A Journey Towards Self-Discovery and Self-Love

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!

Dear Mark,

Ever since I stumbled upon your blog a year ago when searching for information on the paleo diet, I’ve always found the success stories to be some of the most motivating personal accounts I’ve ever read. I never thought my transformation would be impressive enough to warrant my own success story, but after sitting down and truly thinking about all the positive changes that have happened in my life since committing to the Primal lifestyle in October, 2011, I wanted to share my story in the hopes that perhaps someone out there can relate to what I’ve gone through.

First, some background information leading up to the day I plunged into Primal living with both feet. As a kid I always suffered from severe eczema on my scalp and hands. I remember being 7 or 8 years old and sitting down every night while my mother massaged this tar-based “medicine” onto my head in the hopes that it would control the eczema. I remember being on puffers for much of my youth and being embarrassed to show people my hands in elementary school, leading to a love affair with long-sleeved t-shirts. Can anyone say food allergy?

As I got older, I seemed to outgrow these symptoms and entered middle school mostly eczema- and puffer-free. I was a fairly active kid all through my youth playing soccer, basketball, and hockey and participating in swimming, horseback riding, and skiing. When I got to grade 8 I started being overwhelmed with body image issues and thus began my 12 year struggle with disordered eating habits and self-loathing tendencies.

Though I was never hospitalized for my issues surrounding food, I would go through phases where I would be exercising 2+ hours a day and eating around 1000-1200 calories a day of CW proscribed “health” foods. I remember being 15 and losing about 20 pounds and being thrilled with all the positive comments I received. Clearly, however, these kinds of eating habits and lifestyle was unsustainable in the long term and so began my cycle of extreme “health and fitness” binges followed by inevitable weight gain. This cycle continued all throughout university and at my heaviest in 3rd year I clocked in at 162 lbs at a height of 5’4″. Even worse than the weight was that I suffered from extreme anxiety for many years and would go through phases where I would be so anxious that I would sit up at night curled in a ball on my bed, afraid to go to sleep for unknown reasons.

Perhaps my most unhealthy cycle began the summer after I finished my undergrad and before I started my MA. It was at this time that I discovered purging via laxatives and realized that I could eat whatever I wanted and have it leave my body as soon as I woke up the next day, ensuring, in my mind, that I would never gain any weight. My anxieties continued to plague me, though not quite as severe as before and the self-loathing I had for my body continued to grow. I hated my binge sessions where I was able to put away two large bags of chips, a family size bag of M&M’s, pizza, fancy cheeses, and other sweets all in one sitting. I would then be so overcome with guilt and anger at my lack of control that I would drive to a twenty-four hour pharmacy to pick up my laxatives and thus the cycle would start anew. At its height, I would sometimes repeat this cycle every day of the week to ensure I stayed a “healthy” weight. This pattern continued for three miserable years as my depression and anxieties grew once again. It always surprised me that I was able to keep this a secret from virtually everyone in my life, and to be honest this is the first time I’ve shared my story. Throughout the duration of my program I would fall into weeks of depression where I would sometimes only leave my bed for two hours a day, tops, and would rarely leave my apartment. On the surface I could make excuses and say I was busy working and because I was always able to put a smile on my face when I did muster up the energy to leave my house, none of my friends suspected the torment I was living with on a daily basis. However, several professional relationships were destroyed due to my inability to complete work on time and I would sometimes go off the radar at school for weeks or months afraid to open the emails asking me where I was. Then, as quickly as these depressive episodes would come on, they would taper off and disappear for a little while. The binging and purging cycle, however, was my constant companion.

New Year's in Britain

A friend of mine in my MA program had told me about the paleo diet when we first started the program in 2009 and I had dabbled on several occasions with the premise, rarely lasting more than a week. Looking back now, I see that during those “experiments” I was binge and purge free for the whole time I was adhering to the diet, but of course some event like a concert or party would come up, and down the rabbit hole I would go, falling back to my habits of late-night pizzas, chips, cookies, and chocolate candies.

Fast-forward to September 2011 and I had just successfully defended my thesis and moved to a new city. I wasn’t quite at my heaviest weight, but I was hovering somewhere between 150-155. I moved in with my sister who has celiac disease and I decided to try cutting gluten out of my diet once and for all. I was still eating all manners of processed foods, but I was becoming more aware of the relationship between food and wellbeing. In October of that year I found MDA and read through the archives like a woman possessed. Everything began to make so much sense! The eczema I had suffered from, the constant illnesses, the fatigue, bloating, and weight gain could all be linked to what I was putting in my body. The next day I cleaned out the cupboards and started living a Primal lifestyle in earnest. And after a few weeks a funny thing happened. I was no longer biting my nails or pulling out my eyelashes, which were telltale signs of anxiousness. I was calmer, happier, and most notably I hadn’t binged or purged in weeks. My skin was clearing up, especially on my back where I had suffered from severe acne since I was a teenager. And I had slimmed down. Not in a dramatic transformation kind of way, but in a way that felt healthy and right. I couldn’t believe it. I had spent so many years trapped in CW’s rendition of “healthy” eating which had never worked for me in any capacity, that I was shocked when food really did seem to be a huge contributing factor to many of my physical and psychological issues. I was so struck by the power food has to heal the body that I completely switched from my path of applying for a PhD in English Lit and applied to a holistic nutrition program and a culinary nutrition program so that I can develop recipes and teach cooking classes.

Caitlin and Brother

My goal now is to spread the good food word to any and all of those people who are fed up with CW’s nonsense approach to health and wellness. I’m hoping to eventually start an after-school program that teaches children the importance of putting healthy food in their bodies and to run cooking classes for busy moms and working professionals offering up easy tips and tricks for healthy eating. Stumbling upon your blog was a defining moment in my life. Reading your informative and scientific posts sparked an intense interest in alternative nutrition, which has helped shape the direction of my life from this point on. But most importantly, your blog started me on a journey towards self-discovery and finally self-love, something I had never experienced in any true form up until now. I haven’t binged and purged in almost a year and I’ve discovered a passion for life I never knew I was capable of. So thank you Mark, for doing what you do so generously and with so much passion. Thank you for giving me my life back.

Caitlin Training



P.S. I’ve attached a couple of pictures. The first is me at my heaviest in 2007. The second is my brother and I a couple of weeks ago (he has lost over 60 lbs following a Primal lifestyle), and the third is me training for the Wall this past summer 😉

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80 thoughts on “A Journey Towards Self-Discovery and Self-Love”

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    1. The elixir for eternal youth you say? We should bottle it up and sell it!

      Seriously, well done Cait, inspirational stuff and thank you for being so open to the community. Food education for children is so vital. If in doubt, telling them their heroes eat XYZ food (and brushes their teeth 2x daily) works well at helping them make the right choices!

  1. Congratulations on such an amazing story and transformation. As always, reading these is a perfect way to start a Friday.

  2. What an amazingly courageous story. For everyone who has put themselves through the cycle of food abuse (like myself) this just resonates so strongly. I’m so glad you’ve found freedom through eating whole food, as that was my experience too. Binging and guilt until I started feeding my body what it actually needs.

    I love Friday success stories! They help me go into the weekend inspired and better able to resist the inevitable weekend temptations!

  3. Congrats on getting your diet under control. I have never heard about binge and purge with laxatives before. I still have issues with binging now and again but it has gotten better since I discovered more and more paleo/primal recipes which are delicious. If I have delicious healthy food to eat I don’t need to binge on junk food. I am also trying to do my part by sharing great recipes when I find them. Last night I invented a new recipe for paleo shrimp tempura. I haven’t posted it yet but I will in the next few weeks.

    1. Oooh, paleo tempura? Looking forward to that! I hear you about the bingeing. Have had the same problem myself but it’s much easier to resist on a primal diet, isn’t it?

  4. Wow amazing! Really cool you pulled a career 180! i share your amazement in the link of food and mental healh. I’ve known a few people who have had similar reductions in depression and anxiety by going primal.

    Do you still have deal with any binging temptations? Or is that something you no longer even think about?

    Any tips to for other people who might deal with that? As you mentioned no one knew what you were going through. I imagine there are some people here that would love to pick your brain but might be afraid to ask.

    Loved the story will be sharing!

  5. Wow!! Thank you for not concealing any of your story. It’s inspiring that you are willing to share everything you have gone through in an effort to help others. Reducing carbs has dramatically helped my anxiety issues (especially my OCD tendencies). You look so happy (beautiful too)! Congratulations for freeing yourself!!

  6. Wow, what a great transformation! I was reading about your eczema and thought immediately of my 13-year-old daughter. She has had severe eczema and asthma since she was a year old and the doctors would just prescribe one cream after another and give her an inhaler. When I went primal, I asked her if she’d like to give it a try for the eczema, and at 12 years old she was willing to do ANYTHING to stop the itching, discomfort, and open sores from scratching. Now she’s worlds better without any creams.
    Way to go on your healthy lifestyle change!

    1. For a year now we have had hardly any bread and processed foods in the house. My son’s eczema has cleared up quite a lot and he does not get sinus infections like he used to. My husband went from getting heartburn everyday to hardly ever and he has not complained of dry skin this winter. My daughter is eating more protein. I am happier, have lots more energy, and sleep better. Thank you for sharing your success story. It confirms what I have been observing in my home.

  7. Great story. I hope your arrow is aimed at the heart of Conventional Wisdom….bullseye!

  8. I really related to your story. Congratulations on getting your life back.

  9. Congratulations on your wonderful transformation. That last photo symbolizes to me how you finally took control of your health and now you are dominating anything you put your mind to. Amazing!

  10. I am SO glad to hear that you found your path to health before you destroyed your body with laxative abuse. I know someone who had a colectomy done in her 40s due to years of binge/laxative cycling.

    You sound happy, healthy, and wise!

  11. This story was like looking into a mirror, all the struggles with depression and anxiety on top of problems with self-image 🙂 I am so happy you found better health and happiness!

    1. really? so your anxiety and depression got better once you went paleo/primal? I suffer from severe anxiety and depression.

  12. Very brave of you to share your story with the world. Thank you and congratulations on your new, healthy lifestyle.

  13. Congratulations on your success and for the honesty in your story – I’m sure it will help and inspire others in a similar situation!

  14. Great story!

    It’s funny as all success stories usually mention that moment when they find MDA, and how the immediately feel it all resonate, and the scour through every post as their brain literally changes/resets in the process.

    This exact thing happened to me as well when I found this place, and its a moment so many of us share in that’s powerful to ponder over!

    1. Totally agree. I stumbled onto MDA while Googling agave syrup two years ago.

    2. I remember that. May 2012, got home from college a week or two earlier. Followed links for at least an hour or two a day for most of the summer.

  15. This is an amazing and inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it and congratulations!

    I do think this particular post might benefit from a trigger warning, though.

    1. Do you mean that it might give someone the idea to binge and use laxatives?

      1. I think that someone who has a history of those kinds of problems, who is reading this site for inspiration, but maybe has not come over their disorder enough to speak or read of it so freely, or experiences anxiety/panic/etc when confronted unexpectedly with others’ similar history, may appreciate a heads up. Because there isn’t any clue about it in the title or header.

        Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s a fantastic story that should be shared, and the contributor has tons to be proud of. A trigger warning would just be a courtesy to those who still are in the throes of self-loathing/self-abuse.

  16. Bravo and well done, Cait!

    The connection between food and physical well-being is covered quite a bit in mainstream media. What is rarely–if ever–discussed are the effects different foods have on a person’s mental and emotional health.

  17. Congratulations Cait on the success of all your hard “work.” (I no longer consider being primal “work” as it’s so enjoyable.)

    I like the Archery picture the most because I am thinking about trying to get my family into archery.

  18. Cait,
    I found your transformation to be very motivating. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Congrats! I wish more people were open to overcoming anxiety through diet, so happy for you!

  20. Wow! What a great story….and I’m so moved that you’ve changed direction in life to help spread the word. I hear your childhood story and my heart breaks for all the kids currently going through this with no help on the horizon (all the conventional “nutrition” info at my 7yo’s school is all about grains, multi-grains, and more grains). Very happy that you will be paying it forward…imagine how many people’s lives will be changed by that decision! Way to go.

  21. Fantastic! Great, also, that you are so inspired as to change your life’s work. That’s inspiring and bless you for wanting to give back through your career choice. I hope you are a smashing success and get good foods into homes and schools.

  22. this is a great story and i really appreciate your openess in sharing all the gorry details. i suffered through binging and purging most intensely in my late teens/early 20s and then more sporadically. i understand the cycle and the sense of guilt and despair.
    it is a tough road, but i am so happy to read that your approach is HEALTH and not BODY IMAGE. this is still a constant struggle for me but i’m getting there. 🙂
    stay focused, all teh best.

  23. Well done Cait! Kudos to you for your willpower and willingness to clear out your cupboards and just completely go for it. You look fabulous and happy (as does your brother).

    I love Fridays. Always inspiring.

  24. Thank you for sharing your story, Cait! It’s very courageous to tell the world what you went through, and there’s no doubt you’ve gotten through to someone with disordered eating. Congratulations on a great transformation!

  25. Woo hoo you look fabulous. In your “before” photo you look like a beautiful person, but in your “after” photo you are positively glowing, and look healthy and very happy. Congratulations to you and your brother for sticking with a much healthier lifestyle.
    I love what you are doing with your career choices, it’s so important to show others, in particular kids, the healthy options that help them feel well and be the best they can be.
    Love Saturday morning stories! (in Oz)

  26. Good job, Cait! It must be wonderful to be finally free of all those things that held you back and to find that the answer for you was simple. I can relate to that. Looking good, girl!

  27. Wow what a great story! I too had suffered with eczema and it went away with Primal! Your story is fantastic, great job! You are beautiful and smart! As a mom of a kindergartner, I can’t wait for your first cookbook to come out 😉

  28. Still laughing at the first couple posts! Very Funny– and yet another great testament to Primal living.

    I started my February Primal challenge today and feel great– Cali– keep going girl!

  29. Truly touched by your journey. I wonder how many others suffer in silence. I’m so happy that things have worked out for you. You are a beautiful young lady and you have the world in front of you! /lu

  30. I knew that smile from the first photo, the sort of ‘yeah I’m happy to be here, sure, no problem’ smile.
    Then the genuine, ‘Hey! Camera! Okay!’ smile. Anxiety’s such an evil presence in our world. I’m so pleased there’s such an easy way to be rid of it. Great that you’re paying it forward. : )

  31. Awesome story! Have your or your brother been tested for celiac disease?
    I was diagnosed last May and it was confirmed with some genetic testing.

    1. The problem with the testing is that they may require you to go back onto gluten for a period of time (eg 6 weeks) before they can do the test (biopsy test). I don’t see why we need confirmation not to eat such a problematic food! I know I am coeliac (it is in my family and my symptoms are significant) so I don’t eat it!!! I’ve just finished reading “Wheat Belly” by Dr William Davis, no-one should eat wheat!!!

  32. It’s great to hear another success story, especially one that emphasizes how diet can affect mental health. Congratulations on your success and your decision to spread the word!

  33. Thanks so much for sharing your story Cait, I know it’s been a painful journey for you (been there, done that). It struck me as ironic that you referred to Primal/Paleo as alternative nutrition, when it should be (for everyone) that CW SAD is actually the ‘alternative nutrition.’ The right food IS such a powerful healer and I’m so glad you’ve chosen to use you life to share the Primal truth. Congratulations!

  34. Jeye Cate you did it! I am so happy for you that you made your way out of it. But never forget, even with the biggest help it is all your own achievement! Keep it up!

  35. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your story…very inspiring.

  36. This story, like so many other PB success stories, is simply inspirational. Reading these and thinking about my own experiences over the past few years makes me want to tell EVERYONE, even people I don’t know, about going primal. I can especially relate to the depression and anxiety that tormented you on the inside while you still managed to put on a smile for the outside world. Sounds like my life about a year ago, and several other times in my life. People like us feel we need to be strong, happy, and content for those around us, even when we feel like we’re dying on the inside. Going primal (albeit slowly) has helped me tremendously with this, and I didn’t experience the seasonal winter “blues” like I did last winter, not wanting to get out of bed and skipping afternoon classes because all I wanted to do was sleep (also in an English MA program haha). This year is a complete 180. I’m so much more active and putting healthy food in my body. My weight loss has tapered off but I just FEEL better, and that makes it all worth it.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. this is really great to hear. I’ve only cut out wheat for a month now and my IBS symptoms are gone but I also suffer from pretty severe anxiety and bouts of depression. I feel hopeful now so thank you for also sharing your story…

  37. Dear Cait,

    Your story and mine are so similar. I read your post with tear filled eyes. I, too, have cured my skin issues and what I believe would have been a life long eating disorder, had I not found MDA. So happy for you. You look amazing, happy and free.

    All the best, Em

  38. “Ever since I stumbled upon your blog a year ago when searching for information on the paleo diet”
    “commit[ted] to the Primal lifestyle in October, 2011″
    “Fast-forward to September 2011 … In October of that year I found MDA … The next day I cleaned out the cupboards and started living a Primal lifestyle in earnest.”

    I take it the waiting list for PB Real Life Stories is a few months long. 🙂

  39. Congratulations on your wonderful transformation. I know the cycle of depression and anxiety all too well as I lived in it for years. Rather than food being my escape it was alcohol. I quit drinking and that helped, but going paleo a few months later really turned the tide. Good work! It is very brave of you to share your story and I know it will help others stay strong and change themselves. It has helped me today 🙂
    Thank you

  40. Well done Cait! That is so inspiring. I have a question about your eczema. It sounds very similar to what my mother is suffering from: Severe eczema on her scalp, back, arms, legs, hands, feet. To the point where the scars sting and she can’t sleep. Doctor’s have not been able to figure out how to treat it. It keeps coming back. Anxiety is one problem (which she is treating) but I’m wondering if Primal will help her. Did you notice a difference in your eczema when you changed your diet? Thanks! Congratulations again!

  41. I am reading your story while sitting on a city bus on my way to school and I am struggling to hold back my years. Our stories share unbelievable similarities. I am in my second year of university and I have recently developed anxiety that I have never had before along with a binging and purging cycle that, honestly, scares me to death.
    I suffered from severe eczema and asthma as a child as well and had weight issues since middle school. Last year I lost upwards of 30 pounds and felt incredible although my austere food restrictions were hardly sustainable and I lost all the self-control I had not so long ago. As of now I am at almost a complete regain. I am emotional and unhappy and have been struggling to feel like I once did.
    Cait, your story is truly inspirational and I am relived to know that I am not the only one who is dealing/has dealt with this issue. The Paleo diet has recently peaked my interest and the story you have shared has really erased any of the doubts I had.
    Thank you for being brave enough to share your journey.

  42. Congratulations! Glad to hear of your success. Amazing how we can go for years with problems that could be solved by changing our food habits. If we had only known that from the beginning.

    Really good to hear that you have started the nutritional program. With your knowledge, you will be able to do a lot of good for children and adults alike!

  43. Good for you. You’re gorgeous and you’ve got a beautiful smile.

  44. This is an awesome story Cait! Thanks for sharing with us your brave journey. Very inspirational!

  45. Thank you for sharing your story. I am fortunate not to struggle with an eating disorder but I do suffer from severe anxiety and depression. I decided a month ago to stop eating wheat and my IBS symptoms have disappeared. I eat more veggies now and meat. I do have more energy and I’m hoping it improves my mood BUT something I am noticing is an itchy rash on my shoulder blades that I have never had before. It actually kept me up last night. I don’t know what it could be from but it has to be something in my new “diet” or lifestyle change as I like to call it. I wonder if it’s something I’m eating. Does anyone have any ideas? Oh I did you a different detergent a few times washing my clothes hmm maybe that’s it. I do eat greek yogurt now maybe that could be it. Gosh I’m not sure but it’s really annoying and uncomfortable. Help!! Ideas????

  46. An amazing journey for you, Cait. I’m sure your honest and heart-felt sharing will inspire many others with similar issues to at least try the Primal lifestyle.

    I also admire your decision to switch careers in order to help others learn and benefit from your experience and education. That is truly unselfish and quite admirable. Just goes to show you that ”those who can also teach.”

    I wish you a lifetime of good health and good fortune.:)