And the Truth Shall Set You Free!

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!

Ok, so I don’t really like using a quote from scripture to start my success story but it really is the best title. I hope that through this story I can show you just how much that is indeed the case.

I have never really been “overweight.” I was blessed with decent enough genetics that through most of my childhood and early adult life (I’m currently 26, by the way…and male) I was able to maintain a good weight while pretty much eating whatever my mom put on the table or packed me for lunch. I even managed to not really gain the “Freshman Fifteen” when I went to college. However, I did put on a little weight mainly because the dorm cafeteria was basically all you can eat. Eating two patty-melts or two “pizza pockets” each meal while also eating a huge salad with WAY too much dressing, cheese, and croutons on it finally did start to catch up to me. By the end of my freshman year I was about 5’7” (that hasn’t changed, sadly) and about 165#. Things were about to change for the better though.

Ryan - Before

My love for fitness and health began during the summer before my sophomore year of college. I was working out at Lifetime Fitness while visiting home and I happened to bump into a couple of friends from high school. They taught me how to work out better and began to teach me a little more about eating right. One of them had been a personal trainer for a while so I got a good load of conventional wisdom but thankfully it was mostly helpful. I put on a good amount of muscle 0ver the next year or so, but realized one day that I still was not as lean as I wanted to be. I knew something had to change and I figured it was my diet.

At that point, I had already been toying with the idea of trying “The Abs Diet” put out by Men’s Health Magazine. I had been intrigued by it from the first time I heard of it because who doesn’t want to see his six-pack? I took the plunge. Basically, the premise of the diet was to eat the 12 “Power Foods” which consisted of almonds and other nuts, beans and legumes (yikes), spinach and other green veggies, dairy (uh…), instant oatmeal (what?!), eggs, turkey and other lean meats, peanut butter (man…), olive oil, whole grain breads and cereals (crap!), extra whey protein, and raspberries and other berries. You ate 3 meals and 3 snacks throughout each day on a pretty specific timetable as well. The workout consisted of a circuit workout a few times a week and you were allowed one cheat meal a week (which was great except that it kept me on a reward system with food – eat right for 6.67 days and then eat total crap 1 meal). All in all though, it actually worked for me. It was a six week program and in that time I lost about 10 pounds and you could indeed see my abs! I was very pleased. I continued to eat this way for a couple of years and maintained the weight that I had achieved and overall felt pretty good and was happy. I know now that I was not really eating all that well, was eating too much, and was pretty steeped in conventional wisdom! At this point I’d already graduated from college, gotten married, and began my life with my beautiful bride. I also continued to eat “The Abs Diet” way and subscribe to Men’s Health Magazine. I began doing CrossFit and loved it. Well, in 2008 things really took a turn for the worst!

I have always been a type A personality. To this point it had not really manifested itself in my eating habits other than always making sure I had at least three or four “power foods” in each meal (which is why I was eating way too much) and eating at the right intervals as prescribed by the diet. Well, one article in Men’s Health tapped into my anal retentiveness and I began falling down a slippery slope of food and health obsession. The article basically talked about how to put on a lot of muscle while staying lean. Here was the basic description: Eat one gram of protein per pound of body weight a day (for me about 160g), half your body weight in fat per day (about 80g), and using a formula to figure out daily calorie needs the rest of you calories came from carbs (about 140g). Although the ratios are off a little and I wasn’t eating enough fat this really isn’t that bad of an approach to eating. The only problem was that I was still eating the Power Foods so most of my carbs were coming from grain, cereals, and beans. I was eating fruits and veggies, but not nearly enough. This was when I started counting calories and macronutrients. I would literally track everything that I ate every day, how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat I was eating, and total calories… by hand. I became obsessed with it. During this time my brother asked me if I felt like I was controlled by food – I avoided the question but in the end the answer was yes. Food had taken control of my life. It was all I thought about and if I messed up or ate too much of this or that macronutrient or too many calories I freaked out. It was bad. It got to a point that I would take 45 minutes to pack a lunch and snack for the next day at work because I had to “run the numbers.” My wife and I started to fight a lot as a result and it was all very frustrating. My cheat meals also became more excessive because of the stress the rest of the week caused. I would consistently eat WAY too much once a week of complete junk, but I continued to be muscular and lose weight (thanks to CrossFit). I was also the leanest and lightest I had been at about 150#. So all this counting and stressing worked, but it was NOT sustainable for my life or for my marriage. My wife and I had a really big fight one night and she asked me “what happens when we have kids and you miss 45 minutes of time with your family every night so you can pack food?” That hit me like a tone of bricks – something had to change. Enter the Zone (ha!).

While perusing the CrossFit discussion board I found out about the Zone diet. I had never really read into it because it always seemed so complicated. After this fight with my wife I looked more closely into it and found out that it was not nearly as bad as I thought. I figured out what I needed in blocks a day and printed off a block chart and starting using it. Although I was still weighing and measuring my food it allowed me to do so much faster and start to get me away from being so exact in my measurements. I began to be able to estimate (which was a huge step!). Things started to get a lot better. Also while on the discussion board I found out about CrossFit Strength Bias (CFSB) and the Paleo Diet. I used CFSB to put on a lot of muscle and got myself up from about 150# to about 163#. I was very pleased with my results. On the other hand, I had read up on the Paleo Diet and had pretty much dismissed it out of hand. No Grains, Dairy, or Legumes! Preposterous! These were staples of my diet and I had lost weight eating them. Not for me. During this time, however, I was not nearly as lean as I wanted to be and started asking a lot of questions on the board about how I was eating and how to lean out, etc.  This was all about three or four months ago.  One day someone on CrossFit mentioned the website I had never heard of it so I checked it out. That was the day my life changed forever.

I began to read all the articles on MDA about the Primal way of eating and living. I read about why grains and legumes were so bad and why dairy probably wasn’t the best thing for me. In a couple of days time I spent hours on that website. I decided to give it a try. The main change for me was the grains, dairy, and legumes. It took me a while and it wasn’t easy but over time I gave up all those things and started eating Primal. I still used the zone diet block system and weighed and measured my food, but very quickly I found I was becoming less and less stressed about it. I also loved the whole lifestyle approach that was such a staple of MDA and the Primal way of life. Things were better than ever with my food and my life. I was able to let go of feeling the need to eat every so often. I began eating less overall and also doing IF including a couple of 24 hour fasts once a week! For me, coming from 6 meals a day, this was a big deal. I now ate food around my life as opposed to planning life around my food.

At this point, in 2013, I’ve pretty much found myself in a maintenance mode. I’m pleased with my weight and body composition and it’s become easy to eat and move Primally. The most wonderful part is still that I no longer obsess about food. My family has also grown as my wife and I now have a 16 month old daughter. Life is good.


So that’s pretty much it. I must never forget where I have come from and how much finding The Primal Blueprint has changed my life. Maybe now you understand why I entitled this story what I did. Primal eating and living has set me free from myself and from food. I am happier, healthier, and more vibrant. I no longer stress about food and all that goes along with that. I can now focus on the more important things in this life and enjoy it for all that it is. I have you to thank for that Mark. You showed me the truth and it has indeed set me free.


Grok on!


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