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

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