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. I love, love, love this story!!!

    MelissaJaney wrote on October 14th, 2011
  2. Thanks for sharing your story Gerry. You look terrific.

    Debbie_Downer wrote on October 14th, 2011
  3. Thank you for sharing. Love your continuing success story. Congrats.

    Cindy wrote on October 14th, 2011
  4. You look great from head to toe, but the first thing that drew my attention was the look in your eyes! Everything you said about your state forest trek – “What popped into my mind was MDA’s logo of Grok charging through the forest with his spear in hand, leaping over fallen trees” – is reflected in them! Vibrant, ready, and maybe slightly mischevious ;) What a cool transformation. I know you’ll impact and inspire others.

    Liz wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • Got me. ;-) You must be a profiler by trade. lol.

      Gerry Endres wrote on October 14th, 2011
  5. Well done dude – Another story I will use to showoff the way of the Primal :D

    Craig wrote on October 14th, 2011
  6. Gerry, you are quite the hunk! (Like anyone needs to tell you that, right?)

    I’m hoping to get my non-primal husband to read about your success. He’s going down the same path as you did in your before story. He doesn’t take his health problems seriously. I think it’s because there are so many people around us who have diabetes, high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, are obese, and so on that ‘normal’ becomes acceptable even if it’s not healthy.

    Heidi wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • Amen to that. Been there.

      Gerry Endres wrote on October 14th, 2011
  7. Amazing story! Love not only how far you’ve come but that you’re still in the journey! Thanks for sharing!

    ~cj wrote on October 14th, 2011
  8. Gerry — what an inspiration. Keep it up man!! AWESOME!!!

    Patrick wrote on October 14th, 2011
  9. Haha! Love the shower dogs! And you look amazing, Gerry!

    MissJelic wrote on October 14th, 2011
  10. Like Mixie, Fridays (or for me, Saturday mornings) are my most favourite time on MDA. Well done Gerry!

    Brent wrote on October 14th, 2011
  11. Thank you so much for sharing your story – you truely are an inspiration.

    and go own that shower space Gerry!

    Debs wrote on October 14th, 2011
  12. Gerry, your story pretty much mirrors mine only I’m a 65 year old female who is just at the beginning of her Primal Journey. I have a ways to go yet to undo the years of physical neglect but you and others in this great family of Primals inspire and motivate me on.

    I’m glad to see more stories of Grok and Grokettes in the over 60 age range. There’s a lot of us out there who can benifit greatly from the Primal lifestyle.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story.

    Sitara wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • Sitara,
      It is for folks like you that I really took the time to write my story. I love to read about those in their 20’s, 30’s and above relating how primal has benefited their lives. For those who are beginning to face the reality of their mortality, to face the mental/physical challenges of the aging process, who have begun to get glimpses of the end of their journey just down the road; for them I would wish to encourage them, that by going primal, you can more easily finish that race in an all out dash with less mental/ physical garbage to houl across that finish line. I wish you the absolute best that life has to offer you in the years ahead.

      Gerry Endres wrote on October 14th, 2011
  13. Moved me to tears! So happy for you.

    Emily wrote on October 14th, 2011
  14. Very touching story. I love Fridays on MDA!

    This story definitely has striking similarities to my parents situation at the moment. Mom is Type II Diabetic, father is on meds for high blood pressure.

    I have emailed this post asking them to give it a good solid read. I truly hope they do and it might knock some sense into them. Thank you for sharing, Gerry……and congratulations on your new life!

    Chris wrote on October 14th, 2011
  15. From an older Gookette — I’m 60 — I’m guessing you already are running a 10 on the LGN chart. You are certainly a 10 on the LGD chart! Thanks for the ongoing inspiration.

    Diane wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • LGD; that’s awesome!!! I agree.
      Your story had me in tears. Well done!

      alley cat wrote on October 14th, 2011
  16. evolution…you have created a troglodite! Grok on.

    dasbutch wrote on October 14th, 2011
  17. This is a fantastic story!! I feel like I am reading the story of my father….hopefully he will be receptive to going Primal after he sees my results and from reading stories like yours Gerry. Thanks for the inspiration…

    Michelle Blumenthal wrote on October 14th, 2011
  18. I’m 64 and all I’ve done so far is to pretty much stop eating breads, rice, potatoes, and pasta yet I lost 20 pounds in five months and got my A1C (the measurement for diabetes) down to normal. Will I be taking the next steps down the primal path? You betcha. You’re never to old to get healthy.

    Linda Sand wrote on October 14th, 2011
  19. How do I get in touch with you, Gerry?

    Abhishek wrote on October 14th, 2011
  20. I can’t wait for the Friday posts to read inspiring stories. This is a great story and makes me want to jump out of my chair (yep, you guessed it, “pretending” to work at this hour on a Friday afternoon) and go run on a trail with my dog!

    Marie wrote on October 14th, 2011
  21. Amazing! You look so much younger!

    Dani wrote on October 14th, 2011
  22. I love this story. I has really hit home and gives proof that it is never too late to start fresh and new. Gerry you don’t look 60 you look mid ti late 40’s in your lst picture. it is amazing what good and rightious living will do for you. You and Dave rock! And show that with the right tools and some will power moutains can be moved.

    Ever Green wrote on October 14th, 2011
  23. I’m wiping away tears too- what a great story Gerry! I used to work in WV and was greatly saddened by the large number of overweight folks I saw there, especially the children. You have proven it’s never too late to change though. And I’m lol at your cardiologist telling you you are dramatic! So be it, I hope we get an update when your LDL is at a “good” level, keep up the good work. Loved your writing style too!

    spincycle wrote on October 14th, 2011
  24. Well done Gerry- you are an inspiration to us all!

    Paul D. wrote on October 14th, 2011
  25. I really like your picture! And the mt story is awesome.

    AlyieCat wrote on October 14th, 2011
  26. Absolutely awesome ! Congratulations Gerry !

    Orannhawk wrote on October 14th, 2011
  27. That is a great story and you look fantastic. My Mom is 78 and my Dad is 80. I just sent them Mark’s book. Dad has diabetes and both take BP meds. Hoping they will join the train.

    Susan M. wrote on October 14th, 2011
  28. This is a terrific story told well. I take except for the use of the suicide metaphor, however. Living in ways which contribute to risk and a poorer quality of life are sometimes as a result of self soothing or “self medicating” – activities we engage in to reduce distress, but which backfire. They are done to intentionally end one’s life.

    When we are able to recognize the harm that’s being done and can take action to stop the activities that are causing it, that’s a huge and significant achievement! Kudos to all who have and are doing that!

    aek wrote on October 14th, 2011
  29. Been reading this site for a long time, on my own journey but never felt the need to comment before. Absolutely inspiring. Good luck from the other side of the pond….

    Dave H wrote on October 14th, 2011
  30. Translation: “Yawp!”

    Shebeeste wrote on October 14th, 2011
  31. Gerry, Wow! You look great clothed, so my guess is that you also LGN. And now you’ve got the juice to back that up!

    Congrats on your achievements!!

    J.

    Julie wrote on October 14th, 2011
  32. You look terrific, congratulations!!

    I love your description of your hike, you are an inspiration! Some day I’ll get there!

    Dana wrote on October 14th, 2011
  33. Congratulations Gerry on such an inspirational story! Not only have you transformed your physical self, but your emotional and spiritual self as well. You are a true inspiration to us all.

    juliem wrote on October 14th, 2011
  34. Good for you, my alpha male friend!

    Sanctus Real wrote on October 14th, 2011
  35. Goose bumps man… goose bumps. I really liked the night hike story. I’ve always enjoyed being outside at night, especially when its cool out!

    Ryan Denner wrote on October 14th, 2011
  36. Welcome back to your life Gerry. Loved your story.

    Sharon wrote on October 14th, 2011
  37. Congrats Gerry, great story.

    Here’s some advice: Primal eating will boost your total cholesterol production…that’s what its supposed to do.

    Remember that most Doctors and laboratories don’t actually measure your LDL, they calculate it using a formula using the actual measurements of your triglycerides, HDL and total cholesterol levels.

    Check out Dr. Eades “protein power” blog for the details..

    Second of all, no matter how high your LDL number may be, the more important factor is the composition and density of the LDL particles…small and dense, which comes from eating the SAD full of processed and hydrogenated oils, excessive grain products and sugars.

    Eating Primal should give you fluffy, less dense LDL particles that are not only good, but essential for your health.

    In other words, just consider your Doctor’s dire warning of your high LDL levels as the last ditch sales pitch of the Industrial-Pharmaceutical-Healthcare-Insurance Complex to keep another paying customer on the profitable meds program instead of achieving a healthy state that does not require their services.

    Keoni Galt wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • I disagree. Persistant high LDL could be a sign of a serious problem. I’m sure Gerry’s doctor knows this, but men his age often have problems with their ration of Fe to Cu. This could lead to elevated cholesterol. Low Mg is another possibility.

      correcty fairy wrote on October 14th, 2011
      • Persistent high LDL could be a sign of a serious problem.

        I didn’t say it wasn’t.

        The problem here is that the majority of Doctors and laboratories don’t actually measure the LDL, they calculate it. People who go on low-carb diets for a lengthy period of time will have lower triglyceride levels that cause the Friedewald equation that they use to calculate LDL, to return a higher ldl level than it actually is.

        http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/weight-loss/low-carbohydrate-diets-increase-ldl-debunking-the-myth/

        Keoni Galt wrote on October 15th, 2011
  38. This story reveals why Mark has become a true hero to me. Two amazing highlights that I never get over, with my own experience (only a few months into primal lifestyle) and the experiences of people like Gerry, are how quickly the benefits of this lifestyle set in – in terms of health, energy levels, and emotional well-being. Amazing story, Gerry – thank you for sharing!

    Lesley wrote on October 14th, 2011
  39. WOW! I am amazed at your story-especially love the part where you tell the Dr.no meds! Keep on keeping on:)

    janet wrote on October 14th, 2011
  40. That made me smile. Good on you for waking up and taking control.

    ms jane wrote on October 14th, 2011

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