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!
What if I stopped procrastinating on writing my story? Why haven’t I written it so far? Is it worth it? Is it boring? Maybe yes or maybe no. If I don’t start, I think I will never know. As I fly from Houston to Europe, I’m getting it done. So what do I want you to take away after reading these pages? I want you to know my story first, then relate it to your own journey and why you are reading another story about weight loss. Is my story only about weight loss? I’ll let you decide.
First, I grew up in South America—a place where the culture encourages people to over eat corn, rice, and wheat flour (pretty much lots of refined carbohydrates). So when I was growing up, I was never skinny. I had a few extra pounds, but I was active enough to be strong. When I was 14, I fell in love with mountain biking and mountain trekking. The two activities became my sports and I would do them three to five times a week. But for my diet, I was still eating lots of food. So what was the problem? I was in my late teens, strong, never slim, but not fat. The catch was, the problems came later.
Fast forward five to 10 years, and I was in my mid to late 20’s where I began facing high cholesterol. But I thought, “Isn’t that genetic? I must not be able to change it.” Mind you that in those 10 years I had also managed to put on 30 to 45 pounds of weight. Diet after diet, I would loose 10 to 15 pounds, then regain all the weight and then some.
Another nine years went by without any major changes to my diet. All the while, I still thought biking was my perfect exercise, although I kept on the 35 to 45 pounds of excess weight. You see, I’m 5′ 11″ and when I was 18 years old I was 182 lbs. But by the time I was 39, I had reached 217 lbs. What just happened? How did I do that to myself? Well, it turns out it’s not so tough if you eat rice every day, pasta at night, cereal and bread in the morning, and couple that with hardcore biking. It was a complete recipe for disaster.
It was the end of 2012. I had signed up to bike the MS150, which is a road bike event that goes from Houston to Austin in two days. I thought that if I set a hefty goal of biking 160+ miles in two days, I would be able to drop weight. So I was determined to start road biking more than mountain biking.
One thing I have not told you about me is that I’m an engineer. To say that engineers love data is an understatement. I charted blood test data in time, monitored my heart rate during all my trainings, recorded map and mileage data, etc. You get the picture. I had a lot of cool charts and numbers. But the only number that never seemed to go down was my body fat percentage.
As I was reading about training for the MS150, the more it became evident that I had to shift my focus from losing weight to decreasing my body fat percentage. Why? Because I had 32% body fat. I don’t want to go too heavily into the math of it, but here’s a little trick. Grab the number 32 and imagine a point to the right of it. If you do this, you’ll get 32.00. Now, grab that point and slide it to the left two spaces. The number then becomes 0.3200. If you take away those two zeros to the right, you get 0.32. Now grab my total weight at the time, which was 217 lbs, and multiply it by 0.32. That breaks down to 217 lbs x 0.32, which equals 69.44 lbs. What did I just do? I gave you the total amount of fat that I was carrying in my body. I once grabbed a plastic bag and filled it with water until the weight hit 69 lbs. Wow! That was a lot of fat I was carrying!
So with a new goal of decreasing my body fat percentage—because a healthy one should be around 12 to 16%—I needed to drop around 30 pounds. I was ready! So there I was, training for my endurance bike ride. After 10 or more rides, were I would ride anywhere from 30 to 75 miles, something strange started to happen. My great charts were showing my muscle mass was dropping and I was gaining fat! I thought, “How is this possible?” I was killing myself riding for seven hours at a super high rate and I was gaining weight. Come on! I started having an incredible thirst all the time, so I went to the doctor. But all my numbers were normal, with the exception that my cholesterol was high.
Long story short, I stopped training for the MS150. I had done something wrong. The thirst went away 10 days after I had stopped training so hard. I had all the data and charts in hand, but I could not explain what happened. In all these rides my average heart rate would run around 150 to a 165 beats per minute (bpm). I calculated my maximum heart rate by subtracting my age (39) by 220. So my max heart rate should have been 181 bpm.
And if you study how heart rate affects fat burning in the body, according to the literature, I was training above my anaerobic threshold. If you train above this limit (which varies for every person) you burn zero fat. There you go—I was demoralized a bit to say the least. I had done all that training, for essentially nothing, and I was feeling bad.
A few months went by. One day around September, 2013 I had blood work done at the doctor. There he dropped the D bomb. My A1C glucose had steadily increased throughout the years, and my cholesterol was only controlled by using statins. Furthermore, I had low testosterone. He told me that if I did not reverse this, I would have diabetes in a couple of years. That was a shock. I had a lot of science working for me, but unfortunately I had waited until the last minute to do something with it.
That’s when I saw a seminar by Dr. Pamela Peeke who was speaking about sugar addiction and the sitting disease. Also, at that time, my niece came to live with us. She was doing the paleo diet. I have to say, I was very skeptical when I heard about it. Reading her material got me to ditch sugar and processed foods. Then, while I was researching the paleo diet, I came across The Primal Blueprint. After reading the book and hundreds of threads on Mark’s blog, it sank into me: I had to try this.
I started in October, 2013 at 217 lbs with 32% body fat. Today as I write this, I have achieved a weight of 180 lbs and my body fat hovers around 14 to 16%. So how did I loose all that body fat and overall weight? Dr. Peeke’s book, The Hunger Fix, convinced me of the real sugar addiction and how my brain was hooked on sugar. Her 3M approach (mind, mouth and muscle) made a lot of sense. I had to work on my mind first. The Primal Blueprint showed me the path to proper training and nutrition. These are the things I did:
1. I went full primal/paleo cold turkey from day one.
I started eating meats, vegetables, nuts and fruits. Between my wife and I, we researched a lot of recipes. It’s amazing the amount of information out there. There are a lot of folk that publish recipes on Instagram, which is an excellent source of information. I used almond flour, coconut flour, ghee, coconut fat, avocado oil, honey and so many other ingredients.
2. I stopped hard cardio completely.
That meant no more long hard mountain biking sessions. If I went for a walk or light jog, I would pay attention not to go above 145 bpm.
3. I started riding my mountain bike at a lower heart rate (115 to 130 bpm) for hours—sometimes five hours at a time.
Instead of doing mountain biking trails that required a lot of effort that spike your heart rate, I started doing easier trails and riding on my neighborhood paved trails. This also required that I ditch my mountain bike buddies, but only for biking activities, after I realized that as a group we would push each other a lot, which would give me high heart rates.
4. I started doing TRX for strength training.
Suspension training is an excellent way of building the core without going to a gym or buying lots of expensive equipment.
5. After five months, I incorporated sprinting.
That seemed to jolt my body to go the extra steps to approach top fitness. I was stagnating around 185 lbs until listening to one of Mark’s podcasts that inspired me to start sprinting. It does have a reaction overall, which speeds up fat burning and make you feel stronger.
So there you go—that’s my story. Don’t wait until you get punched in the face by a doctor’s diagnosis—or worse, have a heart attack. If you have excess body fat, you need to attack that now. Define your present, accept it, move on and do it. I thank Mark for making this information available. This program changed my life forever and I am grateful.
PS: Today I’m off statins and testosterone medicine. All my values became regulated when I dropped all the fat. Plus, my heart rate has dropped around 15 to 20 bpm for the same exercises I used to do when I was overweight.