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 story isn’t entirely unique or the most profound physical transformation you’ll ever see; and it’s not strictly a tale of finding the right diet, shedding some pounds, and living happily ever after. In addition to finding my version of wellness, this journey was one of self-discovery, finding purpose, and embracing self-love.
When I was in high school, I started my tumultuous affair with yo-yo dieting. I didn’t know the first thing about nutrition and certainly had never considered what my health or fitness goals were—but there I was starving myself, popping diet pills, and hitting the gym. If I really sit and think about it now, I realize I was only going through those motions because I had naively given my high school boyfriend too much control over my life. He was the original yo-yo dieter.
After graduating from high school and surrounding myself with an entirely new social circle, I really got into the party scene. Junk food, alcohol, cigarettes, and staying up until sunrise was my weekend routine—and I was having the time of my life! I felt a real sense of freedom and independence, and for the first time I felt like I could be Leslie. But of course with all the partying, this Leslie character was getting fat.
That’s when I dipped back into my past and started playing the diet game again…except this time, I did so by my rules. For the next decade I followed a 1,200-calorie plan: three meals a day at 300 calories each, and two snacks at 150 calories a pop. I survived solely off of Lean Cuisines, Lean Pockets, Morning Star, Egg Beaters, 100 Calorie Packs, Slim-Fast, Subway, and anything with a low-fat or fat-free label slapped on the front. I could maintain these eating habits for a few weeks on average, then hunger, exhaustion, boredom, lack of instant results, or a social event would send me off the deep end.
When I was 25 years old, I found myself overweight, unfulfilled, disconnected, and restless. Something needed to change—and it did. My boyfriend (now husband) and I packed all of our belongings into a U-Haul and drove our lives out of Ohio and to Los Angeles, California, in search of a new beginning.
I could write a novel about the first few years I spent in LA, but I’ll spare you the details for now and get to the good stuff.
In 2011, I was introduced to Mark’s Daily Apple and The Primal Blueprint. I had never read anything so logical about health and wellness in my life and was eager to share this newly discovered lifestyle with my best friend Liz. Over the previous two years, Liz and I were crash diet buddies…sharing recipes for low fat dishes, being accountability buddies (accountabilibuddies?) when it came to workouts, and we even shared a stint in the hell that is vegetarianism. When I shared the basics of what it meant to be Primal with Liz, she was just as amped as I was, and we started the journey together the following week.
During our first few days as modern-day cave girls, Liz serendipitously came across a job for Primal Nutrition. She applied, had an interview, and found out that week she got the job! Fast-forward to now, and Liz is the Community Outreach Manager at Primal Nutrition and is married to Farhad, her perfect match who just so happened to work at the office too. You might think I’m enhancing this story to make it sound like something out of a movie, but I assure you I’m not. When you’re on the right path in life, I think everything just has a way of coming together.
Speaking of coming together, I’ll get back to my story! Liz invited me to help setup for PrimalCon Oxnard in April of 2013. This was the first time I met Mark Sisson. I shared a bit about myself: that I had been Primal for a couple years, that I was currently an Art Director for a clothing company, and how one day I wanted to write a book or find a way to help young people avoid the misinformation I was faced with about health when I was younger. He thought my message was great, offered me some advice, and then I went back to assembling goodie bags for the event.
Returning from PrimalCon (or “reentry” as some call it) was tough. When you’re immersed with so many likeminded people looking to better themselves and those around them, coming back to the real world can be a total bummer. It was then that I knew I had to make Primal living and helping others my mission.
I decided to write a Primal children’s book and pitch it to Mark. He loved the story and initial illustrations, and asked me to meet with him at the Primal Nutrition offices in Malibu. During the meeting, the conversation shifted. I mentioned that there was an entire demographic between the kid’s book and The Primal Blueprint that we could reach—teenagers. Mark loved this idea, and that night I went home and worked on a pitch for a Primal teen book. This pitch is what later became my first book, Paleo Girl.
I received my book deal the first week of June 2013 and quit my job so that I could solely focus on Paleo Girl. I knew writing a book would be a life changing experience, but I never expected it to be quite like this. In the year it took me to write and design Paleo Girl, I was forced to look at my life and the choices that I had made. You can’t exactly put a lifestyle guide together for teen girls without coming face-to-face with your teenage self.
The evolution a a yo-yo dieter. From left to right, Senior year 2001 Homecoming Court (check out that hair!), 115 lbs; December 2002 and a total brace face, 130 lbs; June 2005 (horizontal stripes were not my friend), 142 lbs; May 2006 after months of calorie-restricted dieting (can you see how tired I am?) 125 lbs.
January 2007 smiling on the outside, 145 lbs; August 2008 and my highest weight when I first moved to Los Angeles, 155 lbs; May 2011 after figuring out what my body actually needs, a happy and healthy 125 lbs.
From age 15 to age 30 (I’m 31 years old now), I had been horrible to myself. I had put my body down, I had compared myself to others, and I had felt unworthy. I would declare my hatred for my hips while cramming a 100 Calorie Pack cupcake down my throat. I would curse myself for my lack of muscle while training for a marathon. If someone were to call me fat, tell me I was never going to be happy, or attempt to ruin my life, it would have been a no brainer to kick them out of my life—so why was I putting up with this kind of chatter from myself?
Once I realized I had been doing this, I literally hugged myself. I’m not kidding. I had a real moment with my mind, my soul, and this incredible body I was placed in. My intentions and values had previously been in all the wrong places, and these misguided feelings were turning me into a lesser version of who I truly am. I’ve discovered the joy of being unique, and how each and every one of us has a special message and purpose. With this understanding, everything I knew about diet, exercise, sleep, sun, and play became effortless for the first time. This is what life is all about.
Me at my current weight in 2014–and no more yo-yo dieting! I don’t weigh myself all that often now, because that number really means nothing to me. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been and that’s what matters the most. (Photo credit – Left: Jered Scott, Right: Calm Pictures and Ali Walker)
I’m not saying I’m perfect, that I’ve got it all figured out, or that I never slip back into old habits or thought processes—but when I do, I’m quickly able to recognize it and snap out of it.
I feel like my story isn’t unique, and that a lot of you—guys and gals of all ages and backgrounds—can relate to my life. I’m passionate about paying it forward, and hope that I can do so through Paleo Girl, my blog leslieklenke.com, and personal coaching (which will be available soon). If my message speaks to you, I would love to connect! In addition to my website, you can find me on: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.