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

A Journey Towards Self-Discovery and Self-Love

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!

Dear Mark,

Ever since I stumbled upon your blog a year ago when searching for information on the paleo diet, I’ve always found the success stories to be some of the most motivating personal accounts I’ve ever read. I never thought my transformation would be impressive enough to warrant my own success story, but after sitting down and truly thinking about all the positive changes that have happened in my life since committing to the Primal lifestyle in October, 2011, I wanted to share my story in the hopes that perhaps someone out there can relate to what I’ve gone through.

First, some background information leading up to the day I plunged into Primal living with both feet. As a kid I always suffered from severe eczema on my scalp and hands. I remember being 7 or 8 years old and sitting down every night while my mother massaged this tar-based “medicine” onto my head in the hopes that it would control the eczema. I remember being on puffers for much of my youth and being embarrassed to show people my hands in elementary school, leading to a love affair with long-sleeved t-shirts. Can anyone say food allergy?

As I got older, I seemed to outgrow these symptoms and entered middle school mostly eczema- and puffer-free. I was a fairly active kid all through my youth playing soccer, basketball, and hockey and participating in swimming, horseback riding, and skiing. When I got to grade 8 I started being overwhelmed with body image issues and thus began my 12 year struggle with disordered eating habits and self-loathing tendencies.

Though I was never hospitalized for my issues surrounding food, I would go through phases where I would be exercising 2+ hours a day and eating around 1000-1200 calories a day of CW proscribed “health” foods. I remember being 15 and losing about 20 pounds and being thrilled with all the positive comments I received. Clearly, however, these kinds of eating habits and lifestyle was unsustainable in the long term and so began my cycle of extreme “health and fitness” binges followed by inevitable weight gain. This cycle continued all throughout university and at my heaviest in 3rd year I clocked in at 162 lbs at a height of 5’4″. Even worse than the weight was that I suffered from extreme anxiety for many years and would go through phases where I would be so anxious that I would sit up at night curled in a ball on my bed, afraid to go to sleep for unknown reasons.

Perhaps my most unhealthy cycle began the summer after I finished my undergrad and before I started my MA. It was at this time that I discovered purging via laxatives and realized that I could eat whatever I wanted and have it leave my body as soon as I woke up the next day, ensuring, in my mind, that I would never gain any weight. My anxieties continued to plague me, though not quite as severe as before and the self-loathing I had for my body continued to grow. I hated my binge sessions where I was able to put away two large bags of chips, a family size bag of M&M’s, pizza, fancy cheeses, and other sweets all in one sitting. I would then be so overcome with guilt and anger at my lack of control that I would drive to a twenty-four hour pharmacy to pick up my laxatives and thus the cycle would start anew. At its height, I would sometimes repeat this cycle every day of the week to ensure I stayed a “healthy” weight. This pattern continued for three miserable years as my depression and anxieties grew once again. It always surprised me that I was able to keep this a secret from virtually everyone in my life, and to be honest this is the first time I’ve shared my story. Throughout the duration of my program I would fall into weeks of depression where I would sometimes only leave my bed for two hours a day, tops, and would rarely leave my apartment. On the surface I could make excuses and say I was busy working and because I was always able to put a smile on my face when I did muster up the energy to leave my house, none of my friends suspected the torment I was living with on a daily basis. However, several professional relationships were destroyed due to my inability to complete work on time and I would sometimes go off the radar at school for weeks or months afraid to open the emails asking me where I was. Then, as quickly as these depressive episodes would come on, they would taper off and disappear for a little while. The binging and purging cycle, however, was my constant companion.

New Year's in Britain

A friend of mine in my MA program had told me about the paleo diet when we first started the program in 2009 and I had dabbled on several occasions with the premise, rarely lasting more than a week. Looking back now, I see that during those “experiments” I was binge and purge free for the whole time I was adhering to the diet, but of course some event like a concert or party would come up, and down the rabbit hole I would go, falling back to my habits of late-night pizzas, chips, cookies, and chocolate candies.

Fast-forward to September 2011 and I had just successfully defended my thesis and moved to a new city. I wasn’t quite at my heaviest weight, but I was hovering somewhere between 150-155. I moved in with my sister who has celiac disease and I decided to try cutting gluten out of my diet once and for all. I was still eating all manners of processed foods, but I was becoming more aware of the relationship between food and wellbeing. In October of that year I found MDA and read through the archives like a woman possessed. Everything began to make so much sense! The eczema I had suffered from, the constant illnesses, the fatigue, bloating, and weight gain could all be linked to what I was putting in my body. The next day I cleaned out the cupboards and started living a Primal lifestyle in earnest. And after a few weeks a funny thing happened. I was no longer biting my nails or pulling out my eyelashes, which were telltale signs of anxiousness. I was calmer, happier, and most notably I hadn’t binged or purged in weeks. My skin was clearing up, especially on my back where I had suffered from severe acne since I was a teenager. And I had slimmed down. Not in a dramatic transformation kind of way, but in a way that felt healthy and right. I couldn’t believe it. I had spent so many years trapped in CW’s rendition of “healthy” eating which had never worked for me in any capacity, that I was shocked when food really did seem to be a huge contributing factor to many of my physical and psychological issues. I was so struck by the power food has to heal the body that I completely switched from my path of applying for a PhD in English Lit and applied to a holistic nutrition program and a culinary nutrition program so that I can develop recipes and teach cooking classes.

Caitlin and Brother

My goal now is to spread the good food word to any and all of those people who are fed up with CW’s nonsense approach to health and wellness. I’m hoping to eventually start an after-school program that teaches children the importance of putting healthy food in their bodies and to run cooking classes for busy moms and working professionals offering up easy tips and tricks for healthy eating. Stumbling upon your blog was a defining moment in my life. Reading your informative and scientific posts sparked an intense interest in alternative nutrition, which has helped shape the direction of my life from this point on. But most importantly, your blog started me on a journey towards self-discovery and finally self-love, something I had never experienced in any true form up until now. I haven’t binged and purged in almost a year and I’ve discovered a passion for life I never knew I was capable of. So thank you Mark, for doing what you do so generously and with so much passion. Thank you for giving me my life back.

Caitlin Training

Cheers,

Cait

P.S. I’ve attached a couple of pictures. The first is me at my heaviest in 2007. The second is my brother and I a couple of weeks ago (he has lost over 60 lbs following a Primal lifestyle), and the third is me training for the Wall this past summer ;)

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! Your brother lost weight and looks years younger.

    Eric wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • And his grey hair went away!

      JimB wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • The elixir for eternal youth you say? We should bottle it up and sell it!

      Seriously, well done Cait, inspirational stuff and thank you for being so open to the community. Food education for children is so vital. If in doubt, telling them their heroes eat XYZ food (and brushes their teeth 2x daily) works well at helping them make the right choices!

      Patrice wrote on February 1st, 2013
  2. Congratulations on such an amazing story and transformation. As always, reading these is a perfect way to start a Friday.

    Bjjcaveman wrote on February 1st, 2013
  3. What an amazingly courageous story. For everyone who has put themselves through the cycle of food abuse (like myself) this just resonates so strongly. I’m so glad you’ve found freedom through eating whole food, as that was my experience too. Binging and guilt until I started feeding my body what it actually needs.

    I love Friday success stories! They help me go into the weekend inspired and better able to resist the inevitable weekend temptations!

    Susie wrote on February 1st, 2013
  4. Looking great!! And you seem to really feel great as well! Congrats!

    Liesel wrote on February 1st, 2013
  5. Looking good!
    What a liberating journey.

    Anders wrote on February 1st, 2013
  6. Congrats on getting your diet under control. I have never heard about binge and purge with laxatives before. I still have issues with binging now and again but it has gotten better since I discovered more and more paleo/primal recipes which are delicious. If I have delicious healthy food to eat I don’t need to binge on junk food. I am also trying to do my part by sharing great recipes when I find them. Last night I invented a new recipe for paleo shrimp tempura. I haven’t posted it yet but I will in the next few weeks.

    Wayne Atwell wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • Oooh, paleo tempura? Looking forward to that! I hear you about the bingeing. Have had the same problem myself but it’s much easier to resist on a primal diet, isn’t it?

      Tina wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • Oooo please share!!! Shrimp tempura is a fav of mine…

      Heather wrote on February 6th, 2013
  7. What is the “Wall” Is it an archery competition?

    Jim wrote on February 1st, 2013
  8. Wow amazing! Really cool you pulled a career 180! i share your amazement in the link of food and mental healh. I’ve known a few people who have had similar reductions in depression and anxiety by going primal.

    Do you still have deal with any binging temptations? Or is that something you no longer even think about?

    Any tips to for other people who might deal with that? As you mentioned no one knew what you were going through. I imagine there are some people here that would love to pick your brain but might be afraid to ask.

    Loved the story will be sharing!

    Luke DePron wrote on February 1st, 2013
  9. Wow!! Thank you for not concealing any of your story. It’s inspiring that you are willing to share everything you have gone through in an effort to help others. Reducing carbs has dramatically helped my anxiety issues (especially my OCD tendencies). You look so happy (beautiful too)! Congratulations for freeing yourself!!

    jess wrote on February 1st, 2013
  10. Wow, what a great transformation! I was reading about your eczema and thought immediately of my 13-year-old daughter. She has had severe eczema and asthma since she was a year old and the doctors would just prescribe one cream after another and give her an inhaler. When I went primal, I asked her if she’d like to give it a try for the eczema, and at 12 years old she was willing to do ANYTHING to stop the itching, discomfort, and open sores from scratching. Now she’s worlds better without any creams.
    Way to go on your healthy lifestyle change!

    NJ Paleo wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • For a year now we have had hardly any bread and processed foods in the house. My son’s eczema has cleared up quite a lot and he does not get sinus infections like he used to. My husband went from getting heartburn everyday to hardly ever and he has not complained of dry skin this winter. My daughter is eating more protein. I am happier, have lots more energy, and sleep better. Thank you for sharing your success story. It confirms what I have been observing in my home.

      Carolyn wrote on February 1st, 2013
  11. Great story. I hope your arrow is aimed at the heart of Conventional Wisdom….bullseye!

    Nocona wrote on February 1st, 2013
  12. I really related to your story. Congratulations on getting your life back.

    Sarah wrote on February 1st, 2013
  13. Congratulations on your wonderful transformation. That last photo symbolizes to me how you finally took control of your health and now you are dominating anything you put your mind to. Amazing!

    Chika wrote on February 1st, 2013
  14. What is “being on puffers” and “being puffer-free”?

    Moshen wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • A puffer is an asthma inhaler.

      Ingvildr wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • Using Inhalers & Being Inhaler-Free respectively

      Vishnu wrote on February 1st, 2013
  15. I am SO glad to hear that you found your path to health before you destroyed your body with laxative abuse. I know someone who had a colectomy done in her 40s due to years of binge/laxative cycling.

    You sound happy, healthy, and wise!

    Rachel wrote on February 1st, 2013
  16. This story was like looking into a mirror, all the struggles with depression and anxiety on top of problems with self-image :) I am so happy you found better health and happiness!

    cTo wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • +1!!!

      Trixie wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • +1 thanks for sharing your story cait.

      Tanja Tr. wrote on February 3rd, 2013
    • really? so your anxiety and depression got better once you went paleo/primal? I suffer from severe anxiety and depression.

      Shannon wrote on July 25th, 2013
  17. Very brave of you to share your story with the world. Thank you and congratulations on your new, healthy lifestyle.

    James wrote on February 1st, 2013
  18. Cait, good for you. I love happy endings!

    Susan wrote on February 1st, 2013
  19. Congratulations on your success and for the honesty in your story – I’m sure it will help and inspire others in a similar situation!

    Grokesque wrote on February 1st, 2013
  20. Great story!

    It’s funny as all success stories usually mention that moment when they find MDA, and how the immediately feel it all resonate, and the scour through every post as their brain literally changes/resets in the process.

    This exact thing happened to me as well when I found this place, and its a moment so many of us share in that’s powerful to ponder over!

    Kevin wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • Totally agree. I stumbled onto MDA while Googling agave syrup two years ago.

      Leah wrote on February 2nd, 2013
    • I remember that. May 2012, got home from college a week or two earlier. Followed links for at least an hour or two a day for most of the summer.

      Bill C wrote on February 2nd, 2013
  21. This is an amazing and inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it and congratulations!

    I do think this particular post might benefit from a trigger warning, though.

    Rebekka wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • Do you mean that it might give someone the idea to binge and use laxatives?

      Anna wrote on February 1st, 2013
      • I think that someone who has a history of those kinds of problems, who is reading this site for inspiration, but maybe has not come over their disorder enough to speak or read of it so freely, or experiences anxiety/panic/etc when confronted unexpectedly with others’ similar history, may appreciate a heads up. Because there isn’t any clue about it in the title or header.

        Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s a fantastic story that should be shared, and the contributor has tons to be proud of. A trigger warning would just be a courtesy to those who still are in the throes of self-loathing/self-abuse.

        Rebekka wrote on February 2nd, 2013
  22. Bravo and well done, Cait!

    The connection between food and physical well-being is covered quite a bit in mainstream media. What is rarely–if ever–discussed are the effects different foods have on a person’s mental and emotional health.

    Helga wrote on February 1st, 2013
  23. Congratulations Cait on the success of all your hard “work.” (I no longer consider being primal “work” as it’s so enjoyable.)

    I like the Archery picture the most because I am thinking about trying to get my family into archery.

    Griffin wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • Archery is a great family sport. We really enjoy it.

      Amy wrote on February 1st, 2013
  24. Cait,
    I found your transformation to be very motivating. Thanks for sharing.

    John Vangelov wrote on February 1st, 2013
  25. You look wonderful, congrats on a fantastic change :-)

    melissa wrote on February 1st, 2013
  26. Beautiful! Congratulations!

    Anon wrote on February 1st, 2013
  27. Congrats! I wish more people were open to overcoming anxiety through diet, so happy for you!

    Dani wrote on February 1st, 2013
  28. Wow! What a great story….and I’m so moved that you’ve changed direction in life to help spread the word. I hear your childhood story and my heart breaks for all the kids currently going through this with no help on the horizon (all the conventional “nutrition” info at my 7yo’s school is all about grains, multi-grains, and more grains). Very happy that you will be paying it forward…imagine how many people’s lives will be changed by that decision! Way to go.

    Suzanne wrote on February 1st, 2013
  29. Fantastic! Great, also, that you are so inspired as to change your life’s work. That’s inspiring and bless you for wanting to give back through your career choice. I hope you are a smashing success and get good foods into homes and schools.

    Steve Gardner wrote on February 1st, 2013
  30. this is a great story and i really appreciate your openess in sharing all the gorry details. i suffered through binging and purging most intensely in my late teens/early 20s and then more sporadically. i understand the cycle and the sense of guilt and despair.
    it is a tough road, but i am so happy to read that your approach is HEALTH and not BODY IMAGE. this is still a constant struggle for me but i’m getting there. :)
    stay focused, all teh best.

    melissa wrote on February 1st, 2013
  31. Well done Cait! Kudos to you for your willpower and willingness to clear out your cupboards and just completely go for it. You look fabulous and happy (as does your brother).

    I love Fridays. Always inspiring.

    Kate wrote on February 1st, 2013
  32. Thank you for sharing your story, Cait! It’s very courageous to tell the world what you went through, and there’s no doubt you’ve gotten through to someone with disordered eating. Congratulations on a great transformation!

    Kathleen wrote on February 1st, 2013
  33. Woo hoo you look fabulous. In your “before” photo you look like a beautiful person, but in your “after” photo you are positively glowing, and look healthy and very happy. Congratulations to you and your brother for sticking with a much healthier lifestyle.
    I love what you are doing with your career choices, it’s so important to show others, in particular kids, the healthy options that help them feel well and be the best they can be.
    Love Saturday morning stories! (in Oz)

    HillyM wrote on February 1st, 2013
  34. Good job, Cait! It must be wonderful to be finally free of all those things that held you back and to find that the answer for you was simple. I can relate to that. Looking good, girl!

    Tina wrote on February 1st, 2013
  35. Wow what a great story! I too had suffered with eczema and it went away with Primal! Your story is fantastic, great job! You are beautiful and smart! As a mom of a kindergartner, I can’t wait for your first cookbook to come out ;-)

    mars wrote on February 1st, 2013
  36. Still laughing at the first couple posts! Very Funny– and yet another great testament to Primal living.

    I started my February Primal challenge today and feel great– Cali– keep going girl!

    Rev. Dave Deppisch wrote on February 1st, 2013
  37. Truly touched by your journey. I wonder how many others suffer in silence. I’m so happy that things have worked out for you. You are a beautiful young lady and you have the world in front of you! /lu

    Louisa wrote on February 1st, 2013
  38. I knew that smile from the first photo, the sort of ‘yeah I’m happy to be here, sure, no problem’ smile.
    Then the genuine, ‘Hey! Camera! Okay!’ smile. Anxiety’s such an evil presence in our world. I’m so pleased there’s such an easy way to be rid of it. Great that you’re paying it forward. : )

    Madama Butterfry wrote on February 1st, 2013
  39. Awesome story! Have your or your brother been tested for celiac disease?
    I was diagnosed last May and it was confirmed with some genetic testing.

    Rosa wrote on February 1st, 2013
    • The problem with the testing is that they may require you to go back onto gluten for a period of time (eg 6 weeks) before they can do the test (biopsy test). I don’t see why we need confirmation not to eat such a problematic food! I know I am coeliac (it is in my family and my symptoms are significant) so I don’t eat it!!! I’ve just finished reading “Wheat Belly” by Dr William Davis, no-one should eat wheat!!!

      Jenny wrote on February 1st, 2013
  40. It’s great to hear another success story, especially one that emphasizes how diet can affect mental health. Congratulations on your success and your decision to spread the word!

    Michael Corayer wrote on February 1st, 2013

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