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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53 thoughts on “Primal Tremendously Changed My Life and the Lives of Those Around Me”

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  1. Great story!! I’ve suffered from migraines myself. And as anyone who has suffered with them will tell you, they’re certainly no fun. They can really knock you out of commission. There’s definitely a connection between diet and migraines, and I think it just takes time to see what you’re sensitivities are. I’m glad you beat it!

  2. Practicing gratitude is transformative. Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, “Happier”, mentions gratitude often and suggests creating a gratitude journal. Be specific too! Not only does it help from repeating vague entries, it helps shape your gratitude lens to see more.

    1. Check Barbara Ehrenreich’s recent piece on gratitude. The other side of the story, and a valid point.

      1. Jason Marsh’s commentary on her piece seemed to better grasp the purpose of a gratitude journal to me – her piece uses the concept to criticise the economic state of affairs, and pile on guilt and resentment, which is markedly unhelpful to most people and leaves them feeling more powerless.

        JMO, not looking to start an argument, just adding a different perspective. 🙂

        1. Fair enough. But dissent may be justified even if it does makes one uncomfortable with guilt and resentment. Certainly the powerful would like the weak to simply be happy with what they have and leave things be.

  3. Great story and well done to you and your family! I also used to get migraines – bread head as I call it! Another good reason to avoid it. I still struggle to get my children to move though!

    1. My son just moves it seems to be in his DNA. My daughter that is another story. She is polar opposite of her mother and I. That being said she has taken a liking to indoor rock climbing!

  4. Fantastic, story. You still look great bro! Anyways, I had the same experience being a nutritionist for the Air Force. I always followed the SAD and killed myself at the gym (I am a certified personal trainer too) and after TONS of resistance I started turning primal. Wow! I eliminated grains (you do NEED those after all) and the fat I never could lose started melting off. Wait, I don’t have to choke down tuna and spinach on a whole grain tortilla and feel dirty about putting a couple shreds of cheese on it? Phenominal! It is amazing when you can eat real food. Thanks for your service! I went to Afghanistan once and hope I never go back!

    1. Thanks, it is really great to run into other trainers who are trying to shift the status quo!

  5. I have been on & off the Paleo lifestyle for the past 2 years. I feel great when I’m on it. Each time I fall off is when something really major is going on in my life (I’m pregnant, helping my Dad through a cancer diagnosis, a death in the family, etc). In the very near future, I’ll be in a position to go at this hard and can’t wait. And the best part is…I live in St. Paul, MN. I must get your contact info. I’m totally in for the Drop 12 program. How can I get in touch with you?

    1. Hi. I had these same issues. Pregancy with twins, dad with cancer and an uncle died of cancer. I stayed primal started to eat a lot more carbs eg. Potatoes near the end and rice noodles balanced with cans of sardines as snacks, born oct 29. Primal helped me gain less with twins at 41 years old than with each of my two single prgancies. I felt great. Now though the challange is crabs. Huge cravings when breastfeeding. Still no grains but have eaten quite a lot of chocolate, Dates and raisens and tons of cream. Was so happy to be primal during pregnany. Easiest labour too. Best of luck

  6. Hey, congrats on the success Grok brother! This lifestyle is fantastic and I’m so glad to see yet another happy story. My family and I have also greatly benefited from living Primal for the past 3 years or so. Thank you for sharing your successes and best of luck to you as you continue.

  7. Great story. It’s amazing how even someone in the fitness business can learn so much from The Primal Blueprint!

  8. I loved the part about your kids. I have personal experience that forcing kids to do something they don’t want to do will cause backlash when they are out on their own. Giving kids a strong foundation is the best thing we can do as parents and like you said, hope they find the right path by themselves.

    1. I am also sure when they first go out on their own they will eat nothing but pizza and beer but when they start to not feel as well I trust they will find their way back.

    2. Just a few days ago my son said that he wished I had introduced him to Paleo when he was a baby. So I reminded him that – that was what he was when he was first eating food, he would NOT eat grains and only ate primal foods and he was very healthy and happy. He was surprised, it’s the peer pressure in school that switched him to SAD since the school teaches the “holy grains are good” and every kid makes fun of you if you eat real food instead of something that comes out of a plastic package.
      I’m sure that once the skin issues come up he’ll be more interested in eating better, he loves looking good more than he loves food so I’m still preaching, he’s a believer just not a doer yet. However, at home he is primal so there is just a bit of tweaking to do.

  9. Thank you for such an inspiring post. I’ve read so much about paleo online that I’ve never bothered to buy a book, but I love what I see on MDA so much, that I think I’m going to begin with his book and post a review. We mostly live the primal lifestyle, but I have some gut issues and seem to need a certain amount of white potatoes and even white rice. Everybody is different that way. I appreciate your honesty about what you feed your kids too. We allow our son to eat PBJ but use sourdough bread only which he prefers. He also eats salmon, salad, bacon, peas, and I think you get the idea. I focus on what he WILL eat which reduces the number of PBJ sandwiches greatly. That is really his only sugary food. But I also would like to comment on the gratitude comments. I pulled up the article by Barbara Ehrenreich, and she does make some valid points. But I do feel that in order to do our best work in helping others, we need to come to a place of gratitude within ourselves. I wrote a post about gratitude around Thanksgiving and feel that as I explained in this post, gratitude can help us move through emotional despair . I’m drawn to philanthropic individuals who exude an air of calm rather than constant anger, and without gratitude, the negative aspects of society can reach in and take over our souls, annihilating our creativity and our own life’s purpose. I appreciate Rick pointing us in the direction of this piece as this is the follow through part. I have wondered at times what it must be like to live in inner city impoverished areas and attempt to conjure up gratitude. Well, enough said. Let’s all find that place of gratitude and help others find it too by contributing to a meaningful cause whether it be time or money.

    1. Thanks Laura. My wife and son both do really well with rice so we make it almost every week. I do not eat it but I do eat quinoa and sweet potatoes often due to the high physical output of my job.

      1. That’s good to know. Lately, I’ve been “picking a carb” per meal. So if I have rice, that would be the only carb. At some point, I’m going to experiment testing my blood sugar after various meals using different forms of carbohydrate but keeping the other components of the meal the same. T2D runs in my family, and I have a touch of OCD.

      2. Kids and pregnant women need more carbs that adults. I cook white rice in my home made chicken stock (broth) by absorption method. This makes it much more nutritious and delicious! 2 cups of broth to 1 cup of rice.

    2. Kids and pregnant women need more carbs that adults. I cook white rice in my home made chicken stock (broth) by absorption method. This makes it much more nutritious and delicious! 2 cups of broth to 1 cup of rice.

  10. Re: the kids dessert issue. We stopped having dessert entirely after too many nights of “I’m full what’s for dessert?” with good food still on their plates. We started with an announcement before dinner that there was no dessert tonight, so they would fill up on real food. After a few nights we didn’t make any announcement. We would have a surprise dessert randomly a couple times a month, never announced. Worked fine for us. Our kids both played sports but it just irked me they would pass up good food for junk, so I took the hard line.

    1. Ellen – THIS! This phenomena exists for adults too. My husband and I fell into the habit of having dessert – some dark chocolate, yogurt with fruit – something sweet. I felt it was getting out of hand, and one day after a dinner at a Japanese grill place, hubs said hey there’s a yogurt place next door, let’s have dessert. I said I’d rather have a couple more plates of meat to grill so we did that instead, and decided to quit the “dessert” habit. Now, we eat more for dinner and don’t feel the need to eat something later.

      Anything can become codified into a habit very easily – humans are wired this way. If you are conscious of that, it will help you to re-wire.

      1. Seconds for dessert is not something I’ve really thought about but now that you describe it, last night, I was at a new year’s party. Watched our table mates eat one or two 5″ diameter cookies and drink coffee while talking about their favorite TV shows. My husband went and got a second helping of carved prime rib and broccoli/cauliflower salad w/ bacon while I asked questions about Netflix, HBO, and AmazonPrime because of my total cultural illiteracy. Sometimes I feel like an anthropologist.

      2. Ellen, I crave desert also, and your method of coping is probably better than mine. I have 85% dark chocolate dipped in almond butter with a small amount of coffee/cream almost every night. The truth is, I can’t actually eat much of it, and the coffee seems to shut off my desire to eat more food. Many people can’t drink coffee at night, though.

  11. Wonderful how you’ve shared YOUR primal success with loved ones and clients, helping them create success stories of their own.

    Also wonderful how you meet clients where they are…and recognize their successes even when the specifics look different from full-on primal. Great stuff!

    1. Thanks Doc. It is so important to take people where they are. On the one end if you do not you will reduce the amount of potential clients and on the other end it is ultimately their journey so who am I to tell them otherwise.

  12. Oddly enough I typically don’t read the Friday articles even though they are really inspirational, they tend to have a bit of a “sameness” to them and I’ve read so many over the years I get it at this point. However, I glanced at this one as I came to the MDA site by reflex and really enjoyed it as it reinforces a really good “blueprint” (my apologies to Mark) for success. Good stuff.

  13. Great story. I remember you from Alices story and thinking that I wish I lived in your area. I would love a primal coach to train me. I am hesitant to pay a trainer and hear preaching on CW. We need more people like you. And thank you for your service.

  14. What I love the most about your attitude is the fabulous way you helped Alice to turn her life around and become so much healthier. I congratulated her at the time, on finding a trainer who will train a mature woman in a sensitive and gentle way, aiming just to help them be the best they can be. There are lots of people out there who just want to be healthy, and your attitude is helping them. Well done you, keep it up.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and the kind words!

  15. “I attempt to meet anyone wherever they are at and celebrate the successes they make.” – this is really key in all aspects of life. Love it and love your story. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I second what Ara wrote there, “progress not perfection” as the saying goes. 🙂

  16. Anthony, Thank you for your post.

    I too wished that you were in our area so we could sign up for help from you when I read Alice’s story. However, this post is helpful in training our mind and actions in that direction so thanks for that. Really enjoyed the style of bullets and sub–bullets.

    I’m a little stuck in a slump presently, it’s the “dark days of winter” here in Oregon so I’m taking a lot of Vit D and K2, thinking that I probably should book a few tans so I can make my own as well.

    Thanks for the encouraging words!

  17. Loved this post I feel so inspired I literally just bought the book and am reading t at breakfast right now! I’d love to see a post from your wife and photos too if she feels up for it. You before and after are incredible you look so healthy now really amazing!! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  18. Great story. Glad you mentioned gardening and car washing, I used to think these things were boring, tiring chores I should save myself from. Now I have completely reframed them as a useful way to get moving, be present and be close to nature. Manual hedge trimming, leaf raking, etc. in my small urban garden have been totally transformed for me with the primal mindset.

  19. I’ve been getting migraines for 29 years. Over this time my neurologist would always want to put me on some kind of daily drug. The latest being a beta blocker. I would never do it, because I knew they would cause more problems. I would just live with the migraines. After going paleo 2 years ago, I can go months at a time without a headache. I had forgotten what life was like with no headaches! So glad I found this lifestyle.

  20. so wonderful to see how passionate and happy people are after making life changes like these….Congrats!

  21. I am male, 61 and hypertensive for quite sometime. After reading contents of this your site, I started consuming butter/ghee; almost given up sugar, and reduced rice and potatoes to a large extent.
    The result is: my ecg turned normal; my lipid profile has improved HDL but otherwise worsened: Total Cholesterol 283, triglycerides 121, HDL 45, LDL 214, VLDL 24.
    Dppler Echocardiography: Grade I ORA, Mild conc LVH, mild MR, mild vTR, Aortiv valve sclerosis, LVEF 55-60+, RVSP=24+RAP
    I do not know the seriousness of my condition …

  22. Thank you Anthony for describing your modern day primal life and how you implement into a family life! So much advice and detail for a modern day “grokette” mama trying to improve her family life!