My Primal Progress (With Pictures!)

Update: new photos available! This post is now officially outdated. Come see the new shots here!

Narcissism, thy name is Matt!

But there’s practical value, I think, in keeping my progress with the Primal Blueprint both relevant and up-to-date. I’ve been talking a lot about the benefits of forgoing grains, unchaining yourself from the “three square meals” mentality, and generally just taking active steps towards reclaiming your health — and what better way to show just why you should do it than to put up a few photos of my own results?

This’ll be a short post, by nature. I’m hoping — with fingers crossed — that the results will speak for themselves.

Here’s where I started (time estimate: early April of 2010). I didn’t weight myself, unfortunately, but you can probably imagine why. This was after a solid semester or two of eating the ‘healthy’ way, my hands firmly locked on my copy of Eat This, Not That! and my brain forever full of just how many calories were contained in each and every thing I ate.

It worked so well!

The Primal Blueprint dropped into my life, then, the accidental result of Googling Vibram Five Fingers. The rest, as they say, is history. Here’s where I was on October 8th, about 6 months after the original photo.

And, at long last, here’s where I am now — a fresh photo taken this very evening of December 13, 2010. That’s eight months after the original photo, though only about seven solid months of Primal eating (and about a month of daily Intermittent Fasting).

Life is good.

What to make of all this?

Primal works. April of this year saw me overweight and unhappy, lamenting my body but not really looking forward to the usual grind I thought was necessary to get in shape. You know the routine: you spend an hour sweating and cursing on the treadmill, trying to convince yourself that it’s worth it, a magazine open in front of you that’s filled with sexy, slender models and page after page of “10 Steps to the Perfect Body!”

Sucks, doesn’t it?

But there’s a different way to do it. I’d even call it a simpler way to do it.

Just how simple? Well, you’re just going to have to read my upcoming ebook, aren’t you?

(Here’s a hint, though: you don’t have to count calories. You don’t have to count carbs. You don’t have to weight yourself. You can have the body you’ve always wanted, and it can be far simpler than you’ve been lead to believe. You just need two things: patience, and a firmer understanding of just what that body wants. My book should make that second part just a teensy bit easier.)

Over 50 people have agreed to handle Christmas a little differently — a little better — this year. I’m aiming for 100. Ready to join in? (You might just make my birthday wish come true if you do!).

And hey! I have an ebook called “Simpler” coming out on January 1st, 2011. That’s pretty awesome, but you know what’s extra awesome? You can read it early! Every single person signed up for my email subscription list will find a copy of the book waiting for them on December 25th — Christmas morning and my birthday! Get on this list, people!

Thanks so much for reading! If you like what’s going on around here, then why not have free updates sent directly to your inbox or to your RSS reader? I really appreciate it! And you can follow me on Twitter, too. That always makes me smile. :)

59 Comments

  1. Adrienne says:

    Matt, this is awesome! I love how simple and to the point you made this…the pictures really do speak for themselves! My husband and I are on day 29 of our 30-day Paleo Challenge and we couldn’t be happier with making the change. We’ve both said we’re going to continue eating primal/paleo after the challenge is over, because we definitely notice the difference in how we look and feel. It’s not just about losing weight and getting in shape…this is really about eating in way that makes sense and getting truly healthy. I’m planning to write a post about our results as well. :)

    Love what you’re doing and looking forward to your book!

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Thanks, Adrienne!

      That’s badass that you and your husband are doing the challenge. It just makes sense to eat this way, right? Please tweet me the link to your post when it goes live — I’d love to read it, and I’d love to help spread the word about the remarkable things a Paleo diet can do for the body.

      Take care!

  2. Chase Night says:

    Whoa! That’s awesome man. How can Primal help someone who is happy with their weight but needs more muscle?

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Well, it gives you free reign to eat all the protein and fat that you want, so that’s something. ;)

      The benefits of going Primal/Paleo extend beyond just fat loss or muscle gain, of course, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that eating Primally — aka eating naturally — might make it *easier* to get strong. Operating under the assumption that a lot of modern food is damaging to the body (cereal grains, sugar, processed junk), it would make sense that eschewing those things and focusing on meats, veggies and fruit would allow your body to operate at its fullest potential, right?

      That might just be wishful thinking on my part, heh. In any case, if you’re looking to add muscle, do this: work out. :) I’ve put on muscle from pure bodyweight stuff and high fat/protein intake, so I’m assuming it would work the same for you!

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  4. NomadicNeill says:

    Good to see your progress. I’ve been paleo / primal for a while now. It’s not just for people looking to lose fat. In my case it cured my energy peaks and crashes (the result of living on carbs).

  5. BarbeyGirl says:

    Awesome. It’s like Robb Wolf says — just try it. See how you look, feel, and perform. This is powerful stuff!

  6. Dusti Arab says:

    Congratulations, Matt! I’m so proud of you for figuring out how to live in a healthy way that
    works for you outside of what magazines or what everyone else is telling you. And, damn! You look great! :)

    I do have one question about the primal eating, though… Cholesterol?

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Thanks, Dusti!

      Cholesterol, my dear, is a messy subject. :)

      Public understanding of it has been over-simplified in so many ways, and while it’d be nice to say “HDL is good!” and “LDL is bad!” that doesn’t really offer a full understanding of what cholesterol even is. That model is starting to wear thin, thankfully, and people are realizing that a simplified understanding of cholesterol doesn’t give you an accurate picture of your overall health.

      Just as an example: did you know there are two types (patterns, I think they’re called) of LDL? One of which isn’t bad? The average cholesterol test doesn’t check for that, which just complicates things even further.

      People who go Primal/Paleo tend to show great improvements in their health markers, cholesterol included. HDL, LDL and triglycerides tend to fall (or rise) into normal levels despite Paleo people eating all the foods that conventional wisdom says aren’t good for you: eggs, red meat, and so on and so forth.

      Again, it’s a complicated subject, and honestly one I haven’t dug into as much as I should. I think this is another case, though, where eating natural foods — the ones your body evolved to eat — will provide long-term benefits that can’t be ignored.

      If you’d like to read more on the subject yourself, let me know! I have a few great links which discuss what cholesterol is and gave a broader picture of the role it plays in the body. :)

      • Dusti Arab says:

        I believe I would like more literature. I’m a vegetarian right now, and very nearly vegan, but I try to be open minded. Paleo is fascinating because to be honest, it makes a lot of sense. However, it seems like the sustainability factor i sbeing ignored by most because they don’t have a good answer for it. Could we Skype about this? I’d love first hand info.

  7. Simple Zen says:

    Well done Mate, keep it up!

  8. matthew says:

    Matt

    Matthew here. Thanks for sharing your progress. I came across your blog a while back while starting to look into minimalism. Interestingly enough, this post is quite relevant. I changed my diet, not necessarily doing a diet, in September. Opting for a low-carb, Atkins-like regimen. I have subsequently been getting back to cardio exercise, along with some weight circuit training. All told, I’ve lost about 25 pounds, but I’ve often wondered if what I’m doing is the best approach to not only losing weight, but being as healthy as possible. That includes what I eat. I’ve looked at things like eating for your blood type. It seems to closely mimic what I’ve been doing with low-carb, since I’m O Positive. It appears the the Primal Blueprint also follows the same path of reduced grain consumption, among other things, but highlighting what the body needs. Too often, people only focus on what they can’t eat and don’t take time to learn or enjoy what they can consume. All this to say, thanks again for your narrative and I plan to take a look at the Primal Blueprint. I’ve already downloaded the intro to learn more, and I look forward to reading more from you. Cheers!

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Hey Matthew!

      Thanks for stopping by, man, and thanks too for the kind words. :)

      I honestly don’t know a damn thing about the blood type diets, haha, but I guess they can’t be too goofy if they advocate something similar to the Primal Blueprint. ;) In any case, you have the right idea here: emphasize what you can eat, which (for someone who does Primal or Paleo) tends to read like a delicious heart attack waiting to happen: bacon! Coconut oil! Dark chocolate! Incredible, natural foods that have been much maligned by conventional wisdom, yet have done nothing but help me in my quest for perfect health.

      (Coincidentally, I just sliced a banana, dipped it in 95% dark chocolate, and then coated it with coconut flakes. I don’t do dessert often, but it warms my heart to realize that it’s healthy when I do!)

      Let me know if you have any questions about Primal as you delve further into it, and don’t be afraid to ask Mark Sisson himself. He has an absolute treasure trove of information on his site, let alone hundreds of success stories from people who adopted the low-carb lifestyle and saw incredible benefits.

      Take care!

  9. I have to take a minute to wish you a happy birthday since I’m one of those weird Christmas birthday people, too.

    No matter what your religious beliefs, being born on a significant religious holiday must indicate that you’re destined for greatness. It’s working out okay for me so far.

    I’m glad to know that you join me, Barbara Mandrell (a country singer), Sissy Spacek (an actress) and lots of others in celebrating a Christmas birthday. We should start a Christmas-born blogger club or something!

    Gip

    • Leo says:

      Do you have tips on spending less on food?
      Meat seems incredibly expensive and still it’s the main energy source on a primal diet.
      How can you eat primal spending – dare I say it? – 120$ monthly maximum … for two?

      • Matt Madeiro says:

        Man. That’s tough.

        And a bit out of my league, honestly, as I have the good fortune to blow my money on nice cuts of meat. :) But I think I can make a few suggestions, in any case, and point you in the right direction to start figuring your budget out.

        1. Organic is out of the window. That’s not ideal, sure, but that’s the practical reality you’re facing. Focus on getting your protein and veggies in, but don’t pay a lot more to get the fancy organic label. Conventional food is still food, at the end of the day, and you’ll still see benefits by eating it.

        2. Sales are your friend. You probably already know that, but it’s worth remembering as you try and pick up meat and veggies on the cheap. With a little digging you can find a wide variety of meats, for example, and while they mostly won’t be the ‘nicer cuts,’ a few spices can make all the difference in the world. Do you have a slow cooker/crock pot? If you do, you can buy the big, tough cuts (usually cheaper as a result), throw ‘em in the crock pot when you wake up, and have tender, flavorful meat when you get home.

        3. If you have a butcher in the area, go make friends. :) You might get a discount on some of the meat, for one, but there’s another perk too: fat. Most butchers throw away the fat, but they might be willing to offer it to you for cheap (if not free!). You can render beef fat (google it!) and make tallow, which is a healthy animal fat you can use in cooking for comparatively little expense.

        3. Canned fish (salmon and tuna) are cheap ways to get your protein and Omega 3. They’re not the most flavorful by themselves, but spices and sauces (hot sauce isn’t too expensive and will last awhile) will be your friend.

        4. Eggs. Nutrient-dense, delicious, and usually cheap.

        5. Potatoes (especially the sweet variety) are a great way to get calories and nutrients in, and it’s not uncommon to find whole bags of them at insane prices (less than a dollar at one of my local grocery stores last week!).

        Beyond that, though, I’ll have to direct you to the myriad Paleo bloggers who have tackled this subject before. Definitely do some Googling of your own and see what you can come up with. :)

        http://freetheanimal.com/2010/11/budget-paleo.html
        http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/search/label/Primal%2Fpaleo%20on%20a%20budget
        http://www.marksdailyapple.com/?s=budget&x=0&y=0

        Good luck! Keep me updated on your progress.

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      And a happy weird Christmas birthday to you too, Gip! :) That’s wonderful and kind of funny that there’s another blogger with such an esteemed date of birth.

      Let me know if you start that Xmas Birthday Blogger club. It sounds like the A-List Blogging Bootcamp, but even more selective. ;)

  10. Nina Yau says:

    Ab Face Off is ON!!!

  11. Carrie says:

    way to go, awesome results and I can’t wait to read your book!

  12. Susan says:

    Nice. I sense a lot of coconut going on here!

    Congrats, it’s awesome to see an update and hear about the challenge. Though the challenge sounds more about the mentality and motivation than the actual work involved. It’s obvious you’ve worked hard, but you also make it sound effortless once comited to it.

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  18. Anna Barlowe says:

    Woo hoo! You look awesome! This is why my mom pointed me to your blog, actually – I had already made up a diet kind of like this because for some unknown reason I am horribly sensitive to carbs and sugars of any kind, even fruit. They make me feel awful. I can eat meat, veggies, nuts, and cheese, and that’s about it. When I do that REALLY strictly, I do feel better, but I’m losing weight like crazy, and I do NOT need to lose weight. I’m 5’10, down to 131, and losing a pound every other day or so. Any tips on how to stop losing what little I have? On the plus side, I’ll be able to sneak up on people sideways soon, but I’m not sure its worth it. :P

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Sounds like you’re accidentally Primal/Paleo, then! Congratulations. :)

      I’m in the exact opposite boat, weight-wise, but the solution to your problem is an easy one: eat more! That might be easier said than done, of course, but the easiest way to prevent weight loss is to just take in some more calories.

      If you’re already eating a lot of food, then I’d recommend looking into weight-lifting. You can do bodyweight exercises like I do to build a nice base of muscle so that even if you keep losing weight, it’ll be fat above all else. The sleek and muscular look is ever an attractive one, too, especially on women. :)

      • Anna Barlowe says:

        Oh boy, if I get much sleeker, I’ll sprout a blowhole and swim away. My trouble is, I can’t eat more than a handful of food at one time, or my body thinks it’s under attack. My heart races, my eyes blur, and then I crash, big time. So I have to sneak it in there. I need some low-carb, high-fat and high calorie foods. Avocadoes help, but I don’t know what else to try. I’m melting, I’m melting! Heeeeeellllllpppp! :P

        • Matt Madeiro says:

          Coconut, my friend. You need coconut. :)

          I’ve never heard of that food response you described, however, so it’s hard to know what to suggest. That being said, coconut products — coconut milk, coconut oil, etc. — are high-fat, high-calorie, and low-carb, so they’re definitely worth looking into. Can you handle dairy? I don’t remember what you said.

          If you can, I’d check this recipe: http://freetheanimal.com/2008/02/liquid-fat-bomb.html

          It’s a great and tasty way to get in a pretty hefty amount of calories with minimal fuss. In any case, look into coconut. Coconut milk shakes are one of my favorite things. :)

          • Anna Barlowe says:

            Oh god, I was afraid you were going to say that. I freakin’ HATE coconut. I’d better just start drafting my will, then. I will leave my weird uncooperative body to science. :P I don’t know about dairy either, really, but I keep trying. A girl has to eat SOMETHING.

            I added you to my blogroll, btw, not that you necessarily want that association…but you’re cool, coconut boy! :) Thanks for the help! I’ll work something out eventually.

          • Elenor says:

            Anna Barlowe — please get a blood glucose meter (cheap but reliable one: Relion brand at WalMart or the drug store) and start checking your blood sugar right away — from what little you’ve posted, you sound seriously diabetic!! You’re losing weight, and when you eat food, you have an overload reaction. PLEASE check this out!! Are you thirsty a lot and peeing a lot? Also symptoms.

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  20. Caroline says:

    Looking good! These plans are a bit similar to the blood type / genotype diets. They work…but damn, bread is so tasty, and so not on the “beneficial” list for an O like me!

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  22. Lia says:

    That’s awesome! I’m so happy for you! I’m paleo too and trying to convince my hubby to be as well. He’s not overweight so I’m not sure how he’s gonna look if he follows the diet.

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Thank you, Lia! I really appreciate it. :)

      He might not be overweight, but he’d probably put on a bit more lean muscle mass and trim down at the same time. By most definitions, that’s not too terrible. ;)

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  24. Bob says:

    Hey Bud, I have type 2 diabetes; how do make this lifestyle work for me? I am 57 and a more than moderate athlete. I hike, bike, walk, lift weights and did a 48 minute interval run through the woods the other day; something I haven’t done in 6 years.

    I am going to beat this type 2. The VA says that with that and my high blood pressure I have two presumptive symptoms of Agent Orange; OK! I can beat this. I am looking for something that is practical and functional. I want off these meds!

    Bb

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Hey Bob!

      A lot of the recommendations here, admittedly, assume that the reader isn’t suffering any sort of metabolic condition. That said, you’ll be pleased to hear that a number of Paleo and Primal people have seen enormous success in dealing with their diabetes and bringing it under control. Here’s a relevant link:

      http://www.paleonu.com/panu-forum/post/991091

      In your situation, my recommendation will vary a little. I suggest you pick up the Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. It’s a bit denser than the Primal Blueprint (my normal first pick), but I really enjoyed how much it emphasizes the steps you can take to heal your body through both diet and nutrition. Here’s a link where you can grab it:

      http://www.amazon.com/dp/0982720904?tag=perheadie-20&camp=213381&creative=390973&linkCode=as4&creativeASIN=0982720904&adid=0HSBN0C01B54NEMX885H&

      Alternatively, you can dig through their blog (perfecthealthdiet.com), but I think the book is probably the best source of all their information. Their guidelines, as I recall, don’t very much from Kurt Harris’ over at PaNu (http://www.paleonu.com/get-started/), so feel free to use him as a resource as well.

      I wish you the best of luck going forward with all this. :) I can’t promise anything, of course, but I’ve seen time and time again how Paleo can change lives, and I suspect that a healthy diet — alongside your positive attitude! — can make it happen again. :)

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  31. Hi Matt,

    Good for you on losing weight and embracing a healthy lifestyle. It’s life changing–I know. About a year and a half ago and made the decision to lose weight and I lost 38 pounds over 5 months. I have debated on blogging about it, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to reveal THOSE pictures of myself! I’m “slightly” older than you, so it’s great that you did this for yourself in your early twenties.

    Cheers!
    @deniselnichols

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Thanks, Denise! You’re absolutely right: it’s life-changing in so many ways. :) Congrats on your similar success! I can certainly understand being reluctant to hand out the photos, haha, since I’m still embarrassed now that I have my own up here. ;)

  32. Chantelle says:

    DUDE! I can’t believe that was YOUR belly. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. Are you serious? Wow! You are in tip top shape and having done a freaking AMAZING job. Congratluations :) I hope you’re super proud of yourself!

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      I think this is the best comment I’ve ever received on this post! :D

      Thanks so much, Chantelle! For the enthusiasm, and for the mental image of you saying “I can’t believe that was your belly.” Hysterical and true!

      Check your inbox soon, by the way. :)

  33. Abi says:

    Awesome and inspiring progress, Matt! Wondering if you can share your latest picture which should be about 6 more months from the last picture update ? Just curious : Have you lost more fat/ gained muscle/ ? Thanks for the great post

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      I plan to, Abi! Probably in the next week or so, in fact, so people can see that I haven’t secretly put on weight or something. Haha. :)

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  35. Suzanne says:

    Hi Matt and Bob,

    Bob – I would steer you away from the “Perfect Health Diet”. It is quite healthy – for people who are not metabolically challenged. The essence of Type II Diabetes is carbohydrate intolerance. Eating the “safe starches” the plan advocates such as white rice and potatoes will cause an unhealthy blood glucose spike, As a Type II Diabetic, I’ve had excellent success managing my blood sugar without medication, and lost 75 pounds, May I recommend Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt M.D.’s page on Low Carb, High Fat, Very, very simple breakdown of how to eat real food to manage weight and blood sugars. It has a primal focus minus the gimmicky Grok/Caveman spiel. http://www.dietdoctor.com/lchf Also, if you want to learn all about Diabetes in a very understandable style, see Jenny Ruhl’s web site, Blood Sugar 101. Good luck to you!

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      That’s a great point, Suzanne! Thank you for the comment, and thank you for offering your experience with diabetes.

      I’m not as convinced that type 2 diabetes is a direct result of carbohydrate intolerance, but that doesn’t change the fact that reducing your carb intake is a very effective way to combat it. In defense of the PHD, too, they stress early on that your intake of carbohydrate should be tailored to your individual needs, and I’d be very surprised indeed if at any point in the book they recommend the consumption of safe starches to those who couldn’t handle the resulting carb load.

      Still, the metabolic environment imposed by diabetes is a unique one, and any insight on how to treat it is always welcome. Thanks again!

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