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. Great story. Keep it up!!!

    Brian Whiddon wrote on August 29th, 2009
  2. Congrats on what is the start of a long road of positive news for your health and hence your lifestyle.

    yonkeykong wrote on August 29th, 2009
  3. Great work Griff!

    John wrote on August 29th, 2009
  4. i want a free shirt

    Terry Gilmore wrote on August 29th, 2009
  5. Congrats on choosing an excellent path to living well! You can do it, and you’ll feel like a million bucks :-).

    Oh, and as someone who understands how important a great dad is…I’m so sorry about your dad…

    Becky wrote on August 29th, 2009
  6. New to primal and loving it. This continues to be a great resource for a newbie like myself. Thanks!

    Daryle Dickens wrote on August 29th, 2009
  7. I wish you tons of success!!

    Ace wrote on August 29th, 2009
  8. Good luck Griff! I am glad you found MDA and a new lifestyle. I know it can work for you b/c it just makes sense!

    sofiawahaj wrote on August 29th, 2009
  9. Great job on starting to bring your blood sugar under control!

    This post reminds me of a time that we had to test our blood sugar in my EMT class. The guy with the highest blood sugar was the one who had eaten a bagel for breakfast that morning. It all makes sense once you understand what’s really going on.

    Pam wrote on August 29th, 2009
  10. Congrats!

    cwdana wrote on August 29th, 2009
  11. Thanks for sharing your story. I know all too well what it is to get a reality check from a parent: my father is still alive, but he’d always been a big drinker and liked his sugary snacks, and ended up with high blood pressure and diabetes. Eight years ago he had a stroke; two years ago my mother, who was his primary carer, also had a stroke. They’re now both disabled. I’m determined not to end up the same way and I’m glad that you have resolved not to follow in your own father’s footsteps. You’ve got a family and husband who, no doubt, hope you’ll be around for a good long time, and you’ve absolutely come to the right place to make that happen. I won’t wish you luck, but I’ll wish you strength and determination. Kudos.

    Indiscreet wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • My dad was never a drinker, but he loved him some pasta and other bad foods. He was a gourmand as well as a gourmet, and I think that was his downfall.

      I miss him so much.

      Thanks for the good wishes.

      Griff wrote on August 29th, 2009
  12. Great job, MDA has many positive DM II success stories. A too common disease with a simple/hard cure.

    Simple in that the correct diet/excercise can correct the problem. Hard in that most in medical community do not support the “correct” diet, and it takes discipline to live primal healthy lifestyle.


    2bshredded wrote on August 29th, 2009
  13. Congrats!

    Scott wrote on August 29th, 2009
  14. I love your story! Low-carb Primal Style. Make it your forever lifestyle!

    mcoz-09 wrote on August 29th, 2009
  15. Another tale that’s great to hear! And another kick in my butt to get going Primal!

    Not only myself, but I’d like to get my parents Primal as well. My dad has been diabetic for almost 15 years now, currently using an insulin pump and doing alright, but could be so much better. And my mom, while decently healthy by the numbers, in probably ~225lb yet only 5′ in height. At 61 and 59, I’ve got to convince them they’ve got plenty of time to change.

    Zyzzyx wrote on August 29th, 2009
  16. Great Job Griff. Your story is real and inspiring. It’s also a story that should be sent to the companies and government who have been pushing carbs and dairy and causing good people to eat in a way that has not been healthy. Keep up the great work and please keep us updated. Your story will inspire us all.


    Pete wrote on August 29th, 2009
  17. Griff, best of luck to you. You sound euphoric about your new plan, as well you should be. But you (like me, alas) still have a long way to go. I’ve been stalled for 6 months now on weight loss, even though I still have well over 100 pounds I need to lose.

    I’m not saying you will stall, but I know many folks it has happened to, some who have been stalled for years. Just don’t get discouraged if it happens. Keep your head on the things that are important, like improved blood sugar numbers for example! Keep on keeping on. Keep us posted on how you are doing.

    Debbie wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • Actually, I don’t care if I stall. Like I said above, the scale is for my husband – not for me. I’ll only stand on the scale when I see the doctor. Plus, muscle weighs more than fat. I’ll be going by my blood sugars, my clothing, and how I feel.

      Things I’m hoping for/looking forward to:
      – Normal blood sugars all the time. An A1c below 5.0. Normal cholesterol levels.
      – Being able to buy clothes in regular stores – something I haven’t been able to do since I was about 8 years old.
      – Fitting in regular chairs that have arms.
      – Fitting into regular school desks.
      – Running!
      – Jumping rope.

      And of course I’ll keep everyone posted about it!

      Griff wrote on August 29th, 2009
  18. Congrats – it’s arguable that the first two weeks are the toughest. You’ll “tweak” as time goes on, learn new ways of doing things and so forth, but you’re a good chunk of the way along the journey!

    gcb wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • Actually? This has been easy. I always liked fatty proteins over carbs anyway – never had much of a sweet tooth. On Thanksgiving, most kids would go grab leftover mashed potatoes or stuffing. I’d go right for the leftover dark meat and chow down on it.

      I hope it keeps being this easy!

      Griff wrote on August 29th, 2009
  19. Congratulations on your excellent new beginning! Keep up the good work!

    Sara6 wrote on August 29th, 2009
  20. Thanks, Griff. Keep up the good work.

    Gregg wrote on August 29th, 2009
  21. Do/will you have a blog we can follow?

    John wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • I’ll be posting blogs here on MDA.

      Griff wrote on August 30th, 2009
  22. That’s great!!! You’re on your way, keep up the good work!!!

    Gina wrote on August 29th, 2009
  23. Way to go!

    Just take baby steps and you will rock it out!

    clayberg wrote on August 29th, 2009
  24. Soo inspiring to this aspiring Grogette.
    Would love to hear how others responsible for fixing meals for the family do this.

    Melissa Scott wrote on August 29th, 2009
  25. Keep it up! I love that jumping rope is on your list, you’ll feel so free and young when you try it again.
    Awesome story

    AndreaC wrote on August 29th, 2009
  26. Griff! I am so thrilled for you. My brother had his story posted on here yesterday, and each and everyone’s story makes me so happy. I am not in ill health, but the success of my family and friends who have gone Primal has gotten me to jump aboard, and I am 10lbs lighter already. Your story and all the others are so inspiring.

    kricka wrote on August 29th, 2009
  27. Keep it up!

    WT wrote on August 29th, 2009
  28. Thanks, Griff.

    IDRISCKY wrote on August 29th, 2009
  29. Keep on it, Griff! Those little changes really keep the ball rolling!

    DebFM wrote on August 29th, 2009
  30. Pretty inspiring stuff!

    William wrote on August 29th, 2009
  31. I plan on eating this way after the challenge ends!

    Helen wrote on August 29th, 2009
  32. This is very similar to my story -being overweight, believing you can be healthy while fat and vegetarian and the binges becoming ever larger and out of control…

    But steak and spinach for dinner sorted that all out for me too! :)

    beastiegirl wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • Well, I never binged as such, which is why I didn’t go up or down for 8 years at 370 (I think, anyway). But when my dad died, all bets were off. I started eating for comfort as I hadn’t done since before I went vegetarian for two years. And eating for comfort meant potatoes, rice, pasta – all those things that give you a feeling of being satiated and high.

      I’ve got to be a little careful about high-oxalate foods like spinach and broccoli, as I’m prone to kidney stones, although 400 mg of potassium citrate every day seems to be taking care of that (crosses fingers).

      Griff wrote on August 30th, 2009
  33. I think… no wait, I KNOW, you’re going to be SO much healthier and happier since going primal from here on out! Good job and keep it up! You can do it! :)

    Primal_Pebbles wrote on August 29th, 2009
  34. Keep us up to date on your progress.

    Shawn wrote on August 29th, 2009
  35. Thanks for sharing your story! It’s great to hear about your success and to see what an impact you’ve already had not only on your life, but on the life of everyone who’s read your story! The Primal life just makes sense, doesn’t it? Life seems more simple, focused, fun… and tasty! I’d love to keep hearing about your journey!

    Melissa wrote on August 29th, 2009
  36. lots o’ comments, small chase to win but its worth a shot!

    Dennis wrote on August 29th, 2009
  37. t-shirt win!

    Anthony wrote on August 29th, 2009
  38. I love LOVE these stories.

    evanator wrote on August 29th, 2009
  39. I’ve been mostly primal for about four months now. Just got back from a work conference where my colleagues haven’t seen me for six months – almost every single one of them complimented me on my weight loss and general fitness (I’ve dropped a net of about 20 pounds – added a bit of muscle so I’m not sure what the total fat loss is)

    Brian wrote on August 29th, 2009
    • That’s one reason why I’m not going to count on the scale to tell me what kind of progress I’m making. My blood sugars and what’s happening to real-world situations with my body are going to be the true markers for me.

      Griff wrote on August 30th, 2009
  40. So happy for you, Griff! Keep up the great work and know that we are all rooting for you!

    Jessica wrote on August 29th, 2009

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