Primal Tremendously Changed My Life and the Lives of Those Around Me

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-1-2I have to start by thanking Mark Sisson for everything he has done for my life, my family’s life, and the lives of my clients. In the last three years, Mark has immensely influenced my life and my career.

I completed the Primal Blueprint Expert Certification course when it first came out. Among the several fitness and nutrition certifications I carry, I value this one the most. I have written Mark several times. and he has responded on more than one occasion. I imagine the email traffic he gets is enormous, so this means a lot to me. I have read and enjoyed his work and the work of others in this community (Good Calories, Bad Calories, It Starts with Food, The Paleo Prescription, and more). I make jokes with my wife that Mark should hire me or give me a cut because we use his products, I refer many of my clients to his website, and I have started a successful weight-loss group at the gym I work at using primal principles. (I am not joking Mark, let’s talk!)

Thank you very much, Mark. It truly has been life changing bringing The Primal Blueprint into my life. Here is my story…

The most obvious place to start my story would be when I entered the fitness industry 12 years ago. I have worked as a personal trainer, a supervisor, and am now the fitness director of a studio in Saint Paul, Minnesota. My bachelor’s degree is in exercise science. I have my master’s in public health. I am a certified personal trainer and a corrective exercise specialist. I write this not as a means to showboat, but to demonstrate how much The Primal Blueprint has challenged my beliefs; especially in the realms of nutrition, fitness, and recovery from workouts.

Furthermore, it is important to note that I have not thrown out everything I learned up until the Primal Certification. Instead, I have what I consider to be a beautifully meshed education that combines the benefits of traditional exercise science, with the groundbreaking stuff Mark and many others have brought forth. The result of combining my educational background with The Primal Blueprint, makes me an excellent trainer and fitness director (not to mention, husband and father). I think anyone can use The Primal Blueprint and apply it to their life. However, I think my background has allowed me to create an environment where I’m able to provide excellent service to my clients and they can then create a foundation of their own. I believe I am providing myself, my family, and my clients with an incredibly strong foundation of health and well-being.

Additionally, not everyone I work with wants to go all in with what I share with them. Rather then get caught up in the details, I focus on where we can make changes. I have some clients who will never give up bread, but they eat less of it and on the days they workout. I have some clients who will never workout barefoot, but take their shoes off when they get home. The important thing is that I attempt to meet anyone wherever they are at and celebrate the successes they make. I have one client who will remain a vegetarian forever, no matter how much we debate. But at the same time, she is now eating full-fat Greek yogurt instead of non-fat; this is a huge success.

A little more about me…

I have always been a pretty fit and active guy. I have never struggled with my weight from a physical standpoint. My primal story is not a dramatic weight loss story, but it is truly life changing. I found Primal/Paleo eating through the help of an amazing Naturopath.

After suffering from migraines for a few years, I sought help that was considered unconventional. Larry, my naturopath was amazing. He taught me how the PB&J I was having for breakfast had way too much sugar, how grains can cause problems, how fat needed to be my friend, and so much more. Mind you, I already had two nutrition certifications (three now counting the Primal cert) and a bachelors in exercise science. I was certain I knew how to eat healthy. After working with Larry, I started searching the web and found Mark’s Daily Apple and got the book. It blew my mind and now here I am, full-on Grok. I consider myself very knowledgeable on the Primal principles while continually learning more.

Now I am proud to present a comprehensive, yet not fully complete, list of the things Primal eating and the lifestyle have helped me with:

  • Biggest benefit I no longer get migraines!
    • If I do, which is rare, I can pinpoint it to too much sugar and/or gluten. I also do not eat a ton of dairy, but in moderation, I seem to tolerate it. Limiting my caffeine intake has also helped immensely. No drug or doctor could help with my migraines. Changing my diet did! Learning to relax did!
  • I no longer need to eat every 2-3 hours (Ask my lovely wife what a difference this has made, can you say “Hangry” when not fed enough calories).
    • I generally eat 2-3 times a day now (with minimal snacking), and about 3 days a week I do not eat my first meal until after 12:00 pm.
  • I no longer have PB&Js for breakfast, salads without dressing for lunch, and a low-fat high carb dinner.
    • My “go to’s” are as follows: Eggs for breakfast with some fresh berries, salad with olive oil and protein for lunch, and steak or hamburger with multiple vegetables for dinner.
  • I am no longer afraid of fat. Not only am I no longer scared, I embrace it.
    • I do not need to elaborate much as many MDA readers have been there. For longer than I care to mention, I had virtually no fat in my diet. I wanted to maintain my 6-pack abs!
    • Now I cook with butter, eat bacon on the weekends, and realize if I am still hungry after a meal, half an avocado or a handful of olives are exactly what I need. The mind-blowing thing is I still have 6-pack abs!
  • I no longer count calories or worry about portion sizes. I just try to eat until I am full with great primal foods. Not worrying about times of day and macros in my food has created a lot of mental space for me.
  • I no longer workout 6-7 days a week, for 60-120 minutes a day.
    • My old workout patterns looked something like this:
      • Isolated weights 4-5 days a week
      • 60 minute cardio session everyday as hard as I could
      • 45-60 minute dog walking everyday
      • 2 + hour runs on the trails every weekend
    • My current exercise schedule has several differences. Before I break it down, it is important to note that my activity level is now extremely less regimented. I have less of a plan for exercise for the week, and more of a focus on moving as much as possible. Also, if I am tired, I do not workout. If I am sick, I do not workout. Some days I am on my feet at work for 7-8 hours, so I may actually need to sit down after work. That being said, a typical week looks like this:
      • I walk everyday as much as possible with the dogs.
      • Long-slow hikes 1-2x per week. Occasionally we head down to Southern Minnesota where it is much more hilly and go hard.
      • Lift weights in a full-body circuit 1-2x per week for15-25 minutes. I generally use TRX straps and Kettlebells.
      • Sprint 1 maybe 2 times per week for 6-12 minutes depending on how I am feeling.
      • Pilates and/or yoga as low-level movement 1-2x a week
    • I am in better physical shape and have better mental health working out less, but moving more. I am using my stand-up desk as I write this. Furthermore, my blood pressure, cholesterol and all other markers are excellent. At my last physical, my doctor told me he wishes more clients were like this.
    • My physical stats have changed some since going Primal. I am 6’5” and here are my stats before and after.
      • Pre-Primal I was about 195-198 lbs and 8-9% body fat.
      • 12 months post-Primal, I am between 203-208 lbs and 10-12% body fat.
      • As you can see in the photos below, I may have gained a little fat, but my muscles have developed much more and I feel I have filled out in all the right areas. (The photo in athletic shorts is pre-primal, the jeans is post-primal 12 months). My wife claims I look much healthier!
    • I am healing old chronic injuries by moving more and working out less.
      • I broke my spine while serving in Afghanistan and have a banged up hip and shoulder from always overdoing it in the gym. By slowing down and doing more range of motion work, my back is much improved and my hip, feet and shoulder, are all getting better.
      • I have also made friends with foam rolling and other fascia release work.
    • I am no longer so tired from always working out. My energy has improved, my recovery time is better, and my muscles are rarely sore anymore from over exercising.
      • My wife has been great for me on this one. We really lead an active life, but a lot of it is leisure time. Strolls down Summit Ave in Saint Paul, Frisbee with our kids, working the slackline, or getting out to shoot some casual hoops.
      • I also walk to work everyday. It only takes about 10 minutes but I do it two times a day, back and forth, five days a week.
    • I no longer take any workout supplements. On occasion if I am pressed for time, I will make a Primal Fuel shake, but that is it.
    • I try to go barefoot as much as possible. My feet are really banged up from years in boots in the military, but I have found a balance between being barefoot and needing shoes that works for my body.
    • I sleep better, overall my mood is better (likely from the massive increase in fat in my diet), I do not use sunscreen (unless I absolutely need to), I play more, I try to relax more, and I get outside as much as possible even on really cold Minnesota days.
    • I realize there is more to health than what I eat and how I workout. That’s why the Primal Lifestyle really resonates with me.
      • When I first discovered Primal, I put so much emphasis on the diet that I feel I neglected the lifestyle parts (I bet many of us have). I have always loved nature and know I need it. Now if I am tired, I get the heck out of the gym and go down to the river rather then forcing another workout.
    • I practice gratitude everyday and I meditate when it feels right. My anxiety has greatly reduced.
    • I now consider gardening, working on the house, and/or cleaning the cars good low-level movement. This never would have flied in my head years ago.
    • I am passionate about cooking and make amazing primal fare. Spending time in the kitchen with my wife is one of the most relaxing things I can do. We also love finding restaurants that support the Paleo way of eating, whether intentionally or not.
    • We buy local foods as much as possible, and try to support farmers who grow and raise food the way it should be.
    • Being primal has made me even more environmentally conscious.
    • I have gotten off my Paleo soapbox. I could talk Paleo for hours but now I let the students come to me.
    • I have a goal to meet Mark Sisson and thank him personally!


I honestly could keep going, but I want to mention my family and my clients without writing the longest post ever.

I hope my beautiful wife writes her own success story soon, so I will just give you a brief summary. She was a 20+ year vegetarian who had developed a thyroid problem, and often would have trouble sleeping before we met. We found primal about the same time. All I can say is she went from being skinny to being ripped and fit, by reintroducing meat to her diet and coming to my great workouts! I would also say she is sleeping better, her moods are better and the primal lifestyle really relates to what she believes. She loves only having to workout 25 minutes, three times a week, and getting amazing results for it.

My son has also greatly benefited from a massive increase of fat in his diet. He has filled out nicely at 10 years old, has more energy than anyone, and goes by the name “Grok Jr.” We hike, he plays outside, he builds forts, climbs trees and you know those things that most modern kids have forgotten how to do.

My 13-year-old daughter fights the primal thing a little more, but she can eat a plate of ribs better than most! She has her favorite primal meals and we try to make those often, while buying her bread for the weekends after she gets done with her climbing workouts.

Pick your battles, if you have kids. Our kids still get crappy dessert food in their diets as long as they move their bodies in someway that day. In an average week, they get more primal food and generally a lot of movement. Rather then force it upon them we try to lead by example, cut them some slack, and hope to help them build a strong foundation to fall back on once they are adults.

The best part of this primal story is about the clients I have been privileged enough to work with. Over the 12-years I have trained people, I have witnessed a woman lose over 100 pounds, a man get over terrible back pain, kids get ready for football season and more. What is so amazing now with my newfound knowledge, is I am seeing people improve their health with a solid diet, less effort, less exercise, and more movement. Once I received the Primal Cert in early 2015, my gym owner gave me permission to use these principles with my clients. I work individually with clients, as well as lead a successful weight-loss group called ‘Drop 12.’ One of my clients, Alice, recently got her own success story published right here and I could not be more proud of her.

The Drop 12 group is truly the highlight of my career. I get to present Primal information to a group of open-minded individuals who are seeking weight-loss, better eating, or for many, just the accountability factor of having to show up three times a week. The group runs for six weeks and we meet three times per week, for 25-minutes. Our weekday meetings are two strength sessions. The goal during these workouts is to get everyone as strong as possible. We use things like TRX, body weight exercises, kettlebells and other apparatus that work the entire body. The workouts are hard, fast, and fun. On Saturdays we do a 15-minute sprint workout (including warm-up and cool down), and then we cover a different nutrition or lifestyle topic every week. Everyone gets homework for the week, which usually consists of walking, taking yoga or trying a new recipe. One week we cover the carb curve, then the importance of moving more, and other things like recipe exchanges. Everyone gets a copy of the 21-Day Total Body Transformation and handouts I’ve created. The lecture may be the must successful part of Drop-12. During this time, the participants develop a community, they hear from each other on what is working and how they may be struggling, and we also do Q&A so I can try to address any lingering questions.

In 2015 we ran five, six-week sessions and saw an average of 6-12 pounds of weight loss per person, with the largest weight loss being 25 pounds by one very happy individual. I have had a few repeat clients who keep building on their success. In 2015, I witnessed over 400 pounds of weight melt off of the hard-working individuals I have had the privilege to coach. In 2016 we are going for 500!

One final note: I love The Primal Blueprint because you do not need to be perfect. I believe it is a great template and can serve as a strong foundation for living a great life. However, I have had plenty of times when I overate, or raided the kid’s cookie jar, worked out too hard, drank too many beers or forgot to relax. The beauty with The Primal Blueprint is I just come right back to the foundation I have built. I honor the 80/20 rule, which usually looks like a burger, fries and beer on the weekend, and great primal fare the rest of the week. Do not try to be perfect, simply do the best you can and let the rest go!

Thanks for reading and thanks Mark for changing my life!

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