Not Too Shabby for a Person Who Qualifies for Social Security

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!

real_life_stories_stories-1-2My food consumption was pretty typical for an American of my generation (I was born in 1951). I ate what I thought was a reasonably good diet according to conventional wisdom, however my weight gradually increased over the years after age 30. As I got older, I developed high blood pressure (BP) and my blood biochemistry became problematic. I worked a high stress job for many years as a Navy lawyer and, after I retired from the Navy, as a corporate regulatory lawyer.

I had a real health scare early in 2005 brought on by work-related stress and an underlying condition in my brain. I spent five miserable days in the ICU. Statistically, I could have died but I had no lasting impacts other than a lifetime prescription to take BP medicines. When my internal medicine specialist told me to find a general practitioner to take over my care in 2006, he said I needed to “eat better and get more exercise.” Needless to say, that didn’t help much.

I got a fair amount of exercise, although sometimes that took a back seat to my demanding work schedule. I ate food based on what I had absorbed from the culture that was, unfortunately, a jumble of conflicting information (not all of it sound). And I really liked salty snacks. I had always been athletic so my weight was not a major problem, although it continued to go up slowly after I retired from the Navy at age 41. My heaviest point was around 200 pounds, as shown in the 2008 picture below taken during a cruise to the Mediterranean. I am just under 6 feet tall, so I was a bit overweight by conventional standards.

Early in 2013 I started to look into the connection between diet, exercise and wellness because my standard cardio workouts on the elliptical had only lowered my weight from 200 to 193 and my blood biochemistry was not what I wanted. I was taking 4 BP meds per day and wanted to find a better way. I read everything I could lay my hands on and became convinced that Paleo was a good way to go. It just made sense to pattern my food intake in a way driven by my genes and not by marketing. I decided to make significant changes to my nutrition starting August 1st, 2013. I went with a Paleo approach initially but was concerned about the rigidity of Paleo and whether I could stick with it. I was highly motivated to make changes but wondered how long I could stay away from certain off-limits foods. Also, I did not like the concept of “cheats”—it just rubbed me the wrong way. Another concern was that Paleo would be too boring. I found some good Paleo cookbooks that addressed this concern. The cookbooks gave me and my family lots of good ideas for tasty meals.

I found The Primal Blueprint two weeks into my Paleo experiment and read it cover to cover very quickly. I liked Mark’s 80/20 rule and the idea that Primal is not about perfection but about enjoying life, being flexible and getting healthier. Being a probable Type A personality, I had already subjected my body to a lot of stress over the years and did not want to repeat that mistake. Based on Mark’s book and the information on MDA I modified my nutrition to the more flexible Primal way. It was and is a better fit for me.

I started losing weight very quickly in the first few weeks. That tapered off after about two months but continued on a nice glide path over the next four months. At six months my weight stabilized at 168 pounds—the same as when I graduated from college 41 years ago!

I feel I have probably added 5-8 pounds of muscle doing Primal “lift heavy things” workouts, so that is a total of 30+ pounds of useless fat gone. I like being able to see the blood vessels on my arms again. I have added my own flourishes to Mark’s approach and really enjoy working out now (cardio was becoming a drag). I throw in some sprint work on the elliptical from time to time but not the old boring cardio stuff that drained my energy. When I started my strength workouts I had trouble doing one pull-up. Now I can do 10. I can also do 50 push-ups. Not too shabby for a person who qualifies for Social Security.

Ed before and After Primal

One of my prime goals was to shed the slab of fat around my belly button. Right away my waist began to noticeably shrink. I liked that and was very motivated to stay the course. I even amused my wife with periodic gut checks. My waist went from 39 or so down to 32 over 9 months. A totally unexpected positive thing happened: my hair got darker! There was one “downside”—I had to get my pants taken in because they no longer fit.

My problematic blood profile improved dramatically in just 6 weeks to the amazement of my healthcare professional. She wanted to know how I did it and I told her about MDA and Mark’s book. I only take two BP meds per day now and hope to wean off them someday. My current triglyceride to HDL ratio is 0.93 points down from its dangerous level just two years ago.

I think the Primal way is the best and I will stay with it for the rest of my life. Some of my family members and friends have also gotten good results from eating real, whole food and skipping the processed stuff.

I want to go to PrimalCon someday and compare six-packs with Mark! Just kidding (about comparing)!


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51 thoughts on “Not Too Shabby for a Person Who Qualifies for Social Security”

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  1. Ed, you look terrific! My husband and I are about your age and we’re both doing really well with Primal too. Looks like the second picture is in Arizona?

    1. Yes. We live in Scottsdale. Thank goodness summer is over now and it is cooling off.

      1. Thought so, we lived in Scottsdale too several years ago, off Pima and Sweetwater. Loved it. Your new health fits the lifestyle there! Keep up the healthy life 🙂

  2. Ed– as someone who is a year older and has been primal going on two years–let me congratulate you!

    I am approaching my goal of 165 quickly– but I too have added some muscle. mark’s ideas and this community are not only great motivators– they are the best way to get healthy and stay in shape!

    Glad you realize age is irrelevant– I thank this lifestyle and God for being able to go all day and play, workout, and do any activity–then get up each morning with no pains!

    Thanks for your inspiration!

  3. Ed, you are unrecognizable from your first picture. Your face shape has completely changed. You look great! (I know that’s not the point, but it doesn’t hurt to hear it) Congratulations!

  4. Thanks for sharing your story Ed. Both my mom (age 80) and I (age 58) have had our hair get darker from going Primal (mom) / Paleo (me).

  5. Hi Ed,

    Hair darker…. VERY good sign. Better mineralization! (which can be measured).

    Mine has gotten darker as well. Also, I have hair growing where I never had it before like on my legs.

    So like you, it seems to be working :). So I keep doing it 🙂 :).


    1. Hmmmm. I just had a young lady at the gym ask me if I got my hair colored. There just might be more to this Primal thing than just less fat and more muscles!

      Congrats, Ed. Love these stories from fellow old guys.

  6. Sounds so much like my own story. Keep up the fine play. 50 pushups and 10 pullups can make the young whippersnappers envious!

  7. Way to go Ed! That’s a wonderful result from the blood work to the weight to the darker hair (hey, I want that). I too feel better and would recommend this way of eating to anyone.

  8. Great story.

    But I wonder how long doctors and dieticians will be ‘amazed’ that so many people turn everything around when they do the opposite of the standard diet and exercise advice.

    I mean are they all brain dead that they can’t see patient after patient after patient after patient suffering mightily following conventional wisdom? So why is that?

    Shouldn’t that get their neurons firing a little bit? And is it really that hard with the Internet to come upon Paleo/Primal/Low Carb/Ancestral Eating?

    Sorry but I had to vent and nothing to do with your wonderful story.

    I just feel that most doctors and dieticians have left their brains and common sense in whatever school they went to, or they never had much to begin with. It isn’t that hard to connect the dots with a little bit of common sense.

    1. I completely agree with you. A friend has just finished chemo for pancreatic cancer, she had the Whipple procedure back in March. She’s under oncologist, trials nurse and dietician. No sensible dietary advice, and can I get her to listen … hey ho.

      Great story Ed, if only the medics would add two and two and finally make 4!

        1. There is nothing wrong with common core math. It is a way of teaching children to do math in their heads.

          Once I figured it out with my second grader, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. And to think that I was 43 before I was able to do math like that in my head. And I’m an engineer!

          All my Asian friends have been doing that kind of math in their heads forever.

    2. Larry, I hear you and have another thought. Doctor diagnoses you with a problem. The stats they have for survival and prognosis are based on patients following conventional wisdom. So when the patients go downhill, the doctor is not surprised. After all it’s what they expected. It’s what the books say.

      What DOES surprise them is when you buck the odds, by doing something different.

      1. That is so true. The conventional path of gaining weight every year while losing muscle and becoming more frail is what most doctors expect. They assume a slowing metabolism, increased BP, and the body in an accelerating degrading state until death, and in most cases that is exactly what they see.

    3. Cognitive dissonance abounds. And I hate to say it, but for a lot of people, a little formal education = a closed mind.

      1. I second that and add to the equation: Formal education * dogma = closed mind

  9. Great job, very inspiring! It’s a terrific feeling to be at retirement age and physically improving by leaps and bounds, rolling back the body clock!

    I’m on the same page as you, turning 60 this week and actually looking forward to it. My goal was to get myself together by that milestone and I have largely accomplished it. I had pretty much stalled for a year but the final adjustments for me that resulted in very rapid progress in just the last month were getting a personal strength trainer to direct 3 sessions a week, complex carb loading/cycling after heavy workouts and limiting alcohol to a few glasses of wine on weekends. Sprints on my bike 3 times a week and easy yoga on the rest days. I haven’t felt this solid in years, more muscle than I ever had at any age, body fat at 15% and still going lower. I now feel like I am ready for anything in contrast to two years ago when I felt like I was on a depressing path of irreversible decline.

    The trainer has been very beneficial in teaching me body weight, resistance band and simple free weight exercises that are working all the core muscles as well as the more obvious ones. I was doing pushups, planks, squats, pullups etc before but this is a more balanced approach that I highly recommend for those who have no experience of strength training.

  10. Congratulations, Ed! You look great! I wish I had to the nerve to send your story to my 44 year old friends who are on BP meds. But, they don’t want to hear it. Maybe I’ll send it anyway even if they do get annoyed. Hopefully, your story will inspire others treading a similar path to poor health to take a new path to good health!

    1. You’ve tried, they’re not interested for what ever reason.

      Sending them stuff will just push them away further. Just eat your own way and be healthy.

  11. Great Job! I’m looking forward to also seeing these types of successes as you’ve named. I’m 23 days into the Primal lifestyle and really enjoying it. I have a cholesterol test scheduled in 6 weeks, when I get my Thyroid level tested again. (the doc is trying to determine my level – since on tuesday I was told my med dosage is too high). Anyway – looking forward to hearing that my chol is improved, and I wouldn’t mind if my thyroid meds keep needing to be lowered too. 🙂

    It’s a good lifestyle – the feeling of not having so much processed food and chemicals in our systems – the feeling that we’re healthier now. I used to have a really poor immune system – winter every year would mean, cold weather and an immediate head cold that wouldn’t stop. I don’t feel that this will happen to me, this year. I feel so much stronger, mentally and physically.

    thank goodness for Mark and this website. 🙂

  12. You’re right about an enhanced immune system. It’s spring in the Southern Hemisphere now, and we’re out of the colds and flu season. I used to get laid up with colds every winter, regular as clockwork, but this winter it was different. I had a 24 hour cold in June and I say 24 hours because that’s how long it took to shake it.
    I did get one of a more virulent strain about six weeks later, but I shook it in under a week. Previously it would have taken a week and then some.

  13. Bravo! I just turned 72, have been Primal for about 3 years, off BP meds and don’t take anything but supplements, and have lost 40+ lbs. I still have arthritic knees but hey…all things being equal, I’ll take ’em. I’m sold too!

    1. Hi Cathy
      I am not 72, but 62, but I had bad knees (which I attribute to long distance running in the past). Self physical therapy can do wonders for your knees, it takes some experimenting to see which one gives you the best results. Foam roller every day (get the rumble roller). You can improve a lot with just some dedication

  14. well, I had a 2 month bronchitis this spring, before I was pushed to going to the doctor for an inhaler – hate taking meds and Hate going to doctors… now I’m going the Primal Path, I’m hoping that those long holding coughing sagas will be a thing of the past.

  15. VERY INSPIRING – thanks for posting this!
    Congratulations from another in the 60’s (born in 52)

  16. Great story, your face does indeed look quite different in the second photo. I agress with the comments about the medical profession – seems they are slow to put the evidence together and see that their way of eating is just increasing the drug companies income, and not benefiting the patients! (or to be cynical – is that WHY they don’t change?).

    Anyhoo – I too have much better immunity since changing my diet. I did get a rotten lingering cold this past winter (is Australia) but there were stress factors in my life that caused me to get run down generally. But nearly 3 years in, and it’s the first illness of any consequence I have had. And I didn’t get the cough that hung around for the others who got the same bug.

    Hope you can get off those last couple of meds in the future, keep up the great work 🙂

  17. “It just made sense to pattern my food intake in a way driven by my genes and not by marketing.”

    Yup. That’s finally kicking in. I’m on a Whole30 now (today is day 11 — I’ve broken my own poor records) and after I’ve completed that I’m going to focus on the Mark’s plan/philosophy etc.

    You look like a different man!

    I’m a little concerned about that darker hair thing. It’s taken me 57 years to get this mop to a color I can stand (white). Let’s not take me back to mousy brown!

  18. Stress is a killer.

    I always wonder how experienced qualified healthcare professionals and doctors think when they see people turn their lives around and say they did it doing, sometimes, the opposite of what everyone else is saying. I have a feeling they don’t believe people. After all people lie a lot. Tipping point.

    1. Good point. The change was dramatic and has lasted. They may think I’m making it up about how it happened but the numbers don’t lie.

  19. Great post Ed, it’s great to see another success story from the 60+ crowd! I’m 62 and have had similar great success in improving my health. I’ve been first Paleo then Primal now for over 2 years. I really believe adapting this diet and lifestyle has it’s biggest impact on those over 50. Keep it up you look great!

  20. 10 Pullups! Not too shabby for anyone at any age! I get what you say about “cheats” and the word and the idea–rubs me the wrong way, too. Sort of like, if you choose to have something off-the-ideal, it’s just a choice, not a dirty childish trick. 🙂

    Thank you for stepping up and sharing your own experience and success!

  21. Sweet work Ed!

    I just watched a Tedx talk on youtube… Charles Eugster (93 year old competitive oarsman and body builder). 93 and ripped and wanting to look good for the young, hot 70 year olds!!

    Keep on Inspiring!!

    1. I just watched it and loved his energy. I have been primal since since 05/12 and love how I look n feel @ 52….So I look forward to reading people’s success stories for continued motivational support…

  22. Bravo-Zulu sir, great work!!
    Always great to hear the older crowd chiming in (this coming from someone who will be 58 the end of the month-LOL).

    Carry on!

  23. Congrats on the great success, Ed. I’m also a lawyer in Phoenix and am starting my own path to wellness. Maybe it’s something about lawyer’s jobs that makes us prone to high blood pressure, etc. Thanks for the motivation to keep going!

  24. Congratulations Ed! Looking forward to being able to do 50 pushups and even one pull up myself 🙂 I just started my lift heavy things 4 weeks ago. (I am a 38 year old mother of three).

    The day before yesterday I traveled by train for 5 hours, me and the girls. I managed to do my program there on the train! (We have a small play ground for kids on board our trains here in Finland). But I did have a (sitting) audience of 30 adults 😉 That was fun.

    1. Great story. Love it that primal is going global. I visited Helsinki a few summers ago. Visited the church in the rocks. A young man was practicing on the piano as the sun streamed through the windows. Very beautiful. Also loved the art deco train station.

  25. Nice job Ed,

    For those who want to try the paleo with an easy start, you can be paleo for breakfast and lunch and cheat for dinner…it’s gradual and very easy to do…????

  26. Thanks Ed, great story! We too live here in Phx. My husband is a USNA grad, just 2 years younger than you. His story is similar with the health scare, same pills & dead-end advice given by regular docs. Food & lifestyle changes are turning his tide. We did Whole 30 7 mos ago, he is working with a trainer, & is slowly shifting to understand the lifestyle benefits of paleo/primal. I’m excited to share your story with him!