The Struggles of a Navy Man: Fighting Bad Conventional Advice with Primal Successes

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 am unbearably angry! Wait, I apologize. That’s not a way to begin this story. Let me try again.

It’s January 2014. I find myself 39 years old, recovering from wrist surgery, and uncertain about my career. You see, I’m in the Navy, and they do not like overweight individuals. As such, I was looking at my previous 16 years potentially meaning nothing if I couldn’t turn things around. Unfortunately, I am clueless. I have listened to all of the recommended “good habits.” I am tracked meticulously by my job. I have attended the required two week course on fitness. I’m not an idiot, am I? How am I such a failure at this? Why all the cognitive dissonance? I have consumed the knowledge, tried adhering to all of the experts’ recommendations. I mean, it’s simple, right? Yet I was unable to reconcile my results and experiences with all of the advice, research and guidelines.

To give you an idea of what I was going through, let’s do some math and check out some of my well-documented failures:

First, there’s the typical calories in/calories out equation as it related to my activity level. I play competitive racquetball five days a week for two hours at lunch and sporadically after work. But since I don’t want to overestimate my level of activity, I’ll assume I practice 90 minutes at a time. Now, at a weight of 200 pounds, the Myfitnesspal app says that equates to a total of 1,021 calories burned. I also have mandatory workouts five days a week at 6:30am in the morning. They’re mostly core workouts to “spot reduce belly fat” (a phrase taken from the Command Fitness Leaders) and a 5k. We also have to run 1.5 miles in under 14 minutes. We then keep that pace for 5 kilometers for approximately 25 minutes. That’s another 375 calories burned. Finally, I add an additional 240 calories burned for the other 25 minutes of aerobic exercises.

Second, three days per week we have command exercises, which are the same basic exercises as outlined above. So add 600 more calories burned per day three times per week. Then, on Friday evenings from 5pm until 8pm and Sunday from noon until 2pm, I play wallyball with a regular group of guys. That should equal 950 more calories burned per session Also, for part of the year, I play on a co-ed soccer league or volleyball league, depending on the season. Myfitnesspal lists casual soccer for 60 minutes at 600 calories and volleyball at 200.

That’s great, but what does all that mean? Add up all these calories along with my resting metabolic expenditure for a week ( and you get: 5,000+3,000+1,800+1,900+200+15,400 = 27,300 calories burned per week. Or, to put it another way, approximately 3,900 calories burned per day. Now, since I’ve been steadily gaining weight, I must obviously be eating more than that. Easy fix! So on to my diet…

Luckily I’m required to keep a food log. So I can’t be too out of control with this, right? Let’s see how much I’m lying. What would it take to reach, let’s say, 4,000 calories per day (I’m gaining weight, so the number has to be above 3,900 calories.)

I’ll assume a lot of the calories are hidden ones (because fat people are dumb—kidding, of course!). I like Dr. Pepper, so I probably drink the 20 oz version. That gives me 250 calories/bottle. So six per day gives me 1,500 calories. Luckily McDonalds makes this easy. The Bacon Club House Crispy Chicken sandwich is 750 calories. Large fries are 510 calories. And the Big Breakfast with hotcakes is 1,090.

Bingo! I figured it out. On an average day, when you add up all these numbers, it equals 5,100 calories per day. That’s an extra 1,210 calories per day or 8,470 per week. This means I will gain 2.42 pounds per week! Solved! But wait. I mentioned a food log, right? And that I’m in the navy? So every day I eat with those same people at the galley or on the ship if underway. They know what I am being served. They weigh me once per week. And they review my log. You’d think one of them would mention my excessive eating at meal time or during the review.

09325ECCF178000053100003-attachment-1-IMG_11211161600809Weird. I am somehow being monitored working out, being weighed each week, eating the dietician approved, portion controlled servings at meal time that I’m logging, yet I’m still consuming way too many calories! Man I suck at this.

But maybe I’ve done something to ruin my metabolism. Yeah, that’s got to be it. I’m not eating 6-8 small meals per day to rev up my fat burning mechanisms! Oh damn, how do I do that? Meals are served at the same designated times each day, with no snacks in between. They must hate me! Sabotaging my weight control attempts.

I’m at my wits end! That’s the big three, right? Exercise, calories, and metabolism. As long as I adhere to what I’ve been instructed to do by the experts and our government guidelines, I will drop weight no problem! There was a time when I wasn’t obese like this. A day when I didn’t care what the rules said and when I ate what and when I felt like it. How did all of this “correct” knowledge get perverted in my application? Being in the navy brings unique challenges with weight problems. I am reminded of how I am a failure at my job (since fitness is part of my job!) If you are overweight you are also not likely injured (You’re just being lazy! Trying to get out of exercise and not really injured!)

Nothing made sense. When I’d go to medical for required check-ups, I’d have good blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. and be told I’m in great physical shape, except for, you know, being fat. I was eating low fat, healthy grains, exercising excessively, and a complete failure.

Then by happenstance I came across a documentary called “Fat Head.” Things started clicking. My mind was racing. I began reading even more. I read a very thorough deconstruction of The China Study. I drew on my personal experience with fasting (I had skipped meals like crazy for no reason other than I was fed up with everything and had no appetite. I lost weight and felt awesome, but “knew” I was harming myself because I was ruining my metabolism). So I began researching intermittent fasting. And that’s how I ended up here on Mark’s Daily Apple.

I read everything. Bought The Primal Blueprint. Read and re-read so many of the success stories. Shared all of this with my wife. We talked. And we consumed the information again. Things that seemed like common sense that we had ignored for years were now being confirmed by this wonderful site and others like it.

So in March 2014 we began our trip into the Primal lifestyle. And the weight started coming off like crazy. I had gotten to 230 pounds, which wasn’t sitting well on my 5’6″ frame. The fascinating thing was that my wife never really worked out and I was still in a full arm cast with orders not to get my blood pressure up via exercise. Yet, here we were. Both feeling really good. Losing weight. And enjoying the successes together.

In July 2014, I had all the hardware removed from my reconstructed wrist and was returned to full duty. I weighed just around 200 pounds, but by the navy measuring system my body fat percentage had gone up. Damn, another failure. Sucks when you lose 35 pounds, several inches off your waist, but the official paperwork says you are getting worse.

06318517BF3C0000F5400003-attachment-1-2014-10-12_19In October 2014, I had another physical fitness weigh in and had made my goal weight of 170 pounds. What?! 60 pounds lost! The first time I had made my weight since 16 years ago in boot camp (if you are over the weight limit they measure your body fat so it’s possible to be over the weight limit and still within standards)! I was so excited. And so incredibly mad!

I had spent years doing as I was told. Following the guidelines from my immediate leaders, the FDA, and all the experts—and being treated as if I was the problem, when really the information was wrong. The results didn’t match the science, but that couldn’t be right because the science said it wasn’t. So I was what was wrong.

I’m sorry that this has been so angry. Filled with so much sarcasm and vitriol. I have written, and rewritten this story several times and I don’t know how to sanitize it for this negativity without losing the frustration I have with the “conventional wisdom” I was trying to follow, but failing at.

Being overweight comes with many pitfalls, but those become magnified when you work in a job that uses it as a basis for retention and promotion—and when you know you weren’t promoted for over seven years as a result, it’s very frustrating. It’s hard to think of all the lost pay and opportunities (you can’t be an overweight instructor for example) despite your adherence to all of the “rules of health and fitness.” It’s shocking to discover how easy it can be to be healthy—the realization that so many things that felt intuitive were actually correct. But I had ignored them because of all the science and advice.

It’s been a whole year now. In June/July, when I was returned to full duty, I was required to do a full physical. This month (January 2015) I was also required to do our annual Physical Health Assessment (required once per year in your birth month).

Here are my results:

  • Total Cholesterol is 253, up from 218 in July
  • HDL is 69, up from 44
  • LDL is 166, up from 130
  • Triglycerides are 91, down from 216
  • My cholesterol ratio is 3.7, down from 5.0
  • Blood pressure is 120/79
  • Weight is 170, down from 200 in July and 230 from March when I started.

And how was the information met? With dissatisfaction. I can’t begin to describe the disappointment and anger I felt as I sat there being told (I’m paraphrasing), “Your weight is down by 60 pounds, your good cholesterol is up, your triglycerides are down, your ratio is great, and your blood pressure is awesome. You need to change everything you’re doing and follow the Mediterranean diet.” What? How can you call yourself a health professional, yet sit there and see evidence that should lead you to examine the research, but don’t. Just keep recycling the same information without an understanding of why some evidence doesn’t support the structure. Frustrating!

06318517BF3C0000F5400003-attachment-2-PicsArt951414616879187Anyway, since late fall we have been sharing our story with friends and family that have asked about our changes and we are hoping many of them can enjoy the same benefits we have. And I’d like to thank Mark for all of the valuable information and support. I just wish there was a way to help all of the sailors who lost careers and opportunities by following the wrong advice.

But mostly, I want to thank each and every one of you that shared your stories with us. They are so very inspiring. They provide clarity and motivation every time I read them (and I do re-read them).

Happy Primal living!


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105 thoughts on “The Struggles of a Navy Man: Fighting Bad Conventional Advice with Primal Successes”

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  1. Military Intelligence…the DOD is not! Great job!!! I tried for quite a few years to tell about this and they looked at you like you had just shot the pope! “That can’t work, no way”

    1. Military intelligence.

      Isn’t that an oxymoron?

      I’m sorry you were so mistreated, but the civilian world is no better. (With regard to doctors’ advice. At least they can’t fire us civilians for getting fat… Not legally anyway.)

      1. BTW – before anyone thinks I’m a hater, I want you to know that I love & respect our service men & women. (My father, my husband, & my brother among them.)
        Military is just another institution that’s been mucked up w/ CW.

        1. “a hater” is one of the dumbest additions to the leftist vocabulary.

      2. Ha ha. What a knee slapper. Never heard that one before.
        Jokes about military are always funnier coming from people that never served!

        But good on you Tony. Keep charging the hill, Shipmate.

        1. I suppose being the daughter, wife & sister of military members makes me disqualified to comment or poke a little fun.
          I have plenty of experiences from which to draw when making my initial comment. I have witnessed inefficient, ineffective & unequal treatment of all my armed service family members & their families.
          This doesn’t change my respect for those who serve, their dedication to this country, or the patriotism they represent.
          I do, however, respect the ones who can laugh at themselves a bit more than those who take the greatest offense when none was really intended, or whose greatest delight is in belittling others.
          FYI – daughters & wives may never serve (some chose to), but we do sacrifice. A little respect for that wouldn’t hurt. We’re intimate with the military, whether or not we’ve served overseas. And, yeah, my family did that too. Maybe not in a war zone, but out of our comfort zone. I’ve always thought we were the better for it. (I’m sure you’d disagree.)

        2. Wow, let me guess, you joined straight out of college and went right into officer corps, right? Because I was enlisted in the Army and we grunts used to joke (sarcastically) about “military intelligence” all. the. time. Maybe we should have done it within earshot of command. Not.

          Seriously. Chill.

  2. I totally understand your anger. Even where it is not so obvious, the bias is still there, just under the surface. Good job swimming against the tide.

  3. Very inspiring. Incredible stats in a relatively short period of time. Respect to you Tony – never easy challenging ‘conventional’ wisdom but clearly the proof is in the (High Protein-Low Carb) Pudding

  4. You are entitled to your anger, but it’s good to let it go. “To the victor belongs the spoils”, right? Thank you for sharing and for all the encouragement others will derive from your story. Thank you for your service. We don’t make it so easy for you, but we appreciate you.

  5. Totally get the anger- my doc told me to change everything after I lost 30lbs and my numbers were better b/c that’s what she knew. I was able to switch docs though. Good luck and keep up the good work!

  6. Great job Tony…inspirational…you feel strong and healthy and sharp…let go of the anger and joyfully live life to the fullest everyday. (I was angry for a while too when I realized that living primally worked. I was 48.) At 53 I feel better then when I was 35.

    Congratulations on your success.

  7. Good for you, Tony! You weighed anchor and set a course for a healthier, happier life.

    The navy isn’t known for providing healthful and nutritious meals, just highly accessible ones. I’m curious to know if you were serving aboard ship during your transition, and, if so, did you have access to fresh, unprocessed foods?

    1. The Navy actually has pretty good food compared to the Army (where I served), especially for its chiefs and probably officers. I have experience with Navy food too because my dad was in. Career, retired at E-7. The problem is that if you’re deployed on a ship, eventually you run out of the good stuff. He came home noticeably thinner after one voyage because he’d been down to salads. Of course that was the late 80s and things may possibly have changed, I don’t know. We ate in his mess while his ship was docked in between deployments.

      1. Actually, Dana.
        I enlisted in the Navy in 1972, and was commissioned in 1981. I completed my college during the periods while I wasn’t deployed. And there were 4 of those in the 9 years. Have a nice day.
        Seriously. Think.

        Wow, let me guess, you joined straight out of college and went right into officer corps, right? Because I was enlisted in the Army and we grunts used to joke (sarcastically) about “military intelligence” all. the. time. Maybe we should have done it within earshot of command. Not.

        Seriously. Chill.

  8. I had almost the exact same experience (though not in the military context). I lost 25% of my body weight, blood pressure problem went from serious to minor, fit and feel great, HDL way up, triglycerides way down, blood glucose levels perfect.

    Cardiologist goes nuts because my LDL is borderline/high.

    Now, just in case this applies to you — I found out, after another year or so of maintaining weight but not getting the nice LDL numbers that other people were getting on the same primal diet — that I carry the apoe4 allele. It’s genetic. It makes women (but not most men, lucky them) more susceptible to Alzheimer’s, but it’s just a risk factor, not a diagnosis. (Neither sufficient nor necessary for getting the disease.) After a lot of research, I found that the 25% or so of the population that has this genetic makeup also seem to have LDL problems, which can be greatly improved by adjusting the diet. Not abandoning what you’ve done, but tweaking. Switching out fats. I’m working on that now. Mark has mentioned this issue before but hasn’t written about it a lot. I am kind of hoping he turns his attention to it soon, but FWIW, there you go.

    You have done a tremendous job and deserve to feel delighted and proud of yourself. Congratulations.

    1. Large, fluffy LDL is not a problem. Small, dense LDL is. Chris Kesser has info. on this. There is a test to find out, but you can…

      Divide Triglycerides by HDL and if it’s less than 2, you have the mostly large, buoyant type (won’t clog your arteries). If greater than 3, that’s mostly dense and a risk.

      1. A lot of researchers have come to this conclusion about large fluffy vs. small dense LDL. But there are leaders in the field — friend of Primal, even, including Peter Attia — who have come to the conclusion that LDL-P (particle count) is the determining factor and that both types of LDL are damaging. I’m not a scientist, don’t take my word for it. I really wanted to comfort myself with the “large fluffy” answer but when I honestly read and evaluated what was being written by people I respected, I decided it could turn out to be wishful thinking. If I were 30 years younger I’d risk it.

    2. Tony & Martha – I’m glad you raised this topic for those of us whose LDL has shot up.

      Primal took me from skinny-fat to skinny-lean, with little net change in my weight. In my mid-forties, on a high carb SAD diet, my vital signs and lipids were “good” — LDL 88, HDL 57; triglycerides 48. I’ve been primal for four years now, and many things health-wise have improved. But my last couple of lipid panels averaged: LDL 155, HDL 80, triglycerides 44.

      I recently read Death by Food Pyramid, in which Denise Minger mentions the amylase content of one’s saliva makes some of us better at processing starch – which got me thinking whether some of us with high LDL may need to tweak the low-carb/PB formula.

      Is my LDL spike a concern that should be managed down or further investigated? Given my family history, I’m more concerned about Alzheimer’s (where it may be protective) than heart disease. For now, I will try to do better at the things Mark mentions here: Best wishes to you both!

      1. If you are heterozygous for apoe4, like me, read this: Also, read Grain Brain, by Dr. David Perlmutter. My cholesterol numbers are nice and high – and I want them there. Look into what cholesterol actually does in the body, and especially in the brain. Then feel free to disagree with your doctor, when told to get a statin. My doc is resigned to my attitude – we have a great relationship. She even remarked, “You look so healthy!” before my checkup 2 years back. But she can’t connect the dots (officially anyway – I think because of liability issues).

  9. PS A lot of paleo/primal people don’t think that LDL is an issue in a low-carb person, and it will sure be wonderful if that is ever proved with big studies, but I have decided, after reading some definitely not Conventional Wisdom material on this — such as Peter Attia and others — that tweaking to lower LDL was a good idea. YMMV.

    1. Hi Martha, I have exactly the same issue. My doctor was talking statin last time even though my HDL is 97 and triglycerides 43 and I negotiated to be retested in a few weeks and then reconsider. BTW, doc does not believe diet and lifestyle can change anything! Says I am so tiny, this has to be genetic. Although my LDL was way lower when I was not eating primal, it has to do with diet and lifestyle. May I ask what foods you are avoiding or replacing. So far, I am trying to limit saturated fat (I especially stopped cooking everything in coconut oil and animal fat) but have no idea if this will improve my LDL on my next blood test. I also slowed down on the exercise level. Thank you for sharing.

      1. Natalie, my doctor said exactly the same thing to the med student who was in the room with us — “Look at her! She’s not eating steak!” (Actually, I was, some.) He felt my borderline numbers and low weight had to be genetic and didn’t want to hear about my exercise or my weight loss or diet or anything else. I had other issues with him — he was not a good doctor — but I don’t believe now that he was entirely wrong about this. My relatively heavy SFA intake may well have been behind at least some of the increase, but the good news is you can probably just sub some different fats and get things heading back in a better direction.

        I don’t have my results yet but I am taking steps that have led to good results for other people who are in the same boat as me. First, no one I have talked to has said cut back on exercise. (If you’re over-training, that’s different, but if you’re primal you’re probably not doing that, right?)

        What I and my friends have done over several weeks (I am going for 6, about) is cut out the animal fats (including dairy) and replace them with monounsaturated fats (avocado, EVOO). No coconut oil or palm oil (though I loved them both) for now. From various sources I also got these ideas: chia seed, milled, in smoothies every other day, alternating with psyllium husk unless I’m getting too much (you’ll know) and in that case I skip the psyllium on that day. I am not eating eggs right now, but if my numbers improve a lot, eggs and a little coconut butter are the first things I’ll try to add back. I’ve shifted my macros from 65% fat and under 40 net carbs to about 50% fat and averaging 70 net carbs. (I’ve been keto-adapted for 18 months or so and am burning a good amount.) To do that, I’ve increased non-starchy vegetables, am eating more root veggies, and I eat small portions of beans most days, usually as ingredients in salads or in hummus-like concoctions I make at home and use as “turmeric delivery systems”! I couldn’t give up my Greek yogurt and switched to non-fat for right now. I am not eating cheese at all. I realize that several of the foods I am eating are against paleo law and that I am ruling out some foods that are perfectly good for some people. But the fact is I have a (not uncommon) genetic pathology I have to deal with and an orthodox approach has not brought me a solution to it, even though it improved my overall health quite a bit. Note that I don’t say any of this is against Primal law because from reading MDA I know that Mark Sisson is not into orthodoxy and also that he has already briefly addressed this issue on the site. It may be that we will want to take this to the forums. Best, Martha

        1. PS — and this is certainly not a strategy that most people on here will go for — I am even considering INCREASING my pufas from whole foods. I have the fish end of it pretty well dialed in already, but it may be that for me, more omega 6 may not be the end of the world. I’ve just started researching that. I’m not saying that the Primal prescriptions are wrong, I’m just saying (as Mark has pretty much tentatively suggested himself) that not everybody can expect the same result, based on genetics.

        2. Yes, I will start a post on the forum, and answer there. Thanks so much Martha, everything you wrote is very useful.

        3. Sorry for the delay, I started a post on the Primal Blueprint Nutrition forum.

      2. Your HDL to Triglycerides are beautiful. See my post above, I’ll guarantee you have the large, fluffy (good type LDL) and not the dangerous small, dense LDL. Chris Kesser talks about this too on his website. Don’t let the damned doctors put you on anything yet!

        1. I’ll second the motion to say “no” to statins — especially since you are getting advice from a doctor who doesn’t think diet and lifestyle are relevant!

        2. Natalie, have you posted on the forum yet? I will go and search for your name there if that’s an option. I was busy yesterday and didn’t follow up. Best, Martha

      3. You know, you may not need anyone to point this out to you, but just in case you had forgotten…you can do what you want with your body, you don’t have to “negotiate” anything with your doctor. He’s there to consult with you, you pay him for a service, that’s it. You don’t have to take his advice. If you don’t want to take statins, then don’t. He sounds like a fool anyway to be frank. Diet and lifestyle aren’t a factor in health? And what does being tiny have to do with anything? That’s bizarre. I’m surprised you don’t just find a different (better) doctor.

        1. Exactly! I will refuse statins for sure. But what I plan to negotiate is to have my fatty acids tested every quarter. I really want to understand what makes my LDL goes up.Unfortunately, all doctors are about the same at Kaiser. I know this one is not really sharp but at least she is usually ok ordering tests I ask for. I have seen worse.
          Kaiser does not have the test to differentiate the LDL particule size. I would love to make sure I have the good kind because I don’t want to take any risks. My dad had bypass surgery in his early 60s and he was very active, healthy and no symptoms what so ever except high LDL.

  10. Glad you kept on searching Tony and bravo for the results!!!

  11. It’s so frustrating that your doctor should be jumping for joy at your apparent fitness and staggeringly improved triglycerides. But instead they see your total cholesterol number and have a heart attack.

    I had the same thing happen last week. I’m 24 years old, 6′ tall, 165lbs. Great blood pressure, low LDL, low triglycerides, good HDL, normal body fat %, and low resting heart rate. But my total cholesterol was 205. So, I got a call from my doctor recommending I reduce animal fats and eggs in my diet…

    *Shaking my head

      1. Yes, new doctor. The healthiest people in the world have Total Cholesterol between 200-260. Every stinkin’ year the doctors lower the healthy cholesterol levels so now everyone supposedly has to start taking statins.

        1. I just got lab work done and my total cholesterol is 265. My understanding is that it is the ratio of LDL to HDL that is more important. My HDL is 92, which means my ratio is 2.9, which is considered good. I am not going to concern myself with the total number.

      2. Good luck finding one that’s different – most have to follow the insurance companies/establishment Playbook-Bible.

        Even the Naturopath I tried uses the same playbook and was spouting the China Study at me when I argued that my cholesterol numbers were in fact great.

        Just do what I do – politely nod and politely decline any meds.

  12. I ran into the same mind set at the VA. So far I’ve fired 3 doctors, the 4th retired just before I fired him. They don’t have a clue. They’re so brainwashed by the drug companies and conventional wisdom they can’t see what’s right in front of them. I gave up trying to talk to them about it. I just tell them what they want to hear and go on my way. What a waist. Good you stopped listening to them and regained your health. Keep up the good work.

  13. The anger is completely understandable and warranted. And I say don’t let it go but use it to fuel you not consume you.

    I think this is a big issue in our community. Like Neo waking up from the Matrix everyone is bound to be pretty upset at what is going on. The tightrope is to use that to fuel your own changes and those around you.

    CW has devastated three generations of my family. A litany of ills culminating in my beloved uncle getting dementia after taking statins.

    Darn straight I am pissed off and I will remain so until CW and all those profiting from it are no longer able to do the harm they are doing.

    1. But how do we stop the people, such as the medical profession? We are peons, they are experts!

      This week the mail had the local hospital’s little newsletter. Comes with a recipe from their dietitian to make whole wheat French toast using some sort of soy and cutting out the eggs. She also wrote an article concerning New Year’s goals. Her goal is to be 100% whole grain by April 1st. Slowly but surely, right? And pictures of their overweight staff, including overweight cardiologists.

      But it’s hard to use fuel to generate change around you. There are the go-to responses of “oh well, that’s how YOUR body reacts” or “it’s genetic, my whole family has high blood pressure!”

      I can relate to Tony’s anger….and I congratulate him on keeping on doing what he knows works. To your health! 🙂 My Dad is retired Navy, God bless you for your service!

      1. I do not know how a happy face got in there…but I guess it’s appropriate. Let the anger disperse, let’s move on!

      2. 100% whole wheat by April Fool’s day???

        Sometimes satire writes itself.

        RE: The overweight staff

        You think the staff follows the dietary recommendations?

        Probably worse than Catholic priests observe celibacy.

        1. I’m sure they do follow the recommendations and that’s why they’re fat.

  14. Tony, thank you for your service.

    I so resonate with your anger. I think back to the years of raising our kids on a “healthy” low fat, high carb diet based on all the expert recommendations which was reinforced by the school mantra “SAT FAT BAD”. It’s now been a challenge for the past two years to undo the damage as they are addicted to carbs and see no reason to change.

    If only I knew then what I know now…

    BTW, moving your Trig:HDL ratio from 4.9 to 1.3 is nothing short of awesome.

  15. I love your story, your anger will dissipate as you continue to live better and better. I’ve had similar experiences with my doctors, but they are overweight and I’m not! So, I (smugly ;-)) go about my life doing what I know works, feeling great and looking healthy and happy.

  16. BTW one of the foremost people, IMO, doing cutting edge work on cholesterol is Ivor Cummins. He can be found on twitter and Youtube and at thefatemperor.

    He is an engineer by training but has done fantastic work on cholesterol. His cholesterol conundrum is a must watch on YouTube.

    BTW total cholesterol over 200 is associated with lower overall mortality. I keep trying to get mine up. My HDL is going up faster than LDL but still can’t get my total over 200.

    Triglycerides/ HDL is the only ratio that has predictive value. 75% of people with a heart event have LDL 130 or under. 50% have LDL under 100. It is virtually meaningless.

  17. Nice work, Tony! And thank you for your service!

    Ditto what Larry said. Nailed it.

  18. Great job Tony. Another perfect example of the nationwide (worldwide) epidemic of CW stupidity.

  19. Great job, Tony. I know how you feel. Used to be in the Navy and got the same advice you received. I remember being made to attend a “Nutrition” class when I reported to a command for shore duty. The same BS advice from a certified “expert”. Question; you look familiar; are you the Tony who was on the Florida (G)?

    1. Yes I was on the Florida Gold. And are you by any chance the MM Bruce who would routinely post really good PFA numbers but still had to get out because of BCA?

      1. Yes, that would be me. They didn’t kick me out, per say; they let me stay to my EAOS, but wouldn’t let me re-enlist anymore. Wish I would had discovered Paleo/Primal while I was in; I may still be in if that were the case. I had 11 years in when I got out. I am sure I could have endured another 9 years or so. Congrats; it’s good to see all that time served won’t be for nothing.

  20. I share in your frustration, although I didn’t have to deal with it for nearly as long and it didn’t affect my job career. But I played volleyball in college and was constantly at battle with myself to lose weight but eat enough to fuel my workouts. It was awful. I never had energy, could never lose the weight, and always felt so terrible about food and eating. I tried to be healthy by conventional wisdom standards, and what is considered to be a “balanced diet” for an athlete, and it never worked for me.

    It wasn’t until a couple years after that I found Primal. Wish I would have had it then–and I also was just pretty outraged at all the “advice” I had been told over the years on how to lose the weight (mostly, eat less and do more cardio. Yeah, okay.)

    The good news is, you’ve found the solution. Celebrate it, and don’t waste your energy brooding over the past. Just put your energy toward being your best self and helping others do the same when and where you can!

  21. Congratulations on the new, improved you!

    I eat pretty much the same foods year round. But in the summer, when the farm work starts up again, I typically lose about 5-10% of my bodyweight. So I think the calories in/calories out equation must be true, either because I’m too busy to eat or because I’m more active, or both.. But low carb does tend to reduce one’s overall appetite. It’s therefore pretty essential for sedentary times I think. : )

  22. Great job Tony, and profound thanks for your service. I get your anger, I was angry too after I learned about Primal/paleo living. CW almost killed me when I was in the Army because of severe debilitating depression. Carb loading just to pass PT standards. Never again. And I don’t concern myself with my cholesterol “numbers” anymore because I just know better now. I wish you and your family lots of happiness and success.

  23. Good for you! I feel your pain. I was in the Navy in the 80s and back then they measured your neck, along with the standard other body parts to gauge your body fat.
    I was 6 foot tall and 150 lbs. and they said I was obese.

  24. I like the way it was written and you have every right to be pissed. It aggravates me to hear how you were treated.
    The good news is you’re stronger and smarter now.
    I’m glad you found the path.
    Congratulations my friend.

  25. Very inspiring. I completely understand your frustration and anger. As a health care professional I’ve been weeping at the state of our health care. The lack of common sense and open mindedness to examine other evidence other what’s taught in school and preached by the government is scary. Everyone just parrots what they’ve been taught and don’t give it one ounce of thought.

    I’m with you. You did a great job.

  26. Nice work. Just remind yourself that you are healthier than all those so called professionals who are working out what to feed you and setting your base line standards for “health”. And keep spreading the word.

  27. Oh I get the anger angle! Not just for the opportunity costs, but there’s that creepy thought: “What if I never found out and kept going the CW way?”

    But we’re here and seems like part of the job now is to sit there and not go crazy as we listen to our CW-believing peers pontificate. They come from different walks of life: I’ve got both the ultra-marathoner who gets no sleep, and my FIL doctor who is frustrated with his obese wife’s failure to stick to her diet–while he buys her plastic tubs of cinnamon rolls that have been sitting in their preservatives for who knows how long. They are both unsatisfied but don’t want to hear anything you have to say as it doesn’t fit with their conventional world view.

  28. Congratulations, Tony! You’re right to be angry – the misguided government dietary recommendations and the continual straw-man arguments against the paleo diet in mainstream media is enough to make anyone furious… even without the career crippling effects that it brought you. So sorry! I hope the early setbacks lead to amazing things in the future for you though.

  29. Anger? Vitriol? Where? I think you’ve excised them. If you don’t think so, I should introduce you to my ex-husband (who I am still friends with) when he’s on a tear. I’ve learned some interesting phrases from him, some of which impressed my dad who is retired Navy. And my step-mother once impressed a Marine Drill Sergeant with her creativity. I see the frustration and sarcasm, but given that my ex-husband, husband, and 12-yr-old daughter all speak fluent sarcasm, and I’m no slouch with it myself, I found your liberal sprinkling of sarcasm rather refreshing.

  30. I am prior Navy and at one point, a Command Fitness Leader (CFL) myself while stationed in Europe. The Navy holds a program for individuals who fail semi-annual Body Composition Measurements, it’s called Ship Shape. It preaches much of the conventional wisdom (e.g. calories in-calories out, whole grains, low fat, etc.) to aid in weight-loss. At the time I was setting my own roots within the Paleo/Primal lifestyle. As part of my CFL duty, I had to conduct these classes and preach these falsehoods. However, I did my best to turn people to great resources such as MDA, The Bulletproof Exec, Paleo Solution, etc.

  31. Way to go, man. As my mama always said, “The best revenge is to lead the perfect life.” That helped me be nice to people who weren’t nice to me, without discounting my anger, and I hope it applies here, too. Rock on with the knowledge that you’re taking great care of yourself where others have failed you!

  32. Tony-
    I didn’t think you came off as particularly angry, and I didn’t think it was necessary to apologize for the few times you did express anger. I think it’s extremely healthy to know what you feel, and express what you feel constructively, which you did. Congrats on your achievement–you look great!

  33. Great story Tony! As a former Navy man, I can relate to your experience. I left with the understanding the military was designed by geniuses to be run by thoughtless robots. Going against the book is never a good career move even if it saves lives. Making change is as easy as stopping a Nimitz class flat top from all ahead Bendix. Your fellow sailors will see your success. Avoid the chain of command and use scuttlebutt to spread the word.

  34. Totally can relate. I was in Marine Corps where physical appearance is even more dang year correlated with IQ for some people. I was in prior to bodyfat measuring being accepted as an alternative indicator. At single digit bodyfat percentages, I would be over weight chart desire cuts. I spent early years doing silly unhealthy things to make weight. Then came stresses of actual deployments, divorce and the disasters and my health was first to go. Years of yo-yo dieting with horrible CW advice…. I’m fighting the uphill battle, but I kept most of the die-trying mindset from the Corps.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Shipmate!

  35. Trust me Tony, we have all been there in one way or the other with conventional wisdom destroying health before you know what’s hit you.

    My sister is overweight and has diabetes that was out of control. She would wake up in the morning with blood sugar reading in the 300’s. She was put on several medications and was still not able to manage her blood sugar no matter what she did.

    After reading a book called Grain Brain, I started doing my own research and I found Mark and the primal lifestyle, I decided to ditch grains and sugar to see if there was any truth to the idea that grains just might actually be unhealthy for some people. I wanted to lose about 15 pounds, but more than anything i wanted to stop out of control binge eating which was mostly grain based sugary processed foods.

    I was terrified to actually start eating eggs with the yolks, bacon, red meat, cheese, and of all the horrors, REAL BUTTER! I was used to eating frozen Healthy Choice, and Lean Cuisine meals along with sugar laden yogurt, bread and grain based cereals. I thought this might be my last experiment, because I would ruin my health, become sick, and develop a disease or two.

    Well, we all know what happens when you adopt the primal lifestyle…. you lose weight, nagging intestinal problems clear up, you sleep better, have more energy, your eyesight improves, your teeth stay cleaner during the day, and your emotions stabilize.

    After I heralded my amazing results to my sister, she got on board, but before that she started ditching her medications. Come to find out several of the medications she was taking actually makes diabetes worse, or are risk factor for developing the disease and statin drugs carry the risk of developing diabetes in women!! She didn’t even have high cholesterol but her doctor put her on it anyway (just in case) which caused out of control blood sugar problems. And this was on top of another drug with the same side effects that she was taking.

    I can understand your anger. Since she dumped a large number of medications and is eating primal whole foods, no grains, sugar, or processed poisons, her BS is in the 90’s or 100’s most days with only one injection at night instead of two injections daily and one pill.

    This to me, is an unconscionable malpractice of medicine. Since my sister is obese I think she was viewed as a ticking time bomb and not worth saving. If you want to know what doctors really think about the people that walk into their office, read “The MD Emperor Has No Clothes”. This was a big eye-opener for me. My sister is now losing weight and is experiencing a lot of the good things that are mentioned when people go primal.

    We are too much in the business of making money by managing disease in this country, and not into helping people stay healthy through proper nutrition and movement.

    Trust me when i tell you that you’re not alone. The jig is up. The word is out. Things will change, and it starts on sites like this one and stories like yours!!

    Regards and good luck!

  36. From everything I’ve been reading LDL numbers go up on Paleo type diets. The only thing that matters is if the LDLs are oxidized or not. If ones diet is clean and not full of inflammation causing junk don’t worry about LDLs. After my last annual physical for the FD (BP 115/75, %11 bodyfat, HDL 87, Tri’s 42, LDLs 125) the Tardiologist was to administer the treadmill EKG told me I should consider statins. I told her to not worry about it, I was Paleo. She blew up and all but called me a moron, I believe she even sabotaged my test. I had to burn 6 24 hour shifts worth of sick leave before I could get a clean stress echo treadmill to return to work. They are all schills for big Pharma!

  37. Way to go Tony and family! That is such a nice result and thank you for sharing your story. I was in the Army and hated the “fat boy” program. Not that I was ever overweight but I had to do the taping of my soldiers – so embarrassing for both of us. And then we had this fine example of Norman Schwartzkopf sporting a big belly all over the place. What a crock!

    I recently had my exceptionally skinny 15-year-old into Kaiser for a check-up. He has such a low body fat he’s in the bottom 1% of the weight table and what was the printed advice? Make sure to work out for an hour a day -there was no connection to the information they had gathered. Why does he need to work out for an hour a day? I almost said something but I am just not convinced it would matter. Of course if Mark felt that way, this site wouldn’t be here. Maybe I should call.

  38. Well, I just need to add my 2 cents to your post even tho it doesn’t really come close to what you went through, Sorta/kinda the same mentality on the part of the doctors – no matter how low my lipid numbers went, it was never good enough. They always (and I do mean always) had to be lower. And since they needed to be lower, that meant pills: statins, niacin, whatever to get those numbers down, down, down. Heaven knows what would have happened had I been in the service and had to deal with the baselines you were subjected to—

    Thank you for posting and thank you for being yourself and doing what you thought was right for you.It; so absolutely refreshing to hear from someone who had the balls to fight the system and do what they thought was right for themselves. Loved your story and all the best!

  39. Great job Tony, congrats on your weight loss! Primal works! Like you and others in this community who diligently followed CW, my only regret is not finding this way of life sooner.

    And thank you for your service. It is much appreciated.

  40. I say go for it and do the Mediterranean diet. Stop eating Mediterraneans, k?

    Congratulations on your progress! keep up the great work!

    1. bahha – eric – this wasis really funny – but what if those mediterraneans just taste so good with extra butter and salt? jk

      1. you know? Mediterraneans are actually primal-approved… lots of protein in them… problem is that its sooo difficult to get grass-fed ones. 😉

  41. congrats Tony – and your story is wonderful – and glad you were able to fight for your health – and also – it seems that so many health professionals are “not” doing that – I once heard someone say that it is like they get a “duhhhh- free” and throw common sense out the window. so cheers to doing what we know our bodies need – and we are stronger because of it! 🙂

  42. Great job, Tony. It still amazes me that regardless of how much “we” think we know about calories in/calories out the body has a completely different operating system than the one we believe it should have. Awesome story!

  43. I went through similar as an Air Force officer who became overweight. That made me officially worthless, it didn’t matter how good I was in every other area of my duties. It also made my commander look bad and he let me know he was not amused. I left after a few years – I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be forced out because I was not promotable due to being overweight. Maybe the stubborn weight problem happened because I was in denial about not really wanting to have a military career. At any rate, what was ironic is the USAF was all up in my face about being overweight, and yet every morning for breakfast the mess hall served up SOS (ground beef in gravy), biscuits, toast, pancakes, waffles, grits, cream of wheat, jams, jellies, syrups, juices, and trays of all kinds of pastries (which we called “fat pills”).

  44. Congrats Tom!

    And for all those of you you have to keep their LDL cholesterol numbers in check just for their employer’s and insurance’s sake while being happy themselves with their LDL numbers, there’s a great biohack for those LDL numbers:

    Instead of doing the prescribed 12 hour fast before taking blood for the lab just extend the fast to 36 or 48 hours. Your body will burn some of the LDL particles during the fast. I did lower my numbers from 170 to 120 a week later with a 48 hour fast instead of the 12 hours before.

    You must be a fat-burning beast before, of course! Just work out before the test how long a fast is manageable for you. Good luck :o)

  45. I’m a doc. And I can attest that it’s really hard to let go of everything you learned in medical school. When black becomes white and up becomes down (and fat becomes healthy and grains become toxic)…trying it for yourself is one thing..but advising patients becomes even harder and is perceived as professionally risky. We need to slowly educate medical professionals by explaining our stories. They aren’t evil or mean-spirited, just overworked and skeptical of anything new, especially if unconventional in their rigid worldview. But once the lightbulb goes off, converted doctors can greatly influence others. So, be kind to your doctors. Bring them a copy of “Good Calories, Bad Calories.” They will, eventually, figure it out.

    1. I understand what you are saying, but my sister did not have the time for the doctors to figure it out. Peoples’ lives are at stake right here. Western medical treatment killed both of my parents and someone needs to be accountable. I am being accountable for my own health by eating whole foods only, getting exercise and the best part is staying away from western medicine.

  46. Nice going, Tony!

    My doctor has finally got the word…. he suggests every patient read “Grain Brain” and “Wheat Belly”.

    Jay~ Doing the reading!

  47. Tony, I have been in the Navy 22 years, and one of things I’ve learned along the way is what do you call the person who finishes last in medical school? Lieutenant or Captain! In my last squadron, we supported SOF, so when we were downrange away from big mother Navy, we put the guys who were on mando PT through crossfit-style workouts, with the only running being short sprints associated with the WOD, and had them do barbell training in squats, deadlifts, bench/overhead press, and back rows. Since we were on a small base, we also were able to eat primarily Primal. Every person we put through the training came home within Navy standards, but unfortunately, about 30% of those folks went back to their old ways of eating when they got home, and found themselves outside of standards within a few months of returning from deployment. The biggest problem we had is that, once we got these guys back home, the Navy would not allow us to follow the workouts we did overseas because crossfit has been deemed as too dangerous by the same morons who are giving your Command Fitness Leaders guidance! The services, especially the Navy, uses fitness standards as a force reduction tool, so good luck to you in the future, and keep fighting the “advice” you will get from the doctors. Most of the docs are not trained to know what is best for you anyway and will only spout out the CW methods they have read or learned about on their own.

  48. Tony, congratulations on finding your way to health in spite of all that conventional wisdom!! It always amazes me to see the degree to which people can deny direct evidence when it doesn’t fit with what they have been taught.

  49. Just wait till you get into all the sleep-related CW. That one got me angry. I suffered from insomnia all my life and had poor sleep for years. The fix cost me a total, one time cost of $150, and requires no medication. It is simple – red sunglasses for 2 hours before bed and a sleep mask at night. I no longer have insomnia; these days, I sleep like a baby. I am also reducing my risk of cancer by at least 30%. And NO ONE has ever told me this. Not a single doctor has mentioned that light exposure at night is bad for you. Not a single f&[email protected]$ing sleep specialist has said a word about it. They sure said a lot of words about Ambien, but nothing about darkness and light exposure.

    Yeah, I was angry. I’m using the anger to give me energy to spread the word, so that others don’t have to suffer as I did.

  50. Awesome !

    My husband is ex-navy and he says the military had ruined him, too.
    He was hovering around 300 lbs at some point and is now down to 240 lbs on a 6’4″ tall frame.

    Love your story, congrats!

  51. To expand on my previous post:

    If you are under a doctor’s care and receiving periodic blood chemistry tests and those tests demonstrate improvement, ie increased HDL-C, decreased TG, decreased CRP, decreased HgbA1C, it would be appropriate to inform the doc that you have changed your diet based on the robustity of research regarding LCHF diet and cardiovascular risk. If your doc still recommends a statin or somesuch, based on “elevated total cholesterol” or “elevated LDL,” simply request LDL subtype testing (he or she may not even know what that is) and give him some literature recommendations.

    I think most doctors respond positively to new information and, once interested, could become advocates and help a lot of other patients. And it can all start by on patient explaining what and why they made dietary changes.

    And on that note, everyone responds a bit differently and it is important to stay hooked into the conventional medical system, at the very least to observe your blood chemistry changes and confirm positive trending. Because every human is different and has a different response to this diet and different carb threshold (ie carb level above your personal threshold, combined with high fat intake, may be counterproductive).

    And if the doc seems totally uninterested, well, then, I think it’s time to switch. But at least try to educate. Because converting one doc can change hundreds of lives.

  52. Tony- way to go. I’m glad you figured things out and got on the right path. I am retired Navy and can attest that the docs in the Navy are no better (or worse) than the rest of the population. Result- many of them are seriously out of date with how to help us get healthy and unfortunately in the sway of Big Pharma. We all need to take charge of our health and use the healthcare system to support us, not the other way around.

    Fair winds and following seas, Shipmate.

  53. The current guidelines for initiation of statins would not include this young man. It also sounds like many of the anecdotes in the comments include providers who are not using the most current recommendations. We are not treating to target LDL goals anymore. Your provider should be talking about your 10-yr risk of atherosclerotic (heart attack, stroke) disease, NOT the values of your specific numbers.

    For example, if our Navy guy was 40, a non-smoker and not diabetic, his risk would be 1%! This is very low risk. There is no way I’d be talking about statins with him. I’d be shaking his hand telling him good job and to keep up the good work.

  54. As the great Dave Mustaine put it “military intelligence-two words combined that can’t make sense”

  55. Read Peter Attia’s “Straight Dope on Cholesterol” series. It is a fantastic, well written piece that will really show you how the whole cholesterol thing works, and why current standard cholesterol testing procedures are pretty much a joke. (BTW, I am a DTR for the Air Force, I hate having to give people CW, but I always suggest there is another way!)

  56. The Army has some of the same insanity as you write about regarding doing it a certain way and if it doesn’t work, it’s you and not the same old wrong way. But there are things changing out there. There are Paleo classes being taught by Soldiers on Army posts and even some doctors are starting to see the error of bad information learned in medical school. Change is hard and it’s not just in the military. Try talking about the Paleo/Primal way of eating and life and watch the eyes glaze over in most people. The more people hear success stories, the more they reconsider what they’ve tried and failed with in the past. Thank you from a Soldier for your great story. Keep up the good work. Oh, the people who say military intelligence is an oxymoron have no idea what they are talking about so just ignore them.

  57. I was one of those people who lost my Navy career and other opportunities due to poor health. Even though I was a model sailor otherwise, in 2006 I was kicked out just shy of 13 years because I couldn’t lose weight or pass the fitness test. I knew I wasn’t healthy – I was always exhausted, and working out didn’t give me energy, it wiped me out for days afterwards. It’s been a long road figuring out that I probably had some combination of metabolic syndrome, adrenal fatigue, and/or chronic fatigue syndrome, brought on or exacerbated by digestive issues from several years of rotating shift work. The VA, of course, was no help, and refused to recognize that my digestive problems were caused even in part by years of shift work.

    I have spent many tens of thousands of dollars of my own money in recovering my health – all of my savings, actually; I’m now completely broke. I cannot claim to be vibrantly healthy now, and maybe I never will be, but I can at least work full-time now, and I’m healthier than most people that I know. I eat healthier than everyone I know!

    I am very happy for you that you figured this out while you could still save your career, and I hope you can get the word out to as many servicemembers as possible so they can save their careers too.

  58. Tony,
    There are many of us who while on active duty suffered for years to meet the Navy’ obsolete and antiquated standards. In my case 30 years worth and ” if I knew then what I know know” and had even known that something as simple as the Primal lifestyle had existed, my career would have been less stressful by far..I did not find the Primal program until many years after my retirement but my health is all the better for it thanks to Mark and all those like him. I often share the Primal principles withsailors who are still serving to help them meet the challenges they face in meeting their fitness goals. ..keen up the great work, Tony!

  59. “the realization that so many things that felt intuitive were actually correct”… EXACTLY!!!

    It’s really amazing how we’re duped into believing several “false truths” when it comes to eating habits, diets and exercises…

    Thank god for the primal blueprint!

  60. Glad you found a healthy sustainable way of eating. While I am not a fan of “healthy whole grains” or any other nonsense, is drinking 5 cans of soda and eating McDonalds at most meals really following conventional nutritional advice?

  61. I was right there. I spent my first entire enlistment in the Marine Corps a hair under the maximum weight for my height. Deployed on a ship in 2012, decided to go paleo on a lark and wound up reading Primal Blueprint in like two days. Lost 30 lbs to a healthy weight in 6 weeks, and have been stable ever since. Now that I’m on instructor duty, I frantically try to convert as many people as I can.

  62. I served with Tony on the submarine USS Tennessee (SSBN-734G). He was my Electrical Division Chief for 3 years.

    Not only has he changed his entire life’s trajectory by working hard at losing weight, he is also one of the smartest, funniest, and most critically-thinking people I’ve ever met. As a person that could see the wanton authoritarianism and mindlessness of the Machine, Tony’s leadership made the well-being of myself and the other Nuclear Electrician’s infinitely better for the time we were aboard together.

    His accomplishment with his body is great, but it would be a disservice to not recognize him for the supreme accomplishment of continually trying to be a better person to his fellow man.

  63. Thanks for writing your story. I am glad that you are angry. I am furious! I have been told by friends, family, doctors, nutritionists, and anyone who felt like throwing in an opinion that I was a liar, a cheat, and deluding myself because I could not possibly be eating what I said I was eating and exercising as much as I said I was and still not only not losing weight, but constantly gaining weight. Aaaagghhhh. I am now eating paleo keto, the higher fat the better, and am down 60 pounds. I have about 80 more to go.

  64. Success stories such as yours are the reason I keep on going Primal. Because of this diet, my man boobs are disappearing. Keep calm and Primal on.

  65. Thanks for the story Tony. I am in the navy reserves with five yeas active service and 18 years of total service, plus a 16 year break in service between active and reserves. I have only failed one PRT because of BCA. I stay in good shape and work to keep my weight under control but I can’t seem to get down within standards. I have been measured for almost every BCA except two times, when I did unhealthy fasting to lose weight just so I didn’t have to be measured. Both times I made weight were my two worst PRT cycles. I have found my body likes to be at certain weight which is about 5 to 8 lbs over my maximum. I am just starting my new healthy diet and hope I can lose the weight and keep up my strength. I am 52 and still do better than a majority of the young sailors during PRT cycles but because they weigh 120 lbs soaking wet they are considered in better shape even though I score better than they do during the PRT. Frustrated, trying to make it to retirement IS1.
    Thanks again Tony!