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

Just One Small Change Leads to Amazing Results

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!


I just celebrated my 29th birthday, and thanks to this lifestyle, I’m almost completely pain-free for the first time in over 10 years. I made the switch about 5 months ago, but unlike a lot of people who find the Primal Blueprint, I wasn’t looking for a change.

If you had asked me 6 months ago, I would have told you that I was in the best shape of my life and in the best shape I could be. I had daily gastro-intestinal problems, debilitating migraines almost weekly, chronic back and all-body muscle pain, and serious sleep disruptions – but I was sure that was as good as it could get for me.

At 28 years old, I had accepted that pain was just a part of my daily life and always would be. I felt tired and sick to some degree every day, but I had given up on anything more than minimizing the pain and finding ways to push through or ignore the sleep and stomach problems.

A little background: at least back to adolescence, if not before, I’ve had severe muscle pain (mostly in my back and legs) and headaches. At my worst in high school, I would get a migraine every single afternoon and couldn’t do anything for hours until it subsided. I also can’t remember ever sleeping completely through the night; I thought everyone tossed and turned and woke up 5-10 times every night like I did. I would sleep 12 or 13 hours and still feel tired. I could never understand how other people seemed so rested with just 7 or 8 hours of sleep.

Then, in late 2000 (during my senior year of high school) I found a grapefruit-sized tumor in my abdomen that required major surgery to remove. The surgery resulted in the loss of about 3 feet total from several sections of both my small and large intestine.

After the surgery, nothing gastro-intestinally ever worked right again for me. For 10 years I had daily problems, ranging from ulcer-like shooting pains to symptoms more akin to Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I tried to figure out what foods would cause the worst problems, but the patterns seemed random and not linked to any one food. Both the doctors and I wrote it all off as the unfortunate and permanent side effects of missing large parts of my intestine.

Then in college, I finally decided to talk to a doctor about the muscle pain, headaches, and sleep problems, and I was diagnosed with Myofascial Pain Sydrome (similar to Fibromyalgia). They gave me prescriptions for an antidepressant and a migraine medicine, which helped me sleep a little better and stop a migraine after it started, but nothing prevented the pain or headaches. The antidepressant also made it hard to wake up in the mornings, and I wasn’t totally comfortable taking a medication intended for a problem I didn’t have.

Fast forward through five more years of headaches, back pain, and stomach problems. I am 5’6” tall, and 6 months ago I weighed 135 lbs. I had been working out 3-5 times a week for several years, my blood pressure and cholesterol were good, and I ate what was considered a fairly healthy diet by conventional wisdom: lots of whole grains, limited fat and red meat, plenty of fruit, no soda, etc. I was doing everything right! And my doctors agreed: I was doing well for someone with my kinds of problems.

Then I met my boyfriend, who didn’t see my pain as normal or under control. He started telling me about the Primal Blueprint and the way he ate, and he told me it could really help me with my problems. The concept made sense to me, but when you have problems like I do, it seems that everyone you meet has some cure-all solution you’ve never thought of, so I was skeptical.

Doctors never talked to me about diet at all (after all, I wasn’t overweight!), so I couldn’t believe just eating differently would do anything when doctors had already done all they could. So, on a lark and mostly to prove this guy wrong, I decided to try it. Of course, I didn’t do any research or visit your website, even though he told me to check it out at least 10 times (sorry, but I can be stubborn!). I just decided to stop eating grains and to limit processed sugars for a month to see what would happen.

Around 11:00am on Day 1, after not having my bowl of cereal and glass of juice for breakfast as I had every day for most of my life, I realized I didn’t have my usual mid-morning blood sugar drop and sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

After a week, I realized my stomach had been feeling a lot better and fewer foods were upsetting it.

After two weeks, I took an overseas trip and did all the usual things that would have caused serious muscle pain and migraines – sleeping on planes, walking miles in bad shoes, carrying heavy bags – and yet I felt good every day and didn’t have much of my usual pain.

At that point, I was a convert. Two weeks of cutting out grain and most sugar but not changing anything else in my life, and I felt better than I had in 10 years! With that one change, I had achieved results doctors couldn’t give me with any advice or medication.

Since then, I’ve been reading a lot more about the Primal Blueprint and working to improve the rest of my diet and exercise habits, and I’ve seen amazing results. Five months later, I am off all of my prescriptions but am still sleeping much better with just some natural supplements. I lost 15 pounds I didn’t even realize I needed to lose, and have started to notice a lot more muscle gain from my workouts.

Everything gastro-intestinally is now better than it was even before the surgery, and foods that I used to think I couldn’t eat don’t cause me problems anymore. My muscle pain is completely gone most days, and is just a low-level annoyance on my few “bad” days. My migraines are also almost gone – I’ve had 1 or 2 in the last 5 months (down from 2-3 a month), and each time I could point to my own bad eating as the immediate cause.

Several people have told me that I also seem much happier lately, and I am – funny how not being in pain every day can do that for you! I hadn’t realized it, but all those problems also had a huge effect on my mood and general happiness. In fact, I just noticed the other day that I am no longer amazed every time I realize that nothing hurts. Thanks to this lifestyle, I have a new, pain-free “normal,” which is something I never imagined I’d have.

I wish I could send you a picture of my newly happy, healthy, and better-rested muscles, stomach, and intestines, but even if I could, I don’t think anyone would want to see that :). I don’t have any dramatic before or after pictures to show, either, so I’m just attaching some happy after-shots.

I hope my story can help other people like me see that this lifestyle can do more than help you lose weight. I never looked at my diet – and neither did my doctors – primarily because I wasn’t overweight. I am proof of what a huge impact diet and other lifestyle choices can have on severe and chronic pain, and in my case, even on problems caused by physical damage, like the after-effects of major surgery.

Thanks for all the great information and inspiration!


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. I love stories that involve more than dramatic weight loss. Not that those aren’t amazing, but I think these highlight the complete package that eating primal foods delivers.

    NewButNotGreen wrote on January 20th, 2012
  2. This was a fabulous read! Doctors really aren’t educated in nutrition, and even dietitians can give unhelpful advice. I would know as I’ve been to loads of them for all my gut issues. After suffering from an eating disorder for several years, my guts became very upset with pretty much anything I ate. In my mind I knew that all the carbs I was eating was causing this problem….but the doctors and dietitians kept pushing them on me. It wasn’t helping me gain weight, and most days I just felt unwell. So I took my health into my own hands and decided to cut down drastically on grain foods. I’ve eliminated gluten, and have been symptom free since. I eat lots of plants, and animals, some fruit, and have noticed such a difference. Hopefully I’ll be able to put on more weight and muscle now that my guts are starting to heal. Hearing these stories every week is still an inspiration to me!

    Sarah wrote on January 20th, 2012
  3. A very inspiring story, I’m so pleased for Lindsay.

    I wholeheartedly agree to more success stories, especially when it has turned around chronic debilitating conditions.

    When I was diagnosed with one I looked it up on the internet to find out what I could do – there were so many horror stories of people 10years + suffering and getting worse that I was depressed and frightened by what was happening to my life.

    What changed my mindset was finding a book devoted to telling peoples’ success stories on getting better – it led me in a roundabout way to PB and changing my diet has proved to be the biggest factor in changing my life around for the better.

    whalo wrote on January 21st, 2012
  4. You suffered so much, Lindsay! I hope that this lifestyle pays you back with years and years of comfort and deeply joyful health.

    Joy Beer wrote on January 21st, 2012
  5. Congrats Lindsay – that’s an inspiring tale. But congrats more to the muddy boyfriend who showed considerable primal perseverance in the face of CW stubborn resistance!

    Debs wrote on January 22nd, 2012
  6. This is great timing: I’ve been pointing a mock parental finger at myself and clucking disparagingly. Woke up with ‘arthritis-like’ pain and stiffness, my carpal tunnel was roaring, and I’m feeling a bit “stupid” (groggy, slow, uncoordinated).

    “See?” says I to myself, “you KNEW better than to eat those pieces of (commercial) flatbread last night — you had already decided to give the rest to the squirrels… so why did you decide to keep eating some, after also deciding it tasted worse than cardboard?!”

    (Maybe I needed the reinforcement? Maybe I was just bein’ careless? Whatever — it’s a good reminder that the gut does NOT give you a ‘break’ just ’cause it’s only a little bit.)

    But now I’m off to the Y for my “Body By Science” weightlifting, and that will help me feel better!

    Thanks, Mark, for the great and motivating success stories!

    Elenor wrote on January 22nd, 2012
  7. Cheers from Quebec!

    Félix wrote on January 22nd, 2012
  8. Amazing!! I’m so happy for you. Keep spreadin’ the news!

    Patrick wrote on January 22nd, 2012
  9. Dr. Fred Bisci always said it’s what you “leave out” of your diet that makes all the difference!

    Joe wrote on January 23rd, 2012
  10. That is such an encouraging post! So excited for you! We’ve been doing paleo/primal for a few weeks now and I’ve been experiencing a LOT less hip pain, I’m still wondering when it’s going to come back…I have a long way to go, I’ve got at least 70 lbs to lose but I’m 20 weeks pregnant so it’s going to take awhile :) Thanks for sharing your story, I’m hoping to be able to have a similar story in a few months/year. Thanks!

    Jenni wrote on January 23rd, 2012
  11. Very interesting. I know people that have muscle pain, headaches and such and never thought about diet as a approach. I’ll have to dig more into this.

    John W. Zimmer wrote on January 24th, 2012
  12. Wow I am impressed by your story. My family and I have been primal for 4 weeks now. YAY! I have lost 10 pounds already. My daughter has some very similar problems. She had chronic appendicitis (yes there is such a thing) no one believed me. The docs kept insisting is was a stomach bug every time. Finally I had to go crazy mom on them one night because they said it was a bacterial loss from her colon and they wanted to do cultures. I said she will be dead by the time they come back from the lab in 72hrs. They hadn’t even looked at her yet…so I said I will not leave here until you give her a cat scan. This doc was so annoyed but took a look at her and hit her on her right heel (test they do for appendicitis) and she screamed and just about flew off the table. So the cat scan came back that her appendix ruptured and was so swollen for so long it swelled up her right kidney and ureter. She had emergency surgery and was in the hospital for a week because the infection was so bad. After the surgery she started with the screaming bouts of stomach pain that I could not control. After being told by my pediatrician she was faking I decided to go to a pediatric gastro. One of the test comes back positive for celiac everytime but his says that one can give false positive. Anyway she was eventually diagnosed with abdominal migraines with cyclical vomiting. I have never ever seen something so violently painful. Liquid lortab couldn’t control the pain. They said when she hit puberty they might go away in the stomach and move to her head. Well unfortunately she has it both places now :( She takes elavil which in an anti depressant and has helped her to live a normal life again. What kid wants to be on the couch three days a week screaming in pain and then just to wiped out from pain to do anything for days. I am hoping this diet will make a difference for her as it did you. She also complains about all over body pain as well. I would love nothing more than to get her off the medication. I will take her off this summer to see as I don’t want her to miss anymore school. I have let her be a little more lax with the diet than us but I am rethinking that now. I am going to have her read your story so she can see for herself that this new way of eating could make changes she wasn’t even expecting. Thanks for giving me some hope that my baby can get rid this and the medication. Congrats on your new pain free life!

    Pattymary wrote on January 26th, 2012
  13. Great story, Lindsay! I too am a person who has had no weight problems, no major medical issues (i.e. high cholesterol, etc.), and I maintain a fairly active lifestyle and “healthy” diet; however, since going Primal I no longer wake up with a stuffy nose! Allergies (to dogs, dust, pollen, air conditioning, whatever!) have always been a major problem, until I cut grains from my diet. I’ve made additional efforts to increase my veggie intake and as a result my energy is through the roof – in a good way… and for the first time in 5 or 6 years… I “get” to eat butter. Oh, and my abs look SICK.

    Taylor wrote on January 27th, 2012
  14. Thank you for sharing this Lindsay. I am in tears after reading this. My husband, 48 years old, had his entire colon removed 7 years ago. It has been a nightmare. He is always in pain, due to surgical scars and food. His level of health is not near what it should be. We are just starting the PB and your story has so encouraged me. Thank you. I can’t wait to share our story here in the near future. Love this website.

    Nancy Barnum wrote on January 29th, 2012
  15. Thank you for sharing your story Lindsay, its only day one for me on PB. After suffering for over 10 years with Crohns, and having tried every diet and medication known to man (well it certainly feels like it!) I arrive at the PB door and I’m stoked to be on a journey that so many others have found tremendously helpful. Stories like yours give folk like me the extra encouragement needed to attack this new way of living with gusto. Thanks again, Kel :0)

    Kelly Horne wrote on January 30th, 2012
  16. Hey Hey! Lindsay, thanks so much for sharing your story with us. I recently read a blog about making small diet changes – it totally changed my life! It’s been a month and I’ve already lost about 5 lbs. I really feel like this is something I can stick with. Here is the blog I read:

    Katherine wrote on February 1st, 2012
  17. these stories are so inspiring for me. i have had migraines my whole life – however they became daily four years ago. i havent had a pain free day in four years. i also carry more weight than i should and cannot seem to shift it any way i try! i read the blueprint book yesterday and today I have started to eat primally. hopefully it works well for me too. i too am skeptical about easy cures because 15,000 dollars worth of cures my migraines are as bad as ever. fingers crossed

    Kate wrote on February 5th, 2013
  18. Lindsay, Thanks for sharing your story!
    I have been dabbling with the primal diet for over a year, but have not made it a complete lifestyle. Without going into a ton of detail… I word searched the site for “chronic pain” and your story came up. I have struggled with serious chronic pain for most of my life. The weird thing is that I am the same age, height, weight, that you described yourself and I had a tumor removed from my spine 9 years ago. Some crazy similarities! I have always been athletic and active, ate a conventionally healthy diet, and still have major pain issues. I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and really struggle to get any restful sleep. Anyway, I am also a nurse and really health conscious, but I haven’t been making some good choices for myself. I am reading through the Primal Blueprint now and really trying to make some sustaining choices and feel the positive results. Your story hit close to home and reminds me that I do not have to accept my pain as permanent! blessings to you

    Sarah wrote on February 6th, 2013
  19. Lindsay, I was inspired by your story. I have a 12 year old son who suffers almost daily from headaches. Some are migraines, some just bad headaches. He’s had the gamut of tests and we just started on the anti-depressant migraine meds you mentioned. I agree, doesn’t seem right but we’re desperate to stop the headaches. I wrote a note to my son’s gym teacher regarding some side effects (careful of overheating on these meds) and he directed me to this website. I saw your story and am so hopeful. The whole family could benefit from the dietary change but I believe my son would get the most benefit. wish me luck, I’m starting tomorrow!! I’ll check in and let you know how it is working. :)

    Katinator wrote on October 23rd, 2013

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