My Transition from an Ill, Frail, Anemic College Student to a Healthy, Strong, and Fit Individual

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!

It was painful to wake up in the morning; I just didn’t think I’d have energy again.

During the summer of graduating high school (2011) I had wisdom teeth surgery. I had two teeth extracted and was in excruciating pain for days. My mouth later became infected and it was difficult to swallow. During the first few days I could barely eat or drink anything. I am five feet tall (short and proud of my tiny size) and at this time I weighed 121 pounds. My parents noticed how I seemed to drop a few pounds. Initially it bothered me because I am an athlete, a tennis player, and I thought I was losing muscle. Anyways, after five days since my tooth surgery I stepped on the court with barely anything to eat or drink and a swollen mouth. I managed to play the best tennis I played at the time and moved so effortlessly. I realized that those few pounds allowed me to be lighter on my feet. So, after recovering from the surgery I continued to eat smaller portions and transitioning into college that year and being on the tennis team I continued to eat smaller portions (one plate during meals in the dining hall: no pizza or fried foods either) and worked out about two hours a day with lifts twice a week. I dropped about 14 pounds from late June to December that year (weighing in at 106.5 pounds). That next semester I dropped an addition three pounds (103.5 pounds). I didn’t realize that when I started that weight loss journey I was so pudgy to begin with, but I liked what I saw in the mirror and I felt so much better about myself with that weight loss.

Katrina - High School

Left: Junior year of high school; Middle: Senior year of high school (prom); Right: Senior year of high school

When I came home for the summer of my freshman year I hit a plateau and was frustrated with the stalling of weight loss. I decided to drastically cut my calorie count and micromanage exactly what I consumed. At this point I was still consuming the Standard American Diet and relied heavily off oatmeal and cereal and whole grains. With the drastic calorie cut, I started to beat that plateau. In addition, I worked out more intensely than ever between playing tennis and running for 40 minutes or lifting daily. I started to become over trained. My whole body and brain became fatigued. I initially took it as that I was just working out a lot and I tried to forget about being tired. But, coming into sophomore year of college those symptoms never went away, only simply getting worse. At this point I was down 24-25 pounds (96-97 pounds).

I could barely walk to class without becoming winded and tried to give 100% at the 2-hour a day tennis practices but could barely provide 50%. My body was dying on me and I was miserable. As much as I couldn’t perform up to par for tennis, my relationship with my boyfriend was failing as well. I just wasn’t the same and my poor energy levels were affecting every aspect of my life. I finally decided to seek help and go to the student health center on campus. This process began towards the end of the fall season (late September 2012). I began getting blood work treatments in attempts to diagnose what was wrong. Blood taken ranged from four test tubes of blood to a whopping 14 test tubes. I was at first diagnosed as anemic. Causes of the anemia were unidentified. More rounds of blood work indicated my liver enzymes were extremely high, but yet again no cause to that. During this whole time frame (September-November 2012), I was extremely frail, fatigued, no energy, vulgar flatulence, low libido, and bad stomach pains. I honestly didn’t think I was ever going to have energy again. I also dropped 31-32 pounds by this point. I was at my lowest weight of 89-90 pounds. I weighed myself daily and when on the days the scale read 89, I was frightened.

The fall tennis season ended late October and I knew I needed to rest. I only worked out about four times a week for 30 minutes or less whether it was tennis or running. It hurt to wake up in the morning and I slept early at night. I was always in a bad mood since I had no energy to do anything. I just tried to keep up with my classes at that point. Without any reason for my viral infection, by mid-November I started to have some energy. It came in bursts but it was progress. Also, I managed to receive my highest GPA that semester somehow. By winter break, I began to work out daily whether it was an hour of tennis or 1-3 miles running. Although, I still had extreme flatulence, bloating, and stomach pains. I also was at a weight of 91-92 pounds.

By the end of January (2013), I started my Paleo transition. One afternoon at college, I consumed a bowl of Kashi granola cereal. Within literally a minute the extreme flatulence started. I was puzzled, yet eager to realize what exactly caused that. After some Internet searches, I realized a particular ingredient in the cereal causes extreme flatulence in some individuals. That research led to the anti-grain articles and Mark’s Daily Apple. I decided I had nothing to lose and gave up grains the next day. That next day was an absolute epiphany for me. I encountered zero stomach pains, no bloating, absolute no gas, and my bowels started to move. In addition I don’t think I had so much energy in many months. I decided that was it and I started to really improve.


Left: Fall Semester sophomore year of college (lowest weight); Middle: winter break of sophomore year (also lowest weight); Right: August 2013 (currently) at a healthy, fit weight

Despite being strict on anti-grains and continual Paleo research, I had severe sugar cravings. Part of it was the tennis practices and the other was nutrient deficiencies and my body was craving instant energy. So I binged…a lot on cookies, brownies, fudge, ice cream, candy, etc… Other than that I was strictly grain free.

Well, in June of 2013 I decided to cut out dairy. Between January and June the cravings were unreal and my mood varied constantly and I would be so upset with myself for binging and getting cravings. As hard as it was I made baby steps. I said enough was enough and I need to be healthy and happy for myself. If I wanted a long, successful life I needed a healthy mind and the grains/dairy were not providing any of that for me. After deciding to completely cut out dairy, the cravings started to subside. I began consuming loads of meat, fruit, coconut, nuts, veggies, and most importantly BACON.

I realized that the dairy/grains were affecting my hormones, mood, anxiety, stress levels, stomach pains, etc… leading to food allergies/intolerances. Paleo is truly the cure to all of my past issues and viral infection. Paleo has allowed me to have stable high energy levels, minimal flatulence, minimal cravings, and healthy digestion. With the help of Mark’s Daily Apple and my curiosity I have truly become healthy, happy, and fitter than ever. Since my lowest weight I have put on three pounds of lean muscle and have dramatically increased my stamina. I have decided to no longer compete collegiately for tennis and instead reduced my amount of exercise to 20-60 minutes a day whether it’d be tennis or running. I have also introduced daily Intermittent Fasting and my hunger has normalized/reduced. I now will eat breakfast (got to get my eggs and bacon in), a mid-morning snack, and lunch. I no longer eat in the late afternoon/evening which allows me to sleep like a baby every night. I have reduced my net carb count to about 100 grams or less and that also contributed to the stable mood/hormone levels. The decreased amount of physical exercise and the addition of eating Paleo allowed my body to comfortably function day-to-day and maintain high energy/mood. In addition, my relationship has improved dramatically with my boyfriend and I now feel back to normal (actually even better than normal!). I realized that this lifestyle (NOT JUST A DIET) worked wonders for my life.


Left: Beach July 2013 also had a healthy fit weight; Right: August 2013 at a family wedding, again at a healthy, fit weight (big difference since high school)

I’d like to thank your blog and all your vital information that has helped me through my transition from an ill, frail, anemic college student to a healthy, strong, and fit individual. This has been such a long process for me, but it has been well worth it and couldn’t be happier with who I am today: a tiny, but mighty, tennis player, runner, and college student. Grok on!


Update (from Mark): I appreciate everyone’s comments and participation. However, Katrina should not have to continue to defend herself against claims made about her health and appearance. Additionally, trolling has become a problem in this comment board, so comments have been closed. I want to thank Katrina again for sharing her real life story with us, and wish her and everyone the very best.

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