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. Great story Naomi, congratulations. Inspiring.

    Mitch wrote on March 24th, 2013
  2. beautiful story from a beautiful person!

    Stephanie Turner wrote on March 24th, 2013
  3. Amazing job! You should be very proud :)

    Naz wrote on March 24th, 2013
  4. I’m late chiming in, just finally had a chance to sit down at the computer, but wanted to add a comment on the sweetner/stevia discussion. I’m pretty much primal–about 90/10. However I drink iced tea all day which I used to sweeten with stevia. I’m always sipping on one. I had arthritis in my knees and took every supplement I ever heard of that might help. I exercise a lot. Some days were better than others, but the good days didn’t seem to be related to anything I was doing. It was just random.

    Then I read a report that said women who drank diet drinks actually gained more weight than those who drank sugar-sweetened beverages. Their bodies secreted just as much insulin (fat storage hormone) even though the drinks were non-caloric because there are sensors in the mouth that register with the pancreas telling it to secrete insulin because the body THINKS sugar is coming. A light bulb went off. Insulin is an inflammatory and I was causing a constant, low-level secretion of it. Within two days of stopping stevia my arthritis was gone! And has stayed gone for six months now.

    Island Girl wrote on March 24th, 2013
    • Amazing!!!!

      Naomi wrote on March 24th, 2013
  5. Naomi,
    thank you for sharing your story- it’s truly inspiring. My boyfriend and I went Primal almost 3 months ago. Over this past year I’ve lost 100 pounds, but the last few weeks I’ve struggled to feel motivated for a number of reasons. Your story is incredibly motivating. You were beautiful before but your strength and your courage make you even more so now.

    Tressie wrote on March 25th, 2013
    • Tressie,

      If you’re lacking motivation, you need to take a look at the WHYS of staying with this lifestyle change. WHY is it important to you? Are your WHYS big enough???

      Naomi wrote on March 25th, 2013
  6. WOW WOW WOW good for you :) ps great smile your friend is right

    Lisa wrote on March 25th, 2013
  7. inspirational!!! amazing!!! well done you!!

    Lucy Stebbing wrote on March 25th, 2013
  8. Wow, what an amazing success story!! Dedication & hardwork truly do pay off! I have found that what makes healthy eating, exercising, & staying motivated easy is the right mindset. A weight loss mindset is 90% of the game if you wish to see lasting success! Diet & exercise is only 10% of the solution. Thank you for sharing your story!

    JoLynn Braley wrote on March 25th, 2013
    • JoLynn,

      There is a reason why 99% (is that the correct statistic?) of people who lose weight put it back on. Diet and exercise is actually pretty easy, but maintaining the new body composition is impossible without the change in mindset. :)

      Naomi wrote on March 25th, 2013
  9. What a GREAT story! So inspiring- and your smile is so wonderful it makes me smile, too!

    For the mental aspects you mention, you might consider (if you haven’t already) trying Emotional Freeing Technique, Tapas Acupressure Technique and/or EMDR to settle those right down forever. I’ve been using EFT since 2005, TAT for a few years and just experienced EMDR this year. They are each incredible and the three used tag-team on emotional problems is fantastic! The first two are free to learn off the web. I got EMDR through a therapist. Give them a try- it’s well worth the effort!

    Felicia wrote on March 25th, 2013
    • Felicia,

      Thank you for the advice. I have used EFT in the past with no success. I will look into the other techniques though. I remain open-minded.

      Naomi wrote on March 25th, 2013
      • EFT cured me of my lifelong juice habit (since childhood.) Daily must have to have not had in months. Used also for light coca-cola use and now sugar in general as I’m primal, but still ate a bit daily. Don’t give up too soon using it! TAT works too but eft is a bit faster.

        Mark wrote on March 27th, 2013
  10. AWESOME job, lady! And, you figured it out while you’re still so young. Think about all those years of wellness and feeling good you have ahead of you. With that smile lighting up the joint, maybe you already are!

    Tina wrote on March 25th, 2013
    • Tina,

      I live every day with gratitude!

      Naomi wrote on March 26th, 2013
  11. Awesome just awesome. I to am trying to change my life around and this is definitely motivating. Keep up the good work.


    NickyB wrote on March 25th, 2013
    • NickyB,

      Just remember on your journey that you are worth it! And remember all of your successes. One accomplishment will build on another and keep you motivated! :)

      Naomi wrote on March 26th, 2013
  12. Your story and photos are awesome! Thank you for sharing this. I’m curious how your obese family members are experiencing your success. Genuine happiness? Envy? Denial?

    Blessings to you!

    Russell wrote on March 26th, 2013
    • Russell,

      My family members mostly do not speak to me. There is a lot of envy and ill feelings that I cannot change within them.

      Naomi wrote on March 27th, 2013
  13. Your story is amazing and inspiring. You should be so proud of what you have accomplished and all of the obstacles that you have overcome. I am inspired by your dedication. Keep up the great work!

    Kate O wrote on March 26th, 2013
  14. Wow that is just brilliant and so inspirational, your smile says it all, well done. :)

    Barb wrote on March 27th, 2013
    • Thank you Barb. :)

      Naomi wrote on March 27th, 2013
  15. Whoa. This is one of the most amazing transformations I’ve seen on this site. It ranks up there with Papa Grok Parsons.

    Patrick wrote on March 27th, 2013
    • Thanks Patrick. :)

      Naomi wrote on March 29th, 2013
  16. amazing!! inspired!

    Louwna wrote on March 29th, 2013
  17. Hi Naomi,

    I have to say you are absolutely gorgeous, that has not changed but I had to examine the tats to make sure that was you in the end photos. Your fiance is a lucky dude! But I have to say, if you have to ask him to help you around the house you might want to consider some more changes.

    Geoff wrote on March 29th, 2013
  18. Naomi- Great job! Thank you for sharing your story. I live in Spokane too. I have lived in many places and it is the best! Love the people & the outdoors. Take care! Hope

    Hope wrote on April 3rd, 2013
  19. Congrats Naomi! I’m really excited for you.. I was also called Miss Piggy by this kid on the bus while the rest of the bus just laughed at me and nobody ever did anything about it. I am so happy for you!

    Sunny wrote on April 4th, 2013
    • Sunny,

      Kids are really mean sometimes. :(

      Naomi wrote on June 4th, 2013
  20. What a wonderful journey! I started the primal lifestyle on Feb 22, 2013 at 279lbs, and your story reminds me that this journey is worth the effort and that changing your life is possible. Thank you for sharing your story and I wish you lots of joy and success in the future! WTG!!! :)

    Rebecca wrote on April 8th, 2013
    • Rebecca,

      Congrats on your own journey! Starting is always hard, but worth it! Change IS POSSIBLE!

      Naomi wrote on June 4th, 2013
  21. Wow, Naomi. Thank you for your truly inspirational story.

    Heidi wrote on May 7th, 2013
    • Heidi,

      My hope is that it helps inspire someone on their journey. :)


      Naomi wrote on June 4th, 2013
  22. Amazing Job! You have come such a long way and you look awesome! Well done!

    Adrian wrote on June 15th, 2013
    • Thank you Adrian :)

      Naomi wrote on August 12th, 2013
  23. This is a very inspiring story for me, and resonates very closely with my own. My big hurdle right now is deciding whether or not to abandon my life-long vegetarianism. After thirty years, it is part of who I am, but I am afraid it is also part of what is killing me and has helped keep me 30-80 pounds overweight most of my life. I hope that you have continued success, and that all of the new research being done on high-fat, low-card lifestyles will change the way we look at obesity, and ourselves.

    Lydia wrote on June 29th, 2013
    • Lydia,

      Part of the problem is that we allow ourselves to be defined by what we do. Example: I run. Therefore, I often define myself as a runner. However, what if a tragedy happened and I could no longer run? We can’t define ourselves by what we do!

      We also have to be open-minded to self-experiementation and also realizing that what might be healthy for one person, won’t be for another.

      If something isn’t working for you, why are you holding on to it so tightly? You need to examine your reasoning.

      I had my blood panels done last month and my triglycerides are very low and cholestrol levels are EXCELLENT. I eat a lot of saturated fat and no wheat and very little sugar. I also do not have good genes. But, with my dietary habits, I can affect change. So can you. :)

      Look deep within yourself.

      Naomi wrote on August 12th, 2013
  24. You’re amazing! So inspiring!!!

    Haven’t got the words to say how awesome I think what you’ve done is!!!!

    Olly wrote on September 30th, 2013
  25. Hi Naomi ~

    First of all I want to say how much I admire your honesty about your family’s attitude about “that’s just the way we are.” I find that so sad. Especially when they can see the results of your efforts. Just plain sad.

    I agree with so much of what you’ve stated in your story and answers to some of the posts. Self-knowledge is a key factor and I, too, believe we can affect change in our own lives when we’re of the right mindset.

    My biggest challenge in going Primal has been giving up my beloved Diet Pepsi. Right now I’m tapering down on my consumption with the goal of giving it up for good. I have no problem with giving up all grains and processed foods. I still eat a little dairy such as shredded cheddar cheese in my scrambled eggs.

    I had to check your tats too to make sure those before/after pics were of the same person. I also have a couple of tats (one on each arm) and have been lifting weights to help lessen the extra skin after weight loss. I want to LGN too. :)

    Thank you for your very inspirational (and thought-provoking) story; keep on smiling!

    Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on December 2nd, 2013
  26. I wish that people would realise how dangerous gas burning appliances can be.
    An annual gas safety check could save lives.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!