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

Suicide: One Bite at a Time

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 think most of us have experienced a significant occasion that, due to its life changing effects, becomes a milestone in our lives, be it graduation day, the first day of a new job , the day you first met your mate to be, your wedding day, the birth of your child, the death of a loved one, etc. One such recent occasion for me occurred on August 11, 2010 at about 4:45 p.m. while driving south on US Route 119 in Charleston, WV.

I happened to turn the radio on to a local talk show airing on WCHS Radio 580 AM, hosted by Rick Johnson. He was just concluding an interview with a fellow by the name of Mark Sisson about a book he had recently authored called “Primal Blueprint”. I heard just enough to cause me to stop at the nearest bookstore to buy the book but unfortunately they didn’t have it. So I went home and logged onto his website, “Marksdailyapple.com.”  And, as they say, “the rest is history.”

Let me back up just a bit to give you a little personal background so you might better understand why that moment in time was to prove to be so significant to me.

I grew up in a family with 12 other siblings. As long as I lived at home our family never owned a car and, as I was to discover in my teen years, we were pretty darned poor, however, we always had food on the table, a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and were far too proud to seek government assistance for anything. Our diets primarily consisted of cheap high carbs and low protein; the more expensive meat were primarily only for Sunday dinner or special occasions.  Mom was well renowned for her baking abilities. (Don’t ever tell her, but we kids used her baked goodies for bartering at school and they surely brought top dollar trades for us.) Our intake consisted of lots of bread, pb&j, rice, beans, potatoes, corn, oats, and, as I mentioned previously, an occasional serving of meat.

With no car, we managed to get plenty of exercise walking everywhere we went and we carried a lot of heavy things. We kids were the grocery mules back then. Try lugging a 25 pound bag of potatoes, 15 pounds of flour, 10 pounds of sugar, 10 loaves of bread, a basket of tomatoes, etc. home from the grocery when you are just a kid. Let me tell you, it’s a load. We also had several paper routes and delivered about 200 newspapers door to door every day. Even with that kind of diet we all managed to stay exceptionally slim (read “skinny”) growing up but we had developed good strength for our sizes as well. As an example, in Basic Training at Fort Benning, at the age of 20, I was 5’- 10” tall and weighed only 135 pounds yet I managed to finish in the top 10% or higher in my company with every physical or academic challenge they presented us.

Let’s fast forward now to my 50’s. I was now married for 30+ years, had seven kids, was a structural engineering department head for a branch office of a nationally recognized engineering firm, was heavily involved in church and school activities and was working long stressful hours at the office. We were always on the go for church, PTA, school pageants, wrestling, baseball, soccer, volleyball, and track, events which usually occurred at several different grade levels and oft times even at different schools. With so many teenagers and all of their accompanying friends to feed, we seemed to live on fast food, chips, pizza, pasta, pb&j, cake and ice cream (lots of special occasions), mashed potatoes (my personal favorite), etc. I topped out at 245 pounds but, unfortunately, I had failed to grow another foot in height to compensate for the added weight gain. I imagine that this sounds like an excerpt straight out of Ken Korg’s diary, doesn’t it?

Gerry before

I really didn’t mind the extra weight at first, at least now I didn’t have to listen to the old jokes about me turning sideways, sticking out my tongue and looking like a zipper or, while playing basketball, hearing, “don’t get too close to him or you might cut yourself on his ribs.” But, I didn’t like the aspect of showing up at our large family reunions and being the largest (read “fattest”) member of our family, a family who seemingly were all masters at dishing out negative humor. I was so embarrassed by my physique that I always wore long pants and a shirt, even when out in the blistering sun on the south Florida beaches.

During this time I began my prescription medication collection with pills first to control my high blood pressure, then added some more for high cholesterol and then added a couple of more for Type II Diabetes. Those combined with all of the supplements I was taking became a pretty big mouthful to swallow several times a day.

To try and gain a little control over my weight I read books on dieting, such as “Sugar Busters”, “The Atkins Diet” and “The South Beach Diet” but with my lifestyle and the fact that I was the only one attempting to diet in the family it was doomed to failure before I ever started and the diets typically lasted only a few weeks at most.

Now let’s fast forward to July of 2010. I sat in my doctor’s office following his exam. He told me that my A1C had been progressively elevating and was now at 7.1. The diabetes pills were no longer effective for me. It was time for me to escalate on to insulin injections. My cholesterol was a whopping 250 and something more needed to be done to reduce it. My EKG apparently showed some abnormalities and he was referring me to a cardiologist. My creatinine levels were also a cause for concern; it appeared that I might have Stage II kidney disease, so he was referring me to a nephrologist as well.

My dad (deceased) had Type I Diabetes which was diagnosed when he was but a teenager and my older brother has Type II Diabetes. Both had to take insulin shots several times daily and I saw firsthand what that entailed and have seen my father in diabetic comas on several occasions. Not pretty! I have also known acquaintances who have suffered eye hemorrhages and amputations due to diabetes. I feared that my health was taking a huge nose dive.

I ask that you try to put yourselves briefly into my shoes for a moment. At this time of my life I am 63 years old. My physical health was progressively failing. I had chronic back pain in both upper and lower back, elbow tendonitis, loss of bone density and terribly achy joints. I could no longer do a single push up or even a sit up. It seemed that my muscles had atrophied from sitting at a desk all day with little to no physical exercise.

My mental health was at low tide as well. Job wise, my upwardly mobile career got caught up in a failing economy and serious downsizing with huge layoffs. I could not afford to retire since my investments were taking a beating and, in order to work, I embarrassingly had to take about a 20 year backward step in my career and start anew. My kids with whom we had invested most of our time and energy were now out of the nest and on their own – they no longer needed me. I was extremely tired all the time; I didn’t sleep well at night. I had become impotent (EDS) somewhere along the way which stripped me of my sense of masculinity. I was getting more and more depressed and I really just didn’t care whether I lived or not. Living was no longer fun. I had no dreams, no future to look forward to, and had no sense of purpose. Then the doc comes along and drops this bombshell on me as well.

Suffering through all of this in quiet desperation, this was what was foremost on my mind that fateful day when I happened to tune in and hear Mark Sisson being interviewed by Rick Johnson on the radio.

I came to realize that basically I was committing suicide one bite at a time with all the “comfort” foods I was consuming. Within about three months after gradually ramping up with the Primal lifestyle I had lost 40 to 50 pounds and was off all medications except for my blood pressure meds. Technically I could still do without them but my BP would run at a high normal so I elected to cut them in half for awhile to see if I can gradually wean myself off of them via other means. I eventually got a clean bill of health from the cardiologist, the nephrologist and my family doc. They were all greatly impressed by the drastic improvements in my physical well-being, something evidently they seldom see in their line of work.

It has now been over a year since I began the Primal lifestyle. I currently weigh 175 pounds and have lost over 60 pounds since I started. My energy level is up and I find myself planning and dreaming of my future once again. Also, I no longer suffer from impotence. I believe that it most likely was a side effect of some of the meds I was taking.

Gerry now

Here is a recent photograph of me carrying 60 pounds of extra baggage that represents all the fat which I have lost.

My LDL is still a bit high (even the bad LDL cells) and my cardiologist suggested that I consider taking medication for it. My response to him was that he could write a prescription if he liked but I would not get it filled. I would rather drop dead right there in his office than to go back on the medications which I had previously been on and to feel the way I did back then. He said that he thought I was being a bit overly dramatic but I assured him that I truly meant every word of it. I will exhaust all other means to reduce that LDL before I will ever consider taking another prescription drug, if I even do so then.

In late December 2010 I decided to take a walk in a state forest about a 30 minute drive from home. It was late morning on a drizzly cold Sunday. The trail I chose was a rutted, dirt maintenance road up a fairly steep incline. The temperature was dropping, mud holes began to ice over and the snow started falling and covering the ground. My energy level was at an all time high. I spontaneously burst into occasional sprints up the mountain. I was alone in the forest and was in rapt awe with nature, the cold wind, the falling snow, the bare trees, and the quietness of the forest surrounding me. It seemed that every one of my sensory receptors were operating in high gear. I searched for a way to describe the keen sense of exhilaration I felt within my being. What popped into my mind was MDA’s logo of Grok charging through the forest with his spear in hand, leaping over fallen trees. The image described me perfectly in that moment. I ended up walking some 13 miles that day, the last 90 minutes of which were in the moonless blackness of deep woods after dark. Talk about a thrill. WOW!

Now, at the age of 64 there are a few things that I have finally come to acknowledge that I will never ever be able to do in this life, like play ball for the NFL, NBA, NHL, or compete in the PGA, become a jet pilot, or ever score a “10” on the LGN charts. Actually for the LGN chart, I think that I might have moved up from a negative number to maybe at least a “1” by now. I learned a long time ago that it’s not the package but what’s inside it that really matters.

Gerrysdogs

I always found it so humiliating in days past when stepping out of the shower in the morning that my two dogs would roll on the floor laughing at me while they made snide remarks about my distorted overweight physique – they gave me no respect at all. Now, maybe I won’t ever rock the LGN charts but at least when I open the shower curtains now my dogs stare in open admiration at the new ALPHA MALE in their lives as they anxiously await me to see what I have in store for them that day. I love it! icon smile

I really don’t consider this to be a “success” story, but rather a “work-in-progress” story. Success to me is a destination at the end of a journey. I am still on my journey but traveling with a lot less baggage, in better mental and physical condition and with a lot more energy, than a year ago.

I will count myself successful when I can stand before my creator someday and hear Him say, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.” To me that will truly mean that I have been successful.

Mark, thank you for all that you and your tribe have done for folks like me. You are a blessing to us all. This story seems far too long to fit into your blog but at the same time I have left out so-o-o-o much more – the sense of joy, the compulsive desire to run and play, the alertness, all the great compliments from friends and associates, and the keen sense of being alive again. Sure there are still aches and pains of aging; sure there are still down days and occasional mood swings, but nothing like my life of a year ago. Again, much thanks and you have my deepest appreciation.

God bless you,

Gerry Endres

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. Fantastic story! It’s never to late to change things for the better in our lives.

    Terence Flynn wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • Thank you for sharing Gerry. What an amazing journey!

      Heather wrote on October 16th, 2011
  2. Wow, Gerry, you look at least ten years younger than your age and even more compared with your before picture. I loved reading your story. You’re putting those dogs in their place. Congratulations!

    Alison Golden wrote on October 14th, 2011
  3. Wow! I got teary at the point of the trek through the state park and am typing this with full-on tears. I can’t get enough of success-story-Fridays! This was is fantastic! Love the fur-baby pics!! (I’ve got two mini schnauzers myself)

    Kathy wrote on October 14th, 2011
  4. That is quite an inspiring story. Great job.

    Edward wrote on October 14th, 2011
  5. It’s Friday & I’m crying at work…again!

    Congrats, Gerry! And thanks for your honesty. You are truly inspirational.

    sara wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • Maybe someone will come over and wonder what the hell is going on (you should cry out loud). Then you will point them to this article and he or she will go primal. Maybe?

      Primal Toad wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • Ditto!!

      Amy wrote on October 14th, 2011
      • triple ditto..that story really made me tear up…way to go Gerry!!!

        Janine wrote on October 14th, 2011
  6. Gerry, I really appreciate you sharing your story. I am 56 and have been on this new way of eating for about 4 months now since I found out I was allergic to wheat, dairy and eggs. I suffered with indigestion and heartburn most of my life….all gone now over night when I went Paleo. Isn’t it wonderful to be heading uphill instead of downhill in your health. Way to go and congratulations for your resolve to make a change in your health. Awesome story, thanks again for sharing!

    Charlie wrote on October 14th, 2011
  7. Oh my goodness- his face looks AMAZING! So happy! Good for you—–

    Samantha Moore wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • I was thinking the same – his whole stance seems to have changed! :)

      Crunchy Pickle wrote on October 14th, 2011
      • PS – I’m so glad that after all of those years of pouring into the lives of your children that you are reaping good health and vibrancy. I hope I get the same trade off as I age!

        Crunchy Pickle wrote on October 14th, 2011
  8. I am definitely forwarding this to my dad. He is 59 and is a mirror image of your ‘before’ story.
    I hope he can take some inspiration from this and join me on a primal path! Very uplifting!! Great job turning your life around!

    Caleigh wrote on October 14th, 2011
  9. CONGRATS!! You look AMAZING!!!! I second the other poster who commented on how much younger you look in your recent pic…so much health and vitality! Wow. I am just so DARN happy for you!!

    AustinGirl wrote on October 14th, 2011
  10. Gerry, congratulations on your amazing transformation! You sound just like one of my family: the same upbringing, the same health problems, even the same idioms and sense of humor. Yet somehow you made this change and they, along with most of your generation, did not. I wonder why?

    You look incredible, by the way. Don’t write off the LGN just yet. 63 is still young, contrary to cultural propaganda. You’ve only been at this for two months. Imagine two years!

    There are many awesome quotes in your story, but I like this most of all:

    “My response to him was that he could write a prescription if he liked but I would not get it filled.”

    That is truly taking responsibility for your health. My deepest respect for all that you have done and will do.

    Timothy wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • What the heck is an LGN Chart?

      Nicole wrote on October 14th, 2011
      • Look Good Naked

        Sharon wrote on October 14th, 2011
      • LGN = Look Good Naked :)

        Cal wrote on October 14th, 2011
  11. What a wonderful story! Truly inspirational. I loved the bit about running through the woods, makes me want to get my butt off the computer and go enjoy the day. I think it’s so wonderful that you are healthy and happy =D

    Renee wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • Yep, me too. Quite inpiring and spells hope for all of us that are on the verge of broken health. It’s awesome to realize how much power we have to take our own health back.

      I’m off to trim bushes and chop barnches…

      Ez wrote on October 15th, 2011
  12. Isn’t it amazing how a few minutes of one’s life can alter the course of someone else’s? Gerry, now imagine how your few initial minutes listening to Mark enable you to help others change from the same place you were to the place you are. Nothing happens by accident.

    Dan wrote on October 14th, 2011
  13. WOW! It’s truly never too late. I will be reading this story to my parents tonight in hopes they will try and change even though they say they are too “old”(they are only 51 and 57). This brought a bit of tears to my eyes to know that this lifestyle helps so many different people of all shapes and sizes and I am so proud to call myself primal=)

    Sylvia Jimenez wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • Never too late. I started making changes when I was 60. My doctors had no answers other than medications for multiple health problems. I turned my life around mainly with diet changes. I am now 68 and doing great. I can share more details if you want.

      Anne wrote on October 14th, 2011
      • That’s fantastic, Anne. I think a lot of people would love to read more about your story on the forum!

        Timothy wrote on October 14th, 2011
      • Please write up your story! We 60 somethings need some models.

        Joan wrote on October 14th, 2011
  14. Gerry you look absolutely fabulous and most of all so HAPPY in your after picture. Loved reading your story. Anyone else in the family primal? Your 2 dogs are soooo CUTE! I thought there were 3 but I guess the dog in your first pic may not be yours
    Anyway great story and congrats and continued success!!!

    Gayle wrote on October 14th, 2011
  15. You look awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed reading you story. You look and sound alive again which is what truly matters. You have a fabulous ahead of you! Now go spread the primal word!

    Primal Toad wrote on October 14th, 2011
  16. Voof alpha dog voof!

    Svend wrote on October 14th, 2011
  17. Gary, this is an inspiration to say the least. I really love your experience of being in nature, and feeling alive again. There is something lost in sitting on a couch watching movie trailers! It’s amazing that you were able to reconnect with both yourself and nature in such a short period of time. Big congratulations to you for telling your doctor what he needed to hear – preventative medicine is the way to go, and drugs should be the very last resort!

    Kudos, Gerry. You look awesome, and sound like you’re enjoying life again – which is what it’s all about!

    Nick wrote on October 14th, 2011
  18. Wow, awesome story! My parents are in their mid-50’s and just starting a Primal lifestyle. I’m sending this to my dad!

    Randy Knapp wrote on October 14th, 2011
  19. Right on, Gerry!

    Christopher Sturdy wrote on October 14th, 2011
  20. More success stories for the older generation, please! Never posted before, but Gary, you have convinced me to jump into primal full force. I’m also sending this link to my older brother who is your age and more like your before pic. I hope this will inspire him to change his habits!

    Christine wrote on October 14th, 2011
  21. This is awesome, Gerry. You look younger and happier. Grok on!

    Big T wrote on October 14th, 2011
  22. “I see few starve to death. From eating, a hundred thousand”.

    Ben Franlkin.

    Dave, RN wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • Ben did have a way with the words (and truth). :~)

      Neandergirl wrote on October 15th, 2011
  23. Great story. You are an inspiration to others. Congratulations on your improved health. Yes, it is a “work in progress”. I have been doing this for 8 years and my journey continues.

    Anne wrote on October 14th, 2011
  24. Gerry you rock! Your story is so awesome, and yes I cried too. You have proven that age and a long background of unhealthy lifestyle can be overcome and turned around. Thank you so much for sharing your personal achievements!

    HillsideGina wrote on October 14th, 2011
  25. Gerry, you look fantastic. What an awesome & inspiring story!

    Kam wrote on October 14th, 2011
  26. Good job!
    I love these success stories.

    Vance wrote on October 14th, 2011
  27. I burst out laughing at the shower dogs =). Fridays are my favorites at MDA!

    mixie wrote on October 14th, 2011
  28. Gerry, your story made me cry.
    I’m going to print it off for my Dad – he is in a similar place to where you were a year ago and I’m really worried about him, but I can’t seem to convince him that a simple diet and attitude change could turn things round. He won’t believe it from his baby daughter but I hope he’ll listen to you.
    You’re an inspiration – thank you.

    Andislimreaper wrote on October 14th, 2011
  29. From one 63 year old to another, great job, your an inspiration for me to get off my butt and finish my primal plan.

    Steve G. wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • Amen!

      Susan wrote on October 14th, 2011
  30. Congrats Gerry!! Your story gives me the motivation to keep truckin’. PS. Your dogs are super cute!! :D

    Jasmina wrote on October 14th, 2011
  31. Congrats Gerry, I loved that story. I am new to this diet but excited (for the first time)about it. I think organic, natural, whole foods in all of God’s varieties is the way to go although I am still a proponent of dairy but have alternated it with almond, coconut and soy for more variety.

    Debbie wrote on October 14th, 2011
  32. Great story and great results. Once again I find myself inspired and impressed by the Friday post.

    Darcy Guy wrote on October 14th, 2011
  33. Right on. Lookin’ like a tried and true trekker with that 60 lb backpack. Hope its full of Primal goodies for a hike!

    Frank wrote on October 14th, 2011
  34. Another one forwarding this on to a parent. I’m really hoping that your awesome transformation will help spur my father.
    Congrats!!

    Dawn wrote on October 14th, 2011
  35. I’m young, active, and have never struggled with weight, and yet stories like this still inspire me and really lift my spirits for the day. Thank you so much for sharing, and congrats on making so many wonderful changes to you life!

    Beowulf wrote on October 14th, 2011
  36. Great stuff, Gerry! You’re making 63 sound like the new 36. As Timothy said above, you’ve been at this for what amounts to a drop in the bucket and you’re down 60 lb. It wrinkles the brain to think where the next few months and years will take you!

    Patrick (Primal Mind) wrote on October 14th, 2011
  37. As usual, fantastic story! Congratulations on your ongoing achievements, we all know it must have had a lot hurdles to overcome! You’re an inspiration to everyone here and outside, and a prime example of what we here at MDA stand for :D

    Grok on.

    Mauricio wrote on October 14th, 2011
  38. Gerry – Thank you for sharing your inspirational story. It shows you’re never to late to start over and it helps to reinforce the knowledge of what is important in Life!

    David wrote on October 14th, 2011
  39. Way to tell the MD no to meds!!!
    Awesome Gerry! awesome awesome awesome!
    Way to show those dogs who’s boss :)
    (I too love the hike in the woods story)

    peggy wrote on October 14th, 2011
  40. Wow, I am surprised that it took your body that long to break down and be on meds.
    Most wouldn’t even make it to 40 on the horrible diet you described during childhood.
    You must be a very tough kinda guy naturally, now imagine how tough you would’ve been being raised on a primal diet from the start!?

    Your story is great motivation for me to keep up eating primally for the rest of my life. You look really good in the after photo, outdoorsy and fit.

    Big congrats on getting off those terrible meds!

    Arty wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • The diet wasn’t great but not egregiously deficient. On the positive side it was probably a bit low on methionine (found in meats but also in grains and pulses). Methionine restriction is associated with longevity and may be responsible for the association between caloric restriction and longevity.

      Weston Price described Swiss pastoralists in the early 20th century who only had meat once a week but were very healthy.

      correcty fairy wrote on October 14th, 2011

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