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!
I am 44 years old. I am a critical care clinical pharmacist. It is my job to follow current medical guidelines in regard to providing ~30% protein – 30% fat – 40% carbohydrate intravenous nutrition to patients and modulating macro and micronutrients based on their respective clinical situation. For over 20 years I have been well aware of the exact macronutrient composition of what I was personally “supposed” to be taking in, and exactly what I was actually taking in…down to the gram. During my 30s, I was extremely frustrated that I couldn’t ever figure out why I ate what I ate.
All my life I was a big eater, I loved all foods. I had a significant sweet tooth and it was clear that I enjoyed chocolate and desserts much more than the average person. I am 5’11”. I was about 185 pounds in high school. As a teenager I was never considered thin, but I had very fast sprint times, I played most high school varsity sports, I played club baseball in college, and walked on our Division One golf team (and they let me stay).
In my first two years of college my weight went up to the 230 pound range. I was able to get back down around 200 pounds my third year by becoming a gym rat – intense weightlifting and StairMaster most days of the week. My weight cycled again after college and I was able to drop the weight by spending a lot of time in the gym and racquetball court, and I also did a lot of mountain and road biking. I also followed the conventional wisdom and did a great job at eating a low-fat diet.
I worked a few years in community pharmacy, and in hospital pharmacy for four years. In 1996 I went back to grad school two years, maintained a half-time job, spent a lot of time exercising, and a lot of time eating out. During those busy, fun years, I didn’t sleep much and I was able to maintain fairly good fitness from a strength and cardio perspective; my waist size was 36 or 38 depending on the clothing brand or style.
A few weeks after grad school and we were married, my wife started an intense post grad pharmacist residency while I worked full time. We lived in a wonderful resort community and really only had time to work long hours and experience all the great restaurants. Exercise basically stopped that year and my waist size quickly went up to 42 inches. A year later we moved to Houston, Texas for my critical care residency – again, long work hours and an abundance of fantastic food, little to no exercise and little sleep yielded a 46 inch waist in my early 30s and my weight fluctuated from 240 to 280 for the next ten years. My energy levels fluctuated severely. Sporadic dieting and exercise would bring it down a few months here and there. I never looked into Atkins since it was high fat. I never consistently stuck to one diet or exercise regimen – all I was certain about was that whenever I craved a specific food, whether it be a cheeseburger, crème brûlée or lasagna – my mind fixated on it until I ate it. More was better – like I was always hungry, even though my stomach was full. Restricting foods or calories in general left me in a state of craving that could only be satisfied with eating the food I craved, albeit temporarily. This was more and more frustrating, and scary, as my health was seemingly slipping away…I would frequently discuss with my wife that the only way for me to drop 50 pounds was to drastically cut my caloric intake for years and start training for a marathon, which seem insurmountable. In 2009 and 2010 my weight went over the limit of most scales – I estimate that I was well over 320 pounds – my Levi’s jeans waist size was 50 inches and my shirts were size 22 neck or XXXL; depending on the brand or style, most were uncomfortably tight. Despite the lack of formal exercise, I maintained decent strength with frequent yard work or unusual projects lifting heavy things. It was hard work, but I was able to enjoy my stand up jet-ski each summer, even though it was not made for a guy my size.
My health the past 13 years has been a roller coaster ride. I had hyperlipidemia, elevated liver enzymes, several sebaceous cysts surgically removed, extremely severe acne (dermatologist treated 30 years), GERD, irritable bowel, and frequent strep throat. I had several extreme febrile episodes of unknown diagnosis. I did have viral meningitis in 2007 and then significant migraines followed monthly for years. I had the best health care experts in the world review my issues. Luckily, nothing ominous was ever found. The migraines and febrile episodes waxed and waned. I learned to get used to it. I frequently felt fatigued and just wanted to collapse when home from work; I had poor sleep for many years – I attributed it to being 40 and overweight. I also had significant joint pain and stiffness in my shoulders, neck, ankles and knees – again I attributed it to getting older, being overweight and past injuries.
I tried many different approaches to weight loss and maintaining exercise and became more perplexed and frustrated when it didn’t work or my interventions made me feel worse. In September of 2011 Gary Taubes came and spoke at my workplace. Had Gary not come to present his book I probably would never consider low carb diets or read his books – after the talk; however, I immediately read his books. I was sold on trying low carb when I learned of the Banting Diet – I could still have red wine! Plus, I thought it would fail either from a disease reason or lack of weight loss – like the dozens of other diets that “failed” me. I discussed with my fantastic family physician and he mentioned he had several patients do well on low carb diets. He said he would check my labs every four months while I experimented with a low carb, high protein, high fat diet.
By November 2011 I was maintaining ketosis and enjoying it. I followed the Atkins Induction Phase recommendations strictly and scoured the web for other ideas. Whenever I craved something I immediately ate meat, cheese or salad – I seemingly was ingesting something hourly the first few weeks – most days I had several thousand total calories, I enjoyed steaks, chicken wings and salads with full-fat dressings. I came across marksdailyapple.com when researching low carb options. Since then it has become one of my mainstays of nutrition, exercise and overall well-being.
My energy, sleep quality, every aspect of my health and day to day feeling, is as good or better now at age 44 as it was when I was 24. Everything…yes, EVERYTHING – and now I am spending 80% less time “exercising”.
When others ask me, these are my highlights of why I will continue a Primal, nutritional ketosis lifestyle, and why I recommend others try it:
The majority of my 100 pound weight loss occurred while I was not exercising at all. I started exercising recently in the fall of 2012 (AFTER most of my weight loss). Despite plateaus of staying at the same weight for many weeks at a time, I have continually decreased my clothing size each month – I continue to gain strength, vascularity and muscular definition.
P.S. After hearing me rave about this constantly, my wife agreed to try the same diet with me – she didn’t need to “diet” from a weight loss standpoint – she has been a size 6 all her adult life and even at 39 years she wears many of her college clothes. Upon starting, she surprisingly had many weeks of “carb withdrawal”, even having cravings of things that she would not normally eat, just due to the “smell of sugar”. Together, we increased our fat intake from snacks to curtail her carb cravings. We would put almond butter on prosciutto; we would put grass fed butter on top of liver pate and cheese. These high fat treats went well with our daily salad and wine. Now, after 15 months low carb, she has lost about five pounds but more noticeably, she has changed composition: going from size 6 to size 2 (or zero in some brands), increased her muscular tone, definition and vascularity without “formal exercise” and her skin has never been softer – it always feels like it was recently exfoliated, but she does nothing special to care for her skin. It is quite enjoyable to be on a high fat diet along with my wife and see only positive results for each of us.
P.P.S. I have shared my notes with over 100 people and dozens have started Primal, low carb lifestyle in response. Many first and second degree friends, and friends of friends, are enjoying success also – some to the tune of +50 pound weight loss. I have begun to share my notes and ideas on my blog: ketones.jlovely.com
People that have not seen me for months and/or years cannot believe their eyes. The science remains elusive to them yet they have to “see it” when they look at me. There is hope for many and I’m grateful to have been part of what I think can be a transformation in the prevention of disease and suffering for the masses. Grok on!
Thank you, Mark – Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!