Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Nov

A Different Kind of Success Story

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!

I want to share my story because it has to do with beating my eating disorder through Primal living. When I was about 21 years (I am 29 now) I started on a quest for health. I was never super unhealthy compared to the average person. I didn’t grow up on fast food and my parents never bought the sugary cereals, but I basically grew up on a high carb diet. Usually pasta, bagels, and lasagna, which we thought were pretty good for us.

My quest for health had good intentions, but was always overshadowed by my doctor diagnosed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder which happens to show its ugly face through food and my own body image issues. So instead of eating healthy JUST to be healthy, I became obsessed with being thin. My main goals were to take in as little calories as possible, eat zero sugar, eat whole grains, and eat very little meat (because I thought meat would make me fat). Here is what I ate daily for my first year or so of being “healthy”:

  • Breakfast – 1 cup sugar-free yogurt with ½ cup raw oats stirred in
  • Mid-Morning Snack – 1 string cheese
  • Lunch – 1 cup sugar-free yogurt with ½ cup raw oats stirred in
  • Mid-Day Snack – 1 string cheese
  • Dinner – two slices of whole wheat bread with spaghetti sauce on it

Doesn’t that sound so appetizing???! Ya right!

On the weekends I was so deprived that I just couldn’t control myself and would binge on a ½ gallon of Moose Tracks ice cream, feel really bad about it, and possibly make myself throw up afterward, or not eat the next day.

Another issue I developed was major flatulence. (Here comes some TMI.) As soon as I started my new diet of whole grains and sugar-free yogurt, my stomach got painfully out of control. Not to mention stinky! Every day within 30 minutes of eating my first meal my stomach would start to rumble, then that rumble would turn into flatulence. I worked in an office for my brothers who had a start-up company and my flatulence was so bad that when the mail-man came I would run to the back of the office so he couldn’t see me when he would pick up the terrible odor in the office. Or when technicians who worked for us would check in at the end of the day I would see them drive up and I would quickly spritz my “fart spray” (cheap perfume) around the office to cover up the smell. Sometimes they would complement the scent not knowing that they were inhaling my waste and I would feel bad, but be kind of giggling inside.

So the flatulence just got worse and worse which is why I continued my quest for health. Now I needed to find a way to be healthy, thin, flatulence free, and once again THIN. I started reading tons of literature through books, magazines, and the internet. I also started getting into cycling and triathlons. I thought I needed to eat so much more to stay energized for my workouts, so I would eat sugary granola bars and sports drinks, and of course “reward” myself after a bike ride with a binge on five slices of pizza. Naturally I started to gain weight. I went from about 120 lbs and being rail thin, to about 150 lbs and carrying a little extra junk in the truck.

I finally realized that something was not going right. I am gaining weight even though I train for hours and my stomach hurts about 18-24 hours a day. I decided to try the sprouted grains instead of whole grain to help with digestion, and I added lean meats to my diet… here is where my obsession became even worse.

I had read enough magazines by this time that I believed without a doubt that my weight had everything to do with my calorie intake, so I bought a scale and measured EVERYTHING. I became a walking encyclopedia in the sense that I could tell you exactly how many sugar, fat, and carb grams, along with the calories that were in a particular food. I was a robot, and I was obsessed! If you know anything about OCD, you know that the more you learn the more obsessed you become. However, I finally lost my weight and settled at 135 lbs.

By the way, at this time I started to see a doctor who prescribed me meds for depression and to help me take control of my OCD.

At the age of 24 in 2007 I got married. My husband knew of my eating issues and he just let me do my thing. However, over time my obsession started to put a toll on our marriage. If he wanted to make me dinner I would be hovering over him making sure he weighed all the food. I always thought he was secretly adding ingredients that were not “allowed”. I would make him trim every ounce of fat off the meat before he cooked it. It would often turn into a big fight, and then I would start crying because “I didn’t want to get fat”.  I also tried forcing him to eat what I ate and he would only comply to avoid a big blowout I might have.

I was trying to do everything right by eating my whole grains and lean meats, but I was miserable physically and mentally. Some days were really good and I felt like I had complete control of food and then there were other days (or weeks) I would be so out of control that I would eat several giant slices of cake at a party, along with whatever else was being served. I would eat until I was sick, AND THEN EAT SOME MORE.

By this time I had read the following books: The Longevity Diet, The PH Miracle, and You are What You Eat. I tried to follow them, but they were so complicated that I just became more obsessed with every diet that I attempted. I also tried a Gluten-Free diet, Food Combining diet, and eating all my veggies raw to try and control my painful stomach issues. I also tried acupuncture for digestion. It seemed like the “healthier” I ate the worse my stomach became. It even got to a point where I would go to the bathroom to find full pieces of undigested vegetables in the toilet on a daily basis.

Soon I read and became a follower of The Eat Clean Diet book, and read Oxygen Magazine for about two years. I decided that this diet would be my best bet and I would just live with the stomach pain.

One day a fellow triathlete friend of mine told me she followed the Paleo Diet. I though… “huh?” She explained the diet to me and I thought it kinda made sense. So I bought and read The Paleo Diet and The Paleo Diet for Athletes. I started to follow the Paleo Diet as best I could, but still found it to be complicated and something I would obsess over because of all the rules involved. One thing I questioned was how the diet seems to be against animal fat. Having been through a cultural anthropology class I was sure that the fat of the animal was like prime real estate and was never turned down by a hunter-gatherer. Nevertheless, I attempted the diet.

My attempt with paleo was back and forth. I had trouble sticking with it because I was always hungry and there was very little flavor in the food. I was trying to make my life less stressful and for some reason going totally paleo was adding more stress to me. I was also really into working out and so I would make recipes that my favorite Oxygen Magazine models would suggest, most of which included grain.

One day I saw a book sitting around at my brother’s house called The Primal Blueprint. His friend left it at his house and suggested my brother read it. I picked it up thinking it was another paleo book. I started to read it, and I couldn’t stop reading. I almost read the whole book in the two hours that I was at my brother’s house. Then I went to the bookstore and bought it so I could not only read the rest, but read it again. I loved it. There were three things that I loved about it: It matched up to how our ancestors would have eaten, it matched up to how our ancestors would have lived day-by-day, and it was simple.

I actually felt a sense of freedom after reading the book for the first time. I felt hope that I could possibly be free from my OCD monster and maybe even from my painful flatulence.

As always, my husband was on board with my new find. We agreed to try the diet and lifestyle for 30 days. In the beginning I was pretty nervous to eat fat since I had learned that fat was the enemy, but I committed to 30 days. In those 30 days we ate things like bacon and eggs, coconut flour pizza, bean-less chili, burgers with almond flour buns, and many other things. I couldn’t believe how many calories I was taking in. Yet, I was not gaining any weight.

I didn’t force myself to get up every morning at 3:45 am to work out (as I normally did), unless I really felt the energy to do so. If I felt too tired, I would sleep in and then go for a long walk later. I even lit candles before bed and turned out the lights around the house so that I would get sleepy and go to bed in the same form that our ancestors would have.

Amazingly, after 30 days I had no desire to go on a carbohydrate binge, and felt satisfied after every flavorful meal. Of course my husband LOVED to eat bacon and eggs; something that I would never let enter our house before. Even my flatulence started to go away within the first week. Boy was my husband happy about that!

I even bought a pair of Vibram FiveFinger shoes and what happened to me was remarkable. After three years of chronic knee and hamstring pain in my left leg, and after spending hundreds of dollars on doctors, acupuncture, massage and physical therapy my pain started to go away after the first week of wearing them. After a couple months the pain was pretty much gone, with now only the occasional flare up if I do something too strenuous. What baffles me is that all of the professionals I saw constantly told me to wear heavily supported running shoes to help my injuries, and it was the minimalist shoe that made it all go away.

My husband and I have been living the Primal lifestyle for about a year now and couldn’t be more satisfied. The other day I told my husband that I’ll never buy another diet book again. I have no need to because I am no longer a slave to food. I never weigh my food, I let me husband cook for me, I don’t freak out if I have to go to a party and be faced with foods that will be calling my name all night, I never have secret binges, and I rarely have stomach pain anymore. I used to literally fear food. Now I love it.

Although my OCD and eating disorder are ongoing battles, I no longer take medication. For anyone who may have the same issues as me, please know that it is okay if you still struggle. Don’t beat yourself up over it. To be honest, I haven’t quite conquered intermittent fasting yet, because when I try it I am still thinking like an anorexic by wondering how much weight I’ll lose by not eating. Of course that way of thinking is not Primal. I am not mentally and emotionally strong enough to fast for a full day. For now, I try skipping breakfast or lunch sometimes.

The beauty of the being Primal is that it is not just a diet; it is a way of life that anyone can fully embrace if they put it to the test. I now have two brothers who follow the Primal Blueprint diet, along with their families.

Thank you, Mark for sharing the Primal lifestyle with the world. It has helped me overcome my internal battles and even made my marriage so much better!

Best Wishes,

Liz Montoya

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Wow, this sounds exactly like me. Ever since I have discovered I was “fat” in late elementary school, I have been very obsessed with health and weight. The Primal Blueprint makes perfect sense to me, but I haven’t taken the plunge because I’m scared of eating, wait for it, fat. This story gives me hope! Thanks for sharing.

    Brittany wrote on November 18th, 2011
    • Thank you Brittany :)I hear ya. As a twiggy little 10 year old kid I was wearing shorts over my swimsuits because I was so “fat”. Eating fat is a huge step for people like us. On a bad day my ED tells me to stay away from it still. I hope you can make the leap. Good luck my friend!!

      Liz wrote on November 18th, 2011
  2. So cool!

    res wrote on November 18th, 2011
  3. I’m down with no GAS! lol. That alone was a HUGE turning point with me. I absolutely love not worrying about it.

    craig almaguer wrote on November 18th, 2011
  4. YOU GROK>>>I love to read stories like this…the learning..the adventure..the bravery and all the things that go along with the “change” your looking for…I love it..LOVE IT LOVE IT>>>THIS STUFF MAKES ME SMILE..MAKES MY THROAT GET TIGHT..MAKES ME GLAD TO BE A PART OF THIS TRIBE…YOUR NEVER ALONE…I WISH YOU CONTINUED STRENGTH AND ABILITY…GO GIRL GO!!!….GROK ON..FOREVER>>>

    Dave PAPA GROK Parsons wrote on November 18th, 2011
  5. Well done Liz…Good to see you’ve taken control of your life. Primal living certainly seems to make it all that much easier. Every day gets easier as your body/mind reap the benefits…Free your mind, and your Grok will follow!!!!!

    Dennis wrote on November 18th, 2011
  6. Great inspiring story. I have been living grain free for about 2 months now. Strange thing is I keep losing inches, but not weight. Can anyone explain this? I am 5’4″ and about 150lbs. I’d love to take off at least 20 lbs and get some lean muscles as well. I have definitely been guilty of chronic cardio and obsessing about miles logged, but have completely cut that back to nice walks and strength training. I’m concerned that I’ll be the one person this doesn’t work for. I have vowed to not step on the scale for at least a month because I found I just keep getting discouraged when I don’t see it changing. Any advice?

    Sally wrote on November 18th, 2011
    • I am in the same spot, having been primal for three weeks at this point and losing weight initially and still losing inches, but stalled on the weight at the moment. Having worked at a gym in the past, I remember the ladies I measured all the time worrying about that and it really helped that we had a machine that showed how many pounds of lean vs fat they had – so many times in the first couple months people would be putting on muscle like crazy and losing inches, but no change in weight. I would not really mind being 200 pounds if I was a size 6, but yeah, one does want to see change on the scale.

      Basically, don’t worry about it yet. If you are losing inches then you are going in the right direction.

      ladycopper5 wrote on November 18th, 2011
      • I suggest to people to try to focus on fat-loss and body composition rather than an arbitrary ideal weight. Muscle tissue is more dense and weighs roughly 20% more than fat tissue per volume. 5 pounds of muscle equals approximately 6 pounds of fat volume-wise.
        Try using the mirror and the fit of your clothes to gauge your progress. Since going about 80% Primal my waist has shrunk 4 inches and I have much more muscle definition, but my weight has remained at 185 the whole time.

        Trav wrote on November 19th, 2011
  7. Yay for you! What a great turnaround to have health and freedom in your life!

    Tenny wrote on November 18th, 2011
  8. What a wonderful story!! Congratulations on your mental fortitude! I love that you knew Paleo was a little off – I felt the same way when I first heard about Paleo. Isn’t animal fat the best tasting thing ever!?

    Lela wrote on November 18th, 2011
  9. Wow, your past relationship with food reminded me so much of mine. I’m 21 now and I went through everything you went through. I had a terrible relationship with food and whenever I go on my occasional “binges”, I would feel so guilty that I would purge it. That was probably my lowest point.

    Since May 2011, I decided that I wanted to be fit and healthy, not thin. If I focused on being thin then that would make me obsessed. However, if I focused to be fit and healthy, then that would force me to research on how to eat well so I can always feel energetic and look great as well. After looking through several blogs, articles, and such, I recently stumbled upon Mark’s Daily Apple blog. I like how simple it is and so far, it’s been working for me.

    After reading your story and being able to relate to it so well, (including the flatulence part lol), I am more confident that I will persist with this way of life. Thanks so much Liz!

    JEN wrote on November 18th, 2011
  10. I just gave the primal blueprint to a friend and told her that “this diet allowed me to let go of food anxiety.” For me, that is absolutely the most rewarding part of the primal lifestyle. I love everything I eat and no longer fear food in anyway! Great Story Liz, it rings true for many!

    nikki wrote on November 18th, 2011
  11. Thanks for sharing your story, Liz! This is totally me. OCD, bulimia, trying every diet under the sun. Primal is key to being able to calm your mind and not be obsessed about food 24/7. I have found the same thing as you to be true. Take care!

    Myra Marshall wrote on November 18th, 2011
  12. Dont forget to add in a FASTING day every once in a while. You’ll feel GREAT and lose even more BF

    Bill wrote on November 18th, 2011
  13. I can relate!

    Meagan wrote on November 18th, 2011
  14. Liz,
    I think I could have written this about myself and it would be almost 100% accurate. I am still struggling now but hopefully I will have a success story like yours soon. Thanks for sharing :)

    Jillian wrote on November 18th, 2011
  15. Congrats! And bravo! This is a very timely post, since ironically I read some studies linking zinc deprivation and eating disorders around the same time as a biography of Karen Carpenter (rest in peace). She was “chubby” as a teenager, and her doctor put her on a low-carb/high-protein diet in 1967. (Meat is an excellent source of zinc). She lost the weight in five weeks and ate normally for years afterwards until 1973, when she noticed she was gaining weight. Karen hired a personal trainer, who then put her on the now-popular low-fat/high-carb diet, which made her bulk up even more. This freaked her out, so she fired the trainer and began starving herself to lose weight (she also seems to have had OCD). Coupled with personal issues (see book), it spurred on the anorexia nervosa that would eventually claim her life at just 32.

    Julia Ross reported that 85% (!) of anorexics were able to recover with zinc supplementation. Low-fat diets became popular in the 1970s. Eating disorders have skyrocketed since then. Could our fat and meat-phobic (and, consequently, zinc-deprived) diets trigger eating disorders in people who are susceptible to them for emotional reasons? I’d bet on it.

    It’s sad to think that if only things could’ve been different, we wouldn’t have lost a great musician and a lovely person. :(

    arfies wrote on November 18th, 2011
  16. You are so brave to share your story. You are an inspiration to many. Thank-you for sharing your highs and lows. Wishing you every success as you continue on your journey!

    albertasara wrote on November 18th, 2011
  17. Thank you so much for sharing, i can certainly relate. You look healthy and happy :-)

    stephanie wrote on November 19th, 2011
  18. bad ass story. great work..

    BW wrote on November 19th, 2011
  19. Wow, I feel like you wrote my story :) I was totally obsessive about weighing/measuring my food (and I still do sometimes, it’s a hard habit for me to break) but eating primal really has freed me from a lot of my self destructive food habits. Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one!

    Rachel wrote on November 19th, 2011
  20. Everybody, thank you for your comments about my story. It is nice to know that we are not alone in this world. I am so glad we have access to to connect with each other. I am looking forward to reading similar success stories in the future. All of your comments are inspiring to me and help me stay motivated!!!

    Liz wrote on November 20th, 2011
  21. Thanks for this story! I used to have an eating disorder too and it got so bad that I am still recovering from the health problems it induced. A BIG step for me was when I learned not to be afraid of fat in my diet.
    I wish you much health and happiness!

    Audrey H wrote on November 20th, 2011
  22. Hi Liz,

    Just want to add my voice to the chorus here telling you that it’s great to hear your story. I admire you for sharing your struggles with everyone, and I wish you continued success. I think a vast majority of women (includig me!) can relate to you…I think we’ve all gone down the road to Crazy at one time or another trying to ‘be thin’.

    And yep, that is one neato tree. :)

    Melanie wrote on November 20th, 2011
  23. And I got a typo in there. Oops.

    Melanie wrote on November 20th, 2011
  24. love, love, love, love, love!!!

    mixie wrote on November 20th, 2011
  25. Congratulations!

    I went through something similar and it was brutal. I think that diets that restrict fat and protein actually give us eating disorders and once our brain becomes starved of the things it needs to survive, it starts sending out wild signals that can result in all the stuff we experience as ED, including the compulsion to restrict and/or binge.

    Which is a long-winded way of saying, you’re healthy and happy now, and you never have to feel that way again! What a wonderful feeling!

    Krisha C. wrote on November 20th, 2011
  26. Amazing story! Congratulations to both you and your husband Liz. :)

    Brooke wrote on November 20th, 2011
  27. Top story Liz, congratulations and welcome to the tribe.
    Had those sore stomachs back in late 90’s due to sooo many serves of grains each day. Have not had them for over a decade. It was the “zone diet” “protein power” “atkins” and “eat right 4 your blood type” that were the “ground-breakers” against the low-fat,high-carb disease promting insanity that was around for 3-4 decades.
    We live in much more enlightened times were “paleo or primal” are not dirty words now and conventional wisdom is challenged more frequently. Amen to that.
    Pass me that lamb shank!

    Anthony wrote on November 20th, 2011
  28. For me the struggle with fitness was overcoming addictions and finding the right approach to training. Meaning…it was all wrapped up in the mind. Once you have the proper view of food it all seems to click.

    Also once you have a more natural view towards food, looking at the roots of what is health and what is not, it aligns your values and becomes effortless!

    Luke Cage wrote on November 20th, 2011
  29. this is truly incredible Liz. The mental transformation is the most amazing turnaround I’ve seen on this blog!

    Patrick wrote on November 21st, 2011
  30. AWESOME! So so happy for you!
    I used to eat so similarly, when I was bulimic. NO MEAT – because I was positive meat would make me fat (insert eye roll here) – only whole grains, yogurt, granola, leafy greens, and an egg now and then (which would make me feel guilty). I also would then binge, at least once maybe twice a week, on massive amounts of ice cream.
    I was skinny fat & tired & CRANKY all.the.time. It’s no way to live, that’s for sure! I am in WAY better shape, and better health, since going Primal.

    Dara Cramp wrote on November 22nd, 2011
  31. Liz, I can’t even explain how much I can relate to this. After dealing with eating issues for my whole life, I was finally diagnosed with anorexia in March of this year. Determined to recover, I followed all of the guidelines my conventional nutritionists set out for me but everything made me feel worse than not eating at all. It wasn’t until a friend of mine introduced me to MDA that I was able to find some solace. For the first time in my life, I not only don’t entirely fear food, but I embrace and love it. I feel better than ever and my panics around eating are so much fewer and farther between.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s an inspiration to keep learning about how to take care of myself in every way.

    And you look GREAT!

    Olivia wrote on November 22nd, 2011
  32. Liz that is a great story and well done you! I wondered if I could ask you to give a typical day of the foods you eat now.
    I too feel I have been ‘saved’ from a possible eating disorder/obsession by Mark and his wonderful wisdom!

    Joanne wrote on November 24th, 2011
    • Hi Joanne,
      Sorry that I just noticed your comment. I haven’t been on the website for a few days.
      I would say a typical day would be: Depending on my workout I will drink 1 scoop of protein with water, or eat/drink nothing at all if I’m just doing a light workout.

      Breakfast is usually a couple eggs over-easy with some cooked spinach. I cook them in olive oil or coconut oil. I usually top off with a giant spoonful of Almond butter cuz I love it!

      Whenever I feel hungry next I’ll eat some nuts or possibly cheese.

      Usually my lunch is whatever I had for dinner the night before since I always make a double recipe.

      Dinner varies since I love to cook primal meals. I usually go on the internet or use Mark Sissons cookbook for my recipes. My most recent yummy receipes have been: Arroz Con Pollo with Mexican Cauliflower rice, Coconut curry sauce over chicken and cauli rice, Salmon and hardboiled eggs, beanless chili and salad, primal lasagna, meatloaf, and I’m always up for a no-bun burger or steak!
      Other snacks I make to have around the house are turkey meatballs(with almond flour to hold them together), egg/sausage cupcakes, and lets not forget my daily habit of almond butter!
      Occasionally I will make some form of paleo/primal pancakes but not often since its still kinda high in carbs.
      To be honest I could live off chicken and veggies everyday if I really wanted to, but my hubby insists on variety and so I try to change it up.
      I hope this helps. Thanks for reading my story. I am so glad to hear that primal living has had a positive influence on you like it has on me. Best Wishes!!

      Liz wrote on December 2nd, 2011
  33. Way to go Liz! What a neat story!

    Gaby Lynch wrote on December 4th, 2011
  34. I’m stoked for you!! =) Thanks for sharing your story, it’s a goodie!

    James wrote on January 11th, 2012
  35. This was such a helpful story. I started eating clean a year ago and I too have been sticking to the eat clean plan and Oxygen magazine. I’m pretty lean, but I didn’t start seeing my abs until very recently when I cut the carbs and sugar. I think I’m still scared of eating all of the fat because I wasn’t sure if my progress was due to carb cutting or what. You’ve inspired me to give this a real go. Thank you!

    Amber wrote on January 25th, 2012
  36. Your story has been an inspiration to read. It gives me hope that one day I will be able to get over my 16 years of disordered eating. I’m attempting paleo but still find myself weighing everything and sometimes tired. :(. fingers crossed it will get better!

    Lorah wrote on March 19th, 2012
  37. Good lord. Your story was so helpful to me.

    Before getting to college five years ago (I’m just a kid…) I never thought about food, and stayed thin without even trying. When I started college, I put on a little weight, roughly 15 pounds.

    Five years later, I’ve been through the wringer with food obsession and disordered eating. At times, thinking about food and weight loss consumed my life to the point that I had to tear my mind away in order to get anything done.

    Long(er) story short, it was incredibly inspirational to hear your account of your experiences. It’s given me a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been eating paleo for just a few weeks now, and have been noticing many of the same improvements you mentioned. Your story just solidified my resolve.

    I know that disordered eating and food obsession is something I’ll probably always struggle with, but I hope that someday I can be in a mental place that’s as healthy as yours!

    Rebecca wrote on April 5th, 2012
    • Of course, by “paleo” I meant “primal”… you know you have a problem with food when you’re aware of so many diets that their names just swim around in your head 😛

      Rebecca wrote on April 5th, 2012
  38. My daughter has a similar story
    Her name is lindsay Linz
    She is a fitness trainer and prof. Nutritionist
    314-616-8832 for anyone needing support

    Suzy Davis wrote on April 11th, 2012

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