Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Success Story: Now Taking Care of My Health

I've always been kind of a pudgy guy.  Even after I joined the Air Force and went through boot camp I could still pinch well over an inch around the ol' midsection.  Even after I had mandatory PT four times a week almost every week during which I ran for miles, did push-ups and sit-ups and jumping jacks in formation; in unison to a four-count bellowed by somebody with all seriousness.  Even in my late teens I was still soft around the middle, and not very muscular.  And so it went, for years and years... seven and one-half years in the Air Force, all the while barely passing my annual fitness evaluations.  I'd cram for each PT test, "study" if you will...

"Crap!" I'd say.  "I have a PT test in two weeks!  I need to get in shape!"

This (obviously) was the wrong approach, but since I spent the better part of the rest of my life trying to decide where and when to eat (largely contingent on who had the best margarita specials, two-for-one coronas, dollar drafts, etc. etc...), my annual fitness evaluation seemed more an inconvenience than anything else.  Come time for me to shine, I'd push, grunt and sweat my way to a barely passing score and then return to my usual loafing.  At the time it all seemed good enough; at least I was having fun.

Years after I got out of the military I was still sort of depending on my youthful metabolism and luck when it came to being "in shape".  Then I started to get fat... and it made me nervous.  I hadn't really changed anything about my lifestyle, but I found myself breathing more heavily, getting winded more quickly, snoring louder, getting tired more...until I was peeking over thirty extra pounds of pudge just to see those little numbers on the bathroom scale.  Not to mention someone was sneaking in at night and pumping a few more psi of air into my spare tire. 

That sneaky bastard!

It was right around this time that I moved to Missouri, where I happened to settle in a few miles away from an old friend from back in the day:  Bryan Mayo.  As it turned out, Bryan had recently become particularly interested in the areas of personal fitness and nutrition.  He began ravenously soaking up information from every possible source and he shared the best points with me as he went, sending me his condensed notes on all sorts of nutrition and fitness books that he had recently devoured.  One such book was "The Paleo Solution" by Rob Wolfe.

"Read it."  he said, with no small amount of conviction.

"Okay."  I replied, since I had no reason not to.

I read it, and between that and Bryan's prodding I finally decided to have a real go at being healthy for a change.  Once I read that book, I understood why Bryan was so passionate about understanding what it means to really be healthy.  I'd been doing everything wrong.  Even the stuff I'd been doing in an attempt to stay reasonably not-too-fat wasn't doing me any good and was actually harming me.  It blew my mind; it was as if I'd tasted the truth and now I wanted more of it! 

I started absorbing documentary after documentary on Netflix in my man cave at night, tearing through articles on-line while slacking off at work, and reading Bryan's notes on everything from the dangers of high-fructose corn syrup to the big milk scandals of the early 1900s.  He gave me notes on everything from the effects of chronic stress to leptin resistance; from causes and prevention of diabetes to the role of cortisol in metabolic syndrome X.  Even notes on the effects of agriculture and plague on world population. 

There is so much amazing information available to us that at times it can be intimidating.  Not to Bryan, apparently. The guy is amazingly patient and thorough with his research.  He found that with every answer came more questions:  Why does our culture suffer from so many horrible diseases?  Why is everyone on medication?  Why and how are there perfectly healthy tribes of people who take no medication at all, living long and disease-free lives while completely separate from our "modern health solutions"?

I admit that I hadn't really thought too much about it until Bryan brought it to my attention.  All of a sudden it seemed really important to find those answers; after all I'm not interested in developing twenty different diseases that will slowly destroy me and everyone I know and love, especially if all those diseases can easily be prevented just by changing a few of my eating habits!

Since there's really no disputing Bryan's research, evidence, or general passion about teaching other people what he's discovered, my wife and I were finally persuaded to embrace his suggestions about how to get fit and healthy.  It was still during the relatively early stages of his research (which I can only say now, having seen how much more research he's done since), so we were all still under a little carb-phobia in our diet plan.  Like a true scientist Bryan updated his theories as new evidence made itself obvious through testing and research.  As such, his understanding evolved and our diet and exercise routines evolved accordingly.

It was surprisingly easy to cut out a huge amount of sugar intake.  Soda, sweet tea, fruit punch, most juice concentrates, and so many other drinks that I had mindlessly taken with my meals... all hugely laden with sugar.  I think now it's been a year and a half and I've had exactly one can of soda.  I don't miss it at all.  The one can that I did have was just to see if I still liked the stuff, and frankly I didn't.  It was nasty, and left a horrible taste in my mouth with the added benefit of making me feel like crap for hours.  I have no idea how I drank soda every day for so long, I must have felt that badly all the time and had just gotten used to it. Wow!

We had a good deal of fun with the Tabata-style workouts.  High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) brought me from struggling to do thirty push-ups to being able to knock out over a hundred in four minutes.  It took about four weeks.  That alone is something I'd never have thought possible, but there it was.  I found myself getting stronger, looking more svelte and feeling better and better by the day. 

Today, I realize how much of a schmuck I was when it came to taking care of my own body.  Actually, when I look back on my own life, I can’t help but realize how much of a schmuck I've been when it came to any number of things. I'd like to believe that I'm gaining wisdom as I go, and that I can (and will) learn from my mistakes, adapt accordingly, and continue to improve myself.

It boggles my mind how oblivious I was to the fact that I was slowly poisoning my own body.  Now, having been exposed to the truth, I see people making horrible decisions everywhere.  Grocery shopping has become an exercise in restraint; I want so badly to tell people that the garbage they're piling into their grocery carts is slowly killing them, and their families.  The hard truth of the matter is that nobody wants to hear that from a complete stranger in a grocery store.  I don't know how to pull it off without seeming like a complete nut-bar.  I die a little inside when I see a kid riding in the seat of a cart loaded to the brim with nutrient-devoid, pseudo (basically garbage) food.

"That kid is doomed."  I regretfully think to myself.  I wish I didn't see it as often as I do. 

Really I can't stand on a high pedestal and judge.  I've been just as guilty.  Crap food is inexpensive, tasty, and convenient.  Why wouldn't people buy it?  We're a society that thrives on thriftiness, sense-stimulation, and convenience.  We're spoiled by the fact that we can push a few buttons and someone will deliver a giant box of cheesy goodness, neatly bundled boxes of deep fried things, or even sandwiches... directly to our front doors.  All I have to do is sign a slip of paper and a few ones and zeros somewhere in a computer program deduct a few other ones and zeros from my bank account, effortlessly lightening my wallet without the need for me to lift more than a pen for a few seconds.

It's amazing.

It's so amazing that it's the norm!  And we take it for granted.  Convenience is our drug, and we are hooked as a society.  Meanwhile the clean truth is that we can't possibly continue to live the way we do.  What we consider "the norm" of our cultural way of life is obviously causing fantastic amounts of disease and death!  We are so caught up in our misguided priorities of convenience and comfort, and the fact that every symptom can be cured with a pill, that we forget to actually take care of ourselves.

We fall victim to add campaigns designed to lure us into wanting more and more useless crap.  We are fed bright and colorful commercials filled with white-toothed, smiling, beautiful dancing people telling us that this or that bag of garbage is the bag for us; the bag that we need and the bag that we want!  We're shepherded into mindsets of pill-per-symptom medicine, rather than into realistic frames of mind, where we realize that eating food that actually gives our bodies what they need will prevent nearly all of the horrible health problems we're conditioned to fear, rather than to fight.

The truth of the matter is, we can prevent most of the things we fear, and it isn't even hard!  All we have to do is feed our bodies what they need!  Putting garbage food into your body and hoping to be healthy is like pumping swamp water and baby poop into your sports car and hoping to get 300,000 miles out of it.  Think about it.

That's about it for me, except for these tidbits (call it a moral if you want): If you don't take care of yourself, you'll die early.  That much is certain.  There are simple changes you can make to your daily routine that will prevent horrible things from happening to you.  Bryan has condensed the information that you need into a very manageable format on a single website.  Go there.  Take the time to learn the things you need to know to save your own life, and make use of that information. It's not that difficult; you're already on-line. 

This is one satisfied customer hoping to spread the word to thousands more.

Zach W.


  1. If you really care for your health, removing fructose in your diet is the right thing to do. So happy to read such a success story.

  2. I really forget how much I can blitz people with information when I get going. But I am glad that it helped you to change your diet and lifestyle habits for the better!

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