Hope Has Been Restored: My 21-Day Challenge Results

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-1-2My story is not so much one of success as it is one of hope. I do not have any drastic weight loss to report, I still cannot do a pull-up, and I still have difficulty sleeping through the night. However, after slowly attempting to go Primal in November, and fully committing to it through the 21-Day Challenge, I have already experienced positive results.

In my mid-30s, I began suffering from several random health problems, which slowly appeared over the course of two years while I was working at an extremely stressful job. I have a touch of Avoidant Personality Disorder, so daily life is very stressful for me as it is. Anyway, I went from exercising regularly, working normal hours, and having fun to not exercising at all, eating unhealthy foods, and sitting 11 hours a day.

Over time, I developed low Vitamin D, swollen legs and feet, clogged/stuffy ears, a sinus infection, a skin rash, reflux, eye inflammation, hives, and fuzziness in my mouth when eating. Although I always had horrible menstrual cramps, they became even worse. Additionally, I gained belly fat. I was depressed, I was irritable, I could not sleep, and I was extremely unhappy.

Eventually, I found another job, I began working normal hours again, and I started to have fun again, however none of these symptoms went away. I still had no energy and I was not able to exercise as I had in the past. Most of the doctors I saw during this time gave me medications to take for the symptoms. They told me that since I was not overweight and I exercised, that I would be fine.

When I turned 40, a new doctor requested I get a healthy mammogram on record. So, I went and got the mammogram, only it was not healthy. I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), also known as breast cancer. As it was discovered so early, Stage Zero, I only needed radiation, not chemotherapy. I had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer cells, I went through radiation, and now I am taking Tamoxifen because my tumor was estrogen receptor positive.

Upon getting the diagnosis, I felt as if I had done something wrong. I also felt that there must have been something I did not do, but could have, to prevent it. The doctors looked at me and said, “No, it’s not you. It just happens.” This was not enough for me, however. I had to have answers. I began searching the internet for causes and prevention, hormone receptors, endocrine disruptors, toxins in our foods, toxins in the environment, xenoestrogens, phytoestrogens, and alternatives for diet and exercise.

I am not sure when I began to read Mark’s Daily Apple on a regular basis. It seemed that I would search the internet for something, and a post from MDA was always among the first few links. Eventually, I just went to MDA first instead of Google. I found a great wealth of information on nearly every topic I looked up. I tried to incorporate some of the elements of the Primal lifestyle, but I never had any reactions to food or allergies, so I looked at Primal eating as a guideline and did not strictly adhere to it.

Then one day MDA had an announcement about Neely Quinn’s online conference: For Women Only: The Weight Loss Solution. I did not sign up. It was not for me. “Sure, I need to lose 10 pounds, but she isn’t going to tell me anything I don’t already know,” I thought.

The morning of the first day of that web conference, however, I woke up with vertigo/labyrinthitis. I could not stand up, I could not balance, and if I did not stay laying down flat on my back, I would throw up. I spent the day at home, but I had to finish a project for work so, I got out the computer (I have a trackball mouse and a split keyboard so I could actually work lying down). When I finished the project, I went to MDA and saw a reminder about the For Women Only: The Weight Loss Solution web conference. Well, I had nothing to do all day, but lay flat, so I signed up for the conference and I listened.

After listening to all the speakers on the web conference over the next few weeks, and searching MDA for more detailed information about all of these new topics, I felt like there was hope for the first time in almost a year. There was an explanation for all my symptoms and even my estrogen issues! I was surprised that all of my symptoms seemed to be connected to stress, diet, and exercise. There were even discussions connecting my vertigo to gluten. Finally, things started to make sense. It was as if a switch had been flipped. I had discovered that there was a way for me to take control of my health, there were answers, I could do something, and Mark’s Daily Apple was telling me what to do. Immediately I decided to follow MDA’s primal way of eating more strictly. First, I cut out the grains. Then I realized that dairy was making my mouth fuzzy, so I stopped that too. Next was a drastic cut back in sugar. Finally, I stopped exercising so much.

The results I have experienced, even in so little time, have been positive. I sleep better, my legs and feet are not swollen, I have energy after long walks, my skin is clearer, I no longer have hives, or reflux, and I have not had a cold or sinus infection this winter (I have been getting them every winter for at least the past five years). The most shocking result I have experienced though is that I have had NO menstrual cramps at all (and no, it is not the Tamoxifen – that makes them worse). I used to spend the day in bed with the hot water bottle and a jar of ibuprofen every time I got my period. Now, I only have temporary discomfort that lets me know it is there. I never would have believed that diet had such an impact on hormones until I experienced this change myself.

shea_k_jThings have only continued to get better since I decided to participate in the 21-Day Challenge. As I mentioned above, I have extreme social phobia. You will not find me on Facebook or Twitter, I am not on LinkedIn or Pinterest, and I do not Instagram. However, I committed to the challenge, and in the past week, I posted my thoughts on the Vimify challenge app, I commented on MDA, and I forced myself to leave the house and do something (semi-social) for the PLAY activity.

I still have a ways to go, but I have a goal now. My next step is to save up some money (still paying medical bills), find a primal doctor, learn to balance my hormones naturally, and see if I can stop taking the Tamoxifen. This is an amazing transformation for me, as a year ago, I felt as if my life was over. I am so thankful to Mark for providing all this information, for making it free, and for encouraging my participation. Thank you Mark.


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44 thoughts on “Hope Has Been Restored: My 21-Day Challenge Results”

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  1. Congrats on getting your life back! I just finished a Whole30 and realized it got rid of my cramps as well! Yay 🙂

    1. Glad to hear you experienced this too! It’s amazing how much of an effect diet has on hormones! I also saw a big decrease in pain, swelling and acne after being primal for 24 days. Yay!

  2. Wow! Thank you for telling your story. How we eat and live our lives can truly be a revelation in mind, body and spirit. How everyday unfolds can change depending on how we feel. Keep up the amazing work, there are a lot ofnput there walking the same path.

  3. What an inspiration you are Katie – well done girl!

    I wish you all the best!!!

  4. Great story, and you look happy and proud in the photo. And you did a super job of sharing despite the avoidant personality thing. Keep on truckin’.

  5. Fantastic!
    It took me 3 years of eating primaly & tweaking my diet before I could get off & stay off birth control, which I was taking for endometriosis. I had been on it for more than 2 decades, continuously, so that I skipped my period altogether. When I went primal, I tried going off BC, but it didn’t work, days in bed & no sleep b/c of pain. I just kept at it, tweaking the diet, and trying to go off BC.
    Finally, I went off in August 2014 & now I have my period w/ NO pain!
    I’m so happy to be off BC and feel normal again!
    Best wishes to you in your continued health endeavors!

    1. I’ve been using Mirena to control endometriosis; it was placed before I switched to paleo 18 months ago. Now I’m dealing with side effects from excess progesterone (I used to be estrogen and testosterone dominant). I want to get off the BC so badly, but I’m afraid the endo will come back, despite my clean eating. Your post gives me some hope, though. 🙂 How long did it take to get your hormones in check after going off BC? Thank you!

      1. After going off the pill, it took me about 2 months to get my period to start. And another month for it to become a full cycle w/ ovulation & a regular length period.
        I added maca root capsules to my daily supplement regimen on the day I stopped taking the pill. I read about maca root on this website & also on wellnessmama.com. Then I did a little further research on my own. I think my refined diet in addition to the maca root is what finally worked for me.
        All bodies are different, but it’s worth a shot!
        Hope you find your balance!

  6. What a truly awesome story! So inspirational. I was on the Vimify app too and really enjoyed it.

  7. “I never would have believed that diet had such an impact on hormones until I experienced this change myself.”

    Way to go Katie! Congratulations on your road to recovery!

    Another crucial aspect of hormonal impact is sleep and circadian biology. The timing of eating and sleeping is critical to optimal health. If you’re interested in doing more research you can read about fixing leptin resistance/leptin sensitivity by Dr. Jack Kruse, and of course, this blog. Leptin sensitivity is just as important as insulin sensitivity.

    You’ve done a great job so far and I wish you all the best!

  8. Given your anxiety issues, I know it must have taken a lot of courage to post your story here, Katie. I think recovery in one aspect of our lives helps us believe that it’s possible in others. I have a feeling that this is only the beginning of a blossoming new life for you!

  9. Awesome!!

    My naturopath is actually the one who got me on low carb. After she laid out the diet I researched it and found that it mirrors The Primal Blueprint more then any other Paleo diet that I’ve found. So you might find yourself a good naturopath!

    Great story!

  10. My favorite part is that we’re all blessed to read your story, since you decided to take the step and make the post. Thank you for pushing yourself and for expanding your comfort zone – it seems like it’s already doing wonders. Way to go and keep up the great work 🙂

    1. Nick, that is such a poignant reminder for us women…We are cheering our sister on in her endeavor, but never stopped to think about the cost to her personally to open herself up to us. Thank you for your insight.

      Katie, I remember you from the 21 Day Challenge. I have been changing my lifestyle for over a year now. Here a little, there a little. Tweak it as you learn and grow. Thank you, Katie, for taking the challenge, for being on the Vimify app, and for letting us rejoice in your successes and health with you. As Nick said, we are blessed!

  11. Katie, you look phenomenal! But what really struck me about your story was your breast cancer diagnosis. It terrifies me. Thanks for being willing to open up and share your story!
    On another note, I think it can be dangerous to imply that going primal will cure ALL of your ailments – welcome to the human condition – it’s sometimes painful. I appreciate your candor about still having some health concerns, trouble sleeping, etc. Honesty is so valuable in this conversation!

  12. Well done for how far you’ve come. A couple of things you might find useful – add in coconut oil – as food or as moisturiser – and you might find social avoidance becomes easier because it is very good for the brain. Secondly – having looked at your photo – do not be surprised if you gain weight. You look like me before I knew I was coeliac. Once I came off gluten, I gained a sensible amount of weight, instead of being borderline low BMI weight with no illness resistance. It’s much more fun not to be ill all the time!! Good luck.

  13. Great job, Katie! You did the research and work and are reaping the benefits. Congrats!

  14. Congrats! You look amazing and happy. Way to step out of your box and post on this site. I know everyone is different and we react to foods differently. I am 46 and prior to primal I suffered from painful arthritis in my hands and feet, just getting out of bed in the morning was painful and a challenge. I had Tenia Versicolor (skin rash), IBS (d), my mood swings were off the chart. I am happy that my family didn’t bury me in the back yard. I also woke with a headache EVERY day – like clockwork. I cut out gluten and within 5 days my arthritis was gone. I noticed the Tenia Versicolor was fading. Two weeks later and I didn’t suffer from one bout of IBS. It’s been since June of 2014 and I am a different person. I incorporated Marks way of eating and life is grand.

  15. Congratulations on sorting out some of the nagging issues that have been making you feel crappy and for catching the cancer early! I’m a BC survivor, too, who feels lucky that they caught it at Stage 1. I, too, am a estrogen making machine. There is a new 10 year tamoxifen protocol that is starting to be used here and there, and I’ve been thinking about continuing the tamoxifen because two very large studies found significant benefit to a ten year protocol (ATOM and ATTAC, I believe, are the acronyms for them.). But, after reading your story, I’m thinking I need to get off my butt and look into a integrative doctor who is knowledgeable about balancing hormones and go at it from that side rather than endure the risks of more tamoxifen. So, thank you, for that and I wish you all the best in health and happiness going forward. The brain is a “plastic” entity, they are finding, and the more you exercise it, for example by going out and being around people, the more you will “re-wire” your brain to be comfortable with social settings. It may never be perfectly easy but it’s very likely that it can be much better over time if you keep at it. So, good luck and take care, and thank you for sharing!

  16. congrats and what a story! I noticed that Jenny gave you a few tips in the comment above – and I would just like to add that a candida and parasite cleanse will also help you tremendously – candida is a silent killer and it can be systemic without any overt symptoms – and as you rebuild your immune system – cleaning the gut should be done as well – slowly – and with care us you unclog areas and support the liver.
    again, congrats and your story (which was so well written) is a complete inspiration!

    1. I was thinking the candida connection as well. It is insidious and most people don’t realize how many symptoms and conditions are connected to it. The social anxiety caught my attention. The candida toxins have a profound effect on brain chemistry. I think a lot of the reason so many young people today are on psych meds is because of rampant candida caused by their crappy diet. Info on clearing candida can be found at candidasupport.org.

  17. Bravo to you, Katie, for taking control of your own life and health, and thank you for sharing your story and inspiring others.

  18. Thanks for the wonderful story. Stories like yours touch lives we’ll never know about and some will have successes like the one you’ve conveyed.

  19. I too got some great info from the women’s weight loss seminar. It is great mark promotes other sites with good info. I was told I had PCOS in my 20’s and rarely had periods. Since going primal I am as regular as clock work. Amazing what the right foods will do for a gal. You look great and had you not mentioned your social discomfort I would have never known.

  20. Thank you for sharing your story. How about an update next year?

  21. As a 40 something woman, I relate so well to your experience with stress as a profound negative in our lives. I do not, however, believe that this photo shows a woman in her 40’s! You look young, healthy, and gorgeous to me!

  22. Wow – congratulations! What an inspirational story! I’ve never read a story here that I could relate to more and am so sorry I missed the web conference now. I was hit with positional vertigo in my early thirties for “no apparent reason” — I know I have some gluten issues, which I didn’t realize until a few years later, but never heard about that connection. I’ve been lax recently and need to get back on the bandwagon again.

  23. Wow – congratulations! What an motivational story! I’ve never study a tale here that I could correspond with more and am so sorry I skipped the web meeting now. I was hit with positional vertigo in my beginning 30’s for “no obvious reason” — I know I have some gluten problems, which I didn’t recognize until a few decades later, but never observed about that relationship. I’ve been lax lately and need to get returning on the group again.

  24. Congratulations on your new life! Isn’t the no cramps part just awesome! Happened to me too (and mine were pretty bad) but now it’s not a problem at all. I’ve noticed as long as I eat primal AND include enough good fat that I don’t experience any discomfort. What an amazing year for you!

  25. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I always look forward to the inspiration I get from the Friday stories, and yours is not exception.

    Best of luck to you in the future!

  26. Good luck, Katie! Like you, my results from going primal have been gradual rather than earth-shaking, but are slowly improving my life. Keep on moving forward!! And don’t feel that you have to be social in the exact same ways so many others are – find the people whose company is comfortable for you, and figure out whether you are more at ease with one-on-one interactions, or as part of a group. It is OK to be a loner.

  27. What a wonderful story! I’m so happy to hear of your success, Katie! I don’t know if you’ve heard of them but Emotional Freeing Technique, Tapas Acupressure Technique and EMDR can really help with all sorts of mental/emotional issues. I am not a professional but I’ve been using these techniques for over ten years now and have completely restructured my life with their help. Going paleo was the big thing for sure (Whoo-hoo! Paleo!!!) but supporting the changes with EFT, TAT and EMDR made all the difference for me. I’ve healed all sorts of stuff with them including paralyzing stage fright (I’m a professional musician), a sudden onset of bridge phobia and tons of other things. If you don’t find your anxiety easing with your diet changes perhaps consider taking a look at these techniques. EFT and TAT are free to learn off the net and can be done at home in private. I do suggest a licensed and experienced therapist for the big issues (like childhood sexual abuse- another thing I’ve dealt with EFT, etc.) but a lot of work can be done by yourself. Anyway- congratulations on your progress! I wish you all the best.

  28. That is a GREAT story!!! I never got so many issues because my diet has never been so far from primal as most people here, but I always had horrible mestrual cramps too, and they have gotten better and better with age. At first I only related it to my general improve in general condition, because I started being able to run, my effort astma is nearly gone, my very few allergies are gone, etc. (this started when I was around 25 and has been improving till now, I’m 33). But after I started reading Mark’s book I took a look back a realized, the main change was really my diet, and just a little fraction was the exercise (I exercised naturaly and often before I when to university too). I now praise (and make fun of) dad, because ever since I was an infant I recall him hamerring that we didn’t need doctors, we just had to find out what was missing in our food! After all these years, he’d been always right! 😉

  29. I’m glad you had such a great turnaround Katie! What struck me about your story is your battle w/ social phobia which my teenage daughter suffers from. How did you deal w/ that as you progressed on the primal journey?

  30. Good for you Katie

    I had breast cancer too and was supposed to take tamoxifen but I used the predict tool (which the NHS uses) to see what the benefit was in my particular case. If I did take the tamoxifen, there was only a 1 percent increase in the chances of the cancer not coming back, 97 as opposed to 96. I also spoke to a cancer specialist at length and she agreed with me about not taking it. But it is a personal decision and of course lots of people would take it even for the 1 percent benefit. All this depends on your stage, grade, lymph node involvement. If yours was DCIS I would imagine there was no lymph node involvement. I made the decision not to take it and concentrate on my diet, exercise, adding great food into my diet like turmeric. Good luck!

  31. Congrats on your hormonal health! I suffer from estrogen dominance and low progesterone, so your story really stood out to me. I had horrible PMS, and was diagnosed with PMDD because my depression and anxiety were so bad around my period. I just started a grain, dairy and sugar free diet two weeks ago and I already feel better. No mood swings, no crying, more energy, and less acne and bloating. In addition to the new duet, I use Maca root and Vitex for their hormonal balancing properties, progesterone cream to correct my deficiency, and acupuncture, meditation and exercise to control cortisol levels. This diet was the last thing I needed to add it seemed. I will see how this month’s period is, and if diet has helped at all!

  32. Hi Katie! I also have social phobia and a host of other health issues. I’m finishing up a juice fast and looking for the next step. I’ve been researching paleo eating and think this may be the answer for me. I appreciate your courage to share your story and wish you all the best! 🙂