How the Paleo Diet Saved My Life

avatarMark Bangerter

I want to tell you a story. This story is about me. That may seem a little vain, but I am hoping that this story will inspire others.

I’m fat. Not as fat as I used to be. But still fat.

There you have it. I’m not ashamed of this anymore. Why? Because I am doing something about it.

November 2011

I tipped the scales at 311 lbs. I’m only 5’11”. I don’t even know what my body fat percentage was, but it had to be over 40%. I had gotten to this point slowly. It took me nearly 10 years to reach this milestone in life. I was so ashamed of what I had become. My wife didn’t have a clue that I had come close to being over 300 lbs.

At the time I worked in a hospital. My job was to visit with patients that didn’t have any insurance and try to see if we could get them some sort of coverage. A lot of the people that I saw were around the age of 62. What some of you may not know is that in the U.S. you can retire and receive your Social Security retirement at age 62.5. However, Medicare (government subsidized healthcare for seniors and disabled) doesn’t kick in until 65. So there is this huge gap.

All of these people that I saw had something in common. They were all overweight. By at least 80 lbs. They were also in the hospital due to diabetes, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, coronary artery disease, renal failure, liver failure, etc. etc. etc.

These are nasty diseases. Some of them will kill you outright. The ones that do not kill you will make you wish that you are dead.

And I was on track to join them.

This was my first moment of clarity.

But it wouldn’t be another seven months before I made the best decision of my life.

I started crash diets and sporadic exercise. Sporadic exercise means I would ride my bike a little bit or go walk on the treadmill at the gym while watching a movie. (Running is hard for fat guys.) I tried dancing around my living room with P90X. I changed jobs.

March 2012

My dad invites me to start working out with him and his personal trainer. His personal trainer is a great guy. And he rips me a new one. He helps me wake up and realize how fat and terrible I actually am and that I am not doing enough. I have to change my entire life around. That was my second moment of clarity.

July 2012 – I’m down to 290 lbs. I go down to the local CrossFit box on a Friday Morning and ask the owner, Kevin, if I need to get into better shape before I start. He said, “You will never be in good enough shape.”

I start the following Monday and start eating a semi-strict Paleo diet.

Within 2 months I have dropped 30 lbs. But then I hit a plateau. I stopped losing weight. But I was losing inches. I was still burning fat and putting on muscle.

January 2013 – 30 Day Paleo Challenge

I ate a strict paleo diet for 30 days. I dropped almost 6% bodyfat and lost 12 lbs. I weigh in at the end of the month at 249.

I can’t tell you how great I feel. Not just from losing weight, but the foods I am eating also make me feel good. I don’t have heartburn anymore.  I don’t wake up in the middle of the night, feeling like I am dying because the heartburn is so bad. I am no longer worried about dying at age 50. I can tie my shoes without getting winded. I can play with my kids without getting exhausted. I used to get migraine headaches. Not anymore. I don’t take any medications at all. Ever.

I never realized how sick I actually was until I got better.

I usually attribute a lot of my success to CrossFit. But in truth, 90% of it is attributed to clean eating.

I haven’t completely reached my goals yet. But I’m not so concerned about that anymore. I don’t weigh myself anymore. I go off my body fat percentage. I am down to 22% body fat. My goal is 18% (maybe more). My goal is to fit into size 32 pants. Right now I am in size 36. (Down from a tight size 44). I wear size large t-shirts. I was in tight XXL. (I simply refused to shop at Big & Tall).

Paleo has changed my life. It has literally saved my life.

I am competing in my first CrossFit competition (NLI) here in Southern California on April 6, 2013.

Not bad for a fat guy, right?

(Related: Ridding My Life of Obesity, Gastro Esophageal Reflux, and Depression With Paleo)