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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



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. 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
  2. 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
  3. Awesome! Congratulations!

    Ara wrote on February 1st, 2013
  4. Thanks so much for sharing your story Cait, I know it’s been a painful journey for you (been there, done that). It struck me as ironic that you referred to Primal/Paleo as alternative nutrition, when it should be (for everyone) that CW SAD is actually the ‘alternative nutrition.’ The right food IS such a powerful healer and I’m so glad you’ve chosen to use you life to share the Primal truth. Congratulations!

    J wrote on February 1st, 2013
  5. Jeye Cate you did it! I am so happy for you that you made your way out of it. But never forget, even with the biggest help it is all your own achievement! Keep it up!

    Leeny wrote on February 2nd, 2013
  6. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your story…very inspiring.

    Dianne wrote on February 2nd, 2013
  7. This story, like so many other PB success stories, is simply inspirational. Reading these and thinking about my own experiences over the past few years makes me want to tell EVERYONE, even people I don’t know, about going primal. I can especially relate to the depression and anxiety that tormented you on the inside while you still managed to put on a smile for the outside world. Sounds like my life about a year ago, and several other times in my life. People like us feel we need to be strong, happy, and content for those around us, even when we feel like we’re dying on the inside. Going primal (albeit slowly) has helped me tremendously with this, and I didn’t experience the seasonal winter “blues” like I did last winter, not wanting to get out of bed and skipping afternoon classes because all I wanted to do was sleep (also in an English MA program haha). This year is a complete 180. I’m so much more active and putting healthy food in my body. My weight loss has tapered off but I just FEEL better, and that makes it all worth it.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Stacie wrote on February 2nd, 2013
    • this is really great to hear. I’ve only cut out wheat for a month now and my IBS symptoms are gone but I also suffer from pretty severe anxiety and bouts of depression. I feel hopeful now so thank you for also sharing your story…

      Shannon wrote on July 25th, 2013
  8. Dear Cait,

    Your story and mine are so similar. I read your post with tear filled eyes. I, too, have cured my skin issues and what I believe would have been a life long eating disorder, had I not found MDA. So happy for you. You look amazing, happy and free.

    All the best, Em

    Emily Jane wrote on February 2nd, 2013
  9. “Ever since I stumbled upon your blog a year ago when searching for information on the paleo diet”
    “commit[ted] to the Primal lifestyle in October, 2011″
    “Fast-forward to September 2011 … In October of that year I found MDA … The next day I cleaned out the cupboards and started living a Primal lifestyle in earnest.”

    I take it the waiting list for PB Real Life Stories is a few months long. :)

    Bill C wrote on February 2nd, 2013
  10. Congratulations on your wonderful transformation. I know the cycle of depression and anxiety all too well as I lived in it for years. Rather than food being my escape it was alcohol. I quit drinking and that helped, but going paleo a few months later really turned the tide. Good work! It is very brave of you to share your story and I know it will help others stay strong and change themselves. It has helped me today :)
    Thank you

    Chris wrote on February 3rd, 2013
  11. Well done Cait! That is so inspiring. I have a question about your eczema. It sounds very similar to what my mother is suffering from: Severe eczema on her scalp, back, arms, legs, hands, feet. To the point where the scars sting and she can’t sleep. Doctor’s have not been able to figure out how to treat it. It keeps coming back. Anxiety is one problem (which she is treating) but I’m wondering if Primal will help her. Did you notice a difference in your eczema when you changed your diet? Thanks! Congratulations again!

    Prajakta wrote on February 4th, 2013
  12. I am reading your story while sitting on a city bus on my way to school and I am struggling to hold back my years. Our stories share unbelievable similarities. I am in my second year of university and I have recently developed anxiety that I have never had before along with a binging and purging cycle that, honestly, scares me to death.
    I suffered from severe eczema and asthma as a child as well and had weight issues since middle school. Last year I lost upwards of 30 pounds and felt incredible although my austere food restrictions were hardly sustainable and I lost all the self-control I had not so long ago. As of now I am at almost a complete regain. I am emotional and unhappy and have been struggling to feel like I once did.
    Cait, your story is truly inspirational and I am relived to know that I am not the only one who is dealing/has dealt with this issue. The Paleo diet has recently peaked my interest and the story you have shared has really erased any of the doubts I had.
    Thank you for being brave enough to share your journey.

    Melanie wrote on February 5th, 2013
  13. Congratulations! Glad to hear of your success. Amazing how we can go for years with problems that could be solved by changing our food habits. If we had only known that from the beginning.

    Really good to hear that you have started the nutritional program. With your knowledge, you will be able to do a lot of good for children and adults alike!

    Matthias wrote on February 5th, 2013
  14. Good for you. You’re gorgeous and you’ve got a beautiful smile.

    Al wrote on February 5th, 2013
  15. This is an awesome story Cait! Thanks for sharing with us your brave journey. Very inspirational!

    lanz wrote on February 5th, 2013
  16. Most awesome. I am so happy for you!

    Patrick wrote on February 6th, 2013
  17. Thank you for sharing your story. I am fortunate not to struggle with an eating disorder but I do suffer from severe anxiety and depression. I decided a month ago to stop eating wheat and my IBS symptoms have disappeared. I eat more veggies now and meat. I do have more energy and I’m hoping it improves my mood BUT something I am noticing is an itchy rash on my shoulder blades that I have never had before. It actually kept me up last night. I don’t know what it could be from but it has to be something in my new “diet” or lifestyle change as I like to call it. I wonder if it’s something I’m eating. Does anyone have any ideas? Oh I did you a different detergent a few times washing my clothes hmm maybe that’s it. I do eat greek yogurt now maybe that could be it. Gosh I’m not sure but it’s really annoying and uncomfortable. Help!! Ideas????

    Shannon wrote on July 25th, 2013
  18. An amazing journey for you, Cait. I’m sure your honest and heart-felt sharing will inspire many others with similar issues to at least try the Primal lifestyle.

    I also admire your decision to switch careers in order to help others learn and benefit from your experience and education. That is truly unselfish and quite admirable. Just goes to show you that ”those who can also teach.”

    I wish you a lifetime of good health and good fortune.:)

    Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on December 6th, 2013

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