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

The Doctor Told Me He Could Not Believe It

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 have considered telling you my story for some time now, but for some reason I have never done so. I recently read the success story of the mixed martial artist named Abe Wagner and it made me decide to share my story as well. I am also a professional mixed martial artist, and while going primal has helped me in this venture, I also believe that it played a very large part in even allowing me to begin along it. So here is my long overdue success story.

It started about 3 years ago. I was playing rugby in college and was an alternate on the collegiate All-American national team. It was about this same time that I also started to become interested in mixed martial arts and training some in my free time as well as doing a few amateur fights. People would ask me for advice on nutrition and working out and I would regurgitate false truths. I’m sure that I would have continued down this road, but life sometimes seems to have us on a collision course. Quite literally in my case, as in I fell off of a ledge and landed head first on the concrete 12ft below. Being the sprightly young man that I was, I assumed that no real damage was inflicted in my fall. I “sucked it up” as my coaches told me to and continued along with rugby games and practices.

After a few months however, I could no longer pretend like everything was okay. I went to the doctor and told them that I thought I might had strained my neck. They decided to take a few X-rays and the results were quite a surprise to everyone involved. I had broken my neck in-between the C5 and C6 vertebrae. The doctors told me that I needed to have surgery. They took me to the hospital to go under the knife that day. But when I arrived at the hospital they discovered another problem; since I had gone several months with my neck broken, the damaged ligaments and muscles had healed around my broken neck. They could not perform the surgery until they got my neck back into alignment. They screwed a halo attached to a weight and pulley system into my head and laid me horizontal on a hospital bed. Every once in a while they would increase the weight pulling on my head to straighten my neck. After three days they said that it was straight enough to do surgery. I went in that night for surgery and they shaved off a piece of my hip and used it for a bone fusion in my neck as well as screwing in a small plastic support. When I woke up they called in the specialist who performed the surgery to talk to me. Being naive to my own reality and thinking I was invincible, my only concern was when I would be able to start playing sports again. He told me that I was lucky to be walking and that I would be in a neck brace for about a year and we would just have to see how my body took to the bone fusion. He then said that he doubted that I would ever be able to do high intensity sports again. I was not willing to accept that and quizzed him over anything I could do to help the healing process, and he told me just to be as healthy as I possibly could.

As far as fitness and nutrition went, I was under the impression that I was doing everything right. I was eating high amounts of protein, low fat, and lots of “good” carbs like rice, and pasta. I was taking all the stimulant-rich pre- and post-workout supplements that the bodybuilding forums said that I should be taking, and I was lifting 6 times a week in addition to my rugby practices. At the time I was 5’11 about 215 pounds and low body fat. As far as conventional wisdom went, I was extremely healthy. But since my diagnosis was grim I decided to look into everything that could possibly benefit me. I began researching what might help my recovery and stumbled onto At first I was just intrigued by how different of an approach it was from everything else I had come across. After reading for a long while, a lot of it seemed to make sense to me and I decided that I would give it a shot.

Over the next few months, I stopped taking supplements, stopped eating grains and legumes, and ate a high omega 3 diet with clean protein. I impatiently went to each checkup. The results slowly went from ambiguous to more and more positive, and then on the 7th month of being in my neck brace, the doctor told me he could not believe it but the bone fusion had completely filled in. The neck brace was removed (5 months ahead of schedule) and I was allowed to ease back into working out as long as I came in to make sure everything was coming along okay every couple weeks. Within a couple months I was back playing rugby and training mixed martial arts.

I had never done physical activity while primal before, but because of my results while injured, I decided to stay with it. I had lost some size which disappointed me at first, but became inconsequential once I realized how great I felt and how much better I was performing than I had before my injury. I stopped doing workouts that would restrict my movement and focused on playing. I finished my college rugby career and less than a year after getting out of my neck brace I made my professional debut in mixed martial arts. Since that time I have won 8 straight fights and I am one of the top unsigned prospects at my weight class. I am still in school at the moment and I use the winnings as my income while I continue my education.

The specialist who performed the surgery and monitored me post operation later asked my permission to submit my case to a conference. He said that it was one of the only instances he had ever heard of a recovery like I made on a case that severe. I have no doubt that the primal lifestyle played a huge role in that. Since switching to it I have recommended it to everyone close to me. I made a website for fighting a couple years ago so friends and family could keep up with my fighting. Your website has been one of my recommended links on my webpage since I first made it. I thank you for the knowledge you made available to me and it would be my pleasure to help Mr. Wagner spread the primal way of life throughout the MMA community.

-Trey Houston

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. Awesome Story! Glad that the neck injury didn’t cause more damage. Another reason to be primal

    Aaron (Grok Mendoza) wrote on October 28th, 2011
  2. Thanks for the inspiring story, Trey! Can you give us an idea of what your diet looks like on an average day? I’m always intrigued to see how very athletic people actually eat on a primal diet. Thanks again.

    Jon wrote on October 29th, 2011
  3. Tried to check out your website but it says “bandwidth limit exceeded”. You need to extend your limits!

    dragonmamma wrote on October 29th, 2011
  4. Trey –
    I work in healthcare IT now, but have years of experience as an operating room nurse, and prior to that, a paramedic. I gasped when I saw that x-ray, and I suspect everyone in healthcare who saw it in person did, too. You are beyond fortunate to be alive and not a quadriplegic. Obviously, as bad as that x-ray looks, your fracture was stable enough to support you, or you wouldn’t be here.
    I have assisted in placing that halo on, and in many spine fusion operations. It sounds like they did everything right with you. And your recovery is a testament to you doing everything right afterwards. Congratulations and good luck in the future. That was inspiring to continue to move to the Primal way of life. :-)

    Suze wrote on October 29th, 2011
  5. NOW…continue on the path…BE SMART…Dont get hurt like that again and GROK ON BROTHER!!!!!>>>>

    Dave PAPA GROK Parsons wrote on October 29th, 2011
  6. Very inspiring story! Can’t wait to see you fight in the UFC.

    Java John wrote on October 29th, 2011
  7. Juliemama- Thank you for sharing that with me. Definitely many similarities there. So glad that your recovery went well. It has always amazed me how resilient the human body can be if we allow it.

    Jon- My diet on a normal day varies greatly. I have Mark’s first cookbook as well as his quick and easy meal cookbook. What I normally do is pick out several recipes with similar ingredients and I buy enough to last me the week. Since I’m busy with school and fighting I usually triple or quadruple the ingredients required so that they will last me for several days. Each week I try and pick recipes with a different base of ingredients than the week before. I would not say that I eat much differently than any non-athlete primal eaters. If I have had a hard workout then I will add in sweet potatoes or eggplants for a little extra carbohydrates. I do snack throughout the day if I feel the need to. I usually stick to a little fruit, greek yogurt, or macadamia nuts and cashews. If you want more detail than that then I will be happy to write down my specific meals for next week. I am going to sit down tomorrow and decide on them and go to the store to get the things needed to prepare them. Just let me know if you would like me to relay that information for you.

    dragonmamma- I fixed the problem with the website. It was just a simple website that I made a little while back. I did not realize that I had a bandwidth limit on it.

    JavaJohn- I appreciate it. I have a fight at the Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa on the 18th of November. Hopefully with another win or two I will have the opportunity to compete in the UFC.

    Trey Houston wrote on October 29th, 2011
  8. Trey: Thanks so much for the info! Yes, that would be great to see a week’s worth of meals. Thanks again.

    Jon wrote on October 29th, 2011
  9. Wow I’m amazed!!! This really gives me hope that I can recover from my low back and SI Joint injury! I’m pretty far gone already but I’m hanging in there.

    Hypothyroidism, chronic pain with LOTS of pain meds and other meds… bi-polar II generalized anxiety and panic disorder… all on top of starting out at 300 lbs at 5’10.5″… I’m down 35 lbs as of today and somehow am managing to continue to lose weight on antibiotics and prednisone…

    I’m taking supplements form adrenal and thyroid support and just starting to feel better. I started 7/25/11 just before major surgery… I even got cellulitis after surgery but managed to get out of the hospital the next day and completely healed on time inspite of the infection!

    Sorry this was so long, I just needed to let you know I needed your story!

    Myree wrote on October 29th, 2011
  10. Great story of triumph over adversity. Reading things like this reaffirms my belief that 99% of us are capable of success over our somewhat trivial pains and aches. I’ll look forward to seeing Trey on the Pay Per View on the UFC sometime.

    Jack wrote on October 30th, 2011
  11. incredible story and photos! glad you were one of the lucky ones and didn’t have permanent damage. the blog is awesome i’ll def be back

    barber Ballantyne wrote on October 31st, 2011
  12. Jon- I apologize for being a couple days late with this. School had me a little bogged down at the beginning of this week haha. As far as meals go though, I usually have my first workout before classes in the morning and I eat my first meal after the workout. On monday my first meal was primal hot cereal, which is pecans, almonds, bananas, and coconut milk blended together, heated up and topped with berries. I usually have a cup of green or oolong tea in the mornings with my first meal. My second meal was tahini chicken salad.(chicken,olive oil, sherry vinegar, carrots, radishes, parsley). I was a little hungry a few hours later and ate some broccoli with almond dressing(one of my favorite snacks) After my evening training session I ate two large bowls of spinach coconut milk soup, with shrimp. I typically make one or two large pots of soup a week. It is really nice to eat something like soup after a hard training session because I have sweated quite a bit and want fluids anyways. Plus it is very easy to make large portions of soup to eat throughout the week. That was everything for Monday. I also take omega 3 and multivitamins each day, but those are the only supplements that I take besides an occasional protein shake if I just absolutely don’t have time for anything else.

    Today I had a berry pancake for breakfast. It’s kind of like a souffle topped with berries. Very easy to make and very tasty. I snacked on some portobello mushrooms stuffed with advocado and bacon a few hours later. At lunch I ate steak with romesco sauce and a simple spinach leaf salad topped with a few veggies, almonds, and olive oil. After training I had smoked salmon and asparagus egg wraps with a side of basil coleslaw.

    As far as the rest of the week goes, I made very large portions of each meal and will alternate between them throughout the week. It is what I do almost every week just because of the time constraints involved with my current schedule. I also usually snack on something small once or twice a day. Depending upon how rushed I am it, might just be something as simple as a handful of nuts. If I run out of one of the meals that I prepared or if I want something else then it is very easy to mix up a spinach leaf salad topped with veggies and a protein, or I always love veggie omelets topped with avocado. It is really up to you how complex or simple you want to make this whole thing. I hope this helped some. I am happy to address any more questions that you might have. You can email me if you would like so we dont have to keep checking the comment section for it.

    Trey Houston wrote on November 1st, 2011
    • Thanks, Trey and good luck with your fighting career!

      Jon wrote on November 2nd, 2011
  13. Myree- I am touched that my story was able to help you in an even, miniscule way. I wish you the best of luck in your recovery and ask that you remember to trust in your body.

    Barber Ballantyne- Glad you enjoyed the blog. I had stopped updating it for a while because I had not been fighting due to school but I am back to updating it regularly now.

    Trey Houston wrote on November 1st, 2011
  14. Congrats Trey! I’m very proud of you :) Pictures look great as well…are those the Colorado mountains I see!

    Hali wrote on November 2nd, 2011

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