Boy Meets Sisson, Overcomes “Reverse Dysmorphia”

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!

Hello… my name is Matt and I am a recovering “reverse dysmorphic,” and I have been in recovery since 2011. “Body Dysmorphia” is basically defined as the inability to see a realistic body image of one-self. Some dysmorphics see themselves as fat, no matter how thin they get. I do not have this problem; I have “reverse dysmorphia,” in that no matter how large I get, I always think I look goooood.


At 5’10” and 220 pounds, I was in the obese range on the BMI… my reaction: “Can you believe that?! Me? Obese? Come on, the BMI doesn’t take into account just how large my bones are. Seriously, I ride my bike all the time… I eat a low fat diet… I’m sexy.”

I used to say to my wife… “We’re not fat! We’re just a bit chubby… and there’s a BIG difference.”

Matt before 3In this picture, I’m on a 200-mile bike ride called Seattle to Portland (STP), and when I saw this picture I thought, “Bad angle. Those darn bike shirts are always too small and tight; must be for the aerodynamics. Only Lance looks good in those shirts, and look at what he had to do to get there. Seriously, I’m on a 200-mile bike ride for cryin-out-loud, I really can’t be that chubby. Darn bike shirts!”

In the next picture I’m trying to jump high and get my picture taken at the apex of the jump. My wife took at least 25 pictures of me attempting this “jump,” and I was so frustrated at her inability to snap a picture at the right time: “I mean come on! I’m obviously on the way down here… I’m obviously jumping more than 2” off the ground. Darn digital cameras!”

Before 2

I lived this way for years. In the late 90s I hit 220 and stayed there for over 10 years. I rock climbed, rode long distance roads and mountain bike rides, trained for, and ran, 2 marathons, and for a while, got addicted to spinning. And in all that time, and all that exercise, my body weight never budged and my reverse body dysmorphia just got more entrenched. It seemed that the more active I got, the better I thought I looked.

However, there were times I’d “wake-up” and really see my body, and I would try one of the diets-of-the moment. At one point (pun intended) I tried Weight Watchers and managed to lose nine pounds. In the insanity of that diet, I saved enough “points” to eat 40 (yes, I would count them) Goldfish crackers. Looking back at that now I’m amazed that in conventional wisdom, eating processed food is totally okay, as long as you stay within your daily calorie count… regardless of how bad the food is for you health-wise. Obviously none of those diets worked, and as soon as I stopped the diet, I gained back all the weight I lost… and then some more.

In 2009, my wife and I moved to Anchorage, Alaska, where for some unknown reason, we thought it would be a good idea to do pizza and beer every Friday night. Over the course of a year my weight started creeping up higher and higher and my response was: “Hell, we live in Alaska, the extra weight is helping me stay warm… it’s gotta be my body’s response to this cold weather.”

Then in 2011, thankfully my dysmorphic bubble popped with this picture:

Matt before 1

(My wife wants you to know that she is pregnant in this photo… I am not.) I looked at this photo and thought… “Holy cow (not the word I used), I’m HUGE!”

At that moment, when all my dysmorphic fantasies evaporated into thin air and I saw how huge I’d gotten, I thought, “Time for Weight Watchers.”

BeforeThankfully, at that time I had a buddy who told me about this guy, Mark Sisson, who did this Primal eating thing, and since he’d already lost about 10 pounds, I thought I’d give it a try. Here’s how I looked the day after my buddy told me about The Primal Blueprint.

From here it’s the usual story:

Boy meets Sisson.
Boy reads The Primal Blueprint (the chapter about the Korgs and the Groks completely changes his view on food and exercise).
Boy stops eating all processed food, grains, gluten and buys a grass-fed bison.
Boy buys Five Finger “shoes” (confirming wife’s believe that he is, in fact, a dork).
Lifts heavy things.
Walks slow over long distances.
Sprints every now and then.
… and in five months looks like this.

Matt duringIn this photo I’ve dropped 10 pounds and I’m feeling very good. Here are the health changes I experienced by losing those 10 pounds by getting rid of processed food and grains.

GERD – I’d lived with GERD for years and was taking anti-acids every night. In the time it took me to lose this weight, my GERD was gone, and has never come back.

Nighttime anxiety – Ever since I can remember I would wake up in the middle of the night with a rather intense anxiety feeling. I just assumed it was some sort of normal reaction to the night, but within these five months my mid-night anxiety vanished, and has never come back. Lack of grains?

Late afternoon lethargy – gone.

Gas – other than my buddy Darren, I had the WORST gas ever, and since that time I am amazed, and those around me are VERY happy, to report that I rarely, if ever have gas.

Energy – I’ve always been known as an “energetic” person, however I have even more energy than before. I have young 2 children and feel like I can keep up with them quite easily.

Cholesterol – I got my cholesterol checked in 2012 and 2013 and my numbers got better between the two years.

My wife and I have fully changed over to the Primal way of eating. My wife, a doctor, has done a ton of reading about Primal eating, and is a true believer who shares her new knowledge with her patients. She herself has a few amazing stories of patients losing weight and curing themselves of chronic ailments due to switching over to Primal-like diets.

In 2013, still at 216, my wife suggested we do The Whole30, and in about 25 days, by getting rid of ALL sugar (which I learned is in almost everything), legumes, dairy, and alcohol. I got to 207 pounds.

Also, in 2013 my wife introduced me to Bikram Yoga, which has become the 3rd rail of my healthy way of life. Sorry Mark… but I just couldn’t keep up with going to the gym and lifting and sprinting… and going to Bikram yoga two times a week has been fantastic for me!

Every Friday I read another “success story,” and wondered when I’d feel it was okay to share my story… I thought, “I am a reverse-dysmorphic, so how would I know it was the right time to share my story?” Well my answer came the other day when I went clothing shopping. I pulled pants off the rack, size 36”, which I’d worn for YEARS. But when I went to try them on, I was swimming in them. I tried on 34” pants, a size I hadn’t worn in over 20 years, and they fit… loosely. If they had 33”, I would have gone with those. I figured in that moment, “Numbers don’t lie…” and decided I’d like to share my story with Mark.

Matt after PrimalHere’s a recent photo. I sure don’t have a beach body, however, at 43, because of Primal eating, I’ve managed to not only lose 20 pounds, but thankfully have managed to maintain that weight for over three years. And most importantly, I feel healthy! In conclusion, I would like to share the most significant lessons I’ve learned over the past three years, which are:

  • This is not a diet. Primal eating is a lifestyle. I always failed at diets because when I went back to a conventional diet, I just gained the weight back.
  • Changing one’s lifestyle takes a long time. I always tell people who are just starting that this should be a marathon, not a sprint… but make sure to sprint every now and then.
  • Don’t start with Whole30… way too restrictive if one is starting from a conventional diet. Doing Whole30 after living Primal for three years was a very easy transition and had huge benefits for me.
  • I cannot do 80/20… I just spent way too much time in the 20%. In order to be successful, I have to be at a 95/5, and when I do eat outside the Primal diet I try, as best as possible, to make it a high quality cheat.
  • Alcohol is a gateway to crappy eating… I avoid beer as much as possible, which is insanely hard during the summer months.
  • Trying to work out harder the day after a major over-indulgence does not work… it just makes me want to eat more crappy food.
  • This is a MUCH EASIER process if those you live with are also on the same path.

I want to thank Mark and all those out there in the blogosphere who have helped me both get on, and stay on, this Primal path. Grok On!


Matt's Primal FamilyP.S. – And proof that this lifestyle has also worked for my wife, here’s a picture of my hot, Primal eating, Bikram yogi wife and our babies.

P.P.S. – Obviously I subscribe to the theory that, “If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?” Everything I’ve written above is painfully true about my “reverse dysmorphia,” and hopefully it is obvious that I have made up the concept of RD to make fun of myself. However, at the same time “Body Dysmorphia” is a real issue and one that negatively affects many people. It is not my intention to make light of dysmorphia and I hope I do not offend. If I do, I apologize and hope people can see that I am making fun of myself… and myself only. ?

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