How the 21-Day Challenge Helped Me

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!

Hi Mark,

I’ve been slowly getting my feet wet with the paleo/primal nutritional way of living for around a year now. It started with a better way of cutting the highly addictive sugar out of my diet. Many of those types of diets don’t address the need for higher fat consumption though and they don’t consider behavioral changes that need to be made as well.

If I want to tell my weight loss journey story right, I have to start at the beginning. I was obese my entire life. I remember being called “Miss Piggy” in second grade by classmates. I remember writing to diet and weight loss scam ads in the back of teen magazines begging for help as a preteen. But nothing ever changed and I stayed obese until I moved across the country (away from my family’s environment) and started the process at the age of 26. My entire family is obese, so I have to admit that I didn’t see a lot of hope for losing weight based on lies my Mom shared with us our wholes lives (that we are supposed to be this way).

Naomi - Before

When I started my weight loss journey, it was not the healthiest choice I could have made in going about doing it. I joined a local gym (the first one I had ever stepped foot into) and started doing repetitive cardio before going to work and after work each day (6 days a week). I also worked 8 hours a day on my feet. I tracked everything I ate obsessively and broke down every macronutrient. I strived to eat 1200-1400 calories a day with a 30/40/30 ratio. I wore a heart rate monitor 24/7 to make sure that I expended more calories than I consumed each day. I was preoccupied with becoming my own “biggest loser” and whipping the weight off of me as quickly as possible. And I did. It took me around seven months to go from 285 pounds to 154. On the outside, this appeared to be a great success, but on the inside I caused new problems for myself.

Some problems that resulted:

  1. I was so focused on losing weight and exercising that my relationship failed.
  2. The result of a lifetime of being obese and losing weight very quickly left me with loose skin. I felt defeated that I still was not happy with my appearance even after all of the hard work and dedication. I will never look good naked.
  3. My obsession with tracking food and restricting what I ate caused disordered eating patterns for me. I suffered with bouts of binge eating for the next two years during stressful times. The only way I managed to keep the binge weight off was to go back to restricted eating again and excessive exercise (like running marathons).

In an effort to try to get over my preoccupation with food (especially sugars), I read every sugar addiction book available and even attended Overeaters Anonymous meetings for four months. The meetings were inviting and helpful at first, but then they stopped helping because everyone wallowed in their own self-pity about their addiction to donuts or ice cream. It just made me want to run to comfort food even more. The books were insightful, but the diets they promoted were not. I could not give up all refined sugars and keep the rest of my diet the same.

Around this time, I ventured into the paleo lifestyle and it made more sense to me, but like most people, I was scared to start eating that much fat in my diet (no matter if it was healthy or not). So, I introduced certain ideas from the paleo plans into my life slowly. I started eating more organic meat, avocados, nuts, and eggs. The problem was that I still had grains, legumes, soy, and sweeteners in my diet. After a few more months, I read somewhere that the paleo diet was actually credited with helping some people with eating disorders to overcome them. Maybe this was the golden ticket I was looking for?

I began to realize that living healthy wasn’t just about eating healthy and working out. It was a complete behavior shift. I suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (not OCD), so I tend to be perfectionistic and rigid in my way of living anyways. My goal has been to accept myself the way that I am and have more compassion for myself when I fail and allow my life to just flow instead of being scheduled all of the time.

How the 21-day challenge helped me:

  1. I finally gave up stevia in my morning coffee/tea.
  2. I finally gave up my morning oatmeal for eggs.
  3. When I am hungry, I have the mindset now to eat something with more fat and protein.
  4. I stand at my desk now for at least 2 or 3 hours a day.
  5. I take time to myself now to avoid getting too overwhelmed or stressed out.
  6. I ask for help from my fiancé with chores around the house.
  7. I can now do over 40 pushups in a row.
  8. I still cannot do a full pull-up, but I’m getting closer!
  9. I can see my abs for the first time in my life.
  10. I don’t need to obsessively workout.
  11. I’ve started fermenting my own sauerkraut.
  12. I purchased a slackline and use it for fun and entertainment with friends.
  13. I spend more quality time with my fiancé (not talking about food or exercise).


My journey has not been easy. When people ask me how I lost the weight, I could say “With diet and exercise”, but that really discounts all of the physical and mental struggle and anguish I went through because I chose to lose weight the somewhat unhealthy way and I have a personality disorder that controls much of how I behave on any given day. The paleo nutrition plan is simple, which is great because I tend to over-complicate things. It was really hard for me to believe that something so easy could actually work. But I figured that 21 days of eating and behaving this way couldn’t hurt to try.


After a full month of eating paleo, I weighed and measured myself for the first time. I dropped 8 pounds on the scale and am currently at my lowest body fat percentage. Even when I weighed 154 pounds, my body fat was slightly higher than what it is now at 165 pounds. The best part is the difference I could see in my “after” photos this time. I can actually see more definition in my stomach and arms. A friend also kindly pointed out to me that she noticed a big difference also… I’m smiling! I never smiled when I was obese.

Naomi - Working Out

Thank you Mark and the whole paleo community for opening my eyes to an easier way of living my healthiest life (mentally and physically)! I hope to be able to write to you in the future to let you know that the disordered eating patterns have completely vanished (and I’ve gotten even healthier).

Naomi - After



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