Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
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!
It occurred to me after reading a number of other success stories that I myself had a success story to share, and while I believe that there are many to thank for helping me get where I am now, you have played a large part in my transformation.
So let me give you my back story.
At this point it’s important I clarify a few things. I’m 45 and have been battling my weight for about 25 years. I can’t pin my body fat woes on any specific tragedy.
I would love to be able to blame my troubles on some sort of genetic mutation that makes me eat like a hyena. Sadly, I cannot (which is really too bad because I think I would have made an excellent X-Men character.)
I would love to be able to say I suffer from a rare genetic disorder known as no metabolism. Unfortunately, my metabolism is alive and well and doing the speed limit on most occasions.
I would love to say I am a victim of gravity. Where others experience a gravitational pull, I experience a gravitational grounding, which basically nails my butt to the earth. It might certainly explain those times I could not get out of bed or off the couch, but sadly gravity has no issue with me and subjects me to the same forces as the rest of its flock.
No Mark, for the past 25 years in fact, I have been someone who I think a fair number of your readers might relate to.
And what did all that get me?
[That mug shot was taken in November, 2010.]
That’s what all of the above got me.
I can’t tell you what I weigh in that photo because I had long ago given up on the scale as a unit of measurement. I won’t get into the details of the nasty breakup, other than to say one of us was not being honest about how much I weighed.
But I can tell you that waist required a 36-inch pant. And I can tell you that I am not sticking my stomach out to look fatter than I really am. If anything, I was holding it in slightly because I was embarrassed how I looked, even though it never occurred to me that I would be sharing this photo with anyone other than Microsoft Word.
There is an old saying that you can’t get something for nothing. That may be true, but that body above is proof you can get nothing for something. It seemed that no matter what I did, it always looked like I did nothing. I decided that I didn’t want that legacy on my tombstone…
RIP Dean Dwyer
1965 to 2065
He proved you can get nothing for something.
Clearly, what I was doing wasn’t working and on November 23rd I finally had my, “Dude where is my body?” moment.
I needed to do something completely different if I was going to unleash the body that was trapped in my imagination for the past 25 years.
And so I fired all the health experts I had relied on in the past. I tossed out every notion I had about what I thought constituted good health and that included questioning whether a vegetarian diet was right for my body-type.
I really wasn’t sure where to begin. I just knew I had to do something seismic. I needed to take some steps that would drastically alter my course. Simply eating healthy (too vague to even measure) and working out (my default weight loss option) weren’t working.
It became obvious to me that there was more to this journey then I realized and I had to be open to explore it if I wanted a different result. I already knew what to do to be fat.
So I sat down and wrote out a philosophy for my health. Google has one titled, 10 Things We Know To Be True, that governs the very essence of their business, and since they seem to be scrapping by, I figured I better have one too. I knew if I was going to have any success this time around I needed to have a framework from which to evaluate my successes and failures.
While my current philosophy contains 26 items, at the time I started with the simple notion of recording every thing I ate. My rationale was simple. I couldn’t possibly know what worked for my body-type unless I had data I could refer to.
This was a science experiment of the utmost importance and I needed the raw data. This journey would be no different from Thomas Edison’s journey to create the light bulb. He made countless notes and observations on each and every failed experiment, each moving him incrementally closer to finding a solution that worked. I needed to take the exact same approach.
And so I started logging all my foods all the time (I still do this…don’t want to mess with my success). I was still vegetarian at the time and after a few months I could definitely see changes. Not massive changes, but enough change to keep me going.
My theory was and still is, that the very act of recording makes me a mindful eater, as opposed to a mindless eater (which is what I was for 25 years), and as such, I would make better choices even if little else in my diet was different.
But then, as always seems to be the case, I noticed that in mid-January of this year, I was putting weight back on. I knew this because I was taking a photo of myself every morning.
Needless to say I was horrified. It was that, “Crap, here we go again” moment.
But I must say, recording my eating was an accidental stroke of genius because it allowed me to take a step back and analyze what I was putting in my body and suddenly I had this thought…
What if eating healthy is making me fat?
I really couldn’t explain this any other way. On paper my stats looked great. Unfortunately, stats are 2-dimensional and I was living in a 3-dimensional world. The stats and my reality weren’t aligning.
And so I jumped online and started doing research. I had no idea what I was looking for, but somehow I stumbled upon Gary Taubes, and this lead me to read his book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories.”
I found the book fascinating. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Harry Potter, but I found the studies he cited and the narrative he provided to be just as engaging.
And as I poured over the studies he had presented, “it” happened.
I stumbled upon one line in one study voiced by one researcher (whose name I cannot remember) who suggested the following…
What if weight gain is a symptom and not a character flaw.
WOW! That line floored me.
I knew that people on the outside would look at my November pic and provide a quick and utterly useless diagnosis. Without knowing anything about me, they would simply say I needed to be more disciplined. I would need to cut back on my calories (take on some starvation diet – no thanks!) and expend more calories than I was taking in.
In essence, they would be implying that my situation was a result of a series of character flaws. Since I had already beaten myself up for 25 years thinking I was to blame, this new insight lead me to think…
What if I am not to blame?
What if this isn’t my fault?
What if the foods I am eating don’t allow my body (when I say body I’m referring to it on a cellular level) to do its job, which is to rid itself of the excess fat that has accumulated?
I can’t tell you how liberating this thoughts were. It literally changed the cultural landscape of my mind, which, in my experience, is the most challenging aspect of this whole journey.
But I didn’t know what to do with this info.
I didn’t know what I was supposed to change in my diet to put this theory to work. And so I once again jumped on the internet and began researching diets.
And again, I have no idea how it happened Mark, but I ended up on your site and on this post: How to Succeed with the Primal Blueprint.
I had heard of the Paleo Diet before, but I had dismissed it simply because I knew the vegetarian lifestyle was the right way to go. Clearly, I was blinded by my arrogance and my ignorance.
I was captivated by the concept. The thought of a diet based on an evolutionary premise made sense to me. Hell, I scream like a two-year when someone scares the crap out of me and know that is an evolutionary mechanism at play, why couldn’t the same reasoning apply for diet.
It made perfect sense in theory.
Of course, there are lots of experts who are quick to point out all the negatives. But if this journey has taught me anything it is that I am the expert on me. No one, and I mean no one, can tell me what works for my body-type. That is my domain and my domain alone.
In the past, I was too willing to hand my domain to other people who clearly knew nothing about me and what made me tick.
And while I don’t believe there is one magic diet that works for everyone, I do believe there is one that works for me, and so I was determined to test what you were professing Senor Sisson.
Here is what I did…
[Not sure why I am not smiling in the second photo. I am tempted to say I wasn’t ready for the photo, but I am the one who snapped the pic.]
Well, I have achieved results I have NEVER attained before and I have done so eating more now than I did in the past and doing less exercise than I did before (I now do 5 workouts that MUST be 30 minutes or less).
I went from a 36 inch pant size to a 29 inch pant size.
While some of the pictures speak for themselves (sorry for the shameless self-promotion), I want to make it clear that my journey is far from over. I will always be a work in progress.
The great thing now is I am 100% certain what I am doing works. My job is to simply stay out of my own way.
Surprisingly, I have had many friends who have been captivated by the changes I have made and have asked me to help them create change in their own lives as well. While I never really expected this to be an outcome of my efforts (simply because I had failed spectacularly so many times over the past 25 years) I definitely want to do all I can to add to the primal tribe.
[If you haven’t read Hawaiian Scottie’s story, Living the Dream, check it out. Not only did I love his story, but I was inspired by his ability to add 8 people to his tribe.]
I also recently launched www.beingprimal.com, which is going to be a video based site to help shed some light on the emotional and psychological aspect of this Primal journey. [sorry that is shameless self-promotion part 2]
My mistake in the past was thinking this was simply a diet and exercise issue. It is much more complex than that.
This is an emotional and psychological journey first and foremost. It’s a journey into understanding who we are. Until we are willing to plunge into the depths of our murky inner self and figure out why we do what we do, all the other stuff is meaningless, because it won’t last. We will find a way to blow it up long before the results can ever reveal themselves.
So Mark, I thank you for not only helping me unleash that body that I knew I had, but I thank you for unleashing a passion that was buried even deeper within me.
All the best amigo,