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!
Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, I had a relatively active childhood. I wasn’t a fat child, but I didn’t have much muscle tone either. I got up to 6’ 2” and my friends referred to me jokingly as T3 (i.e. thin, tall and terrible). I never took to the same sports as my classmates, but basketball during the week and body-boarding on weekends kept me occupied. My weekday diet consisted of three to four sandwiches, two to three times per day, with margarine and something else—the something else usually being some type of meat that came out of a tin or a pack. Sometimes I would get home-cooked lunch which would typically be pasta/rice with some sort of chicken. At 16 this changed, I cut back on physical activities so that I could dedicate more time to studying, and then cut back some more for the same reason when I was in college later on. The term “going for a sweat” evolved from meaning “going to play basketball” to “going to sit and play video games.” At first this seemed a heretical redefinition, but I slowly grew into it. Most of my spare time was now spent behind a computer, either working or playing video games. There wasn’t any change to my diet, I still ate lots of sandwiches.
After college I married my college sweetheart and four years later she gave me a daughter. People joked that of the two of us, I gained the most weight during our pregnancy.
Traffic in Trinidad is colossal once you work in the city, so getting to work takes anywhere between one to two hours and getting back home is the same, or worse, so I spent anywhere between two to four hours in traffic daily. Between family, work and traffic, there wasn’t any time to do much else, so the weight kept piling on. Fast forward 12 years and I’m up from what I thought was my set weight for life was at 185 lbs, to weighing in at around 255-260lbs.
I work in IT so when people asked me what I did for a living, I told them that I sat at a desk all day long waiting to be either diagnosed with diabetes or to experience my first myocardial infarction. In mid-2012, I picked up martial arts and on my first day, I remember laying on the ground after the first 15 minutes, waiting for air to return to my burning lungs. Most others in class were just getting warmed up. Even so, I enjoyed it and continued, eventually being able to last about an hour. After a year I felt a lot more skillful but I think I lost just 5-10 lbs.
A couple incidents that kept getting airplay in my head, which also helped me start this journey:
1) My dad is a Type-1 Diabetic and used to chase my sister and I around the house with his insulin needle while laughing like Count Dracula when we were kids. This gave me an intrinsic fear of needles and, a healthy fear of eating sweets, so I didn’t have a snacking problem growing up.
2) A friend of mine once told me that I could exercise as much as I liked, but would never see body changes until I changed my diet.
One day I was visiting my mentor/adopted godfather’s house; and as I was standing on the balcony, he came outside to ask what’s up. My head was down as I had my usual sinus issues and was recovering from having sneezed more than a dozen times because of whatever was in the air, when I noticed his feet. This guy is at least 20 years older than I am and here I was, wondering at how his feet were so smooth, almost like a baby’s. My feet, on the other hand, were ashy and grey with cracks and webs, reminiscent of a well-mottled terrazzo floor. How could he have better looking feet than me? I knew that he used to run 10 kilometers nearly everyday, so I knew he definitely wasn’t pampering them. He saw me looking and when I asked him about it, he exclaimed in his usual accusing voice—the one he uses when imparting life-impacting knowledge as he frequently did, that I “needed a lifestyle change.” He then directed me to MDA. At the time, the front page prominently displayed a very delicious looking pot of pork.
I read an article or two then closed it off and didn’t bother myself further that day. However, the picture of the pot of pork was etched into my mind’s eye and I would go back and look for it. I would try to wrap my mind around how it could possibly be health food. After-all, this was pork(!) and it was caramelized(!) in its own heart stopping(!), saturated fat(!). How could that possibly be healthy? Every time I went back to watch the picture of the pork, I would also read an article or two. I read about grains, insulin, fats, carbs, protein, cholesterol and everything else in between. I waded through the Definitive Guides. Like most others, Fridays were my favorite days. I wished there were more Fridays in the week! Eventually, things started coming together and making sense to me.
I decided that I would both join the gym and adopt the Primal Lifestyle, however, I was about to go to Canada for a month where I would stay by various relatives and in-laws and attend my cousin’s wedding. So instead, I made a plan to start when I returned. This way I wouldn’t have to refuse all the nice food that I knew would be on offer from both relatives and in-laws. In the meantime, I read MDA at a faster rate, attempting to consume as much knowledge as possible. This included the articles on supplementation, which led me to buy a bunch of stuff I thought I needed. However, this is Trinidad and prices are prohibitive so I got most of it off of Amazon. In the end, I think the only things I really needed were fish oil, protein powder for the days I couldn’t get enough meat and the occasional multi-vitamin to ensure that I wasn’t missing any micro-nutrients. Some of the other stuff was unnecessary or in the case of the wheat germ, deleterious.
On September 1st, 2013, I began my lifestyle change. The hardest part was figuring out with what to replace bread and wheat in all its forms. I planned to eat more eggs instead of eggs with bread, more meat instead of rice or pasta with meat, etc. By the first week, I started getting cravings for fried potato wedges at exactly 9 AM everyday. Potato wedges weren’t even something I would normally eat, so this was strange. I ignored the cravings and kept boiled eggs on my person for when the cravings assaulted me. I justified not caving by telling myself I couldn’t possibly be hungry, not after eating eight eggs. By the end of the second week I got a sore throat, which developed into slight cold accompanied by light headedness.
My wife remained skeptical about my new diet and proclaimed that I was starving myself and would probably die within a couple weeks if I didn’t recant and eat some bread. She also informed me that if I got sick she would refuse to take me to the hospital. This didn’t matter much to me since going to the hospital in Trinidad and Tobago was equivalent to a death sentence anyway. By the end of the third week, this illness passed and I felt quite comfortable again. I later read that this was what was commonly known as the “carb flu.” All the “bad” gut bacteria were dying because I was starving them, the exotoxins produced by their death induced a spike in systemic inflammation, the spike in systemic inflammation though acute, revealed itself in the form of the sore-throat and a cold. Once you know why this is happening you can laugh sadistically and persevere.
The weight started coming off at somewhere between two to three pounds per week. I didn’t track this properly, since I didn’t expect it to be this drastic. I didn’t own a scale and either way, my spiritual leader and bush doctor convinced me not to watch the scale.
It’s not like I switched to Primal overnight, this was a learning process, something that more closely resembled an Orwellian Wedge. As I learned which foods were good and which were bad, I added or subtracted them from my diet accordingly. Soon enough, boiled eggs weren’t the only things I could eat for breakfast and when I did eat eggs, I started doing fancier things with them.
I love lamb and we get relatively good stuff from New Zealand. Since I wasn’t confident enough to eat the fat, I saved it in case I became confident enough later on. I ended up with a large bag of lamb fat saved up in the freezer after a couple weeks. Since I needed space for more meat in the freezer, I figured out how to render tallow. Good home rendered tallow made from two weeks worth of saved up lamb fat. YUmmMM!!
I used this tallow to fry up my vegetables. Gone was the blandness of vegetables, they were now lamb-fat infused. In fact, all food started tasting fantastic again. Over time, food was bland and boring and just used to fill a hole, now that I was Primal, I could distinguish individual tastes again. Garlic, peppercorns, ginger, rosemary, even salt makes food come alive. This is not something that I was even aware that I was missing until I rediscovered it.
Instead of crawling painfully out of bed in the morning, I now leap out like a non-leotard wearing Spiderman would.
Food isn’t cheap anymore, in fact it’s rather expensive but I’d rather eat properly than brave going to a doctor in Trinidad. As mentioned earlier, this is the equivalent of death. My mentor saw me in the market a couple months into this life-style change and pointed his gnarly finger at me, stuttering as he claimed that I owed him money for the advice which he passed on to me. I didn’t let him finish that sentence and told him that he in fact owed me money since none of my clothes fit anymore. He didn’t explain ahead of time that I’d need to get an entire new wardrobe if I changed my lifestyle. At work, one of my colleagues at work instantly saw straight through my reasons for eating Primally. He knew that it was because I was greedy and wanted to find a way to eat more food. He wasn’t entirely wrong. 🙂
After a year being Primal, at the behest of work colleagues and family, I went for a full panel of blood tests. My fear of needles kept me from ever doing a baseline, so I don’t know where I started but when the tests came back my cholesterol levels were what was regarded as “protective.”
Every Divali, we visit one of my wife’s friends, who treats us to some very nice Indian food. This food includes paratha roti, so I intend to eat flour at least once per year, regardless of how much I imagine the toilet will complain for my misdeeds for the 24 hours after the act. I’m still learning, I don’t think that will ever stop. I don’t think that I could have paid for better information than what was derived from this website and I would like to thank Mark and his staff for all the hard work that goes into it. Grok on!