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

Concrete Reasons to Continue on the Primal Path

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 start by saying THANK YOU. Without you (and several thousand years of common sense), I was on the road to a significantly shorter and less fulfilling life.

My Primal success story was unintentional, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. My father was one to hop on random health crazes for a few weeks in order to lose weight, and the Primal Blueprint was his newest of many…or so I thought. I didn’t take it very seriously when he talked about it, but I figured I’d go on it with him for a week or so to try to keep him motivated.

This was me before that.

Heather - Before

In August 2010, after just three days of completely Primal eating, a persistent and very frustrating rash that I’d been trying everything to get rid of for the last year disappeared. I didn’t immediately make the connection, but I loved the way that I felt while on the diet, so I kept going. Since I wasn’t totally serious about it, I still occasionally ate wheat products. Every time, without fail, the rash came back. Once the rash was officially diagnosed as a form of gluten intolerance, I had a very concrete reason to continue on the Primal path.

On top of the rash, I’d struggled with abnormally high blood pressure (typically around 150/110) since I was 18. It was almost overnight that I went from normal to hypertensive, and I had no family history and no debilitating habits like smoking that might have caused it. By the time that I started eating Primally, I had cut down my salt intake from ridiculous (adding salt to ramen ridiculous) to practically tasteless, and nothing changed. I was also on two different blood pressure medications that had done nothing, and I discontinued them around October of 2010. Eating Primally made a very tiny dent after a while, but I still didn’t see the results I was hoping for based on the success stories I’d been reading on Mark’s Daily Apple. I WAS losing weight, though, so I figured I just needed more time. I even started my own Primal recipe blog, Heather’s Primal Recipes.

Initially, I lost about 15 pounds (from 145 to 130). I couldn’t escape that plateau at 130, and I frequently got discouraged and spiraled into binge eating things that made me break out and feel awful. (Chinese takeout, anyone?) From August of 2010 to June of 2012, I went up and down on that roller coaster. Even on my best days, minimal exercise was a challenge. Thirty seconds of sprinting left me feeling winded and dizzy. To boot, my doctors (who were already angry at me for my newfound eating habits and lack of medication) didn’t want me to raise my heart rate too high, fearing heart attack.

In March of 2012, I finally listened to the one doctor who DIDN’T think my eating habits were unhealthful and got a renal duplex ultrasound. It turned out that I had a relatively unknown disease having NOTHING to do with eating habits called Fibromuscular Dysplasia, which causes arteries to grow like strings of beads instead of tubes. Unfortunately, because so little is known about it, it’s often confused with atherosclerosis (aka plaque). It was easy enough to point out that I had been following the SAD for several years WITH arterial stenosis before adopting this “artery clogging” diet, however. 😉


In June of 2012, I had balloon angioplasty to reopen my nearly closed renal artery. Within minutes of surgery completion, my blood pressure dropped to 117/67.

After about a week of bed rest and surgical recovery, I started to really pick up the Primal exercise plan, since I was now “allowed” to raise my heart rate. The weight couldn’t fall off fast enough. From June to September, I dropped from 130 to 118, (in total a size 10/12 to size 2/4) and I’m still going. I’ve never felt better.

Heather - After


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. that is very interesting… fibromuscular dysplasia. I have never heard of anyone having it. At least you caught it early! Amazing story!

    Erin wrote on May 10th, 2013
  2. Heather, I can’t imagine dealing with symptoms like those, like not being able to exercise for fear of a heart attack! I’m so glad you found your way to a smart doctor who could figure out what was really going on.

    You look terrific! I can hardly believe it’s the same you. :)

    Anne wrote on May 10th, 2013
  3. Great turnaround–and way to keep on top of your health!

    Tom B-D wrote on May 10th, 2013
  4. Wow, congrats on figuring out what was wrong and getting healthy. You look amazing!

    Nicholas Smith wrote on May 10th, 2013
  5. Its telling that most of the doctors put you on meds instead of looking for an underlying cause. You’d think blood pressure that high in a teenager would be a red flag. I’m glad you found a doc who found the underlying issue.

    Also, you look adorable in your after photos. Any chance you are single and live in central florida? haha.

    Kurt wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • I was passed from doctor to doctor and they were all very confused about the reasons behind it, but they gave up quickly and assumed I was lying about my habits or that I had family history I didn’t know about. The doctor that finally caught it said that the meds can actually be harmful to FMD patients, so I’m glad I stopped before then…

      And thank you…haha. Living in NC and married. ;p

      Heather wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • Can you imagine that as a ‘how we met’ story? “Oh, I posted to a blog, and he posted a comment ‘Can I haz date?’ I found it irresistable.”

      Ion Freeman wrote on May 10th, 2013
      • Actually, I’m hoping that happens to me someday. I figure it is the only way I will find a primal partner!

        Siobhan wrote on May 10th, 2013

          Catherine H wrote on May 11th, 2013
  6. You look marvelous! How is your dad doing? I hope very well also.

    perennialpam wrote on May 10th, 2013
  7. Wow OMG you look GREAT!
    Also I have NEVER heard of Fibromuscular Dysplasia. I have HBP and medication seems to help but I wonder if this might be a cause of my HBP…
    I am a lot older 49 HBP does run in my family strongly. I am on meds for it and eating primal has helped my weight greatly but not my BP.
    I will follow up about Fibromuscular Dysplasia with my doc, who knows it could be a factor.
    Thanks so much for posting this! :)

    Gayle wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • Look into it; it could save your life! They believe at this point that FMD isn’t actually all that rare…just VERY under-diagnosed.

      Heather wrote on May 10th, 2013
  8. Wow. Enjoy many long years of health and happiness.

    Linda A. Lavid wrote on May 10th, 2013
  9. Glad you are feeling better! The before/after ultrasound pics are really cool. Were those taken before/after the angioplasty?

    Jesse wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • Yep, they had do go in and inject dye to show where the closure was, so they gave me the images after. :)

      Heather wrote on May 10th, 2013
  10. Wow, that’s amazing, Heather. So great that you found a new doctor that was willing to look outside the box. You look fantastic and I’m sure you feel you’ve got a whole new life ahead of you now. Great job and great example of taking responsibility and being proactive with your health!

    Alison Golden wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • +1…and you look just fantastic and happy! Grokettes a-go-go!

      Nocona wrote on May 11th, 2013
  11. Great job Heather!


    Mike Mallory wrote on May 10th, 2013
  12. Wow Heather quite the journey. You have the vibrant glow, glad you got that heart stuff figured out.

    Did your dad end up sticking with the diet?

    Luke wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • He’s been back and forth, but he’s sticking with it overall. Hoping he’ll be able to send in his story soon, too! :)

      Heather wrote on May 10th, 2013
      • Awesome well I’m sure seeing what it has done for you is a HUGE motivator! Congrats again

        Luke wrote on May 10th, 2013
  13. You look amazing! What an encouragement. It’s sad that doctors can so easily get entrenched in what they “know” is the problem, rather than exploring other possibilities.

    Stacy wrote on May 10th, 2013
  14. Congrats Heather. It makes ME feel better just reading this success stories. Thank you for sharing.

    Susan wrote on May 10th, 2013
  15. Congratulations, Heather. Keep up the great work!

    James wrote on May 10th, 2013
  16. wow, heather, what a change! glad you’re in such improved health! i looked at your blog–looks tasty. :)

    Jenny wrote on May 10th, 2013
  17. Fascinating and wonderful story! What you’ve been through, and what Kurt said–adorable!

    Joy Beer wrote on May 10th, 2013
  18. You look great …congratulations for perservering!

    John wrote on May 10th, 2013
  19. Great job Heather – and for educating us. Its astonishing (and what a relief) how fast your BP changed post-surgery.

    Yet again an example of how imperative it is we all partner w/ a solid, smart, open minded Dr. who will do the steps to help you figure out why you feel “off”. Not stuff a med in your hand.

    Kudos to you for keeping on it and it means good things for your life that you are persistent!!

    jess wrote on May 10th, 2013
  20. lots of beautiful women posting these i seeing a correlation?

    brandon clobes wrote on May 10th, 2013
  21. Oh, Heather, Congratulations!
    Thank you for posting this story. It’s exactly what I needed to hear today.

    I love my heart doc. I just wish she was open to hearing what I was telling her. She’s insistent I stop this diet and go on meds. She said that “obviously your diet is not working.” (cholesterol numbers, which I pointed out to her were 322 after two years as a vegan) I said, “I’ve lost 70 pounds, I have fingernails and my hair has stopped falling out. That feels like it’s working to me.”
    Your story reinforces my resolve. Thank you. Wow. Seriously, thank you!

    Cindy wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • You have to be careful about doctors. Sometimes no matter how good your diet is, you still need medicine, but discouraging healthy eating is kind of weird. Also a doctor that isn’t open to anything different is not so great and there is absolutly nothing wrong with getting a second opinion.

      Melissa wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • Congrats, Heather!! Another Heather here. Glad you figured it out early!! Enjoy your amazing newly found health!

      Cindy, check out He has been delving deep into HDL and LDL and what the research has been showing lately. It’s been some fascinating reading. Maybe there is something there that you can give to your doctor to read. I really wish these doctors would take their “population” blinders off and see the individual in front of them.
      …Don’t think outside the box. Think about the box. (Can’t remember where I read that. Definitely somewhere in the Paleosphere.

      Heather wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • I’d find another doctor, Cindy! :)

      Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on November 30th, 2013
  22. Way to go Heather! And I’m so glad you found a better doctor.

    D. M. Mitchell wrote on May 10th, 2013
  23. this is an incredible story! so many congratulations to you, inside and out.

    adina wrote on May 10th, 2013
  24. You’re a beautiful young lady and your recipes look divine! I have bookmarked your blog for inspiration!

    KariVery wrote on May 10th, 2013
  25. Great story, Heather! You look fabulous!

    Did the dr check your kidney function (serum creatinine and BUN)? My hubby has been on hemodialysis for 26 years, 13 of those years at home, so I do a lot of kidney related nursing for him. Just be sure they checked your blood work (which normally they would do with any kind of renal issues).

    Laurie wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • They did…fortunately no renal damage despite being undiscovered for years. Caught it at a fairly young age, compared to most others.

      Heather wrote on May 10th, 2013
      • That’s great! So glad you took charge of your health and finally got some answers, and solution to your problem!

        Laurie wrote on May 10th, 2013
  26. Oh the blessings! So happy for you and your transformation.

    Preach it Heather– tell those who have their faces stuffed with
    Pizza or Bear Claws about your Primal experience!

    I’ve even slipped Mark’s Daily Apple into some of my
    sermons when I preach!

    Pastor Dave wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • That’s awesome…

      Ara wrote on May 11th, 2013
  27. Heather: You’re amazing. I looked 3 or 4 times at your before and after photos. I still can’t see that it’s the same person. Way to go! Susan

    Susan Alexander wrote on May 10th, 2013
  28. Your story is very inspiring. Congratulations on all your success. I will check out your blog. I actually have an 18 yr old niece who has been suffering from HB for a couple years now…makes me wonder.

    Kara wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • It’s most common in young, otherwise healthy women, so you should definitely have her checked out!

      Heather wrote on May 10th, 2013
  29. What a great story! You look marvelous and it sounds like you feel that way too. Thanks for sharing.

    Siobhan wrote on May 10th, 2013
  30. Hearing your story makes me very happy and gives me hope!! I am so thrilled for you that a good doc checked into your issues and found and SOLVED the problem!! You keep taking care of yourself!! You look so great and so healthy. Keep it up!!

    Rhonda the Red wrote on May 10th, 2013
  31. Oh my goodness! I think this may be my most favorite story YET! I loved that you showed the picture of your kidney :) I’m such a med school nerd!

    Meagan wrote on May 10th, 2013
  32. Heather, what kind of exercise do you do on a routine basis and how often? You have the “lean” kind of look I’m aspiring for. Thank you so much for your story!

    fcby9 wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • It’s pretty minimal, but it’s amazing what a difference it’s made. I take at least one of my dogs for a walk through my neighborhood every evening (about a mile and a half), occasionally breaking into a sprint along the way. I also follow my husband on the golf course when he forgoes the cart.

      I work at a vet, so my lifting consists of carrying 32lb bags of dog food back and forth across the clinic…thinking of getting into more on that end, but haven’t had much time yet.

      Heather wrote on May 10th, 2013
  33. Oh my gosh, I LOVE that you have before and after pics of both your outsides AND your insides……….awesome.

    This is yet another wonderful story of someone who perservered in finding answers about their own body, and didn’t just blindly accept that medication is the solution to all problems

    Congratulations, you were beautiful in your before photos, and now you look extra healthy and happy. Well done.

    HillyM wrote on May 10th, 2013
  34. Thank you! Also, did you drop from 10/12 to 2/4 all between June and September, or did some of that happen earlier when you lost the initial weight starting at 145 lbs?

    fcby9 wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • That was overall. I dropped from about an 8 to a 2/4 from June to September.

      Heather wrote on May 10th, 2013
  35. Great story. I have to say, I have recently loosened my grip on being strictly “primal”, in the high starch food elimination aspect. I’m starting to believe that basically eliminating all grains is not necessary for most people. If grains are whole and sprouted, and do not contain gluten, I just do not believe they need to be eliminated for most healthy people. The more I read, the more it appears we might being going a bit too far with this extreme idea that all grains on all forms need to be eliminated in order to feel our best and maintain optimal health. Who really knows what diet is best. There is so much we don’t know yet. It’s likely that optimal diets are very much dependent on the individual. All I know is, what I thought to be true for myself I don’t believe is anymore. I don’t have energy crashes with the fairly new introduction of sprouted gluten free grains, and my stomach feels fine after consuming them. Same goes for long soaked and sprouted beans.

    Bottom line, I think if we all stuck with whole foods, stayed away from processed foods, ate plenty of the right veggies and fruits, included the right amount of all essential fats, ate the right balance of foods in moderation, and exercised properly, the large majority of us would lose lose weight weight and stay very healthy out entire lives. As long sd we are sticking with sn overall healthy ptogram like this, moderate amount of sprouted gluten free grains, and tubers like sweet potatoes, aren’t ever going to do harm. Actually there might be some benefit to including a small amount such foods for a lot of people.

    Morgan wrote on May 10th, 2013
    • Pretty much agree with you. Although I eliminated the bulk of grains from my diet, even my daily bowl of oatmeal, I do eat some quinoa maybe once a week, some veggie burgers made from brown rice and walnuts a couple times a week, and a couple of sprouted, raw crackers here and there made from veggies, nuts, flaxseed and oats. I would not feel too guilty eating an Ezekiel English muffin half with a little almond butter, although Mark does not give it a thumbs up and I just don’t buy it anymore when I go to the local health food store.

      George wrote on May 10th, 2013
      • One of the things I like about Mark’s advice is that he bases it on solid research and scientific evidence. I’ll be avoiding the sprouted grains, thank you very much.

        Louise wrote on May 11th, 2013
        • I’m a big fan of Mark’s and also Leangains and the Blue Zone. I’ve been studying health, fitness and wellness for 40 years and I’m pretty ripped. I eat a very minimal amount of grain. I personally would not freak out about a tad of sprouted bread here and there, but by all means do what works best for you Louise. I don’t know your personal history, how much HIIT you are doing, if you have gluten intolerance etc. etc.

          George wrote on May 11th, 2013
        • It really depends on the sprouted grain, and the amount consumed. You will do as much bad for your body and your digestive system eating the wrong nuts, and too much of them. Yet, nuts are not poo pooed like even pure gluten free sprouted high starch foods are. Beans, other legumes, and seeds can be sprouted and added to foods like baked or dehydrated chips. In moderate amounts, many people will never compromise their healthy consuming such sprouted foods.

          I think there could be a bit of a “paleo” bias here. And, you’re right, Mark does a great amount of solid research. I believe he has acknowledged that some paleo cultures did regularly consume grains and tubers. It really depends in which part of the world you are speaking of. “Paleo” food consumption, is highly relative to the part of the world a culture lived, and what food was available.

          Morgan wrote on May 11th, 2013
        • Mark also bases some if what he says on the way his body reacts and his beliefs. Everyone is different. I believe genetics, age, and ancestry play major roles in individualized needs.

          Morgan wrote on May 11th, 2013
  36. Congrats Heather! What a great story. Can’t wait to read your dad’s success story.

    Mark wrote on May 10th, 2013
  37. I have bookmarked your recipe blog now Heather, because that Avocado Bacon Burger looks delicious! I will show it to a friend who has also started primal eating (thanks to me!) and suggest we try it next weekend.

    Your pictures – wow, is that the same person before and after? And congrats on finally getting the blood pressure worked out. A success story like this one inspires people to keep up the primal living.

    Erik W wrote on May 10th, 2013
  38. You look like a lovely, wonderful person in both the before and after pictures, but no denying the transformation is quite impressive and glad you are doing so well. Although there are problems with traditional medicine and most MD’s do not take a holistic approach to healing, this is a classic example where in some instances it can be beneficial and even life saving.

    George wrote on May 10th, 2013

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