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. … and this whole time I blamed my parents for my poor eyesight. I should blame all the rice I ate when I was growing up! Thank you for sharing such an interesting article.

    Christine A wrote on March 31st, 2012
  2. There is a four page thread in the forum about myopia and primal. Think it’s in the “success” sub forum.

    Really interesting stuff, some eye doctor is talking about it all.

    Jake wrote on March 31st, 2012
  3. I don’t know many Asians and I never knew they get Acne too.. Every time I see Asians (mostly Thailands) their skin is silky, milky..

    Your transition inspires me to continue with the primal way of life.
    Grok on!

    Gillian wrote on March 31st, 2012
  4. wow its amazing the amount of health benefits you will gain from just giving up the unhealthy grains, i find it so easy to eat primal but must confess i didn’t think i could do it in the beginning, i feel great, feel like my skin is looking better and my eyesight has improved and i also think it has improved my mental health as i am now a much happier person, more positive and less depressed, so this way of eating is a no brainer for me!! Give it a go, what have u got to lose, Good luck everyone.

    Irene wrote on March 31st, 2012
  5. Great story, well done!

    jen wrote on March 31st, 2012
  6. This says a lot about rice being a so-called “safe” starch, doesn’t it? Apparently it isn’t safe for ANYBODY!

    Wenchypoo wrote on March 31st, 2012
  7. So that’s it. Rice makes you blind… Funny thought, Latin Americans (Brazilians are the greatest consumers of rice outside Asia) eat rice in almost every meal and report much less myopia victims than Asians.

    Julius wrote on March 31st, 2012
    • You’re quite right. I’ll admit that in my enthusiasm, I overstated myself quite a bit. In rural parts of Asia, myopia prevalence is quite low. Myopia is a rather complex condition with many causes. Perhaps it’s a high carbohydrate diet combined with a sedentary lifestyle that’s the cause since myopia is much more prevalent in Asian cities. More research needs to be done for certain.

      Philip Pham wrote on March 31st, 2012
      • Yes,got a little ahead of yourself. Anyway, nice job. Congratulations!

        Julius wrote on March 31st, 2012
  8. Looking good Phillip , congratulations. I think it is very simplistic to say though that the major cause of myopia is a high carbohydrate diet. My whole family has been doing primal since January and my 10 year old son was diagnosed this week with myopia. If paleo was the only answer surely his myopia, which I am sure pre- dates going paleo, would not have become a problem now. Please google the myopia myth and the international myopia prevention association and you will discover that the main culprit is all the close up work that kids have to do during their school years eg lots of reading and computer work. Coupled with prescription glasses, the myopia is made progressively worst because the minus lenses does not allow the eye to relax and instead keeps the eye in an elongated state which makes myopia worst. I have refused to put my son in the minus lenses that the eye doctor prescribed and have instead bought him +3 reading glasses for him to wear when he is reading and on the computer. This will help keep his eyes in a relaxed state when he is doing close up work and halt the progression of his myopia and maybe even reverse it. It’s that simple to stop our children from a lifetime of wearing glasses but you will not hear this from your eye doctor otherwise they will go out of business. Instead they prescribe minus lenses which makes the myopia worse, which in turn keeps you coming back every year to keep getting stronger minus lenses. It’s a vicious cycle.

    Betty wrote on March 31st, 2012
    • Near work is definitely a factor. A lot of research indicates that it plays a rather small part, however. Moreover, many kids, including me, were myopic before we ever read our first book or play on our first computer.

      Philip Pham wrote on March 31st, 2012
  9. Yo Phillip,

    You got an Asian fellow on Mark’s site here 😉 If you’re Vietnamese too (I’m guessing from your last name) then we’ve got a couple of Vietnamese followers of the Primal Blueprint.

    I haven’t gotten rid of rice entirely yet, but there were weeks that I had none. And when I had some rice after, I could feel the dizziness (the influx of glucose hit my bloodstream?)

    Anyway, thanks for sharing.

    Win Nguyen wrote on March 31st, 2012
    • Great to see another Vietnamese guy here. Glad you enjoyed the story. Yes, I get the same reaction when eating large quantities of rice. My vision also becomes a bit blurry, temporarily.

      Philip Pham wrote on March 31st, 2012
  10. This is great! My DH and family are Indian so rice is a mainstay at every meal. Not to mention the amount of sugar in the faloodo, chai, and other items. I limit myself to one meal per month with them and tend to put more spinach curry on my plate.

    My TIFO (thin outside fat inside) husband has dropped back down to pre-wedding weight since I completely changed our meals to PB. He noticed the other day that he is getting ‘buff’ on top and attributes it to his job but we all know better.

    Interestingly enough, he is 48 and still eats 3 scoops on not so good ice cream every night. Imagine if he stopped that addiction?

    Sandra wrote on March 31st, 2012
  11. About eyesight and carb intake… I read a fascinating take on the situation in Afghanistan where an army strategist made the point that Afghans struggle in many combat scenarios because, as a rule, their eyesight is extremely poor due to their traditional diet being so carb heavy (high levels of rice consumption). So the link is obviously known about in military fields.

    alex wrote on March 31st, 2012
  12. One of the studies sited by Loren Cordain pointed out that wild dogs don’t get myopia while domesticated pet dogs do. The hypothesized reason was the heavy carb fillers in commercial dog food.

    Island Girl wrote on March 31st, 2012
  13. Great job, you can really tell the difference.

    And that was an interesting bit on myopia. I’ve been wearing contacts/glasses since the 7th grade.

    I’ve never really considered that my diet could affect my eyesight. Because I’ve always felt that I was pretty healthy, especially when compared to other people who had good eyesight.

    That being said I wonder if there are any studies where people changed their daily diets and experienced an improvement in eyesight.

    Mrfuzzybear wrote on March 31st, 2012
  14. What I’m taking away from this article is “debilitating disease and strong overhead lighting cause apparent weight loss.”

    gruhn wrote on March 31st, 2012
  15. the best thing about all these stories is the wide range of people who are seeing improvements: young, old, male, female, women with children, and people of different races. Truly, PB is something anyone can do and benefit from.

    HopelessDreamer wrote on March 31st, 2012
  16. You look great! Thanks for sharing your story. I wish I would have known about the links to acne when I was younger. We’re still debating cutting out rice in our house. We’ve cut out pretty much everything else, but we do still indulge in rice once or twice a week. I probably just need to find some good side dish substitutes!

    aliseya wrote on March 31st, 2012
  17. I eat a lot of rice everyday, about 3-4 large bowls/day. Been eating rice all my life.

    But if I wanted to trim down from my 5’4″ 196lbs frame, rice would be the first thing to go.

    John Phung wrote on April 1st, 2012
  18. YOU LOOK AMAZING!!! & your progress is incredibly encouraging, considering how long you’ve been Primal. My boyfriend is Vietnamese and he loves to argue about rice, lol He doesn’t even eat it all the time; he just doesn’t wanna give it up. He’s not Primal yet, but maybe this will motivate him to be. :)

    Chrissy wrote on April 1st, 2012
  19. Oh, wow!! I am an Asian and still love some rice in my diet. But seriously, your transformation is amazing!! Congratulations!

    Stephanie wrote on April 1st, 2012
  20. I loved this story! I have a daughter who is adopted from China and have always wondered about the rice connection. I felt like I should make rice for her even thought she could take it or leave it. She is our little protein queen! She is 5 years old now and I really hope that she never has any issues with her eyesight.

    Julie wrote on April 1st, 2012
  21. Way to go! Awesome story. Always so inspiring to hear about others’ success. I’m so happy for you and wish you all the best! :-)

    Jessica wrote on April 1st, 2012
  22. Squat depth is critically important, but so is correct form. ATG-level depth most usually requires that the lumbar muscles relax the lordosis and that the hamstrings relax before extreme depth can be reached. It doesn’t sound like a good idea to me that anything be relaxed in a deep squat, since doing this kills your good controlled rebound out of the bottom and risks your intervertebral discs. Those rare individuals that can obtain ass-to-ankles depth without relaxing anything might be able to get away with it, but as a general rule you should squat as deep as you can with a hard-arched lower back and tight hamstings and adductors. This depth will be below parallel, but it will not usually be “ATG”.

    marc wrote on April 2nd, 2012
  23. I eat more fruit ang vegetables than fish or poultry, eggs or goat cheese, and it’s hard for me to eat red meat, but I’m openend to different way of life. So I’m interested in what you wrote, to understand…

    I see that the paleo diet uses coconut flour, but I can’t imagine prehistoric people living in the european area eating this… Do you thnik chestnut flour could be an equivalent ?

    Same for bison lol My husband loves this meat but it’s VERY hard to find this where we live. And actually I don’t find very natural to take complements. In my head, I suppose that in the paleo era, people probably had carences too. I mean, getting your lunch wasn’t as easy as today lol

    Sev wrote on April 2nd, 2012
  24. I like to tease my Phillipina wife: “your so ricist!”

    (In all fairness, she’s cut down her intake lately, and been losing some weight as a result)

    Nick Grenier wrote on April 3rd, 2012
  25. Congrats~!! glad that I know at least you Asian who gave up rice haha
    I have not been eating rice for a year and half and I feel tremendous improvement of my health – no acne, no mood swing, more muscle, and deep sleep etc.
    My boyfriend always makes fun of me not eating rice at all.
    I pretty much dont care what other people saying about my primal diets.
    but great thing is my boyfriend, who used to drink coke and icecream almost every single night, starts to have those sugar foods one or twice a week.
    haha lots of improvement, huh?

    anyways, thank you for sharing your story!!

    Jihyun Jay Chung wrote on April 4th, 2012
  26. Well done! An incredible story! And I can so relate, i’m Australian Chinese…and I try not to have grains at all; mostly easy to avoid since we don’t have ‘Western’ foods much apart from cuts of meat and salads. BUT rice in my parents eyes is indispensable…it took 18 years for them to finally add barley into the mix (my age is 18!) and even then it’s still ridiculous. Noodles are not cooked often at our house, nor are the other flour based Chinese dishes (eg dumplings) but when they are…

    So what I do is eat my dinner in my room and throw the rice in a little bag. What they don’t know won’t hurt them. When i move out i’ll be able to eat even healthier because I’ll eat a true Primal diet, not all this soy sauce based Chinese food! Right now I just eat out more (salads without dressing mostly); more veggies, meats, seafood, fruits, nuts, dairy (can’t do without that…) and no junk food or fast food at all and I feel great =)

    Aly wrote on April 6th, 2012
  27. Thank you for this story! It’s nice to see one about another fellow Asian. I am an Asian female, embarking on the PB journey as well. I’m easing into, not diving in cold-turkey, but I am starting to see benefits. I will start to be more strict in the upcoming weeks, but have already seen about a 7lb weight loss without the chronic exercising which also always left me tired.

    Congratulations! Hopefully I will be writing a success story soon, too!

    Kimberly wrote on April 21st, 2012
  28. I am Asian and after I dropped carbs, especially rice and breads, my constipation since junior high school days were over, my blood pressure dropped, my uric acid dropped (gout checks), my skin is better, my energy level rose, i wear 32 inch pants instead of 36, i don’t “hollow out” when i get hungry, i don’t binge on fav foods even when i adopt 80/20.

    All without exercising regularly at all!

    Jacky Feng wrote on May 7th, 2012
  29. Asian social culture – you cannot get away from food, but what i found was that hotpot (you choose what you cook in the pot), japanese and korean BBQ (meat and left veg) + Brazilian BBQ are good alternatives to both share the social interactions and still stay loyal to the path

    Jacky Feng wrote on May 7th, 2012
  30. WOW!!! congratulations, I have to say you look AMAZING!!! I’m so happy for you. I’m asian too and similarly, I’ll have to try to cut down on the rice intake..hehe. That’ll be tough but seeing how great the results are, I’m willing to do it. Congratulations again.

    Pinn wrote on May 31st, 2012
  31. thanks for an Asian perspective on PB. i’ve been reading into paleo/primal ways of eating and i’m definitely intrigued. i’ve always used being korean to keep rice in my diet, but after cutting down to half the amount i used to eat….it’s not so bad. kudos for going cold turkey and for all your success!!

    juliebeannn wrote on August 21st, 2012
  32. Anyone notices the facial transformation within a few months? It gave me an impression that it was not the same person.

    I did not goes on full paleo diet but simply reduce my carbohydrate intake, reduce vegetable, increase meats and oil(coconut and olive, 2 tblsp per meal) plus lot of butter.

    By the 6th month, I lost at least 5kg, waist from 33 to 29. Moreover, a relative, whom we meet weekly, noted that I seem to have “aged”. Unfortunately, I can’t tell the different. I’m 51.

    Gaba wrote on October 13th, 2012
  33. I think you can try embryo rice instead of white rice.

    Erice wrote on November 13th, 2012
  34. I was not expecting to see ggplots on this website! Good job! I loved your story, I’m also Asian and grew up loving rice, but now see that it’s worth it to give it up.

    Frances wrote on November 23rd, 2012

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