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Positively Primal: A Merry Makeover

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!

Flash back to 2012: we felt sick every day, counted calories religiously, felt guilty after eating any kind of food…we were fueled by low self-esteem and disorderly eating.

We’d both just completed a 12 week diet and exercise plan—not designed for health, but designed to lose weight. We reached our goal weights (aka stick thin) BUT along with our “perfect bodies” we were tired, moody, cold all the time and our periods completely stopped. Definitely not healthy and definitely not happy. Which was strange…because we’d always say, “When I weigh XX kilos…THEN I’ll be happy.”

We were in this obsessive whirlwind of dieting: losing weight, putting it back on, losing it again and no matter what, we still believed we were “fat.” Our brains were filled with negativity about ourselves, especially our bodies.

When we looked around at our friends, this seemed completely normal. They were all in this same kind of head space. We all thought we had to be a certain weight and look a certain way to be happy and to “fit in.”

In June 2012, Emma was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, which was the catalyst for us both to start looking into changing the food we ate.

We began by cutting out all gluten from our diets. This was pretty easy as “gluten-free” packaged foods were the new “it” product. We were eating things like gluten-free bread, rice pasta, rice cakes and corn chips.

Although we thought we’d made positive changes to our diets, we didn’t feel any better. Plus, one month into gluten free living and we were sick of the cardboard crackers.

We googled and read books on different diets and lifestyles like The Primal Blueprint [3], Sweet Poison [4], Atkins, The Paleo Solution [5] and the word inflammation stuck out to us. It was consistently presented again and again as one of the main culprits of all illness. We thought, perhaps this was what had been causing our illness?

The very next week our trainer mentioned this “real food” way of eating. An old colleague was raving about his new found energy from eating like the cavemen did and up popped an email about this primal way (In FACT, it was one of Mark’s emails that a friend forwarded!).

So was it that we found primal/paleo, or that it found us? We’ll never know, but we took these as signs from some higher power, the universe, what ever you’d like to call it, that we just had to try it out for ourselves.

We read blogs (Mark’s Daily Apple was and still is our go-to for confirming everything!) and books, printed recipes and did a huge pantry and fridge clean out then restock to begin our primal journey.

It seemed full on. No grains, refined sugars, legumes or gluten! But we had been complete bread and cereal addicts. The thought of breakfast and lunch was causing some real anxiety, since our pre-primal meals included toast, cereals and sandwiches!

We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy transition or a quick fix, but from what we had read and heard, the benefits were going to be worth it. Plus, it just made sense: cut out processed “food-like” items and replace them with real, fresh, good quality produce.

We gave ourselves the goal to follow the primal/paleo lifestyle for a solid three months. If we continued to feel sick, tired and blerr, we’d try something new.

Two weeks in and we had headaches, craved our beloved cereal and we just wanted a darn sandwich!

Four weeks passed and these symptoms had disappeared. We felt different, better.

Eight weeks in and we’d got the hang of the primal way. Spiralising zucchini instead of pasta, grating cauliflower to go with curries and coming up with ways to enjoy a sweet treat every now and then.

When the three months were up we’d never felt and looked better.

We now had high and long lasting energy levels; our thoughts were clear and quick; we both lost around 10kg each; and our skin beamed health! Our hair was shiny, we ditched the 3pm sugar cravings and bloated bellies and felt more at ease…no more nasty mood swings!

Our new positive relationship with our food is by far the greatest benefit. Long gone are food binges and the guilty feelings that follow afterwards. Instead, we eat when we’re hungry and choose foods that are going to nourish our bodies and make us feel amazing.

We used to be completely controlled by food—stressed and anxious at the thought of meal times. Primal was like a weight off our shoulders. Although there were guidelines, they didn’t feel like restrictions and we sure weren’t counting calories anymore.

Our minds were no longer consumed by food. There was space for more. We soon realized that our corporate, government jobs weren’t enough for us. We had all this new found energy and it was being wasted sitting in a 9-5 soul-sucking job. We were happy people but the situation we found ourselves in was dragging us down. We loathed getting up and out of bed to get in to the office.

We felt so uninspired every day that we resorted back to our old eating habits. Not processed foods but binging. We were taking anything and everything on the “yes list” and going overboard with it. We would overeat until we felt sick.

We would create “healthy sweet treats” and eat the entire treat in a couple of days!

We’d consume up to a kilo of nuts between us sometime, and would eat sweet potato chippies every day. Our portions became bigger and bigger, including the amount of meat we were consuming.

Slowly but surely, the brain fog crept back in, we gained back the weight we’d lost and we were feeling tired and grumpy all the time again. Although the foods we had been eating were primal “yes” items, our bodies simply didn’t need that much food.

We started studying with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and quickly realized that it wasn’t just food and movement that played a part in our overall health and happiness. Aspects of our lives like our career, relationships and spirituality all played huge parts too.

We made the decision to move our focus from food to these other three aspects to help us live better, healthier, happier lives.

Our career was a big one for us. We were forever negatively thinking and talking about our corporate jobs that we hated. We were passionate to find something more.

We were also surrounded by negative relationships, so we decided to put a major focus on detoxing the negative relationships and welcoming positive amazing people into our lives. Yes, we now have less people in our lives, but we truly believe it’s quality over quantity. When we surround ourselves with people who give good energy rather than take, our world transforms.

We started sharing our primal creations to our personal Instagram accounts and we were overwhelmed with people who were really interested in what we were up to! They kept asking how we made something so delicious without using sugar, grains, and gluten!

This got us so excited…we had this super passion for primal living and others wanted to know about it. And we wanted to share it! We wanted others to feel as good as we were feeling.

So we googled: “how to start a blog?” followed by “what is a blog?”

From there, we started our business, The Merrymaker Sisters [6]. This is our site that inspires hundreds of thousands with real primal food recipes. It shows our followers how to find and follow their bliss (bliss = their passion/dream).

We quickly realized that merrymaking was OUR BLISS…and so, we had to follow it. It took us about a year and a half of merrymaking part time until we quit our government jobs—to take a HUGE risk and try to make a living from something we loved doing.

At this point in our journey, we also discovered meditation and we truly fell in love with the benefits of sitting and just being. We realized how much we had to be grateful for and how every thought that goes on in our head can either negatively or positively affect our lives. When we think positive, kind, loving thoughts, that’s what we receive back. When we do the opposite, well, then, the opposite happens.

We asked ourselves: what is the bigger risk? Having a go at something we love and failing? Or being stuck in a job we absolutely hate for the next 50 years…looking back and thinking…what if? So we just did it! We quit our jobs to merrymake fulltime!

We believe what has allowed us to turn this in to a successful business is having the mentality to keep taking small step after small step…it’s all about taking action!

When we first started living primal, we never could imagine that a blog could turn into our fulltime careers. From sick government corporate workers, to bloggers, to full time business owners…and now? Authors!

We’ve just launched our brand new book: Make It Merry: A Healthy Cookbook [7], which has over 70 nutritious, primal, quick-and-easy recipes.

We sent our book [7] to Mark and Carrie last week (they’ve been huge inspirations for our business) and we were so overwhelmed with the feedback they gave us:

“Charming and refreshing—just like the Merrymaker Sisters themselves. We both loved the book’s lively layout and tableside photography. Not to mention, it’s full of tasty, one-of-a-kind primal-approved treats. Coconut and macadamia [7] nut crusted salmon? Sign us up!”

Primal living was the catalyst that changed our whole lives. We found a way to live that made us feel amazing, inside and out, and we found our bliss, our passion.

When we used to think about “health,” we’d think about losing weight, eating less and doing more exercise.

Thanks to primal living, we now believe it’s not a journey to health, it’s a journey of our best health. Our favorite message to send out to the world is: do what works for you and what makes you feel good.

So if you’re thinking of changing your diet, or thinking of going for a new job, leaving your partner, asking someone out on a date…then just do it! Because if you’re thinking about it, then it’s important! This. Is. It. Our one life to do what works for us and what makes us feel good. We all deserve to feel amazing, healthy, energized and we all deserve to find our passion and have the opportunity to follow it.

Emma and Carla Papas