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I Am Tired of This Hamster Wheel

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another dose of Primal Blueprint inspiration [1]. Today, Michelle Ford, a PrimalCon [2] 2011 attendee, shares a story that many of you can probably relate to – one of sugar [3] dependence and Chronic Cardio [4]. 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! [5]

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 [6]. 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