What It Feels Like to Wake Up Strong

The first time I realized that I was small was in the third grade when my class was sorted by height and I discovered that not only was I the shortest boy, but only two small girls were shorter than me. When I got to seventh grade, this problem was exacerbated by my taller classmates growing into their adult sizes and I was left behind even further. Some of these bigger kids started picking on me, since I was unable to defend myself. I was beaten up on many occasions. In high school I wanted to try out for the wrestling team but was too small for the smallest weight class.

As an adult I had a picture of myself and a girl I had dated on my bulletin board in my bedroom at my mom’s house, which was still there when I took Stacy for the first time. “Oh how cute! You in the eighth grade!” “No, that was my Junior year Homecoming.” I was 4’11” and maybe 95 pounds.

But that wasn’t forever. The next eighteen months I grew a foot but I also discovered Coca-Cola, soft pretzels and cookies. School lunches suck, you see, but for the same price as a full meal I could get two soft pretzels and three cookies. I weighed 190 pounds by the time I graduated. In college, I replaced cookies and pretzels with whole large pizzas and more Coke. I weighed 260 pounds when Stacy met me. My weight has yo-yoed for years since then.

In that time, I’ve never felt strong. I’ve never felt even very masculine. It’s hard, as a man, to feel in control of anything if you don’t feel physically capable. So much of masculine culture is built around physicality and a weak male is automatically ostracized. On several occasions strangers have taken one look and decided to mess with me. I was so out of shape I was misdiagnosed with exercise induced asthma. I was so weak I couldn’t do more than 3 push ups. I honestly debated discussion the possiblity of a testosterone deficiency with my doctor because I could not think of another explanation for how I was struggling.

Then one day Stacy had a new idea to change our diet and give up all the junk. I was hesitant at first, but the more I bought in, the better I felt. I lost massive amounts of body fat, going from a 25% to 8% in a nine month period. With little effort, I’ve gone from overweight, out of shape and weak to feeling strong.

Strong. It’s hard to describe how differently I see my world. Where once I sought to hide, now I find myself confident in my body. I’ve become much more assertive in my interactions with people. I look for opportunities to be of use to people where once I tried to duck. I walk into public places and no longer feel like I’m a potential target; I now assume I’m the toughest person in the room. Most importantly, I no longer perpetually feel like a victim waiting to happen.

Strange things happen to you when you’re flooded with testosterone the way I assume I am. My libido has gone through the roof. I can now perform feats of strength that shock my family members. I have endurance I once could only dream of. I have a desire to go out and do stuff. I spent much of my young adulthood on a couch or computer chair, but now I want to play with my children or go on a walk or play sports.

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  • Shirley @ gfe

    What a powerful testimonial for the paleo way of eating! It was amazing to see your progression from childhood to now. Many, many kudos (and to Stacy!) and congrats to you! You should make sure that Mark Sisson knows about this post. It would be great for his weekly posts where he shares success stories. 🙂


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  • Jntparisi

    Great story, one I can really relate to…curious if you have ever been tested for gluten intolerance.  As someone with a similar situation and recently going grain free, this was at the root of my issues.  Glad to see the positive results.  Thanks for sharing.

    • I’ve never been tested and don’t really feel I need to be. I feel better grain-free and that’s good enough for me. Thanks for reading!

  • Wheat73

    I really enjoyed reading your story, Matt.  Thanks for sharing it with us.  It is amazing to see how our food choices influence the development of our bodies, our minds, our moods, and our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us.  Congrats to you and your family.

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  • Heather

    Would love to hear tips from a male perspective on getting my hubby on board with diet changes. He’s such a routine driven guy that he really digs his heels in when I try to make changes to improve our families health. Thanks!