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

My Entire Attitude and Outlook on Life Has Been Altered by This Lifestyle

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 2I should have been happy, I was sitting around a dinner table at a restaurant enjoying a martini with my step-father and talking with the rest of my family. I reached for another roll (I skipped the butter of course) but before I could even take a bite I was lightheaded, dizzy to the point that I had to leave the table. In the bathroom of the restaurant I almost passed out – I had no idea what was wrong with me. What I didn’t know is that I was bleeding inside, and the amount of bleeding was significant. The next day after my morning throne time I noticed that the entire bowel movement was blood – this repeated three times that morning. After a long night in the hospital and a halfhearted diagnosis of “bleeding ulcer” I was discharged and told to see a specialist. The pain and sickness wasn’t new, neither were the intense headaches, but everything was getting worse.

I was at the end of a six year military enlistment and had been unable to pass the physical requirements that year; nobody, including myself could figure out why. About six months before, I was running 15+ miles a week and living in the gym.  Now I couldn’t run the required two miles in the allotted time, it wasn’t even close, I had to stop multiple times during the run just to catch my breath before soldiering on for another few hundred yards. I felt such immense shame but it was just the beginning. At the age of 28 my health was collapsing – only a year prior I was in great shape and very active. Below is a photo of my girlfriend (now my wife) and I about a year before I started getting symptoms.

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My energy levels, strength and endurance had been collapsing steadily for months – the only other change in my health at the time was intense abdominal pain. After further misdiagnosis my frustration was growing; I couldn’t live the active lifestyle I was enjoying prior to this sickness and the feeling that this was the way I was going to have to live my life was leading me into a deep depression. Weight started to pile on and my physical, emotional and mental health was collapsing. Something had to give.

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Finally something did give, my appendix. I woke up in the middle of the night with a sharp pain in a new spot. I knew almost instantly what this was and woke my fiancée (now my lovely wife) and through clenched teeth, told her I needed to go to the ER. At the ER check in I told the nurse what I believed was the problem and then sat to wait for close to an hour. When I was taken in the doctor ran some confirmatory tests and told me what I already knew – appendicitis. Prior to surgery they needed to run blood tests – and this is where it hit the fan. The doctor returned to my room and asked me if I had been “wounded” lately. When I asked for clarification he suggested stab wounds, gun shots or severe lacerations as possible causes for the 7% hematocrit reading he got from my blood samples (normal levels for men are in the 40-50% range).

Amid growing concern I received multiple transfusions over the course of the next several hours before the surgeon went in to remove the pieces of my now ruptured appendix. This entire situation led to several meetings with a new GI specialist. During these meetings over the course of the next few months I asked repeatedly about potential dietary causes to which the only response was – you tested negative for Celiac-Sprue. Eventually we arrived at a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. This diagnosis led to a feeling of bitter relief. I was relieved to “know” what the cause was even if it meant that I was stuck with this horrible condition for the rest of my days. At the very least I knew what had been causing my health to steadily deteriorate for the past 4-5 years.

The next few years were spent trying different ineffective medications and closely monitoring my bleeding induced anemia – on a good day I could get a reading in the 20-25% range, still a long way from normal. My activity levels continued to decline, and the resulting depression, inflammation and sedentary lifestyle were causing my weight to balloon and my attitude continued to deteriorate. The extra work my heart was having to do to pump my anemic blood faster and harder was leading to blood pressure problems which caused the doctors to prescribe additional medications to alleviate this symptom.

It was a discussion with a gluten sensitive coworker that caused me to revisit the idea that this could be dietary. She described her symptoms prior to eliminating gluten and they mirrored my own – I began to do some research into gluten free living and at roughly the same time my wife suggested I look into this “paleo” diet. There seemed to be a wealth of information available about this particular gluten free lifestyle so I set out to build an exceptionally rigid paleo nutrition plan – I would find out for sure one way or another if this was something I could control myself. It was during this time that I discovered MDA and The Primal Blueprint.

The principles set forth in The Primal Blueprint simply made sense to me. I am a biologist by education with a hobbyist’s interest in evolutionary biology. It would seem this lifestyle was tailor made for me – if by name alone! By this point I had been paleo for a couple of weeks and was already seeing promising signs. Sure, weight was coming off but what was more important to me was the way I was feeling.

It took my body about three to four weeks to “feel” adapted. Eating clean like this was causing all sorts of changes for me. I noticed my ability to taste the subtleties in food was becoming stronger. I attribute this to the absence of all the processed garbage which was creating “noise” for my taste buds. Without all the noise I could enjoy the taste of the food that these additives and their accompanying outrageous sugar and sodium levels had been masking all this time. Other physical changes manifested themselves across an entire spectrum of benefits ranging from dry skin on my elbows going away for the first time in years to the holy grail of my quest – absence of abdominal pain. The inflammation and bleeding had stopped. It is something we obviously take for granted, the ability to eat a meal and not double over in pain. After living that way for years, to not feel gutshot every time I eat is incredible, it still defies description.

Energized by these positive developments I began to exercise, slowly at first – just 20 minutes at a time on the treadmill. I began to up this amount as my strength began to return. It was at this point that I knew I had made the first correct decision about my health that anybody had made in years. From this point on, every small change I made to get myself more in-line with a Primal lifestyle was yielding benefits and they were all complimenting each other. My exercise routine changed from 20 minutes on the treadmill to 30 minutes of outside running, to running longer distances 4+ times a week (bordering on chronic cardio) to my current routine of HIIT days alternating with heavy lift days with shorter runs, swims and hikes thrown in for good measure. I was weighing myself every day, but more to develop an understanding of my body than to monitor weight loss – which was occurring at a steady pace.

My entire attitude and outlook on life has been altered by this lifestyle. The gift of being able to challenge myself physically has been returned to me, and it isn’t a gift that I intend to squander. I’ve developed an addiction to obstacle racing! Here is a picture of me crossing the finish line at the 2013 Spartan Beast world championship race in Killington Vt. For perspective – only 8 months prior I was 115 lbs heavier and so anemic I couldn’t ascend a flight of stairs – my heart would pound so hard that it shook my torso. This race was 12-14 miles long up and down the mountain all day with 40+ obstacles.

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It is almost a year to the day since my first steps down this path, although to be perfectly honest my weight hasn’t fluctuated in months. I just had to wait to get my physical results before I submitted this, I wanted the data for that side by side comparison.

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It is easy to focus on what I lost during a period of change like this (115 lbs, an array of worthless medications, and frequent headaches) but it is far more valuable to focus on what I gained – energy, confidence, health, speed, strength, vitality and youth; like a phoenix born from the ashes of my prior life.

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Before
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After

Sitting down to write this story brought in to stark focus exactly how long and challenging this period of my life has been. Undiagnosed for years, misdiagnosed for even longer – I lost nearly a decade of my most vital years (28-37) because I wasn’t confident enough to make my own decisions about my health. No more, my vitality is mine to control. I know this lifestyle has its fair share of critics and doubters and while I have a hefty repertoire of arguments, counterarguments and even my own openly expressed data sets (see above) I don’t engage in debate. If there is anything this experience taught me it is that there is nobody with a bigger stake in your well-being than yourself, and it is up to you to not only make the change, but to commit to it. It isn’t easy – but it is simple.

It is wonderful to know, that when people do finally reach the point where they know a change is required – there is a wealth of information and a supportive community here at MDA waiting to help them through the metamorphosis. This is something I hope to provide as well with my own upcoming blog dedicated to Primal living. Thanks for reading!

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. I am a daily lurker here and at other Paleo/ Primal blogs. My transfomation has been slow do to my own issues that I need to fix. What amazes me is the amount of negativity that is shown towards this lifestyle. When you read these stories and visually see the AMAZING transformations.. HOW can anyone not think this is the way to live?

    What an amazing life change!

    Irish wrote on January 24th, 2014
    • It’s not so amazing (the negativity) when you realize that there is no money to be made from it in the form of diet shakes, bars and membership fees. Conventional Wisdom says that Weight Watchers and Slim Fast at he best .
      What a joke! We know better though.

      de wrote on January 24th, 2014
      • The anti-capitalism mini-rant is every bit as stupid and childish as the brain-dead criticisms of Paleo eating. Mark Sisson engages in plenty of capitalism, in case you didn’t notice. He doesn’t live by begging for handouts, does he?

        There are tons of money to be made from being a Paleo business. You buy your Paleo foods and ingredients somewhere, don’t you? You buy your active lifestyle clothes somewhere, don’t you?

        The problem of cynicism about Paleo is not one of money or markets. It’s one of government-backed (and endorsed) idiocy. It is a deeply-embedded cultural problem and doctors, as a group, are as guilty of endorsing it as anyone else.

        There is also the psychological problem that the vast majority of people have with admitting that they were wrong or duped about something important or seemingly “common sense” — you know, like their own health and diet. Weight Watchers and Slim Fast aren’t attempting to do any harm to anyone — they are simply well-intentioned idiots like most of their clients. If more and more people demand more and more Paleo, the market will respond and its overall face will change.

        Freelancelot wrote on January 29th, 2014
  2. WOW! Great story, and another sad testament on modern medicine.

    Colleen wrote on January 24th, 2014
  3. Looking really solid now. Like a machine…

    Stephan R wrote on January 24th, 2014
  4. Goosebumps, my man. Goosebumps. Truly excellent story – thank you so much for sharing!!!

    Nick wrote on January 24th, 2014
  5. I wish this success story could be printed onto the side of every box of processed food at the grocery store. Absolutely amazing. What comes to mind is a phoenix rising from the ashes. I hope you can look at it not as 9 wasted years but as a well-documented extreme transformation that will convince many other people that they can be transformed, too.

    I still can’t get over the fact that so many “GI specialists” don’t know anything about food.

    Alice wrote on January 24th, 2014
  6. +1 Inspiring all the way!

    Coll wrote on January 24th, 2014
  7. Amazing results and story! Fantastic transformation! Grok on, man!

    Grokolicious wrote on January 24th, 2014
  8. Regarding those before and after pics, afraid I’m going to need an affidavit attesting that it’s the same guy… just kidding! Your story is truely an inspiration. Congrats.

    C. Hand wrote on January 24th, 2014
  9. incredible. to life!

    adina wrote on January 24th, 2014
  10. Amazing! I just had to pick my chin up off my desk. Good for you. Enjoy your newfound health and wellness.

    Brooke wrote on January 24th, 2014
    • What a transformation! I picked up my chin off the table too.

      Shaiek wrote on January 24th, 2014
  11. “If there is anything this experience taught me it is that there is nobody with a bigger stake in your well-being than yourself, and it is up to you to not only make the change, but to commit to it. It isn’t easy – but it is simple”.

    Great attitude and you look fantastic – the picture of health

    CAR wrote on January 24th, 2014
  12. Fantastic! I am totally envious of your transformation. I need to get serious about my own transformation. Totally motivating.

    Brian wrote on January 24th, 2014
  13. One of the best success stories I’ve read! Very inspiring!

    Awesome job man!

    Eric wrote on January 24th, 2014
  14. This is an amazing story. You look great, but it’s probably nothing compared to the way you feel. I have crohn’s too. Isn’t it truely amazing how you can get used to that kind of pain every day and that you lived with the “fact” that you would never feel any better than that? It’s like you get a second chance at life and now you can truely appreciate your good health.

    Melissa wrote on January 24th, 2014
    • You are so right. That you can just accept pain like that as part of life is pretty amazing. I didn’t want to let myself believe I wasn’t having stomach pains for the first few days, as if acknowledging the improvement would summon the pain back!

      To second chances!

      Dave R wrote on January 24th, 2014
  15. So glad you got it figured out early! Wishing you a lifetime of good health. :)

    granny gibson wrote on January 24th, 2014
  16. Thank you for a wonderful success story and congratulations! Loved the before and after pics.

    Bev wrote on January 24th, 2014
  17. What is there to say but WOW! What a great story, the most inspiring yet! I am so happy for you and your lovely wife also!

    Siobhan wrote on January 24th, 2014
  18. From one soldier to another…GOOD JOB! Your high speed again!

    Danny T wrote on January 24th, 2014
  19. I love MDA and the success people have! Awesome recovery and thriving on top of it! I am glad you feel so good now. Kinda gives me envy. I have learned a lot thanks to Mark. I have also learned it is not for me to go all in with it. I better understand what is good for me, though.

    j wrote on January 24th, 2014
  20. Congratulations and good for you! What I love best about your story is your emphasis on taking responsibility for your own health and making the commitment to educating yourself and putting into practice what you’ve learned. It’s truly sad that so many people don’t make this connection. Yours is a truly inspiring story.

    Here’s a thought – could you imagine how the health insurance, pharma and healthcare industries would be transformed if we all made this same commitment? No more astronomical health care bills, no more pricey prescriptions to pay for, no more health insurance companies holding the upper hand – I wish more people would educate themselves.

    One last thing – your former fiance, now wife – is a very lucky woman!

    Ali wrote on January 24th, 2014
    • Hah – the pharmas and health care companies would HATE IT. They make their money off of sick people, after all. Not to mention the beverage industry (which just last week sent out a “scientific” press release saying diet soft drinks are part of a “healthy” dieting strategy – contradicting a rigorous study done by Johns Hopkins Medicine saying they contribute to weight gain…)

      ** steps off soapbox and back onto yoga mat **

      Gydle wrote on January 25th, 2014
  21. You, sir, are a beast!!! I imagine with all you had to go through to finally find your health, you are now unstoppable. Congratulations!

    JennF wrote on January 24th, 2014
  22. Who is that big fat guy in the BEFORE pics? Graet change–inspiring–I am going out right now and sprint in 5°F!

    Pastor Dave Deppisch wrote on January 24th, 2014
  23. Just. Wow. I have been reading Friday stories for 2 years, and yours, my friend, is what this is all about.

    AJJ wrote on January 24th, 2014
  24. This story is getting forwarded to my husband! Congrats on your life changing decision!!

    Cindy wrote on January 24th, 2014
  25. I get monthly solicitations from the AMA to join, as I’m sure do 85% of physicians who are not AMA members.

    Until they embrace grain-less diet as the gold standard not just for diabetic patients but for general population, they can count me out.

    paleocrushmom wrote on January 24th, 2014
    • Hear, hear!

      Forrest Beck wrote on January 24th, 2014
      • +1

        Colleen wrote on January 24th, 2014
    • “Until they embrace grain-less diet as the gold standard not just for diabetic patients but for general population, they can count me out.”

      That’s a bit optimistic. But if they got to the point where they were recommending that overweight and obese patients should severely limit grains that would be something. Half a loaf, is better than none.

      Paul in Australia wrote on January 24th, 2014
      • No loaf is better than half a loaf, unless it’s meat loaf.

        phenocopy wrote on January 24th, 2014
        • LOL

          k.c. wrote on January 26th, 2014
  26. Crazy story. That’s one the lowest crits I’ve seen. I’m doing the Spartan race tomorrow in Temecula for the first time. I signed up to do it last year but I got appendicitis a week out. This year everything looks good to go. Can’t wait!

    Matt wrote on January 24th, 2014
  27. Isn’t cholesterol of 177 a little low, isn’t the minimum death rate about 200-200?

    WalterB wrote on January 24th, 2014
    • Actually, the docs get more upset if your over 200 – 220 (and that difference can be seen running the same blood sample twice on the same instrument). Lower isn’t bad. They focus more on the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ pieces. Don’t forget the triglycerides matter a great deal and that change rocked!!!

      Sandra B wrote on January 24th, 2014
      • Exactly! Those tryglycerides went from really bad to extremely superior! That’s the thing that caught my eye hugely.

        I love the second to last paragraph. AMEN: “No more, my vitality is mine to control.” We are grownups here and we know what is working.

        Joy Beer wrote on January 25th, 2014
  28. I haven’t ever posted here, but I have a wonderful excuse to now. Having just given a talk at the company I work for on this subject (Primal), it is an absolute joy to hear feedback of what life-changing information this is to people. Your story brought tears to my eyes. So happy you chose to fight and rise from the ashes. All the best to you!

    Forrest Beck wrote on January 24th, 2014
  29. You absolutely rock man! Those years you lost are going to be followed by what you rightfully deserve, the best ones of your life. Dig in!

    Rob wrote on January 24th, 2014
  30. WELL DONE! I also have been reading these Friday stories for a while but must say this is a story that resonates with me quite a bit!

    I’ve recently been going to one doctor to the next trying to fix all the different ailments I was experiencing with my stomach, fatigue, and variety of other frustrating symptoms. After a year and a half of expensive tests, medications and no real change in how I’m feeling, I come to the realization that none of those conventional doctors are trying to actually CURE me and are just trying to treat the symptoms. At that point (a few months ago) I took charge as well and have been adamant about putting my health first with the right information and the right professionals. At 27, I’m happy I have the tools to be healthy otherwise you and I could’ve had a similar possibly “lost decade” of life! I’m just now starting to feel better and I’m really looking forward to getting my energy back and working out again!

    Well done on your success and thank you for sharing with us! Great inspiration!

    PrimalGrokette wrote on January 24th, 2014
  31. “there is nobody with a bigger stake in your well-being than yourself, and it is up to you to not only make the change, but to commit to it. It isn’t easy – but it is simple” – well said man!

    Awesome transformation, both from a physical standpoint to a health standpoint!

    Luke wrote on January 24th, 2014
  32. Incredible story! Congrats!

    Christie wrote on January 24th, 2014
  33. Based on the change in your face alone, I can see you are now a healthy person. Congratulations on discovering your key to optimum health!

    Corey wrote on January 24th, 2014
  34. Another WOW for our Friday post. Thanks for sharing this for all the people who have been led astray by the “no, it’s not your diet” lie that health officials like to give us.
    I have so many friends and co-workers that could benefit from this way of living but are not interested in taking over their own health care. Sigh, I will still encourage them to benefit themselves in any way I can.
    Thanks again for sharing your story!

    2Rae wrote on January 24th, 2014
  35. Great work man. You look awesome!

    glorth2 wrote on January 24th, 2014
  36. Unreal!!! Great job. So inspiring!!

    Meg wrote on January 24th, 2014
  37. You’re an animal dude! I mean this in the best way possible, of course. Congrats on your transformation and successes!

    Allen P wrote on January 24th, 2014
  38. Excellent recovery – well done! Thanks for sharing such a great story.

    Grokesque wrote on January 24th, 2014
  39. holy %&^$. serious my jaw just dropped onto my keyboard.

    Lor wrote on January 24th, 2014
    • I second that… WOW!

      Bucket wrote on January 24th, 2014
  40. Wow, what an amazing transformation story! Congratulations on finding the answers and regaining your health. May you have many, many more years of health and happiness.

    Jill wrote on January 24th, 2014
    • Hi,
      This is my first post. I am very impressed with your story.

      Emma wrote on January 24th, 2014

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