It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
If you’re reading this story in the hope of seeing drastic before and after photos, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed (unless of course I could wear my body inside-out, in which case the transformation would be pretty damn impressive!), but rather my story is about completely changing my life in every single aspect to become the healthiest and happiest version of myself.
Here we go…
I better start by introducing myself. My name is Drew Harrisburg, and I’m 28 years young. I’m from the beautiful Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. Ever since I was a young kid I’ve been intrigued with the human body, as well as had a keen interest in science and nutrition. My love for all of those topics is what sent me on the path to becoming a qualified health professional. By the age of 22, I had earned my title as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, and I was on my way to opening my own private practice.
I’ve always been a very active and sporty guy, but that didn’t mean I was holistically healthy. I used to exercise for mostly aesthetic purposes. Put simply—I wanted to look like the guys on the cover of the fitness magazines. I used to eat a diet fairly high in refined carbohydrates with most of them coming from packets of gluten-containing grains. I was a ‘glutaminated’ from inside-out (yes, I made up that word). I thought I was doing everything right because I was following the conventional wisdom of healthy eating guided by the old food pyramid.
When I was 23 years old I started noticing some pretty serious changes happening. Over the space of about 6 months I lost 13 kgs (29 lbs). I withered away from an athletic and muscular 82 kg (181 lbs) physique into a 68 kg (150 lbs) stringy ectomorph. To say I was constantly tired would be a vast understatement – I was absolutely exhausted! I often fell asleep whilst driving my car. I remember one time having to pull over and sleep on the side of the road despite being only 10 minutes away from my house. I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open no matter how hard I slapped myself, pinched myself, or yelled at myself. I even fell asleep in a job interview face-to-face with the head of the company, despite sticking a pen into my thigh under the table.
My strength was deteriorating in the gym. My muscle mass was melting away. I was hungry, thirsty, and frequently waking up in the night to urinate multiple times and drink from the tap. In hindsight, the signs and symptoms were very apparent, but when diabetes isn’t on your radar it’s impossible to know. I knew something was wrong, so I asked my parents (who are both doctors) to send me for a blood test. My results came back indicating that my Hba1c was very slightly elevated, but my auto-immune antibodies were through the roof! I was told there was a chance I’d develop type 1 diabetes at some stage in the future. The doctor at the medical centre pulled out a blood glucose monitor to teach me how to operate the device. The plan was to take it home and test my levels regularly to monitor tends and patterns in case I were to develop diabetes one day. As she took my very first reading the number on the device popped up as 16 mmol/L (over 3x the normal range) We thought it was a mistake and re-tested. It wasn’t.
The day I was diagnosed with diabetes was without a doubt the most difficult day of my life. I fought back tears in front of my parents as they sobbed for what felt like an eternity, just so I could show them that I was brave and that everything would be ok. The first time I really understood the meaning of the phrase “the world caved in” was when I saw it with my own two eyes. For a brief moment I honestly thought that life was over. I thought it would never be the same. It even felt a bit like a death sentence. It was a dark period of time around my diagnosis—but it didn’t last long. After the grieving process wore off and I came out of the post-diagnosis depression, I truly turned my life around. I even wrote a letter to my diabetes, as if it were a person, to help me voice my feelings. I strongly encourage anyone with a chronic condition to do the same. It’s a very freeing exercise. You can read my letter here.
I immediately began looking for solutions. Thankfully, after doing some Google searching (I think I typed into Google: ‘the best health website in the world’), I came across Mark’s Daily Apple. I read success story after success story until there were none left. I started reading all of Mark’s articles and found myself deep down a rabbit hole of life-changing information. When I finally resurfaced, I was a paleo bunny from head to toe.
Diabetes was my wake up call to not only rethink how I was eating and moving, but it very quickly let me know that I was far from invincible. It allowed me to take a look at the bigger picture. I became aware that I had been overlooking many of the other aspects of life that contribute towards being healthy and happy.
I remember making a decision one day that I would become an expert in managing my disease and that I would cement myself as a world leader in diabetes. So, the journey began. I went back to university and completed my second degree, this time in Diabetes Education and Management. Since being diagnosed with diabetes, the last few years have been one big self-experiment, and the cool thing is—I’ve been the subject and the lead scientist. I’ve made countless mistakes and discovered just as many solutions. Perhaps the greatest discovery of all is that a primal lifestyle is not only an effective way for me to manage and survive with my condition, but rather it allows me to thrive with my condition. I immediately started following a paleo autoimmune protocol and the results were mind-blowing. Not only did I achieve a 70% reduction in insulin requirements and very stable blood sugar control, but my debilitating shin splints completely disappeared, so too did my chronic sinusitis.
Nowadays my lifestyle is first and foremost about managing my disease, but more importantly it’s about being healthy and happy in a balanced and sustainable way. My training has shifted from typical bodybuilding routines towards getting stronger, more functional, flexible and athletic. I train indoors and outdoors, in the ocean and on the land. I discovered that walking is such a useful tool to stabilise blood sugar levels so now I walk after most meals. I lift weights, sprint, train calisthenics, play sports, surf…the list goes on. Exercise truly is a form of medicine that we can freely and happily administer to ourselves. I follow a grain-free, gluten-free, low(er) carb way of eating. I get some sunlight every day. I love nature. I practice mindfulness in each and every moment. It really is a balanced approach to living and moving!
Where I am today…
I’ve spent the last 5 years building a business around myself as the core of my brand. I’m here because l want to put a healthy face to diabetes. My aim is to share what I know with others so that we can learn to love our condition as a partner that walks with us, not one that rules us. I’m an ambassador for diabetes organisations as well as a spokesperson for Australia’s exercise science governing body. I’ve made multiple appearances on national TV here in Australia. I consult online and in person as an exercise physiologist and diabetes educator.
I created a brand called Drew’s Daily Dose, as well as a website and various social media platforms, to spread my message as far and wide as possible. I like to think of Drew’s Daily Dose as much more than a website about diabetes. It’s a home that inspires, empowers and enables people to thrive with diabetes, rather than simply live with it. My background as a health professional and my own personal triumph with managing diabetes has ignited a passion to share everything I know. Drew’s Daily Dose is my way of empowering people to take control of their health, so that like me, they can live a fuller, happier and healthier life than ever before.
Diabetes is a very small part of what makes me Drew. I’m an exercise physiologist, diabetes educator, sport scientist and most importantly – I’m a happy and healthy guy thriving with type 1 diabetes. I’ve not only accepted living with it, I’ve learned to love it and manage it so that it doesn’t manage me.