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. In fact, I have a contest going right now. So if you have a story to share, no matter how big or how small, you’ll be in the running to win a big prize. Read more here.
I was always fat. No, seriously. My whole life, I was fat. In middle school I was around 160-180 pounds. In high school I hit 250 pounds. At my heaviest, a few years after college, I was 330 pounds. I never liked how I looked or how I felt. I didn’t like that I would get exhausted easily. I didn’t like that I would get injured easily and be sore. I didn’t like that I could be basically danced around in sporting events because I was so big and clumsy that I couldn’t move. I didn’t like the constant bloated feeling. I didn’t like being dateless.
I occasionally tried to get away from my soda and fast food diet, eating the standard American “healthy” diet of low fat, low calorie, whole grain diet with heavy exercise, and would sometimes have short term positive results, but I would be constantly hungry, unsatisfied, and get injuries which would derail my progress. A few months later, the weight and poor eating habits were back.
To be fair, the start of my turn around was because my wife was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. She did a lot of research, read a lot of books and blogs, and we tried a variety of different foods before we found that eating essentially Primal/paleo was easiest for her stomach. We read your blog, the Primal Blueprint, (and other sources) and have been eating this way for about 3+ years now.
After that first few weeks of adjustment, it’s been amazing. I feel constantly great, and I never worry about portion control or calories. I just let my body tell me how much food I need. When coworkers bring in cakes or donuts, I can smell the sugar a room away, but don’t crave it. It usually smells like chemicals as much as sugar if that makes sense. Coworkers marvel at my change, and people whom I haven’t seen for years literally don’t recognize me.
The most difficult part of the change was the fact that cooking is an integral part of our life, and is, I guess, our biggest hobby at this point. We buy beef a quarter cow at a time (grass fed and finished of course) and pork a half-pig at a time (pastured). We cook most of our meals for the month over one incredibly long weekend, and freeze them to make weeknights easier. There are days when work stress makes the convenience of easily picked up drive-thru meals tempting, but the extra effort is worth it.
The Primal lifestyle has also affected the way I work out and train. I’m a 2nd degree blackbelt in taekwondo, and am known around the dojang as the guy with crazy stamina, strength and speed. I used to be known as the big guy who could kick hard with no balance, control, or stamina. For a while, to get in shape, I was going into the dojang on my own, jumping rope and doing all sorts of crazy extra work for 2-2.5 hours at a time. While my stamina did increase, I was often too physically drained for days, and sometimes my knees barked. Now when I train, though we focus a ton on fundamentals, (footwork, balance, basics) I see the training as fun or play. Cardio, footwork, and complex kicking drills are like dancing, and I often find myself smiling after a particularly challenging drill while others are panting. Trying something new is an exploration of balance and joint strength that I enjoy! I have even better stamina, even though I’ve cut out the crazy extra workouts.
I also wanted to start some strength training recently as I had never done a pull up. I could barely lift myself at all when hanging from a bar. I also struggled with pushups and core strength. After a lot of books and blogs, and influenced by the Primal lifestyle, I decided on basic bodyweight training because it emphasized natural human movements more closely connected with how the body evolved to function. My work consists of variations on pushups, pull ups, leg raises and squats, starting with simple, assisted versions, and increasing in difficulty as I build strength. The training doesn’t take long, and if my body is tired, I’ll work just once a week. If I’m feeling great, I’ll go twice. While others I know have constant injuries and inflamation problems from their weight lifting (and their grain intense diet I’m sure), I’m still injury free, and am happy to report that just this week, after about 10 months of consistent work, I completed my first three pull ups ever! I’m also moving towards one-legged squats, and am getting closer to good, perfect form pushups. As for core work, I started barely able to hold a plank for 20 seconds. As for now, well, I was playing basketball with some coworkers a couple of months ago, and a coworker injured his hand against my stomach when we both went for a rebound. I didn’t even feel it.
As for that weight, I’m now 200 pounds, which for my height, 6’3″, is great. The weight just kept sliding off with seemingly no effort. I’m in fantastic shape. I’m in my mid 30s, and I have no trouble competing against (and defeating) kids in their early 20s. I also have a sense of self control over my body that feels amazing. I’m no longer clumsy, but am graceful! I feel like I can do anything I put my mind towards, and the physical change has made me more confident, happy, and mentally resilient.