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!
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!