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

I Am, Without a Doubt, In the Best Shape of 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!

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First off, thanks so much Mark! Your website has become a daily staple, and I really credit much of my own success to your teachings. It’s truly great to have found MDA!

Where to begin. I always ate carbs. Grew up eating a baguette every evening with dinner, which was almost always loaded with pasta. As an Italian, we loved pasta and bread. I actually wasn’t terrible with sweets until I got to and then left high school, but boy did I love them. During high school, I was your typical story – lots of exercise and sports, and I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Never really gave it half a thought. As I got older, I knew I should be eating “healthy,” but my definition was way off. I would feel guilty when eating both a chocolate bar and a steak – I really didn’t know the difference, I just knew that I wasn’t listening to my body’s signals, or caring to do so. I just wasn’t at that place in my life yet.

When I got to college, my habits got way worse. Drinking heavily three to four nights a week, tons of junk food and late night pizzas, very little and sporadic exercise, odd sleep routines, and just a general lack of care for my body. Looking back it’s pretty shameful. Regardless, I stayed in relatively decent shape. At 6’2″, I was usually between 185-190 pounds – occasionally hitting the 200 mark. I could get myself down to 175 if I ran and lifted weights for a month, but my motivation never stuck around and I was usually right back to the 190ish spot pretty quickly. By my senior year of college, I noticed that I was developing insomnia, and had real issues with getting regular sleep. I often had stomach aches and nausea, and credited all of my health woes on alcohol. I had seen a doctor or two about recurring nausea, but it never dawned on me that diet could be affecting me. The doc would ask what I ate, I told him, and he’d say “that all sounds normal, stay away from the bad stuff.” Funny how everyone’s definition of “bad” is different…

I graduated in 2007 and drove across the country to California with my best friend. He’s very fit, and we spent about three weeks camping, hiking, and climbing the country. It made me feel a bit ashamed seeing his awesome body next to mine, and I really wanted to get rid of the spare tire I was carrying around. At that point though, I had told myself that it was part of me, some people are lean and some aren’t, and that I should just give it up and accept it. I felt bummed that I could never have a “beach body,” but I sort of let it go. I just assumed that I wasn’t at the gym enough, and that I needed more discipline. Pass the bread!

The next few years were more of the same. Lots of pasta. Lots of Wendy’s. Lots of beer. More stomach aches, bad sleeps, and fat around the belly. By this point, I had met my future wife (Marie) and we were partners in crime. We both love food, and she is an amazing cook – so we’d go to town! I never said no when it came to food. She, too, is Italian, and our meals were typically pasta and grain based. I never got “fat”, per se, but I always carried a load around, and felt sort of weak and unattractive.

In 2009, we decided to move to Korea to teach English for a year. What a rewarding experience! While there, we were going to vacation in Thailand, and Marie wanted to lose some weight for the beach. This was the beginning of our transformation. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we were trying. We started by cutting deserts and riding our stationary bike for a half hour every night. We started to see some results – nothing amazing, but it was nice dropping a few pounds. After the vacation, we decided to get more serious. I read both of Michael Pollan’s books, and it just made sense to me that we should be eating more “food” and less “stuff.” Being in Korea actually made our transition easy, because they eat so much meat and produce there. I really think I unintentionally started becoming Primal there! I was still totally on carbs though, and I had still yet to make the distinction that grains = bad. After our diet change, Marie and I both committed to doing the “Insanity” workout, by the same guys that do P90X. It was working! Our friends commented on the weight we were losing, and it felt great. By the time we left Korea, I was down to 165. I noticed, however, that I felt tired a lot, and our efforts felt unsustainable. I knew I couldn’t be doing 90 minutes of cardio, six days a week, for the rest of my life. And although I looked noticeably better, I still didn’t feel cut or muscular, at all. If anything, I felt just smaller. But, I was on the right path (critically thinking about what I ate) and had the motivation to look good. I was starting to get a taste of feeling better, and I wanted more.

The next few months were tough. Our hardcore Insanity was done, we were back in the states, and everyone wanted to visit, eat, and drink. I crept back up to 170, and I wasn’t feeling fit. I didn’t look muscular like my fit friends. I was starting to get discouraged. I couldn’t understand it. I was biking a TON (taking up 50-100 mile rides regularly), hitting the gym with weights and group spin classes, and eating like crazy to compensate. I could sort of feel that I was burning myself out a bit, but I figured that this all was good for me, especially according to CW. Meanwhile, Marie is cooking a low fat, moderate protein, moderate carb diet for us. We had the right drive, for the most part, but we were still running off of a lot of misinformation. We were getting better, but it was slowly, and we had a lot of learning to do. Meanwhile, my mother had developed a serious gluten insensitivity, and was dealing with it. So, we had ended up hearing a lot about the evils of gluten for a few months, dealing with her dietary restrictions, and just questioning things in general. This, looking back, was a good precursor for me.

Then, my lucky day. A friend Facebook messaged me and told me to read a book – Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes. I barely got through the first chapter and it all sounded so… right. I zoomed through it. The same friend sent me to MDA next, and I’m eternally grateful. I was immediately hooked. Marie joked about how I needed to shut up – I wouldn’t stop yammering on about all the new things I was learning! She wasn’t convinced, but being the good partner that she is, she let me run my mouth and heard me out. I slowly started to convince her that you were onto something, and we decided to go Primal! It only took me about a week or two to come around. Once I started reading things, I felt “enlightened” and couldn’t eat a sandwich without feeling differently! It just made too much sense to me.

It was remarkably easy, I must admit. I thought it would be way harder. Much of that is probably due to the fact that Marie is such a good cook, she barely missed a beat while switching to Primal, and made it extra easy for me. Our grains became extra veggies and larger servings of meat. My hangover lasted about a week, but I’ve barely ever had any cravings since. People ask me how we do it – I always laugh and tell them that I get to eat the best parts of every meal! We eat so well now – only fresh, local organic fruits and veggies, tons of grass fed beef, bison, and lamb. Fresh bacon, eggs, chicken, and fish. Lots of nuts. Lots of coconut products. Lots of Primal bars! I cheat with chocolate or cake every now and then – but to be honest, it’s not even that tasty anymore. I’d rather have some bacon or a hard boiled egg. Both Marie and I have noticed that even when we go out now, both of us have gotten really good at ordering off the menu yet still staying Primal – it’s easier than you’d think. Many of our friends won’t even notice our wacky orders if we are smart about how we do it. Hah. I never leave the house without a container of almonds, and hard boiled eggs have become a regular quick-snack. Fresh berries have become our desert, and I’ll have an occasional hunk of dark chocolate to satiate the craving.

Our Primal eating coincided with our new found love of rock climbing, which Marie surprised me with one evening. We are now regulars five times a week at our local climbing gym – riding six miles round trip, and climbing for an hour. I feel like climbing is about the most Primal you can get – works every single muscle group, there is great stretching, a few “sprint” moments, and lots of breaks in between. It’s definitely kept me intrigued during my workouts, and I love that every day is different. Just thinking about going back to the weight room makes me roll my eyes… I’ve found greener pastures! It also amazes me every time I walk into the climbing gym how good of shape everyone is in. Just when I’m starting to feel super confident, ten ripped guys will walk by and put me to shame! It reminds me that this sport breeds the “LGN” people – everyone seems to have a killer body! I’ve gotten mine pretty quickly by just doing what Grok would do – climb some stuff! This activity is one I can’t recommend enough, and we’ve already converted several of our friends. If you’re lucky enough to live near one, check it out! I’ve also switched over to some Vibram shoes, which I can’t love enough. Sure, they look goofy and take a few days of getting used to. Well worth the stares. I’m fast and light with these things!

Final results? I am, without a doubt, in the best shape of my life. I’m 6’2″, and running between 155-160 pounds on any given day. I have a six pack! Never thought that would happen in a million years. I have so many arm muscles! I am constantly getting told by friends and family how good I look. Marie stops me mid sentence almost daily to point out some new muscle that is now popping through somewhere. I feel lean and quick, I take stairs three to four at a time every day, I wake up before my alarm, and just feel generally excellent! Primal living just came at such a perfect time for me, as I was really trying to do the right things, but nothing was making exact sense, until this. I haven’t had any tests/numbers run, but my body fat has to be around 6-7%, if not lower. It has literally MELTED off me since I started going Primal. Ten pounds fell off in the first two weeks, and I’ve steadily dropped from about 170 (when I thought I was fit!) to about 157 for mid-day weight. I used to be a TIGHT 34″ pants – I am now having a lot of difficulty finding clothes that fit, and have had to re-do my wardrobe, I’m down to a 31″ waist! I can even squeeze into a 30″ if I try!

The eating has been the beginning, but I can feel the Primal lifestyle taking hold. We have local veggies delivered, we are composting, walking and cycling more, and are just generally concerned about how the world affects us modern day Groks. I feel enlightened. I’m lucky to live in SF, where there are many like minded people, and making changes like this is easy. But I do want people to know that it was surprisingly easy! Sure, cheating happens – but I know that my permanent lifestyle has changed. I know too much now! Although becoming Primal was one of the final steps in my transformation, I really feel that without it, I wouldn’t be complete. It wasn’t until I went full Primal that I saw my last ten pounds of body fat truly melt away. The difference was amazing – Marie and I would literally laugh before bed every day at how good my body was looking! The difference in how I felt, although impossible to quantify, is what sold me. It was incredible how good I started to feel, always! Happy, light, energetic, sharp, fun, and ambitious. I swear, going Primal changed me for the better!

I know, deep down, that this is the right path. It just… feels right. I know it’s anecdotal, I know it’s unscientific, and it goes against what I like – provable hypotheses. Nonetheless, it just feels right in my heart. I’ve been sharing this with everyone. I want to tell the world. I want to open everyone’s eyes! Thanks so much Mark for helping me change my life for the better. We are exploring so many different avenues that we had never before considered, thanks to the Primal lifestyle, and all of the advice that you and the commenters give. I can honestly say that I approach health and living in a totally different (and way better!) way, thanks to you. I really feel grateful that you’ve spent this time to help all of us out! I know I’ll be paying it forward as long as I can speak! I know Marie has a story of her own to post shortly here, as hers is just as good as mine. Here are some pics of me, before and after – in jeans on my 2007 road trip, big-bellied and full faced on vacation in 2009, and then the good ones! The muddy one was me right after I finished Insanity, at a mud festival in Korea. You can tell I was getting excited with my body! And here I am today, on my honeymoon, and back in my house. I couldn’t feel more awesome. I look how I wished I did my whole life! Rock on, go Grok!

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4 years ago, before I had even an inkling of Primal.

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Two years ago, on vacation. During my “I’m lifting weights, why isn’t it working??” stage. My face is wide! I tried that bathing suit on during my honeymoon… no matter how tight I pulled the strings, it just fell off! So cool!

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Started getting better! I’m down to a 33″ waist here, and loving it.

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The good stuff! This is me the other day, at 158 lbs. Never thought I’d look like this!

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Yeah! Thank you, rock climbing! These muscles were either non-existent or buried underneath – probably a combo of both. Regardless, I couldn’t be happier!

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The end* result!

*it never ends… but these are awesome results, in my opinion. I couldn’t be happier! Thank you so, so, so much Mark. I know you must hear this all the time… but really, your writings helped me change the course of my life for the better. I truly feel like the track I’m on is the healthy, sustainable, and conscious one that will lead me through a long, happy, and prosperous life. Thank you. I will forever recommend your book and website.

Check back next Friday for a Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from Nick’s wife, Marie!

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! Incredible transformation.

    Jen wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • Thanks, Jen!

      Nick wrote on July 15th, 2011
  2. Awesome results. Sounds like you’ve got it all together. And you’re totally ripped! You’ve convinced me to look up a climbing gym!

    yodiewan wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • Highly recommended! It’s actually pretty cheap too, they offer a family pass for $110/month for two people.

      Nick wrote on July 15th, 2011
  3. I actually just started grad school at a university with a climbing gym on campus. If I had been on the fence about checking it out before, I’m certainly not anymore – great job, Nick!

    Thomas wrote on July 15th, 2011
  4. Congratulations, Nick, you look fab and my favorite comment was where you describe leaping up steps three at a time. :-)

    As I read, I kept wanting to hear about your wife and her story and then I read that’s coming next week. Can’t wait!

    Alison Golden wrote on July 15th, 2011
  5. Nice work! You look fantastic. I really need to get back into climbing. When I was little I was voted “best spelunker” at a summer camp and I want to start spelunking again too :)

    Salad Maggie wrote on July 15th, 2011
  6. yea,Nick! welcome to camp Grok. Great work, great story. looks like pikes peak?

    Dasbutch wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • That was actually Bryce Canyon, Utah! Gorgeous place.

      Nick wrote on July 15th, 2011
  7. The smile on your face in the last picture is the best part, methinks.

    Max wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • I concur! It fully represents my feelings on going primal!

      Nick wrote on July 15th, 2011
  8. amazing. I need to find a rock gym.

    Chris Tamme wrote on July 15th, 2011
  9. Jeez Louise! I so want to be full on Primal, but I cant stop the long bouts with marathoning (and the food I ‘need’ to get through it)!!! Maybe after I am done with this round of Fall/Winter I can give it a go!!!!!!!!

    Junie B wrote on July 15th, 2011
  10. Holy gunshow, batman! :D :D

    Yay SF-primals! We should start a club. ;) What climbing gym do you go to? Planet Granite? Id love to start going to the one at Chrissy Field but I live in the Mission so it’s a bit of a trek. Are there others around town that you know of?

    cTo wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • Totally! That’s a great idea!! I’m going to the Chrissy field one, Planet Granite. I know that Mission Cliffs exists – but I’ve never been. Try checking that one out!

      Nick wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • There’s one down in Belmont, Mid-Pen.

      Alison Golden wrote on July 15th, 2011
      • Oo thats true, and I do actually work in Belmont. But usually after work my goal is to get out of here and back up to the city asap. Still, Ill have to look into that too.

        cTo wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • I live in the Mission as well and go to Mission Cliffs on Harrison and 19th. It’s a great gym but gets really crowded during peak hours.

      Paleo Punk wrote on July 15th, 2011
  11. Big Congrats! I hope I can be cool like you one of these days… ;)

    Crunchy Pickle wrote on July 15th, 2011
  12. Awesome! It’s wonderful to find a sport where we just seem to mesh well with. Congrats!

    Caleigh wrote on July 15th, 2011
  13. Great results, I’ve been inspired to look into taking a climbing class. :)

    Darcy wrote on July 15th, 2011
  14. Rock climbing is an incredible sport. I know I too leaned out a lot from it. It’s really a nice primal workout. Most of the time on the rock is sustained effort (low-level cardio). Then there are occasional moves where you really need to crank (Hello sprinting). Happy it was good to you too!

    Alex wrote on July 15th, 2011
  15. What a great story! I love these testimonials–one of the best features on MDA!

    Anne wrote on July 15th, 2011
  16. Nice job Nick!

    Just located my nearest climbing gym. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Kurtis wrote on July 15th, 2011
  17. Great results! I love these stories. Can’t wait to read Marie’s.

    Wendy wrote on July 15th, 2011
  18. Nicely done. I am very inspired. When I taught
    English in Korea I just drank soju and smoked cigarettes.

    I started indoor climbing about 6 months ago and have really enjoyed it. It really works me on so many levels. Physically demanding and mentally challenging while overcoming fear and building confidence. Who could want more. Now I just want to transition to outdoor actual ROCK climbing. I am going to research that right now.

    Climb On!

    Matthew Muller wrote on July 15th, 2011
  19. Awesome! I wish we had a rock climbing gym here! I cannot wait to read your wife’s story!

    Tara wrote on July 15th, 2011
  20. You look amazing! Can’t wait to read Marie’s story!

    Heidi wrote on July 15th, 2011
  21. Woot! Way to go!!

    P.S. The new haircut looks good. :)

    gilliebean wrote on July 15th, 2011
  22. daaayyuummnn!!!!

    Jaclyn wrote on July 15th, 2011
  23. Nice. I like to see people that were ‘in shape’ or ‘fit’ before really take it to the next level just by tweaking their lifestyles. Thanks for sharing.

    Hal wrote on July 15th, 2011
  24. So great to read!

    Keep these stories coming!!!

    Turbo Kelly wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • Like I say, I’ll keep publishing them as long as they keep coming in. If anyone reading this has seen a change in their life as a result of MDA or the Primal Blueprint please email me through the contact form: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/contact/

      These personal accounts are read by hundreds of thousands of people and motivate others to go Primal. They affect real change, so if you’d like to pay it forward drop me a line. Grok on!

      Mark Sisson wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • Seconded. Thanks Mark and those ahead of me – primally speaking! Keeps me inspired.

      Corinne Spiers wrote on July 16th, 2011
  25. Great job!! Very inspiring. :)

    Kvalhion wrote on July 15th, 2011
  26. Great story! Thanks for sharing.
    I would almost guarantee that if you had a before and after of your blood chemistry you’d be pleastanly surprised how much better it is now.

    Teena Christopherson wrote on July 15th, 2011
  27. I love those muscles that come from actually *doing* something physical. Congratulations on your ‘enlightenment’!

    taihuibabe wrote on July 15th, 2011
  28. Nice one Nick. This is probably my favourite success story. As much as I also enjoy the standard “fatty goes Primal, loses 100 lbs” stories, I can relate better to the “average Joe” before photo on this guy. Time to find a rock climbing place and get ripped, and eventually, “flayed”.

    Average Joe wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • That means a lot, thanks! I wrote this because I felt inspired by all of the success stories before mine – and it feels so nice to be able to pay it forward! I really appreciate the compliment!

      Nick wrote on July 15th, 2011
  29. Awesome!! Great story! Can’t wait to hear from Marie.

    Cindi wrote on July 15th, 2011
  30. I can’t tell you how much of what you wrote is just like what my husband and I are going through now. We’re still very early in our primal stage (only about two or three months) but we are seeing the weight melt off, we are completely preoccuiped (in a good way) about the changes in our bodies, and he wants to “tell the world” too. Both of you have infectious excitement and it’s wonderful to experience.

    Day by day more and more co-workers ask my husband (he’s military) what he’s doing, for more information about primal, where he bought his vibrams… LOL

    Congratulations to you and your wife for your amazing transformation. I’m jealous of your access to fresh food and grass-fed beef, and your climbing gym. Hopefully these types of things will come for us in time too. I’ve found some sources for fresh veggies but the grass-fed beef is trickier in our area. Thankfully the hubs is a hunter so we do have a lot of wild deer and hog that he brings home.

    It’s all an ongoing journey and we are all finally on the right path. (Thanks Mark!)

    Jessica wrote on July 15th, 2011
  31. I so much needed an inspiration today, and I’ve found it here! Nick, you look really good, but seriously good :) thanks so much for sharing your story, and keep up the good work!

    Tiana wrote on July 15th, 2011
  32. Nick, I have to say of all the PB Real Life stories yours has resonated with me most! I live in the Richmond District and am totally going to check out a rock climbing gym! And I agree with cTo…SF Primals should start a club so we can support each other! Congrats to you and thank you for sharing your journey.

    Mr. Aytch wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • Glad to hear it! Perhaps let’s start with a facebook group? SF Primals sounds like a great name! I’m going to get to it!

      Nick wrote on July 15th, 2011
      • And… done! SF Primal is the group name! Find it on FB!

        Nick wrote on July 15th, 2011
        • Awesome! Imma go to there.

          cTo wrote on July 15th, 2011
        • Hmm I’m not seeing it. Is it set to public? Or maybe it just has to trickle through the system first.

          cTo wrote on July 15th, 2011
        • Oh, got it, its SF primalS, my bad

          cTo wrote on July 15th, 2011
  33. You look amazing! You definitely have a beach body now.

    I can see how your story is parallel to mine in many ways. Although I’ve only been primal for a month now (13 lbs. down :D), I want to convince everyone to go Primal. I don’t really say too much but the first week I talked my wife’s ears off. I was rambling I was so excited.

    I, too, have been considering rock-climbing (I am afraid of heights though so I won’t go too crazy) and perhaps my first primal “goal” is to climb a particular tree in my condo complex. I can reach the first branch if I jump but can’t get anywhere once I’ve grabbed it.

    I’m happy for you that you and your wife have this interest in common. I will make for a most interesting life together. I’m fortunate, too, to have the loving support of my wife.

    David wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • You are very fortunate. That makes such a big difference! My recommendation would be to try and find a climbing gym – something about being on a rope made it easier! I know Marie had an issue with heights, and it has gotten much easier for her.

      Nick wrote on July 15th, 2011
      • Nick’s wife, Marie, here! You should DEFINITELY try rock climbing despite your fear of heights! I was absolutely terrified of heights/falling before starting climbing. It was funny, because I did not have that fear as a kid, but as I got older I got incredibly insecure with the notion of being up high and falling down. It took me almost two weeks to get comfortable climbing, but it has helped with my fears and now I don’t even think about being up in the air. The ropes involved in belaying are completely safe and secure, and you learn all the safety procedures before you ever climb a wall. Try it!!!!

        Marie B. wrote on July 15th, 2011
  34. Anybody else here notice that the one common thread that appears in all of these Success Stories is the level of enthusiasm not just for going Primal, but for life itself? And this story is no exception! You can just “hear” as well as “see” the transformation in Nick and the others that have posted.

    Mark, thank you for MDA and for sharing all these with us.

    Nick, Bryce Canyon is just about my favorite place on Earth. DH and I used to race each other from the Rim down to the Queen’s Garden and back. When we lived in So. Utah, I was at Bryce at least once or twice a week hiking every inch of that place.

    Thank you for sharing and spreading your enthusiasm and joy for life to all of us. Can’t wait to hear Marie’s story!

    PrimalGrandma wrote on July 15th, 2011
  35. The absolute best part of this post is the enthusiastic “I have so many arm muscles!” line, and the big grin in the last photo. :D

    Great job!

    Omnomnivore wrote on July 15th, 2011
  36. You look awesome, congrats!

    dani wrote on July 15th, 2011
  37. Wow Wow Wow!!! Great story Nick and amazing before an after.

    Congratulations!

    Primal K@ wrote on July 15th, 2011
  38. Everybody, thank you so much for all of your kind words! I want to reply to everyone personally but I just don’t have the time right now! It really means so much to hear your congratulations and thoughts. I’m so happy that I can share my story, and I really hope that in the same way these stories inspired me to change, mine will inspire others to change.

    Thank you all so much! You’ve made my day/week/month. Grok on!

    Nick wrote on July 15th, 2011
  39. Good stuff, keep up the good work. It’s good to do it together.

    Mary Hone wrote on July 15th, 2011
  40. Way to go man! That is one awesome transformation!

    Matthew Anderson wrote on July 15th, 2011

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