Meet Mark

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
Stay Connected
September 11 2015

A Better Way to Live

By Guest
34 Comments

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-1-2Though my primal journey isn’t one of losing hundreds of pounds or overcoming disabling digestion issues, it is one where my life has unquestionably improved from the sweets-loving, chronic cardio lifestyle in which I was buried a few years ago.

As a three-sport athlete in high school, I was desperate for activity after not playing any sports in college. My sister, who is an avid runner, convinced me to take up the sport, and I loved it. I ran a marathon my senior year of college, and worked and worked to improve my half marathon time. Addicted to running, I ignored the small injuries that kept cropping up. My I.T. bands were tight to the point of disabling pain, my lower back was tired, and my knees ached consistently.

My girlfriend (now wife) and I took a cross-country bicycle trip where I hit my not-very-deep rock bottom. After a pre-dinner snack of an entire pack of Oreos (not an exaggeration) one or two times a week on the trip, I came back a pound heavier than when I left. My body composition had changed, but it seemed ridiculous to me to have worked that hard and gained fat. That was July, 2011, and I haven’t eaten any SAD desserts again (though thanks to Danielle Walker, I’ve enjoyed some paleo treats).

Chronic cardio was the only way that I knew to fight the slow, insidious weight gain of the SAD, and, as I now know, you can’t slowly outrun an unhealthy diet. Though I wasn’t terribly overweight, I was certainly gaining a pound or two a year because of my insatiable appetite for food and beer.

As my wedding approached, I went to talk to a personal trainer, and he recommended the paleo diet, some resistance training, and tabatas. After doing a bit of research, I found MDA. I began to nibble away (pun intended) at my bad habits. I would do a paleo month, and then I would revert to the SAD. Then I would live primally for a couple more months to see how it felt. I was able to see the benefits of going paleo, but I wasn’t ready to make a full commitment yet.

sambeforeFinally, in July 2014 at 219 pounds and drinking a borderline ridiculous amount of IPAs, I decided to go primal for a longer stretch. My wife and I were about to leave on a trip to Iceland and the U.K., and I decided to eat thoughtfully on that whole trip. That iteration was more ketogenic than paleo, with lots of full fat dairy products and not many vegetables or fruits. Six days into the new lifestyle, my wife and I both noticed a physical difference. Although I had no specific sickness to overcome, my face was definitely thinner, and I was losing fat quickly. When we got home from the trip, I realized that I felt better and that sticking to this “diet” was what I wanted to do. The fat loss continued as the beginnings of some abs started to appear for the first time in my life.

More interesting, however, was a mental acuity that I hadn’t even known was absent. I was better able to focus on whatever task was at hand, I began making the choice to meditate and play guitar every day, and I drank (and, more importantly, wanted to drink) less.

Another byproduct of the lifestyle is I have become obsessed with cooking and sourcing my food. My college roommate operates a livestock farm in Rhode Island called Wild Harmony Farm, and his meat and eggs are (in my humble opinion) the best in New England. Rather than hummus, whole grains, and fruit, the mainstays of my diet are leafy greens, whatever other vegetables I can get my hands on, bacon, beef, and pork chops straight from the farm. My kitchen has become a place to express creativity and partake in a borderline meditative practice. Wild Harmony Farm has given me the chance to butcher a slaughtered pig, and I have a chest freezer in the basement full of the healthiest food I can imagine.

sammeat2

Admittedly, I began living primally with the goal of LGN. Whatever it takes, right? However, in retrospect, it has infiltrated every part of my life, as I feel more present and happier. I am gratefully in a cycle where making healthy choices begets making more healthy choices.

samafterMy last physical revealed that my cholesterol ratios are fantastic, my doctor (who, miraculously, is also paleo) was pleased with my choices, and I had dropped 30 pounds without starving myself or even feeling hungry.

I still don’t have a six pack (a two pack maybe?), but I can tell there are muscles there now. I am not tempted to eat sugary foods or desserts anymore, and though I occasionally want a beer, and even less occasionally indulge, those cravings have largely gone away, because I have broken my sugar addiction.

Even more importantly, the lure of addictive substances has decreased as my sense of well-being has increased. I am not denying myself instant gratification. I simply no longer find “cheat” foods gratifying.

The primal lifestyle hasn’t been a hugely dramatic story for me. I felt okay before, and I feel better now. I was heavy but not obese before, and I am lighter and healthier now. Simply put, this lifestyle has made me eat, exercise, and live with a bit more joy and purpose. Can’t ask for too much more than that!

Sam

TAGS:  guest post

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

34 thoughts on “A Better Way to Live”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. That is a beautiful piece of meat. What cuts are on your table there?

    And good work!

    1. Thanks! That’s the pork chops, loin chops, and a couple of butt roasts. It tastes better than it looks.

  2. “…this lifestyle has made me eat, exercise, and live with a bit more joy and purpose. Can’t ask for too much more than that!”

    Yes, indeed! What more can one ask for? I’m happy for your physical/emotional/spiritual transformation. Thanks so much for taking the time to share.

  3. Nice work. This is pretty much my story. Never really was super overweight or terribly unhealthy, but I just needed to change bad habits over time until I realized that I would rather feel good most of the time than just when I was eating some sweet foods or drinking beer.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story. It has been similar for me, not obese, not fit but not totally out of shape enough to let my son win a running race up a hill.
    Primal has helped me to be more mindful and eat “real food” and feed my family good food. They are still addicts but they find it harder to “practice” their addiction when they are at home since I have food in the house, not “pretend food” for them to munch on. Lazy people will eat what’s there and we are all somewhat lazy when we eat junk, so, the course of least resistance at home is to eat food instead of walking out and getting their junk. (Muwahahahahaha, she laughs that evil laugh)
    I really like looking in a mirror and seeing the person I’m supposed to be instead of that 30 pounds that I was wearing for those 15 years before primal. LGN is good motivation for some of us, I just wanted to look like “me” again.

  5. I love your story because for many it is a process, not something that comes on overnight. I too was looking for a way to lose weight but found so much more.

  6. “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” Buddha

    Welcome aboard Sam and congratulation on your achievements.

  7. I dig this story as well as I’m not a tragic story either. Just much improved version of a pretty good older version.

    I’ve always been fit, but I did get sloppy after my daughter was born. I got introduced to the joys of french cooking, french desserts, and high quality cakes and pastries. My portions got bigger as well. This slowly put on the pounds.

    The funny thing was, because I was really fit and had a slim type frame, I carried the extra pounds well and was still considered thin by most, especially for my age.

    The wake-up call came when, just for kicks, I stepped on the digital scale at the hospital while my daughter was getting a routine checkup.

    177 pounds! Holy cow, I was about 165 tops when I graduated in 1984 and was religiously lifting weights.

    Two things immediately came to mind. I’ve got to drop the junk. So I stopped eating sweets. And ten pounds came off really quick. Then I came to the realization that I was one of those vegetarians that didn’t eat many vegetables. That’s most vegetarians actually. So I also made eating as many vegetables as possible the focus of my diet. Lots of veggies, no junk. The pounds melted off. I also got my portions under control.

    I’m now a consistent 148 stripped and never felt better at age 49.

    If you would had told me, at 177 pounds, that I could safely drop 30 pounds and feel just as strong as ever, I would had told you it was impossible. It’s still hard to believe I dropped 30 pounds of fat when the average person considered me slim at 177.

    My diet now is centered around veggies, eggs and nuts. I round that out with sweet potatoes, black beans, whey protein, berries, fish oil, green tea, olive oil, and coconut oil. About twice a week, on date night, I’ll enjoy really great breads, noodles or pasta.

    One of my friends still jokes about how I got lean by doing the “don’t eat cake diet”. But it really was almost that simple. Stop eating refined and processed crap, and the rest kind of takes care of itself

    1. “Then I came to the realization that I was one of those vegetarians that didn’t eat many vegetables. That’s most vegetarians actually.”

      There’s a widespread perception that the Paleo diet’s rather carnivorous and not a few people have been surprised when I’ve told them that I, like most Paleo dieters, eat more vegetables than most vegetarians.

    1. Thank you so much. Thinking about the primal journey was a really fun process.

  8. I am another with a similar history. I never worked out a day in my life or worried about what I ate (in retrospect my eating was fairly healthy because I preferred meat, potatoes and rice over sweets and snacks, always ate a second helping of ribs or steak in lieu of a dessert).

    My drinking choices were beer with dinner and then steadily sipping Maker’s Mark until bedtime. I finally reached a bloated stage after quitting smoking at age 57. Initially I had great success with general primal eating, bike riding and strength exercises, cut out the bourbon. At that time I was drinking 3 beers daily and easily maintained my new much leaner weight. Never got rid of the last bit of belly bloat though no matter what, so I gave up the beer for the most part and started drinking red wine, drinking 1/2 bottle every day. I was still stubbornly holding on to the belly, actually I think it got worse. About 3 weeks ago I finally faced the fact that I need a break on the alcohol, the results have been gratifying, I am again dropping bodyfat and my midsection is definitely shrinking and tightening. It seems that I am gaining muscle faster now as well which is amazing at age 61. I now allow myself one bottle of red over the weekend and plan to maintain that for the foreseeable future.

    It’s become pretty clear to me that alcohol is a big impediment to transforming body composition, at least at the more advanced ages. I have always loved drinking and never let it get out of control but the fact is I feel better, sleep better, train better and look better with less of it. However I will be attending the Oktoberfest festival at the Sierra Nevada brewery in Chico next month, it will be an epic cheat day!

    1. Thank you for sharing your story! I am coming to the conclusion that I too need to cut alcohol in order to reduce my body fat/weight. I feel relieved knowing you are still able to have some on the weekends an have results. I love my wine but can live with having some on the weekends knowing that it really did help you and maybe, just maybe it will work for me too. Have fun at Oktoberfest in Chico!

    2. It’s become pretty clear to me that alcohol is a big impediment to transforming body composition, at least at the more advanced ages. I have always loved drinking and never let it get out of control but the fact is I feel better, sleep better, train better and look better with less of it.

      Wow that sounds like my story above! I too was drinking 3-4 beers a night, and more like a 12pk on the weekends or Margaritas or Rum and Cokes. Those were the killer trying to loose my Goodyear Tire around the mid section and gut. I have always been very stocky so that helped me hide some wt but I’m following this readers diet to a T. I have since lost 10lbs since being stricter on Paleo, have been doing my physical therapy workout daily to build strength due to a back injury 17yrs ago and feel so much better. My right knee joint ache has gone away from building core and leg strength. Since I lost 1/2 my calf muscle in my left leg due to neuropathy its been challenging but I’ve been once again motivated with the recent 10lb wt loss. Booze def is not your friend when trying to loose wt and get healthy. FYI I have still managed to keep off 30lbs since starting my Paleo journey 3 yrs ago.

      Great Job Sam. You look great and I eat the same as you, fresh butchered meat except I actually hunted and killed my pork in the freezer. We shot 2 wild pigs this yr, had them butchered for $165 and have been eating some of the best lean pork for the past yr. I get to go out into the beautiful outdoors and hunt like a caveman. Shoot,clean and process my meat. Best part is I know whats in the meat-nothing! Pure range fed healthy paleo meat.

      Read more: https://www.marksdailyapple.com/a-better-way-to-live/#ixzz3lw73WXIw

  9. Great story Sam. Another example of tweaking just a few things and the benefits are endless.

  10. Excellent story – you look very healthy in the “after” photos. Amazing how such a small step to healthy food makes such a huge impact on our wellbeing ins’t it? In fact it is incredible to think that we have come to the point in the world where we need a website and “success stories” just to tell us to eat unprocessed clean food to make us feel better – SAD (see what I did there!)

    PS: wish I had a friend with a beef & pork farm – lucky you!

  11. Great story. It’s all about how you feel. It’s great when you get in touch with how food makes you feel. I have become what I consider to be a food snob. Give me real food and no frankenfoods. I feel a little sorry for people addicted to the junk. Been there and don’t ever want to go back.

  12. There could be an entire book of the lamentations of former beer drinkers struggling with the primal lifestyle. Maybe a trilogy. When I was disciplined, the weight fell off and everything improved healthwise. But during that time I thought about beer in the morning, in the evening, and most days in between. I rarely have more than two at a time, but sweet providence are they a gift! Pale ales, brown ales, IPA’s stouts, imperial stouts, big, giant DIPA’s, oh my! There is no material thing in life that brings me as much pleasure as beer. I could never eat another sweet thing for the rest of my life and have no problem but the beer, it’s always a struggle.

  13. I agree that It’s great when you get in touch with how food makes you feel. I have become what I consider to be a food snob. Give me real food and no frankenfoods.

  14. Nice story, Sam. It’s great to see someone embrace the primal lifestyle before they’ve fallen too deeply down the well of modern living. Congrats.

    Memo Stephens

  15. Hi, Sam! Congratulations on your success! I have a question, though . . . is your diet still mainly ketogenic? Are you still eating full fat dairy? I’m trying to decide whether I want to incorporate dairy into my diet, at all. I recently completed a Whole30 and felt amazing during the process! However, I LOVE cheeses and heavy cream in my coffee. I believe I would feel deprived, otherwise. I do love leafy greens and almost all vegetables, though, and I do have a sweet tooth I would love to get rid of. Any insight on the “dairy question” would be great.

    1. I wrestle with it frequently. To get to that six pack, I probably should give it up for a few months, but it tastes so freakin’ good. I try to follow Mark’s advice and only eat aged, hard cheese along with yogurt, kefir, etc. Every once in a while I’ll have some home made whipped cream and berries for dessert. That’s probably not really helpful, but it’s where I’m at.

  16. Congrats man! That picture with the piece is so awesome, and it looks so good!!! Keep up the good work man!

  17. thanks to you, because you are already sharing information that is very useful for me. success always for you

  18. Thanks for sharing your story. It has been similar for me, not obese, not fit but not totally out of shape enough to let my son win a running race up a hill.
    Primal has helped me to be more mindful and eat “real food” and feed my family good food. They are still addicts but they find it harder to “practice” their addiction when they are at home since I have food in the house, not “pretend food” for them to munch on. Lazy people will eat what’s there and we are all somewhat lazy when we eat junk, so, the course of least resistance at home is to eat food instead of walking out and getting their junk.