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

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



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. Woman! That is just an amazing transformation- especially the smile. What a motivating story for people to read and feel hopeful.

    Trixie wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • +1

      Melissa wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • I was just going to say – that SMILE is the first thing I noticed!!
      SOOOO intoxicating :)
      congratulations on your succesful Journey Naomi!!

      Peggy wrote on March 22nd, 2013
      • You happiness and satisfaction with life really do come out through your smile! Keep it up!

        bjjcaveman wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • ++1!!!

      Elisa wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • +2

      An absolutely inspiring and amazing job!

      David wrote on March 23rd, 2013
    • Awesome transformation! As I am currently going through my own physical transformation, I find your story very encouraging. I have just created a new information website/blog for my family and friends regarding Paleo information. I hope to educate them on the basics of the diet and lifestyle in general. I would appreciate any comments and/or suggestions from the “primal” group on this site. Mark is right! This crowd knows a lot!!

      The site is:

      (Your Portal to Self-Directed Health)

      GiGi Gall wrote on March 23rd, 2013
  2. Amazing! You have done so well to overcome the pull of family influence and societal influence as well.

    Your extra skin had to disappear too. Did that happen naturally?

    You look beautiful inside and out!

    Tara wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Tara,

      I still have loose skin. It’s something that has not went away on it’s own. I have grown more comfortable with it, but hope to have surgery for it (after having children).

      Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Tara, that’s what I was thinking about too. It’s CRAZY hard to try and lose weight (or make any change, really) when your closest family members don’t think you can, say you can’t, or just kinda ignore your attempts.

      Major props Naomi! You look awesome !!

      Alexander wrote on March 23rd, 2013
      • Don’t forget when your family intention or unintentionally tries to sabotage you.

        Brandi wrote on March 25th, 2013
  3. WOW! This is such an awesome story and you look great. Sad to hear about your Mom’s comments. I found paleo for myself and family in my 40’s, and always think, I hope those 20 somethings realize they are ahead of the curve in finding it and benefiting their health at their young age.

    Colleen wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Colleen,

      My husband and I eat paleo because we know how important our health is. I just turned 30 and my husband is 40. We know people our ages suffering from food-related illnesses. I think it’s never too late to start eating healthy.

      We love life and like being able to feel good every day. :)

      Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  4. Thank you Naomi for sharing your inspiring story and photos! I’m so happy for you!!

    Gwen wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  5. Congratulations. Thank you for the inspiring story. You are beautiful. Keep up the good work.

    Diane wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  6. Holy smokes what a great story, congratulations!

    Nick wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  7. Wow – you look amazing! Like a totally different person! Kudos to you for making yourself and your health a priority because in the end, everyone around you benefits. Keep smiling!

    amyz wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  8. Wow wow wow! Congrats. “An easier way of living”. This is something I think is so huge and important and try to relay to clients of mine. So many people think its so much work I have to cook and spend more on food.

    I agree it’s so much easier when you just feel better, sleep better, and don’t have such a tug of war with food and exercise.

    Awesome job, feeling inspired on Friday as usual!

    Luke D wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  9. Congratulations! It’s not easy to motivate yourself to change when all of the people in your family are telling you, “you’re supposed to be that way”. That takes tons of courage and self love! Best of luck overcoming the eating patterns you struggle with. You have already made such an incredible transformation, you should be so proud of what you have accomplished! Keep going!!!

    Emily wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Congrats Naomi. I hear it everyday with obese people that say that they have their parents genes. Way to break those chain of lies.

      Nocona wrote on March 22nd, 2013
      • We are what we think we are, not what we are told we are.

        Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  10. Wow, you went from being pretty to being BEAUTIFUL. Not only are you thin now, but you look truly happy. Congrats.

    Sarah wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  11. Such an amazing smile! You should be so proud of yourself. Everything you accomplished you did by your own strength of will. You Rock!

    Adelina wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  12. wow! what a journey. you look fabulous, and i love how you’re celebrating life and health, not a “perfect” weight or airbrushed body image. i’m curious–why did you give us stevia in your morning coffee?

    Jenny wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Jenny,

      I gave UP stevia because any added sweeteners mean big trouble for me. I just got used to black coffee (sometimes with half & half) and it tastes just fine to me now. The sweeteners mask the real taste of the coffee in my opinion.

      Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
      • Naomi, what things specifically did you do to try and kill the sugar cravings?

        I know for many people it’s black or white – there’s no such thing as sweets in moderation for them, so what did you try to fix those cravings?

        Alexander wrote on March 23rd, 2013
    • Sweeteners of any kind were trouble for me too. Stevia might be healthier than sugar, but for some of us, replacing one type of sweetener with another doesn’t eliminate the cravings. It was much too easy to rationalize my way right back into eating sugar and junkfood until I eliminated all sweets.

      Shary wrote on March 22nd, 2013
      • It was so much easier for me to give up grains than sugars. I’ve found even dried fruit can cause problems for me. One bit of sweetness on my tongue turns into a binge, so I have cut it out too. I slip up once in a while, which helps me realize how I react to sugars. I wonder if I will ever be able to look back and say I don’t want sweets the way I can say that about grains!

        Carrie S wrote on March 22nd, 2013
        • +1

          Chantal wrote on March 23rd, 2013
  13. Absolutely amazing and inspiring. You are beautiful inside and out. Thank you thank you thank you so much for sharing your story to the world. Stay strong and enjoy the journey because it definitely continues! Much love!

    Lillybeth wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  14. Wow, what an amazing story! It’s so awesome that you found the healthy way to live NOW and not later after adding more years of frustration and pain. Way to go!

    NJ Paleo wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  15. Congratulations! You are very inspiring!

    curiouscavegirl wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  16. Wow! Congratulations, that is truly incredible! I too struggle with a family who can see my transformation but refuse to acknowledge that the way I eat can have SUCH an impact. I think you’re doing great, keep up the great work!

    Ashley wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  17. You look like a completely different person! Wow, congrats!

    blaklabl wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  18. Ok. You’re hot.

    John wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  19. Naomi this is great :) I love how you were so conscious of the emotional part of eating and exercising.

    Also, what is wrong with stevia?

    Meagan wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • See her response above, to the same question from Jenny.

      b2curious wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Meagan,

      I try to stay away from anything that is too sweet. Once I start, my mind starts rationalizing and making excuses to eat other sugar foods. Pretty soon, I’m defending my right to eat brownies and ice cream again.

      Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  20. Naomi, you are amazingly strong! How wonderful to discover the gift of compassion to yourself.

    Joy Beer wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  21. First and last photographs – Photoshop, right?!!! :)

    Congrats Naomi for having the courage, discipline, and self-respect to break the paradigm within your family.

    Jeff F. wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Thank you Jeff. My hope for the last 5 years has been that I could help my two brothers and sister with their weight issues also, but they are unfortunately not in the right frame of mind for that. It’s tragic because one of my brothers weighes well over 600 pounds now and I cannot even help him.

      Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • +1. Family can do ones head right in.

      Madama Butterfry wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  22. Wow! You look like (and sound like) a completely different person! Although I’m not overweight, I do live with an obese family and know how hard it is. You must feel so free and strong to be out of your family’s mindset of living.

    This is very inspiring! Now, if every obese person could see your story too. You really looks great, I have to keep looking back at the pictures!

    Nathan wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Nathan,

      Its one thing for every obese person to see the story, it’s another thing to change their mindset! Mindset is everything. :)

      Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
      • Very true! Motivation is probably also a issue for a lot of people. Unless they see that they are killing themselves, why change? It’s different when the news channel presents a weather disaster or series of murders; that’s clearly showing people at risk, they see that and often want to help with sympathy or donations … Different story when they check-in on their own well-being. Just my thoughts

        Nathan wrote on March 22nd, 2013
        • Motivation is an issue for all of us at some point.

          I think part of the trick to staying motivated is building on past successes. “If I could do that, then I can do this…”

          As far as seeing and believing, that’s another mindset issue.

          Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  23. wow! what an amazing transformation. thanks for sharing all the challenges and successes.

    Tracy wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  24. Another inspiring and informative success story, just love it! I too, am approaching my 1 year anniversary of being Paleo, and owe gratitude to all its awesome people here on MDA; with so much good info, that have guided me as well, thanks to all…..

    mph wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  25. You are just beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story!

    mars wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  26. Wow! What an amazing transformation – and so inspiring! I am so glad to hear taht you are on the path of health and wellness. Good luck on your continued journey and thank you so much for sharing it with all of us. I love Fridays at MDA!!

    Lisa wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  27. love this story! sincere congratulations

    catherine wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  28. Naomi, you look great, and undoubtable feel great too. The smile says it all.

    b2curious wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  29. I have HUGE admiration for you, that is one hell of an accomplishment to drop so much weight and make such a transformation. Few of us have ever faced such a difficult emotional and physical challenge. I hope you will congratulate yourself on a continuing basis, you have demonstrated tremendous personal power. I’m seeing that you are strong enough to accomplish absolutely anything you want in your life.

    As far as perfectionism, none of us are perfect but your results look like perfection to me!

    Bayrider wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Success builds on success. Thank you for your very kind words. :)
      Like many people, I’ve had a lot of different adversities in life to overcome, but I don’t feel sorry for myself. These adversities have helped make me the stronger version of myself that I am today.

      Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
      • Virgo? Refering to the perfectionism.

        Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 22nd, 2013
        • Pisces. Is perfectionism an astrological trait? LOL

          Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
        • Heh, it seems like *everything* is an astrological trait. I once dated a girl who was way into astrology. I personally do not beleive in it, but I was young and wanted to be way into her so I played along. Naturally she would call out my virgo ways. Perfectionism, attention to detail are a few of the traits.

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 22nd, 2013
        • funny this thing of signs:
          In the conventional signs at home we are a mix

          In the chinese:

          I am a dragon
          My son is a dragon
          My wife is a snake
          My daughter is a snake

          wildgrok wrote on March 23rd, 2013
  30. Hi Naomi! Way to go, you’re awesome! I see the Spokane Marathon bib – I live in Spokane and its a great place to get outdoors! Keep up the good work :)

    Lindsey wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Lindsey,

      Moving to Spokane was the very first big step I took to changing my life. It’s the best place I’ve ever lived. :)

      Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Beautiful! Thank You!

      Kristi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Personally, I loved the “Everyone Poops” T-shirt…:)

      Nocona wrote on March 22nd, 2013
      • Nocona,

        I really miss that shirt…

        Naomi wrote on March 29th, 2013
  31. What a transformation – amazing!
    Wow Spokane – I’m a Spokanite too. We’re so damn subversive!

    John Myers wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  32. Wow! I am so impressed -such a dramatic difference! I know someone says this every week, but once again the healthy, happy glow on the faces of the success story people always gets to me as much as the body transformation. So many other dieter’s “after ” pics look tired, haggard, with dry skin, hair, etc.
    What an accomplishment -especially with the sugar addiction (my downfall ….) Congratulations!

    Rene R wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Rene,

      When I was obese, I didn’t take care of myself. Therefore, I likely lacked a lot of vitamins and minerals to give me a “glow”. I started supplementing when I started my transformation and I attribute a small portion of my new healthy hair, skin, and nails to the biotin I supplement with daily. :)

      My smile, all mine. :) When I was obese, people told me I had a nice smile (and teeth), but I had really low self-worth and did not believe any compliments I received. Therefore, I did not smile very much at all.

      Best of luck on your own journey.

      Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  33. John,

    I moved to Spokane 5 years ago, so I’m not really a Spokanite. Maybe in another 5 years. Haha

    Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Naomi-what a transformation! You look fabulous! Congratulations and keep up the good work!

      David wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  34. ZIP BANG –
    I just Spokanited you

    John Myers wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  35. Loved reading your story! Way to change your life and build a better world for yourself :-)

    melissa wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  36. Naomi- Thank you for sharing your story! It’s so encouraging to me, as I find myself struggling with the idea of “relaxing,” yet making good, disciplined changes in my life. My tendency is to micromanage my food, exercise, etc., and as you rightly point out- it can be damaging. Congrats!

    Stephanie wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Stephanie,

      Micromanaging is perfectionism at it’s finest. It is not only damaging to yourself, but everyone around you.

      No one or thing is perfect or ever will be. Your way is not always the best way (even though it may seem like it at the time). And you aren’t really “helping” anyone when you control them.

      These are things I’ve had to learn about myself on my life journey (weightloss and just life).

      Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  37. Courage, what courage :-)

    Kelda wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  38. I like that you point out that just saying the standard “diet and exercise” doesn’t really cover it. When people ask about my weight loss I say “paleo and crossfit” because, for me, it’s been that specific diet and that specific workout regimen that has gotten me where I am.

    You look fantastic! Congrats!

    Susie wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  39. Congrats on the transformation. It’s incredible and you look great. Love the smile in the last pic as well.

    “I was scared to start eating that much fat in my diet”. Amazing how that conditioning permeates our consciousness despite evidence to the contrary. I was talking with co-workers yesterday and they were commenting about how they avoid fat at all costs and interestingly they were all overweight themselves. When they asked what I ate to keep so slim I told them. They looked at me like I was full out insane followed by the inevitable comments that I was insane. They went on to tell me how healthy their SAD was when their appearance obviously said otherwise. All I could do was smile…”you can lead a horse to water but…”.

    Glad you found your way to the Paleo lifestyle. This was one of the best transformation stories I’ve read. All the best on your continued journey!!

    Squatch wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Squatch, maybe you need to hammer on those people a little more and point them to this website. I always tell people to go to Marks Daily Apple, read the success stories, then go to the Start Here tab and read everything. Or I loan them The Primal Blueprint book. People will take things more seriously when they see it in print.

      Bayrider wrote on March 22nd, 2013
    • Best to keep on leading by example. :)

      Naomi wrote on March 22nd, 2013
      • Agree!
        Even though I have always been slim, it was very difficult to break that thought of “I shouldn’t be eating this fat”. Now I just put that big tablespoon right in the coconut butter jar and have me a melting mouth of heaven.

        Nocona wrote on March 22nd, 2013

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