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.