Not Only Did I Break Past My Plateau, I Demolished It

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!

I wanted to share my Primal success story with you, and give you a huge thanks for changing my life forever. Here goes…

When I was in high school I was way too skinny, but man did I have some energy. I could run a few miles playing games, ride my bike around the neighborhood up steep hills, roller blade for an hour, play a basketball game, and climb a tree or two before I’d call it a day. I was a machine. I weighed a nice 120 lbs soaking wet standing at 5′ 10″. The doctors always told my mom I was underweight.

During this time my nutrition was awful. I’d routinely eat Chips Ahoy! cookies for breakfast, tons of sugary cereals and snacks, and tons of soda. Despite this disaster of a diet I was extremely active and always skinny, so no one, including myself, was concerned about my nutrition. All was not entirely well though. I had some blood sugar issues. If I didn’t eat every few hours I’d crash hard and in a couple rare occurrences even passed out from the blood sugar drops. I was not diagnosed as anemic, just too skinny, so why not eat some more cookies?

I continued this way through college, but I eventually moved out on my own, got a job as a software engineer and got sedentary. This is when all hell broke loose. No longer did I do any form of exercise unless you count the twitching my fingers did over the keyboard. No longer did I have my parents cooking meals for me, so my diet got even worse. It was bagels and donuts for breakfast, McDonald’s for lunch, and some boxed stove-top meal for dinner. Over 2 years I steadily put on weight at the rate of about 2 lbs a month. I did not have any concerns over this because of how skinny I was. In fact, it was nice to not look so skinny anymore.

How I was not completely sick from my poor diet is still beyond me, but things started to happen that I didn’t like. I started getting pretty severe GERD. I’d wake up multiple times throughout the night and have to eat a bunch of anti-acids to try to get it to stop. A couple of times it got really bad and kept me up all night. Additionally, I was out of shape like never before. The day I decided I needed to make a change was when I realized my heart rate was through the roof from just squatting down to tie my shoe one morning. I weighed myself and found out that my once 120 lb self was now a whopping 187 lbs.

No big deal I thought. I’ll just exercise it all off like the old days. I’ll run and bike a lot and still eat the foods I love and lose weight like a mad man. Easy! I tried to jog a mile the next day, made it about 1/4 mile and had to walk the rest of the way. It took me three weeks to build back up to a full mile. I stayed pretty active for a couple of months which made me more hungry, so I ate more. I made no progress.

No big deal I thought. I just have to do more. I started doing the P90x program, which made me REALLY hungry…so I ate even more. I got stronger, saw some minor results but nothing major and eventually got fed up and decided maybe I should try this whole “diet” thing. I started eating oatmeal, egg whites, boneless skinless chicken breast, and broccoli. The diet was so bland that I lasted 1 week before I couldn’t take it. I tried all kinds of different low-fat foods after that and just really didn’t like any of it, I couldn’t stick with a diet to save my life.

While at a software development conference I overheard someone talking about Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Body. I decided to check it out and give it a try. I started eating a ton of chili and mexican food, with LOTS of beans. This was the first time I started to see some progress. I lost about 15 lbs. Eventually I stopped seeing progress and started to not feel that great. The “encouraged” binge days and large quantities of legumes left me feeling deprived during the week. I still had GERD issues and some digestion problems started to develop, probably from the beans.

A colleague of mine stumbled across The Primal Blueprint a couple months later and told me that I HAD to check it out. I picked it up on Amazon and read it from cover to cover in like a day, not because I wanted to lose weight that badly, but because the science behind this stuff got me geeked up (easily happens to a computer programmer). Without a ton of thought or effort I transitioned into it by dropping the beans and starting to eat steaks, bacon and eggs, and other stuff I was afraid to eat. I started liberally using grassfed butter all over my veggies. For the first time ever I was enjoying what I was eating. Not only did I break past my plateau, I demolished it. I started losing between 2-5 lbs a week effortlessly, and I was probably only complying with the protocol about 80-85%, sneaking some ice cream and dark chocolate in there from time to time. My GERD symptoms have completely disappeared, and so have my blood sugar issues. Also, I can fast for 24 hours effortlessly without any crashes.

I’ve been sticking with this lifestyle for about a year now and have ultimately landed at about 10% body fat, 145 lbs. I have tons of energy, I enjoy my food, I lift weights a couple times a week and go for walks during lunch at work. That is it, it’s that simple.

Thank you for all you do and for helping me achieve this. You and Robb Wolf are my idols. I’ve attached a before after photo of the weight loss.


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64 thoughts on “Not Only Did I Break Past My Plateau, I Demolished It”

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  1. Congratulations! You not only broke a plateau, you turned back the hands of time and look much younger.

  2. “…read it from cover to cover in like a day.” Wow. You *were* keen, Lee. 🙂

    Great job on the weight loss. I love how you are sooooo relaxed about it, like horizontal. Way. To. Go!

  3. Congratulations, you look really happy and energetic. I hope to get their one day.
    I also read 4hr body and tried it but the binge day and all those beans didn’t go over well. I actually found out about paleo from their forums.

  4. What most strikes me from the before and after pics is your skin! Now it glows, it has color, you look radiant.

  5. What an inspirational story at a time when many people need it!

    What we need, too, is for someone to step forward to describe how to get/stay motivated to make the effort to get back to good health and right weight. People are wrapped up in their problems and this one is too big for some to face and take action steps all by themselves. They need somseone to believe in them, handhold, and encourage, much like we see on TV. And even WITH the coaching, some of the ones we see on TV find it hard to get past themselves, don’t they?

    Health/weight-loss coaches who feel they can work for various rates, so as to satisfy all income levels, who love people and love to help them, must be highly in demand right now.

    1. I think, when you get to the core of it, all that really matters is the space you are inhabiting in your head. You’ll make the changes if you want what you’ll get more than what you have. And you’ll make it work if you are fed up enough.

      There is nothing more to it than you and your decision and, from that point on, the decision to not change your mind.

      The one thing that feels different this time is the letter I wrote to myself. I needed a way to communicate to the future me, in case I came to a point that put that put my decision in peril. In this letter, I wrote what it’s like to be at the weight I started at, physically, mentally, emotionally. I put in the anger and frustration at my whole situation. In this letter I begged the me of today and later to never, ever go back there again. I wrote in the letter that I cared about what happened to me a great deal, and I wanted this life to be a rich, full one (this is referring to several areas in my life, weight is really just a starting point). I wrote that there was not a doubt in my mind that I was capable of being successful. Expressing a little love for yourself can make all the difference in the world.

      I’m twelve weeks in 23 pounds down and 31 inches smaller. And I’m still as devoted to this cause as I was at day one.

      1. Absolutely – your “head space” is the most important thing.

        Years ago I was a user of an illicit drug that was doing me absolutely no favors – but it “gave” me the energy to overcome my crappy diet and lifestyle. (of course it wasn’t “giving” me anything, it was borrowing from the future with ruinous interest.)

        I kept telling myself I “should” stop using it. Of course that was true but “should” is not a very effective word. But one day, I woke up and Decided (with a capital D) that I was done. Of course there were temptations but once that Decision was made, it really was over. Never had an issue with it again.

        Similar to my diet. The story above could have been mine – a very skinny but very active teenager/20something with a horrible diet, became an extremely immobile computer programmer. I waited a lot longer, until my 50s, but then Paleo was unknown to me decades ago, and I couldn’t get my head around Atkins. For years I said I “should” do something about my spare tire – I was never “fat” in the fullest sense but had *way* too much abdominal fat. Again, “should” means nothing. I finally Decided to eat right, and have been happier, skinnier, and healthier since that day.

  6. Congratulations Lee,
    I like PBP.
    I used to search and research on a diet plan reading fitness magazines and articles every where, That is all changed now.PBP is all we need.

    1. I hear you. Myself, I researched a lot of stuff and followed the Zone diet for around 8 years and was a great advocate for it. Boy was I wrong. I was eating way too many carbs and wondered how my bodyfat remained so high.

      PBP got my bodyfat to 10% from 18% in a couple of months, and beyond the dietary guidelines, all of the blueprint principles make sense and have made a tremendous difference.

    1. That is the article that got me started! Gotta give Tim credit ’cause it changed my life.

  7. Congratulations on your new health and happiness! You look fantastic. 🙂

  8. Very similar to story to me. I thoroughly enjoy the cropped fist punching through the divide and what appears to be a female torso.

  9. Congratulations!! Isn’t it liberating to eat stuff that you were afraid to eat coz ppl said they were bad? lol I am so happy to be able to eat bacon and pork belly constantly coz ‘I”M BORN” loving eating that stuff, but always felt guilty about it. Not anymore!

  10. Awesome job! Glad you’re throwing in some 24 hour fasts. IFing has helped my weight loss considerably.

    Again, great story and great job. Keep it up.

  11. You look 10 years younger on the right! Your eyes have so much more vibrancy and energy also!!

  12. wow congrats! I would love to get to 145. I am a girl, same height 5’10” I have gone from 178 lbs to my current 160 on Primal. I just hope to get to 155lbs. 🙂 and then we’ll see…

  13. So simple and straightforward. You really do look younger and much healthier! Great job, Lee.

  14. Congrats Lee! 😀 So glad you came around to learning real nutrition as well as losing some weight.

    Can I just say, and im curious if anyone else agrees with me on this, that I think Tim Ferris is an absolute tool. For multiple reasons, really, but my first inkling was when I was reading the 4 Hour Body stuff (after already discovering primal) and saw that he was recommending stuff without really encouraging understanding the science behind it, or encouraging one to really learn about nutrition or listen to their own body. His tone seems to be, “Doing this exact thing worked for me so it must work for you!” Uh, probably not.

    1. First. Congratulations Lee on your success. My discovery of the Primal Blueprint is a similar story to yours. Skinny with GERD, carb junky, 4HB then PB.

      Second. I don’t know that I’d say Ferris is an absolute tool. There’s some useful info in the 4Hour Body and like Lee I started with it before finding the Primal Blueprint. The 4HB diet and lifting protocol do work and will help you drop weight. I just don’t feel that the diet is lifetime solution like Primal/Paleo.

      1. Ferris’s information is very useful and is ultimately not far from the primal/paleo way of eating if you drop the beans. Check out Robb Wolf’s podcast, they had Tim on to talk about this.

    2. Tim Ferriss is a great start for anybody looking to get into shape. I see it as a stepping stone. He is a marketer and the way he explains(advertises) his protocols are perfect for somebody with a little motivation. PB needs some prerequisite nutrion mindset otherwise it’s overwhelming and you’ll second guess yourself.

  15. Great work, Lee. Funny, I have a story very similar to yours…right down to the GERD, computer programmer and P90X. Keep on Grok’in, man.

  16. As you know, neither end of the weight spectrum is healthy. I am happy to see you found your personal perfect place. You look so calm and relaxed in your ‘after’ picture. No smile through the fatigue like in the first. Congratulations! I am going to show this story to my 6′, 130lb son (16) who thinks he is fine living off of sweets/carbs because he is skinny. 🙂

    1. Thanks Pam! 130lbs is pretty skinny for 6′. More steak, bacon, and lifting heavy things!

  17. I wish you had talked more about a plateau, since you mentioned it in your title. I’m stuck on the plateau right now despite fasting.

    Still, good work and keep it up.

    1. The plateau I was speaking of was when I was doing 4hr body. Despite following the protocol very closely I just eventually stopped losing fat, stalled at about 165 lbs. In my opinion it was because I still had some insulin sensitivity issues and the legumes/binge days were counter productive to optimal fat burning. Switching to primal resulted in me upping my fat and protein intake and dropping my carbs to about 50g a day kept me satiated longer and likely reduced my calorie count even further. I stopped snacking on nuts and fruit and just ate larger, fattier meals. I hope this helps! Sorry I did not talk more about the plateau, Mark picks the titles out of the content of the story.

  18. “For the first time ever I was enjoying what I was eating”…this is how I feel too! Thanks for sharing your story.

  19. Lee, great job. I was a skinny rascal like you were for 45 years and felt horrible while eating all the carb garbage. Now at 56 I’m 5’9″ and 160 with energy flyng off the charts. A lean, muscular, mean (but still nice), fat-burnin’ machine. Keep up the great work.

  20. Look what you did in a year!!! Congratulations, Lee, and thank you for telling your story. 🙂

  21. Lee, congrats on a great story. But I also want to high 5 everyone who commented here. So great to see so much genuinely supportive feedback. Not a snide remark in sight. Maybe that’s because you’re all so well nourished? 🙂

    1. I completely agree, Martin. I love these Friday stories, but to tell you the truth they’re the only posts I ever click through my reader onto the MDA site itself, and I do so specifically to read the comments. I think these Friday writers are brave to put themselves, their stories, and their bodies out there in such a vulnerable way. And the commenters are always so supportive and positive! It only make a good thing better. Grok on, everyone!

    2. Great comment, Martin. That’s one of the biggest reason’s I enjoy reading the comments section on a daily basis. Have a great weekend, everyone.

  22. The first thing I noticed is how amazing your skin is looking in your “after” picture, too! Thanks for sharing your story! It sounds like you are feeling amazing and you look great!

  23. Congratulations Lee,
    GERD was one of the huge issues that disappeared for me, and is one of the reasons I will never go back. I cringe when I see the ads for all the remedies on tv when the answer is so simple yet so difficult for some. I have a skinny 6′ 5″ son who needs to read this, thank you for sharing your story.

  24. Hi Lee congratulations you have a lot of merit, we all see many people exposed to these principles and they do not act upon them. You are a good example for many IT guys (hunched back clicking at keyboards eating garbage)

    correction: good example for everybody, not just IT guys

  25. what a transformation, that guy on the left looks pale, weak, tired and on his way to a heart attack. The guy on the left looks like he just hiked before breakfast, and could live til he’s 100. Yay primal!

  26. I love to see dark circles under the eyes disappear. I know so many people with those. You look great, really healthy and happy. Bravo man.
    : )

  27. You look younger and generally awesomer, but…this is gonna sound odd, but you look in After like you have ethnically-defined features. Like, like you look interesting, like you’re *from somewhere,* and I guess not just “I are a consumer who blends in with the background.”

  28. Just wondering? Where was mom and dad in all of this? I am a mother of an 11 year old boy and a 6 year old girl and we don’t eat grains, watch our sugars, avoid fast food, eat lots of veggies, and work out regularly. We eat tons of taboo food such as bacon, steak, butter, etc. I am hoping to help my son and daughter to avoid making so many mistakes. Teach your children, people! I am thankful I got the right nutritional info (not from the gov) and can teach my children!

    1. Hey Lisa,

      I actually had fantastic parents and like I said the diet was worse when I moved out on my own. When I was living with my parents, my mother would cook pretty heathy main meals consisting mostly of a hunk of meat, some veggies, and some potatoes but I was also generally allowed to eat additional sugary stuff between meals because I was very active, too skinny, and was generally in pretty good shape and didn’t have any serious health issues. I did not see significant weight gain or health issues crop up until I moved out of my parents house.

      We as a family were not educated on the health effects of grains and the effects of high carb consumption and the like. I have since shared the information I have learned through Mark’s and Robb Wolf’s books with everyone that I can including my family.

  29. Congrats Lee! You look so radient and you have a beautiful smile. 😀

  30. I love seeing the glow in your skin and how much healthier you look. A little pasty in the before and full of healthy glow in the after. Maybe you would loan your copy of Primal Blueprint to the guy standing behind you in the before pic. I’ll guess he would love to have that same after-glow!

  31. Wonderful Lee. You look so much more relaxed in the second pic. My key takeaways from your post are:

    “because the science behind this stuff got me geeked up (easily happens to a computer programmer).” yep, we programmers do that sometimes…

    “For the first time ever I was enjoying what I was eating.”
    I too love the fact that I am still eating ‘clean’ for weight maintenance and still there is so much space to experiment with tasty combinations.

    PS. Regards 4HB, I like that Tim Ferris has an amazing, well-researched book but bear in mind he has worked on his optimal body health for more than 10 years. I would posit he is a fat burning beast – so a short stint in carbland once a week would not be a disruptor. My personal problem is insulin resistance which is being addressed by a ketogenic diet for the moment.

    My other issue was with all the people asking on the 4BH forums: “So, Tim, how long does the binge actually last. Is it really, like, 24 hours: 12pm-12am???” Or: “I did my binge before I started the diet will I still lose the weight at the end of the week?”
    Total misread of the protocols to my mind…

  32. In a purely plutonic non-sexual kinda way, between bros…… damn you look good man.

  33. I understand this primal thought.. but I just can’t wrap my head around eating steaks, bacon, and eggs all the time and being a truly healthy person. Animal meat and fat is just not that great for our bodies.

    Pardon me. I should prob go back to reading more on this site.