From Fat and Sick to Fit and Healthy: How Crohn’s Disease Is No Longer Ruining My Life!

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-1-2It’s been almost two years now since I said goodbye to the symptoms of my Crohn’s Disease.

I sometimes reflect on how I suffered day to day and cannot believe the changes in my life.

I had constant day-to-day diarrhea and suffered from extreme urgency. I could be speaking to you and mid-conversation I would suddenly have to run off. I could be anywhere. I remember that for the two years that my illness was at it’s worst, I barely listened to anyone. When they were talking I was always thinking about where the nearest toilet was.

This happened up to fifteen times a day. Anti-diarrhea medication barely touched it. And once I was on the toilet I was often dragged back a second or third time in quick succession.

This meant I had great difficulty traveling anywhere as I needed to know where the toilet bowls were on my journey. There was no way I could fly. I just didn’t have the luxury of being able to ‘queue for the loo’ once that seat belt sign went off.

I became a bathroom expert. I knew where every toilet was and when they closed. It was an even worse problem at my job since my work dictated I be out of the office. I had to be smart and plan my routes.

I even thought once that I should start a competition for the best-kept bathrooms; we could have an evening gala prize giving event, like The Brownlows, and people could get prizes for the quality of their toilet paper or handwash. I certainly knew them all.

I also suffered from Reflux Disease and without medication, Nexium, a PPI (or Proton Pump Inhibitor), I simply couldn’t function or sleep.

I rattled with medication.

On top of that, I suffered joint pain, especially my knees and neck and shoulders and used to pop painkillers like lollies to get through the day.

When I finally took the dive, driven by my wife, to look into changing my lifestyle, I had hit rock bottom.

I was the heaviest I had ever been, 5’8” with a 40” waist and I looked and felt terrible. Some of this was diet and some was caused by the medication I was taking. I looked old. I looked frumpy. I looked ill.

gary - before

Obviously, being romantic when you feel like this was never on the top of the agenda. I was also always tired, moody and probably clinically depressed. I felt like a social leper and like a millstone around my family’s necks.

I had been told that diet did not affect Crohn’s and with my medication, I could basically eat what I like as it would not change my symptoms. So I did eat what I liked.

I liked fast food. Lots of it. I liked chocolate. Oh and pies and sausage rolls. I also liked alcohol and wasn’t fussy about what I drank. After all, it wouldn’t change my symptoms. It numbed me and allowed me to sleep. Sometimes.

When I finally got on board my Paleo lifestyle I was staggered about just how quickly my poor little body fought back. Cutting out wheat and sugar at first, the weight simply dropped off me. Within two weeks my symptoms just stopped. I started to sleep well and started to feel so much better.

At first, I was still taking all the same meds. I felt well enough to start to exercise and this spurred me on to do more. I lost two trouser sizes very quickly. Then I lost two more. I was always buying new clothes.

I then went hard and did a ten-week detox program and cut out all alcohol, caffeine, wheat, sugar, dairy, legumes and processed food. My wife didn’t think I’d be able to lose the alcohol (neither did I). But I did it. And this ten-week plan saw me lose even more body fat and come off all my medication.

The reflux had simply gone. Diarrhea had gone and the aches and pains had gone. Completely.

I began to exercise to a much higher standard and started to really research nutrition. I bought every book on the subject and stopped watching tv and started to read. And read.

My bibles were Nora Gedgaudes’ Primal Body, Primal Mind and Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint. These books have been read back to front and back again several times and they just clicked with me. I loved the whole idea of “Grok.”

I tried to replicate his lifestyle in this modern world we live in and it just all made sense.

gary after - 2I exercise like a child nowadays, playing tag, swinging on monkey bars and I do high-intensity workouts using just body weight and do occasional sprint sets too, which I love.

I realized that Crohn’s WAS affected massively by diet despite what the so-called experts thought. I realized that PPI’s suppress the body’s ability to make acid to digest food. How wrong was this? We need the acid to be strong enough to digest our food and not cause digestive stress! But for so long I’d just been prescribed a “safe” drug so I could just carry on eating what I liked!

Then I found out the side effects of PPI’s were headaches, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, and dizziness! So they were potentially making the Crohn’s symptoms worse!

I have now been totally med-free for approaching two years. I mean totally med-free. Not even a paracetamol has passed my lips.

I had my 50th birthday not long ago and I am fitter, stronger, healthier and feel better than I did when I was 25. My 40” waist is now 28” and the same size I was at 19.

gary after

I have boundless energy and sleep really well.

paleo garySome people recently pointed out to me that in the photos of me when I was sick (I didn’t like my fat self being photographed, so there aren’t many…), I was always looking sad.

Now I am always smiling. I’m not surprised.

The moral of all this?

Don’t trust everyone. Some shout loud but they might not know what they’re talking about. Research, research, research. Believe in yourself. Live like Grok as much as you can.

And don’t accept that aches and pains and limitations are part of growing old. They are not. We should be fit and well until we die. Food is medicine, medicine is food.

I’m aiming to drop dead healthy.


P.S. My wife and I have our own website now, and arrange lifestyle seminars and Paleo “nights out” similar to PaleoFX on a smaller scale. This whole thing has been life-changing for us.


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82 thoughts on “From Fat and Sick to Fit and Healthy: How Crohn’s Disease Is No Longer Ruining My Life!”

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  1. Fantastic job, Gary! Way to reclaim your body! Years ago I met someone with Crohn’s. I’m saving your story to send to her! Keep it up and Grok on!

  2. When I was reading and scrolling down I came to that picture of you running. I started laughing, the “impossible” dichotomy of that and your before pictures! The average person would think not possible, or photoshopped, or must be that low fat diet thingy.

    I’d be interested to know how your coworkers and physicians have responded. What’s really impressive is you aren’t just six months into this, but two years! Wow, congratulations!

    When I discovered The Primal Blueprint in 2009 I suffered from a chronic low level body pain. Just all over, sometimes better, sometimes worse. I threw out my grain oils, agave “nectar,” and stopped eating bread. Two weeks later I suddenly realized, “No more pain!”

    Since then, my weight has fluctuated, but I have no one to blame but myself. I now eat “some” corn chips, “some” minor amount of bread, makes life more pleasant and I no longer seem to suffer the ill effects.

    You are amazing, Dude!

    1. Thanks so much. I have influenced a lot of coworkers and friends into making changes – some have amazing stories of their own now and it’s been heartwarming to know I’ve helped in some small way, simply by leading by example.
      It’s been an amazing journey from which there is no way back.

  3. I am so very pleased for you! You look great and it is totally amazing that every single symptom went away!

  4. What an impressive transformation! Thank you for sharing your story…

  5. Good job, Gary. Amazing how effective a lifestyle change can be. Much better than taking a lot pills that often create other problems.

  6. Inspirational story! I had reflux for years and was on Nexium, etc. with no decent results. Getting rid of grains, legumes, and sugars took care of it completely. One side effect of PPIs that hit me was bone deterioration- I wasn’t digesting minerals completely and lost bone at an alarming rate for someone in her 30s. Any gastroenterologist who denies the role of diet is being lazy.

    Now in my 50s and, like you, am pill-free and smiling in photos again! Thanks for sharing your story with us!

  7. Great story Gary and I’m going to check out your website. It’s amazing what a difference food am an make. I used to ask dermatologists if food was affecting my acne and then always said no. So happy for you, and totally agree that aches and pains absolutely do not need to be a part of getting older!!

    1. Thanks for reaching out and hope you like the blog, we’re also on Facebook as Paleonutter.

  8. This is one of my favorite healing stories here on MDA. I am so happy for you, that your misery and suffering has been ended, and that you are clearly happy, fit, healthy, and know what a joy it can be to be alive!

    Never underestimate the power of telling your story. You look fantastic.
    Well done!

    1. Thanks Andrea. Feels really satisfying knowing my little story is helping others to regain their health.

  9. Gary,

    Fantastic! Keep following Grok down that never ending Paleo path.

    And be sure to treat your wife to a big steak dinner; she’s earned it with her support of you on your journey.


  10. Nice transformation Gary, and damn to those pill pushing doctors. Your story is now full of good S**T. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Great story Gary! I love to see body transformations, but these healing transformations are SO very inspiring. To think of all the people out there suffering with Chron’s while doctors just keep medicating. The thought that diet doesn’t affect a digestive disease is just mind boggling.

    Keep up the great work!!!!

    1. Thank you. I just hope it inspires others to think outside the box and do their own research with their own bodies!

  12. Great story Gary and congrats. I have a friend that I’ve known since high school who also has Crohn’s. She had been taking 15-20 pills a day for almost 40 years. A few years ago after reading Mark Hyman’s book and the Primal Blueprint, I recommended that she try some changes to her diet. Her symptoms went away and she quickly tapered her meds to the point where she is no longer taking them. She swallowed over 200,000 pills unnecessarily over the years when all she needed was to correct her diet and eliminate the foods that were causing her GI distress. It’s a shame that most doctors do not know this.

    1. I am a medical doctor and I knew nothing about nutrition when I graduated . I ate terribly in that time , no veg, lot of sweet etc . Doctors know nothing aboit nutrition. And of course they live and look like that. They fall prey to all the diseases which they try to “treat” in their patients . Their education is completely under the BIg Pharma influence. Drugs drugs drugs….
      Saying that crohn’ s , IBS colitis etc has nothing to do with food is absolute stupid nonsense. Tell a smoker that his chronic bronchitis or lung cancer has nothing to do with his cigarettes! It is really incredible that educated people are able to say such things. I have a patient with ulcerous colitis . She had acute onset in november with fever, bloody stool and high CRP. She had pancolitis , the whole colon was inflamed. They thought about Clostridium difficile but fortunately it was “just” UC. I put her on paleo diet as soon as she came back from hospital. In three monsth normal stool, no pain, normal lab tests. she feels fine and we plan to wean her from meds after next colonoskopy.

      1. I am a family nurse practitioner and I also place my IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) patients on a paleo/primal eating plan as well as patients who don’t carry a clinical diagnosis of any of the IBDs but fit more into the non celiac gluten sensitivity crowd. Those who comply (which is the biggest obstacle) have complete resolution of symptoms. I use primal nutrition to treat really any chronic disease process as it is applicable to everyone!

      2. Hi Lida,
        Thankfully, slowly, there are lots of doctors getting on board with a more holistic approach. But it’s slow in coming.
        I was literally told to “Eat the burger, drink the beer, live your life fully because it won’t change your outcome – just take your medication”
        Keep changing the world and influencing your colleagues.
        Thank you.

    2. Massive shame Bob. I feel it’s like a kind of duty now to pay it forward and spread the message and what I’ve learnt about nutrition so others can find it too. The word is slowly spreading though!

    3. Wow Bob, well done for helping her. It’s such a shame that people have to get to rock bottom before they start to learn about themselves, just like I did.

  13. I simply do not understand how GI specialists can not understand that there is a connection between diet and GI conditions like Chrohn’s disease and GERD. What is wrong with these highly educated people????

    So glad you found Paleo and took back your health

    1. It is too convenient for them not to understand. If they did and if their patients did too suddenly they’d find themselves having to find other employment.

      1. As cynical as I am, I think you are wrong. It’s not a matter of ulterior motives. It’s ignorance.

  14. Each week I think I just read the best success story. And then this! Great story and pictures tell a thousand words.

  15. Thanks for sharing Gary! I’ve been helping my fiance get back control over his health after being diagnosed with Crohns at 25 years old. It’s been incredibly rough but I think we’re in the final stages. He has SIBO, which is common with IBD, and we’ve been using supplements to remove the biofilm and bacteria in the small intestines. The last of his bloating and associated pain is finally going away and I hope he’ll be 100% by our wedding in September.
    It always felt some lonely and so “us against the world” when we tried to work with the doctors that told us the same thing, that diet doesn’t matter and you can only suppress the symptoms with drugs. It’s heartening to hear that others were able to navigate that maze and heal.

    1. Hi Becky, can I ask what supplements you are using to treat the SIBO?

      1. Hey Debbie!
        At the moment we’re using a capsule of turmeric with ginger (increases absorption), Interphase Plus and GI Microb-X from Designs for Health, oregano oil, and Mark’s probiotic.
        Based on what I’d found from Dr. Ruscio and from Cooling Inflammation, Adam’s taking that for about a month. Then in the second month he’ll keep taking the turmeric, probiotic, and Interphase Plus and start taking OrthoFlora Yeast and ParaBotanic Select.
        I’m working on a blog post about our experience with the diet and supplements now and Dr. Ruscio is coming out with a book, hopefully in January, that I am extremely excited to read.

    2. I know what you mean about the loneliness.
      But stick with it. I firmly believe most people can achieve great things if they stick to the plan and eat clean.

      Good luck for the wedding!

  16. Wow. Just WOW. You don’t even look like the same person. You look Happy, Healthy and Awesome. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks! And it continues to get better and better as time goes on. I feel like Benjamin Button.

  17. Gary, this is an awesome story! One of the biggest benefits to going Primal is getting your life back. I’ve suffered from digestive trouble on numerous fronts, also, and appreciate how much better you must feel. Congratulations! And thanks for another inspiring story.

  18. OMG, I have to have one of those T~shirts!!
    Gary, what a great story and I’m so happy for your healing! I’m 4+ years into this Paleo/Primal thingy and also have NO pain, NO meds, and I’m turning 58 soon. I have so much gratitude for my good health and for all the folks that pointed me in the right direction, like Mark, Nora, and Cate Shanahan, my ‘bibles’ as well. Information is POWER!

  19. Yours is one of the more dramatic changes I’ve seen. In your before photos, your body appears soft and flabby, but now you look very fit and healthy. I have to assume the changes to the inside of your body are equally dramatic as the outside changes.

    I wonder if your reflux during sleep was caused or aggravated by sleep apnea, which causes a vacuum in your throat when your tongue falls back during REM sleep. The blocked airway then creates a vacuum in the throat as you attempt to inhale, which then sucks stomach contents through the esophageal sphincter and into your airway, which inflames your throat and causing a vicious positive feedback cycle. Now that you lost your “flabbiness” on the outside, you also lost flabbiness on the inside (your throat), leading to a more open breathing airway that is less likely to obstruct. Alcohol before bedtime tends to relax (airway) muscles, which makes sleep apnea problems worse, as does sleeping on a full stomach.

    Congratulations on a truly dramatic change!

    1. Thanks Donald. It’s been over two years now and I haven’t had a single pill for anything. No meds, n symptoms, no other illnesses, not even a cold.
      I broke my wrist recently in a job related accident and have healed so quickly and took no pain meds at all. I feel invincible to be honest, like a spring lamb.

  20. Great inspirational story! I recently figured out that the plain greek yogurt (full fat) that I ate for breakfast every day was causing me to have nearly-arthritic shoulders. My overall diet was very good, nearly paleo. I lifted weights off and on, but not enough to cause shoulder problems. I started to become suspicious of the large amount of dairy proteins in my breakfast. I was eating a huge bowl of yogurt as the main part of my breakfast. I switched to 3 scrambled grass-fed eggs for breakfast, and within 2 to 3 days, my shoulders got much better, and continued to improve. I can have a little dairy protein and not be bothered much (e.g. a little cheese here and there).

  21. Such an inspirational story! PPI’s are completely overprescribed here in the US. So many of my friends are on them, and when I explain how digestion works, they just shrug and pop another pill. Maddening! I congratulate you on taking control of your health and resolving your diseases through diet and lifestyle changes. All the best for continued health and success.

  22. Great story. Figured by the pluggers and black jeans you’re a fellow Aussie.
    Go you good thing.
    Great blog btw!

  23. Thanks Gary,

    I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis about 5yrs ago, had high blood pressure and was progressively getting worse. My Dr. wanted to put me on biologic medicines as the next step. After looking at the side effects I decided to see if diet could help me out. I cut out processed foods, all sugars and added more fruits, veggies and lean meats. I dropped weight, felt better and blood pressure started improving. About a year into it came across The Primal Blueprint and started following Mark’s plan. As of last week I am off all meds and feel great, ulcerative colitis is no longer any issue and I was in the same shape as you with symptoms.

    I pass along my stories to other u.c. sufferers on the forums but surprisingly people have little interest in diet change or just don’t believe it is possible to get relief without a cocktail of meds.

    Thank you for your story, it helped reinforce my belief that Chrohns/Colitis sufferers can be helped by eating properly.

  24. How do your stools rate on the bristol scale now?

  25. I really love these life stories but this is probably my favorite one of all. It was really inspiring.

  26. This is an amazing story, well done Gary and thanks for sharing. Inspirational. Also very pleased to see that you’re a Dockers supporter. Go Freo! Keep up the great work and good luck to you.

  27. Fantastic story. I wish the folks I know with Crohns or UC would be more open to researching & fighting back against the medication options. Think of the chemicals they put into their body that maybe they don’t need, and that’s not to mention the money they would save!

    You look fabulous and so healthy. Congrats, and good on you for spreading the word.

    PS; I picked up on the Aussie thing too – noted the reference to pies & sausage rolls, the Brownlows, and saw the Dockers shirt/PJ’s. All a dead giveaway! Cheers from the east coast.

  28. Fantastic story! You look like a different person, and probably feel like it too. I will check out your website… we have sausage rolls and pies in the UK too.

  29. 40″ waist trussed up in a pair of black speedos – awesome!

    Great story – congrats.

  30. This website is filled with my favorite stories and this just got added to my list. Thanks for sharing your amazing story 🙂

  31. Amazing! I hope others who suffer from Crohn’s will see your story. That must have been a miserable illness–how sweet your new life! Congratulations to you and your family.

  32. Fantastic story, Gary. I’ve read a lot of your comments on the the paleo way tribe Facebook page, and I’ve found you to be inspirational. Did your family all come on board from the start? I have been on my Paleo/Primal journey for years now, and still struggle to do it properly, mainly because I really struggle to give up sugar and I have a family that derails my efforts all the time. They don’t do it on purpose, but they just expect me to have the “willpower” to stay away from the foods they choose to eat. If I could, I’d have a Paleo only pantry and fridge, but I have a husband that just won’t come on board 100%. However, I am strictly gluten free, as is my daughter and we’ve found it has helped with gastro problems, and for me, it has cured my dermatitis. It is so great to see such a positive outcome. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Hi Angela,

      It was hard getting the kids on board at first. They are now 18 and 14 and truly see the benefits.

      My son is more on board than my daughter and she has lapses when out with friends but does try and make good choices.

      My son who is the youngest, went to a school camp recently for a week and the food choices were limited. When I picked him up he said, “Dad I can’t wait to eat something healthy!”

      At home we are totally Paleo/Primal. It must be really hard if you’re not all onside.

      We are and it make sit so much easier.

      But we did have lots of resistance in the early days.

      I remember Cal my son once said he wanted to be ‘normal’ and that we’d made him feel like the hippy chicks’ son in the movie ‘About A Boy’!!

      We now laugh about that!

  33. Where in the world do I get one of those Paleo is the New Black T-Shirts?? 🙂

    Amazing story. Thank you for sharing. You look fantastic.

  34. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s 15 years ago when I was 9 years old and every doctor I worked with told me that there was nothing I could to avoid feeling the way I did. It was going to be my life forever. And I accepted that. And then I met a woman with Hoshimoto’s who told me no. That was not a way to live. Paleo/Primal changed my life the same way!

  35. Bendy!!!! Good to see your story on Mark’s success stories, such an inspiration. 🙂

  36. Well done Gary! I love what he says about how his body started to fight back and how quickly it did it. I too found that once you push your health along the path of least resistance it quickly heals itself, you look better, and most importantly you feel better!

  37. I’m still at around 70/80 Paleo ratio, but one thing I remember very quickly upon doing it, was the aches and pains in my knees went away and my ‘bathroom’ experiences were normal. PALEO is the real deal!

  38. Hi – reading your story has given me hope. I too suffer from Crohns Disease – and my consultant is trying to put me on medication for life. However, I really want to try and see if a change in diet will do as well, or hopefully better, than any medication (and without the side effects). I’m very curious – I appreciate your visible symptoms have gone. However, did your calprotectin levels also go down? . . . Thanks. Alison 🙂

    1. Hi Alison, Yes my calprotectin levels returned to ‘normal’ too. Last stool test was over three years ago and I got discharged by my doctor eventually.
      Good luck with your journey. X

  39. Wow, I am almost in tears reading this. I have Crohn’s and I am on remicade. The Crohn’s is under control, low inflammation, but I still suffer from bloat, constipation, and fatigue. I am also overweight. I recently lifted out of this for about a week but don’t know why. I felt amazing. Now I am back the same old. Your story is so encouraging because I now have hope that life doesn’t have to be the way it is.

    1. Fabulous! I found you had to be super strict. One mouthful of pizza would cause inflammation for three months. Good luck