Before we get into my story, I was trying to figure out how to make this RELEVANT to you. I came up with these questions, that YOU are probably asking.
Why would you care about my story, why is this relevant to you?
Well, this site gives advice about diet, nutrition, exercise, weight loss, healthy living, disease prevention, etc. You need to know I walk the walk, as well as talk the talk. So this is my story, so you know I’m real, and I’ve been there and found my own way.
What’s in it for you? What can you get from this page, from this site, from MotherNaturesDiet?
Well, this story just helps you to know who I am, and that I have been through my own journey from poor health to good health – but if you don’t care about my story, then you don’t need to read this page. You only need to know, I lost 101 pounds of fat and quit 20 years of smoking and 26 years of drinking and now I’m super healthy. Mother Nature’s Diet is the end result of everything I learned along the way – and it’s all here, for free, on this site, to help you change your life too.
How can this help you?
- I was obese as a teenager, and in my 20’s, and again in my 30’s
- I was over weight for 20 years
- I smoked for 18 years
- I drank quite heavily when I was younger, and had fun with recreational drugs
- I ate the wrong foods for 2 or 3 decades
- I rarely exercised for years.
If any of that sounds like you, this site can help you.
Now I am slim, fit, healthy, I look OK on the beach and I have run a dozen marathons and two ultramarathons. I never get sick, I haven’t had a day off work for illness in years and I have tons of energy. Everyone who knows me says I am a bundle of energy.
Mother Nature’s Diet (many call it MND) is a way to life to enjoy better health, have more energy, boost your vitality and virility, never get sick, feel great, look better, lose weight and avoid illness.
What can I do for you?
I have written a popular book, which you get purchase here, and I offer an online video course, to introduce you to healthy living the Mother Nature’s Diet way. I run an online subscription-based Membership Club, and I run seminars and workshops.
On a direct basis, I offer Corporate Speaking Engagements, Personal Training, Weight Loss Coaching and Health Mentoring, either for groups or for individuals, and I run Mountain Retreats in the South of France.
Mother Nature’s Diet is all here, on this site, free, and it can help you get more out of life, look and feel better, increase your confidence, and live longer.
Why should you listen to me?
Because I’ve done it, after 16 years of trying to sort my health out and failing, my weight going up and down over the years as I tried different diets, I then finally figured it all out. After 16 years of getting it wrong, I have now enjoyed 13 years of getting it right, and I am in the best health of my life. If you want the same, then that’s a good reason to listen to me.
I hope that has helped, answering your questions for you.
Now, my story is here, it’s not that special, so if the questions and answers are enough for you, then great…but if you do want to know more, it’s all right below.
As a brief introduction, for those of you who don’t already know me, my name is Karl Whitfield. I live in Wiltshire in England, near Bath and Bristol, and I am 48 years old (in 2018).
You must be thinking…’well who the heck is this guy, he’s not a doctor or some top scientist with decades in the field, and he doesn’t appear to be a top male model or amazingly fit athlete or bodybuilder, so why should I look at this website, or read his book, or book him as my coach and trainer? Why listen to him?’
I guess you must be thinking that, so I will tell you my story and a few details about me, and there are some pictures too. Hopefully, you will then understand why I feel compelled to share my journey with you, from the wasted decades of my youth to the supreme good health that I now enjoy.
Below, you can read ‘my story’ telling you everything about the ups and downs of my journey, from fat to fit, but for now, let me just state a few clear facts:
– I’m not a doctor
– I’m not a qualified dietitian, nutritional therapist or personal trainer
– I’m not a qualified medical researcher or alternative therapy practitioner
– I haven’t spent my life working in nutrition and health care
– I spent many years over weight and out of shape
– I smoked for 18 years, and I estimate I smoked about 100,000 cigarettes (that’s about 15 or 16 per day for 18 years)
– I tried and failed many times to lose weight
– I lost weight, and gained it again, then lost it again, repeatedly for 16 years
– My BMI was 32.6 at its highest
– After 16 years of mistakes, I finally got it right
– These days, my BMI is around 23, my cholesterol is low and my visceral fat is low
– Despite all those cigarettes, my lungs are now clean, healthy and strong
– I have lost 101 pounds (46 kg) of fat from my heaviest to my lightest
– I have now run a dozen marathons, two ultramarathons, and cycled John O’Groats to Land’s End
– I ran a sub 3 hr 15 minute marathon aged 40 (that’s pretty respectable, it was in the Copenhagen marathon, 2011)
– Most of my friends say I look younger in my 40s than I did in my 30s, even in my 20s!
My story covers 29 years, 16 of them getting it wrong, the last 13 finally getting it right. Now I have found my passion, my calling in life, to take my lessons learned and help other people to lose weight and find good health. I hope to be able to condense my 29 years of learning into a much quicker time frame for other people, helping you to learn from all my mistakes.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. As a teenager, I weighed 16 stone at 16 years old, 17 stone at 17 years old and just shy of 18 stone at 18 years old.
At my all-time heaviest, when I was 18, I peaked at 17 stone and 12 pounds, which is 250 pounds or 113.4 kilos. My weight fluctuated for many years, up and down throughout my 20s and the first half of my 30s. In 2003 I was back up to 16 stone and 10 pounds, that’s 234 pounds or 106 kilos. In 2004 I dropped 30 pounds. By the start of 2006, I had put most of it back on, and was 220 pounds again, 100 kilos. And so it went from age 15 to 35.
I reached my all-time lightest when I had just turned 41, in September 2011 after a busy year of endurance sport, I got down to a lean 11 stone and 10 pounds, that’s just 164 pounds, or 74.4 kilos. Coincidentally, I weighed 11 stone 11 pounds and was caliper tested at 11% bodyfat at 11 o’clock in the morning on 11th September 2011!
The difference between my all-time heaviest and all-time lightest is 86 pounds (6 stone 2 pound, or 39 kilos) and as you can see, by the time I reached my leanest, I had built some muscle on my chest, legs and back, which I estimate to weigh at least 15 pounds or more. Therefore, in total over 22 years from 18 to 40, I lost approximately 101 pounds of fat off my frame (about 46 kilos), perhaps 20 pounds during the 16 years I was eating wrong, and the remaining 80 pounds over the key years (age 35 to 41) as I finally learned about nutrition and started eating right.
When I was 42, I wrote… “I now weight approximately 170 pounds, and it shocks me to think that I used to carry around 100 pounds of unwanted fat on this same frame. I dread to think how much strain that was putting on my joints and organs, carrying around more than half-of-me (now) again as excess baggage, biologically useless weight holding me down.” Now at age 48, I have loaded another 15 pounds of muscle on to my frame, and I currently weight around 187 pounds, or 85 kilos, at about 13.5% bodyfat.
I spent a large part of my 20s trying to ensure that all the old pictures of ‘fat me’ were gone, but a few survived. The picture above shows me at close to my all-time heaviest, side-by-side with me close to my all-time lightest.
This next picture shows me at 17 yrs old, a scruffy youth enjoying an extremely unhealthy lifestyle, then at 41, having ditched the unwanted fat, now trying to work out with weights and start putting lean muscle on my marathon-runners frame.
Before we go any further –
I am not qualified to give medical advice.
I am not qualified to give you dietary or nutritional advice.
Umm, let’s just analyze that statement for a minute. I really don’t like it. Legally, as a disclaimer, I am obliged to tell you that I am NOT qualified to give you medical, dietary or nutritional advice, but personally, from my heart, as a fellow human being, I think that sucks! I am sure you have seen the same disclaimer many times before – “I am not qualified to give you medical advice”, right? This disclaimer tries to appear, at face value, as though it is in YOUR interest – a warning to you that you must “consider my advice most carefully, because I am not qualified, I may lead you astray.” However, in truth, you have to understand, the statement is there for me not you. It’s there so that if you do follow my advice and it makes you sick, or harms you in some way, you cannot sue me for professional malpractice, because you were warned not to take my advice, you were advised to go consult your qualified doctor before taking my advice.
What madness. To be truthful, I do not want you to sue me if you follow me and do what I am doing (following the 12 Core Principles as laid out on this site) and it makes you fat or sick, even though I don’t think it will. Also true, I don’t have a piece of paper, framed and hanging on my office wall, that says I studied at medical school for several years. But I do have a body, a gut, a stomach, a mouth, and good health. I have fat, blood, bones, muscles, organs, the same as any doctor. I have 29 years of blood, sweat and tears in my memory, 29 years of trying to learn how to be fit and healthy. Not five years at medical school learning about broken bones and muscle function and much more, but 29 years learning just about food, diet, exercise and weight loss, wrestling with low self-esteem, my use of food as a comforter, and 26 years of an unbalanced relationship with alcohol.
Please know that I am not attacking doctors, they are good people, who genuinely care, but I have been told by more than one doctor that in five years of med school they receive less than 1 day of tuition about nutrition. Personally, I think it’s rather ironic, rather warped actually, that a doctor can study for five years and receive virtually no specific nutrition and diet training, and yet he can have a certificate that says he can give you legally recognised diet and nutrition advice, but I cannot. That doctor might be fat, he (or she) might smoke, drink, be addicted to sugar and caffeine and be out of shape and unfit, but he/she is qualified, even if he/she is not a shining example of self-administered good health and vibrant energy. He might have heart disease at 55 and cancer at 68, but he’s qualified to help you. I’ve met fat doctors. I’ve met doctors who smoke. I’ve met doctors who are not in great physical shape.
I love the NHS, I love the wonderful doctors and nurses who look after me and my family when we need them, I applaud all medical professionals…but I do get a bit butt-hurt sometimes when my life experience is rubbished with a wave of the hand, while anyone qualified, whether they live it or not, never faces having his or her expertise questioned. Let’s keep it real, there is a role for both – academic learning, and experiential learning. IMO.
Still, according to the law, my 29 years, my journey from fat to fit, my shift from a BMI of 33 down to 21.8, the 100,000 cigarettes I smoked in 18 years, and the 12 marathons I have run, the injuries, muscle sprains and broken bones I have suffered, the yo-yo diets, the healthy recipes I make every day, the fact that most people who meet me say my vibrant energy is infectious and exciting, my passion for living healthy, strong and long, my healthy virility, my boundless energy, my level of fitness, my low cholesterol, low body fat and my fit healthy body shape…this all counts for nothing, apparently I am not qualified to give you diet and nutrition advice.
So there it is, my disclaimer, I’m a maverick, a “quack”, a raving mad man. Take my advice at your peril you fools… You’ve been warned.
Good, the disclaimer obviously didn’t put you off completely, so well done and I’m glad you are still here. That shows some faith in me, thank you.
So let’s just get back to the original question, why the heck would you listen to anything I have to say?
Well, precisely because I’m not a highly-qualified expert. Because I’m not some ’10-out-of-10-perfect-body muscle-bound hunk’, some 25-year old sun-kissed Californian tanned male model. Those guys are great inspiration, but do they really know how hard it is to be fat and then have to lose it? I’m not a professional personal trainer or dietician or celebrity workout guru. The celebs make a lot of noise, but they get paid to look good and they have a lot of help getting there. I’m like you, I’m a family man, a business man in my 40s, just a regular guy, and I face the same pressures you face, balancing lifestyle with family and business commitments. Just like you, I live in the real world, not the dreamy sunshine world of celebrity DVD workout programs.
There are more DVDs and health programs by weight loss experts and toned athletic looking personal trainers available now than ever before, yet obesity is at an all-time high. It seems the more books published on healthy eating, and the more celebrity fitness DVDs they sell, the fatter people become. So that stuff clearly isn’t meeting the needs of the people. I don’t live in sunny California or Florida, I live in England where it’s mostly quite cold and grey and it rains a lot of the time. I understand the motivation it requires to get out running at 6 am on a cold, wet, dark Tuesday morning in February, when the kids have had you up three times in the night, and I know it’s not always easy.
I am not a perfectly formed young hunk with washboard abs, but I think I’m in pretty decent shape for a busy business man and hands-on father of three young kids in his 40s, and I know that inside I am healthier now than I have ever been. I am fit and strong, I’ve run a few marathons and managed to shed my excess weight, and I know I am much healthier and better looking inside and out in my 40s than I was in my 30s.
Yo-yo weight loss
I’m like so many of you, I am not the product of a healthy youth spent chomping celery and getting plenty of sleep. I’ve made mistakes. I had a pretty wild youth and it was great fun at the time, but my health was the least of my concerns. I’ve been fat, and stayed fat for years. I was clinically obese as a teenager, weighing 250 pounds (17 stone 12, or 113.4 kg) and I had a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 32.6 (above 30 is obese).
I smoked, for 18 years. I like a drink, or at least I used to. I really liked to drink when I was young, and as a teenager, my idea of a good night out was 10 or 12 pints of Guinness, half a bottle of whiskey and then passing out in a hedge and a puddle of my own vomit somewhere on the way home. I was never one of those drinkers who hugged a sore head the next day saying “never again”. No, I was always the “that was fun let’s do it again even harder tonight” type, I loved it.
I was the fat 17 yr old the girls weren’t interested in. I acted my part, played the ‘fool of the group’ role for a while, the party animal role suited me at the time, and I pretended not to be bothered about girls, and I only had a very few girlfriends in my teens. Then eventually, at about 19, I managed to get myself a long term girlfriend, but when I look back, I know I missed out for a few years. I was the fat mess, smoking and drinking his way to oblivion, and although I had fun at the time, I do slightly regret the price my body paid for those teenage years.
As I turned 20 I was disgusted with myself, and I started doing a few push ups and sit ups, and jogging, and by 21 I had lost some weight, and was feeling much better. This was when I first started trying to quit smoking! Yes, at 20 I was ‘trying’…and at 35 I finally kicked the habit for good!! During those 15 years I quit a hundred times, sometime it lasted a day, sometimes a few weeks, a few times it lasted months, but I always went back.
This pic is my chubby face at about age 19, hiding under a baggy jumper, hiding my body shape in baggy clothes, as so many people do when they are unhappy with their own body.
I really lost track of my weight and BMI during my 20s, and my weight and waistline yo-yo’d up and down as I went on and off various diets. This next pic is horrible! I served an apprenticeship in the printing industry for several years. On completion, when you pass into the realm of the qualified tradesman, your co-workers treat you to a ceremony known as being ‘banged out’. Here, I was stripped in front of 70 or 80 co-workers and doused in printing ink, machine grease, paper filings and other print-room waste, much to everyone’s amusement.
All good fun, but the flabby unhealthy shape of my body disgusts me when I see it now. I guess I was roughly 23 or 24 years of age in this picture. This is poor physical conditioning for a man of that age, who should be in his physical prime! Good riddance to my unhealthy miss-spent youth!
I lived in arctic Russia for a while in the mid 1990s and by the time I came home to ‘sunny England’ in March 1998, I had dropped to a little over 13 stones, mostly due to lots of running and the limited diet I was eating in Russia. In my late 20’s I played squash regularly, and that kept me moving, but it wasn’t enough to keep me in shape.
In 1998 I took a telesales job and sat at a desk for 12 to 15 hours per day for 5 years, and this piled on 3 stone (44 pounds) while I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. Then I got married in my early 30s and we decided to have children, and when my wife got pregnant with our first child, my weight went up with hers, and my waist expended with hers. So I was obese again in 2003, with my weight back up over 234 pounds (16 stone 10 or 106 kg) and my BMI back to over 30, when our first child was born.
I remember being disgusted with myself around about the time the below picture was taken. I put on as much weight as my wife did while she was pregnant the first time. No excuse, just too much food and not enough exercise. Business was good, I was earning good money and I would drink a bottle of wine most evenings.
After 2003 I was motivated to change, hating fat me again, and I worked hard to lose weight during 2004 and 2005. I tried to lose weight using the trusted old ‘eat the wrong things, half starve and exercise like crazy’ method. It worked, I lost weight, but I was ill constantly and permanently tired. We had our second baby in 2005, and my weight went up and down, smoking was on and off and I never felt good, never felt healthy or vibrant on the inside.
By early 2006 the weight had piled on again and I was back to 220 pounds (15 stone 10, or 100 kg) early in the year, my BMI still only a fraction below 30, the obesity threshold. I realised I was in my mid-30s now and setting myself up for a lifetime of yo-yo weight loss, poor fitness, shabby body shape and lower back pain, among other things. I decided I had to change; in early 2006 I quit smoking for good and I finally started to learn about diet and nutrition and exercise, and I have been learning ever since.
I’ve learned, not at college, but through hard experience, how to transform my health, lose the weight permanently and invigorate my body. I’ve learned through sweat, through coughs and colds, through sprains and strains and broken bones. I’ve learned how it feels to get up and go running at 6 am every morning in rain and wind and cold. And now I’ve finally learned that it didn’t need to be that hard slog, if I had just figured out how to eat the right foods years earlier.
In 2006 I started eating properly. I started exercising regularly and consistently, I took up martial arts and started training for strength and fitness much more seriously. I started reading books about nutrition, exercise and healthy living. Over 2006-2008 my weight came down and stabilized at around 201 pounds (14 stone 5, or 91 kg), and while I still had a little excess on my stomach, I looked more normal, not ‘the fat guy’ I had always been. In late 2008 I started exercising harder, wanting more. No longer accepting ‘not fat’ as my goal, I started wanting to ‘get fit’ and, though I barely dared to allow myself to think it, maybe one day I could change that goal to ‘look good’!!
Keep on running
2009 was a hard year working long hours, as the recession made for tough times in my small business. I drank quite heavily in 2009, but ate a reasonably clean diet and exercised as much as I could. I turned 39 in the middle of the year and it suddenly dawned on me that I had been listing ‘run a marathon’ as one of my goals in life for 20 years but I still hadn’t done it! As I approached 40, I realised that I had worked, on average, 80 or more hours per week for my entire 30s, and probably only taken 2 weeks per year off (and my idea of time off I still worked 1 or 2 hours every day). It can be like that when you own your own business, but as I aproached 40 I resolved to work less and do more, and stop talking about goals and start hitting them.
With a couple of friends, we signed up to run our first marathon, in Barcelona in March 2010, while I was still 39 years old. Overcoming shin splints early on, I trained hard all winter, including running on icy roads and snowy trails. 12 weeks before the marathon I had to stop running because of nagging pain building up in my right ankle. I started seeing a sports physiotherapist who diagnosed and treated me for tendonitis, but once we reduced the inflammation, we revealed the true problem underneath. An x-ray confirmed it, just 10 weeks before my first marathon I had a stress fracture in my right tibia.
My physiotherapist and my doctor both strongly advised me that the marathon would be impossible, and that 10 weeks was barely enough time for the bone to mend, let alone for me to start running again and be ready for Barcelona. I started training hard on my rowing machine, hoping to keep my fitness levels up that way, but things went from bad to worse, and the sudden change to masses of hard rowing sessions upset my back. Just 4 weeks before Barcelona, I bent over in my office to pick something up, and my lower back locked up and I was in agony, I could barely move.
I started seeing an osteopath, who did a wonderful job of getting me moving again, but then just 2 weeks before Barcelona I still couldn’t manage even a half-mile gentle jog without feeling a lot of pain in my back. My osteopath kept working on me, but everyone insisted that I should drop my plans to run. I rested. Four days before the marathon, I ran 5 miles, slowly, and felt OK…delicate, but no pain. That was all I needed.
I showed up in Barcelona and ran the marathon in 4 hours 24 minutes. It nearly killed me, and my running gait was not a pretty sight for the entire second half, my wife politely told me that “the way I was running it looked like I had shit myself” but I don’t care, I finished! I ached so much for the next week, I could barely walk straight for the first 3 days, but I had done it and I was SO pleased with myself!
A month later my friend and I went to Paris and I, along with 38,000 other people under gorgeous blue skies, ran the Paris marathon in April 2010, in an improved time of 4 hours and 6 minutes.
Glory in Paris!
This was fun, I liked this, I wanted more. I figured I was ‘marathon fit’ and so I would just stay that way. For the rest of 2010 and most of 2011 I ran a marathon (or longer) roughly every 7 weeks, and my times got faster almost every time.
I soon started getting a little bored of all that road running and switched to running trail marathons, which are much more fun in my opinion. There is a company called EnduranceLife who run the excellent CTS (Coastal Trail Series) of marathons in the UK. I ran the South Devon CTS Marathon in Feb 2011 and finished 27th overall, out of several hundred runners, then I ran the Exmoor CTS marathon in April 2011 and finished 9th overall, but 1st in age 40 and above, which I was especially pleased with!
Victory on the trail
Without a doubt my favourite event is in France, the Trail des Aiguilles Rouges, an epic 33-mile trail run over several mountains in the alps, starting from the town of Chamonix, under the shadow of Mont Blanc. I first ran this in September 2010 and it was easily the hardest single-day event I have ever done, and I finished after 11 hours and 9 minutes of tough mountain running. I went back in 2011 and ran the event again, in a time of 10 hours and 24 minutes. A big part of me still hopes to go back some time and run this event in about 9 hours, but that is fast for this event, so I’ll need to be in supremely good shape for that!
My marathon PB (Personal Best) came in Copenhagen in May 2011. I had lost weight and was down to a light lean 12 stone (170 pounds) and I was running well. A week before Copenhagen I set my 10k PB at exactly 42 minutes and I was in the best shape of my life. I finished the Copenhagen marathon in 3 hours 14 minutes and 17 seconds, an excellent time that put a BIG smile on my face. In fact, my GPS-watch said the course was a third of a mile over, and according to my watch I crossed the 26.2 mile mark in 3:12:01, and this made me certain I could achieve a sub 3-hr marathon before the end of the year!
Marathon PB: Sub 3:15 at age 40 – very pleased with myself, and rather tired!
I booked a place on the Las Vegas marathon for 4th December 2011, and set myself a target time of 2:59. I would be 41 years old by the time of the race and I was determined to run a sub 3-hour marathon in my 40s, one last symbolic ‘fingers up’ to my unhealthy youth!
I also started cycling in 2011. I had owned a mountain bike for years, just for keeping fit and having fun, but in late 2010 I bought a lovely shiny road/racing bike, having never slung my leg over a racing bike before in my life, and I started clocking up the miles. In June 2011 I joined 585 other cyclists and we rode from John O’Groats, the most North-Easterly point of Scotland, to Land’s End, the most South-Westerly point of England, 963 miles in 9 days. The ride was an epic event, slightly spoiled by ghastly weather, it rained 8 days out of 9 and we faced headwinds, strong at times, for 7 days out of 9, but the cameraderie was first rate and we raised a lot of money for good causes.
The Copenhagen marathon was in May 2011, the bike ride in June 2011, and then just a few days after completing the bike ride, I took a groups of friends to Scotland again and we completed the UK ‘3 Peaks Challenge’ – climbing the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales in one period of 24 hours.
So in the summer of 2011 I was pretty fit! Around that time I also completed a personal best push-ups record, of 1014 good-form wide-grip push ups in 1 hour, and by September 2011 I reached my all-time lightest ever weight. On September 11th, 2011, I weighed precisely 11 stone and 11 pounds (165 pounds, or 74.8 kg) and I recorded 11% body fat, tested with calipers. All those 11 are pure coincidence, but kinda neat and pretty easy to remember!
This pic was taken in France in August 2011
After 22 years carrying excess weight, it feels damn good to be ‘light on my feet’ and while I now want to put some muscle on, I don’t think I will ever want to ‘feel heavy’ again 🙂 Now I know how good it feels to be fit, light and healthy, I could never go back to feeling heavy, sluggish, lardy and sick or run down all the time. Feeling great is an awesome motivator, and I am now committed to good health for life, determined to stay in great shape for decades to come.
From my all-time heaviest to my all time lightest, I was now 83 pounds lighter. I estimate I have put on at least 15 or 20 pounds of muscle, likely more, so in reality, I have removed 100 pounds of fat from my body. That’s 7 stone 2, or 45 kilos of fat. That’s a small person. It shocks me to think I used to carry all that extra weight around with me, all day every day, for years.
Lessons learned the hard way
I never made it to Las Vegas.
Not long after the back-to-back Copenhagen marathon – 963 mile bike ride – 3 Peaks Challenge was all completed, I started getting pain in my right knee. I used to stretch 4 or 5 evenings per week. I would lay out a yoga mat and go through an hour-long yoga-style stretching sequence, to keep my legs, hips and back all supple, flexible and balanced. All that running and cycling will shorten the leg muscles so stretching to stay supple is important. Whilst stretching, I started noticing that I couldn’t bend my right knee fully, it was swollen and painful to bend it completely.
Cutting a long story short, the knee became progressively worse over July, August and September 2011. Running seemed to aggravate it, and when I ran the Trail des Aiguilles Rouges in September 2011 I had not logged half as much training as I would have liked. I ran, but it was sore for weeks afterwards, and this seriously hampered my preparation for Las Vegas. Every time I ran, the knee would hurt. I’d take a week or two off, rest it, run again, and it would swell up and hurt again.
Running in the mountains in France in Sept 2011
Eventually, in late October 2011, 6 weeks before Vegas, I had to admit defeat and drop my plans. My sub 3-hour dream was gone! I rested it for months, didn’t run once, but still months later it was swollen and sore. I did boxing training and the skipping aggravated it. I did cross-fit style training and the jumping caused pain and swelling. Any kind of impact would upset that knee. Eventually I sought my doctors opinion and an MRI scan showed that I had a complex meniscal tear, meniscal cyst, ligament sprain and some general wear and tear around the bottom of the femur. I had knee surgery in June 2012 and it took the whole of 2012 off running for me to recover.
Then I fractured two vertebrae in my spine. Yeah, that was another accident, not so smart. One of my passions is rock climbing, so I try to do lots of chins and pull-ups in my exercise routine to help me with my climbing. I had an accident in March 2012, my chinning bar broke free from it’s fixings in my home gym and I crashed to the floor. I had my knees curled up to my chest at the top of the movement as the bar broke free, so I landed my whole body weight right on my back, on a concrete floor with no padding or crash mats.
I fractured L2 and broke the right hand spinous process off L4, which was very painful at the time and for about a week or ten days afterwards, but I was lucky, if I had landed 1 inch to the left, I’d have likely ended up in a wheelchair for life. I only fell about 5 or 6 feet, and my body weight was only 12 stone 4 at the time. It makes me laugh now when I see Hollywood movies where bodies fly through the air in fight scenes and they leap up and keep fighting after a 20 foot fall. Trust me, that is very unrealistic. I fell 6 feet max and it jarred my diaphragm so hard I couldn’t breath. I was gasping to try to get air into my lungs, my back was in agony, my ribcage felt bruised and tender for weeks. Over the coming days, when I moved in certain ways, sometimes just the smallest movements, the pain would ‘catch’ me and bring tears to my eyes. I have never felt pain like it.
Now I have re-hung my chinning bar, but much stronger this time. I’m not taking chances with my spine, never again. I have certainly learned a few lessons about sports injuries over the last 3 or 4 years. I have suffered shin splints, tendonitis, fractures, muscle spasms, bone breaks, exhaustion, many nights waking with calf cramps and endless minor injuries not worth listing. I have learned that staying ‘marathon fit’ all year was a mistake, and my body, after 20 years of not running marathons, needed a rest, an off-season, every 6 months. I should have had trained hard, run a few marathons, then had an off-season, a few months off, then repeated the process.
I have learned lots, and it has not all been easy lessons to learn. Endurance sport is fun, I love running marathons and I love mountain running, but I have learned that it is not wise to go all out on endurance sports without a balance of weight training. Aside from injury prevention, I often look at long distance runners and cyclists and think they look as thought they need some meat, a bit of muscle, on their bodies! I shall return to running, probably, later this year, but I intend to be much more careful with my body in the future. No more injuries, it’s not worth it. I want to live until I am over 100 years old, and still have the use of my own legs. My surgeon says I’ll need a new knee in 10 to 15 years, sooner if I keep running. I have to be wise.
Rock climbing is a passion of mine. I love hill walking, mountain hiking and rock climbing. So over the next few years I shall focus on building a rock climbers physique, lean, muscular and strong. I shall include regular yoga practice to stay supple, and if I can include some off-road marathons for fitness, then that will be great.
Rock climbing in France 2011 – best sport in the world
All this time, from 2006 to 2012, I have bean reading books and attending seminars to learn about healthy eating, healthy lifestyles, nutrition and exercise. Learning about nutrition has become my obsession over the last decade, and I have read hundreds of books, magazine, journals and scholarly articles about diet, lifestyle, nutritonal therapy and disease prevention.
Since 2005 I have suffered from a strange skin condition called urticaria, and I also suffer from angioedema. You can Google both to find out more. During 2006 to 2009 these were really very annoying. My triggers are cold and stress, any kind of stress, physical, mental or emotional. If my skin got cold it would flare up in angry, itchy red rashes. I would get huge hives and they would itch like crazy. Then the angioedema would kick in and my mouth, lips and tongue would swell up massively and itch and make me dribble.
The solution, which will make these symptoms go away in just a few hours, is to take prescription-strength antihistamine tablets. The trouble is, these make me terribly drowsy. Yes, even the non-drowsy ones absolutely knock me out. If I have an antihistamine during the morning, by mid afternoon you’d think I was drunk, I am slurring my words and wandering around looking dazed.
While cold weather or cold water, and stress, are my key triggers (for some people, they have heat-triggered urticaria) I have also learned that certain foods can make me more sensitive. I spent a long time testing ‘the usual suspects’, those foods that trigger allergic reactions in many people: wine, strawberries, tomatoes, nuts, prawns and other shellfish, and so on. Certainly, on days when I was stressed with work and tired from the kids, and if it was cold outside, and if we had a prawn dinner in a tomato sauce, washed down with wine and then an evening on the sofa watching a movie nibbling nuts, well that was a sure recipe for an itchy night in bed!
At times during 2006 to 2009, I lived on antihistamines, which bothered me greatly, because I hate being drowsy and I hate taking drugs for any reason. I would go a few weeks with no problems, but then something would trigger me and I would have weeks of red, blotchy, itchy skin and a swollen face. The tablets would reduce my symptoms but leave me dazed and drowsy all day. However, as I have cleaned up my diet the symptoms have massively reduced. Most significantly, since I gave up grains in 2010, my urticaria has almost gone completely.
I have had a food intolerance test and it did not show up that I am wheat or gluten intolerant, but I certainly believe that since I quit grains I suffer much less from urticaria, and somewhat less from angioedema. Provided I get enough sleep (a problem for me, I live a very, VERY busy life!) and stay warm in cold weather, and try to not get stressed, I can now go many months at a time with no symptoms. Now, in 2012, I would say the urticaria is 95% gone, and the angioedema is probably 80% gone, compared to, say 2009, when both were a regular problem. I am hoping that over the next 12 months, both go completely.
As my learning journey continued, by 2009 I started formulating ideas in my mind about how humans were MADE to eat. I started thinking about how modern food is all screwed up, made in factories, not natural, and I started using the word ‘caveman’ a lot in my mind. For most of the period 2006 to 2009 I had largely been a vegetarian. I would eat fish once in a while, maybe some chicken once a month, but red meat probably didn’t pass my lips for those three years. After some time reading and thinking, and making changes to my own diet, I slowly started moving away from the vegetarian diet and eating a little more meat.
To be clear, I think that my predominantly vegetarian diet throughout 2006 to 2009 helped with the bulk of my weight loss, and I got into juicing and alkalising which is a great way to detox and lose weight healthily. As I formed my ‘caveman principles’ I have not lost sight of the importance of using natural organic green vegetables to form a large part of any healthy diet, and I still juice on a regular basis as a way to supplement my diet with a blast of fresh natural nutrients.
Green super nutrition!
I started formulating ideas about how would ‘caveman’ have eaten, how would he have exercised, what would his life have been like. I started reading books, history and anthropology, and I started building a picture in my mind of how our ancient ancestors would have lived. After many months, I suddenly thought one day that I can’t be the only person thinking this way, surely someone must have written a book on this topic. In late 2009 I searched ‘caveman diet’ on Amazon and found a book called The Primal Blueprint, by Mark Sisson.
I devoured that book with vigour, and since then I have bought copies for several friends and recommended it to dozens and dozens of people. Thus begun the next stage of my journey! I was not alone, there was a whole Primal/Paleo movement out there, a whole new world was opening before me! Exciting! I had almost completely given up eating starchy carbs already, but The Primal Blueprint confirmed for me that I was going the right way and early in 2010 I gave up grains and starchy carbs completely – and that helped the final stage of my fat loss.
I went on to read The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith, and The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf, and these books further helped to shape my thinking and understanding. Throughout 2010 and 2011 and 2012 I have read many more books about modern farming practices, about the history and origins of agriculture, about early human hunter gatherers, about animal welfare, about disease prevention and much more.
The books I have read over 2009-2012, and the way I have changed my own diet, and the testing I have done on myself and the trial and error experiences, have all led me to formulate the 12 Core Principles I have outlined on ‘The Core Principles’ page. It is actually very simple stuff. I think that to be healthy, fit, lean, virile and sexy, strong, free from aches and pains and illness, and to live a long life, we just need to adhere to these very simple practices: eat natural whole plants and animals; avoid sugar, chemicals and processed foods; reduce stress; move often, naturally, and in a variety of ways; get back in touch with nature; have some meaning and purpose to our lives beyond just eating and watching TV.
I am now reading and testing and learning constantly, and over 2011 my favourite obsession was my focus on not eating grains. In 2011 I started writing my own book, which will eventually be available here on this site, once I finish it. I wanted to call it ‘Against The Grain’, which just seemed a brilliant and appropriate title. I checked on Amazon to see if anyone else had already published a book by that title…of course there are several, but one of them, well, in many ways it was the book I am trying to write!!
Against The Grain by Richard Manning is a superb book, and packed with insights into the history of agriculture, and insights into everything that is wrong with American farm policies, subsidies and politics. Manning’s book completely backed up everything I had already decided about grains, and taught me so much more.
Major breakthroughs on the way to developing MotherNaturesDiet
When I look back over the last few years, I can identify four clear moments, or shifts, when I made major breakthroughs in my journey from fat to fit, from mess to health freak.
Four major breakthrough times in my life:
1) – 2006 when I quit smoking for good, had a ‘mental shift’ where I realised that my health needed to be higher on my priority list in life, and I started eating much more fresh vegetables
2) – 2010 when I broke through the 14 stone 5 barrier, after telling myself for several years that I had ‘found my resting weight’ and I couldn’t go much lower. In 2010 I learned that we tell ourselves these bullshit stories, we construct these beliefs in our minds, as excuses. That’s all they are
3) – 2010 when I stopped eating grains completely
4) – Late in 2011 when I finally cut out refined sugar for good, including alcohol in 2012
Notice how these MAJOR breakthroughs are not things like ‘ran my first marathon’, or ‘climbed a huge mountain’ or ‘took a job as a personal trainer’. They are not huge things in that respect, they are simple things, small tweaks to my diet, and fundamental shifts in the way I think, my mind-set, my beliefs about what is and isn’t possible, what I can and cannot do. Simple little things, but they each had a really BIG impact on my life.
Often, we think that massive changes require a massive effort, but that is not always the case. It turns out, small changes to my diet, like ‘cut out grains, eat more veggies’, and changes to my mind, changes in how I think, like ‘start putting health higher up the list than money, or I’ll be the richest dead fat person you ever met’, is all that it took to radically change my life, and melt the excess fat away.
And now I am a man-on-a-mission. Now I believe anything is possible. Now the changes outlined above, are set to have an even bigger impact on my life in the future than they have had in the past. I am now determined that I will have the kind of physique a 25-yr old male model would be proud of, by the time I’m 45. I’m going to build a new business, coaching people to supreme good health, taking other people on this amazing journey with me, helping to teach them in 2 years the lessons I learned in 22 years.
I am now building a new business out of MotherNaturesDiet, though I am nicknamed by some of my friends as Caveman Karl or The Common Sense Caveman, coaching other people to supreme good health. Starting in 2014 I will be running luxury health retreats to take a handful of people into an immersive environment to really change the way they think about food and their health and set them on the right track. I am writing my first diet and lifestyle book, and I will publish it free because I genuinely want to share my learning and my knowledge with as many people as possible, because I believe the world needs to learn this stuff. And I sincerely intend to write more books in the future, as I learn more, I will share my knowledge freely. Now I have added years to my life, improved my energy levels and made myself healthy and strong, I should have plenty of time and energy to play with for many, many years to come!
Oh, and I’m going to be a far better rock climber than I previously ever imagined I could be!
If I can…anyone can…and YOU can
So that’s really the whole story. Not exciting enough to make a movie out of it, or write a best selling book about my life so far, but exciting enough for me, and the changes for me have been incredible, and my life will be 30 years longer, a lot more action-packed and a hell of a lot healthier for it. I look better, I feel better, and I know I am healthier on the inside. As the years go by, my skin will age better, my looks will benefit, my sex life will benefit, my energy levels will boost my career and my children will get more from their father.
I finally figured out how to get rid of the fat that I thought I would carry with me for my entire life. I dumped over 7 stone, 100 pounds, 45 kilos of dead weight, that I was dragging through life with me. It had been holding me back, holding me down, slowing me down in life. I got myself lean, fit and strong, I am now healthier and have more energy than ever before, I look better in my 40s than I did as a teenager, or in my 20s or 30s, and I’ve finally ticked a few achievements off my bucket list!
Most significantly, I did it all between the ages of 32 and 42, while starting and building my own company and while my wife and I had three young kids, and I was tired from sleep loss. I know how it feels to be fat for decades. I know how hard it is to quit smoking. I know how tiring babies and young children can be. I understand the demands of parenting. I understand the pressures of building a career and providing for a growing family. I know how much effort it requires to get out of bed in the cold and dark and rain and go exercise. I know how tiring it is to work 12 hours and then go to the gym. I know how depressing it feels to admit when those jeans don’t fit you any more and you need to buy a bigger size.
So much of what you are going through, I can empathize with how you feel, I’ve been though 20 years of diets and gym sessions and I now, finally, have figured out what works and what doesn’t, for my body, and I have read a lot of books and tried a lot of things and learned a heck of a lot along the way.
MotherNaturesDiet comes from MY lessons in MY life. Whatever you think is stopping you, whatever stories you have been telling, I have been there, done that and found a way through.
- Too busy working
- Got a demanding job
- Got demanding kids
- Not enough money
- Not enough time
- You smoke
- You drink
- You’re fat
- Too old
- Don’t know what to do
- Tried diets before
- Don’t like exercise
- Can’t afford the gym
I have used them all. They are just stories in your head, they are just excuses. I overcame them all.
And most importantly, now I have changed, in the most important way of all – how I think. I have learned to place good health first. Now I care what goes in to my body. I value a long life, I want to enjoy my grandchildren, I want to reach over 100 years of age, still upright and functioning. I don’t just want the energy to build a career, I want to leave a legacy, I want to do something meaningful with my time. I have woken up, I can see through the bullshit, the media, the advertising, the multi-billion dollar diet industry, the trillion dollar food and agriculture business…I have learned that we are messing up our bodies, mistreating animals and making a mess of the soil, air and water on this beautiful planet and we need to change, millions of us need to change.
I have learned as much about politics and money as I have about food and nutrition. The vast majority of the products in your local supermarket are designed to make a profit for the companies that make them, they are not designed to make you healthy or help you be slim and fit and live a long life. We all have to take complete personal responsibility for our own good health. Don’t rely on your doctor, don’t trust the food manufacturers, don’t give business to the drug companies.
- Eat real, whole, natural food
- Avoid or reduce stress
- Respect and enjoy nature
There are no excuses.
If I can do it, ANYONE can do it.