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!
My name is Elizabeth and I’m a college student. This is my story; it’s kind of a long one as I’ve been dieting my whole life! I first came across your site and Nerd Fitness when I was trying to lose weight (for the millionth time) on a calorie counting website. It has completely changed my life! I had been slightly overweight most of my life and near obesity a couple of times. When I was a kid, I was very thin, even under weight. I was a picky eater and I loved to play outside. I had to be dragged in for meals. Then my family moved from beautiful San Diego to Tucson. In the first summer, I nearly had a heat stroke so I stopped playing outside and I think my boredom of being stuck inside changed my eating habits. I started mindlessly eating while in front of the TV and by the time I was 10 I was 150 lbs, and I’m just under 5 ft tall now!
My family was not very understanding and I was teased at school. I honestly hated myself but I didn’t know how to fix it. Then, when I was 12, a cousin told me about a diet she’d done. It was a very restrictive version of Atkins. Basically, phase 1 forever. I lost 30 lbs in less than 2 months. After losing the weight, I didn’t stick to the Atkins-style diet because it was hard and being in a Mexican family, my mom had to cook special meals for me and once I’d lost the weight, my parents figured they didn’t have to do that anymore. I found that eating Mexican food daily while trying to stay healthy was nearly impossible. I had to just barely nibble, and yet I was still a few sizes bigger than I wanted to be. I always felt hungry, but when I ate enough to feel full I usually gained weight and felt guilty.
After a while, I started to feel anxious at the thought of food and going to Mexico to stay with my extended family on school breaks, since they often get together to have cookouts. Sometimes I would notice I was putting on some weight and I’d starve myself with the latest crash diet (lemonade, cabbage soup, fasting, very low calorie, vegan, etc.) then put it back on a few months later and do it all over again. I spent my teens feeling anxiety about eating and spent half of my time starving.
Still, I was overweight! I bounced between 120-130 lbs for years and I felt hungry, lethargic and just awful in general, and I was so upset that after all this effort I always looked and felt terrible. In my final year of high school I had moved out of my parents’ house due to some extreme circumstances, and I signed up for an accelerated program so that I could graduate in my junior year. I essentially finished 1½ years of schooling in ½ a year. This time was very hard for me; I was taking over 10 classes: online, weekend, before school, after school, you name it. I gave up trying to maintain my weight during this time, I was just too exhausted at the end of the day to care what I looked like. I ate burgers and fries every day, pop tarts for breakfast, and starved when I didn’t have the time for food. I put on over 20 lbs in about 5 months. I managed to graduate a year early, and got into the university of my choice, but I was not happy. I was uncomfortable weighing 140+ lbs (I stopped weighing myself after hitting 140), and I once again hated myself for getting there. I went off to college that year with possibly the lowest self-esteem in the freshman class.
As soon as I got there, I went on another crash diet. This time it was a 1000 calorie deal. I figured most people need 1200 but I’m much shorter than most. I was eating a “skinny” Starbucks coffee for breakfast, plain salad for lunch, and a lean cuisine for dinner. I felt awful but I managed to lose around 10 lbs. After that, my weight loss stalled by dieting in this way, so I started some chronic cardio, as you put it, and managed to lose maybe another 5 lbs. I was REALLY stuck there this time, for at least a year, and I would gain those 5 pounds back over school breaks when I went home. I weighed 125-130 again, and I could not lose any more weight doing what I was doing. I was miserable and I felt like a failure but I kept this regimen up because I didn’t know what else to do.
At some point I came across your site on one of the discussion boards of my calorie counting website. I will be honest; I laughed out loud and said to my boyfriend Kyle, “A caveman diet? What will they think of next?” I continued to starve and work out, mostly cardio, but then I got a trainer who started me on something similar to CrossFit, though she didn’t call it that. I didn’t lose a pound, but I did start sleeping all day when I wasn’t in class and I generally stopped moving around other than my workout a few times a week. I was just so tired all the time! I felt like despite all my effort my body was set on turning every morsel of food I ate into fat. While I was being really strict with my diet (as in absolutely perfect) I would maybe lose a pound over the course of a month or two, but then I would party with some friends once in that time or go home for a few days and in just one weekend I would put on everything I lost! It was insanely frustrating and I thought that I must have the worst genes in the world! For this reason I really felt pressured to weigh every ounce of food I ate and I wouldn’t eat things I hadn’t made myself. Eating was really a chore and I often felt anxious about getting it right.
After seeing almost no results, my trainer asked me what I was eating, and I told her. She said that it was too little and said that when I worked out I needed to eat more. Just the thought of eating more made me very anxious. I thought, “what if I put on weight?” and, “How could I eat more if eating one taco and a some refried beans when I went home once in a while put on 2 pounds?” But in the back of my head I remembered your site, and I remembered my first Atkins like dieting experience – how quick the weight loss had been. Since doing that at age 12, I had learned the evils of a very fatty and red meat filled diet thanks to conventional wisdom. I thought I would probably have a heart attack if I tried it again with my family’s history of heart disease, and also I remembered doing the Atkins-like diet was SO boring and took a lot of willpower. But something had to change.
So, I decided to look into Primal more and actually give it a chance this time. I read all of the articles I could find about getting started with Primal and why chronic cardio is bad. I also watched the documentary Fathead and learned more about insulin and what it does to the body and the junk science history of the low-fat movement. I think I read pretty much everything on your website and finally it made sense to me. I realized why I put on pounds so easily. When I go home and eat the food my family makes, it is pretty much as opposite of Primal as food can get. All that insulin spiking, grain full, calorie dense food is the perfect concoction for storing large amounts of fat.
It seems to me that I’m probably more carb sensitive than a lot of people. I say that because I’ve noticed my quicker than average weight gain when I eat them, but it has an equal and opposite reaction. As soon as I stopped eating the grains and started lifting weights rather than cardio (Stacy from a Nerd Fitness story convinced me I wouldn’t look like a guy, another conventional wisdom fact debunked) I lost weight and FAST. I weigh 115 now and some might say that’s not much different, but that’s not the whole story. I lost a ton of inches EVERYWHERE and people tell me that I look like I’ve lost twice what I have all the time! Not to mention, I now feel full of energy, like a 21 year old should feel, and I love the way I look, though I’m still trying to put on some more muscle because why not be hot and strong?
Probably one of the things that has changed the most though is my attitude towards food. The first few weeks of Primal, I really tested the whole eat-what-you-want idea and I was STARVING so I ate and ate and ate, like I’d never been able to do before without fearing weight gain. Shockingly, I still lost weight. Then, even more amazingly, I stopped being so hungry. I no longer feel anxious about eating and I don’t feel guilty after a filling meal. I love food again because I know that I can eat delicious food until I’m satisfied and it’s no big deal. I don’t gain weight!
My boyfriend and I now eat Primal, though being college students we can’t afford organic veggies or meat when we buy it. We do eat the deer he hunts (Axis deer-it’s so delicious!) so I’d say at the moment, about 70% of our meat is free range and organic. We thought we’d miss grains more, but we don’t really. We love the food – the meat’s the best part right? It feels natural and when we need to eat grains because we’re staying with family or something like that, we’ve been able to make it work for us and our lifestyle, and I don’t have to sweat about being perfect with my diet anymore. It seems that now that I’m not starving myself. When I go home and eat my mother’s tacos my body doesn’t try to store every ounce of what I eat. I can’t thank you enough for your website, none of this would have happened without it.
I’ve attached some pictures and you can share these and my story on your site if you’d like. The first one is of me the summer after I graduated high school at my heaviest since I was 12, before attempting to lose any weight. The second pic is me after losing some weight by starving and chronic cardio, but before doing Primal, the summer before last. I stayed about that weight despite all my efforts and the help of a trainer until the start of last summer when I began Primal. The last pic is of me at the end of last summer on a hike in Hawaii, after only a few months of Primal and lifting.
I personally enjoy reading others’ success stories and they are part of what convinced me to give it a try. I hope my story can be a part of that. Sorry for talking your ear off, I tried to make this as short as I could, but that didn’t really happen. Again, thank you so much for the work you are doing – it changed my life.