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September 18 2015

From Hungry and Getting Nowhere to Satisfied and Strong!

By Guest

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!

Hi, my name is Brooke. I am a 33-year-old stay-at-home mom. I don’t feel like your typical MDA success story. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading how others are changing their life for the better, but I don’t often hear from women that are like me. I’m not sure why that is, but it has motivated me to share my story.

Okay, so let’s start at the beginning. A couple of years ago, I was doing a lot of thinking about my diet. My main concern was my weight. I was definitely overweight but never by a lot. My heaviest was around 155 pounds, and I’m 5’5.” I was just unhappy with how I looked and it felt like no matter what I tried, I just couldn’t lose any more weight. I was following conventional advice for a “healthy” eating plan: low-fat, whole grains. Gosh, I remember I used to bake my own bread all the time. I loved it! But I was always so hungry. I would always need a morning and an afternoon snack, and still I was hungry. I thought I must be doing something wrong, because diet experts on TV would say, “If you are hungry, eat a yogurt, eat some hummus and pita bread, or eat an apple, and you will feel satisfied.” I would feel even hungrier after a snack like that!

I was working out at the gym several times a week: aerobics classes, some weight lifting here and there, but I had never been, and still am not, a committed exerciser.

So, I searched the internet for some solutions. I remembered hearing that an acquaintance of mine was on a paleo diet, so I searched for that. I was ready to try anything. I did some preliminary reading that day, then bought and read The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain and The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolfe. Soon after, I found MDA. It made so much sense to me. I am a scientist, so I immediately loved the logic behind the Primal lifestyle, and it absolutely tapped into my constant need to know “why” things are the way they are. I mean, I had never really thought about chronic illness as a result of modern living. I figured cancer and arthritis were just inevitable if you have a family history. This is the first point in my transformation. The reasons behind ancestral living absolutely blew my mind. From that day forward, I reframed the way I thought about almost everything in my life, from shampoo to pooping, mostly because of my daily visits to MDA. Not only has it been a great way for me to feel connected to the way of life I am cultivating and other like-minded individuals, it has also been my go-to resource for my ancestral health questions.

That was August 2012 when I went mostly paleo. I didn’t eliminate everything all the time at first, because that would have been too drastic for me, but I still lost weight immediately and got down to 135 lbs. Here are some other things I lost in the process: chronic sinus infections, acne, hypoglycemia, severe recurring depression, hemorrhoids, “pre”-bunions, heartburn and indigestion, and seasonal allergies. In addition, I discovered during the spring of 2013 that I was gluten-intolerant. I mean, I didn’t even know I was sick!

It is so amazing to finally discover what feeling good truly feels like. I eventually reached a kind of homeostasis with my Primal living. I was doing just fine. I would tweak things here and there, but things stayed mostly constant, with me lifting weights 2-3 times a week and walking or taking a cardio class at the gym several times a week as well. I was even doing some sprinting sessions, which is pretty big for a self-described non-athlete like me. I was eating paleo but with some dairy and the occasional serving of rice.


June 2012 (pre-Primal), January 2013 (my wedding, with my husband, niece, and nephew)

Then in the fall of 2013 I became pregnant with my first child, and my body was taken over by the little person growing inside of me! All bets were off during the first trimester, when I had morning sickness. After that, I had a fairly easy pregnancy, except for persistent heartburn, swelling, and spider veins. I gained about 30 pounds overall. I found that all of a sudden I was so much more sensitive to non-paleo foods than I had been before, but that didn’t always stop me from eating things I shouldn’t have, like ice cream and candy. I had an absolutely wonderful labor and delivery experience (thanks to HypnoBirthing…check it out if you want a calm and natural childbirth) and welcomed my daughter, Ljiljana (it’s Croatian), in July 2014. Of course there was some major adjusting to being a mom. I still had the stronger food sensitivities I had acquired during pregnancy, so I set about optimizing my diet, but now I had one more factor to consider: my daughter.

I breastfeed Ljiljana, so of course anything I eat goes to her, too. She was spitting up a lot, at least more than I was comfortable with, and I wondered if there was anything I was eating that could be doing that. I was still eating yogurt, cheese, and butter at the time, so I cut those out. The spitting up decreased but didn’t go away. I tried eliminating a few other possible offenders, and I discovered that almonds were the culprit. Here’s the interesting thing, though. I would have gone on eating those things, even though, if I was completely honest with myself, I got heartburn after eating them. But if it was affecting my daughter, then it was so much easier to live without. It is amazing what a motivating factor she has been in that way. Oh, and through all this, I found out from my mom that my nickname when I was a baby was “Barfy Brookie.” I was formula-fed first, and then started on cereals. Knowing all my food intolerances now, it is no wonder I acquired that nickname!

I am still incredibly sensitive to non-paleo foods, and I have to be very careful about what I eat, otherwise, I will be suffering for days. I’ve cut out all refined sugar. Rice is out of the question because it makes me shaky. I also have to be very careful about how much fruit I eat. I can imagine my body is damaged from so many years of the wrong foods that it just needs a lot of TLC to heal.

My baby girl is 9 months old now. During the last 9 months, my weight went down to 140 but then back up to 145. I would like to lose more weight, but I don’t think that’s really in cards for me right now. You see, exercising is a little tricky. I started lifting weights again once I started getting enough sleep. (It was 6 months before Ljiljana or I slept more than 4 hours at a time.) I was doing it 3 times a week, plus taking daily walks with the baby girl, but I think it was too much. I was getting achy, feeling hungrier (I’m still hungry a lot these days. I blame breastfeeding and not getting enough sleep.), and I was gaining fat. My workouts were not overly intense or anything, I think my body just has so much going on right now that that type of exercise is a stressor and it can’t handle at the moment. So “lift heavy things” is just going to have to be squatting down for, picking up, and holding/wrangling my 21-pounder.


July 2014 (barefoot and 9 months pregnant), and April 2015 (with Ljiljana)

Primal living for me is constantly changing and evolving in response to my needs and the needs of my growing daughter. That’s where I think my story is a little different. Primal living is constantly evolving for most people, I’m sure. We all have our own motivators and reasons. But it’s not every day that I get to hear about the journey of other women like me, who are in a part of our life where our body is not fully our own and we have to adapt in ways others might not. I might not look very different, but I feel so much better, free of all those health problems. Like I said, I never would have gone the extra mile with my diet and finally eliminated the offensive foods I was putting up with if it hadn’t been for my baby. And I’m hoping, because of this, I will avoid the cancer that runs in my family. In addition, I hope, by teaching my cave-baby the same lifestyle lessons I’ve learned, she will avoid the PCOS and other auto-immune disorders that run in my husband’s family, and we’ll both thrive and get to enjoy life together for a long time to come.


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48 thoughts on “From Hungry and Getting Nowhere to Satisfied and Strong!”

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  1. Thanks for your story, Brooke! I am 7 weeks pregnant with my first and having a tough first trimester.. I feel like such a failure when all I can eat are gluten free waffles and bananas after years of paleo living. Workouts have fallen off to once or twice a week because of insomnia. It’s nice to hear from someone who’s been there and come out other side with a very healthy baby and a positive outlook towards continuing your paleo journey.

    1. Definitely just do what works for you. During the first trimester, I really think all bets are off if you have morning sickness. I was eating Lebanon bologna with cream cheese, lunch meat, and potato chips for breakfast. Not very primal at all, but it’s what got me through. It’s only a short time (relatively, although it feels like FOREVER), and you’ll be on the other side of it and ready to get back on track.

    2. 25mg of vit b6 3x/day helps out a ton. And you don’t need that damn zofran or phenergan either.

  2. Thank you for your story! What a wonderful family. Experimenting with what works for you is important. I too was having trouble with baby weight and fatigue. I even started having carpel tunnel issues. Went to the doc He said,” wow, lets check your thyroid.” TSH was 124! I thought it was just fatigue from a busy life. A quick blood test was all it took.

    1. +1 This is so important! Whenever you have weight issues, gluten intolerance, and joint/ligament issues, get your TSH checked. And do it regularly.

      Autoimmune thyroiditis is associated with gluten intolerance and colitis, a triad that has been recognized for a long time but is under-appreciated. Your doc is a gem.

      1. Please please — do more than just “get your TSH checked”! That is a totally insufficient medical test for most people! And don’t let your doctor put you on “just Synthcrap” (er… well, they sell it as Synthroid). Read over at the Stop the Thyroid Madness website — Janie Bowthorpe REALLY knows what’s she’s doing — and other than her book — isn’t selling anything! Truly excellent info (that saved me!) — and, although she has stopped running the HUGE forum that started this gathering of information, most of the folks have moved into smaller, more focused group to continue the discussions and help!

        Here’s the example I use for why “testing TSH” is not close to sufficient. First, know that TSH is “thyroid stimulating hormone” — it’s a PITUITARY hormone, not a thyroid product! When the pituitary (the master director) notices your body is low on thyroid hormone, it sends out some TSH to get the thyroid to produce. The thyroid must then produce thyroid hormone, such as T4 (the “storage” form, which must be converted into:) and T3 (the active form, which is what actually does most of the thyroid work in the body). (There are also T2 and others — but the main ones are T4 and T3.

        Now, imagine the pituitary is a farm wife, and the thyroid products (esp. T4, T3) are the field hands. It’s lunch time, so she yells out the window (releases TSH) “come ‘n get it”! As far as the TSH test is concerned — the farm hands how now been fed! (The thyroid has been notified of the “lunch” (need) and has produced T3 (the active form) and T4. But supposing the field hands did not HEAR the farm wife! (The thyroid doesn’t notice the TSH.) Or they notice the “call,” but are too tired to come in ( The thyroid doesn’t/can’t produce enough hormone.) Or they notice the “call” AND make it into the lunch room, but can’t actually get the canisters open to get to the food! (The thyroid produces lots of T4, but the body/liver cannot CONVERT the T4 (storage) into T3 (active).

        In none of those cases has the TSH been sufficient to determine whether or not your “field hands got fed”! (The cells desperately craving T3 aren’t getting any!) And here’s where synthcrap screws so many people up! Synthcrap is (synthetic) T4-only — the storage form. You can be taking a boatload of T4, and if your body cannot CONVERT it into the active form T3? Then you are NOT treating your thyroid deficiency, no matter how “high” your TSH goes! AND, too much T4 without conversion leads the body to convert the excess T4 in “reverse T3” — which is T3 built backwards. It’s still an inactive form — but it fits into the cell receptors for “actual” T3. So, now you’ve got not just too little T3 (active) form; what little of the active form you’ve got is not even able to get into the cells because the rT3 is blocking it!! You’re now SICKER than you were!

        Now, if your body does the conversion! Great, super, carry on with Synthroid! For many, many, many hypothyroid sufferers, no conversion = no treatment — and the vast majority of doctors will NOT look further, blaming YOU for the continuation of hypothyroid symptoms (exhaustion, thinning hair, weight gain — quick check: look in the mirror at the outer third of your eyebrows: if they’re thin or not there? You have a thyroid deficiency! Weird or what?!) and may offer you statins or anti-depressants! Unless YOU know about this stuff, you’re in danger of not being treated appropriately! (Your doc cannot possibly know everything about every disease. Stop the Thyroid Madness has a list of thyroid-smart docs — amazingly, one works just one exit up the hwy from me!! — so YOU must be educated in case your doctor isn’t — and s/he probably isn’t!)

        1. Goergina sez….Thanks for your comments. Just one thing…i do not take synthroid in any form. Also, my doc said i have a powerful pitutary gland!

  3. I love this! As a breastfeeding mom with a 12-month old boy I can completely relate. It has been a hard transition for me to go from pregnancy to breastfeeding and still not have my body to myself…but it has also been a huge motivator in getting me to nourish my body properly. I also struggle with hunger (hungry ALL the time), but I know breastfeeding and working out contribute to that. It can just be hard to find the proper balance, as what our little ones need is always changing, which in return changes our milk supply and appetite. Thank you for sharing your story!

    1. Yes, it seems like just when you figure everything out, your body needs something different. It’s a wild ride! 🙂

  4. Nice story Brooke. I related to most of it, even being a male. I’m always tweaking a bit here and there.
    I just want to pinch the little guys healthy cheeks too!

  5. You have such a healthy attitude and perspective. You are SO right, it’s your baby that is the priority right now. You are giving her such an amazing start in life!
    Personally, I found that the baby weight dropped pretty quickly when I stopped breastfeeding my babies (after a year). I agonized over it for no good reason!

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I’m pretty sure once I stop breastfeeding (whenever that may be) that extra weight will disappear. But for now, my baby may need it, and that’s okay. 🙂

  6. Brooke: You’re awesome!! I love your story and the work you did for your baby. I found paleo/primal when my daughter was almost 3, and the nutrition recommendations by the OB and pediatrician were pretty sad (but normal). I also believe it all evolves over time. Congratulations on your journey.

  7. I have a seven-year-old and a 21-month-old and definitely think you’re on the right track about exercise being too much of a stressor at this point, what with the fatigue and all. For various reasons, I’ve had inadequate sleep for seven+ years now, and cannot muster the will to exercise hard at the moment. Occasional bike rides with the family, chasing the toddler, and general cooking and housework are where the exercise happens at the moment. “Move around slowly and often” I’ve got covered, and you probably do too, Brooke, and I think that’s really the important exercise part right now. Sprinting can happen sometime in the future when sleep deprivation isn’t an issue.

    21-pound babes definitely count as “lifting heavy things”.

    And it takes more calories to breastfeed a baby (EBF, I’m assuming they mean) than it does to be pregnant. (Also that the current, last I checked, daily vitamin D supplement recommendation for nursing moms is in the 4000 IUs range.) If I’m remembering right, breastfeeding moms get to eat more carbs than non-breastfeeding folks, akin to high-intensity exercise folks.

    This is all to say, right there with you, Brooke, and I think you’re right on the money. Yay for you! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the support! Sleep is a such a wonderful thing, and when we don’t get enough, everything suffers.
      I definitely upped my carbs after my daughter was born. My body just craves them!
      I’m currently working on alignment and natural movement, a la Katy Bowman, instead of “exercise”. So much easier on the body, and I’m feeling great.

  8. Lovely story and lucky baby!

    For me it highlights the whole ‘female’ side of Paleo/Primal, hormones make such a massive difference as they evolve through womanhood. I’m now approaching menopause and have seen a significant change in my body’s requirements and am constantly tweaking.

    Women are amazing, the ancient cultures knew this and worshipped us 🙂

    1. HI, Keida, I’m around menopause, too, and would love to know more about changes and what you’re tweaking. I seem to need a lot less food and carbs than before, and am pretty low carb. On the plus side, I’m glad not to have PMS, and am able to skip a meal now, maybe from 5 years of Paleo now, and gradually learning more about fasting. Pre Paleo, I bought into that nonsense about eating when “hungry,” which for me, was all the time! Now, I usually eat 2-3 times a day, and do my best to avoid snacking.

    2. Kelda, I am right there with you. I love hearing more about the female side of paleo, because I think it can be so much more complicated and nuanced. Not that the male side is boring, but obviously I can relate to female stories so much more. 🙂 It’s amazing what our bodies can do!

  9. Lovely story and lucky baby!

    For me it highlights the whole ‘female’ side of Paleo/Primal, hormones make such a massive difference as they evolve through wo

  10. I echo the other commenters who say to just do your best with exercise and diet while raising small children and breastfeeding. My kids are now 9, 6 1/2, and 3 1/2. I weaned the youngest recently, ending 9 years of continuously being either pregnant or breastfeeding! Now that the kids are older, I have more time, space, and sleep to exercise and eat well and take care of myself. Although I’m older, I feel fitter, and now have found ways to fit in spurts of exercise here and there. During the baby and toddler years, though, it was just survival mode, because kid needs were almost constant! Now, I can do my own thing for 10-15 minutes, which makes things easier!

    I try to get short spurts of exercise every day, preferably in the morning and afternoon/evening. These short, high intensity workouts that I can do in my garage/back yard have been helpful, because they prescribe something to do every day that’s easy and do-ably challenging:

    1. Survival mode is what it is. You never know what they’re going to throw your way next. 🙂
      Thanks for the link. I will have to check it out now that I am regaining my energy.

      1. It IS survival mode, so yes, be kind to yourself and just do the best you can. When my children were little, I put them in a stroller or “wore” them in a backpack and took walks. My oldest especially loved being in the backpack and looking over my shoulder while I cooked or did household chores. Over time, my energy levels increased from this bit of exercise. And I did lose most of my pregnancy weight.

        I didn’t lose my “breastfeeding weight” until I stopped nursing them (I nursed for 8 years straight–3 kids). I think the body just knows to hang on to some extra fat “just in case”.

        Also, the best advice I ever got was to sleep when the baby sleeps.
        I’ll bet that helps with your energy.

        I had to laugh when you said you were hungry all the time–that is SO me. Primal living is the only thing that has curbed my hunger.

        Your baby is precious! Enjoy every moment; in a blink of the eye, she’ll be all grown up (mine are 23, 21 and 18–I still don’t know how that happened!)

  11. Congrats on baby and on maintaining paleo while breastfeeding. I am 32 weeks pregnant with twins (#3 and 4) at 41. I’ve been primal, do eat cream and cheese since January 2014. Lost 10 pounds of baby weight when I did from my second child, now five, never got ripped but felt great. I have gained 37 pounds this time with no significant loss of muscle tone. My previous 2 pregnancies (singles) were 45 and 60 pounds (I’m 6″). I constantly thank paleo because I quit exercising, apparently best to do very little with twins when older. So I am so happy, not sure what will happen after. I may give up dairy if I can’t lose weight. With my previous pregnancies I ate a lot of bacon and eggers and instant noodles and treats. this time, I have eaten a couple sandwiches, a couple small pieces of bread , a couple of ice creams, but lots of rice and way more fruit than before, aside from the bread (way to hungry and nauseous first trimester and when nothing was available I had to eat), the increased carbs seems to be okay. Good luck with you continued journey, I imagine the lack of sleep is a huge factor and just has to be accepted.

  12. Awesome story, Brooke! I love how you are listening to your body and doing what is best for both you and your baby. My daughter was born June 2014 and I was obsessively trying to get back to my starting weight (140) while breastfeeding. I couldn’t figure out why paleo wasn’t working for me anymore. Right after she stopped nursing around her first birthday, I immediately lost the baby belly. No diet change at all! Lesson learned: listen to your body and be kind to yourself. You and your baby will be happier for it 🙂

    1. I think you are right and the same will happen to me when I stop breastfeeding. My body is just holding onto some extra weight and will not give it up because it needs it for the baby, which is fine. It’s incredible what our bodies just know to do.

  13. Hi Brooke. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I just wanted to offer some words of encouragement. You are doing great! Absolutely continue to be gentle with yourself! Looking after a young child is very draining, especially when you are breastfeeding. I also find that while I am breastfeeding I hold on to a few extra pounds of fat that I find impossible to lose.

    I have a 3 1/2 year old and a 1 year old that I still breastfeed, and I relate so much to your story. My daughter (the 3 yo) had colic and reflux as an infant, and she would just scream for hours. I cut out dairy and gluten and she was like a different baby! She made me realize I had intolerance to those things, as well. My son was a much calmer, stronger baby but he couldn’t handle beef or bananas. The good news is that now I can handle small amounts of any food without too much trouble. And I guess avoiding ALL my triggers for a few months allowed me to heal.

    I am just getting back into exercise as well, and I find that yoga works best for me. I do DVDs at home and I find that it gives me energy instead of being draining like most exercise. It also involves body weight training which helps make me stronger. Best of luck on your journey!

  14. Beautiful story, Brooke! I love how your little person became part of your “self”-experiment. What a gift you’re offering not just yourself, but also your daughter.

    1. Thanks! She is my little sunshine, and it makes me so happy to know that I am doing something great for her as well. 🙂

  15. Great story Brooke. If you think about the “extra” weight and bigger appetite you mum’s talk about, it makes sense that nature would expect the woman’s body to be fuller and more nourished when it is supporting another life. Hence the mum’s writing in and saying their bodies changed again when they stopped breast feeding. I think it’s important for mum’s to understand that need to put what feels right for their bodies first and foremost, in order to be able to do what is right for their child. I think you explained it very well, and you are right about it being a different story to the others, so thanks for putting it out there.

  16. Brooke, thank you so much for sharing this.

    I’m so encouraged!

    I’m 15 weeks, and it’s been so difficult first trimester trying to stay ‘on the wagon,’ with coworkers and friends all around urging me to just eat whatever I want, but now it’s getting so much easier! I never got sick, but felt strongly averse to meat and very fond of carbs 🙂

    And thanks to all of you ladies in the comments sharing your journies as well, it’s great to know I’m not alone in swimming against the current.

    1. I’m so glad my story could resonate with you. I am happy, too, to see so many other women sharing their stories. I love seeing everyone come together to make our own “villages” and support each other!

  17. Nice job Brooke !

    One thing my wife and I did during her pregnancy was to get the best possible prenatal vitamins we could find (Metagenics – Wellness Essentials For Pregnancy) and ensure that no shots were given to my wife during the pregnancy (or to my child after birth !). Chiropractic care was also beneficial.

  18. I find that when people go Primal, they always end up looking younger; you look like much younger in your pregnancy and post birth pictures too!

  19. I have a question for the wonderful community I’ve found here. My wife has been struggling with gallbladder disease for a few years. Her only interactions with physicians on this matter have been negative. Mostly, she just hears, take it out. Unfortunately, this message was given most stridently by an obese surgeon. Her response has been to go quite low fat, no more than 7 grams of fat in a given meal. This has largely kept pain in control, but she’s also stuck in a holding pattern, worried that a blockage might induce horrific pain (we had a trip to the ER about three years ago). Does anyone have any resources in this regard. It’s a complex question because it involves the possibility of having the gallbladder removed and then adjusting diet or adjusting the diet in a way that removes stress on the gallbladder. My comments show up on this thread because over the years my wife has also shown an array of other symptoms, including flaking scalp, seasonal allergies, for instance, that seem similar to those experienced by the poster.

    Thanks for any thoughts, guidance.

    1. Has she had her thyroid checked (I mean really checked, the full panel)? See the excellent post about thyroid in the comments.

      I have sub-clinical hypothyroidism (not treated) and recently had a gall bladder attack. I started researching and found that gall bladder, as well as other gastro- problems, can be a result of hypothyroidism.

      1. Thanks, Terri. I don’t think she has (outside of a test with our first born 13 years ago).

  20. Great story and thanks for sharing Brooke. I will be passing this on to my wife for motivation.

    1. You’re welcome. Always glad to help other women. Men, too, but especially women. 🙂

  21. Hi Brooke! What a great story from a great Mom! You all look fantastic! It is really nice to hear a Mom’s perspective and where your motivation comes from. I’m wondering about your “pre”bunions – did your bunions go away entirely? I have bunions and went primal in April- many wonderful things have happened, but my bunions are still there. Is it an omega3/6 issue do you think? Just wondering if you have any clues that would be helpful. You ROCK!!!

    1. My big toe joints would ache from wearing certain shoes. It wasn’t all the time, but I know if I had continued wearing the same narrow shoes, my feet would just get worse. Everything resolved once I transitioned to minimalist footwear. There are several articles here on MDA about what minimalist footwear is and how to safely transition to it, if that helps.
      The great thing about the primal lifestyle is that it goes beyond just the right foods for our body but also includes lifestyle habits that will help reinforce our diet. There is so much more to our health than just what we put in our body, and MDA has certainly been helpful to me to point out other areas in my life that could be improved. I’m not trying to lecture to you, I’m just sharing my feelings, and I’m sure you can certainly relate if you’ve gone through your own primal transition. 🙂
      Also, I don’t know at what point it happens, but I would guess that the bone and tissue damage that occurs to result in bunions might not be reversed simply through appropriate footwear. Maybe the bone deformations are permanent??? I don’t know. I’m sure there are doctors and others who would know more about this.

    1. Wonderful! I’m so glad I could help you at just the right time.