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!
About three and a half years ago, I was introduced to the concept of paleo by a local CrossFit gym that I was attending. At that point in my life, I had some significant health challenges and also had a hard time maintaining a healthy body composition. I was ready to ditch the conventional wisdom of eat less/exercise more and try something different! I began searching the internet for anything I could find on paleo eating, and soon came across Mark’s Daily Apple. The Primal Blueprint 101 page was an invaluable resource as I was learning about Primal eating. The Friday Success Stories were an unending source of motivation and inspiration. In fact, I sat down one day and read every single success story that was ever published. At that time there were 4 years’ worth to catch up on! When I was done, I still wanted to read more. To this day, any time I have a question about anything health, fitness, or nutrition related, my first step is always to go to Mark’s Daily Apple and search on my topic. My questions are almost always answered.
Six months into my journey, I had seen some fantastic results in my health, body composition, and overall well-being, and my mom wanted to know what I had been doing. She told me that she didn’t really care to understand the science or the “why” behind it all, she just wanted to know what to do. So I sat down with her one day and explained the Primal Blueprint basics. She implemented the nutritional changes immediately, and saw immediate results! Since then, she has faithfully followed the Primal principles and continues to see improvements in her health. After losing around 45 pounds, she felt good enough to begin exercising with me and now we work out together three days a week!
There’s so much more to my success story and to my mom’s as well, but I’m actually writing you today to tell you about my dad, Paul. You see, my dad was very reluctant to jump on board with this new way of eating, even though his wife and daughter were totally committed. When my mom got on board in November of 2011, my dad was 57 years old and he sure did love his breads, spaghetti, lasagna, chips and crackers, ice cream, and the occasional beer. He ate a typical S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) and tried to watch the red meats and fats due to conventional wisdom.
My dad used to tell stories of sneaking off to the woods for a few days at a time when he was a kid (when you’ve got 13 brothers and sisters, you could disappear and not be missed for a while!) and taking with him loaves of wonder bread and bunches of bananas for food. Or the days when he’d go surfing all day with his friends, and in the morning they would bury a giant jar of peanut butter in the sand so that it would be nice and melted by the time they got out of the water and needed some nourishment. He even used to pay his sisters to make dozens and dozens of oatmeal raisin cookies and hide them in plastic bags under his pillow, and he would devour them before going to sleep at night. We’d hear stories of the early years of my parents’ marriage, when dad would put down two giant, heaping plates of spaghetti and meatballs, with bread on the side. You see, my dad was always incredibly active when he was younger, whether it was playing in the woods as a child, surfing all day as a teenager, or pouring concrete and laying brick as a young adult. Check out these pictures of him in the early 1980s!!
Over the years, my dad continued to work incredibly hard in physically demanding jobs – mostly pouring concrete, doing stone work, building pool decks, and laying brick. His activity levels kept him trim and fit even though he was eating a S.A.D. diet, and lots of it! But over time he began to experience some health challenges… he had surgery on both of his knees in his 30s, major surgery to fuse a metal plate to a ruptured disk in his spine, and even more surgery to fix torn rotator cuffs in both shoulders. He also had to have carpal tunnel surgery TWICE, because the first time didn’t fix the problem. For being as active as he was, it is obvious to us now that his inflammatory diet led to a lot of issues that could have been avoided. These are just some of the major health challenges that my dad was beginning to develop. After each surgery, he bounced back remarkably well and was able to continue working hard physically, although doctors did place some limitations on what he could do.
An opportunity came up at one point for him to get away from the physically demanding construction work and begin traveling around the country cleaning screens in movie theaters. He and his partner traveled for days or even weeks at a time, driving a pickup truck, living on the road, staying in hotels, and eating in restaurants all along the way. With the decrease in physical activity that this caused, along with fewer home-cooked meals and an increase in restaurant and fast foods, my dad’s weight began to creep up consistently. Along with the weight gain came struggles with high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Over the years, he put on at least 65 pounds of unnecessary weight – most of it in his abdominal region, which we all know is a BIG health concern. When he was home, he was still picking up side jobs in construction and working hard around the house, but this wasn’t enough to combat the poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle on the road. I was in college at this time, and I began to get very concerned about my dad. I could see his expanding belly and watched him go through all of those surgeries. I made it my goal to return home after college and find a way to help my parents regain their health. Thank goodness I discovered the paleo/Primal lifestyle and could actually help them by the time I got back home! My dad would tell you that he started to get alarmed about his health and weight at this point, too.
After helping my mom change her eating habits and lose weight, we both knew that my dad really, really needed to change his eating habits in order to see his weight come down and his health improve. His doctor was insistent on putting him on blood pressure medication and on cholesterol medication, which he fought vehemently. When my dad challenged his doctor on the idea of being on medication for the rest of his life, the doctor looked at him and said, “Paul, almost EVERYONE is on some type of medication or another. It’s normal!” My dad could not believe his ears. His doctor essentially left him with no hope of ever getting better on his own.
Despite these major warning signs and even after seeing my mom’s remarkable weight loss (simply by changing her eating habits to the Primal Blueprint methodology), he was extremely reluctant to make the switch to a Primal way of eating – at first. Being a man of faith, one of the biggest challenges he had was with ditching grains! He would tell us over and over that wheat and other grains were talked about in the Bible… so why wouldn’t they be good for us? Why should we have to eliminate them? The Definitive Guide to Grains helped me answer all of his questions, and in January of 2012 he began to eliminate grains, starches, and sugars from his diet, while increasing the quality of his proteins and adding in healthy fats like coconut and olive oil, avocado, and some nuts and seeds. He started eating a Big Ass Salad (thanks, Mark!) every day for lunch, and often for dinner, too. Once my dad cleaned up his nutrition, the weight started coming off immediately. Then once he started to look and feel better, he became SO determined to embrace this new lifestyle that he shocked us with his commitment and dedication! Now, he is more outspoken than any of us regarding this new way of life. Here are some numbers to show you how he has improved:
Until his mid-40’s, my dad used to weight a lean and strong 175 lbs. (Except for a brief stint while working at McDonald’s at age 22 – then he weighed 185 lbs.)
BEFORE: (approx. 2010-2011)
Weight – 238 lbs
Pants Size – 42”
Shirt Size – 2XL
Blood Pressure – 176/90
Weight – 197 lbs
Pants Size – 34”
Shirt Size – XL
Blood Pressure – 135/70 (still fluctuates some)
2001 – HDL 49, LDL 126, Triglycerides 94
2008 – HDL 48, LDL 154, Triglycerides 98
2009 – HDL 45, LDL 129, Triglycerides 163
2013 – HDL 61, LDL 150, Triglycerides 64
Now when he travels, he tries to make his trips shorter and he brings nearly all of his food with him. Egg/meat/cheese “sandwiches” (no bread) wrapped up in foil, “spicy nuts” adapted from Mark’s recipe, almond flour muffins and banana/coconut flour muffins, frozen protein & fruit smoothies, and homemade whole-milk yogurt that my mom makes from scratch. In a pinch, he’s even gone into a fast food restaurant and asked for couple burgers with no buns. When the cashier looked at him funny he told her he doesn’t eat grains and then proceeded to explain the success he’s had with his Primal lifestyle. By the time he left, she was convinced to try it out!
Even though his doctor had finally demanded that he take blood pressure and cholesterol medication, eventually (after eating Primally for a while) the doctor saw him improving and literally scratched the medications off of his chart! It even got to where the medicine was making him feel worse, because his body no longer needed it. Now that is a pretty powerful message! Your body really craves the right nutrition, and when those needs are met, it can start to reject medication!
My dad’s weight loss and improved health has been really awesome. But I must tell you, the most remarkable change that we’ve seen in my dad hasn’t been in his appearance (although he looks amazing now!) or even his other health markers – it has been in his demeanor. He will tell you that over the years he was very quick to become irritable and was always easily frustrated. His temper would flare up over seemingly small things, and he had a really hard time calming down. Challenges that came up in daily living… (like getting lost while out on the road, late at night, in the rain, in a foreign city – and I know because I was there!)… these challenges usually used to ruin the entire trip but are now handled with a rational calm and a problem-solving mindset. He communicates so much better because he isn’t struggling to reign in his strong emotions. He says to us often, “I no longer fight food.” It really is amazing how food can make such a difference in someone’s mental and emotional health!
In my dad’s words: “The more that I took this on, the easier it became. My taste buds came back, my cravings subsided, and my quality of life went up in every category – physically and emotionally – everything just improved like crazy. I was thinking better and listening better, and was much happier. Everything has changed 180 degrees… peace, tranquility, calmness, stability, composure, emotion, feelings, control, wisdom. It really motivated me and moved me. Now, none of my old habits creep back in. I beat them! It’s really working for me.”
Along with a major change in eating habits, my dad also made some big changes in his overall lifestyle, especially when it came to working on the road. He has really focused recently on being home more, making his trips shorter and less frequent, and staying really active when he is home. He has picked up more concrete jobs in the local area, which is pretty awesome seeing how he’s just turning 60. (For a job he’s doing right now, he is using a jackhammer to bust out old sections of a parking lot, throwing the chunks of concrete up onto his trailer, taking them to the dump and unloading the concrete, and then forming and pouring new sections of the parking lot — all by himself! He has already taken 24 tons of concrete to the dump in just over 2 weeks. Talk about lifting heavy things! Even I was shocked when I heard those numbers.) In addition to all of this, he has picked up leather work again for the first time in years. He has a full leather workshop in his home, and just started up a company called PRB Leather Co which focuses on making minimalist style leather goods. Along with that, his oldest son often goes (legal) alligator hunting in the swamps and marshes of Florida. My dad is now tanning the gator hides in his backyard, and will eventually be incorporating the gator skins into some of the leather goods he is crafting.
My mom says that the backyard is beginning to look like an Indian reservation – between the huge boat hull he buried in the sand to hold topsoil for gardening, to the large “gator coop” he put up to tan the gator hides in and keep the birds out, to the ducks that are laying their eggs all over the back yard. Along with bamboo growing in tractor tires, newly planted citrus trees, an archery range, a knife-throwing area, a fire pit for grilling (along with a couple charcoal grills, a gas grill, and a smoker made out of an oil drum) and more, he has really embraced the Primal lifestyle!!
We’re so very appreciative of Mark and Mark’s Daily Apple for the limitless amount of information and resources available at our fingertips. The things we’ve learned in the past few years have literally changed all our lives, and I know that it has added years and years of quality, vibrant life to my dad and mom. I couldn’t be more grateful.
If you’re interested in supporting PRB Leather Co as we get off the ground, we’re running a Kickstarter fundraising campaign right now and we sure would appreciate it if you could help spread the word. If this really takes off, my dad can stop traveling altogether and really focus on this Primal lifestyle that he’s continuing to develop. The campaign is offering some really sweet leather wallets as rewards, and once the business really gets rolling we’ll be able to offer custom belts, different size wallets, gun holsters, knife sheaths, bow and arrow quivers, and more, and then we’ll really be able to put these gator skins to good use! The campaign runs through November 17 and we should have everything shipped out in time for the holidays.
Please check it out at: Kickstarter – Minimalist Wallets by PRB Leather Co
Thanks again to Mark, the Worker Bees, and the entire Primal community! We’re so happy to be a part of it all!