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

Quitting Rice

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 hesitated to share my story since before I started The Primal Blueprint (PB), I was already a fairly healthy 22-year-old, so my transformation simply cannot compare to those that have lost weight in the triple digits and literally cured diabetes. However, I decided to write out this story after some encouragement from my friends, and I do believe that my transformation is incredible in its own right: particularly, the results materialized so quickly. I’m writing this after less than 4 months of following PB. Moreover, I don’t see many success stories involving my ethnic group, Asians, probably because of the importance of rice in our culture. One of the most common critiques that I hear is “look at all those skinny Asians who gobble down rice.” I wanted to show that there exist substantial benefits to toning down the consumption of rice.

My story starts in my senior year of college. After four years of college, I had put on 20 pounds, reaching 160, which was slightly overweight considering my height of 5′ 5″. Furthermore, the acne that I assumed would disappear with time still persisted from my high school years. You can see me as a college senior.

When I graduated, I decided to make my health a priority and threw myself fervently into the Conventional Wisdom (CW) approach. For 5-6 days every week, I would exercise splitting my time about 50-50 between cardio (in the form of running) and strength training (mainly pull-ups, squats, and bench press). As for diet, I ate my whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and upped my fruits and veggies. The results were slow, but over the course of about 3 months, I managed to lose 10 pounds. Suddenly, progress stopped. I stayed the course with this regimen for 2 months, and my weight remained unchanged. In addition, I doubted my ability to sustain this volume of exercise: I constantly felt tired. You can see the results of CW.

Around this time, I stumbled upon Mark’s Daily Apple when looking for ways to increase my ankle mobility (I was having trouble squatting low, which I have also since remedied). I began to dig deeper into this concept of “Primal Living,” and I found much of it, particularly the bits about insulin and cholesterol, aligned with what I had learned in my college Biochemistry class. Suddenly, I began to look through the lens of evolution, connected the dots, and realized that something has gone awry with how humans interact with our environment. For instance, I discovered that high-carbohydrate diets have been linked to myopia. In terms of evolution, it makes no sense that I was wearing glasses by the time I was 7, and myopia among Asians is the norm. Perhaps, we don’t store fat the way Westerners do, but I sincerely doubt our carbohydrate-rich diet is harmless.

Frustrated with the CW approach and being young with not much to lose, I figured that I would give PB a try. Rather than ease in to the PB, I dove all-in, dropping grains immediately. When I got the low-carb flu, I doubled down and ate more fat. I had an awful case of the flu that lasted nearly 3 weeks, which indicates that I was very insulin-resistant at the start. After 6 weeks, I decided to check my progress, and I couldn’t believe the results. I had already reached my goal weight of 140! That was my weight back in high school when I played tennis and soccer, but I found myself even leaner then than my former 18-year-old self. I’ve managed to stay the course, adding in things like organ meats and intermittent fasting (which for me tends to mean simply skipping breakfast), and have made even more progress as you can see.

The ease of PB has surprised me the most. Fat tastes delicious, so I eat better-tasting food. I don’t go hungry because I simply eat until I’m full instead of counting calories. I work out even less than before: most weeks I lift 3 days and sprint 1 day. If weather permits, on the weekend, I may run 3-4 miles, but this happens maybe only once a month in Boston during the winter. I’d say that the only difficult thing was learning how to cook, but I view it as a fun challenge and a chance to experiment. Furthermore, the 80/20 rule allows me ample chances to deviate without feeling guilty.

Like many, I started PB for weight-loss reasons and have discovered other numerous benefits. Not only have I lost weight, but also I have gotten stronger as measured by my weight room gains, I recover faster from hard workouts, and my skin is much better as one can see. Most importantly, though, my energy levels are more stable, which has made me more productive at the office. Not being a slave to eating three square meals per day and having too much energy to sit still and watch TV has afforded me the time to do things I enjoy like reading, cooking, and mathematics.

All in all, through this experience, I have become convinced that “Primal Living” is the right way to live. If my example can even inspire one person to convert, I’ll feel that I have spent my time well writing this.

Thank you Mark!

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. What a great improvement! And an interesting point about the myopia, I never thought of that one, but as soon as you said it I realised I DO see a higher % of Asian people with glasses. The Asian child with glasses is almost a stereotype.

    Our food intake affects us far more than we realise.

    Odille Esmonde-Morgan wrote on March 30th, 2012
  2. So awesome and good for you! I too am Asian and used to eat bowls of rice and not necessarily gain all too much weight, but now that it’s gone I feel a million times better. Before I used to look at all the skinny Asian girls and feel so jealous of their natural slim body, but now since going primal I just feel so much stronger and healthier than them. Great story!

    Liz wrote on March 30th, 2012
  3. Thank you for sharing your story! You look great and seem more confident. I love the graphic you provided.
    I have never commented on these boards before, but wanted to today since I am also an Asian living in Boston who has been following primal principles for the past year. Like you, I was relatively healthy before going primal, so have not seen dramatic weight loss. But, also like you, I have experienced benefits beyond the weight loss and have been trying to convince my parents to give this lifestyle a try. (They are actually giving it a go, but aren’t fully on board yet.) My husband (whose brother went primal around the same time we did) and I are also trying to convince his parents to follow suit. Maybe one day I will have an extended family success story to write.
    Congratulations on your success and thank you again for sharing!

    Littlewing198 wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Great to see another Asian doing Primal in Boston. I thought I was the only one. I’d love to hear about your experience with the parents. My parents saw me transform right before their eyes and still won’t give it a try. It’s hard to tell someone that the way they’ve eating for 50+ years isn’t so good. My parents also have limited English skills and aren’t going to read the literature.

      Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • I’d be happy to talk. I just registered in the forum, so I think you can send me a private message that way.

        Littlewing198 wrote on April 5th, 2012
  4. FABULOUS! Congratulations!

    Kim wrote on March 30th, 2012
  5. Wow.Fantastic transformation.You’re a real inspiration to us dude.Congrats.

    Andrei wrote on March 30th, 2012
  6. Bravo bud. Keep up the good work, any success story is inspirational!

    brichter45 wrote on March 30th, 2012
  7. Neat… wish my problem was rice!


    Jay wrote on March 30th, 2012
  8. Ass to Grass!

    Melissa wrote on March 30th, 2012
  9. Very nice transformation!
    Congrats on your success!

    Arty wrote on March 30th, 2012
  10. Wow, that was quick progress, thanks for sharing! You look great, and the acne angle was particularly interesting!

    Juiettegold wrote on March 30th, 2012
  11. Some of my Asian friends have been… unenthusiastic about the prospect of cutting rice out of their diets. You’re a gigantic baller, keep on keepin’ on, man!

    Brett Kimsel wrote on March 30th, 2012
  12. Look at that! You look fabulous. So hot! And you just upped your health factor. Good for you!

    Princess Dieter wrote on March 30th, 2012
  13. Well done – it’s great to see such wonderful results in only a year! Keep up the good work and thank you for the inspiration!

    Chance Bunger wrote on March 30th, 2012
  14. Mark, indeed your time was well spent writing this! Thank you. Rice, particularly brown – and a couple of other gluten free high protein grains – seem so hard to give up entirely.

    Wondering if you or anyone else out there has a take on eating some gluten free grains in the primal. Is there benefit to cutting out most, but not quite all such grains?

    Thanks again. Enjoyed your post.


    Julie wrote on March 30th, 2012
  15. First?

    Anyway nice progress. You are very skinny.
    What happened to your sex drive?

    I noticed that low cal and low carb eating seriously damaged my sex drive! :/

    James wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • No affect. From what I’ve heard and read, it’s low cal eating that affects sex drive, not low carb eating. It just happens that when you cut out carbs, people tend to eat lower calorie. Trust me, I don’t eat low calorie in any sense. I just happen to hit the genetic lottery and can maintain sub-10% body fat on Primal rather effortlessly.

      Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • In fact, saturated fat has been shown to possibly boost testosterone as well.

        Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
  16. I’m half Asian, but I don’t eat a lot of rice because I don’t like it. I’ve had a harder time giving up noodles, though. Your story is inspiring; something to show my Thai father when he comes to visit. He’s not all about the rice, either, since he’s 73 and diabetic, so he’ll be glad to see other Asians giving it up for health reasons, too. Thanks for sharing your story, and good job!

    Elizabeth wrote on March 30th, 2012
  17. Myopia–Yup, Phillip is right. It’s caused by a high carb diet, not reading in bad light or holding the book too close (I held it close because I couldn’t see it otherwise!)as my parents always told me, or poor genes. So glad you wrote this, Phillip. You may save lots of folks from unnecessary Lasik surgery.

    If you do a google search linking myopia and carbohydrates you’ll get lots of hits, but a few quick links to studies are:, and

    Island Girl wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Fascinating about the myopia—mine has been awful most of my life, along with by equally awful carb intake. Noticed something different the last couple of years, though—distance prescription and blood sugars have both gotten very unstable, leading to abrupt changes/new lenses WAY too frequently (my last pair of eyeglass lenses alone were $300—ouch!!!–had to get them because distance vision suddenly went completely to hell and I couldn’t drive safely). I also don’t dare order contact lenses without an exam first so I end up w/ exams at least twice a year OR when I notice a vision change.
      Now that I have kicked the carbs (aiming for 60-80 gms/day to start and adjust later as needed) will see if contact lens prescription is any different in 3-4 months compared to now.

      shrimp4me wrote on May 6th, 2013
  18. Awesome job. Great thing you got off the CW, high carb/low fat diet and discovered Primal/Paleo at your age. I’m a lot like you but at almost double the age which meant it took me 6 months to almost match your 6 week photo (those darn alpha-2 receptors). I too am 5’5″ and 167 at my heaviest in my mid 30’s. I’m now hovering at 133-135.

    Besides the weight loss, my seasonal allergies were much improved. No upper respiratory infection this year either. No meds. No sick days.

    If you catch flack from family, know that you’re not alone. Grok on!

    VVP wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • don’t want to speak too soon because spring just started :) but it seems like my seasonal(spring is rough for me) got a lot better since i started primal in Nov 2010

      Gayle wrote on March 30th, 2012
  19. I love that you stumbled onto mda by searching for ways to increase your ankle mobility. I stumbled in the same way by searching if microwave ovens are safe. Now, my life is changed. Great smile, keep doing it!

    Paula Burrus Hinton wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Indeed, it’s great that Mark has posts that normal people can relate to. Primal isn’t all about eating organs and walking around barefoot. Those things are great, though!

      Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
  20. Awesome transformation in just a few short months! Interested in seeing what a day of eating looks like for you…

    Chika wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Recently, I’ve been trying to put on weight. I normally skip breakfast, but for lunch and dinner, I’ll have:

      1-2 lbs of meat, primarily beef, lamb, fish, and pork with the occasional chicken—I normally try to eat a different meat for lunch and dinner for variety
      2-3 eggs
      3-4 servings of vegetable and fruit: apples, bananas, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, avocados, and kale are my staples
      1 sweet potato occasionally
      Other small things like greek yogurt, berries, chocolate, wine, or whey protein powder

      Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
      • That’s spread out across the two meals of course.

        Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
  21. Because of the timeliness of this post I literally threw away the bit of ice cream I was about to eat. I’m not hungry at all and was mostly about to eat it because it was there and I am bored. Thanks for the inspiration.

    eugene wrote on March 30th, 2012
  22. Great Job! And I had no idea carbs was linked to Myopia in any way. I guess you learn something new every day.

    Sarah wrote on March 30th, 2012
  23. Awesome transformation story! It really relates to me too because i am asian and i have been through the whole rice dilemma & glasses situation. I have a ton of horrible acne and some fat around my hips that i would love to get rid of!

    Phillip, do you have some sort of facebook page so that we can ask questions?

    Tanya wrote on March 30th, 2012

      Feel free to contact me on facebook. Don’t know how much help I’ll be though, but I’ll try to answer any questions you may have.

      Philip Pham wrote on March 30th, 2012
  24. From one Asian, to another: Right on! I’m glad you got over the rice crutch :).

    Lester wrote on March 30th, 2012
  25. excellent story. You look great and obviously feel the same way. :)

    liz wrote on March 30th, 2012
  26. Dude I can completely relate to your battle with giving up the white rice…(I’m asian) and rice was always a main part of my cultures (korean) diet. It was’t until I learned some basic training and nutrition rules like limiting carbs to post workout training meals did I start seeing body composition change. All the other days I followed primal blueprint’s way of eating and was able to drop 10% body fat. Thanks for sharing your story…awesome motivation…

    Albert wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Congrats on your BF % drop, Albert!

      Lester wrote on March 30th, 2012
  27. Looking good Philip – congratulations on finding this lifestyle so young. I’m half-Asian, and a couple of my brothers have always fought to not look so skinny too. But, hey! Why not embrace the skinny? As long as you are strong. Look at Bruce Lee’s physique – he was very skinny but no one could say he was not a powerhouse.

    Also, American culture has been so effed up with CW and the current way of eating most people adhere to, that someone who is thin is looked at as sick. Fat is the new normal, so thin is looked at as weird. It’s a backwards world we are living in!

    Hillside Gina wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Agreed, Hillside Gina! I feel better, since reducing my physique. I used to be stocky in appearance (but too much body fat) – hence, I was labeled Big Les, growing up. Since I’ve shrunk, my energy levels have been the best, in recent memory.

      Lester wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • That’s too true – we’re conditioned (particularly the mexican-american culture)to view being/looking overweight & even obese as acceptable. Skinny in my culture means you’re sick. Most events good or bad are celebrated w/ eating. Even when folks do get a rude awakening at the docs office (HBP, Type II, Athero..) they view the meds as the green light to change nothing. Education in the reality of good health vs. being FAT and unhealthy is almost nil so that even those that see the light and desire to change are completely clueless where/how to start.

      Greg Burch wrote on March 31st, 2012
  28. Awesome story, and well-written. Thank you for sharing, and yes, it is inspiring!

    Molly Shapiro wrote on March 30th, 2012
  29. I love reading these stories, there is always something I can relate to – although, when I saw 22 year old Asian man, I didn’t think that would be the case this time (as a 37 year old Caucasian obese mom!!!). As usual, I was wrong. Ever since thinking about the primal lifestyle (the actual very ancient one) I wondered how on earth I would have survived life in the bush being so incredibly near-sighted. After reading your story, it also occurred to me that maybe the reason my reading vision of late seemed to be declining… so I took of my glasses and, low and behold, I can see my phone screen better!!! I haven’t read without my glasses since my early teens (even though near sighted – I’m very near-sighted!). Amazing!

    PrimalSue wrote on March 30th, 2012
    • Sue, I’ve wondered that myself about surviving in the wild. I was driving at night a month or so ago and was astonished to find that I could see without putting on my polarized lenses!! And the street signs were crystal clear too. (meh, my contact prescription is on the old side) I was so shocked that improved vision could be a side effect of primal living.

      Chris wrote on March 30th, 2012
  30. LOL. I love how in the progress pictures, you’re smiling harder in each one. Great! I am also Asian, and cutting out rice seemed like a betrayal at first.

    Since I started out at my own ideal weight, I didn’t lose any weight, but feel better and am more satisfied with my diet. Who needs all that rice anyway? It was just filler to begin with. :)

    Ali wrote on March 30th, 2012
  31. Awesome. The Myopia connection came as a total surprise to me. Great work, man.

    Daniel Wallen wrote on March 30th, 2012
  32. Improvement in vision is a result of the Vitamin A found in organ meats. meats and saturated fats. This is one of THE big premises from Weston A. Price. You don’t get Vitamin A from plants, only the precursor Beta-Carotene.

    beverly wrote on March 30th, 2012
  33. Congrats, you look fabulous and happy!
    If only some of us could have found this lifestyle sooner.
    You have a wonderful long life ahead of you now :)
    Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    Sarah Martini wrote on March 30th, 2012
  34. It’s awesome to see a story from an asian perspective, being one myself, follow the primal diet. I’ve lost 20 lbs since I started but I regime only is 2 days of lifting a week and an occasional sprint.

    From your results, it looks like I should incorporate dead lifts for bigger gains!

    Justin wrote on March 30th, 2012
  35. HOOOOTTTT!!!!!!!

    Yasmin wrote on March 30th, 2012
  36. I just about spit my coffee out after I read the line “…has afforded me the time to do things I enjoy like reading, cooking, and mathematics.”

    My sons and I love maths.

    I think that any story of increased performance or quality of life is just as valuable as the “OMG look at the before and after” type RLS.

    Larry wrote on March 30th, 2012
  37. My eye prescription was also lowered after going primal.

    And of course I am pain free!

    Phaedra wrote on March 30th, 2012
  38. How is low carb flu caused by insulin resistance?

    Katherine wrote on March 31st, 2012
  39. Firstly, congratulations to your new transformation! Very well done and impressive indeed.

    To say that Asians eat rice, lots of it, and stay lean, is a bit misleading, especially if we are talking about modern Asians. If you eat rice, AND if you also eat other kinds crap, of course you tend to put on weight.

    Step back in time, say 50-100 years ago, we did eat lots of rice as a staple, along with root and leafy veggies, plus some meat and we WERE lean. There were no ‘healthy’ vegetable oils (yet), just rendered animal fats (my mum used coconut oil since we live in the tropics, until Mazola came into the market in the 70s and she switched to it), plus food preparation was simple. Fast forward to modern day, the fat is replaced by vegetable seed oil, we start to eat more wheat, rice as a staple is replaced by wheat (and other processed crap usually pre-prepared and ready-made), sugar consumption is increased, we drink more soda pop, even green tea is sweetened no wonder the modern Asians are not getting lean anymore. I am Asian and these have been my observation. This is especially true in my family, and my Dad was the only lean person (very flat stomach and did hardly any exercise voluntarily) as he was conservative and traditional when it comes to food.

    I still eat rice as a staple, but I avoid modern processed food, and stick to the old ways of eating. So far so good. I am slim, I might not have a single digit bodyfat %, but slim enough to get compliments from others including strangers, even after giving birth to 2 kids, all thanks to the collective knowledge I found through the Primal Blueprint, Perfect Health Diet, Panu and Weston A. Price.

    TokyoMum wrote on March 31st, 2012

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