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

I Am Tired of This Hamster Wheel

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another dose of Primal Blueprint inspiration. Today, Michelle Ford, a PrimalCon 2011 attendee, shares a story that many of you can probably relate to – one of sugar dependence and Chronic Cardio. Ultimately, Michelle was able to break out of this vicious cycle. Learn from her real life story, and share your words of encouragement and gratitude in the comment board. Grok on!

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 you send them in. Thanks for reading!

Dear Mark and Carrie,

First of all, I want to thank you both for an amazing weekend at PrimalCon. You both are amazing in your attitude towards life, and I really admire you. You both have your priorities straight, and have learned how to live a true quality life. That is what I want. I don’t want quantity….what our culture serves up constantly and daily….I want quality.

I came to PrimalCon because I wanted to sit at your feet and learn. I don’t have a before and after picture to show people. I have never been overweight, and from the outside looking in, I look healthy and I look like I have it all together. But from the inside looking out, I felt like I was living a lie. Everyone around me thought I was so amazingly healthy, but the truth is, I was like an alcoholic with sugar. The other day, my friend Dana said, “It use to be so cute how you could eat a whole cake because you’re so little. If a big person did that, it is just gross, but seeing you do it, it was so cute, because you are so little, and no one would expect it.” Well, I felt gross and horrible when I did things like that. But, I could not control myself with sugar.

So, my story: Three years ago I joined Weight Watchers to lose about 10 lbs. I had noticed my weight creeping up slowly after I hit 40, and I realized, if I didn’t watch what I ate, I was going to be 20 lbs overweight by the time I hit 50. I exercised like crazy, but to no avail. I was still gaining weight. Just a pound or two a year, but enough to notice.

I joined Weight Watchers, and lost 12 lbs counting my points. I started keeping a food journal, and weighed every morsel that went into my mouth. I was able to get back into size 2 clothes, and I really felt great. I was still exercising like crazy, biking, running, weight training. I felt really good, and I was in control. I kept my calories down to about 1200 to 1500 a day, and severely limited my fat intake. I ate egg whites, lots of veggies, fruits, lots of beans, lots of soy, very little meat except lean chicken, salmon, and turkey. I also ate low-fat yogurt, low-fat salad dressings, low-fat cheese, and I would allow myself a low-fat WW fudgy bar every day as a “treat.” All the low-fat stuff I ate was processed, contained high fructose corn syrup, and what have you. I remember, sometimes if I got hungry, I would eat a can of WW soup worth only 1 point, even if you ate the whole can. Gross. Still on the whole, I had a pretty healthy diet. I didn’t believe in eating a lot of processed foods, but if it kept me from eating fat, that is what I had to do.

In January 2009, I returned to work as a nurse after a three year hiatus. I had to go back to working night shift. By this point, I was no longer a youngster, and my 44 year old body revolted. For 11 months I worked two 12 hour night shifts a week. I would stay up all day, go to work, come home, sleep for 4 hours, go work out, and either get on with my day, or go back to work. I was exhausted, I craved sugar like an addict, and I was mean. I began to gain weight back….not a lot, but I noticed. I was not nearly as in control of my eating habits as I was before because I was so tired ALL THE TIME. I hated everyone. I hated everything. All I wanted was to make myself feel better, and the only thing that did that was sugar.

Of course, it was a vicious cycle, because I would binge on sugar and then I would hate myself. I would feel awful, inside and out. I thought I had an eating disorder. The glorious day finally came when I was put on day shift. I thought all my troubles were behind me. I thought I could finally return to normal, and be a normal person.

Truth is, it did get better. I felt better, I was a much nicer person, I liked people again. I liked life again. But I was still on this vicious sugar cycle. I truly was an addict. Of course I was now working out like crazy. I was riding my bike for miles, I was training for a marathon, I was swimming, I was weight lifting. I would run in the morning, go for a 4 hour bike ride, come home, shower, make dinner, than go take an hour Tai Kwon Do class with the family. I tried to run 25 to 35 miles a week even though I had an injured foot. I rode 120 to 150 miles a week. I weight trained 2 to 3 days a week. On my off day, I would swim a mile. And then I would do Tai Kwon Do twice a week, but that was not a “work out.” On my days that I worked, I would get up at 4:30 am, get to work by 6:30, work until 7:30 pm and than go work out. If I was too tired, I would swim.

After I ran the Big Sur marathon last April, I really screwed my foot up, and could not run at all. I started to bike like crazy. For my birthday, my husband bought me a brand new bike (her name is Ruby :)), and I rode her like crazy. I had an amazing group I rode with, most of them older than me and faster than me, and I just had the time of my life.

However, all was not well internally. I was still severely limiting my calories. I still kept a food journal. I still weighed every morsel that went into my mouth. Even when I rode my bike, I counted the calories I consumed while I was riding. I was so careful all the time. I was also starving all the time. I would be so hungry that there were days I would eat a bowl of cereal, then another, then another, until I had eaten 5 huge bowls of cereal. I would feel so sick, I would go lay down and sleep for an hour. I would make dinner, and couldn’t eat I was so sick. I stopped buying granola because I would eat the whole box in one sitting. I stopped buying anything that I would crave or binge on.

One day, I had an epiphany. A friend said, “You are lucky. You can eat whatever you want and not gain weight because you exercise so much.” I said, “No, it’s not true. I have to count calories. I eat only about 1200 to 1500 calories a day or I gain weight. I have to exercise like I do or I gain weight.” She looked at me and said, “Well, that sucks. You have created a horrible little cycle for yourself.” I thought with horror, “She’s right.” What is going to happen when I can’t work out like this anymore…when I am in my mid 50’s, my 60’s, my 70’s? I knew at some point my body would not be able to handle the intensity of my workouts.

I started to look for help. I found a book at work called the Carb Crave Solution, or something like that. I started following those guidelines, and I did feel better. But my sugar craving would not go away. I was exhausted all the time, pushing myself to ride 180 to 220 miles a week at break neck pace. I would beat myself up if I couldn’t keep up with the “fast” riders, and then beat myself up some more if I gave into my hunger.

Fast forward to November 2010. I am coming home from work.  I don’t feel like working out. I am dead dog tired. I am tired of this hamster wheel. I turn on Josh Axe, a local holistic chiropractor with a Sunday evening radio show. He is talking about Primal Blueprint, and Mark Sisson. “Hmmmm,” I think, “this sounds really interesting.” I go home, and I order Mark’s book. It is the week of Thanksgiving. We are leaving for Maryland in the morning, and I can’t bring my bike, and I still can’t run. I probably will have to rest all week. Of course I am having visions of blowing up like a balloon. I think about Mark’s book all week. I am wondering if this book will help me, or if I am forever going to live my life like this.
We arrive home on Sunday after Thanksgiving. The book arrives on Monday. I read it cover to cover in less than a week. I implement Mark’s recommendations. I get through December without eating one sugar treat at all. I am bombarded at the hospital with candy, donuts, cakes, cookies, you name it. I don’t touch it. I go to Dana’s birthday party, and after the luncheon the cake is placed right in front of me since I am sitting beside Dana. I don’t have one inkling of desire. Dana is absolutely amazed. I back off of my biking. I start taking walks. My foot starts feeling better. I begin to take more yoga. I begin to take Tai Kwon Do more seriously. I don’t feel hungry anymore. I am eating whole eggs, meat, and fat, and nuts and avocados…green gold, I call it. I don’t binge on cereal, cookies, and ice cream anymore.

It is the first time in 46 years that I have not craved sugar. I still would like to lose 5 lbs, but for me the weight has not dropped off. Probably because I am eating more calories now, not counting calories, and not working out like an obsessive fiend. Although I can say, I have lost about 2 lbs, but it has been a very slow process. Probably because I don’t have a ton to lose. My abdomen is completely flat now….no more Buddah belly for me. And since giving up grains, no more intestinal issues for me.

I am still baby stepping my way through the Primal life. I still don’t have it all figured out. As I told Mark at PrimalCon, “Biking to me is as Ultimate Frisbee is to you.” I love to bike. I love my bike, Ruby. I love my group that I bike with. But, I also realize I don’t have to ride 200 miles a week, I don’t have to kill myself on every ride to “keep up,” and I can still enjoy my rides with Ruby and my group on a more Primal level. I am running a marathon in June for my sister Linda, who has lymphoma. I raised $3000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to run for her. A marathon is not Primal, but my reasons for doing it are Primal, because it symbolizes to me that if I can run this race after a year of not being able to run, she can beat this disease. I don’t want to run any more marathons after this. And I am being kind to my body, allowing myself to go easy, and I won’t beat myself up if I don’t run it as fast, or faster than my other marathon’s.

I have fallen off the wagon, and it is always a miserable experience. For me, I can only be 100% Primal, because I truly am a sugarholic. The other day a friend offered me a milk chocolate. She said, “Just eat one. One won’t hurt you.” I told her, “Kellie, you would not offer a drink to an alcoholic and say one won’t hurt you. Sugar is poison to me. I can’t do it. I will crave it all day long.” I am still trying to get it right with enough sleep. That is my biggest challenge. Enough sleep and less stress. I am trying to focus less on the things in life that are not important, and focus more on the things I love: my family, my friends, the outdoors, playing and not always working. Giving myself permission to take a day off, to have fun, to relax. As Carrie and Karen counseled me to do at PrimalCon: to set my intentions, and to affirm those intentions. To keep my mind fixed on how I want my life to be, and what I want out of my life.

I am so grateful to Mark and to Carrie for being so intentional with their lives, and for feeling compelled to share their experience with the rest of the world. I feel incredibly blessed that I am a recipient of their wisdom and knowledge. I do want my life to be a life of quality. I want the things that I do to matter, and to touch others lives in a significant way. I went to PrimalCon to sit at Mark’s feet to learn. I know it was well worth the money that my husband and I spent. I cannot put a price on what I learned and gleaned from a weekend immersed in the Primal Blueprint lifestyle. It has spurred Mark (my husband) and me to re-assess our lives and to set out to create the life that we want.

Yours Primally!!!!

Michelle Ford

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. Stories like this directed me to The Primal Blueprint, they need to keep coming. Congrats on the success!

    Nutritionator wrote on May 6th, 2011
  2. Great story! While the weight loss ones are incredibly inspirational, its good to read one that has to do with a sugar addiction.

    I was also in this position for a short period of time. I went primal last year in April and was doing great until I began to binge eat late last year into January of this year. I decided to do a 30 day primal challenge in order to stop my binge eating and it was a huge success. I am not more primal than ever and am 110% dedicated to spreading this lifestyle to millions around the world.

    Primal Con was a blast and changed my life. I can not wait till next year.

    Michelle,

    Did we meet? I feel terrible for not making a stronger effort to meet everyone. And, I can’t remember everyone that I did meet unless I have a picture to look at. I do remember Ford I believe.

    I will be there next year and will make a strong effort to talk to everyone.

    Grok on!

    Primal Toad wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • Yes, we did meet! My husband, Mark and I were in Group A. Mark (my husband) is the one who sent you the picture of you on the slackline.

      Michelle wrote on May 6th, 2011
      • Yes, that’s right! I do remember now. Bald guy, right?

        Primal Toad wrote on May 6th, 2011
        • Yes, with a tough-guy goatee…..:)

          Michelle wrote on May 6th, 2011
  3. Inspirational stories like this will turn more and more ppl into Paleo and Primal lifestyle. Keep them coming!

    Mike Paleovillage wrote on May 6th, 2011
  4. Dear Michelle,
    What a powerful story. Thank you so much for sharing your struggles, your ephiphanies, and moreover your articulation of that value of quality vs. quantity. I believe we all can relate to that or we wouldn’t have interest in challenging conventional wisdom. It is so funny to be in a world where colleagues are eating SAD, and they are sick all the time, they drink nasty canned shakes for lunch, they are on the hamster wheel, and they look at me funny when I heat up mushrooms and kale with a big dab of cocoanut oil with smoked pulled pork on top… I just smile and think of all the sick leave I am accruing that will turn into my retirement someday! Thanks for sharing, I think your story is wonderful, and of course props to Mark for having such a noble goal of 10 million healthy in his lifetime!!! Grock on!!!

    Michael wrote on May 6th, 2011
  5. Wow! Her story sounds so much like mine before I started the Primal diet. I was always really obsessive about getting gaining weight because I too would eat junk food ravenously, and I had a workout schedule to match it.

    After 6 years I am still the same way with sugar. If I eat it, I will crave it for days and have to use god-like will power to fight the cravings. I just can’t eat sugar.

    I’ve never run another marathon since, but I’ve wanted to do it just to see how much better at it I’d be now, how much less pain I would be in after.

    But I don’t know, I prefer to take it easy these days. ;)

    Peggy wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • LOL! That’s me, too!!!

      Sharon C. wrote on May 6th, 2011
      • Me three!

        Michelle, thank you so much for writing this letter! I have struggled with the same issues that you capture so perfectly in your story.

        I have very close friends that giggle at the quantity of cake, cookies, batter and candy that I can stuff down in a single sitting. I have numerous coworkers and friends that think I am the epitome of health and express envy of my dedication to exercise. But. BUT. It’s just the hamster wheel … and from the inside, it’s scary. I’ve suffered with body image issues, worried that I’m a disordered eater and worried about my aging body’s ability to deal with strenuous cardio.

        I have failed before, but this article has refreshed me a bit. You’re a great inspiration. I’ll try to go paleo again. Thank you!

        SC wrote on May 6th, 2011
        • Yep, and me! I think someone has been following me around and wrote about my life!! :) I guess I always assume others are going through the same thing but it’s helpful and inspiring to read about it.

          My colleagues are always saying I can eat anything because I’ll work it off, but they don’t seem to understand the consequences I’ll have to face if I do. It’s frustrating how long it takes to get myself off sugar compared to the miniscule amount of time it takes to reignite the craving! Yet I still get stuck on that wheel…

          Thanks for a wonderful post! I feel enthused and motivated to really get my act together again!!

          Kym wrote on May 14th, 2011
  6. Thank you for your story. I can relate to the sugar cravings: I used to be a sugar fiend. It was dangerous for me to have too many sugar items in the house, because I would binge on them. Like you, I was not overweight due to calorie control.

    That was some time ago, but prior to going primal, I still ate sweets daily (at the very minimum, one candy bar a day). I started going primal 20 days ago, and I haven’t had any processed sweets, besides a little very dark chocolate. I went to a gathering and I had cake in front of me, and I wasn’t even tempted.

    Mike wrote on May 6th, 2011
  7. Anyone who says “calories in, calories out” should read this.

    Harry wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • Agreed!

      Steph wrote on May 6th, 2011
  8. What a great story, so much you have been through. I have never in my life exercised with that kind of intensity, and I never really want to!
    I have always been a sugar fiend since childhood though so I can relate to that. I used to walk to a nearby gas station when I was a child and buy a huge bag of candy and eat it all in one sitting.

    Finally in my 30’s this began to catch up with me and the first time I had to buy larger pants I knew I had to do something. I’ve been primal a week, and it is working smoothly so far. I don’t remember how I stumbled onto this website but I’m glad I did!

    Daria wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • Good for you, Daria. Keep it going!

      Alexis wrote on May 6th, 2011
  9. I have a very similar story. Same age, same sugar thing. It’s like crack for us mid-life women.

    I, too, am slowly losing the sugar cravings. I still have them but it is not part of my daily life anymore. I have relapses but they are getting fewer and fewer. It isn’t a linear process but the trend is in the right direction.

    It is good to know I am not the only one. Great job!

    Alison Golden wrote on May 6th, 2011
  10. Keep it going Michelle, you’re doing awesome!! I have similar issues, although my story is one that got to the point of getting Type 2 diabetes…I have gone Primal, and my sugar cravings are gone, my blood sugar is down 40 points and I have lost 10 lbs in 1 week!! I know this works, and will be doing it the rest of my life!!

    Thank you for sharing!! AND THANK YOU MARK for the awakening!!!

    Tim

    Tim wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • 10 pounds in 1 week! Cool.

      I’ve been trimming up since committing to primal 20 days ago. I haven’t been keeping track, but my belly appears to be shrinking. I’m very satisfied with what I’m eating, and it hasn’t been a struggle not to cheat.

      I thought that I would allow myself a cheat day when I started, but I haven’t even wanted to.

      Mike wrote on May 6th, 2011
      • It’s awesome to still get newcomers to us Primal folks :-)

        I’ve been primal for 1 year and 1 month now and feel better than when I was 20 (i’m 40 now). I used to stay thin by starvation. That didn’t work much anymore in my late 30’s.
        All these digestive problems my entire life, joint pain in my 30’s, poor nail and hair growth, allergies, sensitive skin to everything even someones gentle touch, and the list goes on.

        Since going primal, I went as far as getting a palatal expansion done on both of my jaws to have a perfect bite, breathe better and increase blood oxygen, reduce chronic stress in the face and neck and to trigger a constant signal of relaxation through the trigeminal nerve that makes you age more slowly, heal faster and generally feels good.
        (Ramiel Nagels ‘Cure Tooth Decay’ page 173, Your Bite.

        Primal Palate wrote on May 6th, 2011
        • How did it go for you? I really want to get that procedure done when I have the money, but I like to hear from people that have actually done it rather than the testimonials on the pages selling the devices and so on.

          I have a tiny mouth (had 4 bicuspids pulled as a teenager so the rest of my teeth would fit), as well as problems with perma-clogged sinuses and asthma. I think I would really benefit from it, and I hope to be able to keep my wisdom teeth.

          Uncephalized wrote on May 6th, 2011
        • Hi Uncephalized,

          for some reason I can’t reply to your post.
          I’ve decided to have an expansion done because the right side of my face was underdeveloped, with crooked teeth in front (on that side) and wisdom teeth pulled (on that side). I look “normal” to anyone who doesn’t know anything about this craniofacial development thing…
          Due to this dental arch deformity I’ve had eye pain in my right eye and felt pressure, like my whole side of that face was pushing in.
          I stumbled upon all this after going primal by seeing a post with Weston A. Price linked.

          Orthodontics have improved a LOT the last 20 years, even within the last 5 years. The newest way of expanding arches is through Damon System. That is what I decided to get, because I wanted more than an expansion, I wanted my entire bite fixed, height, width and everything. The first 8 weeks my sinus drained like MAD ! All I did was blow my nose. My eye pain (from the bone that was crushing my eyeball) disappeared, because now that bone was being pushed outward. I could feel pressure on the back of my skull.
          I’m at almost 8 months (and it will be in for about 2-3 years) and my cheekbones are more prominent, the dark circles under my eyes are getting lighter, my teeth are all straightened, crossbite is fixed, my weak chin came forward a bit and my tongue placement went up onto the upper palate like it’s supposed to be. The bite is still on the move and nothing will be perfect until we’re done. I’m not at my last ‘wire’ yet, I get a stronger one in 6 weeks. The ‘wire’ is a prybar btw…piece of metal with tension pulling outward when at body temperature. I don’t regret it one bit…gained from pre-molar (left)to pre-molar (right) about 4 mm distance so far.
          I can’t wear any kind of (sun-)glasses atm because the bridge of my nose is expanding…and I feel the pressure. Same with ballcaps…it feels like my entire skull is expanding.

          I gotta warn ya though, on most web sites from Damon it says that there is almost no pain…that is a big fat lie!
          Stretching your skull hurts! I’m toughing it up though and have only used about 5 tylenol total so far…can’t cheat on my primal diet with chemical pills now can I =P
          I take cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil and made sure my D3 levels are in check by getting plenty of sun before starting this.

          Already ranting too long off topic on this post…good luck to you, you won’t regret it.

          Primal Palate wrote on May 6th, 2011
  11. wow, you sound like you had some serious ocd/body image issues before discovering primal. Paying such close attention to your food and exercise sounds insane. But, good for you for making a change, better late than never. But maybe it’s your personality and you’ll obsess with primal now. I went threw a bit of a primal obsession after making a switch (spending hours per day reading about it, thinking about it, deciding what I was going to eat, worrying if I ate something that wasn’t on the primal list, etc) and I slowly began to realize that I’m not living life but instead worrying about what I’m going to eat and if it’s healthy for me or not. Then I relaxed and decided that I need to take it easy and enjoy life instead of constantly worrying and concentrating of food. Good luck in your switch.

    Alex wrote on May 6th, 2011
  12. I’ve been strict primal for over a month now. (Primal zone diet) My only cheating is eating a little fruit almost every day… and that’s because I loved sugar.

    But, I miss it. I get angry when I see doughnuts in the grocery store. Walking past cookies makes me sad. I want to yell at my coworkers eating candy in front of me all day. You’re poisoning yourself! I miss eating an entire box of Oreos in one day. Or the whole cake. Or pan of brownies.

    I dumped Sugar… and I’m not over it yet.

    April wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • Wow, an entire box of Oreos or a pan of brownies :) Sounds great that you’ve been doing it for over a month (I’m at 20 days and counting).

      I don’t think eating fruit almost every day is cheating. A small amount of fruit is OK. I eat 1 apple and some berries every day – it’s better than eating bread or candy :)

      I also just got a big dark chocolate bar (85%) and will probably have a little bit throughout the week.

      Mike wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • LOL…omg you sound like my husband. He just joined me on my journey of being primal. He’s addicted to sugar AND grain. He’s been grain free for about 2 weeks now and he CRIES in the store!
      No cookies, no bread, no crackers, no cereal….Whaaaaa.
      I allow him cane sugar atm for his plain yogurt and small amount of fruit with it for breakfast. Fortunately today he woke up and was in the mood for eggs…yay.

      Primal Palate wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • April, I know just how you feel! I used to bake a whole tray of chocolate chip cookies and scarf them down with CAFO milk. I enjoyed them so much I didn’t even care when I found a large insect leg in one.

      I also liked to eat a large pizza… and then eat a cinnamon-sugar pizza with frosting for dessert. All while tugging away at a 2-liter of HFCS soda, of course.

      Looking back, it seems incredible that I’m still alive. The cravings didn’t stop quickly. For many months after going primal, walking past Cinnabon in the mall made me want to cry. Thank goodness my wife held me back in my weaker moments.

      But take heart! The cravings do eventually subside. Nowadays the only time sugar starts to sound good is when I’m really hungry — but then I eat real food and those residual cravings disappear.

      Timothy wrote on May 6th, 2011
      • Insect legs in baked goods really aren’t a big deal. At least they’re cooked thoroughly. And you know how many insect parts you probably eat in a year? Lots, but fewer than Grok probably ate! It’s just extra protein.

        Uncephalized wrote on May 6th, 2011
        • You’re right, those insect legs were probably the healthiest part of the meal! Still, though, if I were to eat bugs, I’d rather dine on free-range than cookie-fed.

          Timothy wrote on May 6th, 2011
  13. Thanks for your story Michelle! It’s inspiring to hear from someone that doesn’t have that typical before/after picture story. I too broke the counting calories and obsessive exercise routine. Thank god.

    So glad to hear that you’re much happier now.

    Julia wrote on May 6th, 2011
  14. WOW! From the story & the responces thus far, it is apparent that there are alot of us sugarholics out there.
    Like Toad, I too just did a 30 days of super strictness – I saw it as the only way. (yes! it’s working!)
    Like the rest of you (so far) I haven’t ever had a weight “problem”, but being primal/paleo has kept 10lbs of excess baggage off of me.
    I am encouraged by this story & the feedback to keep at it. I am encouraged by knowing there are plenty others out there just like me. No more cake for this cookie…

    peggy wrote on May 6th, 2011
  15. It’s amazing the way we’re all individuals: different bodies, different demons, different reactions to stress. I love this story for showcasing sugar addiction.

    Thank you for sharing it with us, Michelle. Props to you for choosing what’s best for your health, not only now, but also in the decades to come. Enjoy the good times with Ruby!

    Melly Sue wrote on May 6th, 2011
  16. Great story that I really needed to read. Just got the book and have the cookbook on reserve at the store now. Hoping for better health and looking forward to writing my own story someday.

    Julie wrote on May 6th, 2011
  17. “I am running a marathon in June for my sister Linda, who has lymphoma. I raised $3000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to run for her. A marathon is not Primal, but my reasons for doing it are Primal, because it symbolizes to me that if I can run this race after a year of not being able to run, she can beat this disease.”

    This is beautiful. Have a great, well-paced run!

    Phoenix wrote on May 6th, 2011
  18. Great story reminds me of the days I use to torture myself marathon training, with crossfit, and with Krav Maga. I can so relate to the sugar addiction and to be honest still look at the candy trays at work with drool and longing lol

    Darcy wrote on May 6th, 2011
  19. Alex,
    Some people, in the beginning, do need to obsess about it in a way. Me, for example, if I don’t stay with the MDA forum, always researching new ideas, recipes, I fall off the course, and it takes me forever to get back on it.

    Croí wrote on May 6th, 2011
  20. Former sugar addict here. Primal eating definitely helped. Reading Kathleen des Maison’s book, Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery was the final piece of the puzzle for me. She does advocate eating “browns” (high fibre, unrefined carbs) but I find they react just like sugar in my body so I don’t go there. No booze, no sugar, no grains… no cravings.

    Suzanne wrote on May 6th, 2011
  21. Some of the folks here on the forums accuse me of being a purist and a jerk because when someone says “Is it okay for me to have grains/high-sugar fruit/beer occasionally” and I tell them NO, I get told off and told that nobody can be 100% Primal. I love this quote:

    “For me, I can only be 100% Primal, because I truly am a sugarholic. The other day a friend offered me a milk chocolate. She said, “Just eat one. One won’t hurt you.” I told her, “Kellie, you would not offer a drink to an alcoholic and say one won’t hurt you. Sugar is poison to me. I can’t do it. I will crave it all day long.”

    THAT. EXACTLY. Yes, my diabetes is under control, and my cholesterol is good and my arthritis and migraines and etc. are no longer a bother, but I know me. If I have anything made of wheat, it will hurt, and if I have anything high-sugar, the cravings will come back and all my hard work will be undone. Not worth it – and now I have a great comeback for people who say “Just one won’t hurt you.”

    Griff wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • Griff-I feel the same way, I too cannot have “cheat days” because that one day will become two, then a week, etc…
      We are all different and the best thing I ever learned from going Paleo/Primal is to listen to your body, if these are the side affects to “just having one” then they are not worth it at all!

      Thank you Michelle for sharing your journey! Keep up the great work!

      Hannah wrote on May 6th, 2011
      • Ditto on that one!

        Croí wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • *sighhh* Just because you need to be either 100% or 0% Primal doesn’t mean that you have to push that upon others. Some of us came upon Primal due to truly messed up eating-disordered backgrounds, so please realize that while your fanaticism might help YOU, it can really be unwelcoming and even damaging to others.

      On another note, congrats on your new Primal life, Michelle!

      non-ideologue wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • Totally agree. Kurt Harris makes a similar analogy with smokers….you don’t try to get them to smoke once in a while.

      Matt wrote on May 9th, 2011
  22. your comment of someone offering you chocolate (come on just one) really hit me. you are 100% right, you wouldn’t offer an alcholic just one drink and unfortunately sugar is the devil for me….i’ve recently fallen off the wagon too and feel terrible, guilty, and ashamed.
    Thank you for this story to remind me just to get back on track and stop beating myself up!

    Tonya L wrote on May 6th, 2011
  23. I love this story, thank you for sharing. It is definitely a “before and after success story” because there’s more to success than weight loss. Clearly this has made a HUGE difference in your quality of life, and you now have the tools to keep both control and perspective! I’m so happy for you!

    Jenny wrote on May 6th, 2011
  24. Michelle, congratulations! Griff and Tonya are right: sugar is demonic.

    “You wouldn’t offer a drink to an alcoholic and say ‘one won’t hurt you’.”

    Brilliantly stated. I’m going to use that next time somebody has the bad taste to push sugar at me.

    I feel bad for folks who work a “cheat day” into their diet, because for a sugar addict, that amounts to shameful self-abuse. What would you call an alcoholic who swears off all liquor — except for a massive weekly binge?

    Thanks for the inspiring thoughts!

    Timothy wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • “I feel bad for folks who work a “cheat day” into their diet, because for a sugar addict, that amounts to shameful self-abuse.”

      I never thought of it like that. I don’t do cheat days, but I’m open to the idea (I’ve read some things that cheating a bit can be good for making gains in the gym, but I haven’t researched it enough).

      As a former sugar addict, my cheating would take place in the form of pizza or rice dishes. But again, I don’t plan to cheat unless I decide it will ultimately be good for me.

      Mike wrote on May 6th, 2011
      • Some folks say that it’s good to have a high-carb day once in a while, that it helps regulate leptin and keeps their metabolism high. That’s not my approach, but different things work for different people. Still, if you’re going to go for carbs, your best bet is probably nutrient-dense fruit or berries.

        A day full of cookies and ice cream, on the other hand — that’s more like nursing an eating disorder. Some people say they exercise just so they can eat whatever they want, but Mark tells from personal experience where that leads.

        Ultimately, if you’re eating nutritious food with good fats during the week, you shouldn’t crave a carb binge on the weekend (and after a while, your body wouldn’t be able to handle it anyway). This seems to be where a lot of people fall down — they starve themselves during the week, so when the weekend comes, sugary temptation becomes irresistible.

        “And that sent me into a Shame Spiral.” –Homer Simpson

        Good luck finding out what works for you!

        Timothy wrote on May 6th, 2011
  25. Wow, great story. The Primal Blueprint is not all about losing weight, it’s about adopting a healthier lifestyle, one that will make you feel great! Who wants to be addicted to anything? It’s so energy draining. Eating primnally gives you freedom, freedom of choice to eat good, healthy foods and the freedom of feeling free of your addictions. I for one love how I don’t feel hungry all the time, it’s the best feeling ever!

    Debs wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • I agree Debs! I thought my addiction to sugar was hopeless. It controlled me. I LOVED to bake. I LOVED to buy baked goods. I never lost my pregnancy weight (3 kids), and it was creeping up too.

      Now I feel so unbelievably free.

      I can even watch others eat my old favs and it doesn’t bother me.

      Heidi P. wrote on May 10th, 2011
  26. Very inspiring story, Michelle. Thank so much for sharing it. I can totally identify with either no sugar or tons of sugar. There is no middle ground for many of us, and most folks don’t get that. I don’t have an eating disorder, but gluten grains and sugar make me want to eat more and more. Incidentally, since you have digestive issues that were resolved by going gluten free, it’s also possible that you actually are gluten sensitive/gluten intolerant or celiac. It won’t matter much to you as long as you stay grain free, but it’s worth pursuing a bit in regard to your sister as these issues are genetic and there’s a much higher incidence of lymphoma with undiagnosed celiacs. Those with lymphoma and so many more conditions and symptoms should be tested for celiac and gluten issues, but it rarely happens. That’s why so many remain undiagnosed. If one is celiac/has gluten issues, going gluten free can help with curing and preventing cancer as cancer can be just another sign of the body attacking itself because it views gluten as a foreign invader.

    All the best to you and your sister,
    Shirley

    Shirley @ gfe wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • that is very helpful information Shirley, thanks!

      Cecilia wrote on May 7th, 2011
  27. Wow, I love this article. I have gone through this twice in the last 3 years. It’s been a heck of a learning experience.

    When I first began changing my lifestyle habits, I went way of South Beach Diet. Not really a bad diet, except- it still exposed me to food I was unknowingly addicted to. It had a relaxed stance on desserts, suggesting to have a few bites and pass it to someone to share (if out to eat), or- use moderation. When eating grains, a small amount, maybe fist sized should suffice.

    Well I did well with this at first, I had joined a gym, applied the diet, and dropped weight fast. About a year in, though, I began noticing my weight sliding back up and the truth was, it was hard to keep eating in moderation. I wanted a little more rice, or wanted the WHOLE piece of pie. I began a rapid yo-yo of gaining 5 lbs and dropping 5 lbs, etc etc etc.

    I began the chronic cardio cycle of it, thinking that if I excercised like a maniac EVERYDAY, I was bound to lose weight. After a month of that, I developed respiratory infections that didn’t seem to want to go away and kept recurring. And to top it off- I hadn’t lost ONE pound.

    I looked hard at my problem and I was still eating more sugar than I was supposed to. At night after dinner, I liked sweets. At night with dinner, I liked carbs. Good and bad ones.

    When I googled “Sugar Addiction”, one of the links was Mark’s site. I spent time reading, then ordered the book just in time for New Years. New Years Day I would start my new lifestyle.

    I applied it- began walking more often, and longer, and not spending so much time like a robot on the excercise machines. I might toss one or two in for old times sake sometimes but mostly I walk & run in the park, and lift weights at home. It’s a more relaxed pace- while I AM working, I’m not abusing.

    I felt terrific- better than I ever had, and felt NO sugar cravings. While the diet appeared restrictive to some on the outside because you give up sugar and grains, and that seems unfathomable to people, as a sugar addict, with this diet, you are actually FREE. You stop craving and binging and struggling to control yourself. There’s none of that- it all goes away and you just feel very healthy.

    I recently had a set back where I let my old habits start insidiously seeping back in- more and more I began allowing treats. For half a year, I did not touch sugar. But one night, I was tempted by some bananas foster. I began to make little allowances. But only certain ones. I refused to eat any cookies, cakes, pies, brownies, or flour containing desserts- period, and I have not broken that rule in over a year and 4 months. But I do allow non-flour desserts in moderation- like, flan, pudding, maybe some ice cream, a crustless cheesecake, fudge, mousse, etc.

    I was good at first keeping in moderation with this- dark chocolate was always my first choice but more and more I began incorporating this other stuff. For a long time, my body managed, but then- I reached a giving out point and I saw weight creep back on- 5 lbs (may not seem like a lot to you, but enough to freak ME out!) after weighing a consistent fit weight for a long time.

    I cannot have this- So I am once again going cold turkey with no sugar. The cravings suck- I totally feel them again. I was good for so long, not having that stuff. There is pressure from society, too- people seem to have a problem with people who decline the “goodies”, ever notice that? I feel sugar is a REAL addiction for many, and I know it’s a real problem for me. I like how I feel without it, and I’m happier without it, but the pull to it, and push from society to have it, make it so challenging for many.

    Sharon C. wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • Thank you for sharing this wonderful testimonial, Sharon. Yours is an inspiring success story indeed. Congratulations on going cold turkey on sugar!

      Sugar is addictive not just because of the drug-like rush, but because it displaces fat as the body’s energy source. Eat enough sugar and your body forgets how to burn fat, and you become one of those poor creatures who can’t go three hours without eating lest they end up with crashed blood sugar, migraine headaches, depression etc. I spent most of my life in that state. Never again.

      Once you’ve put the sugar addiction behind you, and you once again feel as healthy and energetic as your body was meant to feel, all the peer pressure and bananas foster in the world won’t tempt you to go back to the bad old days!

      Timothy wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • I just had a dental cleaning done at the dentists office and when I got up to leave there was a basket of ‘sugar free’ chocolate candy ….WTH!

      And this coming from a dentist who has a whole chapter of ‘Nutrition that’s good for your teeth’ posted on his web site…ironic.

      Primal Palate wrote on May 6th, 2011
  28. I struggled for 7 years with serious anorexia and nearly died from it. Even when I appeared to have recovered from it (on the outside at least), my eating was still really out of whack and I’d lost all understanding of my natural appetite. I went through a period of binging on the foods I’d never allowed myself to touch for years. The Doctors thought this was fine because I’d been so thin, but it still wasn’t healthy, and I then found I developed cravings for the foods I had previously blacklisted. It became a sort of moral war in my head, and I punished myself for eating badly by exercising obsessively :)

    It has only been through trying to eat Primal in the past 6 months that I’ve returned to eating throughout the day. I also now feel safe and good about eating normal quantities of food. I guess, when you realise that this is how we evolved to eat, a lot of the fear of food and gaining weight can be rationalised. When in doubt, eat Primal, I always think to myself. I’ve learnt to be a lot kinder and gentler to my body, and I don’t feel a bit bad about it! Thanks for your story, Michelle.

    kerrybonnie wrote on May 6th, 2011
  29. As a fellow sugar-holic… Good for you! I feel your pain, 100%, and it’s completely accurate to call it an addiction. Few understand that so well as they do here. After going Primal for 6 months, only yesterday did I feel ready or capable of giving up sugar for 30 days. It’s my one-woman challenge. Your story came up at a great time, I’m stealin’ your mojo :) Best of luck to you

    Alison wrote on May 6th, 2011
  30. Great testimonal Michelle! I so relate. I was lean, but clearly had a sugar problem that was getting worse, and by the mid-40s was becoming a struggle; ten plus years of fighting the “you can have a little” mantra of so many diets, when it was plain I couldn’t. I finally feel at peace. Now you won’t have to go through the steady weight gains of the 40s-50s which is the result of the cravings that get ever stronger which so many do. But, I’m so glad I can look forward to my elder years without the sugar/starch demon on my back.

    Digby wrote on May 6th, 2011
  31. I am also a sugar addict. I find myself falling back into it easily and have to go cold turkey. There isn’t a middle ground for me. I am an all-or-nothing person in terms of sugar. Congrats for breaking the cycle and getting healthy and happy.

    I am right there with you on passing on the cake and candy. I, too, work in a hospital and its amazing how much bad-for-you stuff there is here. Half of it is supplied by the hospital! Good luck and stay strong, we’re all working on killing the addiction!

    Tony wrote on May 6th, 2011
  32. This letter hits home with me big time. I didn’t start Primal eating to lose weight but to stop my obsession with junk food. I used to think I was a healthy eater, but when I look back I was eating potato chips every day, french fries at least three times a week, dessert whenever I felt like it… I was never a sugar holic, instead I was a salt junky; potato chips, cheezies, nachos, french fries, hamburgers, pizza, pickles, anything with a salty taste I loved.

    I justified all of it because I didn’t gain weight eating that way. That being said, every single day I had intestinal upset and bloating, and was noticing the “skinny fat” around my middle getting bigger and bigger… and warnings from my mom about our family being prone to high blood pressure….. and I was so weak I could barely hold my own head up.

    Today my physique has totally changed… flat stomach (no bloating!!), no muscle and joint pain, more energy, no counting calories, no obsessing about food, better sleep habits (somewhat) better mental outlook, better muscles… this way of life has changed the way I think about eating and living forever.

    Mary wrote on May 6th, 2011
  33. “you wouldn’t offer an alcoholic just one drink”

    Tom Naughton has mentioned this somewhere in his blog, and it’s noticeably true: if you go to an AA meeting the folks — the addicts working with their addiction — are all guzzling highly-sugared coffee and non-diet sodas.

    Going low carb (more so even than paleo) seems to really help alcohol addicts stay sober and, if not free of cravings, at least dealing with lesser cravings.

    (After all, alcohol is just another kind of fuel for the body to burn — ahead, even, of carbs!)

    Elenor wrote on May 6th, 2011
  34. This experience really struck a chord with me, as well. Sugar craving are so insidious, too. Now that I do not eat any grains, cakes, cookies or candy bars or sweets like that, I began to eat dried fruit, sometimes a lot. But, I came to realize that that can be like sugar too, and is preventing me from losing the weight that I want to. I think it is partly cravings, partly habit, that I do that. My whole life I have eaten a snack after school, or when I started working I would have a snack after work–usually something sweet. Even after I went Primal I would have a snack after work, but made it an apple or a banana, or some dried fruit. But I came to the realization that these are still like sugar to me, and I definitely need to cut back, or at least make it a special occasion piece of fruit, not an everyday thing. Like some others commented, sugar is such an addiction, even having a cheat day is a bad idea. Why would I want to sabotage my hard work and effort even for a minute? I remind myself of how good I feel without the sugar “brain fog” that inevitably occurs, not to mention the other body aches and pains that follow a sugar binge. Thanks for such an inspiring story, Michelle. When I hear of others who have gone through the same addictions as I have, it really encourages me to continue on with eating Primally.

    Kim wrote on May 6th, 2011
  35. Awesome! It is so heartening to read about this kind of progress. I do hope you are able to get to the point where you are OK to rest more, though. I need to get more active. One foot in front of the other is my mantra. Not everyone can fix it all in one big leap.

    I started with Primal Blueprint about a year ago. I had been gluten, soy and corn free for years, but was still eating lots of steamed rice, sorghum breads, juice drinks and yogurt with honey. All those are gone out of my intake now. Dairy was my last big problem, and as of this week, it is gone, too.

    One foot in front of the other!

    slacker wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • Well put, Slacker. One step at a time is the only way to go. Now that you’ve fixed your diet, getting active will come a lot more easily to you. It’s really just a matter of finding an activity that you enjoy. The best exercise never feels like a chore, and there’s something for everyone. Good luck discovering your personal favorites!

      Timothy wrote on May 6th, 2011
  36. I love your story. I also first heard about Mark listening to Dr. Axe :) small world – he is a great guy!

    DeAnna wrote on May 6th, 2011
  37. Thanks for sharing! You got it – the objective is to break the vicious cycle…to STOP dieting and start living primal.

    The Primal Commuter wrote on May 6th, 2011
  38. Mark,
    Seems like a blog post on the nature of sugar addiction is in order, and some ideas for easing cravings!
    I have to commend you. Primal Blueprint has helped so many people in WILDLY different circumstances achieve health. Thanks, and thanks to Michelle and all the other success stories for continuing to inspire me!

    fitmom wrote on May 6th, 2011
    • Agree! I could sure use some help with that.

      Matt wrote on May 9th, 2011
  39. I like the weekly success story thing!

    randallfloyd wrote on May 6th, 2011
  40. This article came in for me at a good time. I am a sugar addict and about to go primal. I’m not looking forward to the sugar withdrawal. I was told once that I should do amino acid therapy (like in “The Diet Cure” or “The Mood Cure”) to get off of the sugar……which I did for one month. It took three weeks before I stopped craving sugar and I thought it was a miracle but the supplements were bothering my sensitive stomach and I stopped. It was Christmas time so started eating sugar again. I don’t need much of excuse to start again. I had myself convinced I couldn’t give up sugar without the amino acids after that but one time later I did go for three weeks again with no sugar and I was able to get off of it anyway….but it didn’t last. Now I wonder if the amino acids are necessary and maybe my withdrawal time is three weeks either way. I’ve never been able to make this last but I really have no choice now for health reasons.

    Brenda wrote on May 6th, 2011

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