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.
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.
So 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.
I 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.
We 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.
She 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.
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.