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!
My wife (a naturopathic physician) has always been interested in the pursuit of a healthful lifestyle. Wanting to lose the last 15 pounds, feeling a bit bloated and believing she may have issues with bacterial overgrowth, she started researching the paleo diet. After months of trying the paleo diet, she couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t helping, until she came across MDA (and read The Primal Blueprint) that she began to understand the importance of monitoring carbohydrate intake. As soon as she started abandoning starchier foods, she watched the numbers on the scale go down. Given that we enjoy cooking together, it was only natural for me to adopt the Primal lifestyle, too.
I used to eat extremely un-healthfully and was very addicted to sugar. To give you an idea of how addicted I was, I often emptied seven packets of sugar in my cafeteria-sized coffee; I drank energy drinks every day with entire chocolate candy bars; I ate desert with every meal; every evening I consumed a pint of Ben and Jerry’s; every weekend I munched on doughnuts and each morning I had a fun, sugary cereal. My non-sugar “meals” (if you can call them that) consisted of the dollar cheeseburgers and meals at McDonalds. Dinner was usually the “healthiest” meal, which consisted of an array of cafeteria food or pizza. Of course, as aforementioned above, I completed my meal with desert and a Pepsi (water and I were not friends back then).
I always knew that I wanted to eat more healthfully but I never really knew how to do so until my wife started coaching me on nutrition, sharing what she was learning from The Primal Blueprint, and I saw how well she responded to her diet changes. After a while, I slowly weaned myself off sugar and began eating more whole foods. However, it wasn’t until I fully switched to Primal that I began to understand how this lifestyle would truly impact my life.
Two months into the diet, I started to notice that my sciatica was not flaring up as frequently as it used to. In fact, prior to implementing my new eating habits, I experienced debilitating pain one to two times per month. It had been a 15-year struggle. Despite this breakthrough, I remained a bit skeptical of the reasons behind my two month sabbatical from pain. My skepticism was quickly halted after I attended a work function that offered foods such as Korean beef sliders and beer. I decided a little veering off of primal eating couldn’t hurt me too much. After indulging in wheat buns and beer, I had severe sciatica for a week following my binge and instantly I made the connection between carbohydrate-laden foods and inflammation in my back. I’ve since learned my lesson and I haven’t had any sciatica pain since that time.
Not only have I been pain free, but my seasonal allergies decreased significantly. The first year I started eating primal, when allergy season approached, I was able to switch from over the counter medications to natural nutraceuticals for two months or so, until the pollen count dwindled. The following year of remaining on The Primal Blueprint, I didn’t even need the natural supplements and only took a couple capsules once or twice during the entire season! In fact, my immune system seems to be operating so well that I have been able to bypass the cold and flu season each time it visits my colleagues at work. My co-workers have all been sick at least a half a dozen times in the last two years; however, it passed me by every time. While I did catch a minor cold after being cold free for two and a half years, it passed quickly and I haven’t been sick since. My boss actually had to ask me to call in “not sick” to use up my sick days because I hadn’t touched them.
Along with the change in my diet, I have also been experimenting with high intensity interval training using body weight and strength-building exercises. I’ve been using Mark Lauren’s “You Are Your Own Gym” DVDs and have really benefited from the functional bodywork. I have incorporated a pull up bar into my workouts and have noticed a huge difference in my upper body strength. On the weekends, I enjoy a lengthy hike or walk with my wife. We’ve even incorporated play into our workouts by longboarding at the park. Even at 41, my wife enjoys longboarding with me. The results of working out 20 minutes three times per week have far outweighed the minimal results I experienced with my two-hour gym workouts. The at-home workouts have provided quick results and made cancelling my gym membership an easy decision, considering both the time and the money I was consuming trying to get fit. After just a few short months of working out in a more primal fashion, my belly fat has nearly disappeared and a six pack is starting to show. I was never a heavy guy or “overweight,” but I’ve always had a little fat layer over my belly. For the first time, my abdomen area is no longer pudgy.
Now, two years into this lifestyle, my appetite for sweets is completely different. I used to want the entire candy bar, but now, two pieces of dark chocolate is enough to satisfy me. When it is doughnut day or pizza day at work, I am no longer tempted. Everyone at work thinks I am superhuman because I easily decline these foods, including birthday cake (which occurs often in a large office).
My typical meals now are relatively simple but very satisfying. For breakfast I have black coffee with a bit of butter, a protein smoothie with a few berries and a tons of greens. Lunch is usually more greens, grass-fed beef or organic chicken breast with a quality mayonnaise-based or avocado-based dressing. Snacks are usually nuts or pumpkin seeds and dinner is roasted veggies with salmon or grain-free meatballs or steak. Of course, most nights I indulge in a glass (or two) of quality dry red wine.
It is hard to say if I am mentally and emotionally any different, but I can go great lengths without eating and not feel like I’m going to go crazy. Before I changed my eating habits, I experienced low blood sugar symptoms (i.e. crankiness) that often accompany glucose deregulation. These days, skipping a meal here and there is no big deal.
Overall, the primal lifestyle has completely overhauled my health, my body composition and my outlook on life. I am pain free, I am allergy free, I am nearly cold and flu free, I am gym membership free, I am time-sucking-workout free, I am prescription free and I am food addiction free. The best part is that I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything! The recipes on the MDA resource list are all incredible. My wife and I like the Nom Nom Paleo cookbook as well and have even enjoyed creating recipes of our own that fit the primal parameters. I love that I still get to enjoy red wine and dark chocolate and I never feel deprived, now that my sugar addiction is gone. I can’t think of better preventative medicine than taking control of your health (and reversing symptoms) by simply changing what you stick your fork into!
Thank you, Mark, for sharing your knowledge and vast research on the proven benefits of this lifestyle. It has saved me many trips to a doctor’s office – both presently – and more importantly, in the future!