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

The Beginning of a New Life

Hi Mark,

I’ve been Primal for about two weeks.

In that time, I’ve learned more about how my body works, how ill-informed doctors can be, and how important movement is to health than in all my 38 years combined. This is both mind-blowing and humbling for me.

I’ve always lived in my head. I never had much use for my body, because I was a chubby kid and I became a more-than-chubby adult. I ignored warnings about high-sugar food, went on every diet known to man at the time (from the 600-calorie-per-day no-fat diet to Weight Watchers to the Water Diet, where you ate… wait for it… water and nothing but), you name it, I’ve probably tried it. Exercise hurt and made me sweaty, which meant I had to shower, which meant getting undressed and looking at my body, which I didn’t like doing. It was just easier not to exercise. I hid in books and, later, computers and the Internet. By trade, I’m working on being a sociologist and a statistician – lots of head-work, but not much field-work. (I used to say that that was the advantage of sociology over anthropology: you don’t have to go out into the fields to do your field-work.)

Every now and then I’d have a spurt of “I’ll try to be THIN!” but it never lasted more than a couple of weeks. And it always involved cutting out fat and sugar, but still eating lots and lots of those supposedly “healthy” carbs and grains. In high school, I weighed 200 when I started freshman year and, despite four years of marching band, I weighed 280 when I graduated. When I got married the first time, I weighed 340. I thought surely I was as big as I was ever going to get, right? When my first marriage broke up nine years later and I went vegetarian, I was at 370. I maintained that weight for eight years. Sure, I got told I was a diabetic two years ago (with what I argued at the time was a single and unrelated anomalous blood sugar reading of 127 when I was completely stressed out), but although I took the tester and strips, I didn’t bother to follow the program, and I insisted that one could be heavy and healthy at the same time. (And I’m still a fat activist for the rights of fat people, because as most of us know, so many fat people aren’t aware that they’re being told all the wrong things about weight and health and food that I can’t really blame them for their lack of knowledge. I tell those I can, when I can, and let the rest of it work out on its own.)

So I thought I was doing pretty well. I was in graduate school, I had two beautiful daughters and a strong relationship with my husband (he and I married last year when it was legal for us to do so in CA), I was bright, I was articulate, I’d graduated from undergrad with honors. Oh yeah, and I was a hell of a good cook.

Then, in January of this year, my father died of cancer and diabetes complications (inoperable gangrene in his feet). You have to understand about my dad – he was the most important person in my life next to my husband and my kids, and when he died, I went a little nuts. More than a little – I started eating everything I could get my hands on. Ice cream? Check. Pie? Check. Hi-carb snacks, chips, dips? Check, check, and check again. Bring on the mashed potatoes and the rice pilaf, and add a hot fudge sundae in there, for good measure.

Six months after my father died, I was up to 397 pounds. Essentially, I was 400 pounds. I’d gained 200 pounds in 25 years, and I wasn’t skinny at 200, but I was six inches shorter then.

My doctor got on my case on the 7th of August. Nicely, but firmly. It was time, he said, for me to stop pretending I wasn’t an impending diabetic and get with the program. I came home and didn’t eat anything for two days. Then I started testing my blood and was shocked at the numbers. 192. 178. 217 (after a high-carb meal at my brother-in-law’s)! Even my morning “fasting” numbers weren’t great: 144, 148, 152, 139.

So I dove into research, and among other sites about diabetes and low-carb ways of eating, found MDA. And reading the success stories here, I decided I was going to go low-carb. Not to lose weight, but to get my sugars back under control.

I’ve been low-carbing since August 13, and I started with a goal of no more than 80 carbs/day. Now I’m down to a goal of no more than 40 carbs/day, and I hope soon to get that down to below 20/day as I figure out what affects me and what doesn’t. Although my morning numbers are still annoyingly high (mid-140s most days), my daytime sugars go down all day long, and by the end of the day my average is sitting in the mid-110s, which is a hell of a lot better than the mid-180s!

I’ve also noticed a few other things. It’s no longer a struggle to buckle my seatbelt. My shortest belt is too long to really keep my pants up. I saw a doctor last week and I’d already dropped five pounds – and that was before I got seriously into the Primal way of doing things. I feel better. I sleep better. My teeth don’t bleed when I brush anymore (and that was just a lifelong thing for me, the bleeding teeth). I walked a half mile (round trip) to the store the other day – something I NEVER would have done before – and although I came back in a muck sweat, I was so proud of myself. And I’m working out, gently, every morning. I’m up and moving for thirty minutes before I do anything else, and it’s made a huge difference in how I feel.

I want to live a long, long life. And the image of my father’s feet is all I need to keep me going, even when I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. But if I hadn’t come across the Primal way of living, I’d probably be sucking down my little pancreas-killing hypoglycemic sulfonurea drugs right now, eating 60% of my calories in grains, and wondering why the glucometer stubbornly refuses to get out of the 250s.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make some steak and wilted spinach for dinner. I promise to post the recipe, too.


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. Keep it up, you’re doing great! :-)

    Halo wrote on August 29th, 2009
  2. Thanks, everyone! My next step: exercising Primally. I’m still not there yet (trying to find ways to keep exercise from spiking my sugars too much) but I’m getting there.

    Griff wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • i heard about MDA from my crossfit coach. crossfit and MDA go together like steak and veggies! i would think about talking to a local crossfit trainer. first time is always free. you get your sweat on, AND they modify workouts for every level of fitness! i’ve never been so strong in my life, but then i’m also only 28. it’s just going to get better! good job!

      t.rock wrote on August 29th, 2009
  3. Sounds like this is the lifestyle for you!

    I don’t think I’ve seen your name in the forum yet. Come join us for some scintillating discussions, debates, and recipe swaps!

    dragonmamma wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • Oh, I’ve been there – just not often yet. Mostly I’ve responded to people and posted recipes.

      I’ll work up to posting journals… just not quite that brave yet, I guess.

      Griff wrote on August 29th, 2009
  4. It’s good to see more and more people changing their lifestyle to the primal way. You won’t regret it, Griff. :)

    Twonky wrote on August 29th, 2009
  5. It’s maddening that doctors keep spouting this whole-grain, low-fat nonsense … and then people keep wondering why they can’t get their sugars under control. My dad has been testing high for his sugars (first time ever, never been overweight) and luckily my mom listens to me and has done her own research in the past. By limiting his carbs and grains, he now has them under control (although he won’t go totally Primal).
    You are a great example. Keep up the great changes and don’t get discouraged!!

    Alex wrote on August 29th, 2009
  6. Congrats! Life will only keep getting better!!

    Nicola wrote on August 29th, 2009
  7. Griff, i know what your talking about, when i started primal i was pushing 360 and am now down to 330 in the last 6 months, it might be hard work but beats the hell out of being dead. keep up the good work, it’s good to know that i’m not alone.

    JUPITER BOONE wrote on August 29th, 2009
  8. Congrats… keep up the great work.

    Steven wrote on August 29th, 2009
  9. Good job brother. It takes time and patience to develop a new way of living, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

    jack wrote on August 29th, 2009
  10. Great story. You said it all in the first few lines when you talked about learning. It is something we don’t do very well. Sure, we learn what we are taught, but how often do we really go seeking out the truth?

    logmyloss wrote on August 29th, 2009
  11. Congratulations! Don’t forget to start Lifting Heavy Things.

    Wiwo wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • As soon as this sprained thumb heals, I plan to. Right now I’m Lifting Small Things – which is more than I ever did before.

      Griff wrote on August 29th, 2009
  12. Awesome job with the changes in your life, time and hard work pay off as years of life well spent!

    George wrote on August 29th, 2009
  13. awesome, Griff, now just keep on keeping on and you will have lost the first 100 before you know it :)

    Jedi wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • From your lips to the ears of whatever might be out there – I hope so! 😀

      Griff wrote on August 29th, 2009
  14. This post was just what I needed to get out of my gloomy rut – here I was thinking I’d give in and go get some pizza tonight to “feel better.” I’m not facing stress or challenges anywhere near what Griff is, what what do I have to feel sorry about?!?!? Thanks for the inspiration (wake-up call) Griff – keep up the good work.

    amyt wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • Thanks, Amy – you’ll do fine. Everyone has their own problems. I refuse to play the “my stress/pain/problems are bigger (and therefore more important) than your problems” game, though. Why beat yourself up? Problems are problems, whether trival or huge, and they still cause stress that has effects which must be dealt with.

      I have to keep a weather eye on my sugar levels and the composition of what I eat, so I have a running report of how I’m doing, and it can get discouraging (like yesterday morning, when the pain from my sprained thumb caused a morning sugar spike). That’s why, although I bought a scale so my husband can get feedback on his progress, I’ve resolved not to use the scale for myself more than once a month. Any more than that, and I’ll start obsessing about the numbers instead of about how I’m feeling. The trend is more important than the particular meal or day, in my opinion.

      Focus on the trend, and the need to have pizza to feel better should go away. My trend right now is that my seatbelt no longer fights me to get buckled, and my sugars have dropped about 40-50 points on average from when I started. That’s good enough for me right now.

      Griff wrote on August 29th, 2009
  15. Nice to read what two weeks are able to do.

    For me, it made me lose some weight my body refused to give up for a looong time but that’s nothing compared to such health benefits!

    Keep up and don’t give up!

    Hynek wrote on August 29th, 2009
  16. Congrats on the progress.

    Ted Demetro wrote on August 29th, 2009
  17. Congrats Griff! You are on your way to things unimaginable. As mentioned above, don’t be too hard on yourself. There will be missteps along the way as you find the diet and exercise that work best for you. Just don’t get discouraged, and look at these inevitable missteps as opportunities to fine tune and get even healthier. Seek support from friends, family, and the forum any time you need a boost. Your attitude will definitely take you far. All the best!

    Rodney wrote on August 29th, 2009
  18. Personal expierance with excersizing, because i’ve been outta the loop and have just started up also! take your time, start with small reps and small sets, if you start to hurt in like a specific area(ligament or tendon) stop what you’re doing and cool down and call it a day! maybe even ice the sucker. its better to do it slowly and build up than hurt yourself on the first day! (like i did)

    Jeffrey Strickland wrote on August 29th, 2009
  19. The time and changes will pass sooner then you think. Good luck!

    Bacon for Lunch wrote on August 29th, 2009
  20. Wow, what an inspiring story. I’m so glad that the primal lifestyle has been such a positive change.

    Also, so sorry to hear about the loss of your father. All the best for the future.

    grainfreegirl wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • Thank you for saying that – I’ve been thinking about Dad a lot lately, and wishing that I had known this stuff three years ago. It might have saved his life.

      Griff wrote on August 29th, 2009
  21. Wonderful story! Keep on the path!

    lbd wrote on August 29th, 2009
  22. Good job!

    Kevin Croke wrote on August 29th, 2009
  23. Keep it up!

    Ridgeback Runner wrote on August 29th, 2009
  24. Keep it up! I like t-shirts :^)


    Doug Van Cleve wrote on August 29th, 2009
  25. Hi Griff,

    Thanks for sharing your story with us. It sounds like you’ve been through so much and it’s inspiring to feel your determination to live a long, healthy life.

    jtkeith wrote on August 29th, 2009
  26. Great job, Griff!! Keep up the good work, and keep us posted on your progress!

    Theresa wrote on August 29th, 2009
  27. You’re doing great, I wish you the best in the future.

    Simon wrote on August 29th, 2009
  28. thanks for a great post! it’s nice to here about other walks of life and their primal journey! Sometimes it seems like everyone you see on here is already in great shape! (I’m not!!) Congrats and keep up the good work!

    cocobean wrote on August 29th, 2009
  29. I love that you had the courage to post your story so early in the game. And I especially love people with the whole “No, I’m not going to accept this as my life” kind of attitude. Totally inspirational — keep it up!

    Deanna wrote on August 29th, 2009
  30. Awesome! It’s those little things like the seatbelt that are the icing on the cake (almond cake of course).

    Just remember!

    25 years to put it on…
    25 weeks you’ll see a lot of it come off…
    But the best part is… you’ll feel 25,000 times better!

    Grok wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • *boggle* 25 weeks? Seriously?


      Griff wrote on August 29th, 2009
  31. Nice job. Grab a buddy and start working out three times a week. It works.
    Keep on Keep’n on.

    tee wrote on August 29th, 2009
  32. Very inspirational. All the best for the future.

    Stephan wrote on August 29th, 2009
  33. What a great story, and congratulations on taking charge of your health! I’m looking forward to seeing your before and after pics 😉

    K. wrote on August 29th, 2009
  34. Congratulations, Griff!! Taking the first step can be the hardest part: making the decision to change.

    Ramona Denton wrote on August 29th, 2009
  35. Great job, Griff! Keep it up =)

    Andrew Y. wrote on August 29th, 2009
  36. Wow, pretty awesome story.

    And I felt you touched on something that I love about Primal – you can feel great, and eat stuff you enjoy (it just takes a little exploring to find what you *really* enjoy, not just sugar), and stick with it. Sure beats that “water diet” – can’t imagine that’d be enjoyable. The chance to eat right, but still feel satisfied and energetic makes Primal a no-brainer

    Eric G wrote on August 29th, 2009
  37. I have high morning blood sugars which my doctor says is from havng sleep apnea. Maybe you have sleep apnea? Good luck to you Griff!

    Dena wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • Oh, I probably do – but once I drop the weight, it’ll go away. I have found that having a half glass of Bordeaux at night with a bit of cheese brings my morning sugars down to normal, so it may also just be the liver dump/dawn phenomenon. In any case, I’m looking forward to that changing…

      Griff wrote on August 29th, 2009
  38. Wow! Your story is truly inspirational! You are living proof that the only true “Health Care Reform” starts and ends with the individual. Not only are doctors mis-informed, how about the government and the food pyramid? Keep moving forward, you have no idea how many people your story will impact.

    Eric wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • That’s why I wrote it. :) Thanks!

      Griff wrote on August 29th, 2009
  39. Thanks, Griff!

    Ed wrote on August 29th, 2009
  40. new reader / awesome story

    I started primal-esk habits a couple of years ago. It’s awesome!

    Marc wrote on August 29th, 2009

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