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. In fact, I have a contest going right now. So if you have a story to share, no matter how big or how small, you’ll be in the running to win a big prize. Read more here.
My life-changing Primal journey began seven years ago when I discovered Mark’s blog and read his book, The Primal Blueprint. Back then, I was about 25 pounds heavier than I wanted to be, completely addicted to sugar, experiencing food cravings or food comas almost constantly, and living in my head where daily battles occurred regarding the food that I had eaten or wanted to eat.
At that time, I was 42 and had spent my years since age 15 obsessing over food. Nutrition and fitness had fascinated me in a healthy way during this time, but a powerful sweet tooth combined with a persistent vulnerability to self-sabotage caused my twenties and much of my thirties to be mostly wasted.
At different points during this time, depression and bingeing caused me to live in a bubble. I kept people at arms-length and let very few people into my world. At my lowest point, when friends would ask me to come out with them socially, I would lie and say that I already had plans even though my “plans” consisted of buying a lot of unhealthy food and eating it – stuffing all the feelings that had come up during the day — and then wallowing in my self-hatred. My overeating was so out of control that I attended Overeaters Anonymous meetings. And even though alcohol has never been a problem for me, I attended one Alcoholics Anonymous meeting out of curiosity just to see how similar it might be to my problem. It seemed exactly the same; I used food as a drug in the same way that alcoholics used alcohol.
Thankfully, therapy and anti-depressants helped me get over the worst of these behaviors so that I could feel pretty happy and healthy by my mid-thirties. But I still remained between 10 and 25 pounds heavier than I wanted to be. And years of excess sugar had deposited a heavy layer of fat on my thighs that I was self-conscious about. Fortunately, as an athletic person with an outdoorsy lifestyle, I exercised frequently which helped prevent greater weight gain.
Fast forward to April 2009, age 42. A stressful job and ineffective coping mechanisms translated into this being another High Sugar Era. Fortunately, I was exercising enough to keep me from being depressed, but I remember lots of sugar-highs and Red Bull to help pull me out of the sugar-lows. I know now that on top of the job stress, all the Red Bull was stressing my body out further and exhausting it with excess cortisol. It pains me to think of the abuse that I put my body through! But the miraculous human body can tolerate a lot of mistreatment, often without obvious side effects if you’re as out of touch with your body as I was.
Anyway, at this time, a friend pointed me toward markdailyapple.com (thank you, Jen C!) and The Primal Blueprint. I’m sorry for the cliché, but here it is: reading the book changed my life. It made perfect sense. Until then, I had probably tried ten different diets. Since reading the book, none. Diets don’t interest me anymore. The Primal way of eating feels right for me.
The last seven years have been a slow but steady journey of two steps forward, one step back, over and over again until now, when I can finally look back and see how far I’ve come. With my sugar-addiction and history of compulsive, emotional overeating, I had a lot of deep-seated, unhealthy habits to break, but here are just a few that I’ve finally broken:
Eating more food than my body needed at almost every meal
Sweets – multiple times a day
Dessert after lunch, dinner and sometimes breakfast!
Out of touch with my satiety signals – truly having no idea when to stop eating
Often snacked after dinner or before bed
And I’ve developed many new healthy habits:
My taste buds have changed dramatically: I have learned to LOVE veggies and natural, whole foods
I recognize and respect my body’s hunger and satiety signals
I exercise regularly and love it, without doing it to excess
I happily take the stairs at work (I work on the 7th floor)
I ride my bike to work seven months a year
I bring my lunch to work, ensuring that it’s healthy while also saving money and avoiding temptations
I use a stand-up desk at work (raising and lowering it throughout the day)
I fast once in a while, with little-to-no suffering
I go to bed early because getting enough sleep is a priority
Now, at age 50, because of the Primal Blueprint and the Primal lifestyle “laws,” I feel healthier, fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been, including high school when I was thin, healthy and played sports all year. My energy is off-the-charts—not in a hyper, bouncing-off-the-walls way but just feeling incredibly clear-headed and alert. No more brain fog! I feel like a machine running on the cleanest fuel, like there’s no sludge in my veins, and everything I eat is being put to good use. I look forward to and enjoy working out. I’ve finally gotten rid of the excess fat that made me feel self-conscious for my entire adult life. My moods are steady, and I feel peaceful. I face my problems now rather than stuffing them with food. And, most importantly, I don’t live in my head anymore. The daily internal battles are gone, freeing up my thoughts so that I can actually engage with and enjoy other people.
When my eating was at its worst, I remember thinking that I’d never have the willpower to eat well consistently. But I’m grateful to have discovered that once you get in the habit of eating well, your body adjusts and no longer craves the crappy stuff. So it’s not a matter of willpower, it’s the chemical properties of the food you’re eating! Your body is smart enough to tell you what it wants, but most of us don’t hear the messages because the communication lines are clogged with junk food. After having wasted so many years living inside my own food-obsessed, self-hating head, I finally feel free to live a normal life, with the extra bonus of feeling healthier and more energetic than I’ve ever been.
I’m sure there will be food and exercise slumps in my future, but I won’t worry about them; they’ll just be food and exercise “vacations,” from which I will always come home. I’ve been happy with eating Primally as my foundation for the past seven years, and I know it will remain my foundation for the rest of my life. (By “foundation,” I mean I’ll be mostly Primal but not 100% all the time.) It’s not something to start and then finish; it’s forever for me.
Until now, I’ve told very few people about the extent of my eating issues; I’ve felt ashamed of how much they ruled and nearly ruined my life. So it’s difficult for me to reveal such personal information to such a wide audience. But since Mark Sisson has helped me so much, I share my story with him and MDA with the hope that it might help others.
Thank you, Mark, for helping me turn my life around and for all the work you to do improve people’s health.