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One Year to Become Truly Healthy

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story [1] 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 [2]. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

I haven’t finished the year but this is how far I’ve come in 9 months.

I come from a family of five children. We were all born relatively healthy and we ate pretty “healthy” growing up. I am the eldest and my youngest sibling is 7 years younger than me. Somewhere around the age of 5 I developed asthma and at 8 developed allergies; similarly some of my other siblings did at different ages. My sister was born with asthma. My parents and grandparents never had asthma or allergies. I remember my mother thinking it was due to us growing up with a wood stove or that it must have come from genes of indirect relatives. Next I’m diagnosed as having ligamentous laxity due to my ligaments getting “caught” in my knees and my feet, legs, toes going into spasms, bending themselves backwards at the joints. At the age of 10 the doctors find a benign bone tumor, within a few months I’m undergoing major surgery. Next on the list was eczema, scaly hands and dry patches of skin, given prescription lotion and a scrub to get rid of it. Sometime during this period I also developed bursitis on my knees, back to the doctor, don’t kneel is the solution. All the while told I am borderline anemic. At 14 my parents’ divorce, and I start supporting myself by working in farm fields, restaurants and cleaning houses. I start experiencing back pain and low grade joint pain, constantly cracking my every joint in my body to relieve the pain. Then I start going through puberty, oh the pain. By time I was 15 I went to family planning on my own for birth control to relieve the pain. I did not want my mother thinking I wanted to be sexually active which I committed to myself not to be until after 18. So here I am at 15 on birth control, allergy medicine, and pain killers. Now enter urinary tract infections and kidney problems, constantly sick and needing so much sleep. Sometime in high school I decided I was born defective.

During this time I’m also very conscious about my weight. All my siblings and I were very skinny but seeing my grandmother and my mother obese and overweight, respectively, I knew it wouldn’t last. I was 16 and swore off fast food and soda. At 18 I develop debilitating stomach pain and digestive issues. I mean collapsing to the floor pain. Back and forth to the doctors, emergency rooms, exams and tests are conducted to find nothing except a slightly redder stomach than usual. No ulcers, no nothing to explain the pain. I’m exhausted and could barely stand at times from this. I go to college and start failing classes. 8:00 AM class? Forget it. Be able to concentrate through an entire class? Nope. I end up having a handicap pass to be able to escape a class and drive to my dorm when the pain hit. This went on for about two years. All the time I’m also experimenting with food to see if that was the cause. Eventually I find a diet that my body could tolerate and the pain subsides in my second year of college. During all this I had some depression from always being in pain. Now that the pain is minimal I still have slight depression. I clearly remember wishing I had the energy and happiness that I experienced before 18. At the end of my 4th year of college I slip into a major depression. I had no emotions for people but put one hell of a show on for friends and family. The only people that would see the other side of me were my boyfriends. Boy, did I treat them horribly. They either saw me cold and unemotional or a complete emotional mess of crying all the time.

My weight fluctuated over the next ten years and I would eat as “healthy” as I could but in the end I was the chubbiest sibling in my family. I’m 5’ 9” and weighed 145 pounds. To the average American this seems like a healthy weight but my siblings and I we grew up very skinny and I was not fitting into my clothes any longer. People would say “Why are you trying to lose weight? You are so skinny.” I’d tell them I don’t want to buy another set of clothes. To me this is fat. And in my head I knew it had a spiraling effect and I would eventually look like my grandmother if I wasn’t careful.

Now I’ll fast forward to December 2012. I’m on birth control, Lamictal, Prozac, 5000 mg Vitamin D3 and 500mg Magnesium daily and taking Claritin, Albuterol, Advil, some sort of post coital pill to prevent UTIs and Xanax on an as needed basis. I am wearing orthopedics to reconstruct my fallen arches. Due to my ligamentous laxity I have had to very careful about exercising methods. This is me at 29 years old, what the hell?! I really am defective.

A friend, one that I’m forever indebted to, asks me to join her on a sugar detox challenge for 21 days starting in the new year following Diane Sanfilippo’s plan and Jonathan Bailor’s The Smarter Science of Slim concepts. Okay I wanted to lose those ten pounds… again. I’m all for it. I don’t do any reading on it except on how to adhere to it. No grains, no sugar including fruit and alcohol, and no dairy. Luckily I had a very supportive boyfriend and friends that joined in when we got together. Two friends in the group already didn’t eat gluten due to gluten intolerance and the other having Celiac disease. We came up with some creative pot lucks and interesting carbonated drinks! On day 21 we all go out for a chowder festival. I have a couple beers and chowders. The next day I did not feel well at all and just slept and slept for another 2 days. Whoa! I must have reintroduced too much at once… in the back of my head I suspect it might be the gluten but I did not want it to be true! So I go the rest of the week gluten free, Saturday night I have a pizza and a few sips of beer. Wow, I’m dead in the water throwing up and other problems for the next two days. Finally I’m convinced I have a gluten intolerance.

Here it is October 2013, I’m 30 years old and I’m on ZERO prescriptions, take Vitamin D, Magnesium and Omega 3. Only take Advil on an as needed basis, generally after I’ve had too many glasses of wine out with friends! I found a primary care physician that embraces and adheres to a grain free/dairy free diet. She looks great by the way. I also found a chiropractor that found the true cause of my back pain and is working with me to correct it by building muscle in the right places; he is gluten free and in great shape. I now judge my doctors by their appearance and health. It may sound shallow but health to me shouldn’t be difficult and should be visible.

This is why I’m writing my story to you, Mark. During the last 8 months I have read everything I could on the science of how one’s body reacts to what we eat. The links on Mark’s Daily Apple to the actual studies have allowed me not to take your word for it but read the studies for myself. I’m now signed up on PubMed and other channels for anything that is released about the human diet. So in case you are being selective in what case studies you choose to talk about. The crazy thing is, you aren’t. You link to studies that don’t support your methods but because I now read the studies before you even write about them I have come to my own conclusions. I may not agree with all of your conclusions but I tend to agree with the majority of them. That is what makes the primal community unique here, we have our own views and opinions but as long as one is striving to find what is right for them through facts we all are in this together.

Lastly, I want to thank the primal, paleo and truly health-conscious-with-facts community because of all your comments and feedback to MDA and other sites I suspect I have another intolerance. So one more 21 day detox, this time I will be following the FODMAPs elimination diet and carefully adding items back in. My stomach pain and allergies are 90% gone but I suspect they can be 100% gone from something else removed from my diet. Also thank you for the support on how to handle my siblings, they don’t seem to understand that what they went through as children and what I see them going through now could be related to their diet. It pains me to watch my nieces and nephews potentially go through the same or worse difficulties. Perhaps one day our stories will become the case studies that change the perception of healthy living in our families and around the world.

Here’s to saying good-bye to the last 25-30 years of pain, correcting the damage I’ve done, and living a truly healthy and happy lifestyle!

Thank you,

Em

P.S. It was because of Beth, Trystan, and Amanda’s openness about their health that I found I wasn’t alone and that there could be more to life. This year was the first time I ever talked about my health openly even with my family and now I share with anyone that asks because it is the word of mouth that got me here.

P.P.S. I have attached a photo from a Primal meal that I made for my friends this summer, a photo that I have hung in my kitchen that I took at the farmer’s market, blue shirt and jeans is the “before” taken April 2011 in Switzerland and the blue dress is the “after” taken July 2013 showing off my $35 winnings on a $1 bet at the racetrack.