I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. -Thomas Edison
The Point of this Story
I’m telling this story for a very specific reason: because I believe strongly that if it inspires just one person to change their life for the better, then it was completely worth me having to live through the roughest of times when I was feeling hopeless & depressed.
My story is not short or simple, and it’s definitely not what you’re expecting – the best things in life never are.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on – FDR
I grew up as an athletic young lad, always playing some kind of sport. As I went through my middle school years I got a little chubby, like many kids do, but nothing too out of the ordinary.
I sure loved to eat my Honey Buns after lunch every day (no wonder I got chubby).
I was a three-sport athlete in high school in football, baseball, and track but never quite figured out how to gain muscle and lose fat.
I just looked average, a little on the skinny side even.
I turned down several baseball scholarships to go to school for academics. I was burnt out at this point so I just decided to start running a lot.
That’s when things started to go wrong.
“Fit”-to-Fat then Fat-to-Fit
Running every day will get you really ‘fit,’ especially if you are already athletically inclined. The problem is: when you get obsessed with being faster and faster you also get really skinny.
And boy did I get skinny. At my lowest weight I was around 150lbs standing at 6’2” tall. I was a beanpole.
Ironically, my obsession with being faster actually made me slower. I started to care less and less about performance and instead focused on reducing my weight.
It seems so ridiculous looking back now, but when you are in the midst of an obsession – nothing is ridiculous.
I started to have medical problems with my stomach, resulting in a near fatal GI bleed that left me in the ICU for a week.
Things were going to have to change.
Over the course of the next year I was still struggling with medical issues and so had to take a year off from college. It was during this year off that the doctors found my brain tumor.
Sitting in my pituitary gland, blocking testosterone and other vital hormone secretion, was a tumor.
Well, at least this explained some things. It still remains unclear though whether epigenetic expression played a role in its appearance or whether the tumor was causing many of my problems. It is a chicken-and-egg problem.
And to be honest, it’s not that important.
What is important is that I took (what I thought were) healthier steps by becoming a triathlete (and developing a new compulsion). As a triathlete I gained about 25lbs of muscle on top of my frail frame and therefore appeared much healthier.
However, my testosterone levels were still ridiculously low and cortisol was always elevated from the constant exertion.
It wasn’t until the tumor, and my inability to deal with side effects of medication I was on, caused me to balloon up to a hefty 221lbs that I really had to take a step back and re-evaluate my life.
Was it really healthy for me to be forcing my body into constant exercise? I mean, I felt so crappy all the time. And now that I could barely run without my blood sugar crashing and running out of breath, I was faced with some serious decisions.
By this point, I was deep into my neuroscience studies so I knew roughly what was going on and what I would need to change in order to right this train.
I knew it was my hormones.
So I rashly threw away all of my medication (to my doctor’s horror) because I wanted to eliminate all of the scary side effects of tumor meds. (I’ve always been of the mindset that the side effects end up being worse than the actual symptoms).
That was Step 1.
Step 2 was to change my exercising so that I decreased the amount of cortisol in my bloodstream steadily over time until it was at a healthy level.
I did this my shifting to more low intensity cardio like walking mixed in with some sprinting when I was feeling particularly saucy. I would try to do pushups and pullups on tree branches as I walked in the woods but I was so weak that I could barely do any at all.
After only two weeks, I started to notice change.
Week after week went by and, by taking one day at a time and trying to “have a better day than yesterday” I was able to continually string together “ a better week than last week.”
The next and final step was to change my dietary habits. When I gained the weight I was so depressed that I may stay fat, sweaty, and unhappy forever. But deep down I knew that there was no way in hell I was going to let this defeat me, and however long it took, regardless of the amount of trial and error I had to go through to get there, I WAS going to figure out how to ‘treat’ myself through proper nutrition.
I would continually fall into the common trap of reaching for food when I felt down on myself or when my day wasn’t going well – basically any time I felt unhappy or bored. Food became a way for me to hide from the inevitable discomfort I knew I had to experience, even if it was only momentary, if I wanted to change for the better & get my self-esteem back on track.
I knew that once I figured out how to eat optimally I would also lose all of the fat that I had gained, because once the endocrine system is healthy and running well again, your entire body starts to feel great – you start burning fat for fuel and your mind becomes sharper.
So I began doing some research on how humans are meant to eat. I wanted to bring my body back to the basics so it would have the chance to reach a balance again. My research brought me all over the internet but eventually I became convinced that the Primal/Paleo “fad” that was beginning to take hold was indeed not a fad at all: it was the real way humans are meant to eat.
And I became increasingly convinced of this as I watched my uncle – an anesthesiologist from Dartmouth, NH – go from being unhealthy and unhappy to being absolutely RIPPED – and he is over 50 years old! He ate primally and had made a HUGE transformation in not only his body but his total well-being.
Long story short, I bought The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson (considered the authority in Primal/Paleo nutrition) and started devouring his blog, MarksDailyApple.
And well, from there, the rest is history. I continued taking baby steps and, as things got easier and easier, and I started developing good habits, I noticed some great changes.
First off, my libido just jumped back out of nowhere. One day I noticed it, and believe me, when something like your sex drive disappears for years, you NOTICE when it comes back.
I went and got my blood tested and sure enough, my testosterone was now right around 600 ng/dl, right in the middle of the normal range for adult males.
I was ecstatic.
How I Beat My Brain Tumor Without Medication or Surgery
And things only got better.
Thanks to my dieting secret (at the time it was not as widely popular as it is now) and the correct exercise routine I was losing fat and feeling better and better about myself every week.
The weeks turned to months and months to years.
I’ve held a steady “above normal” testosterone level for around a year now. My last test result came back at 1192 ng/dl.
I’ve dropped my body fat from over 20% to now hovering between 8-10% year round (depending how how healthy I am eating and how healthy my environment is).
Oh yeah – AND I GREW 2” TALLER. The increase in growth hormone and testosterone associated with my nutritional changes and proper exercise facilitated growth. I now stand at 6’4” tall! No lie.
And I opted out of surgery (never know what can go wrong in brain surgery) and decided to ditch the meds (I was confident in my own abilities to figure out a solution based on my academic background – I’m not necessarily advocating this to my readers).
And to tell you the God-honest truth, I have never been happier in my entire life than I am right now. Beyond having my own ideal body, my mental well-being is sky high. I have great friends, creative opportunities, and a loving family – all things that need never be overlooked in pursuit of physical aesthetics.
My story is a prime example of how you can treat your body with the right nutrition and exercise. The human body was clearly designed to thrive in a certain state of being. When this state is at risk of being disrupted we start to notice imbalances, anxieties, depression, medical problems, and physical problems.
I wasn’t always fit and happy. In fact, my college years were spent struggling with two very serious medical complications that had a huge impact on my life: a GI bleed & a brain tumor.
During this period of time my weight fluctuated wildly: from 150lbs at the low end to 221lbs at the high end.
But even during my most hopeless and depressing moments, I always knew that things would get better: but they would not improve until I took the necessary steps and held myself accountable for the things within my own control.
I began taking baby steps toward my goal of losing body fat and living a balanced life – and guess what – days turned to weeks turned to months turned to years. And now, only a few short years later, I am the happiest I have ever been in life – I am pursuing fulfilling work everyday, I get to help people, my self-esteem is higher than ever, and best of all, I’ve got the strength of knowing that all of that shit I had to go through to get here was not in vain.
No – the strength I gained from surviving those bad times is precisely the reason why everything is so good today.
So if you are dealing with some shit, make today a better day than yesterday and keep moving forward. Remember: shit happens. How you respond and what you learn from it are what are really important.
Just wipe it off your shoe, plug your nose, and keep walking. One step at a time.
Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right. – Henry Ford
The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. – Chinese Proverb