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

The “Aha” Moment: When Clarity Happens and Real Change Begins

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 2My wife Amy and I have been married for 14 years, we have 2 wonderful boys, I have a great job, and a nice home in a quaint city, and over the years we have been slowly falling apart.

I’m the kind of guy that carries his weight well, that’s what I’ve been told. I was active all my young life, track, football, martial arts, I could eat anything and burn it off and I always preached the best way to stay fit was exercise; the rest will take care of itself.

Amy was an average weight tomboy kid, an overweight teen and then leaned out again her senior year of high school. She played ice hockey and roller hockey in a men’s league and started to rebuild overweight self-esteem issues. Her weight loss was short lived though once she moved away from home. As a young adult in a new town alone, she returned to boredom eating. Stopping at the grocery on Friday nights after work and picking up a frozen pizza, doughnuts, and ice cream to get through a lonely weekend.

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When we met in 1997. I was skinny, I was stressed and unhappy and she changed all that. Being young at heart and mind, our 16 year age difference didn’t concern me. We set up house and that’s when life started to get good. I’m a chef by profession and I’ve been told I show my love through food, by the time our first son arrived; we looked like a whole lotta love. All through her pregnancy I cooked every comfort food in my repertoire, she extreme couponed stacks of Hamburger Helper and junk foods, and I would do my magic with fresh veggies and tomato sauces, pasta 5 times a week was not unheard of and bread was usually on the menu in some form every day. My “sympathy pregnancy weight” ballooned to 225  lbs and Amy hit 250+, but we were happy, remember? We avoided mirrors and settled in with comfy pants with New Year’s resolutions in the back of our minds, until we had a picture snapped of us with our new born son at a Christmas party. It was not us, it was two people in fat suits. Our son was diagnosed with autism at 15 months old which was just another stressor added as we tried to figure out how to cope.

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We spent the next 10 ten years yo-yo’ing up and down the scale. When we would try diets, I was insistent that too much sugar was our issue and Amy felt that it was too many carbs – neither us of agreeing with the other at the same time. So we would start off on our separate diets at the same time and inevitably end up sabotaging each other within a week or two – over and over. A second pregnancy and another son diagnosed on the autistic spectrum plus moving our household 5 times for various reasons over the years all factored in as well. I finally moved out of the kitchen and into a management “suit and tie position” where I suddenly found myself in front of a computer and now even the exercise of running around a kitchen had stopped and my weight tipped the 200 mark… again.

The insurance plan I was enrolled in required a physical and I secretly looked forward to it because I had started to feel something was wrong, I felt like I was closer to 70 years old rather than 50. I had problems getting out of bed, hangovers were worse, and I really felt like death warmed over most of the time. My fears were confirmed and my doctor read me the riot act about making changes in my life, so Amy and I made a plan, yeah the New Year’s resolution diet…two weeks later…5 lbs gained..back to drawing board.

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February 2011 we came across your site touting a new way of thinking about how our body works and the word “diet”, and it struck a beautiful chord with us. Up until now I had always thought weight loss was all about exercise, and our new way of thinking became about what we put into our body, and sugar AND bad carbs was at the crux of it all. We tossed everything in the house that said sugar, corn syrup, or had any grain in it, and if wasn’t fresh it hit the trash.

Co-workers were less than supportive at first, lots of funny looks, scratching heads, rolling eyes, the laughter and “yeah right, caveman” comments flew everywhere. They offered up cake and candy like body snatcher pods to tempt me back into the fold on a daily basis. The headaches were non-stop; I carried 3 types of aspirin to experiment with for the dull thump of sugar withdrawal.

Life at home was much different and that made all the difference. With all the crap out of the pantry (except the kids SAD food) we had the beginnings of a culinary playground and Amy had recipes and fresh foods waiting for me when I walked in the door. All at once another positive, my creative side renewed itself, it was almost like a market basket competition from culinary school every day, and I had to find new and creative ways to make good food without sugar, bread or opening a box. We purchased several books with great recipes and experimented with eliminating or substituting SAD ingredients with Primal whole foods; it was easy and tasted great. We also started photographing and posting pictures online and the kudos from the paleo community were always welcome.

The weeks ticked by quickly and the first 30 days ended, and instead of feeling like Lent was over it felt more like jumping off the high dive, the headaches were long gone, food tasted better, my mood had improved, and I was pissing off the candy crowd. The fat suit was still wrapped around me but I felt lighter, quicker, and faster. I wasn’t having the 2:00 PM snooze desires anymore. I was actually thinking about how I could be spending my empty minutes…exercising? We added sack time and with only a few exceptions religiously cut off electronics and TV at curfew for a nine hour sleep date every night.

I think it was right about the 6-month mark was the beginning of my “aha” moment. We were eating fresh/ organic foods, grass-fed meats when we could, I was exercising at least 3 times a week, our SCOBY was getting thick and the kombucha recipe was perfect. The pictures of us were showing different people, but we were changing, too. A renewed interest in how we cared for each other and our kids was beginning to find its way into our home, and problems at work didn’t piss me off, I just solved them. I smiled more, a helluva lot more. Everything we had read was coming true and weight/diet wasn’t important anymore. We still wanted to look good naked, but everything else we were doing became the focus and weight became the by-product. We had been sitting on our asses getting heavier and letting life slip away from us, no longer wanting to fight back, and that was taking its toll on every aspect of our lives.

beforeafterED beforeafterAMY primaltwo primal3 primal1 1

I can say for a fact that this past year and a half has been one of the most exciting years of my life, doors have been opened in more ways than I can say here, and I only see it getting better for the rest of our lives. I wanted to be fit and happy at 50, instead I was sick and depressed. At 53 now, I consider myself to be healthier than most 25 year olds I know and I’m still getting stronger every day. Amy looks radiant, I can’t keep my eyes off her and she grows younger and more beautiful every time I look at her. As a couple we have turned our lives around completely, and we live fearlessly now knowing we can face any challenges thrown our way (look out Mudders and CrossFitters). I can’t think of any more perfect way to spend the rest of our lives together, eating well, playing and exercising, and loving each other and our kids.

Thanks Mark for all your help and wise words, and thanks to this wonderful community we’ve become part of, I know we’ll spend our lives “Paleoing it forward” until everyone gets it like we did.

Ed Smith

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, what a fantastic story! People don’t even listen to me when I talk about the improvements in my life other than the weight loss (80 pounds this year) but you’re living it 10x more than I am! It’s so great to hear how the health, happiness, love and enjoyment all came rushing back into your lives.

    Ed wrote on July 27th, 2012
    • 80 pounds is my oldest! Wow, good on ya mate!

      Ed wrote on July 27th, 2012
  2. I hope I look that good at 43! But 53?! Amazing! Congrats to you both,

    Bagwell wrote on July 27th, 2012
  3. Alright, I’m getting tears in big ass salad. Cheers to you and your family! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Kait wrote on July 27th, 2012
  4. Bravo! Well done! :)

    Pamlea wrote on July 27th, 2012
  5. LOVED this success story! Also, love your writing style! I knew right from the beginning that I was going to love this one: “I have a great job, and a nice home in a quaint city, and over the years we have been slowly falling apart.” Perfect! Also loved the “we looked like a whole lotta love” line. You both look so radiant in the July pictures. Great job and thank you for sharing!

    Jess wrote on July 27th, 2012
  6. WOW, ridiculous results! You guys look fantastic! So happy to see the sugar and bad carbs gone from your life. Nice job.

    Tony wrote on July 27th, 2012
  7. OMG! Well done.

    Onge wrote on July 27th, 2012
  8. Ya’ll have made my day. Can’t wait to see a follow up someday on the boys achievements. And for those that don’t full understand Ed+Amy’s hesitance to fully immerse the boys into the paleo/primal diet, you’ve got to understand that many children with Autism are both picky and slow to accept changes in routine. Just like kids without Autism.
    A

    Fenris wrote on July 27th, 2012
    • I can totally relate…I have been paleo for about 4 months, and would LOVE to get my 13 year old son with high functioning autism eating this way. You guys have NO idea how picky these guys are and the sensory issues around food they have. My son hates meat, eggs and veggies and almost all fruits. Period. Meal times have been the biggest stress for us always. I am talking about it with him more and more, and I hope to get him on board, but don’t be quick to think we aren’t trying hard enough. It is not that easy. We did gluten free casein free at age 2 for Nick for 8 long months, and although it showed good results, he ended up only eating french fries. Sigh. That ended that. We will keep trying for sure.

      That being said – well done! Loved the story. I am 10 years OLDER (yes I am the girl lol) than my amazing boyfriend, and the age difference is nothing to us. We are perfect together, and now we both embrace paleo together.

      Grok's Girl wrote on July 27th, 2012
      • Grok’s girl–there is hope. My 15 year old son is a high functioning autistic who, because of sensory issues would not eat meat (other than fast food burgers) and many other foods. His diet consisted of fast food, grilled cheese, and mac and cheese (although he has always liked veggies). Needless to say, he got fat! Well, the kids at school started making fun of his boy boobs in the locker room and he decided to join me and my primal lifestyle. Today, roughly 10 months later) he eats steak, chicken, and fish and hardly ever eats sugar, bread, pasta or any processed food for that matter–completely his choice. Over the past 8 months he has become a different kid. He hugs me and tells me he loves me. He asks about my day! He invites friends over and goes to birthday parties without us begging him to. I could go on and on. He swims an hour and a half five days a week at the YMCA on the swim team and loves it and has transformed into an athlete as well.

        As I dry the tears running down my face I wish you the best of luck and encourage you to lead by example (which you are doing), be patient–good things will come!

        Dan wrote on July 27th, 2012
        • That sounds amazing… my god your son eats/exercises better than I do. Tack on another accomplishment for your son: inspiration for slovenly people such as myself. Excuse me, I have to go get rid of my post-workout ice cream treat (as if such a thing should ever exist.. sigh haha).

          Adam wrote on July 27th, 2012
        • Fantastic. Perhaps one day he will post his own Primal success story!

          Nancy M wrote on July 28th, 2012
        • Dan – thank you so much for the encouragement. So happy with the results for your son!! You sound like a wonderful dad. It is so good to hear that perhaps Nick may WANT this one day. He is the opposite of your son – skinny as can be (I am sure massive malapsorption issues). But he is starting to listen…a little…I would love to see the day my son would eat steak that is for sure. I will keep trying, and showing him by example.

          Grok's Girl wrote on July 30th, 2012
    • thank you!

      I know my boys will do great things someday! :-)

      family pic: http://twitpic.com/aceb8b

      Amy wrote on July 27th, 2012
  9. You are both amazing! What an outstanding success story.

    Jackie Kessler wrote on July 27th, 2012
  10. “… I’ve been told I show my love through food,… we looked like a whole lotta love.” Great! Thanks for your inspiring story!

    Jeannot wrote on July 27th, 2012
  11. What a satisfying story! It just warms my heart. Good luck with the boys. I know they’ll come around in time. Thanks for sharing with us.

    gibson girl wrote on July 27th, 2012
  12. Schools should not be teaching our kids how to eat. I have had questions from my daughter (10)about the pyramid they shove at them in school. I told her to question and research everything. Easier said then done, since teachers are a high authority.
    Good luck with your children and congratulations on your success. Your story is very inspirational.

    Anna wrote on July 27th, 2012
    • I am a teacher and so many things students are forced to learn drive me BONKERS. I tell my students as often as I can: “You are here to learn how to THINK. Ask that magic question, ‘Why?’ as often as you can. Question everything.”

      Teaching the food pyramid… ugh.

      Nicole wrote on July 27th, 2012
    • My son asks me all the time why they lie to them at school. He then will cross out the “grains” in the health pyramid they send home in little pamphlets.

      Aaron wrote on July 27th, 2012
      • That is awesome.

        sarah wrote on July 27th, 2012
      • Ha! They lie because they did not do their due diligence and research what they teach. Ugh… society.

        Nicole wrote on July 30th, 2012
        • They lie because they don’t know any better. They themselves have been taught the pyramid.

          The pyramid is based on some research a long long time ago that was misinterpreted and afterwards covered up. The pyramid recommendation was based on that research. it should have been the other way around.

          Check https://vimeo.com/45485034 for a presentation about it mentioning all the research & facts. Eye-opening.

          Just now realised how old this blogpost is :$

          Vincent wrote on August 15th, 2012
    • Oh don’t get me started! Have you seen what they serve in the cafeteria???? Schools/teachers in general need a HUGE teaching on health and nutrition. I work at a school and shadow a child with autism. It drives me CRAZY to sit in that cafeteria daily and see what these children consume. It’s child abuse.

      Coco wrote on July 27th, 2012
      • I don’t even GO to the cafeteria or the teacher’s lounge because I’d start screaming. I try to spread the joy of living Primal to my coworkers, but they want none of it, especially when I say no to cookies and brownies. I almost wish I was overweight before I went Primal, that way people could *see* the changes it made in my life.

        Nicole wrote on July 28th, 2012
  13. Oh my goodness! I just got so choked up reading this story, that I literally have chills. I am so happy for you! Now, I am even more determined to not turn back from this journey. Seeing your story today – day 3 of going primal for me – is just miraculous.

    You guys look A-MAZING! It’s an outstanding triumph of personal determination.

    AWESOME! Thank you.

    Penelope wrote on July 27th, 2012
  14. You guys look great, thanks for the story.

    Lucy wrote on July 27th, 2012
  15. Awesome results!

    And the best part is that these results are very typical of those that just have the courage to stick with the Primal / Paleo diet.

    Mike42050 wrote on July 27th, 2012
  16. Everyone loves Fridays.

    Great jobs!

    Pam wrote on July 27th, 2012
  17. Alright dammit, that’s it. I bought the blueprint when it first came out, I’ve been lurking on this site and procrastinating ever since. I’m Ed’s age and I look much like his “before” picture. Starting right now, I’m going all in. Hope to have my pics up on this site in a year.

    Glenn wrote on July 27th, 2012
    • :) Made me smile!! I love to see determination!

      Meesha wrote on July 27th, 2012
    • Go, Glenn! We’ll be looking for your story!

      Nicole wrote on July 27th, 2012
  18. wow! the 2 of you look so fantastic! great job! i always find it interesting how people really can turn back the clock in terms of the way they look at a certain age with pretty simple modifications to their lifestyle.

    Marissa wrote on July 27th, 2012
  19. this is a wonderful story and so inspiring. thanks for sharing

    juli wrote on July 27th, 2012
  20. Wow! What an inspiring story. Thanks for sharing. I just started about 4 weeks ago myself and my husband has joined me, even staying primal on his last business trip. Way to go guys! Hopefully we’ll have a success story to share soon.

    Meredith wrote on July 27th, 2012
  21. As others have already said: A truly remarkable transformation – inspirational!

    This is how we can change the whole SAD/CW paradigm the world over – one real-life success story after another!

    Alex wrote on July 27th, 2012
  22. These always make me cry! Wow!

    cait wrote on July 27th, 2012
  23. I am so happy for ya’ll. I believe that PB is a miracle in its simplicity. Eat, move, be happy; what could be easier? I admit to jealousy that it happened so quickly for you but I know my lifestyle has a lot to do with my slow progress. You are both beautiful and I wish you continued health and happiness.

    TruckerLady wrote on July 27th, 2012
    • I am now going to Mark’s “Get Real” post for a nice kick in the pants…

      TruckerLady wrote on July 27th, 2012
  24. Fantastic journey and the best is yet to come. You both are inspiring and so cute !!!!

    Tanya wrote on July 27th, 2012
  25. What a Friday transformational story. You guys blew me away. I cannot believe how different people look when they are at healthy weights and vibrant and full of life. It’s sad how obesity and SAD foods make you look twice your age and probably feel at least that. Congrats to you both; keep it up!

    meaghan wrote on July 27th, 2012
  26. Fantastic! I never would have believed you were in your 50′s, the change is so dramatic. Congratulations to a new healthy, happy life!

    sapphiric wrote on July 27th, 2012
  27. Very inspiring for this 56 year old.

    Kay Caringi wrote on July 27th, 2012
    • I truly believe we’re only as old as we feel, and we can reverse the effects of aging at least to a point. Jack leLanne was a perfect example, he was so Paleo and we didn’t even realize it. I have found so much success in Paleo but I have a whole lot of tomorrows ahead of me and I’m going to make the best of every one of em! :-)

      Ed wrote on July 27th, 2012
  28. Wow! You both look fantastic and I don’t just mean physically.

    Lucy wrote on July 27th, 2012
  29. LOVE this story! It’s so inspiring!!! You both look amazing….and I don’t just mean the weight loss. You look healthy – glowing and happy. So happy you took your health into consideration vs. weight loss. And it will definitely help your children. I shadow a child w/autism at work (school) and know that things are black and white in most of their eyes. Your example will eventually speak louder than teachers (or anyone else for that matter) words. It will take time….as with any child….but you’re doing the right thing by phasing things into their diets rather than cold turkey. Children with autism need that “adjustment” period and I applaud you for recognizing that! :)

    Coco wrote on July 27th, 2012
  30. Dear Amy and Ed,

    Please do not look back and think about the ‘should haves and could haves’ you did as you knew best at a certain time. And when you knew better, you did. The last thing you need is other people telling you what to do. i admire you for doing all that you did! Best of luck with your new direction and all the wonderful things that will come out off your decisions and actions. I am sure the path you both embarked on is the best for you and your family.Kind regards, another lurker, Annemiek.

    annemiek wrote on July 27th, 2012
  31. Well if any middle aged fellow needed any more inspiration than Mr. Sisson this story should do it.

    Both of you look terrific and are inspiring! Well done!

    Mark Washburn wrote on July 27th, 2012
  32. Congratulations – isn’t it wonderful? I also went on the diet (Atkins at the start – learned about Paleo along the way) at about the same time that you did & lost 80 lbs. As an adult I was always overweight – but not anymore. Isn’t it lifechanging?

    I never could understand why I was overweight – afterall I was following the USDA guidelines…..but they fail to tell you that some people cannot maintain a normal weight with any excess carbs. If I exceed a diet defined as “low-carb”, I gain weight immediately.

    Now that I’ve been “skinny” for six months & I changed jobs along the way – there are people in my life that think I’ve always been skinny and do not understand that I weighed 212 lbs 18 months ago. When I was losing weight, I received lots of attention. Now, I’m just a normal person. I’m getting used to being “normal” – but its still thrilling to walk into stores & having the size 4s fit. (I was wearing a 20 when I started.)

    Have fun! I’m very happy for you.

    Julia M. wrote on July 27th, 2012
  33. Awesome story. I, too, have a child with Autism. The stress can be debilitating, and the excuses to not take care of yourself can be many. I’m so glad you have found a healthy lifestyle for your family. Enjoy!

    Pam wrote on July 27th, 2012
  34. I’m a newbie at all this paleo lifestyle and I love the Friday post. Ed and Amy, what an amazing transformation! Inspiring and motivating!! Almost 3 mths in and my husband has joined in! Makes it a whole lot easier. Thank you for sharing.

    Di wrote on July 27th, 2012
  35. What a great story!!!!!! Thanks for sharing!

    Kevin wrote on July 27th, 2012
  36. Wish my hubbie would stick to being a caveman even when he is on the road.
    The changes in my daughter have been so good. There has been a lot less fighting except when she has been with Grandma, who thinks we are crazy.
    Hope the best for the WHOLE family.
    Blessings Debi

    Debi wrote on July 27th, 2012
  37. Wow – you guys totally rock! What I love about your story more that anything is the fact that you did it as a team and it reconnected you. I started my Paleo pursuit solo but a few months in my husband saw the difference and has now become a devout follower. We are having the same renewal in our relationship as you and it’s lovely! Well done and good luck moving forward.

    Rachel wrote on July 27th, 2012
  38. One thing that is never talked about after switching to the paleo diet is how a person’s sex life improves about a 1000 percent. If our friends only knew. Thanks for sharing that critical piece of information. Respect to both of you.

    Kevin wrote on July 27th, 2012
  39. So inspirational. Very well done!

    Dave f wrote on July 27th, 2012
  40. Incredible. Ed, what’s your routine for those abs? Amazing, an inspiration for the rest of us for sure.

    Joe wrote on July 27th, 2012
    • Thanks Joe and Carl (below), Day one of the whole 30 I could squeeze 1 pull-up and maybe a dozen push-ups. Mark has a PDF on progressive exercises and I started using that to move forward. I start each morning with “the sun salute” yoga and I have increased my push-ups to 70 a day. I know this is shoulders and pecs but great for core as well. I found a water line in our basement at work that I pass several times a day, each time I pass under I do 10 pull-ups or 10 toe-ups. I love doing V-sits with a 10lb. medicine ball and the killer is dragon flags, 3 sets of 8, that’ll get you there. When I do pull-ups I do them legs extended straight out too. Thanks

      Ed wrote on July 28th, 2012

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