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Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
10 Aug

My Healthy Lifestyle Was Killing Me

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!

real life stories stories 1 2Amidst all of the holiday parties near the end of 2010, my BMI tipped from normal to overweight. Concerned that at age 52 my luck might be close to running out in evading the type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease that run in my family, I decided that it was time to lose weight. I’ve never had a major weight issue, but 20+ years of treatment for endometriosis, the onset of menopause, and 20+ years of living the suburban, increasingly sedentary life with an obese spouse had finally caught up with me. I set a realistic goal of losing 20 lbs by April of 2011.

I’ve never believed in “diets” since I have seen what happens in the overwhelming majority of cases – follow the “diet,” lose weight, back to the same-old-same-old, pack on more pounds than before. So I decided to be sensible and follow conventional wisdom. By instituting sustainable changes to my diet (counting calories, adding more healthy whole grains, less fat, less junk food) and a manageable exercise routine (worked up to chronic cardio!), I met my goal. By mid-April 2011 I was down 23 lbs and 2 sizes. Woo hoo! I should have been ecstatic, but I knew I had a problem.

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I’d lost the weight, but I was feeling weaker and had experienced a couple of really scary incidents of severe diarrhea which lead to incapacitating dehydration compounded with hypothermia. I had to be rushed to the emergency room twice over a two-month period. After numerous tests and consultations between my GP and the ER doctors, the diagnosis both times was stomach virus. Great. They were clueless.

The second incident had been worse than the first. By the time the paramedics arrived (quicker than the first time) my veins had already started collapsing and I was non-responsive. I didn’t feel too confident about surviving a third bout. I learned to become aware of the initial signs of dehydration and was able to manage it by drinking ridiculous amounts of water (12 – 16 glasses a day!) supplemented with Gatorade. There had to be a better way. Of increasing concern to me was that over the next three months I dropped another 10 lbs without trying, and started developing sagging skin – a sure sign of muscle loss. Being small-framed and with a family history of osteoporosis, this was not good.

Somehow I stumbled upon MDA. As I started reading, a lot started making sense. The exercise portion was a lot like what I did as a kid. Having grown up in NYC with no car in the family, my feet were a basic mode of transportation. Sprints were how my friends and I got to elementary school (had to wait for mom to catch up to cross the street), lifting heavy things was how we got groceries home and up the stairs, and let’s not forget going up and down stairs (2 or 3 steps at a time weighted down with books in Jr. and Sr. high school) in the train stations, as well as regularly climbing 2-5 flights of stairs to reach family members’ and friends’ apartments (elevators were not an option).

After reading The Primal Blueprint (the only “diet” book I had EVER purchased), I came to the realization that my “healthy” lifestyle was going to kill me, literally! I must admit that even in spite of that, I had a lot of trepidation about going without the grains and legumes and increasing my fat intake. I had no problem dropping processed foods because my dad didn’t consider anything out of a can or pre-frozen to be “food,” and my mom made the distinction between real food and party (i.e. junk) food. For over 50 years I had eaten oatmeal or cream of wheat as part of my healthy breakfast almost every day. Breakfast without grains just did not seem like it would fill me up. Being of Caribbean ancestry, rice and beans had also been lifelong staples. However, on July 23, 2011, I decided to give this Primal thing a try for a week. One week later I was down another 3 lbs, but, in spite of my husband’s concerns about my “anorexia” – no worries – I was also down one full size! Using one of the online body fat calculators, I estimated that my body fat had gone down about 3%, which correlates well with the 3 lb weight loss. Over the next few weeks I took a few forays back into the world of SAD foods, because who the heck was this Mark Sisson guy to deprive me of my old comfort foods. I quickly discovered that what Mark had to say didn’t matter because my body was saying the same things loudly and clearly.

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After 5 months of having said goodbye to the “healthy” whole grains and legumes, embracing the fats, dropping the chronic cardio, exercising less (but more effectively) and playing more, I lost a total of 6 lbs. Almost a year into my Primal journey, I’ve regained all of the weight that I lost since I went Primal. What has left me and all that have seen my transformation dumbfounded, is that from July 2011 to now I dropped from a size 4 to a size 0 while with a net weight loss of ZERO pounds!  Let me summarize that – I dropped 36 lbs and went from a size 8 to a size 4 following conventional wisdom. I’ve dropped a whopping 0 lbs and have gone from a size 4 to a size 0 following the Primal Blueprint.

More importantly, I’ve noticed that a lot of nuisance health issues that I had attributed to aging and/or had for so long that I accepted them as “normal,” are gone. To name just a few, the achy shins and joints, compliments of power walking (I read that it was easier on the joints than jogging, lol!), are no longer achy. I no longer feel like I am going to pass out if I don’t have breakfast within the first 30 minutes after I wake up. I no longer need to constantly pack snacks for my mid-morning and mid-afternoon hunger pangs/shakes. I no longer get in a foul mood when I’m hungry. I don’t drink anywhere near the amounts of water I drank regularly when I was constantly fighting dehydration, nor have I had a need to drink Gatorade. I have more energy than ever (I was anemic from childhood until a couple of years ago). Spicy foods no longer mess up my stomach. That stuffed feeling 10-15 minutes after a meal is gone. My pipes no longer leak.

My Primal journey continues as I try out different things and continue to learn how my body wants me to live. At age 53 I am stronger, leaner, more energetic and feel healthier than ever. Thank you, Mark, for teaching me what a healthy lifestyle really looks like.

Myra

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. WOW!!!!!!!!You look AMAZING. I am 48 and now look forward to 53 and the intervening years. I will look at your photo as contiuing inspiration!! :)

    Gayle wrote on August 10th, 2012
    • Thanks, Gayle! I have a photo of Ernestine Sheppard, the world’s oldest weightlifting competitor (age 75) posted on my wall at work. I want to look like her when I get there, just no desire to work on it as much as she does. I’m going to prove that it can be done!!

      Myra wrote on August 10th, 2012
      • Ernestine Sheppard is great! She’s tuff stuff.

        BonzoGal wrote on August 10th, 2012
      • I just looked up Ernestine Sheppard and … WOW! I want to grow up to look like her (I’m only 66)!

        Your story has given me some insight as to what some of my health problems might be. I have not yet started going primal, I’m still reading the book and working up the courage to “jump in”.

        Thanks for sharing!

        NMCynthia wrote on August 10th, 2012
  2. wow, that’s fabulous! i haven’t had your kind of weight loss, either, like someone else commented, but do feel more energetic.

    Tenny wrote on August 10th, 2012
  3. Good on ya Myra. You’re a helluva sexy 53 year old.

    Spanky wrote on August 10th, 2012
  4. You are simply beautiful!

    spincycle wrote on August 10th, 2012
  5. You look awesome Myra!! I’m turning 49 this year and have made it my goal to be in the best shape/healthiest when I turn 50 the end of next year – I love seeing inspiring stories from women our age! And you are so right about the scale – in 2 months time, I didn’t loose any weight, but lost over 8″ – unfortunately along with my other measurements, I only measured 1 arm & 1 leg instead of both or the number would be higher – I’m not sure what I was thinking! The scale messes with my mind too much – I love the measuring tape!!!

    Carol wrote on August 10th, 2012
  6. you look fantastic! i, too, was afraid to give up the grains at first, but it’s really so easy once you start seeing & feeling results!

    Marissa wrote on August 10th, 2012
  7. Amazing Myra! Friday’s are by far my favorite on MDA.

    Jen wrote on August 10th, 2012
  8. WOW! WOW! WOW! Just tuned in and have to say you are amazing! You really saved your life beautifully — you are an inspiration — Thank You!

    Tanya wrote on August 10th, 2012
  9. Fantastic story Myra! I haven’t been eating primal for very long (It’s been about 2 months of experimenting with Low Carb, paleo and now Primal, the latter of which has been life changing in a VERY short period of time!) Like you, I no longer have the urge to eat breakfast right away (I love that I just eat when I’m hungry and don’t need to have a snack with me at all times), and I don’t have the hunger pangs, shakiness and foul mood that I have experienced for years, especially after a crazy cardio workout (which I USED to do at least 4-5 times per week! No more!). I can especially relate to the lack of weight loss but the drop in dress size…this seems to be happening to me lately, which is very exciting, especially considering my wedding is in 2 weeks!

    You look so vibrant and happy in your beach picture! Congratulations on your success and I hope that your husband reconsiders and starts to follow the Primal way of life! You are an inspiration!

    Heather wrote on August 10th, 2012
  10. Dang- hot mama rocking a bikini at over 50. Thank you for sharing and re-upping my motivation. I want to be that hot at 40!

    maggie wrote on August 10th, 2012
  11. Myra, congratulations!! You’re an inspiration, keep up the amazing work! *cheer!* ;D

    Losha wrote on August 10th, 2012
  12. Myra, amazing! Profound that “healthy” from conventional wisdom can be “deadly” for some of us, and your proof that the scale can be meanless also blows me a way. Keep sharing your story, you look fantastic!

    Kim wrote on August 10th, 2012
  13. I’m 52, menopausal, just a bit overweight (about 20 lbs), so many similarities. Thank you for such an inspirational story for us middle-agers. I love opening MDA on Fridays to see who is being profiled, and it’s wonderful to see my own gender and generation represented. Good on ya!!

    marthat wrote on August 10th, 2012
  14. Great story Myra. I’m always glad to see stories from “older” grokettes, lest people think primal or paleo is something that only works for younger women. I’m 65 and have been primal for about a year and a half. I dropped fifteen pounds and a number of nagging health problems almost immediately–lifelong migraines,rosacea, shin splints, leaky pipes, brittle fingernails, thinning hair, food allergies. People are always amazed when they learn how old I am, because I’m in great shape, very limber and flexible, and have plump, supple skin in spite of avoiding sunblocks, and don’t need glasses. For me the biggest payoff of going Paleo is I FEEL GOOD!

    Island Girl wrote on August 10th, 2012
  15. Awesome story Myra! Thank you for sharing it. I can relate to the clothing issue… my weight hasn’t changed in 6 months but my clothes keep getting roomier. Going out to buy smaller pants always feels so great! Eating this way and lifting heavy things is a game changer!

    steffturner wrote on August 10th, 2012
  16. Thank you Myra, As a primal woman of 53 this is an inspirational story. I especially love that you don’t have to train like a crazy woman.

    Melissa wrote on August 10th, 2012
  17. Awesome! It’s funny how the pounds don’t always fall off, but the inches do!

    Todd wrote on August 10th, 2012
  18. Absolutely inspiring, motivating story..Huge congratulations for taking charge of your health and vibrancy…You are a true primal role model for your fellow Grokettes (this 52 year old included) and you exude health. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    Just an aside…I too have “leaned out” since going primal..and I wonder if this does not have to do with inflammation/water retention (whilst being dehydrated!) from grain and/or dairy or chronic exercise..The great thing about going Primal is that it does allow you to pinpoint problem foods/reactions and creates the perfect environment for healing!

    Donna wrote on August 10th, 2012
  19. Myra, you’re an inspiration – thanks for sharing

    And your post-primal lifestyle there looks way more fun!

    Sian wrote on August 10th, 2012
  20. “My pipes no longer leak.”

    I love this! Myra, you are a beautiful woman! Thanks for sharing your story with us!

    mars wrote on August 10th, 2012
  21. I just started the paleo diet recently and am also growing thinner without actually losing much weight. I keep looking in the mirror and thinking, `Woo-hoo, I am so thin!!!`and then I step on the scale and it says I`ve lost nothing. Interesting.

    Laura F wrote on August 10th, 2012
    • As I’ve told many of my friends, you don’t really want to lose weight. What you really want to lose is fat. Fat loss without muscle loss will not necessarily result in a number change on the scale, but it will change the way your clothes fit. When you need new pants in a smaller size because your old ones are getting too baggy, you’ve succeeded, regardless of what number is displayed on the scale.

      Myra wrote on August 10th, 2012
  22. I think all of us feel and look younger and healthier after following the primal diet. Great stuff!

    Mr. Poo wrote on August 10th, 2012
  23. Wow I am the back end of the comments today, being in Australia, I am always late. Thank you for your story Myra, I am 50, and have been primal for a year, not huge weight loss (12kg), but huge changes health wise. Thanks for your info about your “exercise”. Too often I hear the phrase “incidental exercise”, which almost denigrates the exertions of getting through a day. I try and be somewhat inefficient in my work to get more squats in, lift more wood, buckets of feed for my animals, and the garden. Girls try not to obsess about the scales as I do, focus on the joy of good health, of the small things that make you smile, and play.
    Thanks again Myra,
    Cheers

    Heather wrote on August 10th, 2012
    • Myra & Heather…have you noticed any hormone altering responses? I have always been thin, looked after myself, ate not much fast food or junk. My problem is never weight loss, but the last 12 months is hormones gone nuts. I am interested if Primal has made a difference. My biggest problem with Primal is being disorganized from shift work and nothing but CW and junk food available at work (hospital too! Scary!) so I have to make sure I always have food to bring. I find this the hardest aspect actually. Going without sugar or grains is pretty easy so long as I have something else available. Not that easy if you have to go buy takeaway of some description! Not so many Primal options out there!

      Michelle wrote on August 10th, 2012
      • Michelle, because of the treatment for endometriosis, I was medically put through menopause at 35 for several months. When it happened again naturally 10 years later, the symptoms were not as severe and were pretty much over before I went primal. Perhaps other ladies would like to comment on their experiences which would be more typical.

        Myra wrote on August 10th, 2012
  24. Love your story Myra – you look absolutley fabulous! I am 53 post menopausal and have had very similar health improvements to you since going paleo (mostly) about 8 months ago. I actually really enjoy lifting weight at the gym, so I keep doing it, but it is fab to have a lifestyle that doesn’t insist you find time to exercise, but rather just to keep moving & lifting naturally. You are proof that this is what we need. I love the “my pipes don’t leak” comment too! Cheers – from another late reader in Australia.

    PS: Hope your husband soon sees the evidence that is before him and at least gives paleo a try – for his sake and yours.

    Hilary M wrote on August 10th, 2012
    • Hi Hilary M – just wondering where you are in Oz – just reading your response to Myra – isn’t she amazing? I ‘m very new to this – similar age to you and workout in gym and looking for a bit of support closer to home – I ‘m in northern NSW. Can I perhaps PM you? Cheers aussiepossum (leila)

      Aussiepossum wrote on August 12th, 2012
      • Hi Aussiepossum (Leila). I am in the burbs of Melbourne, so not near you at all. However we are in the same hemisphere! I would like to have a cyber support buddy, though. At least we are in the same time zone most of the year! How can we do this? Hilary

        Hilly wrote on August 14th, 2012
  25. Thanks Myra for your story. I’ve been trying to convert fully over to the Primal Life Style and struggling. These Friday stories are what keep me going. And I realize we are all unique. So I am going to stop obsessing. I will have my oatmeal in the morning, but I have cut out all other grains and 99% of procesed sugar from my diet. I’ve cut back on dairy significantly. I’m making point of eating whole foods and loving eating red meat. I turn 50 in 13 days, and all I want is to feel healthy and be able to MOVE!!!

    Zoe wrote on August 10th, 2012
    • Zoe, oatmeal was my morning staple for 50 years. I didn’t think bacon & eggs would do the trick, but the first time I tried it I wasn’t hungry for the next 7 hours! Give it a try. If time to cook in the morning is an issue for you, check out the free recipes on this website for other options/ideas. You can do it!

      Myra wrote on August 10th, 2012
      • Thanks, Myra. I love eggs,but I’m allergic to them. I’ll check out the recipes. Ironically, oat meal was a recent fool love: I’ve only been eating it about five years. But I have to say that since I have significantly cut back on the sugar and carbs, I’m not enjoying things like cookies! Woohoo!!

        Zoe wrote on August 10th, 2012
  26. Myra – I want to be like you when I grow up. Actually, I want to be like you now. Awesome, awesome story!

    Julia wrote on August 10th, 2012
  27. Awesome. Have been waiting for “someone like Me”. Not that the others haven’t been inspiring. It just helps to see one of us mature ladies rocking a bikini after 50 and looking like you haven’t had plastic surgery to do it. Thanks for sharing. I needed this today.

    Janet wrote on August 10th, 2012
    • No plastic surgery for me! I’m terrified of pain and other unintended side effects. By the way, I also don’t Botox, rarely use sunscreen unless I’m in the tropics, and don’t spend a wad on cosmetics.

      Myra wrote on August 10th, 2012
  28. Awesome Post! Myra, you look fantastic- and it really shines through your story that you feel fantastic, too. Good for you! I hope your stubborn spouse eventually gets on board: mine took forever (two years!) but has finally admitted he’s much happier since giving up grains. Baby steps. ;)

    Lady Grok wrote on August 10th, 2012
    • Thanks! I hope so too.

      Myra wrote on August 10th, 2012
    • At the risk of bringing down the celebrating (but super-way to go Myra!); my husband had *only just* decided to go kinda-sorta primal, too — stopped the sodas and breads (and doughnuts)… He wasn’t overweight, but had had occasional angina, which he was successfully treating with some OTC stuff and fish oil. (No, could never get him to a doc — or even to take a blood test…) and he had a heat-stroked-related heart attack and died at 60.

      He LOOKED the picture of health, but it wasn’t real. And because he was reluctant to give up his food-pleasures, because despite agreeing with all the primal / paleo / low carb books and blog posts I’d read to him (for my own education, but he enjoyed hearing it-all), I lost the anchor of my life…

      I know you can’t force a horse to drink… but (who was it who said?) you can ride the hell out of him till he’s too thirsty not to? {sigh}

      Elenor wrote on August 11th, 2012
  29. Holy crap — you’re FIFTY-THREE?? You look about thirty. Congrats on the success and good health. You look AMAZING!

    nutopian wrote on August 10th, 2012
  30. Great story! I am curious to see if you would be so kind as to write down a typical day’s food/menu? Thanks!!!

    Joel wrote on August 10th, 2012
    • Joel, see page 1 of the comments about 2/3 of the way down.

      Myra wrote on August 10th, 2012
  31. Great story and you look phenomenal. Grok on!!!

    James Hunter wrote on August 10th, 2012
  32. Great account of your experiences. I am 50 and dealt with ibs/diarrhea for years. Lately I’ve been marvelling about how the same size 0 pants fit me now at 118the lbs (5’4″) as when i was 107 lbs , at my ibs “lowpoint”. I exercised all along but now have so much more muscle. 11 lbs heavier but waist is the same.

    Danielle Thalman wrote on August 10th, 2012
  33. Super job with lovely results! I just turned 54 and have had great results so far, but slowing down. Heavy lifting, ala yesterday’s post, is my next step. I hope they make 50 lb kettle bells.

    TruckerLady wrote on August 10th, 2012
  34. You look like a beautiful woman, a size zero here in the UK is a 6 ft anorexic. Your height an frame makes you look normal. (and beautifully toned) Not at all what I was expecting as I scrolled down the page to read what you had written. I am 5ft 8 and a size 14, just 5 pounds to go to ‘normal’ BMI. I love this way of eating, it makes me healthy and that is more important to me than anything. I am nealy 50 and feel that as long as I feel great and I watch what I eat and keep fit, then size (0 or 14) are just a number. I think that you look fantastic, but everyone may not end up looking as good you. We are all different heights, different muscle tone, different in every way. Great Friday read and interesting. Thanks Mark

    Charmaine wrote on August 11th, 2012
  35. Congratulations on your success – you are an inspiration for me to continue living primally.

    Wren wrote on August 11th, 2012
  36. Wow wow and wow! You look hot mama! I’m about your age 56, and loved your story. Since going Primal my arthritus is completely gone. I’m more fit than I think I’ve been in years.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

    teena christopherson wrote on August 11th, 2012
  37. Congratulations! Thank you for sharing your journey. Best wishes.

    Jessica wrote on August 11th, 2012
  38. What a wonderful testimony, Myra.
    You look hot and healthy.
    You are a great role model for all of us.
    Thx so much for writing.

    Judy wrote on August 11th, 2012
  39. Fantastic, and really inspirational. I have only be eating primal for about 2 months and have to say I have been disappointed with the lack of weight loss, but maybe I should forget the scales. Feeling so much better though! thanks Myra for sharing your experiences.

    Sheena wrote on August 11th, 2012
    • I know it takes a while to change mentality after a lifetime of brainwashing, but you don’t necessarily want to lose a lot of weight (I don’t know where you’re starting from). You want to lose FAT. Depending on your starting point, that may or may not translate into weight loss. I have a primal friend that gained about 15 lbs, is a smaller size and looks phenomenal. She’s big on crossfit, so her weight gain has been muscle. Build your muscles, melt your fat and don’t worry so much about your weight. More importantly, measure how you feel.

      Myra wrote on August 11th, 2012
  40. Wow, Myra. You look absolutely fabulous and are glowing! Congratulations on feeling your best!

    Grok on, mama!

    Margaret wrote on August 11th, 2012

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