pics were quite a treat first thing on a lazy Saturday :-)

    I’m delighted that you’ve found health and life. Long may it continue!

    Primal V wrote on November 24th, 2012
  22. I’m gonna take a wild guess and sat the website was lewrockwell.com. Check it out people!

    Rory R wrote on November 24th, 2012
    • I’ve met Lew. Phenomenal human being. He is also paleo

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on November 24th, 2012
      • Yes Tom Woods’ interview of Mark is what got me eating primal. Those guys at LvMI etc… changed my life in more than one way

        Rory R wrote on November 25th, 2012
        • Big fan here. Primal and LRC go together like bacon and more bacon.

          Timothy wrote on November 27th, 2012
  23. LRC! woot woot

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on November 24th, 2012
  24. Well I read these every friday and they are all amazing. But today I felt that I had to congratulate Micheal. I suppose the physical, mental and emotional turn around is similar to mine. Needing to address high bp, blood glucose and cholesterol and getting back more than I thought ever possible. Its a positive way of life thats just impossible to turn your back on, and im so proud to be part of it and your community. Regards

    Dean Jagger wrote on November 24th, 2012
  25. What a man, what a man, what a mighty fine man! ;) Congratulations!!

    Connie wrote on November 24th, 2012
  26. Wow.

    Nice one.

    You are indeed a great example of what can be done.

    ( I keep wanting to say “this is Sparta” ) ;)

    Onge wrote on November 24th, 2012
  27. This story brought tears to my eyes–a first on MDA.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Liz wrote on November 24th, 2012
  28. I’m just going to say it- all paleo bods are hot!

    Sonia wrote on November 24th, 2012
    • Agreed–super hot!

      Bev wrote on November 25th, 2012
  29. whoo hoo great story!! congrats!

    mars wrote on November 24th, 2012
  30. Michael, great job…you look happy & healthy. Not sure if we are allowed to ask but I’m going to anyway…where do you sell your art? I love the piece behind you (the paleo dinosaur!)

    Devi wrote on November 24th, 2012
    • Devi – Thanks! I actually live in Columbus, Ohio and you can find my email through my website from the link on my name. I haven’t updated my website in years though

      Michael wrote on November 25th, 2012
  31. HOTTIE!

    And what a fun and interesting success story! I love that you have been able to inspire and educate doctors. You will benefit their patients and people will get better as a result.

    Joy Beer wrote on November 24th, 2012
  32. Super Inspirational Michael!

    Melissa wrote on November 24th, 2012
  33. Great story :) Takes dedication, will power, and hard work!

    Leah wrote on November 24th, 2012
  34. Awesome job, Michael! And props to you for keeping with the beer; if you’re not sensative and it’s not hurting you, LIVE LIFE!

    And, 2-3 soda’s a day? Pffft. When I was in HS I drank 5-7.

    astrummortis wrote on November 24th, 2012
  35. Wow! Am I the only one who had the hairs on the back of his neck stand up when reading about the understanding doctors?! Great Story Michael, well done and thanks for sharing!

    Dutch wrote on November 25th, 2012
  36. Yeah, I was thinking this photo of him standing next to his art should be part of his show. Bring multiple framed pieces for its sure to be one of your biggest movers!

    Andi wrote on November 25th, 2012
  37. Michael man!

    You story was amazing. Not only does it inspire me (allot of the reason I come here is for inspiration), but that last picture of you just made my skin tingle. I see something in that picture that wasn’t in the first few, and it makes me want to dance.

    I see joy :) and hope. I think just those two things are enough to make a diet switch like this worth it.

    Malachi wrote on November 25th, 2012
  38. Congrats Michael, amazing transformation! Did you have any issues with flabby skin around your midsection, or did it snap back quickly?

    morgan wrote on November 25th, 2012
    • I actually didn’t have any problems

      Michael wrote on November 25th, 2012
  39. Well done Michael. I like to read these inspirational stories to keep me going. Like yourself I’m on blood pressure and antidepressant pills. My doctor now wants me to go on statins for Cholesterol. I wont accept this as i have just started this change of lifestyle, and I feel good.

    I feel that stories like this keep me motivated and look forward to many more.

    Neil wrote on November 25th, 2012
  40. Great transformation. Was the third picture taken (the one that looks like you’re going to chop something with an axe) taken before you started exercise? Or were you just doing pull-ups at that point? Because your muscle tone is great.

    James wrote on November 26th, 2012
    • James – I was just doing wide-grip pull-ups for about a month at that point. That photo was taken 2 months ago

      Michael Bonardi wrote on November 26th, 2012

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