From “Silly Fad” To Life-Changing Transformation

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!

real_life_stories_stories-1-2So, I used to make croissants for a living.

I ran a small bakery, actually — but the croissants were really the stars of the show. They were cosmic; people would stand in line to buy them by the dozen. I loved them, too… especially toasted with extra butter and jam. They were, in fact, my primary fuel, along with coffee (of course!).

You would think that running around a hot kitchen all day, serving customers, and dealing with the general chaos that is food service, would burn enough calories to keep one in relatively good shape. Unfortunately, it became clear to me with the addition of twenty five extra pounds (on my 5’0″ frame), that was simply not the case. I was unhappy about the weight gain, but I chalked it up to an occupational hazard.

Then, a funny thing started to happen. I would get these strange customers that would bypass the croissants and other sweets, telling me they were trying to cut back on bread. Or they would ask if I carried anything gluten-free. I would smile and shake my head, trying not to roll my eyes. What a crazy fad, I told myself.

Then life happened.

I got a new (office) job. My boyfriend proposed, and I started planning a wedding… and thinking about having a baby. Although it wasn’t an immediate concern, I knew that I wanted to have the best chance of having a healthy pregnancy when the time was right. Having a healthy body composition would be an important aspect of that.

While few things can be said about the health benefits of office work, once I wasn’t surrounded by baked goods all day, I started to realize that I felt kind of… well, like I overdosed on bread. I didn’t want to think about another muffin, or cookie, or croissant. I started to wonder if there was any credence to the hold-the-bread movement. Enter Mark’s Daily Apple.

I devoured everything on Mark’s site, and right away I felt an intrinsic truth to it. It was simple, and it made sense. I was impressed with the number of scientific papers cited, which soothed my skeptic’s mind. I jumped on board, with only a few days of post-grain haze. And while it’s been far from smooth sailing — my now-husband and I have had some rather… lively discussions about “food groups” and “everything in moderation, including junk food” — the results speak for themselves. I’ve lost approximately 30 pounds this past year, while decreasing my body fat percentage from over 30% to 23%. And I can see the beginnings of abs! (They’re so cute!)

allisonIn addition, I have consistent energy all day (unlike some of my grain-eating office mates…) and my self esteem had really taken a boost. I’ve even started working out in leggings, something that would have have inconceivable before I started this. The success I’ve seen has given me the confidence to make more positive changes in my life, including yoga and meditation, which have allowed me to manage my stress and be more emotionally observant. Some days I feel a little too crunchy-hippie for my own good.

And while I don’t have good news to report (yet) about a little bundle of joy, my doctor was impressed at the progress I’ve made with my health (her computer threw her an error when she’d typed in my weight, thinking she’d made a typo!). I’ve become a lot more open-minded when it comes to different ideas about optimizing health; I’ve realized that even something that I’ve dismissed earlier as a “silly fad,” might actually bring be closer to my goals. I’m hopeful for the future, and I feel like I have a leg up on whatever life throws at me.

P.S.: One more revelation: baked goods really don’t taste all that good. 🙂


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  1. “One more revelation: baked goods really don’t taste all that good.”
    I say similar things to people. Then they tell me about how delicious their garlic bread is. As if the bucket of butter and sack of garlic they threw on the bread has nothing to do with the flavor they enjoy so much. Same with pasta. I’m sure their gallon of sauce has no impact on their opinion of the dish.

      1. Yes, just tell them to try their potatoes, breads and all the rest completely plain without anything on them and see if they still enjoy them as much. Same with pasta: I thought nothing could replace it till I tried my sauce on any kind of steamed veggies with sautéed mushrooms, etc–delicious!

    1. Absolutely! Birdseye has a great price on HUGE bags of frozen broccoli floretts, or “Normandy” mix, or “California” mix. I cook those up and put a Paleo/Primal compliant “pasta” sauce on them. MMMMMmmmmmm….. 🙂

    2. HAHA! This is….yes, this is exactly the comment I need in the back of my mind when being tempted by bread. 😀

  2. I agree. Most folks would not eat bread or pasta without putting something on it.

    Such a great article when you think about it. Allison owned a bakery and converted.

    Slowly – but surely we are changing the world.

    Paleo Princess

  3. Croissants, ahhhhhh, I miss them sometimes. And really, it’s just a little grain with buckets of butter after all right? However, they don’t taste good enough to hurt so I will be content with smelling them.
    Nice transformation, once the little one comes along it will be easier to juggle it all if you are healthy from your good eating habits!
    Good work!

  4. Oh, I fondly remember the taste of baked goods; but have no desire to go back. I’ve been following this “silly fad” since about Thanksgiving and food has suddenly become DELICIOUS. I always liked food before, but recently, my daily lunch salad has become the best thing I ever ate. Until I have dinner. Then my meat and veggies are out of this world. Finally began realizing some significant weight loss and I feel better than I did 20 years ago. So, no matter how good that croissant sounds, I’m not interested. 🙂

    By the way, you look great! And good luck on the pregnancy.

    1. …Or once in a blue moon, which by definition occurs about every three years. By then I’ve totally lost interest.

      1. My rule is to only eat them if I myself have baked them…. And since real croissants are pretty time-intensive to make, that’s very rare!

  5. My story was similar, gluten and bread first then the rest although i did always eat pretty “cleanly” from being interested in health and it’s a bit easier in England anyway, we can get non-homogenised milk and grass fed stuff a bit easier.

    But yes, I used to think gluten-free was a fad, shame on me! 🙁

    One thing worth saying is that “food groups” are in themselves a fad as in manufactured, there’s no global law saying you MUST have X “portions” (another invention) of grain, dairy, protein, yadda yadda… in plenty of places that’s not even possible.

    The only common global theme I’m aware of is eating some veg, more like herbs than huge hulking gas-producing “portions,” with meat, or having some kind of fruit or other veg matter. That’s the case afaik even in the communities that feed on oceanic mammals, and fish, they use seaweeds etc, so I think that one’s probably decent as a guideline.

    I did use to love all-butter croissants, but I love the new life I have much more! 🙂

    By the way in the UK there’s a gluten-free brand called “Genius” which are almost passable – they’re smaller, denser, and not made with butter, but the taste’s okay, especially heated with some cheddar a bit of ham tucked into them. Too carby for me now but I’ve enjoyed a few in the past.

    Thank you for sharing! And yes you’re right, bready baked goods don’t taste that wonderful, it’s just we became so used to the idea they’re the “staff of life” etc I guess? Hmmn. 😉

    1. The gluten-free breads I’ve tasted (here in the US) aren’t worth bothering with, not even homemade stuff. As for commercial GF breads, just a quick look at the list of ingredients is enough to turn me off. I’ve always liked really good bakery-style breads, brioches, croissants, etc, all slathered with top-quality butter. IMO the substitutes don’t even come close to measuring up, so the whole bread thing is something I don’t do any more.

      1. Thanks all, for the observation that bread,gluten free or no just does not taste that good anymore. I’ve been using gluten free bread as a butter conveying device for quite awhile. Lately it just seems to stick like glue on the roof of my mouth or crumble into a gooey mess and that is all kinds of gluten free bread, fresh and frozen. Sometimes I’ve eaten fresh croissants from a bakery close by. Even they don’t taste as good anymore. I thought the bakery had changed its recipe. No. Apparently it is my taste buds that have changed. Well, well. . .I never would have expected that.

    2. The problem with gluten free eating being a fad is a lot of people eating gluten free have made it that way. I have Celiac Disease (found out after eating grain free on purpose for 18 months) and if I want to feel good I can’t eat gluten containing grains (bye bye beer). All the “food” being stuffed into plastic and cardboard being called gluten free support the “fad” label. Eat clean, healthy organic non-processed food. What’s smarter than that?

      1. I’m allergic to wheat so occasionally have gluten free products. I have the same reaction to gluten as a Celiac. I am not willing to eat wheat just so they can test me and tell me not to. I don’t believe blood tests. But, it is in no way a fad for me.

  6. I wish I didn’t think baked goods taste good anymore. I’ve been primal for a few years now, but I still adore pizza, brownies, and good crusty hoagie roll. I’ve done a few Whole30s, so I’ve definitely gone cold turkey… but I still find myself coming back to the treats every time. A lot of things aren’t worth it and I’ll never eat them again… but I’m not sure certain items will ever lose their enticement for my taste buds :/

    1. I don’t know if this will help, Amber, but when I thought I couldn’t live without having bread sometimes, I decided I would at least really, really eat it slowly to savor every bite (I’m not a fast eater, but sometimes I don’t chew as thoroughly as I could) and lo and behold, it didn’t taste that good at all when I really slowed down and “tasted” it. All the best…

      Congrats, Allison; you look very fit and healthy–thanks for sharing your success with us 🙂

  7. Twenty-five extra pounds on that tiny little frame must have felt like fifty! You look amazing, honey. Also, you saved yourself from a whole lot of croissant-induced joint problems, later in life. Congrats on your success.

  8. There are times I miss pasta. I’m Italian, and a good carbonara on a winter night….sigh….but I digress. But really, I used to eat pasta 2-3 times a WEEK, and now I eat it maybe 2-3 times a YEAR. Huge difference and I never thought I’d be able to do that.

    1. The Italian tendency to plump out later in life is well attested. But if you’d like low carb and grainless “pasta” you can get one those gadgets that will cut vegetables such as zucchinis (courgettes) or carrots into long thin ribbons to go with a pasta sauce. There’s one on sale here that goes by the name of ‘Veggeti’.
      I’m sure sure you could find that or something similar over in the States, though you might have to hunt around.

      1. I am in Australia too,and I found my veggie spriraliser on eBay and it came from Hong Kong. It should be just easy to buy from the states. LOVE my zucchini (courgette) noodles. Do it Emily! (just gently pan fry the courgette noodles – don’t boil – or you will get watery mush).

    2. Try a sauteed zucchini carbonara. One egg yolk to 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Plenty of chopped crispy fried out bacon with cracked black pepper whisked in. Take the zucchini (sauteed in olive oil) off heat so you don’t scramble the eggs and stir until thickened. Maybe add a little heat at the end. Grated real hard cheese on top. Makes my mouth water right now!

  9. What a lovely story and may I say great figure? When there’s a will there’s a way and in this case with the guidance of MDA.

    I use to turn out a tasty bread with a wonderful crust, by backing it in a cast iron pot, not before letting the dough rise during the night without the aid of yeast. And what’s tastier then crusty and warm bread with a thick layer of butter? And then I stopped cold and never looked back….. but kept the butter. (-;

  10. I love any vehicle that can get butter into me. Hehe.

    Great story, you look amazing!

  11. Congrats Allison. You look great. So true about baked goods. Maybe a beautiful, chewy sourdough can be eaten straight up, but even that tastes better slathered in butter, garlic, tomato sauce or jam.

  12. NICE WORK ALLISON! you look fantastic and will be a tremendous mommy one day!

  13. Congratulations, Allison! You are beautiful! I always wonder how cafe owners feel when people come in scanning for gluten-free or grain-free options. Do you think you will bake again, but primally? Keep up the amazing work and best wishes!

  14. After three babies, I can tell you once you have that little bundle you will be too busy to miss the baked good and will need all the energy you can get via primal diet 🙂

  15. I love baked goods, to me they taste (among many other kinds of food) great. Like a big wedge of well-made chocolate cake, with a side of a cold glass of milk. May not be good for me, but my tongue (the evidence) doesn’t lie, it likes it.

    1. I have to say flourless chocolate cake made that transition easier.

  16. I guess 5 years on Primal, with my Success Story published, is not enough to get beyond liking bread, pasta etc. I don’t eat them normally but the occasional gluten-free cheat tastes as good as ever. Apparently I just have crumby taste buds.

  17. How do you watch the French Open without a baguette and a wedge of room temperature brie at your side? And don’t forget the red wine.

  18. Great story. I love this blog but I have to disagree. Bread does taste good!! Now that I rarely eat it, the joy that it provides me is unbelievable. It is even good in liquid form. Sorry for the heresy but is where I am today. Down 20 lbs since November btw, GROK OUT!

  19. I still miss bread. But I think it is more what it represents. I grew up eating it with just about every meal and so it is most definitely a nostalgic comfort food to me. Of course, If it’s homemade it’s pretty too, with that golden crust and warm soft inside. Most of the time I just sniff as I walk by a bakery and that will stop me from partaking. If I do indulge (very rarely) it somehow never tastes as good as I thought it would though…so I usually can avoid the eating…mostly! But thanks for the reminder with this article!

  20. I gave up bread almost 2 years ago and I have been noticing the smell of the bread aisle in the grocery store is almost unpleasant. I’m referring to the wall of plastic bagged wonder breads and buns, etc. It reminds me I don’t want to eat that stuff. I still find the aroma of fresh baking bread tempting however.

    1. Grocery store bread isn’t worth falling off the primal wagon for. It has to be something really special for me to want a slice.

  21. I recently spoke to a pastry chef and shop owner I see lazing-around at my local pool often – he’s muscular/lean with good ab definition. I asked him if he often eats the goods he makes in his shop – I wasn’t surprised the answer was : No.

    When asked what does he normally eat – he says he cooks at home and has that for dinner, then brings leftovers to work.

    Sounds like a crazy fad 🙂

  22. You look fantastic and it seems working in a bakery is an occupational hazard. Fresh homemade baked goods is about the only way I might be tempted to eat grains again. Best of luck building your healthier happier family.

  23. Ah skeptics, you make the most lovely Converts. Congratulations and good work. Don’t ever go back. Don’t ever accept that it’s a diet rather than an a genetic calling.
    Paleo 2/15/12, down 40 lbs., waist down six inches, chest up 5, cholesterol: solved, BMI: solved, inflammatory response: dramatically improved, nutrition based behavioral health: miraculous. After three plus years, I may actually feel a generation younger.

  24. You look great! Fertility was a concern for me too when starting paleo, as my general health was pretty crappy. After 2 years of paleo I was just about to start trying for a baby when it happened by accident slightly ahead of schedule 🙂 good luck!

  25. Paleo Ron Burgundy, that’s funny you say that cuz that’s what we say, too! Croissants and baguettes only in France! And, fantastic job -you look amazing and look like you feel amazing, as well!

  26. Oh Wow Allison, you look great. And that smile on your face tells us all how fabulous you feel. Well done to you. Surely your fellow office workers can plainly see the benefits of your new life choices? Good luck with the family plans.

    As for the bread, yeah I still eat it very occasionally. But it has to be pretty special, if I am going to eat something with grain. (Good croissants might actually tempt me!)

  27. Great job breaking away from the baked goods jail. Early in working with my health I read a book on glycemic load. The author made the same point about bread and other starchy foods. By themselves they’re all pretty tasteless filler that only serve a substrates for the toppings and fillings. Far better to eat food that tastes good. and is less likely to generate insulin spikes. I took it to heart and lost 30 pounds and the emerging diabetes. It was not long after that I found the whole Primal/Paleo concept.

  28. To me those things, bread, cake and cookies DO taste good, especially when I eat them every day. They seem to set up a small addiction and yes, I look forward to my next fix. Now that I am clean, my interest is gone too. Lucky me!

  29. All the benefits of going “grain free” could much more be attributed to giving up the junk foods that any reasonable person would consider unhealthy foods. Muffins, Cookies and Croisonnts? Blaming “grains” for their ill health seems rather stupid.

    1. I wasn’t into “junk foods” (I wonder what that definition even is?) and used to eat a lot of organic wholegrain stuff, supposedly the wonder of the age, and yet still felt SO much better gluten free and then grain free – why not read the articles on this site and discover the scientific reasons for this, instead of making assertions that, with respect, you don’t provide any proof for? 🙂

      What I’m most curious about is any anyone gets bothered when someone chooses, based on their own research, to exclude a non-essential type of food…

  30. Congratulations, Allison!! I identify with you, since I, too, was a baker and cook in restaurants for years. I love baked goods. Real croissants, with their flaky layers, and buttery shortbread, and inventive muffins, oat waffles, etc., etc. I LOVE THEM ALL!!! And when I was in my 20s and 30s, and riding my bike to work every day, and constantly in motion, I could handle all those EMPTY CALORIES in the sugar and refined white flour. But eventually, as children, and more distantly located jobs, and higher-paid desk jobs came into my life, it became apparent that I had to stop eating those things. 🙁
    The real surprise came in my early 50s, when I found that all sorts of grain things were bothering my digestion. I was getting bloated and gassy after eating pasta or pilafs, whole grain or refined. When I was researching nutrient density, I came across an MDA article, and it’s been uphill from there.
    Lo and behold, not only is my weight now much more in control, and my energy level better, but I have not been sick for a single day for the past year!
    Sadly, I still yearn for baked treats once in a while. Since I have not eaten sweet things on a regular basis for an extended time, there is no powerful craving, but I have a very clear memory of just how delicious many of my old specialties are!! I have built dietary habits that largely exclude them, but I do allow myself a very occasional treat. But it has to be something truly good! (no supermarket cakes or cookies, or mass-manufactured breads) I also will occasionally make a homemade sourdough bread, or homemade fruit-sweetened ice cream (fried banana ice cream is a favorite).
    Each of us has different food sensitivities and tolerances. But it is clear to me that the primal way of eating is a more nutrient-dense, healthful way of life, even if your system CAN tolerate the low-level toxins (phytates, lectins, etc.) in grains.

  31. I had a strong craving for an almond croissant the other day so I got one – all gooey and almondy and freshly made. It tasted delicious but within minutes my tummy was rumbling, my guts were it pain and my eyes were puffy. The next day I was sore all over. A great self experiment that reinforced my choices.
    However when next I am in Paris ……

    Thanks for sharing your story Allison and good luck with everything!

  32. Yay for your success and for sharing your story, Allison. And happy (early) mother’s day!

    During (or, more like, immediately after) my first Whole30 is when I first discovered that baked goods didn’t taste all that spectacular to me. They just smelled good and were familiar and comfortable. I only thought they were tasty because of that familiarity and comfort.

    Now I only eat a small bit of bread or such on rare occasion (maybe once every 6-9 months…if I happen to be out at a fancy restaurant and something looks worth a couple bites and a grain hangover). Otherwise, I just eat butter and pass the bread!

  33. I have the occasional toast or Croissant. Grains represent about 5% of my diet. I find I can eat all of the carbs that I need, I might be lucky as body fat is at 8%, if I go over 12 I cut all grains until I come back down.

    note: NEED not WANT.

  34. I will say that after being at least 80/20 paleo for years, I’m 6 months pregnant now and all I want to eat is bread and cheese. I was really beating myself up, but I have almost no control over it right now, so I’ll just have to get back on the horse once Baby comes.

    Great job, good work, and just be gentle on yourself if pregnancy kicks your a**.

  35. What a great story! I work behind a desk and no just how much it can take a toll on your health, not to mention the constant energy drain! Every since I have adopted a primal lifestyle, I feel better in all aspects of my life. But most importantly, the consistent energy is vital to keep me going and focused on long days at the office. Keep up the good work!

  36. You go with your cute abs! Crunchy hippie is just fine as long as it is evidence-based crunchy hippie (and PB and meditation and yoga are so you’re good!) Besides, n=1, ya trim Grok-beastie! 🙂