I started as a sick kid. Hospitalized a couple of times for asthma, and I was on constant medication starting at 4 years old. I had severe allergies, severe acne, orthodontics for palate expansion, headgear to correct an underbite, cavities; I was pudgy and had glasses. I was a bit of a nerd super-stereotype. That finally started to change when I found Crossfit in 2008 and I was completely transformed. I went from a high carb video game player, to a paleo eating weightlifter. I converted my whole family. We ate paleo-ish, worked hard and had a lot of fun. My mom has her level 3 cert and is the head coach/owner at our family gym, aptly called Nearly Perfect Crossfit. She’s now competing in the Masters’ Crossfit open.
Oddly enough, HIIT seemed to make me no longer need any asthma medication. When I started, I could barely run 400m without needing an inhaler. After about 6 months I had stopped taking my daily meds and only the worst metcons even gave me a tingle of asthma. I woke up every day at 5am and trained like it was my job, but I needed something to pay the bills. I wanted a career that would allow me to continue my fitness journey. I had been a sick kid all my life and I desperately wanted to cling to my newfound drug-free existence. So I joined the Army as a medic. I loved being a medic; I loved the job, I loved the mission. My duty station was a little cold in Fairbanks, Alaska but I was determined to make the most of it.
When I deployed to Afghanistan 2011-2012 I started the deployment with a robust fitness plan in place. My starting weight was 180lb. My lifts were going up and we had access to a great gym every other week. On the other week we used a makeshift gym and got our lifts in that way. Though the name “Globo Gym” and its motto, “where we’re better than you and we know it” were pretty much a giant troll on the Crossfitters, I was extremely grateful to the creative carpenters who fashioned it, and shared the place with the rest of us. It was all in good fun.
Unfortunately we got traded to another battalion after the first three months. We spent the rest of the deployment moving from place to place and tearing down small combat outposts in Kandahar Province. We were constantly were without equipment, and I resorted to squatting my best friend Z and lifting blocks of concrete.
Overseas It was getting harder and harder to stay fit on MREs and crappy food, little sleep and constant movement. Some of us had a harder time than others maintaining our fitness overseas and I was one that gained 30lbs.
Some was muscle. Some was definitely not. I blamed poor food and my bad attitude for the problem and when I was given time off on our return from Afghanistan, I vowed to get myself back in gear because my symptoms of the long-gone asthma were returning.
However, I found that it was increasingly difficult after deployment to lose weight and keep it off. I was having energy problems, focus problems, and really strong bouts of anxiety. And I know what you’re thinking; maybe it’s PTSD! No, it wasn’t that kind of deployment. I did get my CMB (combat medical badge) but it was for a minor injury and none of my friends were hurt. I was not mentally traumatized. But I was sick. At the time I didn’t know with what.
So things continued as normal until I got a really cool job at the Brigade Surgeon Cell, basically I assisted in outpatient procedures every week and updated a tracker for following up with the status of the injured soldiers from our deployment. I learned a lot in this job, but I was having the hardest time focusing. I went to see behavioral health to find out if anything was wrong. They gave me a battery of tests and I scored above average in every category except one: focus/attention. I scored 30% in that test and was diagnosed with adult onset ADD. So I started taking Methylphenidate. Well, I was able to do my job, but my anxiety got worse….and the underlying condition seemed no closer to being handled. So it was now time for me to leave the Army and I was honorably discharged in 2014. I did my 4 years, now I was going to school. In the meantime I was health hacking. I was trying to get to the bottom of whatever it was that was wrong. I was starting to not be able to recover from workouts…a simple Workout of the Day would render me cripplingly sore for two weeks or more. I was just kind of stumped.
I hypothesized that perhaps it was the ADD meds that somehow were keeping me in a sympathetic nervous system dominance of sorts. So I discontinued the meds but the damage seemed to be done. In Afghanistan, I got up to 220 and I got back down to 185 after I left the service, but it was a flabby 185 if I’m honest. I was just inflamed and not the best version of myself when I came back. I was distracted, anxious, even without the meds now, and I was gaining weight. I tried pretty much everything I could think of. I spent the next 4 years studying health and building on the knowledge base of paleo and CrossFit which didn’t seem to be enough anymore.
I tried keto and the neurosis got worse, unbearable. I tried supplementing with powdered greens to get every kind of trace mineral and phytonutrient known to man. I supplemented iodine, 3 or 4 versions. I supplemented vitamin D, emulsified, bioavailable, etc., every permutation. I tried different amino acids, co-factors, fish oils, krill oils, algae oils. I learned that most of what I tried was oxidized so I tried again with different sourcing. I tried alkaline water and it was weird. I did lab work. I did a DUTCH test to see where my hormones were. Estrogen: Super High. Testosterone: Super High. What should I do about that? I don’t know. Probably take a giant box of more supplements. I took binders and detoxes and cleanses. I ordered crazy shit you can only get from Europe. I turned off my router at night and started using my phone on speaker phone in case it was frying my brain. I didn’t use a tinfoil hat but I came close…. I bought a fancy bed because it didn’t off-gas flame retardants. I bought a sauna, I did hair analysis, I bought another round of different forms of every supplement I tried before. I switched toothpaste, soap, and deodorant, anything I could think of. I bought a deep freezer and filled it full of local grass-fed, grass-finished beef I couldn’t afford. Some of the things I tried, I still use, but it was exhausting, and I wasn’t getting results.
Nothing really even touched the problem until I tried digestive enzymes. All of the sudden my cravings for alcohol went away. At this point, I was pretty bummed and I’d started drinking with little regard to my health, so this shift was kind of a big deal. I had been starting to give up. I had swelled up to 225, a new PR! But the enzymes were a little ray of hope. Masszymes was the brand, developed by a vegan no less; turns out he couldn’t digest a wet paper bag without the help of these superpowered enzymes. And don’t get me wrong, they work, but I question their necessity. I started getting my life together again. I was trying to lose the weight and I found this really interesting guy on YouTube named Jordan Peterson who said I might try pulling my head out of my ass and getting my life together. Well ok I said, I’ll give it a whirl. And so I did. I cleaned my room. I did laundry. I washed more than the minimum number of dishes to get by. I put my house back together and finished up a never-ending remodeling project. I started looking for something meaningful I could do with my life besides just keep burning up my GI Bill getting paid to go to classes.
Well here I was starting to get a hold of my life and look for a way to not be the biggest turd on the planet, and around that time we had a family reunion to see the solar eclipse. I realized, to my shame, that my cousin’s wife had been wasting away with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease for the last two years. The last I heard about it, someone else was trying to be a donor, so in my self absorbed pity party I had kind of forgotten about it.
So I was sitting across from her in front of my family’s pool and thinking, “she looks pretty sick still. I wonder whatever happened with the liver thing. Well, she’ll probably be annoyed that I’m asking her two years later. But oh, what the hell, the worst that could happen is that she’ll tell me to f*** off and let her die in peace.” So I ask. First off she’s not offended, I’m a total dweeb. Furthermore she said she’s blood type A+. I’m type A+. So we talked, she told me how the last two people including her daughter weren’t matches, because it turns out being a living organ donor is like winning the lottery. Most people die waiting for donors, she explains. And there are lots of things that can happen to make you lose your place in line. Her MELD score wasn’t high enough to get an emergency status so she was slowly dying in agony, vomiting blood, and experiencing all sorts of nightmarish symptoms. Seemed like she was in a real hell on earth. And a living donor was her best chance at life.
Well, I had been asking for more meaning in life; here was the opportunity. Time to take on a little responsibility and make the world a better place. So I said, let’s try and see if I’m a match. I figured I’m getting a hold of this digestion thing, I’m cutting back on booze, sorting myself out. I was looking for meaning and here was finally a chance to really save a life and feel like I earned my CMB. So I did it. I was a perfect match at literally everything. I was a first-time go at every station and from the August conversation I was green-lit by Christmas, in large part because she would certainly have died if we didn’t do it soon. I lost 20 lbs doing strict keto and going cold turkey with no alcohol at all. Because come on, I can’t pollute the thing if I’m giving part of it away. It went very smoothly. I was able to walk out of the hospital in 4 days. I felt a good deal better in a week. I felt normal in a month and in 2 months I felt as strong as I was before. Really not the big deal physically that I hyped it up to be. However emotionally and spiritually still deeply meaningful. Probably the proudest moment of my life.
Well, now I was healed up, but I was stuck at 200lbs and I wasn’t losing any more weight. The anxiety was coming back and being strict for this long without an excellent motivator was starting to wear on me. My wife and I were eating a giant box of fresh local vegetables every week as part of my recovery plan on keto. I couldn’t figure it out and these enzymes were $300/month. I had previously figured that the weight gain was due to alcohol, and I wasn’t terribly worried because beer drinking and having a beer gut seemed like a fair deal from the universe. However after 9 months alcohol-free, I was still experiencing digestive issues. Something was still not right even with the enzymatic support.
So I did microbiome testing. I found out I had dysbiosis and lots of different opportunistic pathogens! However this does not paint a very detailed picture, so I also did an RNA-based test which shows percentages of different bacteria’s RNA transcription, to determine relative activity. I saw that 58% of all activity was one microbe called Acinetobacter baumannii. So I Googled it. “Iraqibacter” is its nickname. It’s an antibiotic-resistant pathogen that is endemic to the desert that’s famous for killing wounded soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Crap. That doesn’t sound good. If it’s resistant to almost all forms of antibiotics how do you kill it? I found some seriously dangerous treatments but there was a common theme; I needed to get much worse before I qualified for these dangerous interventions. So double crap. I realized that one potential source of this problem might be our prophylactic for malaria; doxycycline. We were ordered to take a dose every day for the entire year long deployment. So having dysbiosis and an antibiotic-resistant infection kind of fit my story. But then the question was why did I seem to have health problems that other soldiers didn’t have? I realized later that most of my fellow soldiers were flushing their pills after the first week because it was making them feel sick taking them. Unfortunately, I was a boy scout and took them almost every day. In the Army’s defense, I did see malaria in the region, and it’s a real battlefield threat that has killed lots of soldiers throughout history. So I don’t blame the Army, even though it created difficulties for me personally.
So I started doing my research again. Ironically, the only folks who have experience with unknown crazy gut infections, biofilms, and detox protocols were vegans. (Another red flag along with the enzymes.) The vegan Youtubers led me to diatomaceous earth. I tried it. I had crazy reactions and it’s just silica, should be innate. Ok, I was onto something. I took that for a while, and tried coffee enemas trying to get whatever was in there out and killed. It worked, honestly. The vegan community was onto something with their infection mitigation and detox stuff. It begged the question though, why is this peculiar knowledge so prevalent and common among vegans and why is all this health hacking necessary if they’re eating so healthily? I came across turpentine and that’s when I saw some crazy stuff happen. Things started to die but I felt like I was dying too. I found Vegetable Police on YouTube – he has the most hilarious video about turpentine you will ever see. So we were looking at digestion as a potential primary cause of my symptoms.
Then I found Stan Efferding who says basically you can’t digest all those veggies. Like the giant box of organic co-op veggies I’ve been eating faithfully every week for 9 months and paying out the nose for? Those veggies? YEP……ugh. So I cut them out. I felt better. I dove deeper and before I could get any further down this weird cure of avoiding vegetables, I saw Jordan Peterson on the Joe Rogan show, talking about his daughter Mikhaila’s diet and the results he was getting. Sold, totally sold. That fit everything I’d been studying – it made sense with keto, digestion health, and a plan to starve out the infection. After starting on the carnivore diet, I began to feel the effects almost immediately. I lost another 20 pounds, my anxiety plummeted, my energy exploded, my mood was lifted. I felt so much better, I felt like a new human. This part of the story is pretty typical. Just everything went so much better, it’s unbelievable. So unbelievable, I don’t like talking about it, because I sound crazy. Vegetables are the problem? Well, that explains why the vegans know so much about mitigating their effects. It also explains why meat eaters think it’s crazy BS. So that brings me to today. I’m 9 months a carnivore and doing great. I’m still losing weight each week. My vanity doesn’t want me to upload this story quite yet, but I’ve made a lot of progress, and I’m always going to be a work in progress. So here is my before and after.
All in all I’ve lost 44 pounds and counting…as of 4/4/2019
Give me 6 more months I’ll look even better. Thank you all for promoting this way of eating. It’s these kinds of stories that encourage others to keep pursuing their health and to find real and lasting changes, whatever path it takes for them. My path led me to meat. And though I am no doctor or scholar, as an n of 1, I sure feel like I’m healed. #meatheals
Phillip is the creator of the Carnivore Bar.