It Felt Like a Rebirth Into 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!

It all began back in March of 2011 when I stepped on the scale for my semi-annual military weigh-in. The scale menacingly peaked at 195 pounds, which seemed outrageous to me. Over the next few days I couldn’t shake a feeling of self-diminishment. I mean, here I was, fresh off of completing the Miami Marathon which had been preceded by 18 weeks of focused training and I had GAINED weight?! I was incredulous! I tried to rationalize it away by telling myself that the scale was likely off, or that my running shorts and socks probably added a couple of pounds. But honestly, when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t see the guy who ran cross country and weighed 165 pounds back in high school and college. Heck, I couldn’t even see the “healthy” guy I thought I was 10 pounds ago. I was burdened by the feeling that my 30-pound weight gain was the start of an inevitable decent into outright obesity.

Days later, some of my office mates began talking about how their Crossfit gym was doing a Paleo diet challenge. As a self identified runner I was cynical on Crossfit, and as a Crossfit cynic I was even more contemptuous about what I viewed as a Crossfit diet. On and on they went, over the course of the next few weeks talking about the food they were eating, the weight they were losing, and how good they felt. Like a religious skeptic I finally decided to research what they were doing with food, if only to prove it wrong. So I bought The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain.

I’m an impatient person though, and so while waiting for the book to arrive I started Google searching “paleo” and stumbled across Mark’s Daily Apple. I think the first post I read was The Definitive Guide to Grains, and I was hooked. I began to consume the past blog posts like a ravenous animal, reading every Definitive Guide, checking all the hyperlinked references, and taking notes. The blog posts, especially the ones about sugar, carbs, vegetable oils, and grains were describing symptoms that I didn’t even realize I had. I assumed that weight gain, joint inflammation, constipation, frequent sickness, lack of energy, and trouble focusing were a normal part of the human condition for someone close to entering their 30s. I mean, after all, that’s what my doctor had told me at my previous annual physical.

So I went for it, and just jumped into the proverbial pool head first from the 10-meter platform. I followed Mark’s weekly health challenge to clean out the pantry from a post I found from way back on 12 February 2007, yes I still remember that simple blog post. I emptied out all the soda (my normal post marathon training workout recovery drink), ditched the bagels (daily breakfast), threw away the loaves of bread (lunch time sandwiches), trashed the chips and cookies (lunch sides and pre workout snack), deep-sixed the instant pasta sides and frozen garlic bread (normal dinner side dish), disposed of all the…oh wait, did I mention my wife was 8 months pregnant for the first time? Yeah so I ended up going back out to the store and buying sodas, bagels, bread, chips, cookies, pasta, and some ice cream to feed the standard American diet pregnancy cravings. Suffice it to say that she had no interest in starting some “fad diet” in the home stretch of bearing our first child. So we had an honest discussion about it and agreed that I would eat 100% Primal for 4 weeks but she would stay conventional for breakfast and lunch. She would join me in a Primal meal at dinner time provided I cooked it.

Those 4 weeks felt like a rebirth into LIVING.

I shed 15 pounds effortlessly while cooking meals from The Paleo Diet book and from recipes on Mark’s Daily Apple. Many of the previously mentioned symptoms improved quickly and some went away completely in those 4 short weeks. I also started to embrace Mark’s emphasis on intuitively understanding my body and observed, for example, that eliminating salt (as advised in The Paleo Diet book) gives me bad charley horses at night. That intuition of the positive and negative effects on my body has been huge over the years as I continue to experiment with slight alterations to my eating and lifestyle.

After those 4 weeks I never looked back. I ditched the chronic cardio and turned my new found diet into a lifestyle. While I was the Primal fanatic, I like to jokingly refer to my wife as a slow adopter. My gateway to a Primal lifestyle was a desire to lose some weight, something she has never struggled with. She started to come around, however, after seeing the myriad additional benefits. Among other things, her chronic digestive issues have been largely corrected through experimentation with eliminating dairy and supplementing probiotics.

Fast forwarding the story to a year ago, my wife’s mom was diagnosed with advanced bile duct cancer. Her body rapidly withered away and she passed in only a few weeks’ time. Part of our cathartic release involved reading every book we could find on the interrelated topics of cancer, metabolism, and lifestyle. We decided to take our Primal lifestyle to the next level by eliminating toxins in our home, improving our sleep, experimenting with Ketosis, eating the highest quality nutrient dense foods we can find, and getting more serious about fitness (I even do Crossfit now – from skeptic to convert!). Each of these has had lasting and noticeable positive impacts on our lives.

Our family of five is now fully Primal and loving it. We both feel like this lifestyle provides its own feedback mechanism. Whenever we partake in the standard American diet, whether at a dinner party or visiting friends and family, our bodies remind us of why we rejected it in favor of a Primal lifestyle!

Lastly I want to talk briefly about kids and encourage other Primal parents out there. Our three kids (7, 5, and 1) very rarely eat sandwiches, have had cereal maybe three or four times, and have never tasted soda. They love eating unwashed carrots straight out of the garden and liverwurst fried up in grass-fed butter. I say this not to brag, but to embolden parents who are worried about enforcing this lifestyle on their children as some of my peers have lamented. My personal observation is that kids raised on the tastes of real foods crave the genuine and unadulterated flavor of things like eggs, purple sweet potato, and dry roasted nuts. Yes, they still desire processed junk, but out of its novelty not out of sugar addiction, and they will readily eat whatever Primal offering is put before them.

For anyone struggling to transition kids from a standard American diet to Primal there is hope as well. Our family has seen the benefits with the foster children that we care for. On the first morning with our first foster child, a 4-year-old boy, I asked him what he wanted for breakfast. Without skipping a beat, he un-ironically demanded “Coke and a snickers.” We compromised on a smoothie with lots of ripe banana. Over time, with steady work and gentleness, we transitioned him from his normal candy and pizza to steak and buttered broccoli. His health improved DRAMATICALLY. We’ve since repeated that amazing reversal with another little 3-year-old boy who arrived in our home overweight, suffering from sleep apnea, full of cavities, and chronically sick. As we slowly reduced their sugar intake, we saw remarkable improvements in the physical and emotional health of these precious children. In the end, the difficulty of transitioning them off the garbage was absolutely worth the benefits.

Thanks to Mark, WorkerBees, and all leaders in the Paleo/Primal community who have mentored me from afar, I’m forever grateful!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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19 thoughts on “It Felt Like a Rebirth Into Living”

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  1. Love that you didn’t stop at the diet… it’s only a fraction of the primal equation.

    Love that you love liverwurst… nothing beats liver, though bone marrow is a close second.

    Love what you’re doing for these little kids… they deserve this.

  2. Nice Story and nice pics, especially the primal activity. Good reminder that kids need guidance in what they eat…if it is tasty and nourishing, they will crave it. Just like the adults!

  3. You’re such an awesome role model for us Tyler! Thanks to you we’ve made some big changes in our lives, and this post just gives us more inspiration and motivation to keep making those changes!

  4. What great inspiration! This guy is doing it right! Nice to know that people CAN change their behavior for the better.

  5. I’m the writer’s father-in-law, and I’m going to speak with him and learn how I might benefit from the Primal diet and change in lifestyle.

    1. James, I’d guess that, as a father-in-law, you’re in my age range (59).

      My story is similar to the writer’s, except when I started Paleo in 2010 I was 52 years old. And I started CrossFit last year at 58.

      I am healthier and fitter now that I’ve been in 30 years.

      I say go for it! All you have to lose is aches, pains, heartburn, stiff muscles, creaky joints, etc.

      (p.s. I was a bit uncomfortable for the first few times at CrossFit, being the oldest person there; but after a year I often have better times/reps/whatever than some of the much younger crowd. It’s a heckuva lot of fun.)

      1. I started Crossfit 2 years ago at age 60 and have been following a Paleo diet and lost 35 Pounds. The combination of those 2 changes have been life changing. Even though I’m also the oldest one in my Crossfit classes I feel so much younger than I did 2 years ago!

      2. I love to see “older” people at crossfit! I’m fortunate to belong to a crossfit with a fantastic community. I have a toddler who comes to the weekday morning class with me and there are plenty of grandparent-age folks there. They’re lifting and sweating and doing great things for themselves just like the rest of us! I love to see it because I know that will be me one day too. I wish I could get my parents to do crossfit too!

    2. I started eating primal at age 57, started weight training at 59 and now turning 64 next month I actually have more well developed muscle and better body conformation than ever before in my life, I love it. NO more digestive issues, no more joint pains and my testosterone is way up, blood panels improved 20-50% across every category. I started mountain biking at age 59, spend a lot of time at Moab, it’s a great interval workout and incredible fun. This last year I spent learning kite boarding, first in Baja and now just wrapping up the season at Rio Vista this week. I feel like I haven’t reached my peak yet, sounds funny but I am still developing physically yet I cut my workouts back to just 20 lb dumbbells since we have been on the road for 18 months in our RV.

      I laughed out loud at this sentence because I am loving my 60s!:

      ‘a normal part of the human condition for someone close to entering their 30s.’

  6. Great story- I love that you shared it with your foster kids!!
    Ps- I recognize those USNA shorts- my husband was class of 05 and I grew up in Annapolis.

    1. What?! I was class of 05 and also grew up in Annapolis. Broadneck HS?

  7. Wonderful story! What better gift could you give to your kids than a healthy lifestyle from day one. I was a sugar fiend as a kid and finally got rid of my sugar cravings (at age 59!) when I went keto back in January (despite being Primal since 2009). I so wish I could have grown up without all the processed foods and sweets that were commonplace.

  8. A+ story. Glad you not only got your kids eating right, but also got the foster kids off the snickers and coke.

  9. What a lovely story and so touching to hear about how it has helped your foster kids. That’s a lucky placement they got! You’ve inspired me to keep trying with my 11 yo. And reading the comment from your father in law, good luck sir. It took my dad getting a serious diagnosis for a lung condition to get him on board and he is doing brilliantly.

  10. Congrats on a great change! And congratulations on helping the children and leading by example! What an amazing journey, and what better way to build a better future for yourselves, and them, and in the end, for yourselves again, because what goes around comes around. I firmly believe the grandchildren that will grow out of this movement will be stellar examples of human mental and physical potential. It will also create an emotionally stable generation endowed with understanding, empathy, and caring, and able to set down the cell phones periodically to embrace the wisdom and company of primal elders. I can’t wait to start hearing about 3 and 4 generation primal families. I have no doubt they are on the horizon.
    And way to go, father in law! We want to hear about your primal journey a year from now!

  11. Wow, love this! What started as a weight loss journey turned into so much more. How wonderful that you are even impacting your foster children and seeing improvements in their health! I also like how you intuitively listen to your body…that’s how I gradually transitioned to Keto without really realizing it. Just noticed that I felt better with more fat and less carbs. And I’m with you on the salt thing! Thanks for sharing!

  12. I’m proud to call the writer a close friend. He introduced me to Mark’s Daily Apple in early 2012 when my family visited his. My wife and I had our first baby about a year before, and we found ourselves continuing to gain weight and often feeling tired. We went primal cold-turkey after the visit. I remember ordering a salad at McDonalds in the airport on the way home. That day changed my family’s lives. We have continued to embrace the primal/CrossFit/camp gladiator lifestyle. The writer has been a great mentor and inspiration in health and life. He gave me some great smoothie recipes just last weekend!

  13. Very cool story! My children (4, 2, 7 months) would rather die than eat the real primal food that my wife and I eat. They appear to be super healthy in spite of eating 100% junk. I think they end up fasting (for seemingly days) if necessary to hold out for the junk. I will keep trying.

    1. Read “French kids eat everything”. Whilst not primal, it’s very close and changed the way I view feeding my family.