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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...

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June 08 2012

I Am a Better Man in Every Sense of the Word

By Guest
92 Comments

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!

Mark,

I have to start by saying thank you for providing me with the tools that allowed me to change my life.

I live in New England and as a former “New Englander” you know very well that we enjoy our food, especially in the winter months. I grew up eating what my parents fed me which was mostly comprised of the typical standard American diet foods. Luckily, I was very active throughout my childhood and into my teens, playing sports year round, so I was able to stay in relatively good shape without worrying what I stuffed into my pie hole. Needless to say, after school was finished I started gaining weight. Same ol’ song and dance, the sports stopped and the pounds rushed on.

I became a firefighter/paramedic which if there is anyone involved with public safety you’ll know that the meals cooked at the station are so incredibly carb heavy that it’s difficult to get up for the bell even hours after the traditional “face stuffing”. Anyway, from my late teens until a few months ago I tried and tried to “eat healthy” and go to the gym as often as I could. Inevitably, “eating healthy” left me starving, and getting married and having my first child allowed almost NO time for the gym… I needed a change.

I did as much research as I could on living a healthy lifestyle. Due to the MASS confusion of healthy living I sort of ran around in circles for quite a while. It started by reading magazines like Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness, etc. What I found was that these magazines promoted quick and “easy” ways to sick pack abs and huge arms. The magazines were primarily focused on exercise, particularly easy exercise. I followed the so-called easy way to six pack abs and huge arms, lo and behold… beer gut and weak arms.

I knew at this point I needed a fundamental change. I hadn’t ever felt a dire need for immediate change until I began getting injured at work. With all the lifting and carrying of sick patients I do on a weekly basis I began to feel nagging back pain, weakness, fatigue, and then finally a back spasm that put me out of work for two weeks and made me a frequent flyer at my chiropractor. Right around this time I landed my dream career profession – a full-time career firefighter. I couldn’t have been happier. I started the fire academy in late May of 2011, trained hard and met some great friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life. In particular I became close with a guy named Mike. Mike is an avid CrossFitter who in my opinion was the fittest guy I had ever met. He was strong as hell(!) and agile, which confused me due to his size and strength. In essence, I was incredibly jealous. I believed I was in great shape, but it was at the cost of being sore and stiff all the time.

One day about 2 months after we had finished the fire academy, Mike and I happened to land on the same engine company for the shift. I finally built up the courage to ask for some advice, which was difficult because I thought I had it all figured out and was just in a short remission from being fit. Anyway, I shared my dilemma with Mike and asked, what the heck do you do beside CrossFit? He said one word to me that literally changed my life: PALEO. At first I thought it was ridiculous, there was no way I could give up pasta, bread and whole wheat products, they’re healthy… or so I thought. I finally gave myself a slap upside the head and said to myself, “If Mike is this successful, there must be something to this Paleo thing.” I began my research. Being a fiend for knowledge, I couldn’t stop reading. The first book I purchased was your book, The Primal Blueprint. After reading it, everything made so much sense to me that I couldn’t believe that this wasn’t common knowledge. Following The Primal Blueprint I read Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution. Needless to say, I immediately began putting my knowledge into practice and the results just began reinforcing everything that I had learned.

After about 6 months I went from 225 lbs to 198 lbs, and from about 17-18% body fat to approximately 8-9% body fat. My nagging back injuries disappeared. My fatigue completely disappeared. I had my first child as previously stated, my son Jack, and now I’m a dad that’s full of energy as well as a husband who is never too tired and fatigued for our true primal instincts! *wink wink* My main point here is that this change of lifestyle has made me a better husband, a better father, a better firefighter/paramedic and in general, a better man in every sense of the word, and I cannot thank you enough for being a 50-something year old man who can still drive a 27 year old man to be as strong/agile and sharp as you are. This June I’m headed back up to Maine to hike Mt. Katahdin for the second time, and I’m gonna give it hell this time around! Grok on!!!

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92 thoughts on “I Am a Better Man in Every Sense of the Word”

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    1. I did crossfit for a short time, too expensive monthly, So I adopted the idea of crossfit. I write up a workout before i do it, usually full body. About 2 exercises per major body area, (push ups)(pull ups)(squats)(core/abs) with a cut off at about 100 reps each and do it as quickly as possible without my form lacking. Depending inthe exercises it takes between 30-40 minutes. That twice a week with one beach sprint day thrown in weekly.

      1. Steve,

        Is that all you really do for exercise (2X/week) and a sprint day? You look like you are as fit as an ox. I have been training relentlessly for a long time now, trying to pack on quite a few lean pounds, but without progress. I also write my routines with a crossfit twist. I have been exercising 4-5 days/week but cannot seem to add on the muscle. I am currently 6’1″ and weight a meager 145-148 lbs. Any suggestions and/or advice will be greatly appreciated. Awesome work!

        1. It seems a little odd, and I couldn’t get used to the idea of working out twice a week but muscle needs ample recovery time for maximum effective growth. The only catch is that by the end of the workout I’m almost ready to puke, it might not be for everyone but I’ve found that two ULTRA intense workouts a week compared to 5-6 putter around workouts because I’m sore as hell from the day before are MUCH more effective. I have the energy to do a full body ass kicking and then about 4 days to fully recover. When I notice my soreness almost gone I do it all over again, pretty simple. Might not work for everyone but it sure did for me

        2. My advice is to go back to the primal basics and don’t get pulled into the “chronic cardio” paradigm. Its always tempting to believe that doing more = more, but its really not true. I do a regime of 2 x body weight workout per week (pullups, pushups, squats), 30-40 minute max, FULL effort. A once a week full out sprint session (10-15 mins max), and once or twice very slow long run/walk of 1 hour, or more if possible, but heart rate never above 70-75%. The key is intensity – with the weight training doing less at higher intensity is much better than 5,6 times a week just going through the motions. You body will adapt to the Maximum load you put on it, so you must raise that maximum, and allow plenty of recovery time, less recovery time = less ability to “max out”

        3. Sorry – should also mention in the weight training, cover the 5 “primal” workout areas, ie, Back, Legs, Core, Shoulders, Chest – and the once a week (and no more !) sprint session is critical to triggering the changes in your body, you can almost feel the HGH flowing in your system after a sprint session…

      2. Great workout approach. Thanks for sharing. I am struggling to come up with something crossfit inspired. But I don’t want to pay 300 dollars a month, or give up rational planning, or do high rep oly lifting. I like some crossfit ideas and intensity, but I just can’t drink the kool aid.

      3. Hey,

        Thanks for the information. Could you post an example of your workout I may benefit from adjusting my routine to something similar. Perhaps less is more…

        Thanks

        1. Yesterday was like this:
          Wide decline pushups x100
          Medicine ball push ups (one ball, diamond hands) x100

          Wide pull ups x100 ( I can’t do 100 pull ups in a session so I do as many as possible 30ish.. Than do 10 second negative reps counting as 10 pull ups. So I did 7 negative reps) 70 seconds worth.

          Chin ups x100 (same premise)

          Body weight squats x 200

          Jackknife crunches x100
          Medicine ball mason twist x 300

        2. Doug, you NEED to read “starting strength” and follow the program to a T. You can thank me in a few months.

  1. Fantastic before/after contrast. You give hope to the rest of us.

  2. Awesome transformation! How do you handle eating primally when the rest of the guys on the truck may not necessarily be primal?

  3. Looking at the 2 images, it’s just incredible. I’ll definitely get this book and see if this helps.

  4. “After reading it, everything made so much sense to me” How many times have we all said or heard this?

    Great story, great transformation. I wish I knew about primal when I was your age.

  5. And you look younger too!! It never ceases to amaze me how everybody peels off years with primal. I’d have thought you were 35 in that first picture, but now you look like a guy in his twenties–a super hot guy in his twenties. (Excuse me please, it’s just the cougar coming out. LOL)

    1. Now, now ladies… No drooling. Just because he’s 198 lbs of tall, dark, and heroic… um… Sorry, I forgot what I was going to say.

  6. You know what I’ve noticed about the primal/paleo community? There seems to be a high incidence of men who are not only happy to be strong and healthy, but happy to be *happy.* Most importantly, I see so many guys around here who are just as thrilled about being good fathers and partners as they are about how cut they are in the mirror.

    In short, this place seems to be where the Real Men all are ;D Congrats on joining the club!

    (Also, all that AND a firefighter? Youd better get your wife on the paleo bandwagon quick cause shes gonna need some strength and agility to fight off all us other paleo girls and defend your honor ;D )

    1. I second that, it’s good to see that REAL men are here and thriving. If I’m every in the dating pool again, I’m finding a Primal man!

        1. I actually got frustrated with my Match dates, googled “paleo dating,” and my boyfriend’s OK Cupid profile came up. I joined the site just so I could see the rest of his profile (his food entry: “paleo + cheats”) and 10 months later he is the best thing that’s happened to me!

  7. whooo hoo you look HOT!

    and THANK YOU for putting your life on the line to save others!

  8. As for nagging back pains, doing the “superman” is very helpful, for many, in case anyone is looking for a good exercise to sooth an aching back.

    Hippocrates always spoke about the importance of a healthy back.

    Nowadays, back pains are almost the norm for many with prevalence of desk jobs involving being hunched over a desk for 8 or so hours a day.

    1. Indeed, I began doing a lot of core work. Which helped strengthen the back essentially from the inside out, it all started falling into place once I started that.

  9. Honestly, I’d be happy if my “after” picture looked like his “before” picture. 🙂

    1. Lol! That’s the thing about pre-Paleo. Sometimes you think you don’t look or feel so bad (yes he looks pretty good in the original pic) until you really go Paleo and your world will never be the same again.

    2. Yah me too. Im 240 at 5’6 tall. I am just starting Primal and frankly I am hoping for results like this. just started getting off the bread and “healthy whole grains”

  10. Wow, what a transformation! Like you, I find it hard to believe that Primal/Paleo isn’t common knowledge, it makes so much sense once you get past the initial disbelief.

  11. Wow you look great, how tall are you? I have seen what the guys at a fire station eat. How do you avoid that..with all the time you have to spend there?

  12. Wow you look fantastic! What a transformation. Hot!!! I just love Fridays…..I’m going for a lie down!

  13. Haha thanks everyone, I appreciate all the kind words. I’m 6’1. It’s not easy to turn down all of those big meals, and I catch a lot of crap for it. But I already know how it’d make me feel physically. It feels a lot better waking up tight every morning instead of bloated.

    1. Do you respond by showing them your six pack or challenging them to a sprint?

  14. Awesome transformation. I wish more firefighters and EMTs would go primal, it’s nice to know you’re strong and agile for people who need you! It’s interesting, looks like you lost your hair as well… (kidding).

  15. Awesome story and you look fabulous! It would be wonderful if this becomes a new trend for paramedics & firefighters (I think Robb Wolf is working with them in Reno). You guys are brave and deserve the best.

    Sorry to put something off topic in here, but if anyone reading through the comments lives in LA, can you let me know if there are any paleo-friendly inexpensive restaurants near the red line or easy to get to from MOCA? Have to stay in a motel there for a few days. Thanks!!!

    1. Try Ocho at the intersection of 3rd and Grand. It’s a Chipotle style place. I get a salad with chicken, beef, or shrimp with their jicama-mango, cilantro-lime dressing, onions and bell pepper, pico de gallo, and they don’t skimp on the guacamole!!

  16. Crossfit is the most awesome thing to happen to mankind since roasted salmon skin! CF has opened my mind to so many different things I never knew about (Olympic lifting, kettlebells, gymnastics, sprinting, etc). I am forever indebted to CF. 3-2-1 GO!

  17. Looking great, congratulations!

    Did your wife join you on your paleo journey? Hope so, and that you are able to nudge your child onto it also! 😉

    1. My wife did start it with me, reluctantly but nonetheless, pre baby she was 126lbs at 5’3, a week before delivery she was 148 and now post baby/paleo 113lbs. So she’s pretty much convinced after that. My little guy is almost a year old and he eats most with mom and dad. Tonight it’s grilled wild salmon, roasted broccoli and mashed sweet potatoes. Mm mmmm

      1. Oh… And of course a glass of red wine, none for Jack though.

        1. I work mostly with police officers and it frustrates me that a lot of them are trying this-and-that-quickie-diets, and worrying about low-fat foods….while freely admitting to feeding their kids pre-packaged stuff and sugary colored drinks in packages with straws.

          Fortunately, there are a few officers on my floor (we work admin, & I’m the only civilian) who are not only doing CrossFit, but are also attempting Primal Blueprint and Paleo. Plus, I’m willing to share my Primal meal outlines to anyone in the office.

          I congratulate you (& your wife) for not only living the diet successfully, but also rearing Jack the same way!

  18. Great inspiration and thank you for being a hero in so many ways!

  19. Nicely done. This is something much needed in the EMS/Fire world. All too often, what we eat comes from fast food joints or gas stations because we’re always on the go. Sometimes all it takes is that one person to get others interested and totally change things. Way to go.

  20. You are beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your light.

  21. I have an especially good reason to be grateful for the strength of emt’s. I had a serious fall at work and had to be lifted into an ambulance. Their lifting of the stretcher was the smoothest part of the ride! Thanks to BP, they also had 65 lbs less of me to lift. Thanks to regular strength training, I was able to get off the ground and use my upper body strength to climb into the truck for my phone. Kudos to all those who live to serve.

  22. I would like to know the how rest of his crew responded to his primal lifestyle. I too have the same story but am faced with animosity and endless opposition. You know noone like to have the old Ego challenged.

    1. One guy bought into it, but he was a friend anyway so he was more apt to listen. But don’t give a crap what they say… I catch so much ball busting but at the end of the day man are they going to be paying your medical bills? Or there to take care if your family when you die of a completely preventable disease? Absolutely not. So forget what any of them have to say and do what’s good for you and your family brother.

  23. Great job kid I wish more people would take on this lifestyle. My wife and I did 4 months ago and will never turn back. We’re also in our mid 50’s and feel like we are in our 20’s again. We play softball together and street hockey with our kids and grand kids. My son inlaw is also a firefighter so thank yoy for your serviceand Grock on.

    1. My father went Primal 2 weeks after my husband and I. He is lighter than he has been in over 30 years, looks great, feels great, and is weaning himself off of his medications. A fun note: his new favorite dessert is berries in heavy cream. And he was lactose intolerant for his WHOLE life up until now. “I just wish I did it 30 years ago,” he keeps moaning. I tell him he’s adding years to his life now, so enjoy!

  24. It is never too late to make healthy changes. Youtube has plenty of videos featuring elderly men and women who are still going strong because they endorse healthy diet and exercise behaviors.

    One of my favorite books for ageing men and women, as well as young men and women, is Old School New Body. It teaches readers how to achieve superb health and fitness with minimum investment, similar to what Mark recommends.

  25. You look so awesome! And yes, I hear that familiar “Happy to be alive” Paleo/primal theme running through your post. Your story made me smile. Grok on!

  26. Are you from Maine? If so check out existanew.com. These two are doing good things for health and wellness out of Portland.

    1. I’m from massachusetts. But I get there as often as often as possible

  27. Enjoy the view from Mt Kathadin and while you are in Maine enjoy the lobstah drawn in buttah!
    Your story is inspirational and I thank you for sharing it.

  28. Is it possible to go up on the scale? I have read all these wonderful stories about people loosing weight and gaining energy. I love being paleo/primal but am weak and thin. I want to be as strong as an ox, really, and the work I do (farming, park conservation) demands that I be. Please send some primal insight

  29. Hi Mark,

    Good job, some really good results. I am currently reading Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution after everyone in a local CrossFit meet raving about paleo and primal eating. Very good information 🙂

  30. Nice! Yeah I wish my after photos would look like his before photo. I’m inspired once again to really hit the exercise. The weight is coming off, but people at work nag me saying is better stop before looking like a dungeon prisoner but I tell them I eat way more than I used to and feel great. Anyone else have experience with the workouts packing on muscle? And how long before noticing the changes (for inspiration)

  31. Great transformation Steve. I to work as a fire fighter and have recently begun my primal lifestyle. My only regret so far is that I didn’t take a before photo. The transformation so far has been amazing, both physically and mentally. I do believe that this is a great lifestyle which suits the demands of our job.

  32. That’s inspirational. I was reflecting just yesterday about how the vegetarian world bases their way of eating mainly on ethics rather than science, and how so many ex-vegetarians there are who found great health and a great body by going Primal/Paleo.

  33. Steve I hear exactly what you are saying and believe me that is exactly my response and I can, as david spade so classicly stated in tommy boy, hear them getting fatter eating the usual sad diet. To you and Lucas, do you have a peer fitness program in your dept’s? Do you follow Crossfit or have you tried Crossfit football?

  34. Good deal. It’s amazing what a little knowledge and effort can do for a person. The biggest surprise to me was the positive outlook I had on damn near everything once I truly dove into this lifestyle.

  35. Hey man…could you please give us a sample of your daily diet? That would be huge.