Sticking It Out and Becoming Healthier Every Year

Announcement: I am about halfway through the writing of Primal Endurance, a breakthrough book that will change the way we look at endurance training and competition. The main emphasis is on low-carb and/or ketogenic diets and training strategies. I am looking for Success Stories that exemplify this approach. If you compete in any event and have had success training and racing on a low-carb or ketogenic diet, I would love to hear details and maybe even feature your story in the book. Please submit your story here. Now, on to yet another inspiring Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a fellow Mark’s Daily Apple reader. Thank you for reading!

Hi Mark,

I’ve been waiting for the right time to share my story and feel that now is that time. I didn’t feel ready to share until my health was up to a level which I think is primal-worthy. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect as I’m not a super-disciplined person, but I’m happy and full of energy!

I grew up in a typical South African home with high-fibre cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and meat, starch and vegetables for supper. At least I had a good dose of veggies and meat at supper. I was a mostly healthy child but began to struggle with health issues in my early twenties. I developed irritable bowel syndrome and hated the effects when I went to my day job. The doctors said they couldn’t do anything for me – it was all stress related. The symptoms didn’t go away and continued right into my thirties and through three pregnancies. As a young adult, I did try to live healthier by exercising regularly and eating more fruit and vegetables. I noticed that bread didn’t work well for me so I thought it was the yeast. I cut out yeast products and then mostly wheat but continued to eat rye, maize (corn) and lots of rice and potatoes. On top of that, I ignorantly continued to eat vegetable oils and low fat products.

Kathy - BeforeEvery decade I went up a dress size. By my early forties, I was beginning to dislike the way I looked. The negative effects happening inside my body were gradual but deadly. I sincerely believe that if I had not found out about the primal/paleo diet at the time, I would have become very sick. In my early forties, I developed hypothyroidism and went on chronic life-long medication.

My weekly symptoms were this: I wouldn’t go to the toilet for 3-5 days, sometimes longer. Then I would go and suffer horrible diarrhoea and cramps, reducing me to a shivering mess afterwards. I struggled to fall asleep at night because of indigestion and nausea. I couldn’t understand it because I ate lots of whole foods.

My sister-in-law told my husband and I about this low-carb, high-fat diet she was following as advised by very controversial sport nutritionist, Tim Noakes, who has received terrible negative attention in the South African media. Curious, I listened to her but thought she was doing something really crazy and risky for her health. The lady who advised her explained the diet to me and told me to look at Mark’s Daily Apple. She belonged to the church I was attending at the time. I noticed that she and her family had lost a significant amount of weight. My first question to her was, “What about fibre? I need fibre.” With my chronic constipation, I was seriously concerned the diet would make me more sick. But I was desperate to lose weight so I gave it a bash.

The first few weeks I experienced carb flu and didn’t feel good, but the first thing I noticed was my ankle-swelling went down. Then the weight started dropping off. The first year of primal was hard for me. The extra work in the kitchen and the roller coaster ride of my health made me doubt my decision many times. The only thing that kept me going was the way my body was changing. I liked the way I looked and I did feel more energetic. My digestive health got worse before it got better. I upped my fat content and that helped – coconut oil, ghee and butter help keep me regular as well as shredded coconut and fruit like apples. But this didn’t happen straight away. It’s been a long road in that regard but when I compare myself to what I was three years ago, I’m overflowing with gratitude. I shudder to think what was happening inside my colon all those years and what could have happened if I’d continued to eat wrong.

I’ve also gone through some experiments with dairy. I decided to stop dairy completely because of digestive problems. I noticed the problems didn’t go away and I actually put on weight. Dairy, especially butter and yoghurt works well for me. I can’t have too much milk but I always go full-fat. It’s very challenging to eat organic or grass-fed here in South Africa. I can’t even access the food sometimes, and if I can, it’s way too expensive. Sometimes, I have to eat a bit of rice or potato because protein is so expensive and I’m hungry. So yes, I’m maybe not as lean as I could be, but my health and energy levels are wonderful. I can do many tasks during the day and keep going. My thyroid levels have gone up. I’m still on medication but the lowest dosage.

As far as exercise goes, I’ve noticed I don’t need to push myself in cardio excessively anymore to keep slim. I push weights and do ballet and yoga plus go for brisk walks. It all works well for me.

I’ve recently had an operation and am astounded at how fast I healed and gained my strength. I attribute that to the Primal Blueprint diet.

My story is one of slow healing and health gain. Yes, I felt vastly improved when I first started the Primal Blueprint diet but the years long negative effects of eating wrong took nearly two years to heal. I hope I can encourage those who may be struggling to stick it out and wonder if it really is working. Yes, it is. It may just take some time for your body to heal when it’s been sick for so long.

Now to just convince my kids and relatives that it’s the way to go.

Thank you, Mark. It was through reading your website with all the scientific info plus all the wonderful life-changing testimonies that helped me keep going.

Kathy - After



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  1. I enjoy reading testimonies of success. I have been Primal for two months and love it. I can see a life of happiness and energy derived from being Primal. Thanks for taking the time to share your journey and all the best to you.

  2. Kathy, I am glad that you are feeling so much better. Keep it up!

  3. Well done. I wish I could stick to this way of eating. I’ve just spent the day eating a mass of junk.

    Well done xx

    1. Every day is a new day. Some days, I do eat bad and I feel it but I tell myself, I’ll eat right the next day and I do. It makes a big difference and I soon feel better.

  4. Awesome testimony! Fridays are my favorite day of the week on MDA. I always share with family and friends who I’m trying to push towards this lifestyle and dietary habits.

  5. Just a beautiful story. I am very happy for you and those you will help in the future.

  6. Go Kathy! You are looking awesome and so much healthier. Very inspiring for me – another South African on a journey to rediscover health and uncover the slim me again.

    1. You mean, “The proof is in the low-sugar, high-fat, probably-coconut-milk-based pudding.” 😉

  7. Being given the knowledge to correct painful psychical or psychological disorders is a wonderful gift. Very happy to hear of your success

  8. Lovely woman. Inspiring story.

    It is true that often the hardest thing is to convince others, even people closest to you, to change their lifestyle to paleo living.

  9. Thanks for sharing your story Kathy — very inspiring! And you really look happy and healthy now! Keep on going!!

  10. You give me hope. I’ve only been living the paleo diet for two months and it has helped straighten out my own digestive problems of colitis and acid reflux. Every once in a while the symptoms will flare up and I wonder what I ate that caused the problem. Sometimes it’s easy to spot the trouble makers and sometimes it’s not. I have more good days then bad and I continue to eliminate the fruits or dairy products that cause the problems while incorporating more healthy fats into my diet.Thank you for sharing your story with us!

    1. It can help to keep a food diary & note in it what you eat each day & times, together with any symptoms & times & then when you get symptoms, you can look back through the diary to see when you got those symptoms before & compare what you had to eat each time. It’s not always that easy though, because things can affect you within a few hours or a few days, but it may help to pinpoint the culprit.

  11. Great story Kathy. I’m always inspired friday, mainly by the perseverance!

    Glad you’re feeling better. Congrats on your hard work paying off.

  12. Thanks for sharing your story. What motivation and discipline you have to stick with it even when the progress was slow. I’m really struck by the globalness of the problem with S”A”D and CW. Hopefully your success will have a positive effect on others.

  13. Well done, glad to see there are so many South Africans on this site and adopting this way of life, despite all the flak the media is giving Prof Noakes.

    With regards to protein (which is relatively cheap in SA) I have noticed that the “health food” stores charge a ridiculous price, but your local butcher should have much better deals. You don’t need to get too hung up on the pasture raised thing either. SA beef is much leaner than American (11% fat vs 33% on avg) partially because they get fed much less grain than in the States, and get pastured a lot more (because the warm weather and relatively cheap land make this cost effective for the farmers).

    1. Thank you, Lupa. I did wonder because I always see cows grazing around here.

  14. hi, mark, it’s great to hear about your new book! i have a different angle/question about how it might work for women or different body types. i’ve been low-carb/keto for about 2 years, because of diabetic tendencies. however, i’ve been noticing low thyroid symptoms–coldness, no period, hair loss. as of this week, i’m adding back in carbs, because of reading online that long term low-carb may not work so well, because the body thinks it’s in starvation mode, with the result of fatty liver, insulin resistance, low thyroid,… some people say ketones may do the same. i’ve also recently read that high fat and high protein intake lead to insulin resistance. anyway, i’m interested in reading your new book and seeing how it might address these issues. for now, i’m adding back the carbs–i know in the past you’ve written that intermittant fasting and carb restriction may not work for some women. thanks for all the great information!

    1. It depends how low carb you’re diet is – Primal is low-carb not no-carb, but It sounds like you’re not getting enough calories rather than not enough carbohydrates. Make sure you’re eating enough & not over exercising. If you really feel you need more carbs, make sure go for high quality sources – sweet potatoes etc. Be careful where you get your on-line advice – some of it doesn’t add up – CW sources get confused.

      1. thanks for your input, welshgrok. how would i know if i’m getting “enough calories”? the other thing is that i’ve been eating a lot of well-cooked cruciferous veggies, and wonder if that may be depressing my thyroid.

    2. I agree with WelshGrok, plus if I don’t get enough good fat I suffer. I am now careful to get plenty of fat and moderate protein and carbs last. Most of what I get for carbs is cooked vegetables since raw isn’t friendly to me yet (burp, s’cuse me). I’ve been on a fast of sorts the last two days, don’t eat until i’m hungry which hasn’t been until about 4PM. Interesting to listen to my body. I think I was eating too much wonderful winter squash and sweet potatoes and not enough meat. That threw my digestion off but I’m getting back on track now. I just have to remember FAT is my friend.

      1. for you, what are moderate carbs? i was pretty low carb, eating only very low carb veggies like cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, some brussel sprouts (although those turn out to be moderate carb based on my blood sugar response.) now, i’m adding back green bananas, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and fruit in order to have a little more carbs.

    3. Kathy, I just learned that at least for those with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, a ketogenic diet can suppress T3 hormone, so perhaps a ketogenic diet can cause a low thyroid response in others as well. I’ve been on thyroid medication for almost 25 years, have highly reactive blood sugar (hypoglycemic) and have been insulin resistant for awhile. I’ve done very well on a ketogenic diet until recently, when I suddenly experienced an unexplained loss in energy – felt like a blood sugar drop: shaky, disorienting, severe fatigue. I had to given up walking my dogs. At first I just found hints that ketogenic was contraindicated for Hashimoto’s, but found a little more explanation on Paul Jaminet’s website (I think, and my explanation above is simplified). So on Sunday I started adding a little starch (sweet potatoes or plantains) to my diet and it seems to be working. It’s too early to tell, but just wanted to alert people to this. I’m a little nervous that adding starch is going to cause blood sugar swings and weight gain, but am proceeding cautiously.

  15. Wonderful you are feeling healthier and you look beautiful and glowing. Interesting to see what made your digestive health better.

  16. Congratulations on your successful road to health Kathy!

    When your digestive system has been compromised and you switch to a primal or paleo diet, remember that there is a transition where your gut has to heal from years of disorder. It takes a while. There are things that can help those out there in the same boat – search this site and visit Chris Kresser’s site as well. I helped my gut by taking a high-quality probiotic, mineral water, fermented food such as kefir and kombucha, and overall babying my tummy by not overeating. Your efforts will vary, but there are many of you in this boat.

  17. Really inspiring story and nicely written. You’re lucky you had a friend who put you onto Mark’s Daily Apple when they did.

    I like the way you say “I don’t need to push myself in cardio excessively anymore to keep slim”. There’s so much of an assumption these days that if we’re fat, it’s because we’re not exercising enough. Really it’s because of all the bad, processed foods that are being pushed on us all the time. Health starts with nutrition, and you’re proof of that.

    There’s an interesting book called “Clean Gut” by Dr. Alejandro Junger that might interest you as well.

  18. Kathy,
    You look so healthy and wonderful! Don’t worry about being as small/light as you can be, it’s not always the best for female hormones. My progress has been slow also and sometimes even seems to go backwards, so this was encouraging.
    Thank you!

  19. “… with all the scientific info plus all the wonderful life-changing testimonies that helped me keep going.”

    This is one of the most pertinent statements I have read in these. This, to me, is the crux of what this site is about.

  20. Hi Kathy, congrats on your journey to shining health! I am another South African Primal fan (though I live in Germany) and I am astounded by the vitriol being levelled at Tim Noakes – it’s going to take people a long time to question the low-fat/CW rules that determine the way people eat in SA. Though with the gorgeous salads and braai meat, you’d think it would be easy. 🙂

    1. Yes, Charlotte, it’s very disturbing how inflexible people are and they get very offended when I tell them how to eat for their health. I think it will take a while for this diet to break through the old mentalities in this country. The media still pumps out the horrible old advice that messed up my body – high fibre, low fat and whole grain.

      1. Hi Kathy. Yes, the media does still pump out all the old erroneous advice, even here in the US. But as time goes on and word continues to get out, along with all the amazing success stories, the naysayers have become less vocal here. Paleo/primal has really snowballed in the last couple of years. I think that eventually the demand for real, wholesome food will result in more availability at better prices. I am already seeing this happen where I live.

  21. So glad to see there are other South African people thats primal as well

  22. Very inspirational Kathy, so happy for you and thanks for sharing your story. You persevered, great to read about your transformation.

  23. Hi Kathy, you look awesome. Around last year this time I read Tim Noakes “challenging beliefs”. It led me to this site and I have never looked back. My starting weight was137kg-301.5pounds and I lost 53kgs-116.6pound and I am a comfortable 84kgs. Thanks toTim Noakes and Mark Sisson. You have to love this way of eating and this lifestyle. A big congratulations to you keep it up and spread the word.

  24. Thank you everyone for your awesome comments. I’m so thrilled to find out there are other South Africans who read MDA and who are following this lifestyle! I don’t feel so alone now.

  25. South African in NC!! I’ve found the perfect way to make biltong (S African Jerkey) and tastes just like the real thing…just can’t keep up the demand in the house with 4 other SA taste buds for biltong.

  26. I really like this success story. It’s a good reminder to those struggling that it’s not always easy, can take quite a while, and sometimes things might get worse before they get better. When I’m not perfect (and we all know that no one is) I remind myself that 5 days a week primal is better than 3, and there’s always room for improvement.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  27. Well done on your success and determination – I have similar health issues and find myself losing the faith after a year as no-one can see any difference in me, although I feel better. You’ve convinced me to keep at it – thanks.

  28. You look wonderful! Thanks for telling your story! It’s a reminder to me that all this change does pay off.

  29. Kathy, how come your kids need convincing? can’t they see what I see? 🙂
    just kidding. i am in the same boat with my daughter. nobody is a prophet in his own house 🙂

    1. I wish I’d known about paleo when my kids were younger and hadn’t got addicted to all the wrong foods. At least I’ve got them onto butter and coconut oil, etc.

  30. Reading that this has been a slow journey and that it got a bit worse before it got better gives me hope.
    Mostly your read of people who feel so much better almost before beginning.
    I have fybromyalgia and IBS and some other issues and I feel no difference yet.
    True, I have been strict only for a couple of months or so, not more, But I have in the past also “been good” for several months with no results and it gets me down, hard to keep at it when I end up feeling just as bad.
    But I do like eating this way so I continue, Just wish I would feel better too.
    Sorry for being so negative. Extra bad day 😉

    Well done Kathy and I hope you continue to improve.

    1. This story is for somebody just like you who is having to will your way through the experiment without enjoying an immediate or assured reward. Feeling negative, expressing worry, and still showing up to meet a challenge? You’re my hero.

    2. I have been doing a lot of research into adrenal fatigue and its connection to fibromyalgia. Dr. Frank Shallenberger, an expert in adrenal fatigue, said that across the board people suffering from adrenal problems were vitamin B5, pantothenic acid, deficient. My daughter and I were both Primal to restore our health, but when I added in a high-potency B complex it made a HUGE difference in the way we felt and very quickly. Perhaps it would help you too.

      1. thank, Yes, I have looked into adrenal fatigue too and tried various B complexes and other things. I am afraid it hasn’t helped much either.
        Which B complex did you use that helped?

        1. We started with Natures Blend B 100. Shallenberger recommended 400 mg. of B 5 a day so that’s what we started taking–four caplets a day. Within just a few days we were both sleeping so much better and my daughter’s pain started to diminish. Maybe you just weren’t taking enough. When you’re in a state of deficiency it can take a lot at the beginning to get caught up.

    3. Hoping you feel better soon but don’t give up! Your body will take time to heal.

    4. I’m with you. I feel the same sometimes but could you go back to your old way of eating after learning everything you know now? I’m also not feeling instant or even nearly instant gratififcation but this journey has changed the whole way I look at food and I couldn’t go back even if I wanted to – my brain would just chastise me constantly! I think we should just hang in – and make it work for us the best way we can 🙂

  31. Thank you for this story Kathy! I also have had IBS, diagnosed when I was 14, and initially after going Primal my symptoms went out of control and so I stopped for a while, then gained a lot of weight, so I’m back to trying this way again. I was driven back here because the philosophy aligns so much with what I believe in. I’m so glad to hear it will get better but it just takes time! I will stick it out after all (and aim for even less falling off the wagon!) Congratulations – you are such an inspiration!

  32. Kathy, you look fantastic! I am so happy to hear that you stuck with it and you are seeing nothing but positive results now.

  33. Good work Kathy, you look great. I try so hard not to “spread the word” because no one wants to hear it and I agree with them, I don’t want to be told what to do by anyone, even if it means things aren’t perfect. If they ask, I mention the parts I understand. The eyebrows go up and they give an unconscious head shake and then they look and think, “well she’s just lucky.” Same way I used to think. By the way, you look pretty lucky.

  34. I love reading about older people who’ve made slow but steady progress over several years to regain their health. I relate to these stories far more than to the ‘I lost 100 lbs in 9 months and ran my first marathon’ stories (although good for them!) I’ve been working and tweaking low carb/high fat/whole foods/paleo-ish (dark chocolate!) since 2006.125 lbs have come off and stayed off but more to go. Most importantly, I’ve been off my Rheumatoid Arthritis meds (DMARDs, nasty) for 3 years now with only the occasional nano-flare that Ibuprofen can fix. In my 60s now, every year I learn more and my health keeps improving. I love reading MDA because it’s all about learning and experimenting and striving and building health.

  35. Michia – + 1000 Your last sentence is brilliant.

    Kathy, wonderful story thanks for sharing! In your after pic you look so calm, serene, happy and healthy!

  36. Hi Kathy! I’m an American but went Primal while I was living in Durban for six months. I also struggled to find grass fed/free range beef and chicken. I tried incorporating cage-free eggs, ostrich, lamb, and fish since all of those options were closer to being free range and available at the local Spar. It’s definitely more expensive, but I found the improvements in health to be well worth it. Thanks for sharing your story!

  37. I like the honesty of your journey Kathy that this lifestyle choice is not always easy, especially if grass fed/organic isn’t always available or affordable. I enjoy the Friday ‘real stories’ so much, each inspiring for the differences of individual goals set & achieved. Also the struggles & obsticles shared. Your story in particular makes mine feel more ‘real’. With the resources I have I am doing the best I can and like you my energy levels have improved over time. Thanks for sharing

  38. Thanks Kathy. I too love that you perservered with what you felt was right, even though the results weren’t immediate. You look very calm and healthy in your “after” photo, a reflection of your healthy outlook on life I am sure.

    I too had/have IBS and paleo made it worse initially. To “L” and others who are struggling with IBS on paleo, read up on eliminating FODMAPS, as you may have some other food intolerance at work. When I started on Paleo I greatly increased avocado, mushrooms, cauliflower, honey etc. All of which played havoc with my IBS, and felt energetic but my IBS was at its worst and by the end of the first 12 months I was staying at home rather than even go out for a walk. I cut out FODMAPs (and have since reintroduced some carefully) and have mostly resolved the issues. Now I am 80-90% paleo, my weight is steady, my IBS the most stable it has EVER been, and I am fitter than ever. Stick with it as Kathy says, and check if you are overdoing anything that is an irritant to your body.

    1. Thanks, HillyM. I think it’s a lifelong discovery on what’s best for our bodies.

  39. Thanks for your story, Kathy. I love the testimonies, but sometimes feel discouraged when they feature amazing transformations. Yours really illustrates perseverance and “kaizen” (Japanese for incremental improvements) and that’s where I need the most encouragement. Good for you! And that’s a lovely photo of you at the end. You look great!

  40. Grats on your success, keep it up.

    I am really surprised that organic, grassfed/finished meat is so hard to come by in S. Africa.
    Many people have digestive problems but nobody ever talks about it. People are generally ashamed of it and even when it’s brought up to doctors all the patient ever gets is a blank look of “why do you have digestive problem, you weirdo!”

    I stopped bringing it up ever time I went to the doctor and started searching the net for solutions when I stumbled upon MDA. That was 4 years ago 🙂

    Good Luck to you and your family!

  41. I’m a year and a half in and it still feels like an uphill battle everyday, waiting to feel healthy. Thanks for the inspiration and congratulations on your new health!

  42. +1 for another South African following MDA and primal eating – I’m in Hillcrest, near Durban, and can so relate to your description of the typical South African diet. Well done Kathy, and keep going …

  43. Awesome story and inspiration. Congratulations to you, Kathy, for sticking it out! Keep on fighting on!

  44. Congratulations on discovering your true health! It’s amazing how healthy someone can appear by just seeing their face!

  45. you look wonderful. i too have hashimotos hypotyroidism; it is what led me to primal/ paleo.

  46. Fyi, it’s typical to gain a few pounds during the first part of dairy withdrawal. It falls back off plus some after you pass that phase. Also _ you look great!

  47. Kathy thank you so much for this. It came at the right time from a fellow South African.

  48. Thanks for this, Kathy, and well done! Particularly at this time when everybody is screaming blue murder about the “danger of a high protein diet” and all but insisting that Tim Noakes should be tarred and feathered … Oh well, each to his own – I know what makes me feel better, and it’s NOT eating carbs. Keep it up!!

  49. Was very pleased to read this story. I gave up smoking 5 months ago and gained a few kgs and decided to look at my future eating habits and went onto Paleo, then discovered I was A+ blood group which meant I should be vegetarian, so tried that for a bit but it didn’t really agree with me – I need/want my protein so have gone back to Paleo – BUT although my energy levels have increased somewhat i am not feeling glowing and full of healthy vitality. I don’t feel fab (well not as I fab as I feel I should be after all the changes) but I am persevering. I’ve read that the beenfits of stopping smoking don’t really show til after 8/9 months or so and its good to read that it can be a while before the excellent effects of Paleo start to be felt. Thanks!!!!

  50. Hi Kathy, another South Africa here. Sorry I’m so late to comment. I haven’t checked MDA for a couple of weeks. Congrats on your progress. I’m about 70-80% paleo (less now that hot cross buns are in season — my favourite!).

    Like you, I can’t understand why Tim Noakes is getting such uphill. I alerted Mark to Noakes’s “conversion” last year because I thought, as a former runner, he would be interested, and he has referenced him occasionally. (Noakes wrote “The Lore of Running”.) In May, Prof Noakes will be debating cardiologist Prof Lionel Opie on the high-fat, low-carb diet. With a High Court judge as moderator. Expect sparks to fly!

    I too like yoghurt. Problem is, I can’t find full-fat yoghurt anywhere. It’s all this low-fat or no-fat rubbish. So I have recently started eating amasi as a substitute. It’s made from full-fat milk and it’s half the price of yoghurt. I love it. (Amasi is an african food made from cultured milk curds. It tastes like a cross between yoghurt and cottage cheese.)

  51. I shudder to think of the inside of your colon too. Seriously though, great job. Way to stick with it. Best regards,

  52. Hey Kathy,

    Thank you for your story – so good to see you, and all the other South Africans on the site!

    Like you – I really struggled to find affordable grass-fed, free-range meat in the shops – most animals are raised as such, and then brought into feed lots to ‘fatten’ up before being sold.

    Two potential solutions which may help – the first being to find out which farmers in the area deliver free-range meat to town. Sometimes this is just a matter of getting onto a mailing list – depending on where you live, and you can sometimes get meat delivered to your door. They usually favour bigger deliveries so it’s good to buy in bulk, or share deliveries with friends.

    The second – was to find out which butchers sell game meat – seems there are quite a few, and it can end up being even cheaper than beef. I’ve now found an amazing butchery which sells many different kinds of venison. I buy nearly all of my meat from them now – much cheaper! In comparison, when I look at the meat in the shops now, it often looks too red and plasticky to be natural..