Jordan Peterson Saved My Life

There is a reason this website has been relatively silent for a few years. From the fact that my father died in a car accident in 2016, to disintegrating personal relationships with people I thought would always be there, to several failed business ventures; to call the past few years rough is to do them a disservice. And while the passing of my father hit me the hardest, it was my first pec tear that was the catalyst for everything going off the rails.

'The purpose of life is finding the largest burden that you can bear and bearing it.' ― Jordan B. Peterson Share on X

It may sound odd in the hierarchy of tragedy for the death of one’s father to be overshadowed by a minor injury. To be honest I think it was just a strain and not a tear, regardless when I look back I can see that it was the catalyst for the rollercoaster to really pick up speed as it headed to the underworld. Thankfully the boatman seemed disinterested in me as we exchanged confused glances. It would appear I have a few more years left to figure things out.

The gym has always been the place that I work shit out, literally. Not just from a physical performance stand point, but also psychologically. While I rarely “enjoy” a training session I inevitably feel better afterwards even if I feel worse. In case that last point escaped you, I mean that I find a catharsis in the iron that despite the eventual DOMS still makes the overall experience a net positive.

After that initial wave of tragedy, for lack of a better word, had occurred I decided to get serious about training again. On February 13, 2017 I got back in the gym after taking a break to deal with everything else that was going on. At this point I had let my weight balloon to a soft 301 lbs. For any of your hardgainers reading this, if you want a secret to weight gain apparently stress, depression, and lack of physical activity works much better than Joe Weider’s Mega Mass 2000, but I digress.

So being the jackass that I am, after my first foray back into the gym I reward myself with the rest of the week off. Then I decide to jump straight back into a high volume low rest training cycle, because fuck me right?! Despite the stupidity of my plan I managed to stay locked in for 6 weeks. My food was on point, or so I thought, and I managed to make some progress regaining my strength. The problem was I hadn’t lost any weight, in fact I was up 5lbs to a voluptuous 306lbs.

Since the high volume work wasn’t doing the trick, and I was getting a little beat up I decided to switch up the training a bit. I have always been a fan of Christian Thibadeux’s programming. In the past I have run a few different versions of his High Performance Mass training protocol. Even though I already had the mass part covered in spades, I enjoy that type of training and in my detrained state almost any protocol should work.

I started HPM on Monday April 8, 2017. First workout went fine, the weights were all relatively easy. Tuesday was the same, looking back on my notes nothing of interest was even recorded. On Thursday April 11, 2016 my training session was supposed to be Overhead Press 5×3, Bench Press 5×3, and Front Squats 5×3. For those unfamiliar with HPM it consists of multiple sets of 3 with submaximal weight focusing on generating force.

On that day I made it through Overhead Press without any problems. Then I did on the 3rd rep of the 3rd set of bench press, with a weight that I could easily bench for 8 rep, I went to lower the weight and about halfway down I heard (and felt) a tearing sensation. My left shoulder/pec gave out and the weight came down to my sternum. It was the weirdest thing ever. Inside my head it sounded loud enough that the whole gym must have heard it. Somehow, fueled by adrenaline and shock I managed to press the weight up immediately. In fact had you been watching me bench that day you might have noticed an uneven eccentric phase, but you would never know the internal damage that just occurred.

When I use the word shock that really is what it was. I knew the second it happened that I was fucked up, but it didn’t really hurt. At that point I got up for the bench, racked my weights and got out of the gym so I can return to my cave and assess the situation. Despite all the stupid stuff I have ever done in a weight room I have never had an upper body injury. So this was a new experience that, to be honest I really wasn’t sure what to expect. By the time I got home the pec tie-in area was a little red, but again nothing hurt and more importantly I still had full ROM despite some discomfort. As the evening progressed so did the bruising.

Having never experienced anything like this I had no idea what to expect. So I grabbed the ice bags and went to work trying to fix it. As stated above, the encouraging part is despite the extensive bruising I never lost any ROM. Some movements were difficult, but none of them were particularly painful. So after almost a two week break from the gym, and a lot of ice I decided to test it out on April 24, 2017. Whether this was a wise idea or not I can’t say, although considering my track record it is safe to say are against it. I proceeded to slowly work up on bench, and managed 10 reps with 135. At no point did the weight feel heavy, but around rep 8 my left pec started to twinge. Luckily I had the wherewithal to shut it down right away.

So it was back to more passive and active recovery for me. On May 5, 2017 I decide to go in and do Squats. If I cannot bench at least I can squat, right? Yeah, not so much. Unfortunately the gym doesn’t have a Safety Squat Bar, and when I tried to squat my pec would keep twinging. In the past I would normally just ignore it and push through it, but this time again I decided caution was the better part of valor and shut it down.

Suffice it to say that over the next few weeks I attempted to bench several times with the same result. On May 31, 2017 I worked up to 185×4 and my pec really started to twinge, and as sad as it is to admit now that was the last day I was in the gym in 2017. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t bench, I honestly don’t even really love benching. It was the fact that squatting and pulling hurt. Without those it is really hard for me to get motivated to train.

'Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.' – Marcus Aurelius Share on X

This is the part where I am supposed to tell you that on January 1, 2018 my pec was completely healed and I hit the gym running with all the other New Year’s Resolutioners? Yeah, again, not so much. The fact of the matter is that I did not return to the gym until June 20, 2018 which was 4 days shy of my 43rd birthday. And when I walked in the gym, after a warmup where did I go you might ask? If your guess was anything other than “to the bench” then I have to wonder if you have been paying attention. This time I only managed 135×5. I had the same twinging feeling that I had 10 months ago, so after the better part of a year the issue was still there. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Couple that with the fact that despite eating relatively low carb and cleanly my weight still exceeded 3 bills.

Basically this has been a 1500 word prequel to explain how I got to the crossroads point. My personal and professional life was a shambles, and the only thing that ever helped me get though stuff like that in the past had been taken away from me. I was 302lbs with a strained pec, had wasted the last year of my life, and the list of exercises that I could actually do in the gym was getting shorter and shorter.

'What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.' – Viktor Frankl Share on X

So what the fuck does Jordan Peterson have to do with any of this. I became aware of Dr. Jordan Peterson a few months after he posted his original videos that went viral and were the catalyst for his rise to prominence. Like anyone else, I don’t agree with everything he says, but I appreciate his ability to communicate what he thinks to be true (even if he is wrong).

As luck would have it he appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience #1139 for a 3rd time, on July 2, 2018. During that episode, after multiple disclaimers of not being a nutrition expert, he relayed his anecdotal experience with a Carnivore type diet. When he started listing symptoms that subsequently went away after this elimination diet I became curious. While I did not have all of the symptoms that Dr. Peterson or his daughter had, the idea of an “elimination diet” made sense. What if there was some seemingly benign food that was preventing consistent weight loss. If I reduced the variable it would be much easier to determine if that was the case.

After the episode on JRE I realized that he was coming to Jacksonville on September 16, 2018. I decided that buying tickets to the event would give me a date on the calendar to hit some kind of weight loss goal. So I ordered my ticket, and the next morning, July 3rd, 2018 I had a ribeye steak and 3 over easy eggs. My bodyweight on that morning was 302.2lbs.

Being someone that always functions better on low carbs, the switch to steak and eggs wasn’t that big of deal. It just meant eliminating cheese, and some condiments for the most part. For the first 3 weeks everything was good. Adherence to the diet wasn’t really a big deal, and my appetite quickly fell off. I was slowly starting to get back in the training groove.

And then of course….

Plot Twist: Despite using an Elitefts Shoulder Saver to reduce ROM on bench I managed to re-injure the same pec.

I only had 36 reps planned that day. The session consisted of 6 sets of 3 on Overhead and 6 sets of 3 on Bench (with the Shoulder Saver). I felt relatively strong for 35 reps, and then on the last rep despite the decreased weight and ROM my left should “popped” again. Thankfully it wasn’t nearly as severe as the first time, but it was obvious that something still wasn’t right.

This time I got a bit more aggressive with trying to rehab the area. I bought a TENS (Electronic Pulse Stimulator) Unit from Amazon, and I had been watching Donnie Thompson talk about boy tempering, so I decided to try a make shift version of a 25kg Kettlebell placed directly on the area for 10+ Minutes at a time. After taking the rest of the week off to rehab, on July 30, 2018 I was back in the gym benching 135×10. And the even better news was, I was 286.2, I had dropped 16lbs in the month of July. Now for most people going on the Carnivore diet most of the initial weight loss is water due to carb restriction, but for me I was already eating low carbs so to drop that much weight was surprising.

For the next 5 weeks I did the same exact thing every day. I had 12oz of steak and 3 eggs at 10am, I went to the gym and did “something” at 3pm, and ate 12oz of steak and 3 eggs at 5pm. That is all I did, and I went from 302.2lbs on July 2nd to 259lbs on Sept 16th, the night of the lecture. So in 76 days, without a single second of cardio I lost 42.2lbs.

Thankfully the diet was so simple and compliance wasn’t really an issue, so I decided to stick with it though not without hurdles. In November I got really sick, and used it and the impending holidays as an excuse for indulge in comfort food. These were the first carbs I had in months. The results, on November 17th I was 243.8lbs and on November 26th I was 261.2lbs. Anyone that tells you that it’s impossible to gain almost 20lbs in 9 days has no idea what they are talking about.

Luckily for me this wasn’t as much of a psychological set back as it might have been. I know that it cost me some time, but I also knew that all I had to do was go back to what I was doing and the weight would come back off. As expected, by December 8th , a mere 12 days later I was back to 248.2lbs. Ever since that little hiccup I have been totally locked in.

Last night I posted my results to Facebook, and one of my friends asked me my “secret” was because he wanted to lost 50lbs. I found the exchange quite interesting:

Me: “It's no secret, but you won't like the answer. 12oz Steak and 3 eggs at 10am…12oz Steak and 3 eggs at 5pm…and nothing else. And hit the gym somewhere between the two…rise, repeat for 6 months.”

Him: “I like the 2, but damn that’s all I get?!”

Me: “Well, you get to be 50lbs less fat in 6 months…so that’s something.”

Him: “Man, that’s gotta get boring quick.”

Me: “Honestly that's the point….boring is easy. There is literally NOTHING to think about. “This is what you eat” now the food question is answered. To be honest…I was rarely hungry. I just kind of lost my interest in food (in a good way). I didn't say it was fun….but it worked (for me). Your mileage may vary.

It really is a first world problem to think that losing weight should be an enjoyable experience. The fact that it is hard, and that it takes work and discipline are what make it a meaningful endeavor. I have always been fascinated by people complaining about how long it will take to lose weight. Tell someone that it will take 6 months to a year to get where they want to be physique wise. Their reaction is “that’s too long”, and then they spend the next 6 months to a year trying to find a shortcut to the place that had they taken the slow steady route they would already have arrived at.

As of January 29, 2019, I weigh 232.2 lbs which is exactly 70lbs less than I weighed on July 2, 2018. Truth be told I have a long way to go before I reach my physique goals, but I am so much further along that I imagined. I have no doubt that, despite the pending doom of my 44th birthday I will reach those goals this time. And to think I owe the bulk of the credit to the self proclaimed ill-informed, anecdotal evidence of a clinical psychologist from Canada.



1 Comment

  1. Steve

    Excellent article, I didnt realize you were a word-smith.

    The part I didn’t get was where you failed the many,many conversations you and I had in 2015 and 2016 about the steak and eggs diet and how well it was working for me at the time.


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