How I Reclaimed My Body and Health with Primal Living

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-1-2My initial interest in Mark’s Primal Blueprint was, I’ll admit, primarily driven by aesthetics. I wanted to improve my physical appearance. During my teens and early 20´s I´d been super fit, but those days were long gone. At 38, I didn’t enjoy looking at a middle aged overweight guy in the mirror. The image was accompanied by thoughts of how I use to be. I wanted to get back my youthful physique. It’s not that I wasn’t concerned about my health. It’s just that other than getting fatter and less fit, I hadn’t suffered any acute illness. Sure I was heading for a higher risk of coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke, but I hadn’t had any signs or symptoms yet. I wasn’t a smoker or a frequent, heavy drinker. I´d kept away from fatty foods and ate plenty of whole grains so I must be healthy, right? Wrong!

P3030168After a short search online, I found Mark’s Daily Apple. I took heed of his teachings and set about trying to change my body composition through primal eating. I followed the instructions and changed my sugar rich diet into a low carb, high fat one. I threw my fears about saturated fats and cholesterol to the wind and embraced the concept best I could. I wanted to avoid getting too technical about what I was eating, so I just focused on eating plants and animals—or, in other words, real food with real flavour. I found that pretty easy. I really like vegetables, meats and fish anyway, so it was instantly a pleasure to begin eating the tastier foods. For my entire adult life I´d been scared of fat and now I was finding that the fat was sometimes the most delicious part of the meal!

It’s what happened next though that really changed my perception on the human diet and how dramatically wrong accepted “wisdom” is on the subject. Sure I lost my excess body weight, no problem at all. I got that physique I´d been missing. But there was something else—something of far greater value…

For the fat loss, it was surprisingly easy. There was no calorie counting, no food weighing, and no periods of hunger. From MDA and The Primal Blueprint, I gained an understanding of what different foods are and what they do to us. The education helped me choose foods with confidence and knowledge. I ate lots of delicious foods. I was never hungry. I barely exercised, yet I lost 1 kg of body weight consistently over a period of 12 weeks. I had to go and buy new clothes because none of mine fit any more—even my feet shrank by a shoe size. All that was great and the lower body weight meant I could finally manage the elusive handstand push-up (albeit against a wall). I was very pleased with the results. But what I hadn’t realised was how, despite no symptoms of illness, I suddenly felt 100 times healthier than before the change of food choices. I was more alert. I had higher levels of energy. I was happier and less stressed. It was a dramatic change and something I had not been expecting.

After a week I suddenly found out how bloated my gut had been. During the first couple of days, my digestive system started to function much better. I suppose it was the change from stodgy carb foods blocking up the gut to highly nutritious, easily absorbed foods passing through more easily. From a biomechanical perspective, the good food “passed though” much more effectively after I kicked out the bad food. I felt light on my feet, smaller around the waist and, well, internally, I felt cleared out. It was quite a liberating sensation and very encouraging. I could innately sense this was a good development.

In week two, I saw improvements in my skin and continued to see digestive system improvement. But I was starting to feel less energetic and at times even a little nauseous. I was having doubts and wondering if what I was doing was actually a good idea. Despite that, I wanted to see it through to the end of the 21 Day Total Body Transformation Challenge, so I kept going regardless.

Week three: Well, what a difference. My body was feeling great. My cognitive processes had improved. I was enjoying much clearer thought, better levels of concentration and better sleep. I know it sounds a little crazy but it was like I was coming out from a cloud and I could now see much more clearly. The changes were so dramatic that it became a little difficult to keep it to myself. I wanted to tell everyone. There was a danger of becoming fanatical about it. It was from the shock of suddenly realising how wrong something was and having a desire to help wake others up to reality. My wife could see the results and decided to join me. We both noticed huge improvements, including fat loss, but that really had become the lesser benefit by that point. It was great to make this change with my partner. The whole experience became a shared one, which of course made shopping for foods and cooking much more fun.

Cheat meals. From time to time we have both decided to treat ourselves to a cheat meal—something non-primal. Sometimes it was a food we felt we missed or, through bad planning, one for which we had no better options available at the time. The funny thing was that our “treat” quickly became less pleasant than we anticipated. Each time the reality of a cheat meal or treat was a disappointment. Worse still, and more worryingly, these cheats were usually followed by some kind of physical reaction. Eating foods that contained wheat, for example, would be followed by the appearance of painful spots or boils by the next morning. Sometimes we´d have heavy sensations in our guts and sometimes constipation. That was very worrying and we realised: if that’s the result of a small exposure, what was the effect of a lifetime of carbs and grains as staple foods doing to us? Food for thought indeed.

afterWell, it’s been months now and neither I nor my lovely wife has any intention of going back to eating grains or high carb diets. The fad diet is over and now we only intend to eat foods that are suitable for human consumption, guided by Mark and our ancient ancestors.

Of course Mark’s Primal Blueprint is not all about food or exercise—it’s a blueprint for living. I’m continuing to change my lifestyle beyond food and exercise, but I have a way to go. I still work too much and don’t manage enough play with my family, but when I am home we certainly do much more now than ever before—whether it’s time at the beach, playing basketball, playing in the park, at home or even skateboarding. I know my body is back to being youthful again and so it is again functional for play. This is a great way of life and I will continue to develop it with my wife, children and friends. I do and always will encourage anyone to consider this lifestyle change.

I find this “Primal” movement very exciting and I’m deeply interested to see where it takes us all. It’s just such a surprise to me that we´ve gotten this far with so little knowledge about what we eat and the effect foods have on us until now. Thank you, Mark. Thanks for sharing what you have learned.


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  1. That’s an insane transformation! Congrats Ronnie! I can definitely relate to your experience of cheat meals. I found exactly the same – I allowed myself to eat them whenever I wanted. Soon enough, the physical reaction I was experiencing was enough to put me off. It’s difficult to enjoy them now, when I know how I’m going to feel afterwards.

    Anyway! Congrats again!

    1. That is great you look wonderful. I can not make any progress on it. I have been on it for 5 YEARS NO cheating. The only thing I may eat to much of on occasion is almonds or pecans. I have a Vitamix and make green leaf veg smoothings NO fruit, no roots etc. I have NO sugar/fruit in my diet, no legumes, no anything bad…. I walk but otherwise I dont exercise. I still can not git rid of the gut or subcutaneous. I wish someone could tell me what the hell to do about it. I never have drank or smoked, so I am perplexed.I feel great, but the “Paleopromise” has failed me. Makes me very sad.

      1. Jimmy, the fact that you feel great means you’re doing something right, so don’t be so hard on yourself. I don’t know anything about you, your age, ethnicity, goals, expectations, etc. – except what you have shared in your comment –but I would definitely recommend adding some weight training and stretching to your walking regimen. Start with three days a week, nothing excessive; you shouldn’t leave the gym feeling like you’re going to throw up. You shouldn’t even leave feeling tired; you should feel invigorated. A daily, short, flowing stretching routine that teaches you belly-breathing (think Tai Chi) is incredibly important to mental and physical well-being.

        And lastly, maybe your diet is too “Paleo”. Try mixing it up a bit (wisely, of course) and see what happens.

        Good luck!

      2. Jimmy, you really should look into food sensitivities. Even if you don’t have a typical allergic reaction, it may be causing enough inflammation in your body so that your hormones are out of whack. There are all sorts of “elimination” plans out there; pick the one you fee most comfortable with

  2. Awesome transformation Ronnie! Very inspiring. I was thinking of skipping the gym this afternoon, but gosh darnit, now I gotta go!

  3. Fantastic Ronnie. Especially the part on how we think we are feeling great until we really DO feel great. The story is very much like my own, even with the wife coming along for the ride.

    I do have one funny bone to pick…I feel so great that I consider myself middle age at 58. Do you still feel like middle age at 38? LOL!!!

  4. Excellent, no one can argue with your results! I’m pretty sure you are spending some time on strength training?

    My story is similar but starting 20 years further down the road for me. The change of diet dropped the middle aged flab and increased energy, which motivated me to pursue the most vigorous exercise of my lifetime, which is now elevating my entire game. I never would have believed how much I enjoy lifting weights, it’s made a world of difference for me in body and spirit. Like you I have to restrain myself from preaching, now I just tell anyone who asks ‘do this, it’s better than money!’.

    1. Hi Bayrider,

      You are quite right. I do a little strength training. I keep to functional pushing and pulling movements like pull-ups, push-ups and dips. For joint stability and to maintain good posture into old age I also ensure I do the exact same negative movments i.e. Pull-ups/Hand-stand-pushups, Dips/Shrugs with elbow flexion, Pushups/Reverse bench. BUT I only do 1 or two sessions per week for a maximum of 25 minutes.

      I´m really glad you are enjoying lifting weights. I am absolutely positive its good for us for the fun and the hormone benefits as we advance in years. If you get a chance to have a look, I´d highly recommend checking out some good calisthenics sites on u-tube. Awesome strength training that can be done almost anywhere, any time.

  5. Wouldn’t believe it was you if it weren’t for the tattoo! Awesome job!

  6. Ronnie are you playing a trick on us? Are those two photos really the same person? The only giveaway is the tattoo. Your new you is adorable. And yes, the new found health bonus is the best part.

  7. Awesome, thanks for sharing. Great your wife is on board as well. That makes it that much more fun and incredible of a journey.

    How many of you had the term ‘scoreboard’ growing up? Someone jawing at you when they are losing, you just point to the scoreboard.

    Well Primal has scoreboard for 100,000s of thousands if not millions not just in weight, but well-being. By that I mean improvements in cognition, mood, weight yes, chronic conditions, just being.

    So while chronic conditions explode for those following conventional wisdom and we all are healing ourselves, how long before the ‘scoreboard’ becomes just too blazingly big and too darn impressive and important to ignore any longer?

  8. Wow! What an incredible transformation! You look GREAT, but most importantly you look HAPPY!

  9. The physical transformation is super impressive, but too me the real difference between the two photos is the before has a feeling of resignation and sadness and the after is full of hope, vigor and happiness.

    I know the first one is supposed to look that way for contrast, but Ronnie looks way happier now.

    1. Know what you mean. The Primal Smile has shown up in so many Real Life (Success) stories that I’ve lost count.

      1. “Primal smile”!!!! Love that!

        Mark — you might make a page — maybe the intro to the Success Stories that’s just those millions of miles of (primal) smiles! What a motivator!

  10. Your stages were exactly the same as mine, right down to the want to tell everyone about it. I had to rein that in because people will come around when they come around, if at all. My FIL was sporting a gut that made him look like he was carrying twins a year ago. He saw me and asked what I was doing, working out every day like a madwoman? When I said no, he was shocked. I spent the visit showing him posts from MDA and cooking him primal-style foods. One year later he has lost 60 pounds and his trigs went from well over 300 to in the 70s! I have friends coming to eat this way now, after watching me maintain my 30 pounds weight loss for over a year now. It’s a great feeling to inspire others.

  11. I’ve been scrolling up and down comparing the tattoos, convinced there must be a difference between them. No trick. They’re the same. Ronnie, you’re another great testimony to the power of this old path. Peace.

  12. TGIF!! These Friday posts are SO inspirational! Ronnie, you look re-born! Kudos to your perseverance!!

    1. Hi Brenda,

      Thank you very much for your nice comment!

      For me it wasnt so much about persevering but just keeping away from carbs (sugar) and eating the much more tasty foods. For me, the primal foods are almost always the most enjoyable / tastier option anyway.

      Example: if I´m faced with a choice of a rack of ribs and huge salad or a pizza with ice cream after… I know which I would enjoy much more.

      I suppose sometimes its hard to be the odd one out socially but I find that before long the others (people I work with etc) stop criticising and start trying out what I´m doing too.

      Much easier to keep doing something if you already enjoy it. Thats what I like about primal eating – no bland low-fat (low flavour) foods. No weird shakes. All I did was eat good, real foods that our primal ancestors could have accessed and my body/genes did the hard work. For drinks I stuck to water. Other than making sure I was organised enough to have good choices available, the journey was easy and enjoyable throughout. I havent ruled out all things non-primal now, I enjoy some non primal things but pretty much dont enjoy eating bread or pasta any more. Rice and potatoes are low on my list of things I like to but a lesser evil than wheat derivatives! During my fat losing phase I was 100% compliant but now I am just maintaining I have loosened things off a bit at weekends.

      I truly hope you are finding full enjoyment in the foods you eat and seeing the results as I did / do.

  13. Congrats! Primal living really does make one “feel better”. Keep up the good work and thanks for the inspiring story.

  14. Incredible! Looking at that second picture just made me smile. I’m so happy you shared your story. Thx.

  15. congrats and powerful story!! favorite take away:
    “an understanding of what different foods are and what they do to us” – ahhhh = this is the crux, eh? best wishes 🙂

  16. I’m new to MDA and take time each day to read a little deeper into it. One of the most pleasant surprises was beyond just the nutrition and workout principles – but the emotional and spiritual part of it too, the whole enchillada 🙂

    Congrats for the awesome transformation, you are an inspiration!

  17. Awesome! As one who has fallen of the primal wagon as of late, and who has put on some unwanted pounds after a few years of primal that resulted in a great physique and great health, this is motivation to get back to grokking.

  18. I am a newbie primal. I am still not over my cravings, and my body hasn’t physically changed yet. What is the time difference between the two pictures?

    1. Hi Kyla,

      The time difference between my body weights was 12 weeks. The before picture was taken a bit before I started but my condition/body weight was the same. (96kg to 84 kg in 12 weeks). I find that If I eat enough fatty foods and fresh vegetables, I do not get cravings. I even often do not feel any need to eat breakfast or between meals. However if I cheat or eat only lean meats I feel hungry. Solution for me? Fatty meats like steaks, chicken legs, ribs etc and BIG salads for lunch with lime juice, olive oil and salt for dressings. I avoid fruits and fruit juices when aiming to lose fat so I can be a “Fat burning beast” i.e. stay ketogenic (fueled by fats not carbs).

      I hope you start to feel and see results soon.

  19. He doesn’t look like the same man. I’m very impressed.

    I am living in France now and I must say it is VERY difficult to stay primal.

  20. Hi Ronnie – so inspiring, just an amazing transformation !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Where is the first photo taken?

    1. Hi Long Tall Sally,

      The photo was taken in Brazil, Ilha Grande, Lopez Mendoz beach. A beautiful and unspoiled place. I was working nearby at the time and was fortunate to have a day off to enjoy at the beach.

  21. Fabulous -you uncovered your health AND your six pack!

    I’m still middle-aged at 55 – you’re just a young’un!

  22. Thank you for sharing with us, it was a delightful read…congratulations on your success!!

  23. I usually never post here or in many similar forums. Though I am a frequent reader here. What prompted me to respond is that Ronnie described my situation almost exactly. Few small differences though is that i am older by 5 years, i speak with a Russian accent and my wife followed my example only partially. Everything else is just like me. It is interesting that i also described my mental change with reference to a “cloud” being lifted. I noticed changes on my 3rd day and i lost weight during 3 weeks (35lbs). Since then i started running 10 mi. I finished my first Tough Mudder and i do not care for cookies and other treats since February 2014.

  24. Fabulous transformation, Ronnie, and you’re not even done yet. You exude vitality in the second photo. I’m so glad you shared your journey.

  25. ummmm…wow. that’s all. wow. That’s probably the perfect male body. Not too much muscle, good definition, not too hairy…mmmmm yeah. Nice work.

  26. Another Aussie I’m guessing! Great work Ronnie, you look so much happier in the second shot, and why not show off those abs?

    1. Hi HB,

      Actually I am Scottish, living in Brazil with my lovely Brazilian wife. Yes, I was much happier in the second photo and in general now with my reclaimed health & general appearance.

  27. Wowsers! You dont even look like the same person. What a transformation, well done you

  28. WOW! Great transformation. You’re leading the way for your whole family. Years of health and well being ahead.

  29. What a difference between the first picture and the second one! These before and after stories never cease to amaze me.

  30. Ronnie,

    Awesome job brother!
    Like others have said, it doesn’t even look like “you” in the 2nd picture!

    I took the same path, just 20 years later at 56. Two years later at 58 I’m in better shape than when I was in my mid 30’s working as a full time cop and member of the US Military reserves.

    Glad that you started early. Probably added years to you and your wife’s lifetime together.

    Congrats my friend, and keep up the great work!


  31. Great job, Ronnie! The clarity of thought and concentration is definitely what “won me over.” It was impactful enough to see the weight falling off, but when I could consciously observe clearer thought….I was hooked!

    1. For me it really was easy once I knew how. Its all about knowing what we are eating and why not believing the so-called conventional wisdom.

      Maybe I´m just lucky but when I converted my fuel source from carbs to fat, my excess body fat just seemed to melt away.

      80% what we eat… I didnt believe that until it I saw it happen for me. It was difficult for me to break away from the incorrect idea that “cardio” was the key to reducing unwanted body fat. It isnt. The idea that has been fundamental to body fat reduction strategies for decades is an error.

      My advice: Forget trying to lose the fat at the gym – wasted effort. Fat loss for me begins in the kitchen or even at the store.

      DROP THE CARBS & EAT FAT. My diet foods are: eggs, steaks, ribs, chicken legs… basically the tastier, fatty meats and LOTS of vegetables, preferably raw (the vegetables). Eat fat to burn fat, just make sure you do drop the carbs first!

  32. Hot Damn, Ronnie!

    If anyone ever tries to argue against your choice of eating, please just show them these two photos!

    Happy Holidays and keep up the good work!

  33. This is probably the most incredible transformation I’ve seen—-how does one lose that amount of weight and NOT have loose skin around the tummy area? Green with envy here…

    1. Hi Morgan,

      Not sure. For me it all just shrank too. But when I think about it, my reduction was only 12 KGs, there are other success stories on MDA and other places with people who lost way more and so for them maybe the excess skin was a problem. Well, good luck to you and I hope it all works out for you too.

  34. Awesome! Inspirational results. How long did it take you to see these results?


    1. Hi Adie,

      Thanks for your question. Short answer… I saw small results in the first week or two. All the small results combined to create the final before and after result.

      The total body fat reduction period was 12 weeks. I experienced results throughout the 12 full weeks on the scales, in the mirror and in the way I felt mentally and physically. My weight reduced from 96 kg to 84 kg (211 Lbs to 185 Lbs), 12 KG averaged at 1 KG (2.2 Lbs) reduction per week.

      During my 12 weeks some colleagues joined me and I could see changes in them in as little as 2 weeks. Compliance became an issue for them and they discontinued and of course so did the results. Some argued that Honey and bananas were primal and therefore compliant. They are correct but in instances when the desired result is body fat reduction such high sugar natural foods must also be avoided. I avoided glucose, sucrose and lactose. I ate as much delicious fatty meats as I could and huge salads every lunchtime. I drink water, not fruit juices or milk.

      I think if you make sure you understand what the fundamental property of the food you are eating is (Sugar, fat, protein) and switch to the fats and proteins, avoiding all sugars (simple of complex)you should see results pretty quickly.

      1. (simple or complex) i.e. all carbs are all sugar regardless how it presents. For example I kept focused on the fact that “Healthy” Whole grain breads, patas etc and refined sugar are all broken down to glucose by our bodies before it uses them so in essence the bread, pasta, etc are all going to have the same effect on our bodies as the refined sugar. It was easy for me not to eat those foods when I realised what they were i.e. Glucose and gluten.