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

Tons of Doctors and No Solution

It is my pleasure to share Tara’s success story with you today. Follow her journey through marriage, the birth of her twin boys, and a year and a half transformation to a healthy lifestyle. When doctors fail, when WebMD fails, it’s time to take health education into your own hands.

If you have your own Primal Blueprint success story and you’d like to share it with me and the community please contact me here. Have a wonderful Thursday, everyone, and thanks for reading!

Hi Mark!

I had been fairly healthy my entire life, but had always carried about 10 extra pounds. When I turned 24, that changed. All of a sudden, I started experiencing allergies. Major weight gain. Depression. Acne. Itchy scalp. Boils. Missed periods and debilitating pain when they did come. Joint pain. IBS. These were all new things to me.

I saw dozens of doctors – German ones, Canadian ones, American and Dutch. Some told me I was suffering from allergies. Others made me keep a food journal and count calories. Some gave me acne medication. I was poked, prodded and bled. The one conclusion that all of the doctors shared was that I was overreacting, hysterical and wasting their time. According to them, I was just fat and lazy – and probably a hypochondriac.

I was miserable. I tried everything to lose weight, but I was just so tired all of the time. I diagnosed myself with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Metabolic Syndrome, endometriosis and depression, which the doctors then confirmed. They put me on Prozac, which made me gain more weight. At my heaviest, I was around 235 lbs. I am a 5’9″ female. 235 lbs is not a healthy weight. When I asked the doctors HOW to lose weight, I was told, “We don’t know. Just lose it. Then symptoms will go away.” So, Google it was.

After months of trying to find information on PCOS online, I discovered a random comment on someone’s journal that said that some women with PCOS had had success losing weight with a low carb diet. That was the only help I could find. I dropped carbs that first day. I went zero carb overnight and felt amazing. I got my energy back. Exercising became fun again. I shed 40 pounds in two months and kept it off. I stabilized at 185. I realized that my previous diet had consisted of nothing but simple, refined carbs. Thinking I needed lots of carbs for energy (thank you, USDA!) I had thought nothing of eating an entire plate of white rice for dinner, with nothing else.

Things got better – but only slightly. I started eating carbs and grains again – in moderation. When I found I could maintain my weight and pretty much eat whatever I wanted, I let it slide.

I practically killed myself to get down to 175 for my wedding in April 2005. I had to go to the gym and work out 5 days a week, hard and watch everything I put in my mouth. I was still eating grains and everything was going soooo slowly. The minute I said, “I Do,” I gained 5 pounds. By the time we got back home from Las Vegas, I was back at 185 lbs and didn’t know why.

From 2005 to 2009, my hormonal issues were wiggin’ out of control. That was 4 years of hair falling out, suicidal lows, no sex drive, mysterious hives, rashes and boils. Tons of doctors and no solutions – the only help they would give me were useless tests and pharmaceuticals. I had my thyroid checked over 10 times. Each time it was fine. Google and I were on close terms, and according to it, my hormones were way out of whack (or I had some sort of cancer. Nothing like WebMD for scaring the crap out of yourself!) Because I didn’t know any better, I didn’t realize the part that insulin was playing, and instead, concentrated on getting my estrogen/testosterone levels right. Which didn’t work. Once again, the doctors had failed me.

The whole time, I was freaking out for a baby. We had to resort to IVF to get pregnant, since the endometriosis had ravaged my fallopian tubes. I had a miserable, sugar-soaked, bed-ridden pregnancy and identical twin boys in January of 2009. My kids were born two months early, but I had somehow managed to gain 80 pounds during the short pregnancy. By May of that year, I was still 235 pounds and PISSED OFF because I had been told (and believed) that breastfeeding burns calories and that the weight would “just melt right off!”

My brother, who I am super proud of and who is one of my greatest influences and motivators, sent me Mark Sisson’s book, The Primal Blueprint in May of ’09. It literally changed my life. It made so much sense to me that we should be eating the way we had evolved to. I looked up the Primal/Paleo lifestyle and found a community of people who had been suffering from a lot of the same maladies as I had been but who now seemed to be completely CURED. Where did I sign up?

I immediately cut out all grains and sugar, but I still didn’t have it right. I had been eating so much sugar before that cutting it out completely was unbearable to me. It was my only vice so it seemed so justifiable. Instead of Sweet Tarts and donuts, though, I ate fruit. A lot of it. And tons of nuts, too, since they are allowed on the Primal diet. I didn’t stop eating dairy, either. But cutting out grains and white sugar was having an effect. I lost 20 pounds pretty quick.

I started tweaking my diet. Way less fruit – mainly berries and the occasional apple. Whipping cream instead of half and half. Limiting nuts to once a week. More fat, fewer carbs. My palate changed. Biting into a kiwi gave me the same satisfaction that Sweet Tarts used to. Salads came alive and cooking became fun again. The Primal Blueprint allows for “cheats” if you stick to the lifestyle 80% of the time. So, I allowed myself treats from time to time but I planned them and enjoyed the hell out of them. I didn’t suddenly pack on 10 pounds if I ate something bad, because I stopped at that one thing. Instead of “falling off of the wagon,” I listened to my body and occasionally gave into cravings when they came. It became easier and easier to say “no.”

During this time, I noticed that most of my hormonal issues were disappearing. My periods became super regular. I barely noticed them, to be honest, which was NOT the norm for me. My skin cleared up, I didn’t need to use moisturizer anymore, I was freakin’ HAPPY all the time, and I was losing weight. It was slow, about a pound a week but it was coming off. And I wasn’t really trying all that hard! The Primal Blueprint mentions that nutrition is 80% of the battle. I especially liked Mark Sisson’s take on fitness – you don’t actually have to do as much as the industry would have you believe. I also learned that most people are working out incorrectly. Hours of “chronic cardio” on the treadmill is actually having the opposite of the desired effect – people are overtraining, injuring themselves and making themselves hungry as hell. (It’s a lot easier to justify a donut when you’ve worked out hard, right?!) I didn’t have to work out hard to see results. I now do CrossFit once or twice a week, yoga once (maybe), sprints now and then and the occasional walk around the neighborhood with the kids. I guess when I stop to consider it, I probably do do more exercise than the average person – I tend to do a proper deadlift when I lift each one of my 30 lb boys and will sometimes drop down and do a couple burpees for no reason at all. I blame that on all the extra energy I now have.

I’ve just passed my one-and-a-half-year anniversary with the Primal lifestyle. I’ve been so enamored with this way of life that I have completely changed the way I live. I’ve done tons of research, reading and studying. I had never really thought too much about the environment, but some of the stuff I uncovered – about pesticides, chemicals, hormones and antibiotics being used in the food industry – has made me change a lot of the ways I do things and I feel like I’m doing my part for the environment now. I compost with worms for the free fertilizer, I’m growing a lot of my own vegetables and I even got a few chickens for my backyard. I get 4 organic, free-range eggs a day and I don’t have to worry about them being loaded with antibiotic residue. I eat grass-fed beef.

Mainly, I eat real, whole foods and I eat less than I did before. I’m at 153 lbs as we speak. I’m 5’9″ so I’m at my goal weight for the first time ever. I weigh less and am smaller than I was in high school! In order to lose the dreaded “last 10 pounds,” I incorporated intermittent fasting. Since my insulin and blood sugar are working properly now, going a whole day without food actually leaves me feeling fantastic and energized. I couldn’t have imagined missing even a single meal in my old life! In fact, since my blood sugar was so out of whack, missing a meal meant bouts of hypoglycemia, where I felt like shit and was a total bitch to everyone around me. That’s gone. I take 6000 units of Vitamin D a day and I’m sure that is helping towards my overall health. My depression, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis and everything else is just… gone.

I’m currently training to become a Certified Personal Trainer, and when I’ve finished that, I’m going to get a certificate in holistic nutrition so that I can officially start helping others. Mark Sisson, the Primal Blueprint and Mark’s Daily Apple have changed my life and I would like to pay it forward.


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. Congratulations Tara, you look amazing! Mark has done fabulous things for people in the last couple years….with this blog and his books….i just hope as you say, other people can —– ” pay it forward” pay it forward!

    2011 should be a record setting year for Primal thinkers and movers….

    happy christmas..

    Jamey wrote on December 24th, 2010
  2. Congratulations, Tara! Your words are inspirational, although I can’t see the pics for some reason. I’m 5’9″ and would love to be where you are.

    Sara wrote on December 24th, 2010
    • You can…it works! PB, that is. And take those Omega 3’s.

      Cj wrote on December 24th, 2010
  3. Congrats Tara, you look great. You are a true success story. Keep up the gardening and chickens!

    Dan wrote on December 24th, 2010
  4. Great story. You look amazing!

    Jeff H.

    Jeff wrote on December 24th, 2010
  5. Fantastic accomplishment. You look great. Very inspirational. I just got done reading Primal Blueprint myself and am ready to start. Got 40 lbs to shed and keep off. Thanks for the story.

    scott wrote on December 24th, 2010
    • Womens studies? Puhleeze. I draw cars and hot rods for a living. I’m just speaking from experience after having two daughters and dealing with the hormones involved, especially this last time around at age 37.

      In just one week, after cutting out all grains and gluten, I feel like I’ve gone from a boat anchor old Windsor to a Coyote 5.0L. I just wish I’d done it sooner, well before my pregnancy.

      Kristina wrote on December 26th, 2010
  6. Fantastic – it’s the whole hormone balance you get from Primal that is so fantastic isn’t it :-) without a pill in sight.

    Kelda wrote on December 24th, 2010
  7. Awesome job! You look great and your story will resonate with a lot of women out there so thank you for sharing :)

    katie wrote on December 24th, 2010
  8. You look really healthy! Congratulations!

    Félix wrote on December 24th, 2010
  9. Dear Tara, You are so beautiful now! Your achievements are really something to be proud of. What a beautiful mother!
    Good luck!
    (I am a girl by the way :) )

    Rainbow wrote on December 24th, 2010
  10. Wonderful! Bless you for sharing!

    I remember well the stark lack of good info when I first started that search, and the total lack of help and support from my doctors (“Why don’t you just go on the pill?”).

    The more info, and stories like yours, out there… the easier it will be for the next PCOS sufferer to find useful information when she googles :)

    Bess wrote on December 24th, 2010
  11. One of the best stories yet! They’re all great!

    Bob Crason wrote on December 24th, 2010
  12. OUTSTANDING! Way to go! Thank you for the inspiration!

    jguyc wrote on December 24th, 2010
  13. You are gorgeous! Amazing story and I am glad you are finally healthy and happy.

    AlyieCat wrote on December 24th, 2010
  14. Congratulations Tara well done.

    debbie_downer wrote on December 24th, 2010
  15. Katy Perry move over! You are a true inspiration Tara. And I am so impressed with how you have completely embraced the lifestyle…gardening, chickens, and using your boys for weights! :-)

    And thank you Mark. I have had some of the same results as Tara and many others. And your book, your blog, your forum have been a big part of the positive changes in my life too.

    Patty wrote on December 24th, 2010
  16. WOW! Great work. You look amazing. I am so happy for you. You are an inspiration.

    Kelly wrote on December 24th, 2010
  17. Tara, I hope you dont mind me asking a bit more about the PCOS issue. Did the change to the Primal diet and lifestyle also help you with your hairloss? (I see you have gorgeous hair on the picture, so I guess yes!) Thanks so much for your answer.

    Rainbow wrote on December 24th, 2010
    • Thank you Rainbow!! My hair loss seemed to be cyclical – I would lose large amounts every spring and it would be super brittle and dry for months. Then, the loss would stop for about 6 months and the texture seemed to improve, as did the thickness. But then, the following spring, it started to fall out again. When I noticed that the hair around my temples wasn’t coming back (I felt like I had a receding hairline and refused to wear my hair tied back), I started to freak out. My hair changed drastically when I got pregnant so I have to attribute some of the good changes to that. Also, I’ve stopped washing it every day (I only wash it about 1-2 times a week now!) and use setting lotion and pin curls instead of hair dryers and curling irons. I know the Omega 3s I take also improve the texture. I haven’t experienced any thinning since I went primal, so I guess the round about answer to your question is: yes, the PB has helped!

      Tara wrote on January 10th, 2011
  18. Tara! Congratulations on your health and obvious well-being. You look vibrant and beautiful.

    Shelley C wrote on December 24th, 2010
  19. Awesome story Tara! I just hit 159 myself (though I’m 5’7″ so I have a smidge more to lose). You look great! Congratulations!

    Sarah D wrote on December 24th, 2010
  20. Awesome job! Considering I had a hysterectomy at 22 (I’m 36 now, I believe I had PCOS but 14/15 yrs ago it wasn’t so known as it is now) which left me with one malfunctioning ovary, this gives me hope that I can get healthy! I’ve been flirting with the primal lifestyle but for some reason (can you say carb addiction) haven’t embraced it 100% yet… I think I’ll start today. I haven’t eaten anything yet, why the hell not. Merry Christmas!

    Michelle wrote on December 24th, 2010
  21. Looking at the before/after pictures was a jaw-dropper. That is seriously one of the greatest changes I’ve seen while researching low-carb diets. Congratulations on your new life, and I hope you continue to improve and help others as a trainer.

    Garrett wrote on December 24th, 2010
  22. Congratulations! I am LOVING these success stories once a weeks. This is incredibly inspiring and encourages me to keep leading a primal lifestyle.

    Primal Toad wrote on December 24th, 2010
    • I second that.

      College Caveman wrote on December 24th, 2010
      • I third it! Keep sharing your successes everyone, it’s so encouraging! May 2011 be the best year for all of us.

        Sigi wrote on December 24th, 2010
        • I fourth that!

          Jennie wrote on January 10th, 2011
  23. Tara, very proud of you. Frigging awesome results!!!

    Alex Shalman wrote on December 24th, 2010
  24. Congratulations on your accomplishments. It is too bad the body doesn’t come with an ownership manual that you can follow from day one. I was smiling the whole time I was reading your story, this is the type of change that can inspire so many. Spread the word, you can make a change and here is a great story to prove it. Merry Christmas to all.

    Steve wrote on December 24th, 2010
  25. What an amazing change! It never ceases to amaze me how everyone looks so much more vibrant and young in the after pictures.

    Steve wrote on December 24th, 2010
  26. Tara, congratulations on your amazing transformation! I love these stories of people not only losing weight and looking jaw-dropping and hot, but of HEALING. That’s what makes this ‘diet’ so easy to stick to!! Thanks for sharing, Tara, and thanks again, Mark!

    fitmom wrote on December 24th, 2010
  27. Keep it up with the amazing transformation, Tara. I’m rooting for you. :)

    John Wong wrote on December 24th, 2010
  28. Can’t read these stories without my eyes tearing up. Thanks!

    Harry wrote on December 24th, 2010
  29. Tara Lee,
    I’m so proud of you! Thanks for being such a fantastic big sister. I’m so happy that you are so much happier and healthier now. Your success inspires me. Love Jeff

    Jeff Chester wrote on December 24th, 2010
  30. Congrats Tara! You look so vibrant and healthy, not to mention beautiful! I love your style :)
    These success stories always make me smile :)

    Ika wrote on December 24th, 2010
    • Yes, such an amazing & inspiring success Tara! Thanks for being a leader to many who are struggling…True beauty, inside and out:)

      sdr wrote on December 29th, 2010
  31. Keep going Tara. Amazing job!

    Dougie wrote on December 24th, 2010
  32. In the ancient language Sanskrit – ‘Tara’ means ‘Star’ – Yes, Tara, you are indeed the one that shines bright in the Primal Constellation which I will happily call “Mark”.
    Merry Christmas to everyone here

    Resurgent wrote on December 24th, 2010
  33. congratulations Tara, what a great story of transformation! I’m sorry you had such a hard time getting diagnosed. 2 sentances into your story I thought, “hmm, sounds like PCOS”.

    As an aside, as an RD I just have to mention that the SAD diet that gets a (deserving) bad rap around here is NOT the same as the USDA recommendations. The usda recommends that the average adult get about 6oz of grains a day, with at least half of them being whole. So that’s like a bowl of cereral, a sandwich and a cup of cooked rice for the whole day. So while we don’t eat grains around here, I have to say that if the average person just reduced their grains to that level they’d still be making a big improvement.

    Dasha wrote on December 24th, 2010
  34. You know the amazing thing about MDA is not only the great information we get, or the great success stories we get to read. It’s also the community that exists. I’m sitting here after being blown away by Taras story an I’m just as blown away by the supportive comments everyone posts. I’ve noticed this on every post that’s put up. I think mark has gone beyond just starting a following of low carb believers, I think he has created a tribe!

    Jerry wrote on December 24th, 2010
  35. WOW! You look great! I’m a tall woman like you at 5’10” and have been hovering about 200-230lbs for the last few years. I just had another baby in October at age 37, and am SO much more affected by the food I eat now it’s just crazy, my hormones have been wild. The breastfeeding hasn’t helped me lose weight either, because I’ve been a sugar/grain hound!

    Today is day 3 of no gluten whatsoever, and wow, my peaky cravings are completely gone (with just a couple days of feeling weird). I adore protein, but it’s been the consistent grains, dairy and sugar that have allowed me to get like this. I don’t even want to know how many calories I’ve consumed in sugary coffee drinks over the years… eesh.

    I see your after pic and it reminds me of the last time I was that weight – in 1996! What perfect timing to be extremely motivated. Working out has always been fun for me, but I’ve lacked focus and discipline on the nutritional front – MDA is the final piece of this healthy lifestyle puzzle that I’ve lacked!

    Keep up the great work! You look wonderful!

    Kristina wrote on December 24th, 2010
  36. Great share, very inspiring and motivational! I am very happy for your dramatic transformation and will share it with others that are in dire need of transformation.


    Karl Ehlert wrote on December 24th, 2010
  37. You look amazing! This was so motivating I cant even begin to tell you! My family and I have just started our primal journey and I cant wait to see the results in our lives! Thank you for sharing your story!

    Hannah wrote on December 24th, 2010
  38. Congratulations! Yours is a fantasteak success story and even better inspiration!!!

    Melissa Fritcher wrote on December 24th, 2010
  39. What a fantastic story and inspiration! Congratulations!

    Cara wrote on December 24th, 2010

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