From Kicking and Screaming to Loving Life

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. In fact, I have a contest going right now. So if you have a story to share, no matter how big or how small, you’ll be in the running to win a big prize. Read more here.

realifestories in line My husband was happy. Happier than I’ve ever seen. He was also getting healthier. Already healthier and at a better weight than at any time in our relationship. I saw what he was doing. He was following the Primal Blueprint. But during the first 6 months of his journey, I was still skeptical.

Then one month of his journey became two, two became three and so on. At 7 months I realized that he had never complained. Not only did he never complain, but he mentioned how great the food was (which I knew firsthand as he was cooking most of our meals) and his particular emphasis: he was never hungry. At least one time a day he’d tell me “I want you to experience this, I want you to feel what it is like to never be hungry.”

I myself had a particular habit of eating right before bed no matter how much I’d eaten that evening. Looking back, it was my body’s inability to process carbs and my blood glucose swings. I know now I was probably well on my way to being type 2 diabetic. But while I’d enjoy his meals at home, I would still eat as before at work and out with my friends. I hadn’t committed. I was still afraid of ‘missing out.’

The sustainability question never quite went away for me those first seven months. My husband had tried to get healthier before by exercising more and cutting out ‘junk.’ But it was never sustainable. (Our extra room looked like an exercise machine junk yard.) Why change everything, even if in stages, only to go back?

But right around New Year 2014, his 7 month mark I realized this was different, very different. He truly was loving his food (and especially how he felt) and as time went on he kept discovering new life upgrades. It was dawning on me not only was this sustainable, it was actually getting easier for him as time went on, not harder. He kept discovering more foods and more recipes he could enjoy. He was also happier and had more energy to devote to my daughter and me.

Piper_fire_hat_croppedSo I made the decision to extend this way of eating to my work and social life. I took small steps to start. Cutting out bread and pasta was the first step. Then instead of takeout for lunch or any of those bland frozen meals, I took leftovers from dinner. I saved time and money. When I went out with friends, same thing, no bread or pasta.

The first couple of weeks were the hardest. I knew from my husband’s experience and reading that I would feel a little wonky, flu-like symptoms to be exact. I powered through the tough part and am so glad I did. I started to feel better right around the 2-week mark.

Allow me to paint a ‘before picture’ of myself at the beginning of my journey. I was around 200 lbs. I had battled anxiety and depression since my early thirties. My skin was red and blotchy. (I wouldn’t leave the house without powder). I was starting to feel the aches and pains that I thought were associated with my approaching middle age. I would wake up in the morning with my joints aching, (especially my hips) fingertips and limbs numb and tingly. I could rarely get a full night’s sleep because I was tossing and turning to get comfortable. Sleep apnea compounded the situation. The cumbersome mask was a nightly annoyance that I had to endure.

4-6 weeks after my initial changes I started noticing that I was waking up less achy. Also, pound by pound the weight started to come off. I had the energy to start walking on the treadmill when I got home. Nothing strenuous, 20-30 minutes a few times a week. A few months into my journey I had lost about 15 pounds and was feeling better than I had in years. It was at that time I found out I needed surgery.

Creek_2I had suffered from endometriosis for years, and it had got to the point I needed to do something about it. After my first procedure and sketchy test results, my doctor recommended a hysterectomy. Which meant I was laid up and recuperating for several months. I wasn’t able to exercise anymore. Part of me felt defeated. What if my weight loss stalled? What if I started to gain it back? Although frustrated, I stuck with my new way of eating and concentrated on healing. An amazing thing happened. I didn’t gain any weight back. In fact, I continued to lose weight. By the time autumn rolled around, 8 months into this new way of life, I had lost 35 pounds.

What had happened? I had done almost no exercise and the weight was falling off. As I had said before, my first step was cutting out bread and pasta. While I enjoyed those things, I quickly realized the tradeoff was worth it. My next step was not as easy. I titled my story From Kicking and Screaming to Loving Life for a reason. Here is where the kicking and screaming come in. The hardest part of my first seven months was… Tortilla chips.

My husband had continued to read research, listen to podcasts and discuss key points of LCHF and Paleo with his new found community. He read all of Mark Sisson’s views on grains. His lifelong love of learning saved our lives. He felt so great, and I was beginning to, we both wanted it to continue. But at this point I wasn’t so happy about what he had learned. I still remember where I was when he said “I think we have to give up corn.” My exact reaction “you’ve got to be kidding me!!” A little more background on me. I was born and raised in the Southwestern United States. Corn tortillas, corn chips, cornbread… They are not just foods, they are sacred morsels to be shared with loved ones at the holidays, enticing appetizers to be enjoyed with friends at parties. They are vehicles for delicious things like salsa, queso, and every combination of meat dish you can think of. I could not imagine a life without corn. Let’s suffice it to say, it took me a bit to give this up.

Kay puppyWe weren’t eating it at home anymore, but I still had it when I went out with friends. If there was a corn chip in the staff lounge, I ate it. Little by little though, the time in between eating corn grew. I started to notice that when I did eat it, I felt sluggish and my achy joints returned. While I still loved these items, it became very apparent that my body did not. I also found I could still enjoy all the things I used to pile on the corn chips. I just enjoyed them with raw veggies or “gasp” by themselves! What I now know is that my body got inflamed when I ate corn. That is why I ached. I also know now that most chronic diseases are caused by inflammation. I wanted to share this part of my story to illustrate one key fact. Yes, I had to give up things that I liked, even loved. But I then created new habits and through these habits I found new foods I liked and loved that allowed me to be the best wife, mom, and teacher I could be.

Fast forward 2 and a half years. I have lost a total of 70 pounds. My anxiety has never been better. My skin has improved to the point that I don’t fear leaving the house without makeup. For myself, my husband and my daughter, the Low Carb, High Fat/Primal lifestyle has changed our lives. I used to fear growing older. My fear was that my daughter would be saddled with taking care of aging parents in her early twenties. I no longer have that fear. With LCHF, I can be strong and healthy for many years to come.

As for my daughter, she was 3-years-old when we started to make this change. She had always eaten what we ate. I never made separate meals for her as she began to eat solid foods. We included her in our new way of eating, and I am forever grateful we did.

At her 3-year old checkup, she was in the 3rd percentile for height. After a year of being gluten free, she was in the 25th percentile for height. She is now at around the 35th percentile. She continues to thrive and grow with our lifestyle. I will admit that the way we eat can cause her to feel excluded. We take our own cupcakes and snacks to birthday parties. She sees other kids eating things we have told her are unhealthy. She wonders why they get to and not her. We explain other families make the decisions that are right for their family, we make the decisions that are right for our family. And, importantly, that people react differently to the same food. Her 23andMe results do show a greater likelihood of celiac disease for instance.

DiamondFamily1She longs to order cafeteria lunch at school. Unfortunately, because of the dietary guidelines public schools must follow it is not food we are willing to let her eat. For instance no full-fat dairy is allowed, but fruit juice and chocolate milk are. I should add that we are not as strict with her food as ours. She does have some rice here and there and definitely more fruit and higher carbs than we do. As she has grown older, we try and bring her into the food decisions as much as possible. We try and give her as much choice as possible. Primal Kitchen products have been invaluable. She can devour an entire cucumber in one sitting with Primal Ranch. And at times, we have let her have some of those items she wants, orange techno colored snacks, a piece of Halloween candy here and there. When we do, she feels sick, and she goes bonkers. She has started to realize that food affects her. Just this weekend she had a stomach bug. I had made a Paleo friendly cake with almond flour and honey. She said, “I would like some, but I don’t want the sweetness to make my tummy hurt more.” She is beginning to connect food choices with how she feels and her energy levels.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Primal lifestyle first saved our lives, but then also gave us new lives: as the healthy fat-burning beasts we were meant to be. Our biggest adventure has now become experiencing who we always had the potential to be—not hampered and encumbered by the constant physical, mental, and energy tolls of fake food and fake fats in particular. My husband often says the reality of Primal Living exceeded all his wildest expectations. I’ve now lived and experienced that. Even at just six years of age, we feel our daughter would be living an entirely different life, be almost an entirely different version of herself had we not adopted Primal Living.

Primal Blueprint Story

We try and help family, friends, and community (both local and online) as much as we can. My husband has gotten particularly involved with social media and the wonderful Paleo(fx) Austin-based crew. He also completed the Primal Health Coach course and loved it. We were even pleasantly surprised to be one of the success stories in the new edition of the Primal Blueprint.

My post-college career has been entirely in elementary school teaching. Going into teaching was a way to help children grow to their full potential. Primal Living, what we’ve learned, the skills we’ve developed, the nutritional knowledge, effective exercising with the whole family, Primal Kid tips and tricks, the cooking and shopping techniques, are all ways I can give back to others, of all ages. Primal Living made us whole and healed, all three of us. It gives us great joy when we can pass the Primal gift on to others.


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46 thoughts on “From Kicking and Screaming to Loving Life”

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  1. Good work, all three of you! I grew up with good food, but over the years I had started to drift away from what I knew was the better way to eat. Blame my job, shiftwork, too little time, frequently eating out, the availability of convenience foods, etc. It’s a common theme in today’s busy world, and my weight started to creep upward as a result. MDA helped get me back on the right track. For many people who grew up with bad eating habits, Primal/Paleo is definitely an eye-opener.

  2. This is so inspiring for me!! I need to go Paleo for health reasons (Crohn’s disease and gluten allergy) but I have been feeling bad about dragging my husband and kids into it as I do not have self control to say no to nonprimal foods that are in the house.

    1. The best thing you can do is drag your kids into it! Good luck!

    2. The Paleo Mom website has some great info on switching your kids to Paleo if your’re interested.

    3. The simple solution is to get rid of all the non-paleo foods in your house. Have a purge and say goodbye to them forever. Much easier to resist them when they’re not there.

      Also, the only thing you’d be ‘dragging [your] husband and kids into’ is a life of health and vitality.

  3. Awesome story. Well written, inspiring, and sustainable. Kudos!

  4. What a nice well told and documented story, showing this to everybody

  5. What a wonderful story! So many points resonated. I started for weight issues and was shocked at 44 that “normal ” aging pains disappeared. It is disheartening to see the school lunch situation and what some people put in their kids lunches – no real food. Thanks for a great story.

  6. Beautiful and inspiring story! I feel the enthusiasm and creative energy from reading this post and wanted to thank you for sharing your family’s journey. All the best 🙂

  7. Awesome story! So inspiring that you were able to take the journey as a family. I’m working on cutting grains (except rice) out of my son’s diet and would love ideas on breakfasts and also lunches I can send to school for him. He hates eggs so breakfast is a huge challenge. I would love to hear any ideas that you have!

    1. Little sausage muffins are a good breakfast and you can make a bunch and then just heat them up. I don’t know if he eats dairy but if he does then a lunch meat and cheese roll up can be a good lunch or even breakfast. My friends kids don’t love plain eggs but do like them if there is half bacon and spinach to egg ratio in them. Sweet potato hash is also good, you can make it in patties with smashed sweet potato or you can do a diced version with some sort of meat mixed in.

    2. Thanks for the kind words! Breakfast is also one of our more challenging meals with our daughter. She likes eggs but can tire of them after too many days in a row. As for other options, we follow a primal approach so we include high quality dairy. We offer her Kalona plain Greek yogurt with a little honey and frozen berries. I will also make chia pudding with either heavy cream or full fat coconut milk. Making a couple of batches of coconut/almond flour pancakes on the weekend and freezing them is another idea. They can be thawed easily and then we spread them with nut butter. Diane Sanfilippo’s Practical Paleo has a couple of grain free porridge recipes that can be made ahead of time and warmed up pretty easily as well. We also let her have dinner foods for breakfast if she wants. Natural grocers carries a brand of little franks that are grass fed, no hormones or antibiotics. I think the brand is Teton Waters. (We keep a steady supply of those on hand because they are convenient and fun for her to eat) Recently we have also come to a point that we don’t push her to eat breakfast if she isn’t hungry enough to eat what is offered. When she gets hungry enough, she usually comes around.

      For lunches we almost always have a portion of what we had for dinner the night before. I put it in a stainless steel thermos and it keeps warm pretty well. Always cut up veggies/low carb fruit. (We should own stock an organic cucumber and tomato farm as she eats those every day) we get frozen organic berries from Costco. I put them in a container and they have thawed by lunch. She eats them like pudding. We have also found a Paleo friendly cracker, Jilz, that we spread with almond butter and make her little snack crackers. And finally, we try and make Paleo/primal friendly baked goods on the weekend (with her help so she is more invested) and then send them as treats. I hope that helps! Good luck!

      1. Thanks! I asked him if he was interested in dropping grains to see if it helps his allergies and he didn’t even hesitate before he said yes. I’ll have to try some of the ideas you’ve listed!

    3. I don’t see my reply so I will re-post sorry if there is a double post.

      Mini breakfast sausage muffins are always good. I know my friends kids don’t like plain eggs but will eat them if there is a mixture that is half bacon/spinach to half egg. Avgolemeno soup is also a good breakfast, it is refreshing and comforting at the same time. If your son eats dairy then a turkey and cheese roll up is always good for lunch.

    4. Lunch for my daughter (2nd grade) and has been similar for a couple years: meat (a variety all of which she eats cold with salt), fruit, nuts, olives and milk. Sometimes cheese, carrot sticks or something in a thermos like beans (not primal but we prepare well), mango lassi or soup. The Lunch Lady asked where her sandwich was last year. We’ve been doing this for 5 years and have sick relatives who eat bad food so my daughter gets it .Thought LL was stupid (I usually explain the person has not yet learned

      1. Thanks! One thing I’m worried about is lunch not being seen as acceptable at school because of the guidelines they have to follow for school lunches.

    5. Hi Chantel,

      A great breakfast idea would be for you to make a loaf of almond flour bread. Your son could have that for breakfast or lunch with primal approved ingredients. I like a spread of almond butter on a thin slice of almond flour bread for breakfast. Salmon salad made with Primal Kitchen mayo. with organic celery and onion is awesome for lunch on this bread too! Be aware that this bread is super filling so a little slice goes a long way! : )

      I found this great recipe on You Tube. Here is a link if you’re interested.

  8. Love this! You are totally glowing. You look amazing and feel even better. What an incredible gift you are giving your daughter. And I really appreciate the corn story. In some cases we do need to give up something we love. I do have a few organic corn chips or make popcorn in red palm oil from time to time, but if I have it too frequently I notice breakouts (for me, changes in my skin are the first thing.) Anyway, love your story and your enthusiasm!

  9. I love your story, especially as another Austinite surrounded by corn (though Torchy’s green chili pork in a bowl isn’t so bad). But mostly I wanted to say that I believe my primal eating had a lot to do with my healing successfully from a hysterectomy. I really doubled down after my surgery and three years later I feel fantastic. More power to you!

  10. “orange techno colored snacks”- Utz, Utz, Utz… (Jax Curls are techno orange snacks found in the North East and PA, made by the Utz Quality Food company) .

  11. Thank you for sharing your story – you all look and sound amazing! I especially appreciate what you said about giving up corn – I’ve had to give up foods I love and that’s been harder than I expected (and continues to challenge me). But I want to be vibrantly healthy for the long term, and if that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes! Onward.

  12. You’re so right about not eating in the
    school cafeteria. Too bad most
    children in the U.S. still do.

  13. I didn’t grow up with corn the way you did, I grew up with bread. So when I decided to shift away from wheat products, corn chips were my go-to food. I must have eaten 1/3 a bag a day for a year! It was crutch, and a good substitute for me. Luckily, that eventually fell away although I do still have some on occasion, It’s just not a compulsion the way bread was.

  14. Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it.

    Ahhh, those darned tortilla chips. Bread and pasta were child’s play for me to give up, but that one large bag of chips every two days were killing me (more from the vegetable oil than the corn). I told myself that the salsa I had with it made it healthy. That was my last crutch and after I kicked it to the curb, everything fell nicely into place.

    1. Wow, you and your family are on the right path!

      And you are Rocking the Primal Lifestyle.

      “Keep on Truck’n” down that path and life will continue to reward your efforts.

      You are Awesome!


  15. I grew up in rural Illinois, where even the suburbs of Chicago had cornfields within the City limits, so I understand your love of corn, and how hard it is to give up food to which you are emotionally connected. Although to be honest, pasta was harder for me, and I have granted it honorary “sensible vice” status (once or twice a month). Congratulations! I always enjoy these Friday stories.

  16. Awesome story – you look great! And kudos to your husband for keeping the faith that his could be a living example to you. I know you will be an inspiration to other teachers around you. I totally get about not participating in school lunches. Our negotiation on that was that if our kid wanted to eat at school, it could be once a week. We would look at the weekly menu together, discuss the 2 least horrible options, and our child would make the final decision, and that was enough to satisfy our kiddo about not feeling separated from the rest.

  17. Bravo for the wonderful transformation, you look at least a decade younger on the “after” pics! Not that I live any close to southern countries, but tortilla chips were a staple in my bad habits, especially as a guacamole fan, I could make meals out of that so I understand the “not easy” feeling about dropping them, even now I get tempted. Although i have not pinpointed it exactly I am quite sure those were the trigger of my worse eczema flare-ups, along with stress obviously.

  18. This, and Larry Diamond’s, are two of my favorite success stories. Love this!

  19. Fantastic story! Well done to you and your family. Truly inspirational. I’m just wondering one thing.. will raising your kid Paleo/Primal backfire in the future? Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE for my kids [and partner] to be Paleo, but I’ve witnessed kids take a 180 degree turn in eating once they’re old enough to make their own decisions. This is in regards to vegetarian upbringing, true, but still..

    1. This is Larry. Thanks for all the nice comments. About it backfiring later I’ve thought of that and here’s what I think.

      Although I think we can heal tremendously and grow new neurons at any age, I want to give our daughter the best nutrient dense least toxic diet we can given the world we live in and not trying to exclude her too much.

      As she gets older we will, sadly, be able to point out how many classmates are sick and suffering from not doing what she’s doing.

      She is already aware how crappy food makes her feel sick and act crazily. I think she’s even more impacted by artificial colors and additives than other kids.

      She was adopted and bio-mom was homeless. She was on soy formula until placed in our house at 8 months. She was extremely small as mentioned in article and not thriving at all.

      Now she is the healthiest kid in our cohort and sharp and strong compared to other kids. All that being said social considerations are important. Maybe Mark will come out with Primal kids snack line?

      1. As a follow up to my own post she truly enjoys so many real foods: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, seaweed (I don’t). And Primal lends itself to deserts so well.

        Deserts shine with fat: fat bombs, butter mints, we use collagen in lots of deserts.

        We also bake with almond flour, coconut flour, and tapioca a lot for her because she can handle it. Some for us.

        And not always from scratch we use Simpke Mills a lot.

  20. Oh, wow, you look amazing what a fantastic story! I love the not being hungry all the time thing, and I also am much more sensitive to sweet things (insulin sensitivity must be good thing…). I’m not great with corn, either, I will occasionally have a taco shell, but otherwise it’s just not worth it. Eating real, nutritious food is a real eye-opener isn’t it?

  21. Awesome story! And how great is it that your daughter is growing up with such a powerful nutritional base. It will serve her so well later in life!

  22. Great story, and your skin in just glowing in your “after” photos. Isn’t it wonderful when you make that connection between what you eat and how you feel! Makes giving up all those things we eat by habit much easier. Lovely example to set for your daughter too. (also loving the hippie pants!

  23. I “resonate” with your ‘the longer away from (a bad food), the worse it hits when you eat it.” For me it’s pasta! I eat almost no wheat now, and when I do intentionally have pasta (with tomato sauce {eye roll})… I feel WAY less than optimal! (Less than once a month, so I may be finally becoming resistant to its siren-song?)

    I used to look wistfully at folks who, when they ate wheat (or other bad foods — I actually think “industrial seed oils” affect me even more/worse than wheat!) because, I felt, those more-sensitive folks had an immediate bad reaction — sort of a ‘built-in self limiter” that would help them stay away, which I didn’t have. (Be careful what you ask for?!) Now, I absolutely feel it!

    Great and motivating report! Thanks!

  24. Wow! Just wow! Your story is beautiful. Not to sound shallow but you went from standard american looking mom to fabulous. This has inspired me today. I have been off track nutritionally now for about a year. Cheating enough to maintain 25 of my 35 lbs weight loss (still would like to shed another 25 to 30). This so reminds me of the eating component. I focused a lot on exercise last year. Your point about still lossing after surgery really hit home. Particularly bc I just had a somewhat smaller surgery and gained 5 pounds recovering in January. You have a beautiful family. Best wishes. Thanks for the inspiration.

  25. Thank you for your brilliant success story! I’ve been primal for some time now but it’s always good to stay inspired. I’m in southern CA and so related to your corn chip issues! On those occasional cheat days that’s what I’ll choose. My kids were older when I made this change, and I’ve had to let go of some of the control to avoid constant battles. I can’t control what my jr. high and high school age daughters eat away from home. I do bake for them at home using organic wheat and healthier sugar options( if they suspect I’ve snuck a Paleo item in on them they’ll avoid it like the plague) and they both agree about avoiding processed foods. They do think its special and ‘cool’ that we eat only homemade. I have been successful at slowly cutting down the amount of sugar in the weekly cookie and muffin batches; about 1/4-1/3 the amount compared to several years ago, with no complaints. They don’t eat like I do, but they do eat healthier. Nothing makes me happier than to see them come home from class and make themselves a salad for a snack!

  26. Kay (I think that’s the story teller’s name), thanks so much for sharing your story. I too have had a similar experience changing my diet to a whole foods/paleo based eating plan. And the change inspired me to enroll in the Primal Health Coach program. Reading stories like yours is really encouraging, and proof of how a person can change their life! By the way, I just have to comment on how much younger you look now. Kicking ass, girl. I would encourage you and your husband to keep it up, but it sounds like there’s no turning back now. Here’s to your health!

  27. This is such an amazing story of strength and stubborness that we all share. Thank you for keeping it real and sharing your journey. I hope more women read this powerful story and connect the dots for themselves. Love you Kay Lynn and thank you both for inspiring James and I on our journey too! Big hugs! Jenn?