Hi, I’m Anthony and thanks for taking an interest in my Primal journey!
Through necessity, I’ve tended to keep my past to myself, even from most of my friends. When Helen first put her story on the original blog she started and the idea of getting Primal Flavours running as a business began to take shape, I knew I’d have to share my story too. Initially, the idea terrified me, but over time I came to realise that my journey could help others and that was more important than my discomfort.
I can eat anything I like and never get fat.
That’s what I used to tell myself when I was a teenager and well into early adulthood. If I felt like food, any food in fact, I’d just eat what I wanted and as much as I wanted. I also used food as a crutch, so if I felt depressed, alone or other painful emotions I’d eat to feel better (not that I understood this at the time).
I left home early and at 18 joined the Army Reserve, and within a few years was keeping busy with this commitment and running my own business. While I was never particularly fit (I was a relatively heavy smoker from the age of 14), I certainly didn’t struggle with my weight. My active lifestyle, plus doing my own cooking meant the fridge was quite often empty. Never a problem when you know how to dial for a pizza!
After leaving the Army Reserve and going to work in the mines, I got actively involved as a volunteer in the State Emergency Service, an excellent opportunity to enjoy the bush and have fun with friends. My diet though was as bad as ever, and even though I was active, I started to gain weight – albeit slowly. On the bright side, I did manage to kick smoking, as I got tired of running out of cigarettes out bush!
After a couple of years, the opportunity to do the Australian right of passage and travel to England and Europe came up with my girlfriend at the time (who I later married). We lived and worked in a pub in England as a base for our travels, and while the pay was very meagre, meals were included in the arrangement. Now, my logic was a little warped, because I figured if we weren’t going to get paid well, I’d get the value from the food and eat like a king! Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner were big heavy meals involving lots of chips, pasta and other high carbohydrate dishes. I was in Labrador heaven… and ironically the managers of the pub owned a Labrador too!
At the age of about 25 I went from slim to chubby almost overnight.
My addiction to the pleasure of eating had started, and even after getting back to Australia I continued to eat heavily. I took up a management job sitting behind a desk and ended up travelling all over the world (a goal at the time I thought was important), but this only exacerbrated the problem as it was a lifestyle that revolved around work, jet lag, and not much sleep. Lunch and dinner were often taken in a restaurant talking business, or with take-away food when working late at my desk or arriving home exhausted.
I got fat. Very fat.
Exercise was a dirty word, as even putting the rubbish bin out I used to run out of breath, and I was a heart attack waiting to happen. I was wrong it wasn’t a heart attack…
At the ‘ripe old’ age of 30 and weighing a mere 130kgs I found out that poor diet and no sleep can affect you in an entirely unexpected way. I went crazy. Not just a little nuts, I wound up under lock and key in a mental institution. I’d spend weeks at a time heavily medicated believing the strangest things…
One time I knew deep down I was Humphery B. Bear. And so, when another patient reminded me that ‘Humphery’ didn’t wear pants, I stripped off and walked around a packed mental ward with nothing but a t-shirt on happy as can be. Oh, what a funny old fellow was Humphery!
Looking back on those experiences, I learned the value of laughing at myself, but also forgiving myself for the wrong or bad things I’ve done in life. I’ve woken up in skip bins, thought I was everything from a rabbit to God and I’ve ‘spoken’ to aliens and plants to name a few!
I was heavily medicated to stop me from being too excited, medicated to stop me being depressed, and medicated to keep my thoughts rational. And it still didn’t work. Time and again I’d wind up in the hospital and often not voluntarily. Each time I’d take up smoking again to cope with the situation, and every time I’d get out it would be that struggle again to quit.
My career disappeared faster than you can imagine, and my marriage eventually ended under the strain, even though she was extremely patient with me. I needed a way of making money where it didn’t matter if I went crazy again, so I drove a taxi part time at night to pay the bills (some would say driving a cab is insane!). While it may have been suitable regarding keeping a low profile, the hours were playing havoc with my sleeping patterns.
Eventually, I wound up on a disability pension, living alone with my dog, no money, most of my friends had disappeared, and I had no prospects for the future. So I naturally ate more!
At my heaviest in 2012, I tipped the scales at about 160kg, and as you can see by the look in the eyes, the effects were not just physical but mental as well.
It was at this point that I got lucky. It turns out that when you set your mind to something and work tirelessly at it, you will achieve it. Call it a universal law if you like, but over the years I have come to have complete faith in the power of determination.
I started researching how to lose weight and most of the standard advice I came across was to eat lots of grains and vegetables, keep fats to an absolute minimum and do lots of cardio exercise. You’ve heard that right?
So I quit smoking yet again and started following their advice. I worked out my macros (carbohydrates/protein/fats) and got my calorie deficit in order and off I went.
Things went great, I got fitter and lost 10kgs in the space of about a month! Mind you, I was embarrassed by how I looked, so I used to go out at about 2 am in the morning to walk and try running at a time when nobody could see my fat wobble!
But then the weight loss stopped. At 150kgs? To me, it didn’t make sense, so I adjusted my macros again and did what was recommended. Several more weeks went by, but I wasn’t losing weight, so I went back to the drawing board.
It was at this point that I came across a video that I credit with saving my life. It was called ‘Fathead’ (http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/about/), a comedy-documentary that opened my eyes up to the perils of carbohydrates, processed food and most importantly got me thinking about the role that fat plays in keeping our minds balanced and the role big business plays in keeping us enjoying carbohydrates.
Most people just gloss over the role that fat plays in our bodies, but the reason the movie was called Fathead is our brain consists primarily of fat, and we need to eat it to stay healthy mentally. As you can imagine, it got my attention!
I came across Mark’s Daily Apple and started learning about what he termed the Primal diet. It fit for me, and after surfing many sites, watching documentaries and reading countless books on nutrition, medicine and food I came to understand how I have a very negative reaction to carbohydrates compared to most people.
I spent my time researching and trying to understand how aspects of the body functioned together and for the first time in years was able to get my teeth into something productive that inspired me.
I formed a hypothesis that if I changed the input into my body and ate lots of fat in my diet and cut the carbs to a minimum by eliminating processed foods and sugars, I would be on the right track. Also, by using periods of intermittent fasting to regulate my other health markers, getting quality regular sleep, and occasional exercise, I believed I would be able to control my mental illness without any medications.
So I told my psychiatrist about my idea.
That, I can assure you, didn’t go well. I can be a touch stubborn (okay, a lot) so I did it anyway. They filled out the paperwork to lock me up again because taking my medication was a condition of my release from the mental ward. Fortunately, I was able to convince them that daily visits to the hospital where they could monitor my health were enough, and I was allowed to stay at home with my dog Buddy (the first Primal Labrador!).
One week, then two went by, and I didn’t go crazy. My weight started dropping, and things were going quite well.
Going without anything to eat and drinking only water for several days at a time might seem difficult when you start, and it can be. But something intriguing happened. Once my body became used to burning fat rather than carbohydrates for energy, when I stopped eating my body easily swapped over to burning body fat as fuel, and I wasn’t particularly hungry.
And the weight came off, steadily and regularly with no plateaus or slowing. I found myself wanting to exercise, just walking and hiking out bush again at first, then later I got back into the martial arts and cricket which I hadn’t done since I was in my 20’s.
The psychiatrists were surprised yet sceptical, and the psychologists were supportive of the fact that my attitude was much more happy and focused. The daily visits became weekly ones, and the doctors kept telling me ‘You’ll have another bout soon without medication, it’s just not possible that this will continue’.
Well, they might be right. I may have problems at some point in the future – who knows, but I have managed to control my illness now without medication for almost four years! It gave me no end of pleasure one day about a year after I quit all medication, when they gave me a letter saying the psychiatrists and psychologists no longer wanted to see me, I was free!
It’s funny how peer pressure and what other’s think of my lifestyle now, has very little effect. People give me strange looks when they see me eating ‘different’ foods (just try asking for a hamburger or hot dog with no bun – but give me extra bacon!). It goes against the norm that I don’t drink alcohol, soft drinks or even something as simple as a sugary ‘sports’ drink on a hot day – but I do love a cup of tea! And you should see the looks of incredulity when you tell someone you’re not eating for a while…
Being seen as strange for those choices, it gives me great amusement to imagine the reactions if I reverted to thinking I was Humphery Bear again down at the local cricket club!
Eventually, I started dating and in due course met the Primal Chicken (you’d know her as Helen!). We’ve both managed to overcome obstacles on our journey back to good health, and this was one of the bonds that brought us together very quickly. Neither of us regrets our journies in the slightest. It’s not just how to lose weight or what to eat that we learned, it was all the little lessons in patience, humour, unconditional love and other worthwhile qualities that those struggles teach you along the way that helped make us who we are now.
So as of the end of 2016 I weigh a trim 75kg with 15% body fat (a loss of 85 kg and have gone from a size 7XL to a medium), haven’t had so much as a cold in years and I’m enjoying my life again. I’m able to get back to the bush regularly, enjoy my cricket, go for the odd run and I still have a love affair with my food just like a Labrador… the difference is now I know what to pig out on!
So when someone tells me something isn’t possible, I can’t help but laugh quietly to myself. Anything is possible if you have an understanding what it takes to achieve your goal and put the effort in to make it happen.
My primary goal behind getting involved with Primal Flavours isn’t about cooking healthy food (I greatly prefer eating it!) or running a successful business. What drives me is learning, self-improvement and being able to help others. Every day I watch friends, family and people I know suffering from illnesses, medical conditions, weight issues and a range of other problems, caused primarily by their life choices and lack of understanding.
My motivation in telling my story is to help others learn from my journey. If someone can come to understand the value of the Primal Approach and it leads them to enjoy a happier, healthier life, then all of those experiences have yet again generated a positive outcome far beyond what I could have imagined…