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

I Just Had to Find the Right Path

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!

Dear Mark,

My story is not one of significant weight loss or dramatic health changes, but one of mental freedom and peace that I have not felt in over 20 years. You have changed my life and I am enormously grateful to you. I have been struggling with my weight and my mental status surrounding my weight for 20 years. I am 5 feet 6 inches and during college I weighed as much as 145 lbs. But for most of the past 20 years I have weighed around 128 lbs. I fully recognize that this was not overweight and is quite healthy, but I also knew that I was religious about what I ate and exercised a ton. My body did not reflect my hard work.

Based on what conventional wisdom was telling me, I should have been quite content with the number of calories I was consuming. In actuality, I was STARVING all the time and was white knuckling my 128 pounds for years. I wanted to be the best I could be and I knew from the bottom of my heart things weren’t right. I wasn’t setting an unrealistic goal for myself, I just knew things weren’t supposed to be so hard. I just had to find the right path. My family thought I was crazy, but I was relentless and kept trying to find the answers I knew I wasn’t getting. And so my journey began…

About 10 years ago, I did the Atkins diet and successfully got down to 123 lbs. I stayed there for a good 5-6 years. During that time, I had a baby and lost the weight fairly easily. Unfortunately, while I was on the Atkins diet, my focus was on low carb, not necessarily healthy whole food. Goodness knows what kind of chemicals I had been putting into my body.

I also started running about the same time I tried Atkins. I had always been very active, but not a very good runner. I wanted to be a runner. I ran a 10k, then a half marathon and then a marathon. I was finally a runner. I started running as a means to burn calories, but thankfully, I also found that I truly enjoyed that time to myself and the feeling it gave me. It was the only time I appreciated my body. I qualified for Boston, ran Boston, had another son and kept on running.

I had a really hard time losing the weight after I had my second son. I was stuck at 128 lbs, not a big deal, but also not where I knew I could go. I had gotten away from the strict Atkins diet because I had a family to think about. My focus had shifted from wanting to look good on the outside to wanting to do the right thing on the inside. I thought this meant whole grains, low fat and very little meat. I was still STARVING all the time.

After the birth of my second son, I immediately started training for my 6th marathon. I was running 60 miles a week just a few short months after he was born. Not surprisingly, I ran a horrible marathon and I still couldn’t lose those last 5 lbs. I needed a break from running, so two years ago I decided to do a Half Ironman. If I just burn more calories, I will lose the weight, right? During my HIM training, I participated in an online training group and met a lot of great women through that venue. I couldn’t believe how many women said they gained weight while training. How could this be? Few people are as fastidious about what they eat and their training as these triathletes. I began to think what if everything we have been reading/being told isn’t right. What if all these carbs (read processed food) aren’t the answer?

I loved the HIM experience and am glad this journey has taken me down these athletic paths, but I was mentally unsettled. I was always anxious about my weight and hungry all the time. I knew the more I exercised, the hungrier I got, but I couldn’t stop for fear of gaining weight. Plus, I found myself in a unique situation in which I genuinely liked the exercise and didn’t want to stop. I would spend all day trying to fight the hunger and was miserable. I kept reading articles that told me to continue down this path, but this time just work a little harder and so I did, only to end up in the same place once again.

Keri

About 8 months ago, I stumbled upon Mark’s Daily Apple and it has totally changed my life. I have increased my fat and protein and dramatically reduced my carb intake. Although this is similar to the Atkins diet, this time, I am eating all organic, grass fed, REAL FOOD and I feel amazing. No processed food and very little sugar. I feel good about feeding this to my family and raising my kids with this lifestyle in mind.

I just ran the Chicago Marathon and I can’t believe how great I felt during my training runs with so few carbs. Much to my surprise, I didn’t have to eat anything on my runs. During previous training, I would eat a bagel with honey before my run and at least 1 or 2 gels during my run plus Gatorade. I still can’t believe how I have been able to convert my body from burning sugar to fat. On race morning, I ate a very light breakfast and only drank water during the race. I never bonked and even managed negative splits.

I ran my third fastest time, but trained less than I ever had before. I am trying to incorporate the exercise principals into my life as well as the eating. I do feel blessed for all that running has given me but now I feel a sense of freedom about the need to run high mileage. I have found the answer to controlling my weight and more importantly my hunger. Thankfully it does not involve running 60 miles a week or restricting myself. I am not sure where my running will take me in the future but I know that the motivation will be from the pure enjoyment of getting outside every morning (even in January in WI) not the calories burned.

I am back down to 121 lbs, but the best part of eating this way is the mental freedom and the sense of calm it has given me. I am no longer obsessively thinking about food during all my waking hours. I used to make it until 4:00 in the afternoon and then I could barely stand it anymore because I was so hungry. This would inevitably make me feel badly about myself because I couldn’t keep my hunger at bay. Going through life hungry and feeling badly about oneself is no way to live.

I knew that conventional wisdom wasn’t working for me. I spent 20 years beating my head against the wall and then finally stumbled upon a few amazing web sites and my life has changed forever. It is crazy to think that I spent all those years stressing over food and couldn’t lose any weight. Now I don’t think about it much at all and I weigh less than I have since high school.

Admittedly my before and after pictures won’t impress anyone, so I didn’t include any before pictures. I wasn’t really overweight before, but that wasn’t the point of my journey. I don’t look much different on the outside, but if you could see a picture of the before and after on the inside, it would be dramatic.

Keri

Thank you Mark!

Keri

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 experience! Thank you for sharing your story! I’ve been primal/paleo for about a year now, and I’m starting to train for a sprint triathlon in June. I was worried about stressing out my body by training too much (too much “chronic cardio”), but it looks as if it’s doable, from your story. Thanks for sharing!

    Heather Longoria wrote on January 19th, 2013
  2. Thanks to everyone who read my story and the encouraging words. I was a little apprehensive to put it out there, but I am glad I did. It seems that there are others with my similar struggle and I hope that everyone finds the freedom from food that I have found. It isn’t always easy and it isn’t always perfect (I definitely need to work on the body image thing), but alas Rome was not built in a day. I now have the tools to continue on this fantastic journey and only better things are to come.

    Grok on!

    Keri wrote on January 19th, 2013
  3. Hi Keri,
    Have you done an HIM on the Paleo plan? What do you eat before the start and on the bike?

    You look beautiful.

    Julia wrote on January 19th, 2013
    • I had not found Paleo before I did the HIM but I know there are people out there that have. I had a great HIM experience in terms of my physical performance but mentally it was a really hard time for me. I gained a few pounds and fought the hunger because I was gaining weight. I ate lots and lots of whole grains. My breakfast was quinoa pancakes that my GI system handled quite well. I did not consume food on the bike, just liquid. My body couldn’t handle food. I drank Infinit Nutrition and it worked really well for me. Good luck!

      Keri wrote on January 20th, 2013
  4. WOW…this post is just WOW> I’d love love to talk with you…if Mark can pass you along my email ??? I’d really love to email chat. You r so inspiring!

    Jill wrote on January 19th, 2013
    • That is fine with me, but I am not sure how that works. I could talk for hours about this!

      Keri wrote on January 20th, 2013
  5. I am a 25 year old girl and I can so relate to your story, you already had me on the title! I loved loved loved to read it. Thank you so much for sharing – and congrats on the peace of mind. It surely is priceless.

    I am sure that many ‘eating disordered’ people could benefit from understanding the principles of primal living in order to recover and move on. To be free! It is understandable that people get a unhealthy relationship with food when it does what it does to our bodies, and we at the same time are told that these things are healthy and meant to be eaten. Our bodies protest, and are screaming that something is wrong. I see it in so many eating disordered people’s take on food. We think there is something wrong with us, when the body reacts in the “wrong” way, cravings, holding on to fat, stress, disharmony etc.

    For long i was frustrated and unhappy because i was listening to the wrong advices, and that was the main reason for my ED. I didn’t lack dicipline or interest in health. It was not my mind that was the problem, as you write, something within just knows that things are not right. It was a struggle but i am so happy i didn’t give in, because that would have meant i had to disconnect even more with my body. Now, with primaleating i can put anxiety and hunger in the past, and fully be in my body. And work out for the feeling of it, not the desperate desire for calorieburning.

    I ran a marathon 3 years ago, i enjoyed it to a certain degree for sure, but my primary driving force was the frustration of not having control of my body.

    Today i am so much healthier, slimmer, calmer and happier! All due to simple changes in my diet, such as giving up whole grains and eliminating all sugar – realizing that it is not about the calories, and that i will never be healthy and happy if i am eating things my body isnt designed for. And knowing what these thing is.

    I could go on and on.

    A big thank you Keri, for putting your story out there, deeply appreciated. You look amazing.

    Meat_and_Meditation wrote on January 19th, 2013
    • I don’t know if you can tell, but I am reaching through the computer and giving you a hug. You articulated my experience so well and obviously many others. My family thought I had an eating disorder and while I admit I was walking a fine line, I do not believe I crossed the line. At least not in the way that they thought I did. As I mentioned, I have a tendency to lean in that direction, but I think I have always kept it in check. I know that obsessing over weight and body image is not healthy, but I really believe that grew out of eating the wrong things for myself. I just knew what I was doing and being told wasn’t working for me. Labeling me as someone with an eating disorder just added to the pile of things I was doing incorrectly. Thankfully, I didn’t let that stop me and I kept searching and here I am.

      It makes me sad to think of other people trapped inside their head and doing things that they think are good for them only to get the opposite response. I want to spread this message to everyone, so nobody has to spend another day fighting it.

      Keri wrote on January 20th, 2013
  6. Great story and comments. It’s not just about losing weight. It’s about getting rid of that awful interior negative chatter. Flight and freedom!

    Linda A. Lavid wrote on January 20th, 2013
  7. Hi Keri – OMG! WOW! Thank you! Thank you for sharing. Thank you for letting us into your life and for giving us the inspiration to carry on.

    I am very new to this and haven’t yet managed to commit 100% as I have a husband and three children and I don’t know where to really begin. I am the same height and I wish I were the same weight as you but I know we are all different and that there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach but you (and everyone else on here) make this real and not another “fad” or “cult”.

    I am waiting for my copy of the 21 day challenge which should arrive soon and that is when I know I have really started the journey.

    A question to you Keri, and anyone out there with a family – how do you start to convert the pantry/mindset without resistance and complaints from “da management” of the house?????

    MDA is addictive and I love reading it to the point of forgetting to do all my others things (ie my job!) and maybe one day you’ll be reading my success story but in the meantime, thank you again for my reality check!

    Sharon Butler wrote on January 20th, 2013
    • Sharon, I have two kids (young teen and older teen) that I have taken though “healthy” eating of one sort or another all their lives. I think it helps to do it slowly. Step 1: no junk. There are foods that everyone (even SAD) can agree are junk. Don’t dramatically clean out the pantry, just stop buying the junk. (“I love you too much to buy that stuff.”) Meanwhile, you eat primally; they eat “no junk” (once the junk is gone). Then if you find primal works for you, slowly switch out the non-primal foods from their diets. For example, I started by taking our dinner grains and replacing them with bacon (which my kids had not been allowed much of and loved) and yummy non-grain desserts. Then I slowly cut out the paleo desserts from dinner, too (bait and switch). Now we eat meat/poultry/fish, a non-starchy veggie, and animal fat (and sometimes bacon with the green veggie) for dinner. We have dark chocolate in the pantry (open, break off a bite-size bit) and SO Delicious non-dairy ice cream bars in the freezer – limit one per day per person (kind of expensive, probably not a forever treat).

      One teen still eats bran flakes cereal for breakfast (no sugar, whole milk – usually raw) and both get up to a couple of slices a day of sprouted grain bread (if desired, they have to get it themselves, such as making a meat/cheese sandwich as an after-school snack). Other than that, the household is grain-free, legume-free (ok, we still have natural-style peanut butter but almond butter, too), veg-oil-free and junk-food-free. I rarely bake treats, even paleo treats, but have told the kids they can bake whatever they want from scratch if they do all the work themselves (there is residual white flour and sugar in the house) – but they don’t bother. If they did, it would be okay with me, because at least they’d be learning cooking skills.

      Best to you on your journey.

      Karen wrote on January 20th, 2013
    • I am so excited for your journey!

      My kids are younger (3 and 7), so for the most part, I am “da management”. What I eat, they eat and that is that.

      My husband is also very supportive. He is very slim and is all about being healthy. He also appreciates the non crazy wife that I am growing into.

      However, having said that, they are not 100% primal. They still eat a sandwich for lunch and they sometimes have oatmeal for breakfast. Even before this journey began we didn’t have much in the way of “junk” food and very little processed food. I am a stay at home mom, so I have the luxury of time to make all our food. They love dinner because it all tastes so much better with some fat in it. They don’t miss the grains and legumes at all. We also still eat dairy, so that isn’t something they gave up. We did switch to whole milk and I am gradually adding more and more bone broth to our lives. I personally love it.

      I also don’t sweat the treats that they get at basketball/school/birthday parties. I try to teach them that it is OK to have a treat now and then but then we need to balance it out with healthier choices.

      Reducing the amount of sugar in their lives has been the biggest change. It really is in everything, even for someone that didn’t buy much in the way of processed food. We have been doing this for over a year now and little by little I keep reducing the amount of sugar they eat. We are doing pretty well, but I am no Saint and it still sneaks in even with the best of intentions. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just do what you can do and keep at it.

      Admittedly baking with almond flour and coconut flour does taste a little different but they are getting used to it. It doesn’t taste bad, it is just different. After some experimentation, we have found some treats that the three of them can agree on.

      There are are truly so many great sites out there for cooking ideas that your family may not even realize that you changed anything. It may take some time at the beginning to find those go to meals and snacks but I promise you, it is worth the effort. What else could be more important than laying the foundation for your children’s health?

      Keri wrote on January 21st, 2013
  8. I’m with Sherry and Krispy – it’s so great that you have found this dietary path that works for you and is all about the quality of food and how you feel/perform. But obsessing over literally a couple pounds — still — (and remember, muscle weighs more than fat!!) doesn’t seem mentally healthy. I hope you can take the next step to ditch the scale completely!

    Steph wrote on January 21st, 2013
  9. My story is similar. Mark is a legend

    Erin wrote on January 21st, 2013
  10. Wonderful story, thank you. LOVE the abs!

    Bev wrote on January 22nd, 2013
  11. Great, great story! So happy to hear about another runner doing the Primal thing – everyone obsesses over needing carbs for longer runs! I was experimenting in the fall while I was training for a Half Marathon (which got canceled due to Sandy) and am coming back from a small injury, so “only” back to about 5 miles of run/walk/run. Looking forward to lengthening my miles again, without needing those gels!

    Louise wrote on January 22nd, 2013
  12. Gawd, yet another woman obsessed with arbitrary numbers on the scale. Glad she figured out a way to give in to her orthorexia and body obsession in a slightly healthier way.

    Marnee wrote on January 23rd, 2013
  13. BABE!

    Bennett wrote on January 24th, 2013
  14. Hi Keri!

    Thanks for sharing your journey!! I was wondering if you followed a typical marathon training program for your primal Chicago marathon or if you did a reduced mileage higher intensity type that Mark talked about. Would love to know what it was like as I am still on the chronic cardio train!!!!

    Tracey wrote on January 25th, 2013
  15. My god, Keri! You’re a bucket load of inspiration. Go you!

    Prav wrote on January 31st, 2013
  16. After reading this story a couple of times, and thinking A LOT about it, this is what I have to say:

    I relate to the sense of always being at war with my body, the constant starvation that a carb-based/low fat diet creates, the desire to be thinner, and the feeling that all my hard work is not being translated into the way my body looks…I also found a great deal of freedom switching to primal eating. It was like I had finally found a way of eating that allowed me to feel satisfied, at peace with myself, and finally, thankfully, hungry no more….

    Yet, I do see it as a red flag when we find it necessary to be at the absolute low end of our ideal weight range. I think it’s great to want to look good and feel good, but I think it’s not great when we become over-controlling of our bodies, and will not accept one pound more than what we consider “the perfect weight.”

    One of the things that drew me to MDA was the fact that I did not seem to be about eating perfectly (80/20) and it did not seem to be focused on exercising our bodies down to their tiniest possible manifestations, but about playing, moving slowly, feeling good, and just getting out into nature….So when I read a story like this, I do feel a great deal of conflict….That being said, we are all on very different journeys with entirely different sets of priorities…

    Keri, if you are happy and satisfied (as you seem to be) than more power to you! But for me, letting go of dieting and extreme exercise, letting go of trying to be that one perfect number, has been equally if not more liberating than primal eating…Best of luck on your primal journey, my friend :-)

    Irene wrote on February 13th, 2013
  17. Oh my goodness, Keri, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your story! I am 21 years old and have been in the exact same boat that you were in for so much of your life. As a distance runner, I know those exact same feelings about calories, weight management/loss, restriction, hunger…all of it! And I absolutely LOVE what you said about changing on the inside and gaining that sense of peace! Thank you so very much for sharing this. I wish you all the best and am excited for all the goodness to come for you!

    Elizabeth wrote on February 22nd, 2013
  18. Hi Keri, I’ve had almost the exact same struggle that you’ve had and I’m relatively new to Primal living – been primal for about 2 months now and I love it. I was just wondering how long it took before you finally lost those last 5 lbs. I’ve notice a huge difference in how I feel and in my performance but not really in how I look. I just wanted to know what my realistic expectations should be. Thank you so much for posting your story, it really helps to read about other people with a similar story as my own!

    Beth Klein wrote on April 11th, 2013
    • I can’t exactly remember but I would say I started at the end of january 2012 and by May I had lost about 5 lbs. It was an effortless weight loss. My unscientific self thinks the weight loss has more to do with stress than anything else. Eating this way gave/gives my body the nourishment it had been craving and allowed my body to finally relax and let go of those few pounds. I can tell that if I start exercising too much (this is very hard for me to keep under control) or thinking about food too much I tend to gain a little weight. As soon as I chill out, give myself a little break, eat a little more, the weight comes off again. Good luck to you!

      Keri wrote on April 17th, 2013
  19. Thank you so much for taking time to reply. This is very helpful information. I have a feeling I am doing the same thing – obsessing about food and counting calories when really all I need to do is what my body is telling me. It’s just helpful to have another real person tell me that. It’s also good to know that it did take almost 5 months for you to lose those last 5 lbs so I shouldn’t get frustrated when I’m only 2 months in. Thanks again for all the help!!

    Beth wrote on April 17th, 2013
  20. You look perfect!!!! Very healthy, very beautiful.

    Ted wrote on June 1st, 2013
  21. That is exactly the advantage I find eating like this – not weight, not even good health as I’ve always eaten pretty well and never seem to be ill, but the inner calm . A lot of people and I think many more women than men think about eating and food and have a mental issue over it which arises from the bad diet. Cure that and the rest follows. For me nothing is as good as curing that inner turmoil. The mental peace from healthy eating and for me no snacks or sugar or processed foods is the holy grail and it is here (and to be fair in a few other places on line too)

    EnglishRose2012 wrote on June 3rd, 2013
  22. Thanks for posting your story. I am printing it out. I have the same issue as you. I am 5’6 and currently weigh 128 pounds and I like to weight 121 pounds :) Again I am not fat at 128 but personally feel better at 121. I run so I can eat candy bars and I love to stop this cycle. I am on day 2 of the new lifestyle. I clean out my cabinets and hoping to have freedom from my sugar cravings.

    Tracy Guichard wrote on January 27th, 2014
    • Give it some time and make sure you eat enough fat to help you with the sugar cravings. Some of the cravings are for comfort, at least with me, and now that I don’t eat sugar anymore they are happy memories but if I have some sugar the pain and suffering is not worth it. The “oops, I accidentally had some sugar” get fewer as time goes by. Keep up the good work!

      2Rae wrote on January 27th, 2014

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