My story started out simply about vanity, but has turned into so much more. In mid-February of 2012, I was 46 years old and 205 pounds (6 feet tall). I’d say I was in okay (good, but not great) shape. I used to work out doing cardio (usually Spin class) in the mornings and weight training in the evenings – usually five days a week! Yep, pretty chronic. I ate my grain-based diet with good discipline, but had a small gut that I just couldn’t seem to lose. My knees bothered me often, likely due to the excessive exercise and worsened by pro-inflammatory grain meals I swore by.
One day the gym manager and I were talking about getting ready for beach season, and he informed me that he was going to try the Paleo diet. I had never heard of Paleo, so I researched it on the web that night. Intrigued, I decided to engage him in a bet over who could lose the most weight over the next 30 days. While we were trash talking, the gym's director heard us talking, and recommended we read The Primal Blueprint. I went home, bought the book on my iPad and read most of it over the next two days. I was hooked. In addition to wanting to lose weight, I also wanted to stop taking my statin medication that I had been on for six years. The Primal Blueprint opened my eyes to the many negative side effects of statins and I decided to stop taking my meds when I began going Primal (I wouldn’t say it was against doctor’s orders since he didn’t know about my experiment!) However, I knew that I had an annual physical scheduled two months in the future, so I wanted to give primal a fair chance to lower my numbers before my next blood test.
With gym bragging rights and big bucks on the line (I think it was a bag of almonds, I can’t remember…ah the stakes of lifestyle transformation), I was pretty psyched to do whatever it took to win this 30-day contest. However, going Primal turned out to be much easier than I expected. As soon as I ditched my large all-American high carb breakfasts and eliminated grains from my meals, I had plenty of energy and wasn't hungry between meals. I discovered a lot of new foods (kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, sardines, herring) and really got into the process of shopping and preparing meals. The results came quick too. I lost eight pounds in two weeks and closed out the month of March down 16 pounds, winning the bet easily. I dropped another nine pounds in April, 2012, to reach my goal weight of 180 pounds in just two months!
One interesting thing to note is that I now exercise much less stressfully than I did pre-Primal. Instead of five Spin classes per week, I walk (sometimes chasing after a golf ball in an extreme zig-zag pattern, if you know what I mean), cycle or do slow cardio on an elliptical. The pain I had developed in my knees is totally gone. I still enjoy lifting weights, but now do a maximum of three strength training sessions per week. I love all the extra time I now have after backing away from a chronic program.
My physical came in May, 2012. I was ready to defend my eliminating of statins with my doctor, but never got the chance. My blood work improved so much that he said I could come off my medication! As primal folks like to track triglycerides-to-HDL ratio as the best heart disease risk marker, I was ecstatic to see my triglycerides drop by over 100 points and my HDL elevate 15 points! The success has been long lasting too. As of October 2014, I'm still at my goal weight and passed another physical this year with flying colors.
I think something amazing happens to your mentality when you reclaim your health and start to control your own destiny. While I was definitely buzzed to uncover a long-lost six-pack and be free of medication dispensed to me solely because of my adverse lifestyle practices, I started to develop a perspective that my transformation was bigger than me. I first turned my attention to my parents. They have been receptive enough to lose a combined 80 pounds in under a year, and both have come off statin medication. At 69, they achieved this success just by eating Primally and walking. Now at 70 years old, they are getting into strength training for the first time. It is fantastic to see them so healthy and energetic.
I next turned my attention to my wonderfully progressive workplace. We have offices around the globe, and in 2012 I was working in their Princeton, NJ office. I arranged for Mark Sisson’s writing partner Brad Kearns to deliver the Primal Transformation Seminar and have a special Primal luncheon served at the campus. Being the enthusiastic guy that I am, I guess my “intro” before Brad’s talk ran a bit detailed, personal, and passionate, because after Brad’s talk he told me I should speak publicly on behalf of the Primal Blueprint! I thought he was just being polite, but he asserted that I had the Primal knowledge down cold, and more importantly had the passion and life experience to really make an impact on others. Since I had only being following Marks Daily Apple and the Primal Blueprint for a couple of months, I didn’t feel I was ready. I did succeed in keeping some good momentum going at work. Dozens of colleagues have gone certifiably Primal, and I publish a popular monthly newsletter on assorted Primal topics, including recipes, workout tips, and employee success stories.
Polite encouragement or not, I kept thinking about Brad’s suggestion. Over the ensuing months, I read countless books and articles about nutrition and exercise. I even got certified to teach fitness classes. With encouragement from the folks at Primal headquarters in California, I decided to pull the trigger on my speaking career and deliver the Primal Transformation Seminar on the east coast. It’s so easy to spread the word among family and friends, but despite intense preparation, I can assure you I was pretty nervous before that first official gig of paying customers! I remember talking with Brad before the event, and agreeing that even if just a few folks came it would be a worthwhile venture and a great low pressure way to get my feet wet on the speaking circuit.
When the standing room only crowd of some 30 folks showed up that night, I overcame my nerves by realizing what an important mission that I, Mark Sisson, and all the rest of us Primal enthusiasts are obligated to pursue today. Today we are in an age of confusion, misinformation and declining health and vitality despite phenomenal technological advances in health and medicine, and abundant sources of affordable and healthy food for most citizens. The ridiculous dichotomy I face every day at work is what drives me to spread the word. Here we are, shooting satellites into space with amazing precision, while people die by the hundreds of thousands each year in America due to heavily diet-influenced, largely preventable diseases.
As I took a quiet moment to myself before taking the floor for my first seminar, I realized that there was no doubt I was going forth and telling the story with confidence that evening. As you may know, I have now delivered numerous Primal seminars on the east coast, and thankfully the feedback has been great so far. For me, there is nothing better than when someone who has taken my seminar writes me afterward to talk about their personal success.
Mark Sisson, I am grateful to you for so many reasons. Thank you for helping me truly get healthy. Thank you on behalf of my parents, who have found a new lease on life in their eighth decade. Most importantly, thank you for believing in me and allowing me to help others on your behalf.