Freshman 15? How about Freshman 40!

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,

Last summer, I moved to Nashville, TN to start college. During my first semester of my freshman year, I didn’t really care much about my nutrition and ate lots of different foods. My friends and I would eat biscuits and gravy, cereal, burgers and fries, Krispy Kreme and of course, delicious Starbucks drinks. I had heard of the “freshman 15″ which was a rumor that all freshman gain 15 pounds in their first year but I didn’t think much about it. Over Christmas break, I spent time with my family in Canada and we ate even MORE food. Plenty of sweets and I didn’t even care about my portions or what I was eating. It was tasty food, right? No harm. I didn’t realize how much I had changed until the last day when I was heading back to college. My dad weighed my suitcase that was being checked at the airport and I decided to weigh myself. I was absolutely surprised by the number: 178. Chills went down my spine. How could I be 5′ 7” and weigh that much?? My dad was on an “Eat To Live” diet and I actually weighed 3 lbs. more than him. I never told him because I was so embarrassed. So, I decided, that day, on my way to the airport that I would get my act together.

AmyI completely quit eating the cookies and cakes offered at my cafeteria and I ate many salads. My issue was finding what was the RIGHT thing to eat. I knew sugar was bad, but what about oatmeal? What about beans? I started by trying a vegetarian diet and I got a trainer on campus to help me lose weight. He had me take a photo and told me to put it somewhere until summer to see end results.

We started working out Monday through Friday from 6 am-7 am. It was brutal and painful. I had classes right after that all day plus evening music gigs I was a part of around town. Needless to say, life was getting stressful. He had me eating 5 to 6 times a day. A lot of in between snacks was fruit. I constantly found myself hungry and craving more food after every meal. I tried going vegan during this time and became very malnourished especially since our cafeteria did not have many healthy options for meals. I ate lots of oatmeal and egg white omelets in the mornings and light salads with some cucumbers and tomatoes every night. It was like I was eating air. I never felt satisfied but I truly thought I was improving and losing weight. A couple months later (March), it was time to go home for spring break. I didn’t look much different but I believed I was on the right path. I spoke to my step-brother and sister in law (who have been Primal for a couple years and are huge role models in my life) and they felt I was putting in too much effort to lose this weight. They told me I didn’t need to force myself awake to work out or get in 1 of my 6 meals everyday and I could lose my weight simply by cutting out the carbs in my diet. They were very convincing so I decided I would try the Primal Blueprint diet.

When I got back to school, I once again changed my nutrition and workouts. I quit my trainer, started eating (and I mean EATING) more eggs, rotisserie chicken, and all the veggies my stomach could handle. I even got creative with the omelet lady and had her make me pancakes out of almond meal and coconut meal that I brought to the cafeteria some mornings. I always kept a jar of coconut oil in my backpack for the cooks to make some of my food in the cafeteria. I also would make my own chocolate ice cream in my dorm room by blending a frozen banana with ice, coconut milk, and dark cocoa. This helped me keep my sanity while my friends ate their sweets! I noticed that the protein was helping hold me over and my weight seemed to shed off much easier.

Primal Amy

I decided towards the end of the semester that I wanted to focus more on doing exercises I enjoy rather than force myself into a gym everyday (although I still like going to the gym sometimes). I would jog around the school some days, play sand volleyball with friends, do yoga, play tennis or simply go for a walk. Becoming Primal was such an easy change for me. My friends were also interested in how I was eating healthy while going to our crappy cafeteria and would sometimes ask questions in what my secret was as they saw my overall physique change. Most of my friends assumed I was killing it in the gym and was surprised to hear that wasn’t the case.

After about 2 months of being on my Primal Blueprint diet in college, I survived and it was time to go HOME! I was so excited to show my family how much I changed and boy had I ever! I weighed myself at 138 pounds (40 lbs lighter!!) and never felt better!

I haven’t felt so good about how I look in a very long time. What surprises me is how much LESS I have to work out to lose the weight! No more dreaded hours in the gym. I enjoy doing some CrossFit WODs at my home and taking long walks. My exercises and eating habits completely depend on how I feel each day which seems so much more normal to me than pre-planning meals and workouts like I used to. Since I am so new to this diet, I am getting mentored by my two lovely Primal siblings who will help me maintain my weight.

I’m very thankful for your website which helped me in so many ways this semester and thanks to the Primal Blueprint diet, I have conquered that nasty “freshman 15” rumor and proved that it is possible to be Primal even as a college student!


Grok on!

Amy B.

TAGS:  guest post

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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81 thoughts on “Freshman 15? How about Freshman 40!”

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  1. Great job!

    I assume you are attending Vanderbilt?

    I am a Nashville native and had a brief internship at Vanderbilt.

    1. No, actually. I go to Trevecca but that’s great to hear! Nashville is the best city in my opinion!

    1. Yeah, I say open the border and let those Canadian ladies in. Lookin’ good Amy!

  2. That’s extremely impressive. I should have a six pack if I actually stopped binging during parties. I’m impressed you even went so far to have the cooks make you something special.

    Long shot here…Call Me Maybe?

  3. “It was like I was eating air.” LOVE that quote – know the feeling!!

    1. My favorite quote was “started eating (and I mean EATING)…” It’s wonderful when you don’t have to worry about every single bite that passes your lips, isn’t it?

      Enjoy your new-found freedom!

  4. That is wonderful and great job committing to your process as it certainly worked for you and now you are more aware of how to best fuel your body.. 🙂

  5. Freshman 40? Love it! Congrats on the good work, Amy. High fives to you and your primal sibs.

  6. It’s crazy what a difference there is in your jeans at the end! I am on my way to being fully primal, your story is just the right kind of inspiration I needed today! Great job! Grok on!

  7. I love your story — isn’t it amazing how easily you got rid of the weight? You look beautiful, slim, and healthy. Good for you, taking your coconut oil to the cafeteria 🙂 You are on the right track for life, keep it up!

    1. I totally agree – it’s gutsy taking coconut oil to the cafeteria, especially in a college setting.

      I found that people eventually respect *you* for sticking up for *you*. Stick to it! 🙂

      And thanks to all the other Primal Creatures here on MDA. I think the mental aspect may have changed me more than anything (for the better!)

  8. Wow, Amy, what a transformation! It’s a shame that the trainer pointed you in the wrong (and stressful) direction, but great that you have family members who could help you!

    I’m originally from Nashville and am a Vanderbilt grad — is that where you’re in school? But for music you might be at Belmont — I had a lot of friends who are Belmont grads.

    Congrats, and good luck with school!

  9. Great job Amy, and so fast! You look fantastic!

    What I really loved about your story was the adaptations you made to keep yourself primal – getting friendly with the omelet lady, carrying around coconut oil and making your own ice cream. You were really smart to do this because these supports are crucial to being successful – we are so often not in control of our environment.

    1. Agree with Allison. Amy you were very proactive in making sure you stayed on the primal track. I’ll have to check out that ice cream. It’s one of my downfalls. Be healthy and happy!

  10. Well done Amy – you look amazing! I hope your transformation is as inspiring to your friends as it is to me.

  11. great work! I wish I’d found a better lifestyle at your age! That is my BIGGEST regret about college, that I didn’t take better care of myself!

  12. Great job–and unlike most young people who lose a bunch of weight, you’ve learned how to keep yourself healthy for life. Yay for your siblings pointing the way!

    I just wanted to say though how struck I am by the fact that the freshman poundage people expect to gain has RISEN by 34% over the past 25 years. (It’s not only grades that have become inflated!) When I was in college in the 80s, it was the FRESHMAN 10.

    That it has floated up so high in the interim is an indication of the precipitous decline in the American diet in recent history. I find that just so sick, when we know more than we ever did about health.

    1. Actually, if it went from 10 to 15, it has risen by 50% (but 25 years ago it was 34% lower than it is now). Easy mistake to make.
      And it means the trend is even worse. Thank you for pointing this out, I did not know this.

    1. Sounds great! Thank you for doing that and I hope it helps others as well!

  13. Nice work Amy! I love hearing stories about college students making big time lifestyle changes to accommodate their health, fitness, etc. Grok on!

  14. Congrats! And what an inspiring story. I’ve just completed my second week following the Primal Blueprint. Started trying to lose a year ago by going vegan, then vegetarian, and now Primal. While I didn’t mind the vegetarian diet, it wasn’t helping me lose! And I was a clean eating vegetarian. No processed foods for me. But with the Primal Blueprint I feel full for hours, eat less, and have already lost. I’m actually thinking about reducing my exercise routine that I’ve become so accustomed to. From 6 days a week to 4, maybe. But I’m still in college, going for my Masters Degree, and can totally relate to this post. I’m so grateful that I can see someone else, in a similar situation to mine, that has a wonderful success story! Truly inspiring! Thanks and congratulations on your success!

    1. Definitely listen to your body and what it needs. Working out and rest need to be equal in my life for sure. Good luck on your Masters and keep it up!

  15. Love to read all these stories, and especially ones from the young! You are really bucking the trend with your peer! it is an uphill swim in college diet wise with all the beer, pizza, ramen etc so stay the course!! it is so worth it.
    and so glad to read you were able to get the cooks to use coconut oil and almond flour for some of your meals! very creative ask and yee shall receive 🙂
    You look great

  16. You are really rockin now, what a great job you’ve done! You have done yourself a world of good by learning how to stay healthy and fit at the start of your adult life, probably the single most useful and life changing piece of education you could acquire. You also displayed discipline and fortitude in pursuing your goal, you’re a winner! I hope you will spread the word to other young folks, you will truly be changing some lives for the better.

    I am going to share your story with my niece who is off to her freshman year this fall.

  17. 38 lbs in 2 months? WTFriday!?!?

    Here’s the cool thing. I could get those same results, but it would take me 3X as long at your activity level and % Primal Diet. I’m a 37 year old male that gets less sleep than I should (1 year old at home) and follows a 60% Primal diet, and have already dropped 18 pounds since January.

    3X as long is 6 months for similar results, so age is a factor – and small one at that. The same principles can be applied regardless. That’s what makes these stories so damn inspring!

    Keep Calm and carry Coconut Oil

    1. Nope, age ain’t a factor. Try going 90 to 100 percent primal and watch what happens. A 38-pound loss in two months isn’t that hard to come by on a paleo-type diet.

      One major drawback with the old CW system of aiming for a loss of 2 pounds a week is that many people would get discouraged before they ever lost an appreciable amount of weight. Also, a non-paleo diet isn’t sustainable over the long haul, and the weight will quickly come back.

      I didn’t need to lose a huge amount of weight but at almost 100 percent primal, it came off so fast that I got scared I would get too thin. I didn’t. It leveled out at an ideal weight for my height and bone structure, something I hadn’t seen since my early 30’s. I actually like the primal way of eating and don’t miss the sweets and grains, so keeping it off hasn’t been a problem.

      1. Shary, by 100% percent primal, do you mean you were at or below 50 grams of carbs?

    2. George, I agree with Shary. Age is not a problem (I’m 58). However, if you have sleep deprivation, well that will help you hoard the weight. When your little one gets moving around it’s eaiser, in my opinion. At about 15 months they start zipping around, you get your exercise running after them and they wear themselves out better. If you and your little one eat more to the 80 to 100% you will find that everyone should be more inclined to sleep better, longer. Plus, you will have way more energy to run after that little cutie. Mine is now 10, enjoy this time, it just keep getting better but goes FAST.

    3. Haha well time went by fast and my body definitely is learning to adapt to such quick changes but it is possible for ANYBODY. Time shouldn’t be the issue at all. The main thing I am learning is to be patient with my body every day and learn that I might feel differently or look different each day. Keep it up!

      1. Amazing Amy. Can I ask what exactly you ate in a typical day? I’ve been finding I feel “heavier” with meat-heavy meals but not as satisfied with just the greens. I also get puffy after eating eggs…questioning an allergy

        1. Meat heavy meals never slowed me down or made me feel tired so I ate lots of chicken and spinach haha. Also loved my bacon and anything coconut (milk, manna, shaved, etc.)
          Hard boiled eggs give me the same feeling. Try poaching your eggs over easy and see if that helps. Could be how your body processes it.

      2. Amy, 2Rae, and Sherry

        Thanks for the posts – this is really a great community that can factor in anything from Freshman Diet to a 1 year Old into results and expectations 🙂 My little guy is really a plus when I do squats (he’s 23 pounds and laughs when I grunt – ultimate motivator!) Sleep deprivation is a challenge to weight management on any diet, and Primal reduces its impact to a manageable level.

        When I get to 80% Primal by August, I’ll look for ways to go further, or cajole my family to join me.

        BTW – I usually sign off with “George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” just to poke a fun stick at the MDA moderator beehive. Let’s see how many times they cut it to ‘George’ 🙂

    4. I lost about 15-20kg in 20 weeks, 100% primal, the next 11kg took a further few months. I did no exercise though as it terrified me. If you go hard with the diet side of things you can achieve great things. Oh Im 42 btw.

  18. You go girl! beautiful! I think you have a lot of groks vying for your attention by the look of the comments 😉 I wish I lived near you- I need a girlfriend who eats like me! We can chat about natural movement whilst doing our nails 🙂 xo

    1. That would be fun! It’s hard being a young, college student and trying to be primal but we can do it! Girl power 😉

  19. Great story! I’m very impressed with how you managed your diet transformation while trapped in an institutional setting. That can’t be easy! It made me wonder if I could have done the same thing back in the 70’s when I was in school. Probably not, since I went to a service academy. That would be a deal breaker for me now.

  20. Very good girl!!! For me too was very boring the 6 meals, the hard part is conviencing everyone else that this is a good thing but the results are the proof 😀

  21. I am amazed the cafeteria people cooked with your coconut oil… that wouldn’t fly around here; they wouldn’t use anything students brought in due to regulations. Interesting that worked for you (but good of course)

    1. I’ve never tried to bring VCO with me, but at our local hospital dining room (Fairbanks, Alaska), I can request that they cook my eggs in bacon fat instead of whatever they use in those aerosol cans.

  22. What’s that song by Alicia Keys … Oh yeah 🙂 “This girl is on fire”! That’s you.

    I’m on same journey. The week before I started Primal, I was on the “eat air and workout super hard” plan. It collapsed on itself as I was starving and had no energy. Come across Primal and today I’m down 30lbs after 8 weeks. Haven’t done any exercise yet either. Crazy!

    Fun helping others now ain’t it? You just can’t help but pay it forward I’ve found.

    One thing that makes me smile from ear to ear is knowing that once I lose the weight … I’m not going to have to do it ever again because Primal works for life. Food is delish and your never hungry. Even if you lose weight counting calories and work out like a dog on other Plans … in the back of your mind you fear that it’s temporary. Meaning most people think deep down they can’t keep it up and therefore it’s a false excitement rather than a Primal one where you know it’s long term success.

    Congrats. Great success story.


  23. Atta girl! I’m in college too, and I’ve been on again off again Primal (for monetary reasons) but I’m really hitting it hard this time! Good to see other college kids going strong!

    Pretty and Primal? That’s dream girl material right there.

  24. What an incredible story! I hope more people will see this website as an inspiration to help them get going and have the motivation they need.

  25. She looks fantastic, and happy she feels good.

    Can anyone help me? 10 years ago my cholesterol was 120, now it’s 198. I am a very thin person who has been taking advantage of that fact and just plain sucking up fatty duck w/ skin, loads of olive oil, almond butter, smart balance, lots of fat per day. Dr. said total fat can increase total cholesterol.

    Anyone know of primal foods that lower cholesterol…I know quite a few already, but the beta glucan containing foods in particular…like in oats, do mushrooms have comparable levels of beta glucan? Any advice would be helpful. Thanks in advance.

    1. What cholesterol is 198? Your LDL, your total, your triglycerides? The breakdown is FAR more important than a single number. I imagine that you are giving us your total cholesterol which is a nearly useless number. Give us more information and we’ll try to help.

      1. +1

        Plus, your total cholesterol is in the “normal” band as I understand it. Just because it was 120 a decade ago doesn’t mean that number was “good”. If you were in ill health then, it’s possible you needed more cholesterol to improve. (We’d die without cholesterol.)

        Also, cholesterol levels fluctuates daily, regardless of what you eat. To be extremely precise, on a certain day/time a 10 years ago it was 120. On a certain day/time recently it was 198. All in all it doesn’t mean much unless you have other risk factors and other numbers that support the conclusion that something is wrong.

  26. Congrats, Amy – I wish I had know of the Primal lifestyle back in college. Would have saved me from wasting endless hours sweating it out at the gym! Question – what does a typical day of food look like for you?

    1. My hunger fluctuates every day honestly haha but I do try my best to start my day with a veggie/protein shake (I know shakes aren’t totally primal but I am on a different regimen right now prescribed by my acupuncturist) I also LOVE anything bacon wrapped or with bacon in it so I usually have something with that. At some point in the day, I’ll eat my big ass salad loaded with roasted red peppers, olives, a lean protein, goat cheese (my weakness for sure!!) and lots of other veggies. I don’t like dressing at all (yuck!) I also enjoy cooking myself whatever I am craving but making it primal. Example: I wanted Macaroni and Cheese so I baked home made Mac and Cheese with cauliflower and broccoli bits, goat cheese and smoked ham. DE LISH!! I hope this helps haha!

  27. Way to go! My ice cream substitute is about 1/2 cup of goat kefir with a few drops of stevia and a little vanilla mixed with frozen blueberries and/or raspberries. The frozen fruit is cold enough to freeze the kefir. Yum!

    1. Yum!! I’ve never had Kefir! Might have to try it sometime. I can’t seem to get away from my yummy coconut milk 😉

  28. Hello from Sweden!

    Dear Mr. Sisson,

    I live in the Low Carb High Fat country Sweden and there is a backside to that kind of living and mostly it has to do with the environment, because evidently we need more Earths to feed ourselves if we all should eat LCHF on the planet. In my opinion the girl above touched a little upon that veggie diets may not work, but I can see that the veggie diet she ate wasn’t satisfying to her.

    Let me say that carbs are labeled as “posion” here, but we do not know if that is true, so mostly LCHF and Paleo diets are in use by diabetic type-2 people who can spot the carbs effects on a suger meter and can reduce insulin shots, which is good of course. However, a regular sugar test did not show up so well after an LCHF diet for the LCHF guru, she almost had gotten diabetes after long time heavy duty low carb.

    I have put together a tiny LCHF critical youtube movie that shows LCHF “servings” admittedly full of mercury in fish and/or red listed fish which is bad for the environment. The movie is in Swedish, but the first part is from an old American public domain movie, a very good movie of how you should not find poison in regular food and that is what LCHF spokespersons currently are stating in Sweden. So I want you please Mark, take a look at that first part about poison in normal food. You can watch on and please look at the dirty fish store even if you don’t understand Swedish, in fact it’s so bad so you should be happy that you don’t get everything.

    This is just so you don’t get the same “LCHF” in America. Take care.

  29. Glad to hear of your success at a healthy lifestyle. Keep up the good work, you look very healthy and happy.

  30. Great job, Amy! So how many months did it take you to lose the 40 pounds? Proud of you!

      1. Amy, I’m a Paleo enthusiast in college too, and your story gave me a much-needed boost to keep on keeping on! One question for you: are you able to find quality sources of protein and fat in your dining hall, that aren’t drowned in questionable oils? I think it’s awesome that you bring coconut oil for the omelet lady to cook your eggs in, but what about pre-cooked chicken breast and beef that might be doused in canola oil before being grilled?

        If not, do you keep a mini-fridge in your dorm room? What kind of foods do you keep in there?

        Thank you for your inspiration! Francesca

        1. Great question!
          I was very scared about what some meats were cooked in at my cafeteria and most of it was questionable oils (commonly canola oil) but I wasn’t scared to ask. Almost every night that I got in the food line, I would look at what was being served. If it was fried chicken and gravy (common in Tennessee) then I would skip the meal line and go make a BAS with rotisserie chicken. I was told the rotisserie chicken was just dry rub and it was the only thing I saw cooked right in front of me during lunch and dinner so it became my best friend, haha. But if they were having steak night some nights, I would usually grab that instead (gotta change up the meat) and trust the 80/20 rule Mark always talks about.
          To sum up in simpler form, I knew as long as I was very careful to not eat too much oily foods from the meal line, fill up on protein, fats, and veggies, and stay away from the cereal desserts and waffles my friends ate with ice cream (looked freaking good but I stayed strong!!) then I knew I would be okay. 🙂 Hope this helps!

        2. Oh and concerning what foods I kept in my dorm! I had berries because we were never given berries in our fruit line (too expensive I guess) carrots or snap peas or some sort of vegetable, 85% dark chocolate, coconut milk (in case I wanted to make chia seed pudding or ice cream) and coconut water because it is full of potassium and great for your muscles! Then I would just change it up every time I went grocery shopping and try new foods to keep my body guessing. I had to stay cost effective though and definitely utilize what was offered in the cafeteria.

  31. Great job. This story is a good one to share out there with females that have misguided perceptions that a primal diet is too much protein and too much fat.

    1. Love it, Mike! Bacon tastes better than cake and my body knows it!

  32. Congratulations I guess you found the perfect diet for yourself 🙂

  33. Awesome job Amy!!! Similar story here. Did the plus 30 plan in college and finally had my aha moment on the scale one Christmas. Decide to cut the crap, eat REAL food, and be active. Happy to say I am back to 165, but more importantly am happy and healthy.

    Keep up the great work Amy!

  34. Well done. That is awesome that you got the cafeteria to use your coconut oil. Impressive really. It’s amazing how easy this really is and how hard it is to persuade someone to attempt it. I am glad you found this lifestyle at an early age.

  35. Wow! Frankly, you look like guys want girls to look = like their real them. Going primal just naturally turned me (and you + many others) into my real me. The way we are supposed to be. Good (but not so hard 🙂 work.

  36. First of all…congratulations! You look great. Tell me what you did regarding your fruit in-take? Did you eliminate fruit or just watch what fruits you ate and when?

  37. WOW! you look great- i too am 5’7 and went from about 120 to 170 during college- freshman 40+ :/ having a very hard time getting the weight off..

    I can’t believe this transformation took just two months!! So inspirational.. I tried going primal in college, but found it very difficult (especially on weekends/ nights out). I also think I worry about food too much.

    Any tips on how to not think about it all the time? I’m pretty sure this self-inflicted stress is one of the reasons i’m having trouble losing.. my plan is to go 100% primal the next two months! maybe then i’ll see results like you did. 🙂

  38. AWESOME JOB! I’m 20 years old and have been looking into going primal for awhile, but always find a reason to not. I’m not the most fit person, and have struggled with my weight my entire life. I recently lost about 12 pounds with a personal trainer at my college who would always have me do HIIT training and weight lifting, which mind you I actually really enjoy. I’m 5′ 7″ and weigh a little over 150lb and am surprised at how much fat I still have to lose. I feel like I’m about to start hitting a plateu. I attend college and trying to eat healthy and primal is very difficult. I’m home for summer and have been home for a month and have decided it’s finally time to get my act together. You’re post gave me some hope that if I really stick with this I can completely change my life, and be in the shape…once I kick the habit of eating carbs and being a cardio queen. Congrats, you look great! 🙂

  39. Way to go! Love Nashville, too 🙂
    Went to Vandy but did several projects with Trevecca – great school!

  40. Great story, Amy. So glad you found your solution to the Freshman 40 while still in college. This self-education will allow you to live long and prosper. So happy for you! 🙂