I’m submitting my story “just in time” for the deadline, which is the perfect illustration of how my life has been the last two years. I feel like I can hardly keep up and am just barely getting by. As a matter of fact, aside from the fact that I could hardly find a moment to write this (I’m using a laptop and Thomas the Tank Engine to make this possible) I was also hesitant to provide what I perceived as a “success” story because my struggle is colored by so many facets of life I can’t control and so many ways I just can’t be primal. But then I remember that success isn’t measured in any particular timeframe or by pounds lost or by perfection. Success is in living well, making changes in yourself, believing in yourself, and persevering where you thought you couldn’t. And honestly, that has absolutely happened since finding your Mark’s Daily Apple site.
My one concern about sharing my story is that there are days I hardly feel like I’m living “primal” in the sense so many readers are. But I think I represent an important contingent of people who might be limited by circumstances beyond their control. And I hope my story is a good reminder that you don’t have to do this all the way to reap AMAZING benefits. It’s about living in the “spirit” of being primal, even if life is such that you can’t be as true to it as you want to be.
That being said, now I’ll share my health and weight loss journey with you.
May 2004 and May 2005
You see, I’ve actually been privy to the benefits of low carb eating for years now. The first time was around 2000 when I weighed in around 226 pounds and realized that things in my life had to change. I’d been eating my way through an unhappy marriage and after dabbling with a variety of eating plans (from food combining to eating based on my blood type — what was I thinking???). Thankfully I stumbled across the Atkins diet. I don’t recall how long I continued with it, as I think I might’ve moved on to the more complicated Zone diet not long after. But what I did do right was reduce processed foods and move more (in a very careful way as to not injure my overly large body) by walking, doing “walk aerobics” and by attending water aerobics classes. Slowly I brought my weight down below the 200s and enjoyed life in a size 14. This was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I took a stand for myself and divorced, which was the hardest – and most rewarding – thing I’ve ever done up to that point. In doing so, I found my soul mate and had the chance to truly “start over”.
But with all that wonderful “starting over” came the ironic, yet all-too-common revisiting of old habits (you know they die hard) and the feeling that I was “free” to do “what I wanted” again. By the time I married my true love in August 2005 I was up above 200 again (around 210) and days after the wedding, I was ready to make changes…again! I made some good changes with diet and exercise and in a year looked and felt *much* better. But I knew something really had to change with my food and I re-embraced a low carb lifestyle. I joined a wonderful forum and read Protein Power and within 6 months my focus on sufficient protein and more effective exercise (including strength training) I was in the best shape of my life. I blew past 180 (in the downward direction) and enjoyed size 12 jeans and strength and energy like I hadn’t since college days!
But something derailed me again…this time something I’ll never regret as today he is a healthy, happy 20-month-old! I credit my health at the time for conceiving so quickly and having the best pregnancy possible. I was able to continue working (i.e., running our business and shooting weddings — my husband and I are wedding photographers, which is a highly demanding and stressful line of work) and caring for our home as well as my Mom, whom we’d moved in with us. We welcomed our son in early January 2008 and a couple months post-partum I was back nearly where I began at 205. Only now I was utterly exhausted as I tried to care for a newborn and my Mom and somehow get my life back.
Over a year went by with me struggling with life (an understatement of the heartache, fatigue, guilt and stress I went through). Here I am a business owner, mother, wife and caregiver to my mother (who is 82, with progressive dementia). And I can’t change any of that. And it takes every bit of energy I have to keep up with the life I lead and ensure that *I* am taken care of as well. After all, if I break down, then everyone suffers. Since my son was born, I’ve attempted to “go back” to my original low carb way of eating and have incorporated any kind of exercise that I could manage. It seemed at times something was working just a little, but then it would stop…or I would stop…and I’d be right back where I started. Stress and life demands always seemed to get the best of me. At one point I headed back up to 212 and was miserable, not only by the number of the scale, but by the way my body felt at this weight. I didn’t want the fact that I was a “new mom” to be an excuse, but I was struggling so because the “conventional” way to lose…even with low carb…was so difficult to incorporate into my life.
I felt so frustrated I began reviewing different diets again, thinking…hoping…praying…there might be something else out there that would work better for me. Could I find something that would align more with what my family and I would eat, since I’m the primary cook? Do I have intolerances? Should I go super high fat again? Should I be incorporating whole grains again? Is it really just about calories in/calories out? Ugh! It got to the point where I couldn’t even process the concepts any more! I was questioning everything I’d believed in, probably as a result of feeling that the very low carb plans I’d done before were just no longer right for me. The problem was, I obviously didn’t believe in high carb. So what did I believe in?
I was searching for that. And in the interest of arguing the point that I shouldn’t have to live my life with just 20 carbohydrate grams a day OR go low fat, I searched online for optimum carb ranges for weight loss and I found you, Mark, and your awesome post on the carbohydrate curve. It made so much sense to me, it was like a light bulb went off! And I thought yes, I can do that!
Toward the end of July 2009 I was still holding around 205 pounds, not having seen below 200 in 2 years. And I’d been gaining and losing the same damn 5 pounds for what seemed like forever. And to be honest, I didn’t hold out much hope that anything would make the scale budge, but what did I have to lose besides the weight and frustration?
Fed up with worrying about the scale, I just started focusing on the quality of life and food that the PB prescribes and hoped it would all fall into place…and it did! Despite the fact that I am still balancing so many roles…and feeling the extraordinary stress that comes with this combination…I am seeing a huge difference in my body and outlook.
Starting July 21st I was at 205.4. When the challenge began on 8/1 I was at 201.4 and as of today (08/28/09) the scale reads 196.6. That’s nearly 10 pounds, but more importantly, and I’m under – WELL under – the 200 pound mark! I’m well into “onederland” as many call it and to me that’s just incredible. And it’s not just weight. I’ve lost 2 inches off my waist and 1 inch off my hips. I’ve gone down a clothing size. My hourglass figure is on its way back and I feel good. I’m far more well-rested. My wrists don’t ache like they did before. And finally…FINALLY…things are moving in the right direction.
The most amazing part of this is that I’ve done this while life has beaten me down in ways that would normally make me gain weight right back again. The PB rules have taught me what is really important for my health and sanity. I sleep as much as I’m able now instead of worrying about exercising. I’ve learned how to be much more forgiving of myself (80/20 is essential for someone like me who loves dairy and has such a chaotic life). I feel utterly justified when my husband and I break out Rock Band for Wii instead of working one night. (I rock the house with 100% on vocals for Livin on a Prayer, how apropos!). I am now embracing walks with my son and am not in so much of a rush to get back. The extra gardening I’m forced to do because my Mom and husband (who also works a full-time job) can’t get to it is no longer a chore, but an opportunity. I’m finally giving myself credit for all the work I do around the house and realizing how much it ties into my health. And I no longer feel guilty about enjoying myself when I can, provided it’s the exception, not the rule.
There are many life changes I can’t make yet, but your Primal Blueprint has been the guide I needed to make the ones I could, many of which are inside of me. Changing my perspective changed my life. I’m a true work in progress, but for the first time in years you can actually witness the progress. I’m living proof that even in today’s terribly stressful world you really can “find a way”…the key is finding the right way.