Just Shy of 50 Years Old and I’ve Never Felt or Looked Better

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!

My name is Nick and I’m a 49-year-old recovered alcoholic, former “fattie” and a former track athlete. In my 20s, I was sidetracked as an athlete by a series of injuries and burnout, a story not far removed from that of Mark Sisson. I then plunged into a 20-year exercise in self-pity and substance abuse, all the while maintaining the seemingly successful facade of a highly-paid software engineer who gradually got fat and out-of-shape as he entered middle age, eating junk like pizza and fast food. My health problems were further complicated by the fact that I was also waging an ongoing battle against chronic Hepatitis C, which I contracted when I was 21, so drinking alcohol was probably not a such a great idea, right? Also, I had developed high blood pressure (175/110) and my cholesterol was through the roof at 285!

A year and a half ago, I was laid off from my “big shot” programmer job, just another casualty of this lousy economy and I’ve been living on unemployment checks and my wife’s income up until just recently. After I lost my job in March of 2010, the first thing that I decided to do was give up drinking – completely and forever, just about the smartest thing I’ve ever done. This was truly a fresh start for me. I looked in the mirror for the first time in a long time, and by that I mean I really looked at my 195-pound body and the 36% body fat I was carrying around, which was in sharp contrast to the 7% body fat that I had in my early 20s as a competitive distance runner. I asked myself “How could you let this happen to you?”, “Don’t you have any self-respect?”

So the next step after giving up alcohol was to replace that addiction with a much healthier one, running! My old friend, a trusted lover from the past, it could be argued. Surely I could lose the weight by just reuniting with my “old friend”, but I quickly discovered that my “old friend” wasn’t enough anymore. I was 48 and my metabolism had slowed, I was on the verge of Type II diabetes and my body no longer wanted to cooperate in the weight loss department. My efforts to lose weight became an ongoing gulag of carb-deprivation and starvation dieting, “chronic cardio” on an empty stomach, diet pills and “fat burners” containing everything from ephedrine-based stimulants to yohimbine and massive quantities of caffeine.

It was only after I started eating healthier in general and moving intuitively toward a primal eating strategy that I finally started to get real results in efforts to lose weight. Long before I discovered Mark and his fantastic book, I was already moving toward a “paleo diet” after meeting and speaking with Dean Karnazes, Mr. Ultramarathon Man, who happens to be the same age as me and we share some similar problems from our past. He was the one who first introduced me to the concept of eating along primal lines using his own variation on the theme. I eventually went from 36% body fat down to the 6% that I now maintain all year round, and at a body weight of 125 pounds, I lost a grand total of 55 pounds of fat while gaining 8 pounds of muscle! My blood pressure is now 115/70, resting heart rate of 45, and I can now run a 10K in under 38 minutes. But I still felt as though there was something missing. I was experiencing devastating episodes of “carb flu” followed by occasional binge eating, that is until I discovered The Primal Blueprint at a bookstore one afternoon, which changed my life utterly! I finally found a way that I could actually keep the weight off while having a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy! I started to send periodic emails to Mark as I slowly transitioned to a Primal lifestyle and he was gracious enough to take the time to personally answer all my questions, for which I still owe him a debt of gratitude, one of the reasons why I’m now taking the time to share my story with you.

Eventually, I got back into my old sport of distance running as a competitive Masters runner in the 45-49 age division and have done very well in local and state races, once I got my “running legs” back. I confess that I have adapted the PB lifestyle and nutrition with a few minor modifications tailored to my admittedly high-mileage training regimen as a distance runner. But I should also point out that since 90% of the running that I do is at a heart rate no higher than 70%, I’m not so sure that my 70-80 miles/week truly qualifies as “chronic cardio” as defined by Mark. Rarely do I get into the very stressful 80-85% zone, except for when I do intervals on the track once a week and of course when I race. The rest of the time, it’s “easy does it”! Also, I do 90% of my cardio fasted, first thing in the morning, so as to increase the fat burn and train my body to utilize stored fat as its primary fuel source, and then I eat a healthy Primal breakfast within 30 minutes of my workouts to keep my metabolism revved up. I also do occasional sprinting and brief-duration high-intensity weight training as recommended by Mark.

On the nutrition side, I stick to almost all the rules except for the following, in small infrequent doses: wild rice, Irish steel cut oats and an occasional sugar-free energy drink (my father always said that a man is not a real man if he doesn’t have at least one vice!). Also, unfortunately, I cannot have any coconut oil because I have bile flow problems related to my Hepatitis C, but I’ve been able to work around this limitation by using other healthy oils that are lower in saturated fat, such as hazelnut oil (expensive but well worth it!). I have finally managed to give up all grains and bread, legumes, etc., and the only fruit I eat is berries and cherries. I take 200 mcg of chromium and a small handful of raw almonds before every meal to avoid spiking my blood sugar. In the “nuts department”, I consume mainly raw macadamias, almonds and hazelnuts, because of their extremely favorable MUFA to PUFA ratio. I have found that higher consumption of MUFA’s keeps my android (waist) fat lower, as determined by DEXA regional analysis of my body composition.

So here I am now, a few months shy of my BIG 50, and I’ve never felt or looked better! I’m actually looking forward to turning 50, which is in sharp contrast to when I turned 40! I now make my living as a Personal Trainer specializing in weight loss at a local health club. I don’t make anywhere near as much money as I did in the software field, but I’m much more fulfilled now. Though it may sound corny (and I don’t care if it does!), I discovered that what you do to earn a living matters much more than how much money you make, at least when it comes to your health and overall satisfaction with your life. The first thing that I tell my new clients in their first personal training session with me is to go out and buy Mark’s book. It’s their very first “homework assignment” before I see them for a second session! I tell them that PB changed my life and it can change theirs!

Stay Primal and go “against the grain” when it comes to the modern lifestyle that in my opinion is slowly destroying Western civilization from the inside-out! Let’s make it our mission to save the world in a way that it least expects to be saved!

Cheers to all my Primal brothers and sisters!

Nick Laszlo

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177 thoughts on “Just Shy of 50 Years Old and I’ve Never Felt or Looked Better”

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      1. Thanks, Crunchy! About the employment, all aspects of one’s life are interconnected, whether we’re aware consciously aware of it or not. Took me 49 years to figure that one out!

    1. Does anyone think the photo on the right, the “after” photo, looks fake? The head looks WAY too big for the body!

      1. Probably it’s a genetic variation. Some people have slightly larger heads.

        His head may have looked smaller before because of all the fat in his body making his body bigger in proportion to his head.

  1. Wow I don’t know what to say. That’s a heck of a lot of exercising. I can’t imagine 70-80 miles of running each week! In my own chronic cardio days I ran 40 miles each week. Never again for me. But we’re all different right? I mean, maybe you’ll find that in time your endorphins run out. And maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ve really found your spot or maybe you’re over working yourself. I guess it’s a little early to say though. You haven’t been at this for too long. But clearly you are better off in every way than you used to be and that is marvelous. Even if you are going a little over the top, your body and mind will let you know, and you will simply change again. Being Paleo gives us a deeper connection with our own selves so that we can tweek our strategy and stay on the right path. Good job man!

    1. I can imagine running a mile a day but that’s about it 😉

      In fact, I have NOT ran more than 1 mile at a time for at least the past 2 months. And, as a matter of fact, I will be running in the Grand Rapids barefoot run next Sunday!! Ah, that will be a lot of fun 🙂

      1. In fact I’m waiting for someone to tell him that he shouldn’t be wearing running shoes, either

        1. To all you barefooters out there. Barefoot is good and natural if you only run on a natural surface such as grass or sand. But if you run on asphalt, as I do, which is an unnatural surface, you need “unnatural” protection against that. When I see someone running barefoot on asphalt or concrete, I see them as someone who’s paying for their podiatrists expensive golf club membership — sooner or later they’ll all end up in a doctor’s office, unless of course they’re a freak of nature such as Abebe Bikila, which would be pretty arrogant for the average runner to make that assumption!

          1. Which is why they make the Vibram Bikila. =) They work awesome on asphalt and concrete. Just a bit more padding than barefoot, but just enough.

            The problem isn’t being barefoot for most people, its tight achille’s tendons and weak calves.

            Easily fixed via negative calf raises done in sets of 3×20 3 times a week for the first 4 weeks of barefoot transition.

            If you aren’t going to commit to fully barefoot style, then yes, stick to grass running every once in awhile. Sand – depends. You are asking to destroy your feet and calves if its loose sand. Hard sand, go for it.

          2. Sorry, George, but I will have to disagree with you on this one. The problem with barefoot running is not about week achilles and calves, its’ about lack of shock absorption of shoes such as the Vibram Bikila. My final word on this is that if running in minimalist footwear that mimics barefoot running is in any way better than a properly constructed running shoe with good cusioning, then the Vibram would be worn by elite runners for whom their livelihood depends on their running. Barefoot running and shoes like the Vibram are strictly for casual recreational runners. Grok on in your Bikilas but try running 70+ miles/week in them and let us know how that works out for you!

          3. Agreed. I love to walk on soft understory in my Vibrams. Sidewalk and asphalt, not so much.

      2. Craig, that’s nothing new at all. You should be used to it by now. Ha!

      3. Hey craig and Heh I noticed you both waded in without a link where people could check out your “wonderful work” that both of are doing for the primal community. And no picture either.

        I admire your courage guys.

        Sadly, you are completely unaware of all the good they have provided to a great many people in this community.

        For the two in question, keep doing what you are doing. The trolls are a dying breed.

    2. Um…a little sanctimonious? I think Nick has shown that he’s the clear expert on what works for him and his body. No need for condescending suggestions that he is “maybe, maybe not” doing it “right.”

      Nick, thanks for sharing this inspiring story!

    3. I agree with Laura. As you said, Peggy, we are all different. There is no need for patronizing remarks about another person’s way of life. Your particular brand of primal is not superior to Nick’s. But maybe you haven’t been “at this” long enough to appreciate his amazing story.

      Bravo Nick, you look fantastic!

        1. Nick, you inspire me (and I’m sure many others) to get back into competitive running–this time, done right! =)

    4. The dude was once a world-class athlete, and is now a competitive athlete, and you are giving him flack for doing what he does better than 99.99% of the people on the planet …. whatever.

    5. Wow how about you just *NOT* post anymore. It really seems 90% of your posts are usually ignorant anyway… seriously just keep it to yourself if you can’t say anything nice at all.

      1. “It really seems 90% of your posts are usually ignorant anyway… seriously just keep it to yourself if you can’t say anything nice at all.” Gee, Oeric- ever think about taking your own advice? Peggy did say that he’s better off in every way than he used to be and he’s done a good job improving his health- not exactly “not saying anything nice at all”. She was simply voicing concerns about overtraining.

      2. I highly disagree with your statement. She almost always adds “positive emotion” to the conversation.

        Maybe you should take your own advice? Keep it to yourself if you can’t say anything nice at all… right?

    6. 80 miles/week is easy when it’s an act of moving meditation. No iPod for me, thanks! 🙂

      1. I agree. I used to be completely meditative while running long distances. I had my ipod though 😉

    7. Peggy, “over the top” is an extremely subjective concept. Elite marathoners run well over 100 miles/week and so do some societies such as the Tarahamura people of Mexico. What is “over the top” for you is somebody else’s easy training week. Generalizations are not very useful when it comes to variations in individual capacity of humans as unique individuals. See where I’m going with this? But thank you for your encouragement!

  2. Always cool to hear an inspirational story! The Primal Lifestyle must be doing something right for people!!

  3. I really enjoyed this story. You’ve been on quite a journey, Nick.

    I confess I had to reread that weight of yours. 125lbs! Wow. You must be a steam machine. And congratulations on combining earning an income with your passion AND giving back. Awesome!

    1. Thanks, Alison, but it’s much more important to focus on body composition than weight. At 5′ 6″ and 6% bodyfat, 125 is a good “racing weight for me”, given my light frame. When I went down from 9% body fat to 6%, I also gained 5 pounds of muscle because I followed Mark’s PB regimen of “easy” cardio but brief intense weight training, plus lots of primal protein!

      1. Thank you for explaining that, Nick. As a 5’7″ light-framed female weighing 133lbs, my eyes literally popped out of my head when I read that. I didn’t know guys could get that low. Your point about weight settling at a natural level given the rate of training is well taken. Thanks again, you’ve made me think. 😉

        1. Just curious but how did you two determine you had light frames? I’d guess that I’m slight or medium-framed, but is there a definitive test for this? Thanks a bunch!! 🙂

  4. Bravo Nick! Incredibly proud of you, your recent realizations and your amazing journey. What success! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Nicely done, sir. Looks like you figured out which way your watch goes on too.

  6. Quite an amazing story. We’re used to thinking of Olympic athletes as being walking athletic perfection, and so rarely do we hear what happens to them once they rejoin the ranks of us “mortals.” 😉 It is quite inspiring to see how you have been able to bring yourself back, and beyond.

    1. I tell my clients that I’m only a few weeks worth of ice cream sundaes away from the return of “Fat Nick”. Our metabolism slows with age, even for us “Olympic athletes”, keeping in mind that if you read my story carefully, you’ll notice that I never actually competed in any Olympics. I only competed for the right to represent my country, but I’m proud of that as well… Thanks for your kind words!

      1. D’oh! >.< well still, thats a helluva lot closer than most of us will ever come 😀

  7. Congratulations! What an incredible transformation and an amazing journey. You should be so proud of yourself, especially for beating the alcoholism. It is inspiring to hear your story and I am happy that you have found a job that allows you to keep telling your story over and over again.

    1. Thanks! The only sure way to beat any substance abuse problem in the longterm is to replace it with something new, something better. My “better” was the transformation that you see. I hope that it will continue to inspire others to do the same.

  8. Fantastic. Folks, this guy went from one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, to lean, strong (mentally and physically) and happy. If it means running 70 miles a week to compete in a sport he loves, good for him. Nobody has to follow or even agree with how he has gotten here, but this is supposed to be about inspiration, not snarking (even gently) about his running.

    Congratulations Nick. Run on, brother!

    1. I’d much rather be criticized for running 70 miles/week than for drinking 70 ml of scotch! That’s progress in my book! I’ll take “chronic cardio” any day over chronic drinking…

      1. Thanks for your sharing. You are an inspiration. I need it. I’ve been off track for a couple months. Run as far as you like. Happy, joyous and free!

  9. Wow congrats!
    How many of your clients have you actually converted to Primal living now?
    Have you had any that look at you like you’re crazy when you suggest it?

    1. Not after I explain why it works. PB makes sense to sensible people. Almost all my clients have converted. I always tell them that it starts with giving up the poison known as sugar. That’s already a big leap for many of them.

  10. This is the most inspiring success story yet! Congrats on your amazing transformation and rejuvenating your health. I am on day 14 of the PB, and I’m already down 12 lbs and I feel amazing!

    Mark Sisson is a genius. God bless you Nick and God bless Mark Sisson for sharing his knowledge with us.

    1. Jason, I heartily concur with your comments on Mark and Nick. And best wishes to you on the commencement of your own primal journey! As someone who has walked the primal path for a year and a half, believe me when I say you can scarcely imagine the riches that await.

      1. Timothy thanks so much for the kind words and encouragement. Your words inspire me even more and I can’t wait to see what my own primal journey has in store for me.

        Best wishes!

    2. Thank you so much for your kind words, Jason! Keep up the work and the results will come, as you can see from my pics. Cheers!

  11. Fabulous Nick!
    It’s so cool when you finally figure it out! The journey from old and fat to fit and thriving is amazing every step of the way!

  12. What a powerfully inspiring story! Cheers to you for finding your path to healthy living and for sharing it with others! I love that you are sharing your experiences with others on a daily basis as a personal trainer. I agree that Americans are suffering from CW and the convenience of processed foods. It means so much to me to see people trying to help turn the tide. Grok on!

  13. Awesome!
    It’s great to know that the body is adaptive to changes no matter what our age is.
    Kudos for being able to run 70 miles a week! I can barely run 5 a week! Ha but that is why you were the Olympic athlete, and I am not :p

    1. Caleigh, the body will adapt to most anything as long as you treat it with kindness and compassion and don’t ask it to do too much too soon. There are many societies on Earth in which people routinely run far more than 70 miles/week and they are some of the healthiest specimens on the planet, e.g. the Tarahumara people of northern Mexico: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarahumara_people

      1. For anyone interested, there is a short video on the Tarahumara on YouTube.


        After watching it, I was so inspired, I went for a run (and I’m not a runner!). The guy they kep showing in the video was awesome. A true modern day Grok.

        Nick, do you care to comment on their barefoot running style? My wife is a runner and I’ll pass any info/critque on to her.

        1. Perry, the Tarahumara run by “feel”, they never push themselves too hard and always get pure enjoyment out of their running, regardless of the distance covered. What could be more primal than that? Certainly shouldn’t be classified as “chronic cardio”. As for their barefoot running style, it’s a thing of beauty, but you have to keep in mind that they don’t run on asphalt or concrete, only dirt trails and forested paths, same as Grok would’ve done. If I could run with the Tarahumara, I would NEVER wear running shoes, except for maybe Vibram Bikilas because the skin on my feet would not be as tough as theirs when it lands on twigs and small stones. The Tarahumara are Grokalicious indeed!

      2. I think this was the coolest part of that article:

        Pre-tool humans may have used persistence hunting universally to hunt prey. Humans in excellent physical shape, given the time, can outrun quadrupeds, which slow down when fleeing over long distances and lose their ability to pant while running.[6]

        Who knew!?

        1. *note I forgot the quotations around the second paragraph- from wikipedia.

  14. Nick, congratulations! Thanks for a very inspiring story. I am especially impressed that you overcame your alcohol addiction. I’ve often wondered which is the more difficult habit to kick: alcohol or carbohydrates.

    Your story also reinforces the point that, for a healthy primal person, the fifth decade of life can be the healthiest time of all, rather than a period of accelerating decline as conventional wisdom would have it. That gaze of confidence and determination in your final picture says it all.

    Thank you for being an excellent role model and sharing your example with all of us.

    1. Alcohol was harder for me personally, but I think both substances affected the same lobe of my brain. I do know that there’s been recent studies that show carbs affect the brain similar to cocaine….. Is that scary or what?

        1. You might say it “does NOT,” but could you give some insight into the biochemistry of how the body makes these distinctions?


        2. It’s a titration thing. If you eat whole foods like sweet potato they come with water, fiber, etc, which make digestion slower so the glucose entering your system is happening more slowly. Someone with diabetes still would not be well advised to eat sweet potato or white potato straight because it would mess up their blood sugar, but someone with a healthy metabolism will produce insulin to clear the blood sugar efficiently.

          Any “healthy” food can be processed into its components, rendering it unhealthy to us. Sugar cane, agave nectar, sugar beets, apple juice, etc… Take away the water, the fiber, the minerals, the balanced part of the meal (such as coconut oil or butter, which slows stomach transit time, causing you to eat less and thus not overwhelm your endocrine system), and you start deranging your system.

          Your body evolved over millions of years to eat real food. It might have been somewhat processed–since we gave up part of our guts to have brains–but the kind of processing we take for granted now is only 150 years old^1. Our bodies aren’t ready to consume food as a pill.

          1-At the point where you’re turning maize into a starch product, an oil product, and a sugar product, you have travelled leaps and bounds from traditional food processing.

  15. Am I the only one that thinks his head is twice as big as it should be in the last photo?

    congratulations nonetheless! grok on!

    1. You are not alone.

      I speculated, briefly, that perhaps a cortisol onslaught from ultra-marathoning with Dean “Pizza on the hoof” Karnazes may be responsible for creating an inflammatory cascade in his prefrontal cortex.

      All goofing aside, thanks a bunch, Nick for telling your story straight up and posting pics. As another “50 something” very inspirational. Your legs rock, dude. Keep on gRockin’

      1. Go easy on my man, Dean, Ross! He lives in a different world from the rest of us, he’s on a different plane, but he still eats paleo, with maybe a few more carbs than Mark would advocate, but when you run over 200 miles/week, some adjustments to strict PB eating would seem appropriate I would imagine?

    2. My wife’s iPhone, fish eye lens. I should have asked her to stand farther away when she took the pic. But yes my head does look a bit “bigger” since my body got leaner. I’m quite happy to walk around with a lean body and “big head” versus the way I looked in the first picture! LOL

      1. Actually, you looked like a cross between Boromir and The Dude. I like it! I guess you had to give up your beard and long hair to run? I think you would look good with a primal beard. You do look very fit. I hope your wife likes it.

  16. Very awesome success story.
    You seem to have re-discovered life and soaking up every bit of it daily. Just don’t overdo it! I suppose your body will eventually tell you when it had enough…until then, keep enjoying it.

    1. The body can break, yes, but it also mends, daily and over a lifetime.

  17. Wow..you look like a completely different person…congratulations on the success.

    1. Maybe because I AM a completely different person. Thanks, Jana!

  18. Good grief – what a phenomenal transformation! Congratulations Nick and thank you so much for sharing with us!

    I don’t know which part of your story I like best – the “aha” moments and the desire/realization that you needed to do something about your situation (and of course actually doing it), or the realization that making lots of money isn’t as important as enjoying what you do and being down-right healthy. Plus you are helping others get their acts together: win, win, win all around—

    Thank goodness there are some personal trainers out there who have the guts to debunk CW.

  19. I can’t get enough of these success stories! This one really struck a chord with me as he beat alcoholism….for most folks, it’s ‘one day at a time’….seems like Nick truly put it to rest. Kudos!!!

  20. I think it’s great that you recommend the Primal Blueprint to your clients–there are a couple of people I’d like to recommend it to but I’m not exactly in a position of authority (meaning these people are typically my family and friends), and I don’t like stepping on the toes of people I care about. Anyway, as long as health professionals continue to disseminate this accurate, effective, information, who knows: America might be on the road to getting healthier!

    1. Erin- you don’t have to push PB living on family and friends. Once they see how you change for the better, they will ask you what you are doing. Teach by example.

    2. Erin, IMHO the best recommendation you can make to anyone is your own success with PB. Just wait until they start commenting about how good you look and asking “what on-earth-are-you-doing” to achieve these results.

      Then just tell them and let them take it from there. You can always offer to lend them your copy of PB, and if they like it, offer to buy if for them for their birthday/holdiday gift, etc.

      1. I just did exactly this! My manager at work is amazed that I was losing weight when she sees me eating snickers at work (my 20% in the last couple months, but I’ve finally traded them for Lara bars instead). I told her I was going to buy her a copy of the book, having loaned mine out already, but she said she prefers her Kindle, and would buy it herself. I gave her the title and author the other day, it’ll be interesting to see if she’s actually downloaded and read it yet!

        1. I find it so funny that a lot of the “healthy” food pushed on us is actually less healthy than a sugary snickers bar. I mean, the snickers at least has real peanuts plus plenty of fat to keep you satisfied. (Though it is too sticky for me these days.)

          It was quite the eye-opener in high school when my mother tried to put me on a diet and had me eating peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat that just tasted bad and were hard to chew and swallow (and were probably ruining my gut even then) and I found out from a book on calorie counting that they had the same macronutrient characteristics as Lil Debby peanut butter-chocolate-wafer bars which I could obtain for cheap from the school vending machine. Given that the wafers were made from white flour instead of whole wheat (no deadly bran!) and the bars didn’t stick to my teeth so much (although I still had mild gum disease in those days) they may have actually been more heart healthy than the sandwiches!

          (I don’t know about trans fat content–some jar PBs also have trans fats and some Lil Debbies have them but they also use coconut and palm oil a lot so I don’t know about that side of it.)

  21. This is such a wonderful story. You have overcome so much and what a great treat to give yourself for your 50th!! A better healthier you!! Way to go!!

    I too love to distance run, there is something very peaceful about it!! I hope to get back to it someday!!

    Way to go and Grok On!!

  22. Oh, wow! Kudos to you for making it happen! Such an improvement!

  23. 125? wow, that’s lean. Kind of gross I think. But hey, as long as you’re feeling good and healthy, that’s what counts!

    1. WTF is wrong with you posting something like that? (Rhetorical).

      1. I can’t believe I’m even responding to this comment…. but I think 125 looks a touch unhealthy on him, but as I previously stated, as long as he feels good and he’s healthy, that’s what counts. You don’t have to pull out the “WTF”. Is this not a place for discussion? Are we only allowed to say things that everyone else agrees with? I’ve noticed that as soon as someone disagrees with something, everyone gets all defensive and weird and “WTFish”. It’s annoying.

        1. Abs, if you met me in person, you wouldn’t think that I look “unhealthy”. You don’t need big muscles to be healthy, you just need to be healthy and allow your body to choose the weight it wants to be at given your level of physical activity. Elite Kenyan and Ethiopian runners aren’t thinner than even I am because they starve themselves. They’re ultra thin because of genetics and the fact that they run over 120 miles/week, which they have taken a lifetime to gradually build up to, hence they’re not wrecking their health.

        2. Referring to someone as “kind of gross” isn’t what I would consider the best way to create or participate in the “discussion.” It’s insulting.

      2. 125 is a normal weight for a 5’6″ competitive distance runner. Runners are very light. The guy was a step way from the olympics – you only get that far if you are naturally small framed to begin with. Its completely normal him.

    2. You have to take my height into consideration. 5’6″ and light-boned, natural ectomorph, which is why it’s now inconceivable to me how I ever let myself balloon up to 190 pounds. Blame it on processed foods and sugar!

      1. Hey Nicky, no need to apologise for being a small guy. I am a British guy, 5’7″ and weigh about 117lb at about 8% bf, at age 37. I am naturally ‘hollow-boned’ and extremely skinny (which helped me get road bikes up very big hills very quickly in the chronic cardio years). I struggled for years with body image issues thanks to people who think guys should be built in a certain way (I remember one time sitting on my bike in racing kit at a stoplight, and a total stranger shouting ‘put some weight on!’ at me. Would they say that to a woman, I wonder? And I forever had to explain to medics and nurses that I am not anorexic – I am just built this way. Way to improve my self-esteem, dudes). I still don’t have much, but what I do have is now strong, lean, functional and Primal-fuelled and I could take down a Mammoth barefoot with extra points for style. Let’s see docile 250lb weight-room addicts do that.

        1. Actually they do say it to women too. I’m 5’4″ and used to be a very thin but muscular “wiry” 110 lbs and got flack about it all the time. I couldn’t have put weight on if I tried, which I did! Eventually I gained weight as age and bad eating habits caught up with me. I still get called skinny even though I feel over weight at 135 lbs. For a small boned person that is heavy.

        2. Yes, they do say that to women. My wife is 5’2″ and 97lbs. A drag queen once told her to “eat a cheeseburger,” which is hilarious because she loves to eat cheeseburgers (sans bun).

          CW is a mess, BTW. When I met her she ate really Atkinsy but didn’t realize it. She doesn’t like bread (no leaky gut, so no wheat opioid high, I’m guessing), hates pizza, and thinks tinned sardines with raw onions are a tasty snack. To me it was no wonder that she looked like she did but her mom was into CW (lost wgt and kept it off with low fat, but it’s still a struggle) and she was convinced that she was a freak of nature for being so small even with her chicken-skin-snarfing ways.

  24. Wow, what an amazing transformation. Thank you for sharing your story, it is so inspiring!

    ..and GEEZ, sorry about the people making strange comments about how much you run and how you’re still “new to this,” I’m sure they’re jealous.

    Best wishes to you and continued success,

  25. Your success story is amazing and may just knock “The Inconquerable Dave” success story to number 2 on my list of most inspiring. Run on!

  26. Good for you! What an amazing transformation! My husband is a former distance runner, and has been using the PB as a way to get in good enough shape to be serious about it again too. I will definitely point him to your story. I think it’s great to see someone who is a serious endurance athlete still have success following the PB lifestyle and diet. It shows that anyone can have success eating this way and our bodies don’t need to be bombarded with constant carbs and sugars even when we are expending a lot of energy every day. Keep up the good work!

    1. The “Roman” background was in fact Rome, during my trip there in 2004. I was at my heaviest ever in that pic.

  27. How tall are you? As a 5’4″ female, I’m fairly small and lean at 125 pounds.

    1. 5’6″ at 6% body fat. Pretty good for a 49-year-old competitive runner but I’d be considered “fat” if I were a 25-year-old elite Kenyan marathon runner at that same weight and height. Everything is relative. My body chose that weight given my activity level. I did not consciously go down to 125 as any sort of goal.

      1. Exactly…as Loren Cordain points out, if you stay Paleo/Primal, you will eventually attain YOUR ideal weight. And awesome job, Nick!!

  28. Hi NicK,

    I am very inspired by your story.My mother was an alcoholic and died very young because of that, you did a wonderful thing. I´m just starting this way of life but already feel better. I would love to know what changes you made to the paleo, primal diet, to fit your running needs, I´m a runner too, but a very slow one. Also, loved your new job, I used to be a baker and now I don´t know what to do because I feel guilty about feeding flour and sugar to my family and to everyone else…

    Thanks for the inspiration,


    1. Maria, my mother also died of alcoholism. I did not wish to suffer the same fate. Keep the faith and stay primal!

  29. Well done, Nick! You should be extremely proud of your achievements. Congratulations on overcoming alcohol and on finding the primal diet. I wish you the best as you follow your passion and live life with joy. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story.

  30. Fantastic story Nick! Congratulations on the hard mental, emotional and physical work it took you to get here. You look great too!

  31. Wow, now that is a transformer! You morphed into a new guy! Completely night and day change Nick. Fantastic! Have fun, God Bless.

  32. What an inspiring story. It’s so great that you could stop the alcohol. I always look forward to Fridays on MDA for my own continuing inpiration. I did wonder that you said coconut oil was no good for you because of a bile problem. I thought that coconut oil bypassed the necessity of bile for digestion. Anyone know anything about this?

    1. Saturated fats in coconut oil must still be processed in the liver, whether utilized for energy or not. No fat can be digested in the body without bile, unless my neighbor who’s a Gastroenterologist is pulling my leg! It’s just that coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides that are much healthier than “evil fat” such as trans fats. I welcome any thoughts on this, especially from anyone else in this forum who has impaired liver function or a medical degree.

  33. Congrats on your success, Nick! Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us!

  34. Great job! Very VERY inspiring! Thanks for sharing your story.

  35. Truly inspirational story. Congratulations Nick! What is took to get you here is a feat most of us could not touch – the mental, emotional and physical work you did to create your new self is simply awesome. And you look great!

  36. Nick,

    Very cool story and congratulations. For someone who was running back in that day (although not nearly so fast), and is now primal, occasionally competing in 45-49 5Ks, please tell us what your times were then. I’ve slowed by about 3 1/2 min, but would be interested in what happens to elite runners. Again Congratulations, and please keep it up!

    1. My 5K times have fallen drastically compared with my 20s but my endurance in the longer events from 15K to half marathon have improved significantly. The leg speed is no longer there but now I’m like the Energizer bunny….

      1. That’s pretty sweet. I wish I had that kind of capacity.

  37. Wow! As a person with a long time love of running I am intrigued by how you’ve weaved running into the Primal lifestyle.

    For the moment, I’ve stopped running other than doing a weekly sprint workout. I do 2x week strength and then I go on long walks with the family. In some ways, as much as I love the running, the walks are nicer since the time with family (as opposed to mostly solo running) I think are helpful to my well-being in ways other than physical.

    But, I know that at some point the bug is going to bite me and I will want to get back into running again, so I’d love to share insights with you. Do you stay under the “70% zone” by wearing a heart rate monitor? Or do you just go with the finger in throat method every so often?

    Congrats and I hope that my Primal journey with a side of running turns out half as well as yours!

    1. Tim, I use a Garmin GPS/heart rate monitor but I rarely check it while I’m running. I run mostly by “feel”. Don’t like to turn myself into a cyborg while I’m running but I do like to keep track of how I did afterwards. Running in my opinion should be about breathing air, moving your body, listening to birds and enjoying the sun on your face. Maybe I’m just “old school”?

  38. Thank you for your inspiring story, what a great turnaround! I’m glad you replaced your unhealthy addictions with your original passion for running. Keep up the great work 🙂

  39. Great job, Nick! I love that you’re looking forward to your birthday and feeling so much better!

    Thanks to everyone who shares their inspiring stories on Fridays. It’s a high point of my week.

  40. Nick – Wow, I’m not kidding, you don’t even look like the same person. Incredible transformation and thank you for sharing your story.

    I love Fridays!!!

  41. I love Fridays for the chance to read these stories – so inspiring. Congratulations on your wonderful transformation and thank you for sharing your story.

  42. I find that people are usually crap heads online because they aren’t able to be assertive or respected in real life, and there is minimal risk associated with being a piece of $%*& online and they get to feel like a big strong man for a second. It’s just a theory. You don’t even look like the same person! Good work.

  43. Great job, Sounds like the layoff kinda sparked a good thing for you, personally and professionally.
    Not sure if you’ll read this but I had some trouble with my liver a couple years ago, my alt was 95, I just had it rechecked and it was 70. I’ve been taking a supplement that has dandelion root and milk thistle. I’m not sure if the bile thing would be the same issue but thought I’d mention it.

    1. I would donate an arm to science to have an ALT that’s under triple digits. Trust me, 70 or 95 are nothing to worry about. The ratio of ALT to AST is far more significant, as well as total bilirubin and albumin. Consuming large amounts of saturated fat and MCT is not a problem for anyone with a healthy liver, but it is a consideration for anyone like myself who is trying to live with chronic Hep C.

  44. Thanks for your story; it’s very inspiring. Best of luck as you proceed with your new career and with your health. Be well, NG

  45. Hey Nick, awesome and inspiring. You like running, run. And for those who don’t like some folks opinions on here, quit being the forum police. He’s a big boy,(Metaphorically speaking) and they can say what they want. Right on Nick, thanks again.

    1. I think the point is that you don’t have to run 70 miles/week to live primal but you can live primal and run 70 miles/week, if that’s what makes you happy and doesn’t jeopardize your health. But I totally agree that it’s not for everyone. I don’t really think of running as exercise, it’s just something that I love to do!

  46. Awesome Nick, so excited to see,I’m avid runner also but was getting concerned with talk of chronic cardio. So do you have a little serve of carb when you finish your run then eat primal rest of day? Would love to see example of a day’s menu or some tips. I’m bit confused trying to work out what’s optimal for us runners.

    1. Dmitri, I run first thing in the morning on an empty stomach most days, not only to optimize fat burning but also because the body has limited supply of glycogen (90 minutes worth of moderate cardio depletes liver and muscle glycogen) but we all have virtually inexhaustible supply of stored body fat. Even a “skinny runt” like me, with a grand total of only seven pounds of fat on my body, could keep going for days without dipping into my essential fat stores. This comes in real handy in distance running, especially the longer distances. I try to stick to PB carbs as recommended by Mark in his book, but I always keep my glycogen stores on the low side and only take in some complex carbs right after a run. If I’m doing sprints or high-intensity anaerobic training or weight training, I always consume some slow-burning carbs along with some primal fats and protein a couple hours before. Hope this helps. Feel free to email me for more detailed info: [email protected]

  47. Bravo Nick!


    1. On the hypertension, any feel for how much of that was the booze as opposed to excess fat?

    2. “12 Step” or did you just do it?


    1. RC, giving up the booze had only a small effect on my blood pressure. It was only after my abdominal fat started to come down that my blood pressure went down enough to where now I’m completely off blood pressure meds.

      As for the drinking, I went cold turkey. Wouldn’t recommend that approach for most people though. AA is a great program but it wasn’t a good fit for my personality. Grok on, dude!

  48. What an inspirational story! Congratulations on your lifestyle change and amazing transformation! Grok on!

  49. Dont listen to anyone who puts down anything you do. ANY reversal of the SAD lifestyle is a wonderful thing. Run if you want wearing what you want. They are your feet AND ITS YOUR BODY…

    1. Thanks, Daveman! We are what we do and we look like what we do. When I was trapped inside my fat body, I used to dream about someday regaining the look of a lean mean runner. I just wasn’t sure at first if that was still possible going into the fifth decade of my life. As you can see from my pics, the jury’s no longer out on that…

  50. To the skinny phobic: His weight is perfect for a distance runner of his build.

    In my opinion, the less weight you carry around in life (without eating into muscle, of course), the easier life is. It’s all about strength to weight ratio. That’s whether you’re a runner or not. Look at some pictures of people from the 70s or earlier. Most are super skinny compared to today. But they’re not skinny. Those are natural, healthy bodies. It’s only that that they’ve come to seem unnatural to us today us today.

    1. Very true, Perry! Perceptions are relative to the time, the place and the context. We are all far too influenced by the prototypical idea of what a healthy man or woman should look like as presented by Madison Avenue and Hollywood. My pet peeve at the gym I work at is when I see young women making comments about a bodybuilder who looks “gross” or at races people will comment that this or that runner is so “skinny that it’s gross”. People are incredibly subjective and shallow when it comes to the subject of body weight. I say this a million times each to my clients, that I’m much more interested in their body composition than their weight. I have hydro tests to prove that during my last racing season, I went from 7.4% body fat to 4.6% while I actually gained 6 pounds of muscle on my “skinny” frame. My weight went up while my body fat went down!

      1. I recently watched a documentary on the 1961 Freedom Rides and the photos of the thugs who came to menace and assault the riders in Alabama were amazing. All these young men who were very small by our standards… but if you looked at them carefully, they had the muscles. They just lacked that cornfed layer of fat we’re so accustomed to. Today someone that size would be almost certainly skinny-fat and not frightening at all.

        Also… no wheat bellies on anyone.

        Btw, not admiring these guys. (They were actually the worst kind of cowards.) But it is incredible because I live in the South and I see their sons around me and they all have wheat bellies, hypertension, reddened faces, bloated arms and faces, etc. Even little boys are huge. Sometimes the dads and moms still have good maxillofacial formation but the children’s faces are starting to look pinched.

  51. Thanks so much for sharing. Amazing emotional and psychological strength, in addition to the physical transformation! Nice tip/reminder on exercising before eating too…best wishes-

  52. A completely inspiring read, thank you for taking the time to post with such honesty.

  53. Nick,

    What a great story and victory for you. Kudos man! I’m curious about your target heart rate range. Are you using the Maffetone calculation starting place of 180 bpm before age reduction or the traditional 220 bpm. What range do you shoot for in your training and races?

    1. Good question. I’ve had my VO2 max and maximum heart rate tested at a human performance lab a year ago, which is a far more accurate method than “guessing” with a calculation such as Maffetone. Just taking your age and deducting it from 220 is pretty much a useless way to figure out your target training zone because of not only individual genetically-influenced variations in max heart rate but also because, as people such as me and Mark Sisson have proven, we don’t all age at the same rate and have a lot of control over the decline of our physical capacities. That said, since my treadmill-tested max heart rate came in at 176, I try to keep my easy steady-state cardio at around 123 beats/min. My advice to anyone is to determine their max heart rate via a method such as 5 or 6 repetitions of uphill running at an all-out effort and check their pulse at the end of the final rep. That’s a far better way to determine max heart rate than using simplistic calculations such as Maffetone that give you numbers based on generalizations about the general population. Hope this helps!

  54. Great story and I love the change of career, nothing like using your own achievements to help motivate others.

    It shows you are never to kate change.

  55. Wow, wow, wow. Talking about turning your life around 180. I admire your transformation so much. You did it at such a difficult time in your life when most people get depressed and down on themselves. Way to go!

  56. What counts here is that he found a way to transform his life and his body in a way that worked for him. It won’t work for everyone, we each have to find something that works for us, our schedules, our lifestyles.

    Congrats on making the changes that you did – you should be proud.

  57. I LOVE that you succeeded by replacing your bad habits with something better. I talk to people about their bad eating habits and they say but I enjoy my Ice cream etc so much. I tell them go enjoy something else, enjoy life for pete’s sake instead of putting junk food in their mouth when they are not even hungry.

    Congratulations on your courage and success.

  58. What do we do when those fruitarians show us their “before and after” pics? They look like they have quite some muscle “after”.

  59. Nick, have you ever raced one of those “20/10/10 fruitarians” like Harley Johnstone or Michael Arnstein, and smoked them?

  60. Hi Nick. You are amazing and totally inspirational. I was really interested to read your story as I have Hep B (with a shocking reoccurence 2 years ago). I’ve just started eating coconut oil but am thinking it doesn’t agree with me. I have fat malabsorption (or bile salt malabsorption)issues which I take medication for. Thanks for the tip about the hazelnut oil. I’m so stoked to read your story and am starting my primal journey with hope for a long and healthy life ahead! x

  61. Doing chronic cardio is basically like constantly revving the engine of your car at 7000+ RPM.

  62. Tue Last Picture is fake. Look at color of the eyes. Blue? Does primal does that too? Eyes lens?

    1. Pardon my French, Tim, but you’re an idiot if you can’t tell that all those pics are the same person! Look at some of the other transformations in this section of the site and you’ll see similar dramatic changes. People often change their hairstyles and personal grooming after they’re no longer trying to hide a fat face. As for eye color, that sometimes depends on the camera and lighting, if you know anything at all about photography.

  63. The car engine analogy only applies if the cardio is done at higher than 70% max heart rate! Read PB more carefully!

  64. Hey, Nick, thanks for being a person who, I spite of addictions and age took control and got their life back! It’s inspiring!

    On the hepatitis, make your own chlorine dioxide, using MMS. That will do it.

    Good luck and Godspeed!

  65. Wow Nick you are such an inspiration! You have a marvelous message and I hope you will have the opportunity to spread it to many people. I’d love see you on a talk show that spread the news on your life transformation. It is indeed scary how ‘ normal’ it seems to eat horribly, be inactive, and get sick and de so young. I pray you will keep being a light to the world. Thank you

  66. Thanks, Alex! In the past year since my “Success Story” was first posted on Daily Apple, my evolutionary nutritional practices have evolved way beyond Mark’s recommended 80/20 compliance to more like 99/1 and I feel all the better for it. I just took over as the organizer of the NorCal Primal meetup group. Where do you live?

  67. Nick I am in Hayward, I was wondering if you do any consulting, would love to learn more about the primal blue print, I purchased the book, my big concern is that I am a Jiu-Jitus practitioner and concerned about bonking during competition or training, I hope to hear from you, as you are an athlete and have awesome results, thanks in advance…

    1. HI Ruben, I’m now working on my PhD in Nutritional Biology at UC Davis and am interested in taking on new clients. Are you still interested in my services (3 years later)?

  68. Hi, I have Hep-C also and was told to stay away from protein and fat and eat a mostly whole grain and rice diet with fruits and vegetables and legumes (in moderation) so my question to you is “If it’s hard for the liver to digest proteins and fats, how can this diet be easy on a hep-liver”?

    1. Tammy, it’s not about protein versus fat. It’s about reducing the toxic load on the liver. In the final analysis, it was Harvoni that saved my liver (and my life) last year.

  69. Hi NIck,

    I’m very close to the situation you are in. A little overweight trying to make a running comeback after about 20 years out of the sport. I just started learning about the Primal Blueprint Diet. I was wondering how many miles a week you run and if you had any specific tweaks to the PBD that were necessary for you to continue distance running effectively.

    Much like you, I just enjoy distance running and want to do it for reasons other than weight loss.


    1. Hi Cliff,

      I’m a cyclist now. Finally gave up on running. My knees and hips are shot from the high-impact nature of that sport. Feel free to read between the lines.