Goodbye Conventional Wisdom and Chronic Pain

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-1-2Before I get into my success story, I just wanted to thank you for all that you do!! You’ve been an incredible resource and inspiration for me as I’ve gone through this Primal adventure. I look forward to checking your blog and knowing that I will be given quality information backed by sources I can read through as well. I absolutely love it!

Now a tiny bit of background: my name is Angela Smith, I’m 25 and live in the great city of Minneapolis, MN. I grew up in Fargo, ND – not the greatest place to grow up considering the winters are long and harsh. My parents were both meat-and-potatoes type of people, so I grew up on a fairly decent diet of meats, saturated fats, and minimally processed carbs. That is, until my preteen years. As a fairly active child, the winters were long and boring. I turned to the comfort of sweets, baked goods, movies, and books. Once I was hooked on sugar, I began emotionally eating as well. As my addiction progressed, the turmoil intensified and I became depressed. I soon began to battle anorexia and bulimia, though I would never admit it at the time. When I binged, it was sleeves of cookies, bags of chips; needless to say I was unhappy and feeding my unhappiness. I dropped to a startling 135 at 5’8,” and was concerned I was still too large; all the while people became concerned I was too thin. By then my hunger had all but waned and I didn’t binge as frequently.

In about a year’s time, I was peer pressured into joining track; I was very thankful. I began running with the distance team and running made me happy. Immediately, I remembered the active child from years back and began eating to run. An elective in high school regarding sports nutrition piqued my interest in knowing what to put in my body and I began researching. I read and read and read about eating clean -minimizing bad fats, eating good fats, minimizing the simple sugars and eating more whole grains – it all resonated with me except for their hatred of saturated fats. I couldn’t part with my milk and would never part with butter. It didn’t make sense to me that butter could be bad!

Shortly after discovering the bliss of running, I tore my ACL and a cycle of injuries began. It had been a clean tear and it was an easy reconstruction and recovery. I was given the green light after physical therapy to begin running but sustained stress fractures in the opposite tibia and fibula. Following the recovery of those fractures, I began experiencing shooting and debilitating back pain that would cut my running short. Exams showed degeneration in my lumbar spine and a bulging disc at S1/L5. I was 16 and didn’t know what any of that meant. There was no rehabilitation offered, no physical therapy offered. Any strenuous activity would leave me locked up for a week, prone to back spasms that put me on the floor afraid to move. I had long been a patient of chiropractic for neck pain and headaches, but was given the unsatisfactory prognosis that I may be one of those people that just aren’t made for running.

I found a new doctor and she helped eliminate my back spasms; I could work out again but running still gave me pain in my hips. I began dabbling in barefoot movement after reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I took barefoot walking slow, but as I got stronger, I noticed I had less pain in my lower back and could go longer in between my chiropractic visits.

Shortly after I was married, I ruptured that bulging disc and was in horrific pain. The best that I can remember, I ruptured that disc shortly after being introduced to your blog. My husband and I decided to try The Primal Blueprint for 30 days. We planned to have one cheat day a week but the rest of the week we were strict with ourselves. I was astounded by how quickly I noticed the difference. I didn’t notice it on the days I ate well as much as I noticed it on my cheat days. Within a half hour of eating my cheat meal, I’d become sick to my stomach, sometimes my heart would begin racing, and every part of my body that had been injured became tight and sore. It hit me like a ton of bricks that this was something I needed to understand. I poured my time into your blog and began to understand what was happening and how I could eliminate my chronic pain. As I continued with the challenge, I’d feed the sugar cravings with berries and the cravings lessened over time.

I was real with myself when I read through your blog. I knew that I could only change a little at a time, but I was excited for the changes. It was difficult to let go of some of the conventional wisdom, mostly the habitual aspect of food. I still ate three meals a day whether I thought I needed the energy or not. I didn’t see any weight loss, but the dwindling of inflammation and pain was thrilling. There were still bad days but I began to see how easy it was to influence my day with my food, I began to feel the energy associated with feeding my body correctly. I gave myself considerable leniency and continued drinking, continued dairy, but focused on exploring vegetables, meats, and fats. I was sedentary, at a desk job, but I began exercising again with considerably less pain.

Then my husband and I moved to Minneapolis. It was the change that was needed to shake up my habits. When we moved, I was a squishy 180 lbs – it was the largest I had ever been but it was the happiest I had ever been. I understood exactly how I could lose that fat; I was armed with knowledge. My part time jobs in the city were both within walking distance and I began experimenting with intermittent fasting since I already vehemently hated breakfast. The walk to my morning job was only 20 minutes. I drank coffee with heavy cream for breakfast and was on my feet until lunch, when I’d take another 20 minute walk home. Most of the time I was not hungry, but knew I needed to eat then because my other job went late into the evening and didn’t provide an opportunity to eat. I had a few hours between jobs and only exercised when I felt like it; sprints on a stationary bike or elliptical machine, and lifting weights. If I worked out, I was fasted and pushed lunch as late as I could. The walk to my second job was 30 minutes, where I sat for about five hours. Minneapolis has a fantastic bike rental company; sometimes I’d walk to that job but sometimes I’d ride.

I wish I could say that I wasn’t really shocked when the fat began to melt away, effortlessly. But I was astounded. I wasn’t really doing anything difficult. It was all so easy and it was all habitual too – I’m now a slim 160 and lift weights quite regularly. I’d say that the hardest part about it is the varied reactions you receive when you explain it to people. Some argue and push it away; some don’t want to take the time to educate themselves to understand. But now the information is all second nature to me and most conventional wisdom is all but forgotten. A coworker recently told me she was starving and I was startled and asked “Why?!” Silly question right? She gave me the funniest look and said, “Um, it’s lunch time.” I didn’t know how to tell her that I had forgotten what it was like to be addicted and dependent on sugar. But it’s moments like those that I am incredibly thankful for you. Keep the information coming, I’m always looking for ways to make changes and improve.


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26 thoughts on “Goodbye Conventional Wisdom and Chronic Pain”

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  1. You look really good! I seem to wake up hungry every day. Wish I could be like you!

    1. Julie, I used to think I woke up hungry, but after dabbling with fasting, I discovered I actually wake up thirsty. If I drink two cups of warm drink (water, peppermint tea, ginger tea, black tea) and a glass of water, I’m good for at least another 2 or 3 hours. Breakfast is usually around 10.30 – 11.30 for me. Just a thought.

  2. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story Angela. It is always informative to hear about someone else’s Primal journey and their insights.

  3. Felicidades Angela, se nota bastante tú baja de peso corporal.Te sirvió muchísimo el cambio de hábitos a una alimentación paleo, ojalá y tú ejemplo nos sirva de inspiración a muchos.

    Saludos desde Mx !

  4. Congrats on your journey and thank you for sharing. I want to be like you when I grow up!

  5. Thanks for sharing your journey with us! I love these transformation stories—it’s so cool to hear how people have healed years and years of injuries, inflammation, illness, and ingrained bad habits, by following the Primal Blueprint. Rock on!

  6. Congratulations to your success and continued learning!! You look happy and healthy. It is a great feeling to be able to go long periods without eating and being a slave to the sugar cravings. I know that sugar has a bad effect on me–and I didnt miss it when I did a Whole30 and was able to do IF effortlessly. I slacked off my paleo during the fall and was better this summer, but I am not where I was- I am ready to do a Whole30 and get serious about my health again.
    Best Wishes and stay with it!

  7. A wonderful transformation, Angela! You’ve learned so much and no doubt you will become ever more adept at staying fit and svelte!! Here’s a tip for dealing with inflammation and pain, if you ever again have a sports injury, joint injury and pain, etc. Curcuminoids (the active element in the spice, turmeric) standardized to 95% works wonders on inflammation and pain. It’s extremely effective.. You have to take curcuminoids with Bioperine (black pepper), The Bioperine greatly increases absorption. And of course turmeric and curcuminoids have many other significant health benefits. Best of luck and stay with it!!!

    1. Totally agree. I just had a Total Hip Replacement and used turmeric/black pepper as soon as I was off the anticoagulants. Inflammation disappeared and has stayed away. I was walking unaided and without a limp after 5 weeks.

  8. I agree with the curcumin advise. I take 2 to 3 grams per day. I feel it has stopped inflammation and helped me drop lbs. too. There are studies that show it is as effective as Anti-inflammatory drugs. But the dose needs to be high enough and in an absorbable format. Add reversatrol to potentiate effects. Got this great info at the women’s weight loss seminar and it has helped this peri menopausal women see some positive movement on the scale.

      1. Yes! Gaia’s Garden Turmeric Supreme is an amazing product, pure turmeric with the black pepper extra. It’s great for any type of inflammation and has even helped ease my boyfriend’s migraines.

  9. Nice work – you look great. I too had a bulging disc at L5/S1 (didn’t rupture though) and I feel your (extreme) pain! Mine was years ago, and only resolved after leaving a dodgy chiropractor and going to a great sports physio, and with the help of great PT’s I can now lift weights and suffer no ill effects in regard to my back, in fact I am sure it makes my back healthier to keep it strong.

    I love your mentality of eating when you need to and moving more. Fits right in with my thinking too.

  10. You are absolutely glowing in your ‘after’ picture. Your story gives me so much hope. I was diagnosed w 3 cervical herniated discs and mild spinal stenosis earlier this year following a hard fall. In the aftermath, I’ve suffered excruciating pain that interferes with my sleep and I have numbness in both hands. Am hoping that strict adherence to a primal lifestyle and physical Therepy will help me resolve all this naturally so I can avoid invasive procedures.

  11. Thank you for sharing! I am determined to be one of the success stories on here one day! You are a great encouragement.

  12. Hi Angela, I was so excited to read your story when you said you grew up in Fargo. I live in Wahpeton. I’ve been Paleo/primal for quite a few years and love it never going back! It’s great to hear stories coming from people so close to home. Congratulations you look great! We are heading to the Minnesota State Fair next week hoping I don’t have too many cheats! ????

  13. So happy for you and your new life; healthier and pain-free. It’s wonderful that your husband to get on board too. You look amazing!!

  14. Angela, thanks for your encouraging story.

    I’m from Kenya. I was introduced to this website and primal living by my cousin. My cousin had given me almost a 4 hour lecture regarding primal living and referred me to this website to benefit from Mark’s inspiring writeups and people’s testimonials, etc. I tried it in 2012 and shocked people with great results. Unfortunately, I slipped back to bad eating habits and have gained so much weight. I’m suffering joint pains that I can only associate with poor diet, excess weight and total lack of exercises, not to mention a big tummy that looks awful.

    I’m encouraged by your story and body transformation. I hope to re-start the great PB journey this week. I also introduced this to friends and they are amazed by the results.

    When I first tried primal dietary lifestyle (Hunter Gatherer HG), I tested it for 2 months without engaging any real exercises. I only walked more, started getting things for myself as opposed to sending my kids around the house, walked to the market and carried the shopping home as opposed to driving, carried heavy things. That way, I would be certain about primal lifestyle effects, as opposed to combining it with proper exercises and getting uncertain on what percentage of the results were attributed to proper exercises versus the HG dietary lifestyle. The results were amazing! All the belly fat and fat on my back disappeared. My waist became petite. Sometimes I craved too much meat and eggs, other times I craved for veggies and fruit and other times I wasn’t hungry which helped with the intermittent fasting bit. The body was adjusting itself accordingly. I felt energized, my mind was fresh, I started rising up very early while prior to the primal lifestyle my hubby would struggle trying to wake me up in the morning. I stopped feeling cold after eating the right fats. I looked younger and firm as opposed to how other diets cause one’s skin to sag. I stayed nine months without getting sick while before I used to get sickly every now and then.

    I realized eating right contributes a lot how we look and feel while exercise contribute a certain percentage. Bottom line, elimination of STARCH, bad sugar and hydrogenated fats made me realize just how adversely they affect health.

    So Lord help me as I begin the Primal blueprint journey this week.

  15. Great story! I am also a Twin Cities resident originally from Fargo. Great to hear about primal folks in our neck of the woods. Keep it up!!

  16. Great story! I am also a Twin Cities resident originally from Fargo. Great to hear about primal folks in our neck of the woods. Keep it up!!

  17. Great to see another Minnesotan here. I currently live in Duluth, which is SUCH a good city for fitness. It’s considered one of the best places in the nation for outdoor recreation and extreme sports, as well as a huge locally grown and organic food scene. Fargo, ND……not so much….there’s a reason why all my friends who live there become alcoholics and are addicted to fried food!

  18. So, you lost weight by basically giving up food and just not eating??? You skipped the most important meal of the day, breakfast, and went through lunch, did you even eat, at all, or just do the starve diet??