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!
I have been morbidly obese practically my entire life. By the time I was 10 years old, I was a chubby kid, weighing in at over 100 pounds. I was in size 44 pants by the time I was in high school and kept going up from there. In November 2010, I weighed 440 pounds (200 kg). I was morbidly obese, lacked confidence, and when it came to my own life, I lived in constant fear that I was having a heart attack every time I was short of breath. I had discretely (and without doctor’s orders) started taking aspirin daily because I knew it was only a matter of time before I followed in the footsteps of almost every other male in my family and had a heart attack. I suffered from massive acid reflux, which also was a source of heart disease fears, and I was pre-diabetic and had constant pain in my joints and lower back.
I had made the decision to medicate my downward spiraling health and not treat it. Moreover, my food addiction was getting worse by the day. I was spending about $500 per month on fast food and another $200 per month on convenience store garbage, like donuts, bagels, and sugar filled soda. I would never choose to abstain from a food because it was terrible for my health, and I never even considered doing exercise for the purpose of fitness, but I was getting to the stage where even getting out of the car was a cardio workout.
I was in pain being on my feet any longer than 15 minutes. This made my job difficult (where I am required to do presentations and networking in social settings) and any time I received an invitation from friends, I had to think about if I’d be able to make it through the activity. I wore ankle braces every day because my body was struggling just to hold my weight, and was forced to buy whatever clothes I could find that could fit me due to a diminishing selection at my growing size.
I privately wondered:
Could anyone ever love me (myself included) as obese as I was? How long would it be before my loved ones would start to be ashamed of me? Were they already? Will I live to see my daughters graduate, marry, and be adults?
On the outside, I wasn’t an unhappy person. In fact, a majority of people around me seemed to like me and think I was a positive, happy person, but inside I was just living day to day. I had settled in life, love, and was not long for this world.
It was at this time that I had an epiphany moment. While pondering a church lesson about mistreating my body, I finally saw that I had gotten out of control. That I was miserable and in pain, and that I deserved to live, for the first time in my life, without all of these problems. I had tried to lose weight so many times before, but for the first time, I decided to do it for me. My daughters deserved the best version of me and I deserved to be that man. See, I had never even considered the fact until that very moment, that food and my addiction to it was hurting my relationships, shortening my life unnecessarily, damaging the quality of my life, and taking away from those that I loved most.
It was time to change.
The next morning, I decided to get outside and go for a walk. It was 4am. When I returned home after what was probably a quarter of a mile, I was breathing so hard that my roommate thought I was having a heart attack. But I didn’t die. And that told me I could probably do it again tomorrow, and I might not die then either.
At first, I had a good friend write me up some meal plans, but found myself bored with the plans and started to research diet and nutrition. It was at this point that I came across the Paleo diet. I love to research and I started to listen to podcasts by Robb Wolf and Chris Kresser and purchased Robb’s book and used tons of recipes from EverydayPaleo.com and Mark’s Daily Apple.
Some people have asked me if I struggle with the restrictive nature of an elimination diet, but as a recovering junk food addict, the structure of the Paleo approach was exactly what I needed to stay on track. Having a framework to stay within gave me boundaries to re-establish a healthy relationship with food. Prior to this, food was my security blanket and BFF. We celebrated together. We mourned together. We hung out on dates and business meetings and get togethers. Food was always there with and for me.
Going Paleo gave me an opportunity to reexamine my relationship with food and focus on nutrient dense products. The weight started to pour off of me. The pre-diabetes went away and my joints stopped hurting. My acid reflux was gone completely and has not returned. I was switching products every six months when one would stop working, and now I was completely off medication. My sleep improved and my pants started to loosen.
After nine months, I started some additional strength training and increased my protein intake to facilitate muscle growth. Essentially, I started focusing on the compound lifts and made great progress with a linear progression system.
When I first made my decision to lose weight, my friend Bret dropped in my mind the thought that I could actually drop 100 pounds by the next Christmas (a year and a month away). When I first started eating healthily, the weight poured off of me. It’s clear to me now that my body wanted to be fit and I had been fighting it my whole life with my addiction. Despite hitting a few plateaus along the way, by the following Christmas, I had almost hit my initial goal weight. In fact, in just one year and nine days, I had lost 200 pounds on the nose. That’s right, I lost 200 pounds in a year without pills, shakes, or surgery: eating the foods I loved and established, for the first time in my life, a healthy relationship with food.
On Thanksgiving, I ran in my first 5K and my entire family was there cheering me on at the finish line and inside I knew that I had become the man they would always know: healthy, strong, and happy. Loved by others always, but finally by himself.
On the 18-month anniversary of my weight loss journey, I participated in the Wildflower Triathlon, and although it was too far away for my family to attend, I was surrounded by some supportive friends and proudly finished the race.
Paleo worked so well for me for a few reasons:
- Consistency – Paleo gave me a framework on how and what to eat, which is exactly what a recovering junk food addict needs. Also, I had a linear training program that allowed me to systematize my fitness as well.
- No “Cheat Days” – I love the way Robb has said that your diet is not a marriage. You can’t cheat on it. This has helped me to learn that if I want to eat something, I need to change the way I see it. I am still 100% gluten free and have been since day 1 of Paleo. I don’t miss the foods because I love the way I feel.
- I did it for me. This was the click that changed this time. See, this was not the first time I’d attempted a change, but this is the first time it stuck (I’ve been at my goal weight for over two years now). Every other time, I did it for a girl or a suit or some other reason. This time I did it because I realized that I deserved to be healthy and happy and I deserved to live.
Did I have some external motivation? Of course. I was concerned that relationships had deteriorated due to my poor health. I like the attention that comes from the opposite sex now. I love being strong in and out of the gym. I get a rush from completing a new personal best or when I did my triathlon.
I love not having limits. I work for a construction company in marketing (I don’t actually do construction) so when a homeowner for the first time offered for me to go on a ladder and check out the damage in his attic, I said yes. The truth was that I don’t know enough about construction to actually know what I was seeing, but I was just excited to be able to climb a ladder for the first time in my life and walk around up there because a couple of years before, no one would have in their right mind invited me to climb anything.
In closing, please allow me to present the tale of the tape:
Weight: 440 pounds to 212 pounds = 228 pounds lost or over 50% of my body weight. I’ve also added some of muscle weight to this. Waist: 56 inch to 33 inch = 23 inches lost. Neck: 22 inch to 16 inch = 6 inches lost. Shirt Size: 4X to a Large Collarbone: I now have one (or two? I failed anatomy). Adam’s Apple: Finally. Visible Vascularity: About time. Fitness: I couldn’t walk to I feel physically fit for the first time in my life.
In short, I could say that Paleo made me the man I’ve dreamt of becoming my whole life: the man hiding inside that other one that I used to be and I couldn’t be happier.