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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 28 2014

My Story of Paleo and Personality Change

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!

Is it heretical in a sense to dare say that one’s personality could change to such an extent that one can shift from introvert to extrovert? Did I simply fall prey to the American ideal of extraversion which judges and belittles introverts? Am I simply an introvert who learned to put on a strong extroverted front for the world? These doubts run through my mind all the time when I experience myself these days as discontinuous from the person I was before finding paleo. My story is different than the majority of, still inspiring, people who have lost weight and made great progress towards many physical ailments. My story is physical too, but much more psychological. It begs the inquiry of how much the personality can change once the body and nervous system are functioning optimally.

As I grew into late childhood and early adolescence, I became extremely socially anxious and introverted. I remember simply not feeling right much of the time on top of this growing social anxiety. I remember some amorphous gut problems improved when I ceased drinking milk in second grade because my father had done the same at the time. But this did little to curb an extreme introversion and anxiety that grew and grew until I felt completely enfolded inside myself, as if there was a wall between myself and others in conversation. I talked in a very monotone fashion, giving people one word answers or grunts. I made my teachers insane by seeming to be a brilliant thinker but doing as little as possible to pass each class and never studying. I seriously did not care about grades. School didn’t seem to address the fact that I didn’t feel right. To sum up my adolescence, it was difficult and unrewarding.

When I hit young adulthood I began to open out of the shell I felt I was in and attempted everything I could to counter my personality. I went far away to college, partied and had a brief period of heavy drinking and other things. All of which only made things worse. Then I worked for the emergency services as an EMT and then a paramedic. This was extremely difficult, as I had to learn to pry myself with force outside of my inner world to be of service to the outer world, but I persevered and little by little began to become that “external person” that I always wished I could be.

Now I have heard of many introverted types who seemed to be more at peace with themselves and eventually find their niche in life that fits their personality. This was never me. I never felt like myself. There was always this sense that I had this dormant vitality that I was after but could never get at. It tormented me throughout my 20s that I could not find the energy and vitality for life that I felt was my birthright.

Two other developments occurred in my young adulthood. First, I became interested in weightlifting, fitness and nutrition. It’s too much to get into but I towed the line of lower fat, especially super low saturated and anything animal fats since I was about 18 to 28. I have always been skinny with a lean and pretty ripped body of which I was never happy with because I wanted more mass. In quick summation, I am forever grateful for the ancestral health fitness paradigm for changing the way a truly fit and healthy male is seen, as opposed to the unrealistically large bodybuilder ideal. I have been cured of a poisonous body image brought on by the mainstream gym culture.

The second thing I found was an interest in self-help and psychology. I ate up everything I could on ways of changing oneself. In 2007 I had an interesting peak experience which led me toward the meditative and contemplative world as well as the psychological. I researched and practiced everything I could on eastern and western approaches to change. I had many shifts and changes, but to my dismay my health began to take a downward turn in my early to mid 20s.

I began experiencing these debilitating “fatigue spells” as I would describe them. It was like being hit by a tsunami of a brain fog and feeling like I was drowning underwater for up to a third of my day at times. It truly felt like being poisoned. My mind couldn’t function, even when I was working with patients in emergency situations. I felt severely anxious, and it felt like my personality would contract inwards and I had no resources to deal with anyone or anything. Everything felt like an irritation. I played with health a little bit, but not enough. I was eating nothing but lean meats, veggies, whole grains and the like. My fats consisted of peanut butter, mayonnaise, and canola oil. I felt bloated and fatigued after just about every meal.

By the end of this, I went to see a gastroenterologist who said that I may have had intestinal overgrowth and wanted to scope me. PPIs did absolutely nothing.

Just before this, I had a partner on the ambulance who put on Fatheads at random on Netflix. Like so many others I was floored by the lipid hypothesis and went on a saturated fats binge, before ever beginning paleo at all.

Many people have noted feeling more energy and a sense of well-being on whole foods diets, but it hit me like a sledgehammer. I felt this heat go through my entire body. I became what would be called in psyche jargon: “subclinically hypomanic.”  I was up for several days without feeling tired. It felt like every nerve in my body was firing at maximum. Every excitatory neurotransmitter seemed to be potentiated: serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine and so on. This occurred just before a trip to Maui. On my flight back I bought Robb’s book and later Sisson’s and slowly became fully paleo. I didn’t do a 30 day. I slowly worked into it over a summer. The more I cut out wheat, dairy (I’ve never liked dairy anyways), and legumes the more I felt this immense sense of energy and vitality. I also need to note that I worked on fixing my sleep and I shifted my exercise routine to be more along the lines of Mark Sisson’s recommendations.

This was 2.5 years ago and all I can say is that I feel that my nervous system has been reborn since that time. The first thing I noticed was a need to move all the time. I have always been fidgety but it became difficult to sit in one place. I was in grad school at the time and used to imagine hunting with a spear while sitting in lectures. I think that this level of energy was so new that I did not know what to do with it or how to express it.

I wanted to engage and socialize with everyone. Although extremely independent, something I have mistaken for introversion, I truly began to become more and more energized by engagement and challenge. My mind was sharpened and I became outspoken and had to learn how to temper myself to be more likeable.

THIS WAS MY MISISNG VITALITY!! This was what I was always looking for! I recall these days that before this change, I simply did not have the resources to develop and deal with the stresses of adolescent life. There were many emotional and psychological issues I had on top of this, but I’m very curious to know how I could have handled other issues if I had developed with a functioning gut and nervous system.

I can now explore what made me think I was fundamentally an introvert, or in adulthood: an ambivert. When I have gone too far off paleo, such as when having much sugar, wheat, or dairy, I feel this inner sense of contracting inwards. I feel depressed and don’t want to deal with others or the world. I just want to sit at home and watch Netflix. It’s like a state of dysphoria that comes over me, and it is accompanied 100% of the time by my gut being bloated and that familiar and dreaded brain fog.

DaveWhen I’m fully functioning I’m like a big ADHD kid. The average person cannot keep up with me. My mind is quick but scattered, but can focus when I need to. I’m now generally fun loving and optimistic.

The last part of my story involves how I had to shift away from my older self to this new version of me in process. I had built up many self-images of myself over the years which had to come down completely. Some things have been a struggle, as I chose a new career path several years before this change based on my old self and now I have to scramble to find something that truly works for this version of me. There were limiting ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that I had to see through. There were things I was doing and not doing that I have had to take a long look at. It is as if I am slowly learning who I truly am and have never truly been myself. How can we truly be the person our genetics and existential situation predispose us to be if our entire system is poisoned, limited? I’ve been driving a car with the parking brake on for 28 years and suddenly it has been taken off. Part of me feels only 2.5 years old and is thus a seed that is slowly germinating as I realize who I am truly meant to be.


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101 thoughts on “My Story of Paleo and Personality Change”

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  1. Hi,

    “We are what we eat from our heads down to our feet” :).

    Very nice! Welcome to the human race!


  2. Great exploration! Another possibility is that you’ve been extraverted all along, but SAD caused changes to brain chemistry which masked those connections in some way. Perhaps going paleo lifted those masks, and the you who has always been there found unprecedented freedom?

    With abandon,

  3. Dave, great story and great transformation. Congratulations on being healthy enough to be the “you” you are meant to be!

    As a life-long serious introvert, though, it doesn’t sound to me like you ever were truly an introvert – your nervous system was just so depressed by the wrong foods that you didn’t have the energy that you need to be yourself. The biggest tip is that you say when you eat too much sugar, you get depressed and “just want to sit at home and watch Netflix.” That’s not introversion, that’s physical lethargy.

    It’s a myth that introverts don’t want to be with people or that we are depressed. We simply get our emotional energy from solitude and find large groups exhausting. For extroverts it is the opposite. (Insert shameless plug for Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking” here. No, I’m not that Susan. I wish I could write that well.)

    No matter, the important thing is that you’ve found the right plan for you, so again – Congratulations!

    1. +1 Yes, Susan, that is the true nature of introversion and extroversion – where do you get your emotional energy and where do you spend it.

      “Brain fog” – being Primal has let me see that I spent most of my life in a brain fog (I started to type “grain fog,” which works too). Not SAD but conventional healthy diet. Looking back, I self-diagnose myself as being borderline Asperger’s most of my life. Before Primal, I literally could not look at anyone’s face without feeling an intense desire to run as fast as I could in the opposite direction. Now I enjoy looking at people’s faces.

      Thanks for sharing, Dave. Primal is as good for improving mental health as it is for physical health, not that the two can really be separated.

      1. Yes, I have always thought that the mental health aspects of eating correctly were probably bigger than the physical aspects. When I look at the world, mostly I see mental illness…diet related, you bet!

        1. I’ll second that. There’s this couple I know, whose under five year old daughter had a terrible temper, throwing tantrums every five minutes virtually, and after they took her off red and blue food colouring, she quietened down a lot. Of course I’m talking about food additives here, not grains and sugar as such, but the same thing applies.

    2. Thank you, Susan. This is exactly what I was thinking as I read Dave’s post, but you worded it much better than I would have. He was certainly deeply troubled, but I doubt that he was an introvert.

    3. So much this. When I tell people I’m an introvert (doesn’t come up often), they assume I’m shy.
      I’m fine going out with friends, or even in a group of strangers. But I need to be alone for a while in order to unwind.

    4. As a lifelong introvert, I agree with this. Primal food makes me feel better and makes me perform better, but I am an introvert to my core. I also used to be shy, and that’s different. I’ve definitely outgrown that, but I have a certain people set-point, and when I reach it, I’m done. I don’t care if I’m the person who leaves the party early, or who passes on group yoga because I need to do it alone in my apartment, when I’m done with people I’m DONE. Time to go back to my hidey-hole and recharge my battery.

      1. “hidey-hole” – I love it! I have a “man cave” where I go to be alone and recharge; now I have a term for my wife, also an introvert, when she leaves the party early and will be found somewhere by herself, quite content.

        1. Love it! Reminds me of my aunt. She used to say that everyone should have a “hidey-hole”, but she was referring to a secret place in one’s home where valuables could be hidden. I agree that we introverts need a psychological hidey-hole too!

  4. “I recall these days that before this change, I simply did not have the resources to develop and deal with the stresses of adolescent life.

    This really hit home! I can’t even imagine how many people fell this way and have no way of dealing with it.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story! It is quite inspiring. My daughter has asperger’s syndrome and sensory processing disorder, and when she is eating a strict paleo diet, she comes alive!

  6. Nice work, Dave. I relate to your story and went through a similar experience. It’s amazing how much a diet can affect your psychological well-being. Grok on!

  7. Love this story – emphasizes that we are more than just physical beings, and that our diet influences every facet of our existence. The long term ramifications of eating the wrong foods causes widespread damage within and triggers consequences we can not begin to measure, including our emotions and yes personality. Thanks for sharing!

  8. WOW. I have never seen so many negative comments on a Friday story. This man has gone through an amazing transformation because of a clean diet. Isn’t that what were all about? Who cares if it doesn’t relate to you or your experiences, it isn’t boring, it’s still an inspiring story of someone truly finding themselves through the Paleo diet. It isn’t always about weight loss and that is probably why Mark posted this. Be more considerate of your fellow human beings, we are all in this together.

    Dave, I thought this was a GREAT story! Thank you for sharing and I hope you enjoy the rest of your life as the outspoken extrovert you were meant to be!

  9. Great story, have had a similar experience with regards to becoming more extroverted and relaxed/calm in general as well as my energy levels being borderline ADHD, just love it. Of course my ability to focus has improved as well so I can easily channel that energy into 6 h of violin practise for example. OK been sittin down for too long now, ciao!

  10. Truly inspirational, I can really relate as I went through these almost exact circumstances but am just starting to realize who I truly am. Growing up I was quiet and anxious and I felt that there was something wrong with me and spent many years trying to change myself into someone I was not but am now realizing that I am an introverted about 75% of the time but there’s still that 25% of me that loves social contact. I wish that I had known about nutrition and personality awareness back then. Again thanks for the story, it was very uplifting.

  11. Dave great story. I love hearing the health mindset changes over the physique. Very cool stuff! Congrats

  12. ” To sum up my adolescence, it was difficult and unrewarding.”

    I think this sums up most people’s inner adolescence. Yours was probably worse by the sounds of it, but I think most people struggle with changing bodies and minds.

    I considered myself an introvert for the longest time. I didn’t know how to handle myself around crowds. Maybe that’s not how you’d describe yourself.

    Over the past five years or so I’ve become more comfortable with myself. I’ve learned how to handle myself around people, how to navigate crowds, even if I prefer to stay away from situations where I have to be social in a crowd.

    I guess it is possible that diet affects our personality since diet affects happiness. Your true self would come out if you had a good diet. That I can see.

    So maybe the point should be that the proper diet makes people more well-adjusted and happy? That there’s a mental health aspect to how we eat?

    Thank you for the story. It gave me lots to think about.

  13. “I’ve been driving a car with the parking brake on for 28 years and suddenly it has been taken off.” <<<<< ——— WOW, this quote right here, so awesome – so relatable – so true!!! Amazing Dave – Grok on!

  14. I’ve been Paleo/LCHF for three years and I still find most people exhausting, demanding, and soul sucking. I like people in small groups. Family, boyfriend, one on one stuff.

  15. Congrats Dave– I think I understand the change– from the physical to the psychological– profound improvement.

    It also helps to have a community of like-minded Grokkers who have gone through emotional and physical transformations.

    Grok ON

  16. I’ll chime in with some others above and note that what you refer to as introversion rather sounds like symptoms of anxiety and depression. It all reminds me very much of what I’ve learnt from psycho-neuroimmunology lectures at uni about the psychological signs of inflammation, aka ‘sickness behavior’. Regardless, I’m glad you’ve found your true, healthy self, and I found myself nodding from recognition while reading parts of your story!

    1. So, a couple weekend link loves ago there was a article about the germ theory of culture and civilization, which postulates that much of human behavior, social interaction, and views of ‘outsiders’ is driven by the need for pathogen avoidance, or the lack thereof…

      Being withdrawn is ‘sickness behavior’, is it?

    2. Nice story.
      Nice comment. Would have loved more explanation on the “sickness” behavior related to inflammation.

  17. Reading your story, I felt this warm, motivating feeling just cover me head-to-toe. I’ve been struggling with social anxiety since drifting too far from the primal path this past month after doing really well for several months.. and it’s an all-too-familiar-feeling from my pre-Primal days. Your metaphor of driving with the parking brake on hit the nail on the head.

  18. We should come to an understanding that being introverted is not an affliction nor something that can be cured – because it’s not inherently something negative, and not something that can be changed. It’s a physical configuration in the brain upon birth, and 25% of the population are like this.

    If you are introverted, which I suppose you are, there is no issue. But if you are socially insecure, you are anxious to have human contact. You feel bad when you need to talk with strangers etc. There are many variations on this issue. This is a handicap.

    But being introverted, you can have the utmost confidence talking with others, it’s simply that you prefer to be alone most of the time. That is the essence of the definition. Nothing more, nothing less, and it has nothing to do with social anxiety and insecurity.

  19. Fantastic… The weight loss is secondary to the brain/grain fog lift!
    Thank you for sharing your marvelous story.
    Is the 55th kick in the ass I need to give up the cream in tea/coffee.
    Forgot how good it felt without the dairy.

    …50 years young / feeling (and dare I see looking) better than I did in my 20s!

  20. Dave,

    I loved your story. It was really well written and shows another aspect to why our diet is so impotant. Thanks for sharing and best of luck to you in your new career!

  21. Congrats! I just started reading “Quiet” last night (a book about Introverts vs. Extroverts). Good timing!

      1. Exactly! There is nothing wrong with introversion. I’m glad Dave found that his diet contributed to his unhappiness, lack of energy, insecurity and depression, but this is written as if those are symptoms of introversion. An introvert might be unhappy, lacking in energy, insecure and depressed, but not because he is an introvert, as opposed to an extrovert! I understand Dave’s excitement at finding the real person inside, but this is a bit hard to read as an introvert and not feel the need to highlight this has nothing to do with introversion.

        1. Agreed. I’m an introvert because I have anxiety and panic issues. I can’t stand people and wish 95% of the people who start conversations with me would just shut up. I usually end up silencing them in my mind, and then having to get them to repeat themselves (because I’m just that nice.) Either way, sounds like I need to hit Primal hard if I ever want to feel like the old me again. Thousands of hours of gaming, lack of exercise, and poor diet has left me miserable. I feel a lot like you used to Dave. Congratulations!

  22. I love this story so much! It so beautifully and articulately describes the inner journey that many of us experience but have difficulty putting into words. I am currently grappling with these sorts of issues right now and feel inspired that I am not alone. I am trying to find my perfect 20% (that small portion of my diet that is non-Paleo), so that I can occasionally enjoy things like wine, chocolate, sushi and corn tortillas, in moderation, without snapping at my husband and kids or locking myself in my room for some alone time afterward. Thanks so much for sharing your very personal story.

  23. Yeah, I regret that title as the introversion/extraversion thing is very tricky and the western world is extremely culturally biased against introversion. It was more of an untreated severe social anxiety, depression, and horrible fog by food sensitivities. Many extroverted people have admitted crippling social anxiety such as Dane Cook. For a personality like his or mine, it’s more of where the anxiety becomes directed. One can seem introverted when they’re socially anxious but not so when it’s more of a motivating factor.

    I remember from an undergrad psychology course that one of the main descriptions of introversion/extraversion is that introverts are more stimulated (and more easily overwhelmed) by external stimuli while extroverts are more underwhelmed or less stimulated by external stimuli and thus seek more stimulation in some form. While introverts need that recharge.
    I experienced this as a paramedic, driving fast with the sirens and running into an emergency scene and still feeling bored, like it’s not enough and I’m overly habituated to it.

    I’m seeing about getting that title changed.
    Thank’s for the great comments!

    1. Dave,

      As a “secure” introvert, I am very happy for you. You’ve found your inner path – that is HUGE! Follow it! Regardless of where one is at on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, posing stinks! It’s about knowing where YOU need to be. Consider yourself blessed that you figured out how Paleo nutrition plays into your overall well-being while still young. You are an extrovert who is very in touch with your inner self. That is a wonderful combo – embrace it! Grok On!

    2. Thanks for the clarification, Dave. I very much enjoyed your story and was pumped to hear how eating real food transformed your life! I also appreciate you trying to get the title changed. Some of us introverts are little sensitive because people often try to “cure” us of who we are. I’m a happy, lively introvert who is sometimes mistaken for an extrovert because I’m not shy.

  24. Grok on, Dave! Glad to hear that as I’ve noticed a similar change in myself. (and for you haters in the comments, going Primal feels more amazing than can ever be sufficiently explained! 😀

    1. … again, am I missing something? Where’s the hate in any of these comments? Were some comments deleted or something?

      Aaaanyway…. This was probably one of my favorite Friday stories. Very interesting, thought provoking questions! I too have had a huge personality change since getting healthy, and I could not be more grateful. I went from being in a very agitated, easily annoyed, angry life to a nice even-keeled, clear headed, happy life. It will never stop being amazing to me.

      1. Earlier this morning, there was a reply of “Boooooorrrriinnng” which has since been removed. I assume there were others as well from folks who think that Primal transformations have to be about 6 pack abs or running the Ironman naked or some such in order to be interesting.

    2. I read all the comments, and I don’t think anyone is “hating.” Everyone seems genuinely happy for Dave. It’s always great to see people’s success and hear how happy it has made them. That’s what it’s all about!
      The thing is, introverts are very sensitive about people talking about introversion as if it were a psychological disorder, or something that needs to be corrected. This is because there is a huge bias in this country against introverts, and because social anxiety is often mistaken as introversion. Introverts get the constant message, “Who you are is wrong. You need to be fixed.” Those who understand the true nature of introversion are just trying to get the word out to increase understanding for everyone. When we understand others better, everyone benefits.

      1. There were some negative comments earlier today that have since been removed.

  25. Dave, well done on your route to good health – regardless of what label we put on it, we should all feel great about ourselves and our place in life.

  26. I’ve become far more comfortable with my introversion, but that could just be from getting older.

    1. For me, the turning point was realizing that there was nothing wrong with me.

  27. Congratulations on coming out of the fog, Dave! Yes, we really are what we eat, inside and out, brain included. I like this story because it accentuates this aspect of how important what we eat is to our whole lives.

    Adolescence is hell to many – so much change going on in our bodies, so little awareness about how food can nurture the mind.

    After three years Primal, I am so aware how easily the human body can go off balance and how big a deal that is. Bigger than just gaining weight.

    Enjoy your new existence – you sound joyful!

  28. Great story, Dave, and very well written! Thanks for sharing! I’ve certainly seen the difference in you and that’s a personal testament to how powerful this kind of change can be.

  29. Amazing story! I always say that the physical changes I’m seeing being primal are nothing compared to how much better I feel mentally. Enjoy every minute!

  30. I can totally relate Dave. It always amazes me how eating right for my body can make all the difference in my personality and my outlook on life. Sticking to Paleo makes me feel good and when I go off that diet, I always feel off.

  31. I watched the Florida basketball team beat UCLA last night. One of the players from Florida (Patric Young) is a ripped 6-9 center. The announcers explained he is a three time scholar athletic and as they were literally marveling at his physic they said the reason he had that body was because of a so called PALEO DIET! They went on to give an explanation of the diet. Nice to see Paleo getting some mainstream.

  32. I can’t speak to the introvert/extrovert aspect of this, but my job requires me to think quickly on my feet/engage in constant brainstorming. I have noticed that when I remain super strict paleo for a good 8 weeks w. no cheating, my mental speed/processing/clarity is great. If I fall off the wagon, I feel like someone draped a lead blanket over my brain and I just can’t think clearly, quickly or be creative…

  33. I loved this story, my daughter suffers terrible anxiety and has food issues. Perhaps oral sensitivity disorder. I need her to read this story…
    Thanks so much for sharing, immaculately written and fantastic to read.

  34. Thank you so much for this. Of all the stories I’ve read here this one resonated with me the most. I am quite happy being an introvert, but the anxiety and social problems that can come with it have really become a serious problem for me the last few years. Physical health is one thing, but this is my biggest struggle. I’ve flirted with going Primal for a couple of years now but never fully committed. Thank you, Dave. Now I have my tipping point.

  35. Congratulations Dave!

    I love to see all these different types of Friday success stories-disease reversal, hard body, goals achieved, improved mental health, weight loss, freedom from pain, etc. Everyone can relate to something in these happy stories.

    So inspirational!

  36. Boy do I relate to this!!! So how do I get past the “fatigue spells”, which for me last for days not hours, enough to eat healthfully and start exercising again?

  37. Amazing journey! And you are so incredibly lucky to have figured it out early. I wasn’t quite as extreme in adolescence, but pretty close. Insanely shy and withdrawn….but it was mostly due to the fact that I lived on a steady diet of wheat, sugar and processed junk food (and was either pre or active Celiac, undiagnosed) – and didn’t realize that it was doing me in. I look back on so much struggle and difficulty and sometimes feel sad about the person I could have been. Thankfully, I fought like a BEAR to have the best life possible, so I certainly don’t regret….but I didn’t get the opportunity to “fix” the true, underlying problem (diet) until 46 yrs old! But man, talk about transformation. I don’t think many 47 yr olds are living the life I am right now…it’s pretty magical! Glad you got all this figured out….and welcome back to the human race!

  38. WONDERFUL! Thank you so much for sharing your story, your sharp perception, and your insights. Best to you!

  39. What a wonderful testimony! Before Paleo, I was negative all the time. It revealed itself in my job performance reviews, relationships, and the way I spoke to myself in my own head. Now, I’m like a different person. My job reviews always note my positive attitude, my patients write me tons of thank you notes (I’m in physical therapy), my co-workers are forbidding me to go elsewhere for a job, and I’m improving on my negative self-talk (which is no easy feat for an American woman!). I was on the way to work this morning feeling grumpy over a couple things going on in my life, and I was able to put the brakes on almost immediately. I thought, “Hey, none of this stuff will matter on my deathbed. It’s a beautiful day, I’m going to a job I love, and I get to make a difference in my patient’s lives. Snap out of it!” And I did. I could never, ever do that before. I can’t believe what a difference this lifestyle has made in my life, and I’m grateful for it every day.

  40. Great job. Even after one day of doing paleo (after doing completely opposite the day before) I feel more vitality, self esteem, and see that jump in my step. One thing I would recommend with regard to learning more about your personality is googling the Myers Briggs Temperament Questionnaire which I found to be very very accurate. After repeating this several times over the years, my temperament results are always the same. I wonder if you’re not an INFJ…

  41. Well done Dave. Great to see your smiling face at the end of your story. I was reading this thinking this didn’t apply to me but was a fantastic read, then realised that I have slipped off the paleo wagon a little of late (70% instead of my usual 90%) and have been feeling bored, and suffering brain fog – keep forgetting things I usual have down pat. Well wadaya know………..most stories have some meaning for us somewhere if we are only prepared to really look!

    Loving that the varied benefits of this way of life are so clearly showcased every week. Thanks Dave for telling us your story.

    1. “most stories have some meaning for us somewhere if we are only prepared to really look!”


  42. Absolutely awesome story. I know at least 2 people that could benefit from this story, probably more. Thanks for sharing! My favorite part: “I’ve been driving a car with the parking brake on for 28 years and suddenly it has been taken off. Part of me feels only 2.5 years old and is thus a seed that is slowly germinating as I realize who I am truly meant to be.”

  43. Thank you for sharing Dave… I can relate… I really had no goals or expectations when starting primal/paleo other than that it seemed like a healthy way to eat and stay healthy. I was surprised at how much more energy I had, but the most amazing part came after about 8 months when I also stopped eating dairy. In a month or so I felt this strange feeling– I felt happier than I think I ever had. My whole life I’ve had a general anxiety, feeling of apathy, and lack of connection. I felt the same “inner sense of contracting inwards” that you describe. I thought it was just the way I was… but it turns out that there are profound connections between gut health and mental health. “Grain Brain” is a great book regarding this. Mark also recently posted a link to a review study describing connections between probiotics and mental health. In his recent post about soluble starch he also describes how feeding those beneficial microbes increases neurotransmitters. I’m still introverted, but my anxiety, unhappiness, and apathy are profoundly diminished. Every time I eat wheat + dairy I feel that inner contraction coming back though. Thanks again for sharing and congratulations on your new happier life!!

  44. Congratulations on the changes you have made. It is wonderful to hear of the difference they have made. However, the title of this article is misleading, and propagates the insulting pervasive belief that there is something inherently wrong with being an introvert. From your description, I suggest you were never an introvert. An emotionally mature introvert is not shy. Introversion is a difference in requirement for external stimulation. Too much sensory overload, as experienced with a lot of people, hustle and events, is draining, and a true introvert will retreat to the rich pleasure of solitude. To have time to think, ponder and read is a luxury introverts look forward to, something that recharges them. Introversion is not fixed with diet, because it is not something that needs to be fixed.

    1. Funny, I don’t get that at all. I don’t have any pre-conceived notions of “introvert” or “extrovert” (one being bad, the other good). I just see them as different. He seems to just be commenting on how he went from (unhappily) being in one camp, to a 180 degree switch to the other (and then happy). I think all the introverts should feel OK about being so, and cut this guy a break on the excessive feedback on it. Both are fine! He just found happiness in a diet change that ALSO switched his personality over as he got over some roadblocks. This is his language and it’s fine.

      1. The point is, he was never in the introvert camp. He was an extrovert unable to thrive due to diet associated physiological factors. It is not ‘fine’ to be this, and it is not ‘fine’ to suggest that this unhealthy state is introversion. Introversion is not low self esteem, low confidence, low energy levels. An true introvert can experience confidence and energy, and still feel his/her best when afforded the clarity of solitude.

        Language matters.

  45. Gluten negatively affects the neurological system. Read Grain Brain by Dr Perlmutter.

  46. Congrats on finding what works for you but you do genuine Introverts real harm with this.
    I have read the comments and followups but I still find the tone offensive.
    You do a associate what was low self-esteem with being an introvert throughout the story and you do propogate the ‘Introverts have something wrong with them’ view we have to live with. The story needs a rewrite, not a title change.
    You do not have the first inclination to what it is to be an Introvert, the criticism we have to deal with and only be able to relax with the noise of life yelling at you.

  47. Based on the comment, though introverts might be the general societal minority, they seem to be the Primal majority.

    Speaking as yet another one myself. Great story. Also great comments on the difference between legitimate introversion and a dysfunction of some kind.

  48. Your story was very well written. I can identify with it as well, the people I encounter now would never believe I was “shy” Thank you for your take on the positive effects of the primal diet.

  49. Hi Dave,
    What a remarkable story! Do you have any advice for those trying to ease their way in like you did? I have been on-and-off paleo/primal for a year and have found it very hard to commit when I try to go cold turkey.

  50. Dave,
    So proud of you! Thanks for being the inspiration to the family to explore the Primal/Paleo/Whole Foods path these past couple years.

  51. Dave: I feel as though I can really relate to your introvert v. extrovert experience. I would say my introversion is more phasic, in that there are times that I cocoon into a shell, but other times that I try really hard to be more extroverted. My ability to come out of my shell depends to a great extent on my nutrition and exercise. After an intense session of sprinting, tempo running, biking, swimming, skiing or canoeing, there is almost always a transformation of how I feel, especially if coupled with good nutrition. So some may say that is not true introversion, but it sure feels like it to me.

  52. I’m glad to hear what a difference going Primal as made for you! I would throw my hat into the ring as one more person who would love to see your story re-labeled as “Paleo Diet Eliminates Social Anxiety” or the like, rather than “changes you from an introvert to an extrovert. If being an introvert vs. an extrovert is where we regain our energy – and truly has nothing to do with how we are able to socialize – then your story has far less to do with that than it does with treating legitimate mental health symptoms.

  53. Dave,

    Thanks for sharing. I can relate to much of what you’ve said, feeling like drowning, fatigue, not having the energy to engage with other people. For most of my life I’ve blamed this on sugar, when I went sugar free for 9 months, my personality completely changed and I found the energy to be the person I always felt I could be.

  54. Again, sorry for the title, and I hope my content doesn’t sound like that too. Being trapped inside myself in this socially anxious-depressive fog when I was younger was so negative that I’m only beginning to learn how healthy introversion can be and that it is not the same as the depressive inwardness that I experienced.

    Unfortunately Mark and his staff sometimes take time to get back to his emails. I’ve contacted him several times about this.

  55. Having similar experiences for years, your finding and release from the ‘foggy’ brain reminds me at my first time being cut off the grains and sugar. Before, I thought to get insane, always feeling tired and faint. Right after noon, energy was going down and sometimes I felt simply asleep with open eyes while on the job! Each day was a terrible trip. I can’t think, can’t handle an ordinary day. No one believes me, not my firends, not my wife and not even the numerous doctors I consulted.
    What really helped me, was avoiding carbs! My whole life was turning away from the darkness.

    Like everywhere in the world, german doctors can’t believe that carbs (I tried all kind of carbs and they all make me sick) can steal all energy away (because there is no diabetes and BS seems normal). Following a LC/Paleo way, Life is pretty good by now.

    But what is still missing? A name for this disease, a physiological cause and explanation for this plague, that hits some of us so bad.

    So Dave, you’re not alone and for me it’s good to hear from someone who succeeded with fighting against this evil.

  56. Awesome and inspiring story! I’ve always been considered “shy”, but I do not feel like that’s me. I want to get out, mingle, meet new people, and experience new things, but I battle with it inside. You described how I feel. I’m starting paleo and gradually going into it but it’s been for other reasons. I’m now hoping to see the same type of changes as well 🙂

  57. I’m appalled that this thread seems to regard introversion as a disability. There is a nice TED talk putting the case for introverts and pointing out just how borish extroverts can be.. If you are an introvert and want to be an extrovert but can’t because of insecurities, then fair enough. Otherwise, the idea that extroverts with their “it’s all about me” attitude and their (often) crass insensitivity to all around them are somehow superior, or embody something we should all aspire to is ridiculous and insulting.

  58. Awesome story! Thanks for sharing, Dave, and I’m glad you are feeling so great! I am definitely an extrovert, but my husband is an introvert. We started this way of eating about 2 years ago. Even though my husband never changed from introvert to extrovert, his personality definitely went through a makeover! He went from feeling anxious, insecure, and feeling pretty negative about life to feeling positive, happy, and like he could accomplish anything he put his mind to! I would have always considered myself positive, but I am even more so with a Primal diet! Using the words “introvert” and “extrovert” in your story are helpful to those who may think they are just introverted, when in reality, they are depressed, fatigued, and/or have social anxiety due to poor diet (and not true introverts). And, although, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert (I happen to adore one), if you are an introvert (or extrovert) who is mentally suffering, a diet change may be the perfect starting point (or cure)!

  59. Thank you Dave for your story. I have found the best part of a primal diet for me is the absence of the 10 years of depression that was a constant struggle. I love feeling like me again and having the energy and desire to participate in life. Congratulations on finding yours!

  60. Thanks for sharing. This is encouraging me to get more serious about switching to a Primal/Paleo diet.

  61. I am new to paleo and have been slowly becoming completely paleo over the last 2 weeks. I cut out dairy completely 2 weeks ago, and have cut out sugar, alcohol, and grains this week (as well as stopping the nicotine patch which I used to quit smoking). I have been suffering with mind fog for a year and a half and the doctors can only tell me that my vitamin D is low (i live in NH and work indoors so i do not get as much sun in the winter, but feel only a little better in the summer when I am in the sun), my vitamin B12 is low also so my doctor put me on a B complex vitamin (I have not noticed a mental clarity difference from it) and an MRI showed that I have a 1cm pineal cyst in my brain. They say the cyst is asymptomatic and benign, and is nothing to worry about as long as it doesn’t grow and press on my brain fluid/optical nerve. I have researched this “mind fog” that I have been experiencing so much. I feel like it is borderline depersonalization, where I feel like I am on autopilot most days and have a hard time focusing in conversations (which can affect my work!). My last resort is to completely change my diet. I have stopped drinking soda over a year ago, I drink a lot more water, I stopped smoking and drinking, and now am strictly on paleo. I hope this fog clears because I am really tired of it!

    1. Hi Jenna you are definitely on the right track cutting out the grains should significantly improve the brain fog and within a couple of weeks I suspect you will notice it. Some walking or resistance training even basic should help as well. Certainly check out Grain Brain from Dr Perlmutter.

      Best wishes

  62. Great Story !!
    Thanks for sharing it .
    Same thing happen to me, only Atkins diet and taking out sugar.
    Thinking about trying Paleo

  63. This is a very interesting story and I appreciate the different take that links diet and lifestyle to mental health and happiness. So glad you discovered this and we have the Primal Blueprint to use to better our lives. Imagine if you never discovered this link between food and your mental state, what your life would have been. Gratitude, baby!

  64. This entire article irritated me profusely. To present introversion in this way is extremely demeaning, ignorant and incorrect. We live in a society which caters much more for extroverts, as they make up most of the population. Introverts have a hard enough time trying to balance the hectic pace of everyday life with having alone time to recharge without offensive and downright rude things like this being said.

    I am an introvert, I was before I became primal and I still am now. Yes I am physically and mentally healthier and happier, but a change in diet no way alters the way in which we gain energy from the environment. To be honest, it sounds like you were never an introvert – just an unhappy extrovert. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but to label your unhappy and seemingly mentally ill self as just being an ‘introvert’ is very obtuse.

    Again, it is adding fuel to the fire of those who think that introverts need to be ‘fixed’ and ‘cured’ so they become extroverts. Thank you, Dave, for using what could have been a very inspiring and positive story to fuel scorn towards TRUE introverts. FYI, I am somehow balancing the task of being an introvert with having a fulfilling and enjoyable life without flipping my ‘extrovert switch’ as you seem to have accomplished. Congrats!