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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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March 24 2017

I Now Have Plans All the Way to Ninety

By Guest
72 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. 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.

realifestories in line I’ve been intending to write this for some time but was waiting for some milestone. I guess that 75 years is a good one. My birthday was last Saturday.

Basic statistics. At present I am 5’8″ tall, weigh between 176 and 180 lbs. with a 32″waist. Before I discovered the paleo lifestyle I was 205 lb with a 39″ waist. I was also asthmatic, arthritic, grumpy, and on the verge of diabetes.

My doctor told me straight: lose weight or go onto medication. Great. I had been struggling with weight gain for forty years. In my twenties I had given up smoking, in my thirties I was gaining weight steadily, so I took up jogging seriously. It worked for a while, but inevitably injuries accumulate. At forty I looked scrawny, but with a bit of a tummy. I gave up jogging and became a gym rat. I enjoyed lifting. I never liked aerobic classes, but did a lot of walking, skiing, scuba diving and tramping apart from the gym, and that seemed to work. I realise now that I had become what they call muscular fat.

The problem of course was that I was trapped in the calorie restriction/exercise paradigm. This does work of course, but there remains the “law of diminishing returns.” You have to work harder just to stay as you are, and as you get older, you simply can’t.

I retired ten years ago from a lifetime as an art teacher and expected to spend the golden years painting it out. Generally I have done this but was finding it increasingly difficult to juggle exercise, recovery, and general living.

Ross_Before

Then came my doctor’s ultimatum. I was in despair. I had followed the guidelines. I ate according to the pyramid. I chowed down the grains, and avoided all fats. I felt doomed.

The moment of revelation came when I saw a book on Amazon by Gary Taubes: Why We Get Fat, and What We Can Do about It. It was the first time that I had read a clear exposition of the insulin cycle. Two things followed: I crossed my fingers, took a deep breath, chucked out the “healthy living pyramid,” and read wildly and widely.

Overnight I became an Atkins fan. I went keto. I did the Whole30. And I discovered that ultimately all paths lead to Mark’s Daily Apple. Paleo makes sense. We should be able to achieve a healthy balanced life without fanaticism. I believe that over time I have.

The remarkable thing is how effortless it has all been. I expected to struggle. But there has been no struggle. I had some sort of existential angst at the beginning. Surely it must be harder that this? The weight just melted off. My natural weight for my height and body type is 180 lbs. If I wanted to I could work harder and get shredded. Why? I’m not in any competition.

Good things. My arthritis has largely gone. Five years ago I dreaded meeting people for the first time and having to shake hands. The pain was excruciating. Now I don’t think twice about it. I used to have dizzy spells. They have gone. My doctor is impressed with my blood tests. He keeps expecting me to revert, but I keep surprising him. I have one of the best cholesterol readings in his practise, and the threat of diabetes is a distant memory. Heh.

The most amazing result however is my mental focus. I was getting more grumpy and tired. Now I have plans right out to ninety. It doesn’t matter if I never get there because the journey is the thing. I am a plein air painter, and my work is getting better. There are not a lot of things that a man in his seventies can honestly say are improving year by year.

As the great landscape painter John F. Carlson wrote,…”A picture is a work of Art because it is a Sincere Expression of human feeling.”

The reason my work is improving is because I have come back to loving what I do. Grumpy has gone. Once again I experience such joy in the simple things around me. The swallows swooping around my studio. My dog and his delight in sniffing out new things. Light flickering across water, and clouds modelling the distant hills. I sleep well. I wake up ready for another day. Busy busy, but all good.

So, what is paleo living in my seventies? I wake up to a cup of green tea. An hour later I have a cup of black coffee with cream. My version of bulletproof coffee. I also have a small piece of my “breakfast chocolate.” I make it myself. 400 grams each of coconut oil, desiccated coconut, cocoa powder, and nuts. A batch usually lasts about six weeks. After eating this I simply don’t feel hungry for hours.

Essentially every day I’m on a 16-hour fast. My breakfast is usually an omelet with salad about midday. Dinner is whatever my wife and I decide. Fish. Roast. Casserole. Barbecue. Either with cooked vegetable of the day or a salad. Sometimes we eat Thai, Turkish or Chinese. When I’m travelling I will have a burger, but not the bun, fries, or soft drink.

Ross_End

Exercise. I have an active life. We have a ten acre block in the country. That keeps us busy. Apart from this, I walk my dog every day. I also take him for bike rides. He runs. I bike. Every now and then we have a sprint. That is the high intensity bit. I don’t trust myself to run with dodgy ankles.

Two other things. I have recently taken up Tai Chi. I wish I had discovered it years ago. Gentle continuous movement. I have found it great for balance and stretching. Apart from that I have my own gym with weights set up for bench press, squats, dead lifts, and chins. I warm up with up to twenty reps with an empty bar, then do one single very heavy partial rep. Usually I just load the bar and lift it off the rack and hold it for up to ten seconds.

POSTSCRIPT.

Mark, forgive me for going on a bit. I don’t know how much if any of this is worth publishing. I have written at length for your sake, as a way of thanking you for what you have done for me, and for so many others. I know that you are getting older as are we all. Be assured, from my own experience I have found that the paleo lifestyle is a very gentle way of approaching the twilight years.

It is not a denial of aging. Rather, it is the right way of entering and accepting it.

I see my contemporaries around me, and I feel sad for too many of them. Most of them don’t smoke. Mainly because those who did are now dead. Some of them still drink too much alcohol. More than a standard drink a day is problematic.

The main problems I see are way too much weight and passively watching either TV or surfing the internet. When I see what they eat, I shudder. Far too many carbs. Far too much grain. As for passive watching. This closes down the brain. Vicarious living is not living at all. Watching reality TV is not reality. Walking the dog is.

Thank you for giving me my life back.

Kindest regards,

Ross W.

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TAGS:  Aging, guest post

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72 thoughts on “I Now Have Plans All the Way to Ninety”

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  1. Ross, thanks for your story! Your approach to aging–seizing the reins, taking responsibility for your health, and crafting the lifestyle that obviously works for you–is very inspiring! Great work, and thanks again!

  2. Thank you so much Ross for your beautifully written story! May you have many more years of such a joyful and beautiful life!

  3. First, a happy Birthday to you.

    You are looking great Ross – fit and ready to take on another couple of decades 🙂 Thank you for this inspiring story.

  4. Lovely story. This made my morning. Thank you for sharing, Ross.

  5. Awesome and inspirational! What a great “life framework” you have. I’m 10 years your junior and trying to be on a similar path. Read nothing but good things about Tai Chi.

  6. I’m so inspired. Thank you so much. And ha, it is true, “ultimately, all paths lead to Mark’s Daily Apple. Paleo makes sense. We should be able to achieve a healthy balanced life without fanaticism.”

  7. Wow, what a great story. I plan to read it over and over again. I turned 65 yesterday and I am following the Plan. Ketogenic diet exercise, weights and jogging (with some sprints) are my regimen. My mom and dad are 87 and 89 so good genes. You look great and I know its not a prideful thing…and its the journey. Our people encourage each other and it is great being a follower of this way of life.

  8. Great story of balance and being. You made my morning. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Thanks for this nice sketch, I mean painting, of your new life. In fact I’m going to pull some stuff out of your coffee routine and make it mine. I’ll have to write one of these strong good-looking older dude pieces my self one day, lol. Inspiring.

  10. Hi Ross and happy belated birthday! I very rarely comment on these stories, but in your case I feel I must. Absolutely my favourite success story and I’ve read them all! A fantastic and inspirational tale of success in taking charge of your own health and your postscript to Mark moved me so much, I think I must have got some dust in my eye or something! Best wishes to you for a long and happy life.

  11. This is one of my favorite personal stories by far. I can see in your photo that you are a talented artist, and you write well too! Thanks for inspiring this 63 year old.

    1. Hi Andrea. I post a new painting most days on Facebook under “Ross Whitlock”. Essentially the diary of plein air painter. You may enjoy dropping in from time to time. 63 is both a scary and wonderful time in our lives. Welcome to the golden years…

  12. Happy Birthday and Congratulations on the results of your inspiring journey. Thank you for sharing your perspective and that proper food and exercise can benefit people of all ages. Curing grumpiness a huge benefit, especially for your wife, and I’m planning to share your story with my husband.

    1. Donna! My beloved wife would agree with you. Of course I have grumpy moments, don’t we all? But my default position these days is cheerful and optimistic. The legendary glass remains the same, but I now can see it is half full.

  13. Ross – GREAT story and thanks for sharing! What are you using for Tai Chi, if I could ask? I’ve been hitting the iron along with dips and chins for decades and figure it is high time to start with the mobility work and I’m a long way off from yoga at this point. 🙂

    1. Two great things about Tai Chi are the people and its non competitive nature. Living in the country, and painting landscape are essentially solitary occupations. Tai Chi helps greatly in this respect. In terms of biomechanics, balance and flexibility are crucial as you get older. I had reached the point where I had to lean against the wall to put my socks on. After six months of Tai Chi, even although I’m still a novice, I can pull up my socks free standing! Grin. Not bad: old man, new tricks…

  14. Fantastic article about healing at any age and being able to be healthy and fit and most importantly enjoy the years no matter your age.

    1. Hi Larry. We have no choice about getting older, but we do about how we get older. It seems to me that a huge consideration is our attitude to life in general. If there is not a lot of point in living, then there is no real reason to heal ourselves. The simple joy of living, taking pleasure in the small things around us enables healing to take place. As you note, healing can take place at any age.

  15. Ross, I’m right behind you in age. Your story is inspiring and hopeful. I like that! Thank you so much for sharing.

  16. Ross, Happy Belated Birthday! I must thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to me and I’m confident to the rest of our primal family. I wish you many more years of happiness.

  17. Maybe it’s that I am now 54 and negotiating the aging transition but I think that was the best primal testimonial yet! Bravo Ross! I surely hope I age as gracefully as you have. I’ve been thinking about Tai Chi…maybe time to give it a go!!.

    1. G’day Earl. Don’t think of it as retirement as such. It is a transformation. Truly into the golden years, and you are at a great age to prepare for it. Tai Chi is wonderful. I wish that I had found it earlier. My wife believes in dogs. They are wonderful too. Cheers..

  18. You are so right that all paths eventually lead back to a low carb diet. Even more doctors are getting on board with this. I think it is good that your doctor gave you both options: pill or diet, instead of just give you a prescription.

  19. This is a beautiful story, I loved reading about your success. Wonderful for you and inspiring for the rest of us! Thank you for writing. (Wish I could paint, I’m 63, and have thought painting would be a wonderful retirement hobby, but I have absolutely no talent for it.)

    1. Sandy. What a great age 63 is. The old way of life is coming to an end, and a brave new world awaits. The compensation for losing some of our physical capabilities is the depth of wisdom that comes with years. I remember reading once that knowledge is the awareness that fire burns, wisdom is remembering the pain of the blisters. Heh. For me, the joy of painting lies as much in the contemplation of the subject, as in the making of the mark. My wife finds her joy in gardening, and the beautiful birds that accompany her while she works. The seasons change, and the tasks vary. Some birds leave and others arrive, but her contentment continues. One of my best friends makes jewellery, and another fine woodwork. If you truly wish to paint you will find a way. I post new work most days on Facebook, under Ross Whitlock. Check it out from time to time, and feel free to ask questions. Ross

    2. Sandy, don’t look at painting as a “talent” but a skill. Talent might mean you catch on faster, but you can still learn the skill. Take some classes and paint, paint, paint. It’s like learning to play a musical instrument. Practice. Skill, not talent.

  20. I loved this! I’m over 70 myself and feel better than I did in my 30s. I’ve been Primal for 5 years at least, and it’s been the best thing that ever happened to me, diet-wise. I love it, I don’t have to think about it or agonize, no yo-yoing. It rocks, doesn’t it!??

    1. Hi Cathy. How good you can feel is one of the best kept secrets about your seventies. Just working within our capabilities, and not having to prove ourselves all the time. I’m still very competitive, but only within myself. Again, not as I might have done in my earlier years, competing against the clock or other people, but rather trying to do something more elegantly, with more finesse. I suppose that is the artist speaking. And as you say, once the primal lifestyle comes together, you can just quietly live it. No yo yo!

  21. Very nice story – at 60-ish, it gives me something very positive to look forward to.

    (But… what’s my dog doing in your picture??!! Oh, it’s probably your dog, but he/she looks like my Mollie’s twin. Aren’t labs great? Such companionable creatures.)

  22. I loved your story, it made me so happy! I am almost 50 and the Primal lifestyle is everything to me. You are now living the dream inspiring all the rest of us.

  23. Ross, I loved this so much! You have described beautifully the magic of the Primal Blueprint. The renewed love of life, the satisfaction with delicious food, the enjoyment of inspired and playful exercise, the absolute delight in everyday circumstances: I feel it all too! You are living my dream 75 year-old life. And you look absolutely amazing! I know you feel saddened when you look around at your peers, but I am sure that your light is shining so bright that you will inspire others by simply living your primal life. Congratulations!

    1. It’s a well known phenomenon Katie, that after finding how wonderfully effective the Primal Blueprint is you want to shout it to the heavens. You see a friend fat and wheezing, eating a jam filled doughnut and drinking coffee with two or three sugars, and you want to say you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to live like this. But you can’t. You mustn’t. I have learnt to wait for the moment, when they ask. Sadly so many don’t. They just think that you are lucky, have a great set of genes.
      On a happier note, I have become aware recently that more young people are slim and fit. I’m sure that they have locked onto the lo carb lifestyle. The message is getting out.

  24. Love everything about this, Ross! You are such an inspiration. While the physical stuff is all great, it’s even better hearing how much focus you have, and hearing how your art has actually improved over time. Thank you so much for sharing. I always look forward to Fridays, and your story is one of my favorites!

  25. G’day, John. That scenery looks awfully familiar. Where are you from?

  26. I loved your story Ross, especially because I’m a painter as well. Congratulations on your success and many happy years of painting!

  27. “And I discovered that ultimately all paths lead to Mark’s Daily Apple”

    I had to LOL because that is so very true.

  28. Wow, what a great read. Uplifting. I bookmark pages like this and read them when I need inspiration. This one will definitely be read again. Thanks so much for sharing Ross and thanks MDA of course! Best wishes. Sandra

  29. “As for passive watching. This closes down the brain. Vicarious living is not living at all. Watching reality TV is not reality. Walking the dog is.”

    Great words!

  30. One of my all time favorite stories. Reminds me that what I am doing now in my 50s is also important for my future. Thanks for sharing your valuable life sessions.

  31. Great read mate! Truly inspirational. Start making plans for 100 + …. you will need then! Legendary ?

  32. I sometimes kick myself for not discovering primal when I was in my 20’s (I’m now in my late 30’s), but you’re living proof that it’s never too late! You joke that you could get shredded if you wanted to, but frankly, you look pretty shredded to me, even compared to most people my own age. A true inspiration.

  33. Wow, beautiful story, thanks for taking the time to write it Ross.

  34. Very very nice, you made my day, weekend and month
    I just think you made a typo in the title with the “Ninety” part
    You can plan with confidence for much longer 🙂

  35. Ross, thank you for your words of wisdom and a happy belated birthday. I found your success story inspiring and uplifting. And the timing is perfect too, consider I’ll be turning sixty this coming Monday.

  36. This made me tear up. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and inspiring story, Ross. You have so many wonderful years still to come!

  37. Ross, as someone approaching my golden years (almost 60) I want them to be golden and not tarnished brass. Thanks for the inspiration!

  38. Wow! I read the success stories every week and while they are always inspirational, this was my favorite of all time. Congratulations to Ross for the physical transformation, but more importantly, the mental and spiritual transformation that he has experienced. Thanks for the inspiration!

  39. Happy Birthday Ross! Thank you for sharing your story, it is truly inspirational. You look great. It is great you have the property to enjoy the outdoors and stay fit right at home. Nothing like having your own Primal Playground. I am 50 this year and you prove that in this life style you can truly Live Long and enjoy every minute. Best Regards!

  40. Ross, please could you post how to make your ‘breakfast chocolate’ as I’m thinking of trying it. Many thanks

    1. Hi Sandra. As you might have guessed I’m all in favour of keeping things simple. Four ingredients in breakfast chocolate: 400 grams each of cocoa powder, desiccated coconut, coconut oil, and mixed nuts. I prefer 50/50 macadamia and almonds. My first few batches included stevia as a sweetner, but i found that I preferred it without. I use 400 grams as the recipe calls for equal quantities, and the supermarket has these ingredients in 400 gram quantities. Convenient.

      in a large bowl stir the desiccated coconut and cocoa powder together. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave and stir it in. I use two square flexible baking dishes. I spread the nuts in the dishes and pour the mixture over them. Pat smooth with spatula. Very carefully place in fridge to go hard. Bring out an hour later and cut into fingers using a sharp bread knife. (The chocolate slab is best “sawed” into pieces).. My dishes are about seven by eight inches square. I end up with pieces about two inches by one inch, about 3/4 inch thick.
      Important notes for domestic harmony. (Grin)
      This process is messy Best done when alone for a few hours. Everything washes clean with hot water, and the bowl and spatula are delicious to lick clean.
      Flexible baking dishes are essential. Otherwise I’m not sure how you would get the slabs out.
      The chocolate is best eaten using a napkin, as skin temperature melts it.

      Let me Know how you get on.

      Cheers!

      1. Thank you so much Ross, I will definitely give this a go. I too find that I am not hungry for hours after a coffee and a biscuit (cookie to you?) in the morning but I want to ditch the processed sugar for something a little ‘healthier’. I realise this is not exactly a saintly start to the day but I just don’t fancy a meal until at least noon so it suits me perfectly. Will let you know how I get on and thanks again for sharing.
        Best wishes,
        Sandra

  41. Holy cow! Thank you Ross for sharing your story. As a young woman watching my parents, in-laws, and grandparents grow older and struggle with their health (in every sense of that word) it’s so inspiring to know that aging can be met with gentleness. I too often hear – from my dad in particular – that cognitive and physical decline are “just part of getting older” and your life is a testament to the opposite! Thank you!

    1. Hi Becky. The most important thing I’ve learnt from my personal transformation is to be gentle with yourself. It’s a bit like pushing a swing. Little nudges at the right time eventually build to a huge change. You just have to believe in the capacity of your body (and mind) to heal itself, at any age, and then give it the opportunity through all the things Mark recommends: diet, movement, positive engagement with the world around you, and sleep. Cheers!

      1. Thank you, Ross. This comment on gentleness is particularly inspiring to me. I am just starting out and looking for all the positivity and inspiration I can find. And I am going to try making your breakfast chocolate too! You seem like such a great guy!

  42. Loved your story…..so many wonderful pieces of life advice! Congrats to you and I know you’ve inspired many with your success story! I’m 51 and with this lifestyle, I’m making plans to at least 90 as well!!