Shift Your Body Fat to Reframe Your Life

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!

Dear Mark,

First of all, a great thank you for your work and offering MDA as a constant flow of good Primal advice and inspiration!

My success with the Primal lifestyle has not been as straightforward as some of the other experiences shared here. I am a 26 year old German man, living in Scotland and I am married with two children (1 and 3 years old). I lived in Germany for the first 19 years of my life and in all that time, I think it is safe to say I had some form of processed carbohydrates for each meal. We have a very strong bread culture back home and whole wheat bread is considered the basis of a healthy lifestyle. Although I had some weight struggles as a young teen, due to too many sodas, I would have considered myself fit for the most part of my high school years. Two big influences on my understanding of fitness in my young adult life were my father and a nutrition class I took back in school. My dad is a sports teacher and thus he always encouraged me to do sports, but chronic cardio and strength training sessions lasting for well over an hour were considered a must. The nutrition class back in school was heavily based on Conventional Wisdom’s understanding of which foods are “scientifically” considered best for our bodies. As a result I ended up spending three days a week doing 3 hours of cardio interspersed with weight lifting machine workouts in the gym in my last two years in high school. However, I never saw all my efforts pay off. This was extremely frustrating to me, as I counted the calories I burned in my gym sessions (around 1,500 kcals on a good day) and I would only add an extra 1,000 kcal to my daily consumption, which in my mind left me with a significant caloric deficit. But I guess adding more hash browns and fruit juice to my evening meal might not have been a very smart move on my part!

Once I had completed high school, I left for a gap year to Scotland and subsequently started University there as well as working full-time. I had set myself the goal to get properly fit once and for all and my active work environment was definitely helpful (wood-chopping in the Scottish winter is one Primal workout!). However, Scotland provided several challenges in that regard with one being the local “cuisine”, where apart from Haggis, deep-fried pizza with fries on top as well as a deep-fried chocolate bar are considered local specialties. Another factor was that I met my wife there and a new relationship brought a lot of relaxing with comfort foods with it. Nevertheless, I kept looking for alternatives to my previous eating habits and started experimenting with a more vegetarian lifestyle. This, however, only resulted in me eating more often and being extremely sleepy after my carb-heavy meals. Once I started Uni in my second year in Scotland, I met a Norwegian guy and somewhere along the line he discovered MDA, fully absorbed the Primal lifestyle and had incredible results. Since he was constantly preaching about it, I thought I would give it a try. This was the time before The Primal Blueprint was published and I never fully read my way through it all at MDA, but took away the points of eating lots of veggies and meat. At the same time I experimented with Intermittent Fasting and had great success with that. But then, due to my busy lifestyle and daily commutes, I switched from eating veggies to fruit and low quality meats. Once that happened it was only a small step backwards to a CW lifestyle. With the stresses of an ever increasing Uni workload (I study Economics), more responsibilities at work with me and my wife taking on managerial positions, us having our first child as well as the preparations for our wedding, takeaway meals became more and more of a habit. I still visited MDA from time to time, but somehow I never properly adopted the PB lifestyle. At the time of our wedding, both me and my wife were working out in the gym around 3 times a week and tried to look our best (see pictures below), but somehow we looked even bigger than we did when we first met.


Shortly after our wedding, my wife’s parents were in search of losing weight and they remembered me talking about the PB. So they went ahead, studied the books (from my Primal/Paleo library, which had been collecting dust for the past years), cleared out their pantry, stocked it with Primal approved foods and started exercising. Both of them had visible success within a couple of weeks and were highly enjoying their new lifestyle. This got me and my wife thinking and we made a promise to ourselves that we would do it together this time round, since we knew that being Primal definitely worked. Starting on January 1st 2013 we both shifted our exercise regimes, with me dropping my gym membership altogether, and we both ate Primal approved foods from then onwards.

Within six weeks I went from 200lbs at 6ft to 187lbs whilst dropping 4% of body fat and building muscle. I am now at 179lbs with 14% body fat, which is down from 21% measured at the start of our Primal transformation.

My wife went from 144lbs to 127lbs today whilst also losing 7% of body fat in the process.

Tobi and Harriet Emonts-Holley

For the past few months the shifts in our weight have been more gradual, but we find that we both have reached our ideal body composition, given that we are both working, looking after two toddlers at home and I am also studying full-time for a PhD at the same time. My wife is slimmer and fitter now than she was before she had kids. She often skips meals without even noticing it and her skin is glowing all the time now. For my part,  I have never been this fit in my life with my energy levels constantly being high. When I am asked what type of workout I do, I feel embarrassed to say that I do not follow any particular program. I do pull-ups, dips and push-ups on a daily basis, but never a completely fixed number or set of exercises. I do what I feel like, for example, when the weather in Scotland is not too wet and windy (remember this is a country where you can literally experience all three seasons: Fall, Winter and Spring in one day), I will strap on my 26lbs weight vest, one kid in a rucksack on the back and one in a sling in the front and go hiking in the hills for 30mins.

Tobi and KidsHaving said that, the flexibility that the Primal lifestyle allows us is the biggest benefit in my eyes. If we spent a few days without breaking a sweat then that’s ok. Equally, just having been on holiday in wonderful California, I am able to hike with the kids in the morning, rest at lunchtime in the sun and then go out kayaking with my boy. The Primal lifestyle is extremely individualistic and everybody can really just do what their bodies tell them and still get into fantastic shape. I feel I have much more energy for a wider variety of activities than especially in comparison to my gym-marathon times.

Another important revelation of our Primal journey has been that we need to pass on these eating and movement habits to our children, albeit them still being very young. It has been very interesting to see that both of them enjoy their Primal lunches of avocado, meat, cucumber and carrot sticks much more than the previously served good old wholegrain sandwich. Also, they both love beef jerky and we have now our own food dehydrator so we can make our own organic jerky. With our kids we have experienced much more stable energy levels with hardly any mood swings as well as our son showing a huge reduction in the eczema that he has been suffering from for nearly two years.

Finally, I wanted to share a thought with you that has accompanied me over the past half year. My life always seems to be very busy with a lot of demands. Especially with us having two young children, it got to a point where I was not too sure that I could manage it all. The transformation that both my wife and I have experienced, however, gave me a daily proof that anything is possible if we put our minds to it and the extra energy from our Primal lifestyle has led to a huge productivity boost. Having gone Primal has not simply shifted body fat for us, it has changed our enjoyment of life and we are hopeful that our story might help someone, who is not too sure about it all to simply give it a go and experience another Primal transformation along the way!

Thank you,

Tobi and Harriet Emonts-Holley

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