It’s Monday, 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 Monday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
Folks, I have been grateful for every story that has come my way over the years. It’s an incredible privilege being on the receiving end of your reflections and evolutions, and they are why I’ve kept at it all these years—knowing the message and information have made a difference in people’s lives. I appreciate every single one. Here, you’ll read about a woman who went through a long period of trial-and-error and ultimately realized that conventional advice was hindering her progress. Thank you to reader, Karine, for sharing your story, and for using your personal transformation to inspire others as a health coach and mentor!
Switzerland, April 2008, I decide to get ski-fit. I think I am healthier than the average. I am not eating junk food, not smoking and not drinking alcohol. But I am very sedentary, apart from a bit of skiing in winter. I am already a decent skier but need to be fitter to go back-country skiing. This is when you climb the mountain with skins under your skis to find true off-piste skiing.
I buy a gym membership and quickly become addicted. I start lifting (very light) weights every day. I also throw in some cardio to lean out and increase my stamina. I start reading articles about nutrition and fitness and change my nutrition. I follow the nutritional advice from the fitness industry: 5 to 6 meals a day, very high in lean proteins for muscle synthesis and very high in carbs for energy. I am not a big meat eater and there is just so much chicken breast that I can eat everyday! I have to supplement with a lot of protein powder. I am convinced I am doing the right thing.
Australia, 2017. After 9 years of training, I am much fitter, have more stamina and can lift “decent” weights. But I still do not look lean and toned. My first DEXA scan gives me 26% body fat. Very average and unfair, considering that I am training 2.5 hours a day and not over-eating! And I am starving ALL THE TIME. I cannot go 2 hours without eating. Food becomes an obsession and a constant struggle. I also have really bad cravings for sugary food. I need so much will-power to resist banana bread and cookies or not to go overboard with fruits. I eat about 2,200 calories a day, as I exercise a lot, but I am never satiated. According to the calorie in / calorie out principle, I should be losing weight. But this is just not happening. It DOES NOT WORK. Something has to change.
The Shift to a Life Without Cravings
July 2018, I start the Primal Health Coach course. This is a revelation. My big AHA moment. I understand that if I eat a lot of carbs or even very lean proteins, I raise my insulin, which puts me in a fat storage mode. And it is even worse as I eat 6 meals a day. I remain in a fat storage mode all day! The calories in / calories out concept just doesn’t take into account the physiology of our body and how different macronutrients are metabolized differently. It suddenly all makes sense!! I understand why I am so hungry all the time, why I am bloated and have cravings. This is such a relief: I now know what to do. But it is also so frustrating. I have basically wasted 9 years working out super hard to improve my body composition, without any success.
I change my nutrition right away. I start with paleo, low carb, high fat. Mind-blowing! After one week, all my hunger and cravings are gone. I am not bloated anymore. After two weeks, I start losing weight. I decide to go full keto. So easy, and the food is delicious. I love all the healthy fats: avocados, macadamia and pecan nuts, olive oil, fatty pieces of meat. Yum! I don’t feel restricted at all. On the contrary, I don’t think about food all the time anymore and don’t even crave unhealthy processed and sugary foods. After 6 months, my body fat percentage is down to 21%. I still eat the same amount of calories as before, but with different macro nutrients.
I am no longer hungry in the morning and it is also very convenient. I continue to lose some excess fat. After a year and a half on keto, I am now around 16% body fat, which seems to be my happy set point. I am now regaining a bit of weight, but it is only muscles! Six months in, I stop the cardio. I realize that I was overtraining, and my stress levels are a bit high. I also start time restricting eating. I skip breakfast and have a larger lunch and dinner. It is actually very easy.
Not bad for a 47 year old. And all these improvements without much effort. I really wish I had known all this back in 2008…
Mental Benefits of Keto
The other benefits I can see of going keto are that I am far less anxious and stressed than before, and my mood is more stable. I have never suffered from brain fog, but my brain feels super clear in the morning, when I am fasted. And if I am away from home without access to healthy food, I can skip a meal without being hungry.
In the meantime, I discover that I am highly toxic in heavy metals, especially arsenic and mercury. Probably from low-quality protein powders, tap water, dental fillings and conventional food. Another big awakening! I ditch all my conventional cosmetics and cleaning products and replace them with organic non-toxic products. I install a reverse osmosis water filtration system and start buying organic veggies, pasture-raised and grass-fed meat. The heavy metals are going down, but I probably need another year or two to get rid of them.
Sharing what I’ve learned
After taking the Primal Health Coach certification course, I continue studying nutrition with two courses from the Nutrition Network: Low Carbohydrate High Fat / Ketogenic Nutrition & Treatment and LCHF in Clinical Practice. I also start studying the other pillars of a healthy lifestyle: sleep optimization, stress management, exercise and toxin reduction. I am now officially a health coach and nutritionist and start coaching friends and relatives.
The more I learn, the more frustrated I am with the poorly researched, wrong or conflicting mainstream information about nutrition and so-called healthy lifestyles. I realize that, when I talk to people about bad oils, added sugar, excess carbs and gluten, about going to bed at 10 pm to get 8 hours of sleep, about grounding or turning off their phone at night, they look at me as if I were coming from another planet. They have heard a different message pretty much since they were born and it is difficult for me to prove my point over a fifteen-minute conversation.
September 2019. I set up my own website and start blogging about nutrition, sleep, stress, toxins, exercise and anything that can help people getting healthier and feel better. I keep the articles short: a bit of information on how our physiology works and many practical tips that are easy to squeeze into our busy days and have be proven by the research to work.
I just want to raise awareness. It is not because a product is sold in our favorite supermarket that it is healthy. Our modern lifestyles are harmful in so many ways and it is not enough to just avoid junk food and give up smoking. We need to do much more than that: pay attention to what we buy, how much we move, what we think about, the water we drink and how we use technology. We all need to be so much more mindful. We can no longer be on auto-pilot and hope that we will stay healthy. This was my realization anyway. I hope it will make your readers think about it.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.