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

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



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. What a great story Kathy!

    John wrote on March 1st, 2014
  2. 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!

    miss_mums wrote on March 1st, 2014
  3. 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

    samantha wrote on March 1st, 2014
  4. 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.

    HillyM wrote on March 1st, 2014
    • Thanks, HillyM. I think it’s a lifelong discovery on what’s best for our bodies.

      Kathy wrote on March 2nd, 2014
  5. 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!

    Samantha wrote on March 2nd, 2014
    • +1

      Alexandra wrote on March 5th, 2014
  6. 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!

    Al wrote on March 2nd, 2014
  7. 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!

    Natalie wrote on March 2nd, 2014
  8. +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 …

    Struan wrote on March 2nd, 2014
  9. Awesome story and inspiration. Congratulations to you, Kathy, for sticking it out! Keep on fighting on!

    Byron wrote on March 3rd, 2014
  10. Congratulations on discovering your true health! It’s amazing how healthy someone can appear by just seeing their face!

    Corey wrote on March 4th, 2014
  11. you look wonderful. i too have hashimotos hypotyroidism; it is what led me to primal/ paleo.

    allison wrote on March 4th, 2014
  12. Awesome, you look great!

    Chad H. wrote on March 4th, 2014
  13. 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!

    sandy wrote on March 5th, 2014
  14. Kathy thank you so much for this. It came at the right time from a fellow South African.

    Wendy wrote on March 5th, 2014
  15. 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!!

    Hanelle wrote on March 6th, 2014
  16. 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!!!!

    Vanessa wrote on March 6th, 2014
  17. 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.)

    Martin wrote on March 9th, 2014
  18. I shudder to think of the inside of your colon too. Seriously though, great job. Way to stick with it. Best regards,

    Duke wrote on March 11th, 2014
  19. 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..

    Kate wrote on June 3rd, 2014

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