Rejecting the Status Quo: Saying “No” to a Common Life

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story. Today, Mark’s Daily Apple reader J.P. shares an all too familiar tale: Boy is young, fit and active. Boy goes to college and parties hard. Boy gets a desk job and becomes sedentary. This is usually where the story takes a turn for the worst. But J.P., as he approached 30, took a look at himself in the mirror and realized something had to change. See how J.P. rejected becoming your typical out of shape 30 year old and grabbed control of his health in the process.

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 you send them in. Thanks for reading!

When I was in high school I was an athlete of sorts, I played football every fall in a small Texas town and did track and field in the spring. I lifted a lot of weights and did the typical high school workouts. I never really worried about food, just eating whatever came my way, but I was young and active, so I was in pretty good shape.

During college, I pretty much stopped doing intense activity. Being a typical college student, I smoked a lot of cigarettes, drank quite heavily and did not eat healthy at all. I managed to maintain a pretty decent weight though, I walked everywhere, but obviously was not in the best health due to the smoking, diet, and copious amounts of beer.

After college, I started working behind a desk in a typical office environment, I quit smoking at the request of my then girlfriend, now lovely wife. This, combined with having money to eat out, and a sedentary lifestyle, eventually led to me slowly gaining weight over the next few years.

In January of 2010, I was the heaviest I had ever been, I had about 215 pounds on my 6-foot frame – most of it in my gut. I was going to be turning 29 that August and realized that the big 3-0 was coming up next year. I decided that I DID NOT want to be the typical overweight, out of shape 30 year old.

I started running. A little at first, just a mile a day, but I kept up with it. By the summer of 2010 I was running probably 35+ miles a week. During this time I was also eating your typical CW “Healthy” diet. I ate oatmeal for breakfast, turkey subs for lunch, pasta for dinner. Everything I put it my body was low-fat, low calorie. The weight dropped off during this period. I was down to about 175 lbs, I had convinced myself that I was doing great.

In retrospect, I was miserable. I did not enjoy what I was eating, I was always hungry, and the constant cardio was wearing on me. Worst of all I had started becoming really irritable and short with people. I was essentially a skinny jerk. I’m convinced it was my diet that was affecting my mood.

I had a friend who had lost a lot of weight and was in good shape through Crossfit and a “Paleo Diet”. He got to eat stuff that looked way better than my usual fare and seemed to be doing really well. I started checking out his Crossfit’s site and was eventually led to Mark’s Daily Apple. I voraciously attacked the articles on MDA, spending free time reading all about the Primal lifestyle.

Around September – I bought a pair of Vibrams and started running in them. I began to model my workouts after things I saw on my friend’s Crossfit site and even flirted with a few Crossfit classes myself. This eventually led to running less long distances, sprinting more, doing HIIT workouts, plyometrics and lots of bodyweight exercises. I also started walking during my lunch breaks, I try to get in about 30 minutes of walking daily.

I also altered my diet… cutting out the grains, processed food, and things of that nature. No more “healthy” canned soups, frozen meals, soy milk or breads for me. I started pretty much exclusively eating meats, veggies, fruit and nuts. My wife, while she does not follow the Primal Blueprint diet, has been amazingly supportive and is great about it. I also have started cooking most of our dinners, I figured that I should cook for her rather than force her to make meals based on my dietary restrictions. She has kind of inadvertently become 80/20 Primal just by association!

But I digress. After the first few months I saw noticeable differences in my attitude and my body also began to change. Whereas before I had lost weight, I was not strong and had very little muscle definition. Now I started to see muscles appearing; I was becoming “ripped”. I actually gained weight going Primal, most of it muscle. More importantly I started to become more patient with people, most importantly my wife, and overall felt better emotionally. I literally was becoming happier!

So now it’s April. For the last few months I have pretty much cut out nuts and fruit from my diet also. I love going to the store and purchasing food and preparing it. I also recently started Muay Thai boxing which has been a blast. My weight has pretty much held solid at 185 for the last 6 months or so, and I feel great.

The best thing about this transition I made is just how simple it is. I’m no scientist, I can’t explain how omega 3/6 ratios work. I don’t really know what glycogen stores are, and I don’t worry about it either. I just know that this works, and I plan on sticking with it. I also don’t worry about being perfect. I have a sweet tooth and will grab a slice of cake sometimes; I eat it and move on. I don’t stress about things like that anymore, and they don’t seem to affect me too much. While being Primal can sometimes be a little odd (I have had to explain it to my in-laws and co-workers quite a few times), and I sometimes get weird looks wearing Vibrams and doing pull ups on tree limbs in the park, it’s worth it.

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76 thoughts on “Rejecting the Status Quo: Saying “No” to a Common Life”

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  1. You’ve got to love those…

    Is it me or in most success stories, eating primal and changing lifestyle seems to go with growing a beard? ^_^

    1. I agree. Us guys like the idea of “cavemen.” Or at least I do. Instead of “members” people are “cavemen” in the Grand Rapids Primal Tribe meetup group.

      It’s fun. That’s what life is about, right? Having fun?

      1. I wonder if this sort of eating helps with the facial hair that women *do* get, though. I know how to use a razor, but I’d rather not have to in the first place…

      2. I can tell ya this though. I’m female and since going primal I DO grow more facial hair…gah. I also grew bigger boobs…I think ALL of my hormones went up!

        Also, my hair ( on my head )and nails grow at a much faster rate then it ever has in my life.

        1. Interesting. Since going Primal 7 weeks ago, I have noticed a lot less facial hair and it seems most of the 17 lbs I lost were in my boobs (from 34J to 34D). My mom will be very happy to hear that you had the opposite experience, as she is afraid to go Primal for fear of losing her boobs.

    2. Well I may not have grown a beard since going primal but I have definitely found myself incredibly attracted to men with some facial hair ever since. It’s a primal thing!

    3. Wow, I thought my recent beard was completely random.. had no idea my newly found primal genes were at work here 😉

      Great job with your success. I think my own short comings might be tied with over complicating things like omega-6/3, etc.. and not enough meat, veggies and sunlight.


      1. It’s so crazy to me that employers are allowed to tell their employees what kind of hairstyles, etc. are allowed. What a ridiculous stifling of personal expression.

        1. Well, there are some jobs where it can be a safety issue. Personally, the only one I can think of where facial hair is an issue is the military, where even a well-trimmed mustache (let alone a beard) can interfere with the fit and seal on a gas mask.

          Just my two cents!

          Also, congratulations, J.P.! Keep up the primal work! 🙂

    4. I have found myself letting my facial hair grow more than i used to pre-primal… For me it was the fact that hair on my face and jaw made my already pudgy-ish face look pudgier… After the extra weight came off, i found that instead of a light scruff making me look like more of a slouch, it kinda gave me a rugged look! Dont do it much, but when i do let it grow out a bit, i like it!

      Thanks for the story J.P.! i wish i had discovered primal back when i was your age!

    5. Great job JP!! I can’t wait to share my success story :-). I’m not there yet, but I’m in your age group(28) and also won’t settle for being a typical, out of shape….well 28 year old lol. and lol guys with the whole beard convo. You know what I was thinking? Us cave folk will probably (if we haven’t already ;-)) find those Geico even a face man can do it ads to be offensive :-P. Ya know what…..I have Geico car insurance, I think ill give em a call and give em a stern talkin’to!!! I’ll ramble about Primal Blueprint this, and our brains were actually larger when we were cavemen that. heehee

    6. I have always had the muscle but never the leaness. I am working on it now. Pics to come…2 more months and I will be ripped!

    7. Your testosterone goes up when you eat primal:) No coincidence here! Before and after pictures of men show them looking much more masculine.

  2. Great story!

    This stood out to me, “She has kind of inadvertently become 80/20 Primal just by association!”

    I have been noticing this with my entire immediately family of 3 siblings and 2 parents. Even the oldest of my 2 sisters whom despises red meat made this statement to my older brother, “i only eat red meat if its grass-fed.”

    I was amazed and started to really feel the effect I have had on my family. I live with my parents and one sister whom have cut back on grains ten fold. They eat more meat and my mother hasnt made the special fake meat trip all year.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    They may not show it in the beginning but your family and friends are paying attention. It takes time. Be patient. It took my family about one year. But, my happiness, increased strength, confidence and more has taken notice by them. They want my life – my health.

    They are curious if you don’t keep this thing a secret. Speak up – human beings are curious – its a common genetic trait between all of us.

    Keep talking.

    1. The same thing is happening with my family. It certainly makes vacationing with them easier – not so many temptations to derail me!! 🙂

  3. I <3 beards. Always have.
    But even since goin primal, I still don't have one…

    way to take charge JP!!

  4. Certain parts of parks are underused. I like using the monkey bars to do upside down situps and chinups, and sometimes just to go across them like the kids do. Add in some tree climbing/parkour type activity (such as hopping fences/walls etc.) and do some free weights and swimming and you’ll get a fairly natural workout.

  5. Wow! I looked at that second photo and thought ‘He’s too skinny,’ thinking that was your ‘after’ look. Then I got to the end. Wow, just wow! 🙂 Congratulations.

  6. I love this. Great attitude, great success story. I don’t get all the glycogen stores stuff either, but I do know from day 1 things started feeling better and working better in my body. This is real food and it all just makes sense.

  7. I think the beard phenomenon has to do with a general easy approach to life that a primal lifestyle kind of promotes. No sitting at a desk, try standing. Walk around barefoot, grab life by the short curlies and don’t sweat the small stuff. And really, shaving every day is kind of one of those banal daily chores that keeps you from enjoying life and instead doing things by rote.

  8. Funny: guys seem to find that they get less aggressive and “nicer” when they go primal, whereas women become more assertive sometimes. Maybe this lifestyle just sort of balances people out? In the last few months I’ve become a lot more assertive about making the changes I need to make in my life–like about work, and where I live–and as a result I’m happier. I think being healthier made me clearer about what I needed to change.

  9. Way to go, JP! Your core is like a tree trunk. I am more than a little envious. Do you have any tips to mitigate the effects of a desk job beyond walking at lunch time?

    As for the beard phenomenon, I had almost no facial hair before going primal. Now I have decent chops. Wear the beard with pride, brothers. It’s just another sign of healthy hormonal balance.

  10. I love to see the shift of fat to muscle – seemingly without effort! I hope I get my own female version of that experience. 🙂

  11. This story totally speaks to me. I’m staring at the big 3-0 in just a couple weeks. I got a promotion last year and have been sitting at a desk more and standing at the lab bench less. :p

    For Easter I went on a walk to a park with my family, and I was dismayed to learn that we could hardly hold ourselves up on the monkey-bars that I used to swing effortlessly across as a kid. Sigh.
    My desire to do something about that led me here.

  12. I love this:

    “The best thing about this transition I made is just how simple it is. I’m no scientist, I can’t explain how omega 3/6 ratios work. I don’t really know what glycogen stores are, and I don’t worry about it either. I just know that this works, and I plan on sticking with it.”

    I feel so left behind on the sciencey stuff. But at the end of the day, I don’t really care to understand it – I just know it works!

  13. No wonder your wife doesn’t mind changing her diet a bit, J.P. Well done! 🙂 I’ve always loved a guy with facial hair – I think it speaks to our ‘animal’ instincts.

  14. I can’t get enough of these success stories….and can’t wait to share my own!!

  15. You look so much healthier and happier. (and hot, I must add. You’re wife is a lucky lady!) Thanks for sharing your story. I think a lot of people can relate to drinking a lot in college and getting out of the exercise routine. Thankfully, there’s a way out of the rut, right?

  16. Thanks for posting these stories, Mark! I’m still figuring out my paleo journey, and it is very inspiring to see how much people’s health improves and their life gets so much better. I am very sedentary by nature as well, so encouragement to get moving is good for me!

    And congratulations to JP for turning his life around.

  17. Great Job J.P.!!! More and more stories like you keep surfacing and all of them have been so amazing and inspirational which cements even further the great decision i made to become primal!! Keep it up!!

    find me on fb
    Big Tim’s Primal Journey


    1. Lol. For real? Get a video of it next time. I believe you. But, I want to see it and I am sure all of us groks and groketts would love to see it too!

      What do your co workers say? Or are they unable to see you?

  18. J.P., congrats! Your last photo was awesome. I love the extra weight!! Muscle is so much better looking than thin. It is amazing how after going Primal our outlook on life becomes a happier one! Happy Primal eating to you, and your wife!

    Thanks again, Mark! I love Fridays!

  19. Isn’t this the coolest website ever? Mark, I can’t wait to see you live June 25 in Austin.

    TGIF! Time to go to the park and get that 100 lb log and throw it around.

  20. You can switch the looks you get from “weird” to “cool” if you wear Invisible Shoes 😉 (Vibrams don’t fit me anyway)

    1. The new Merrell’s are pretty awesome, too. (Look for Merrell Tough Glove, True Glove, or Trail Glove).

      1. A couple of questions about the Merrells. With Vibrams I found buiying one size below my shoe size means getting the correct fit, I assume this isn’t the case with Merrells? Is there much wiggle room for the toes, and how thick is the sole?


    2. Steven,

      I have your invisible shoes, Vibrams and Merrell’s. Like the invisible shoes but can’t wear them to work, hence the Merrell Tough Gloves.

  21. Wowsers!! God I love veiny arms on a man your wife is one lucky lady!

  22. Great job. A real inspiration. I’m gonna go for a sprint now.
    No beard yet, but the hair is longer. Hair and finger nails grow quicker I think with the increased protien consumption.

  23. Congrats man! I was paleo for over a year in high school. I was fit, energetic, strong and happy, then college came around… A combined disaster of drinking every weekend and part time work at a frozen yogurt shop left me lethargic and 25 pounds heavier within a year. No matter how much I ran or biked. Getting on board again. Dropped 15 pounds of fat within 6 months and Ive gained about 6 pounds of muscle. I already feel great and strong, and this story is helping me stay focused, I know its worth it!!! 🙂 Thank you for your story JP!!!

  24. OK, what did I miss. Why did you cut fruit and nuts out? I’m running out of snacks……

  25. Been there done that. I’ve been as much as 245lbs now I am 205. I’m glad I had a great roommate in Iraq to motivate me to change my life for the better. Great story.

  26. My husband’s a welder. Facial hair is a safety issue, so they say, using respirators mostly, although I don’t think he’s had to use one in fifteen years. They made him sign releases when he refused to shave. He has a full beard and mustache and he’s not even primal (yet!), 80/20 coming soon with me being chief cook.
    J.P. you look absolutely great! I love Fridays and reading about how people are changing their lives.

  27. Excellent story!
    I turn 40 next year and this inspires me to get on with it! I love the primal life and also do a lot of body weight stuff using local trees etc. Grok on!

    1. Okay I’m jealous of JP those are awesome results. I just turned 40 today and have a ways to go to look like JP (again awesome results congrats) but have reaped 20 pounds and 5% body fat rewards from Primal Living in 5 months. I seemed to have added a beard also lol

  28. great article and look at this if you can ;Jamie Olivers TED acceptance speech.It is on YouTube and he really goes for it.He is well known in the UK but not so well known,if at all,in the U.S .Maybe this will change.

  29. First off, Great story JP. Congratulations!

    But I’m with Holly on this one. What’s with dropping fruit and nuts? Did I miss something here?

    1. Fruit gets your blood sugar out of balance for 3-5 hours after eating…which means burning fat is difficult during that time.
      And nuts have a bad calories vs. nutrition ratio I think. Both are carbs.

      I’m not sure though, nuts pack on the weight for whatever reason…I don’t eat them ’cause they’re extremely high in phytic acid.
      I would think fruit is okay after a work out to replenish the muscles with sugar.

    1. I don’t know, a lot of blond guys don’t grow the best-looking facial hair. And Mark’s pretty blond.

      But of course, we’d need pics to decide, wouldn’t we?

      Mark! Primal Beard Contest, let’s go!

      I’ll throw mine in the ring but I know it won’t win.

  30. Wow, Congrats J.P you look awesome! I love reading these success stories, it really helps remind me why I chose this lifestyle! Keep up the great work!

  31. Excellent story! And for those who don’t have a strong scientific background, “glycogen stores” are those places found on every street otherwise known as the “corner bakery”.

  32. Wow JP! That is a hell of a story. I like how you went knee deep into the PB lifestyle, and ou have some great gains to show for it. Kudos to you man!

  33. Thanks for sharing your story. What an amazing transformation! My husband recently began his Primal journey and I would love for him to have similar results.

  34. You are jacked! I used to think triathletes looked great until I realized how skinny they were.

    You know a guy is fit when you can follow those side ab muscles straight down in a V. That signals a fit guy to reproduce with to the female primitive brain.

    And your arms look great. The perfect Tarzan build.


  35. Thanks for the anecdote! I’ve been singing the tune to the primal blueprint. In terms of my sweet tooth, I’m doing whatever I can to keep it Primal, as reasonably as I can. I’m a donut fiend (especially gluten free ones). But, as of today, I’ve stocked up on 85% or higher cocoa based chocolate bars. I really think they’ll eventually replace gluten free donuts over time.

    I think, over the last month or so, I’ve transitioned to eating primarily salad, with meats on the side, and I think it’s a good way to eat healthily; and cost-effectively. I’m more satisfied than typical grain-driven consumption I was doing in the past.

  36. I love this story. Certainly not the extreme, yet its so true to most. Great photos, congratulations. Less than the beard, Id be more concerned with those sunglasses. Do you crossfit in those too?

  37. I’m also curious about why fruit and nuts. Don’t we gain valuable vitamins from these?

  38. I like sunflower butter because it is so high in minerals. I’m not sure where I’d get these. I don’t really take supplements. But I wouldn’t mind shedding about 3 pounds of fat right now. I know many take pill supplements but I never have. The person who wrote this article- do you take supplements?

  39. I can definitely relate to this story, as I didn’t start to gain fat until I got a desk job but had always been small prior to that.

    It is interesting that you mention mood, because I have also noticed a huge effect on my mood since cutting out grains and this is only my 3rd week on this diet.

    When I was eating grains, I was continually fatigued. I also had “brain fog”, which was just this inability to concentrate or think clearly and I forgot things often. I was run down, sad, and negative most of the time. I feel better, it is hard to explain, but I seem happier. I can think clearly and I’ve begun to want more out of life. Most importantly I don’t feel so sapped of energy all the time. Before it was a vicious cycle, I knew I needed to exercise but I was always too tired to exercise! I’m so thrilled I’ve seen so many changes in a short time. I’m pretty sure now I’m gluten sensitive.

  40. Ill be sending my success story in soon and don’t worry, I couldn’t grow a beard if you guys gave me a year notice! These stories are great and congrats to J.P.