Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
My name is Nathan and I am born of white Australian (English/Irish) and Maori (native New Zealand) ancestry.
My story is unlike most others. I have never had any lifestyle induced diseases and have very rarely fallen sick my entire life. I am 180(ish) cms tall and my abs are more than happy to show themselves. I am a mere 71kg and I have forever been labelled “the skinny kid” despite how many chin-ups I can do. So I was the thin picture of Primal health before I began my journey in April this year. Actually I am now keeping more lean muscle mass than ever before, funny that!
I was fortunate to have a healthier than average upbringing. That is, fast food and soft drinks were a rare occurrence and my family members are non-drinkers and non-smokers. I have been almost illness free my entire life (a couple bouts of childhood asthma brought on by a cold). This would indeed irk many who had it hard; including my sister who still suffers with chronic allergies (I’m talking a gentle breeze would cause a 20-sneeze-long fit). We both had teenage acne, but who didn’t suffer a little on that front? Still pretty boring stuff.
When I discovered Karate in my late teens I transformed from a gangly teenager into a slightly less gangly young adult and my self-esteem began to build. I suffered a shoulder injury (torn rotator cuff) which still haunts me to this day and is relevant later in my story. I had a physical job, often trained 6 days a week and even did weight training on top of that. Needless to say my hunger was NEVER satisfied. My mother used to complain that I had a tapeworm because I never stopped eating (I didn’t have one, I promise!) I would eat box after box of cereal and loaf after loaf of bread. I never gained any weight at all and I was still hungry! I would have dinner and two bowls of cereal after because dinner would not suffice. Though if I ate those bowls of cereal on an empty stomach my body promptly rejected them, I figured it was the milk; I never liked milk much anyway. I am also told that us “ethnic” people don’t handle milk well (true or false?). I ate plenty of meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables and I generally followed the food pyramid (Australian standards, probably similar to America) and loaded up on the grain-based carbohydrates as much as I could. It seemed to serve me well. I figured I was happy and fit enough.
My affliction, if that’s what you would call it, was more mental. At a young age (around 8, I think) my mother was informed by my teacher that I may have depression. So I received “counselling” that I barely remember and it took me a long time to realize that I thought and felt differently than those around me. I don’t think the other kids contemplated the futility of existence.
Sure, teenage angst and a few hard-hitting family matters would have played a big part later on, but when I entered my early twenties and moved away from home things darkened more. I began drinking copiously. I retrospectively diagnose myself with alcoholism.
It began with just having fun and being young and free and ended with drinking an average of 50+ drinks a week. I was still highly functional. I ate well (if I ever ate at all), I exercised, I always made it to work, I always paid my bills, I stayed away from drugs and cigarettes but I rarely slept. I worked night shift which does strange things to a person. So I never noticed that anything was wrong while I was in the thick of it because I met all my obligations. The only thing was that I went home and relaxed with a drink or 10. This was often with friends, but often alone. It was the highlight of my existence: “two more hours and I can go home and drink and be happy again!” I developed weird sleeping disorders; doing things while asleep and seeming like I was awake. I also started forgetting things and I would forget nights and eventually weeks. Everything became less enjoyable than drinking, which was the only thing that gave me the energy and inclination to keep breathing. I ate so I wouldn’t starve, I exercised to not be weak and I slept when I absolutely had to but I received little to no satisfaction or enjoyment from any of it.
Sounds dramatic, but it’s really just honestly how it felt.
I will also add that I have an addictive personality and when I like something I tend to go way overboard. Thankfully I never had an interest in any harder substances or I would likely not be around to write this. My band of close friends and my loving partner (whom I surprisingly found while enduring this “phase”) were the ones that helped me see through this mental fog.
When I settled down with my partner in a new city, new job, new life, things were no doubt better, but the shadow still loomed.
I was no longer permanently drunk but I still felt very cold to everything. It is almost an ineffable feeling. I suppose it was just a general indifference to everything. My health was improving but my outlook was still warped. I began to revert back to the way I was before my episode which was physically well, but mentally “off”. The way I was since I was a child. I was good most days but I would sometimes have a mental spasm which would result in drinking too much and having little mental breakdowns about this or that. I was just not happy being me regardless of having every reason to be happy.
One of my friends was trying a “30 day detox” program and the diet was mostly paleo/primal. I didn’t do the detox myself but I tried some of the food and the notion of “eating yourself well” piqued my curiosity. So I wandered into a bookstore in search of cookbooks and happened across The Primal Blueprint. I devoured it in the next couple days and I went straight Grok for two weeks. Not one single dalliance. And with that I was awoken. It utterly obliterated all my preconceived notions of health, fitness, nutrition, life and happiness.
My mind fired in phenomenal ways, my energy exploded and I was resurrected as an entirely new being. My aforementioned shoulder injury that was giving me trouble felt amazing. The tightness and creakiness lessened. It still persists today but is 90% better than before and I hope to fully overcome it (it happened over 5 years ago). I had to have two wisdom teeth removed in June and I made an awesome recovery. I was back eating solids two days after with minimal pain killers the entire time. I was told many horror stories prior to the extraction but the whole ordeal hardly even affected me.
My energy levels are consistently high despite working long hours and I sleep better than ever.
I look forward to eating and even cooking like I never have before.
My outlook and demeanor have taken this unbelievable positive turn that words cannot do justice.
Though the remarkable ripple effect it has had on those around me has been what has surprised and delighted me the most. Me being me, I crammed The PB down everyone’s throats. Because I was all of a sudden so upbeat and energetic I was very eager to tell anyone who would listen and some who wouldn’t. But looking the way I always have people can be skeptical and I am met with the usual “You’re too skinny to go on a diet!” Sigh…
So armed with my newfound mental clarity and a sweet batch of Primal knowledge I set my sights on my estranged parents. We live in separate states and we only spoke for minutes on the phone a month (if that) and our laboured conversations often ended in angered hang-ups. I gave them my copy of the Blueprint and showed them the ways of Grok. That was now over a month ago and they have completely given up the daily bread. They are in their mid-50s and have had bread their entire lives. My father says that he has more energy than he has had his whole life and can do 100 push-ups while my usually inactive mother goes on bike rides and says that her stomach no longer feels bloated.
Saturday is now the day that they call me and give me the latest updates on their Primal journeys. There are even brief messages throughout the week letting me know about any small victories they just had. These are the same people that I wouldn’t talk to for weeks at a time. For me and mine the PB has gone much deeper than “just food”, it has enriched my life more than I could ever have imagined anything could and I am continuing to rebuild myself and my relationships with those around me.
My partner and I cook our own meals and I amazingly convinced her to ease off the rice a bit, which is a big ask for an Asian woman! We try to stick to the “wholefood” idea and eat organic as much as possible. It is definitely worth the price when you consider the better taste, the additional nutrition and the important ethical practices. I still eat some legumes, mostly green beans and the like as I suffer no ill effects and I eat as many green things I can get my hands on. We also cook with soy sauce because many of our meals are Asian stir fries cooked with coconut oil. Our diets easily abide by the 80/20 rule but mine is usually higher and sometimes perfect for a few days straight. Though we love to eat out now and then, I usually make the Primal-est choice I can. There is also the occasional social drink, but it is for happy reasons and usually after a couple I feel like enough is enough and I naturally limit myself with no struggle. The control I have over it now is effortless.
I have managed to coax a few push-ups out of my better half which was no mean feat. We walk a couple kilometres daily out of necessity. I do bodyweight exercise either at home or the park if I feel so inclined. I do a sprint workout maybe once or twice a month and go to the gym once a week or two. My weight workouts adhere to the basic Primal compound movements; none of this bicep curl stuff. Because of these types of movements my shoulder keeps getting better. It makes me really doubt the physiotherapy I received for it when it happened. They told me I’ll likely need surgery and suffer from it for the rest of my life. They gave me static stretches and isolated muscle exercises which I feel made it worse so I stopped doing it. It now makes so much more sense to use my shoulder in a natural movement then to twist and turn it in strange ways. I think instinctively our bodies know how to recover.
I finally feel comfortable in my shoes (which are Vibrams, of course!) and I can feel the effect I have had on those around me. Change begets change and ours began with a little Primal living. The world needs more people like Mark and the community that he has helped build. The crux of my letter being that even the smallest change, shift in consciousness or awareness of our actions can have the most profound effect on ourselves, others and the world at large.
Mark wrote a book and changed my life and that of those around me. I believe this knowledge has the power to change the world.