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Primal Living at Any Age: One Stubborn Senior’s Testimonial

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story [1] 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 [2]. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

In addition to asking about whether Primal is useful for seniors, MDA members often ask about how to get stubborn senior fathers, grandfathers, husbands, etc. to go Primal. Since I am old (71) and was fairly stubborn when I started Primal, my story may be of interest. (I am sharing what I know from personal experience, but what I have to say may still be relevant if you’re younger and/or female.)

Four years ago, I had been faithfully following most conventional health care wisdom, aside from always refusing statins. However, I had given up gluten many years before. In the past, I had done Atkins, vegetarianism, veganism and Macrobiotics. It was then that Mark spoke to my running group, which I had joined to successfully walk a half marathon. What he said made sense, but I stubbornly refused to completely give up daily white rice, white potatoes, corn tortillas, dairy, or beans. And I sure wasn’t going to fast when there was food available. But I did take some advice.

The first picture shows me later that year at a Dickens Faire, still looking like one of Scrooge’s ghosts. I had seen some health improvements, but my waist was 46 inches. (I wasn’t weighing myself because I had read in MDA forums to “throw away my scale.”) I gradually became more and more Primal. So how did that work out?

Last year, I had what may have been a transient ischemic attack (TIA). This year, I had ventricular tachycardia. I have a pacemaker/implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), hearing aids, arthritis and type 2 diabetes.

So, is this a success story or not? It is, in fact, a great success story in my opinion. After the TIA, or whatever it was, my neurology improved greatly—no more senior moments, which had been very frequent. My handwriting and printing are better than any time since perhaps 8th grade. I have a greatly improved reaction time, better coordination and balance, and I don’t bump into things anymore. It seems like my brain was just rewiring itself. I credit Primal, although I have no proof.

As for the attack of ventricular tachycardia, I had no chest pain, dizziness, nausea, etc.—just a very fast, irregular heartbeat, so I called 911. The ambulance took me to an ER, where they zapped me. There was no apparent damage. Again, I credit Primal. The cause of the attack goes back to an angina attack eleven years ago that damaged the ventricle. The docs said at that time that I had congestive heart failure. Primal is not to blame for it and no doubt has helped me live longer than statistics say I should have lived (5-10 years). I do vigorous aerobics and water aerobics. I’m not even sure I needed the pacemaker/ICD. That was mostly for the peace of mind of my family.

I also didn’t absolutely have to get hearing aids, but they let me hear birds and people with high, soft voices, like my grandson. Losing weight through Primal improved my low and mid-range hearing, which is now normal. I lost fat in my ear canals.

Although I do have some arthritis, it seems to have gotten better. It’s mainly in my feet (too many decades of them being in little coffins—i.e. shoes—to heal quickly), hands (old injuries and still too many hours at the keyboard) and neck/shoulders. I’ve tried the standard Primal suggestions, including avoiding nightshades. The latter didn’t seem to matter, and I am not giving them up permanently unless they make a big difference.

My biggest challenge now is the diabetes. My glucose was well controlled by Metformin and diet for the first seven years after being diagnosed. Earlier this year, however, it shot up; probably because of antibiotics I had to take and going too heavy on healthy fats. It was a vicious circle: as my glucose went up, I consumed fewer and fewer carbs, but more and more fat. Wrong! Both increased insulin resistance. I am still working on finding the right levels and types of fat and carbs, and getting enough exercise.

Remember that top hat in the first picture? Unless I pad the sweat band, it falls down over my eyes. The coat makes me feel like I am wearing a tent. My pants are now a loose 40 slim instead of 46 baggy. I’m hoping to reach 38 soon. Every part of my body is healthier. The second photo is me now at a steampunk event.

To me, the improvement in my mental health has been just as dramatic. I have already mentioned the neurological changes. I am self-diagnosed as having been borderline Asperger’s Syndrome most of my life before Primal. Four years ago, the thought of looking at someone’s face made me scream inside and want to run away. Now I enjoy it. I’m sure I have also been bipolar throughout my life—not just including depression, but also manic periods, which included many inappropriate actions. That seems to be gone. I credit Primal.

Ironically, after starting out so stubbornly, I now am about 95% Primal. Of course, Primal/Paleo thinking about white rice, white potatoes and legumes has changed. But I rarely eat white rice. I go easy on potatoes and often have them prepared to increase resistant starch. I only eat traditionally soaked beans, but I do eat them several times a week. I still eat (organic) corn tortillas, but only a couple about once a week instead of a couple per day. Dairy is mostly a condiment rather than one of my primary food groups. Nut butter is probably my greatest weakness. But I have replaced peanut butter with almond and cashew butters. I probably eat a bit too much of them, but it is an improvement.

If Mark had given a strict Paleo talk when I heard him speak to my running group, I would have dismissed the whole movement and not gotten all these benefits. I am only Paleo because of Mark’s real world approach. If you are trying to get an old coot like me to go Primal, don’t assume you have to get him to do it 95% correctly–not immediately or even ever. As Mark says, 80% is enough to get the benefits. Don’t keep saying, “But…but…but….” Would I be even healthier if I had gone strict Paleo four years ago? The question is meaningless. For me, it was gradual or not at all.

Do not say, “Pretty soon you will think bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, etc. are tasteless, disgusting crap.” My feelings toward all of those foods are completely unchanged. I love them, even plain, gluten-free ones. I just know I need to avoid or go easy on them. I also have a pet peeve: do not talk about cauliflower “rice” or cauliflower “mashed potatoes.” For someone like me, to whom these are comfort foods, it just sounds stupid. Even if it’s cut up to look like rice, call cauliflower what is: cauliflower (or even “riced” cauliflower). Also, try other Paleo alternative foods that strict followers don’t like.

Observe how Mark Sisson goes about promoting primal: He does so without rants, but with a sense of humor, reasonableness, and a forgiveness of human nature. Do likewise when trying to reach others about Paleo.

If you want to nab a Primal convert, catch the old non-Paleo coot when he is receptive, like when he is having his fifth cold this year (you can mention that you never get them anymore). Focus on the key tenets of primal: eliminating junk foods, sugar, seed oils and wheat. Also, remind them to get enough vitamin D and become more physically active. I have more thoughts on my website [3].

No matter what you try, failure is a possibility. But failure is certain if you nag or do a shrill strict Paleo rant.

Harry