The “Aha” Moment: When Clarity Happens and Real Change Begins

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!

My wife Amy and I have been married for 14 years, we have 2 wonderful boys, I have a great job, and a nice home in a quaint city, and over the years we have been slowly falling apart.

I’m the kind of guy that carries his weight well, that’s what I’ve been told. I was active all my young life, track, football, martial arts, I could eat anything and burn it off and I always preached the best way to stay fit was exercise; the rest will take care of itself.

Amy was an average weight tomboy kid, an overweight teen and then leaned out again her senior year of high school. She played ice hockey and roller hockey in a men’s league and started to rebuild overweight self-esteem issues. Her weight loss was short lived though once she moved away from home. As a young adult in a new town alone, she returned to boredom eating. Stopping at the grocery on Friday nights after work and picking up a frozen pizza, doughnuts, and ice cream to get through a lonely weekend.

When we met in 1997. I was skinny, I was stressed and unhappy and she changed all that. Being young at heart and mind, our 16 year age difference didn’t concern me. We set up house and that’s when life started to get good. I’m a chef by profession and I’ve been told I show my love through food, by the time our first son arrived; we looked like a whole lotta love. All through her pregnancy I cooked every comfort food in my repertoire, she extreme couponed stacks of Hamburger Helper and junk foods, and I would do my magic with fresh veggies and tomato sauces, pasta 5 times a week was not unheard of and bread was usually on the menu in some form every day. My “sympathy pregnancy weight” ballooned to 225  lbs and Amy hit 250+, but we were happy, remember? We avoided mirrors and settled in with comfy pants with New Year’s resolutions in the back of our minds, until we had a picture snapped of us with our new born son at a Christmas party. It was not us, it was two people in fat suits. Our son was diagnosed with autism at 15 months old which was just another stressor added as we tried to figure out how to cope.

We spent the next 10 ten years yo-yo’ing up and down the scale. When we would try diets, I was insistent that too much sugar was our issue and Amy felt that it was too many carbs – neither us of agreeing with the other at the same time. So we would start off on our separate diets at the same time and inevitably end up sabotaging each other within a week or two – over and over. A second pregnancy and another son diagnosed on the autistic spectrum plus moving our household 5 times for various reasons over the years all factored in as well. I finally moved out of the kitchen and into a management “suit and tie position” where I suddenly found myself in front of a computer and now even the exercise of running around a kitchen had stopped and my weight tipped the 200 mark… again.

The insurance plan I was enrolled in required a physical and I secretly looked forward to it because I had started to feel something was wrong, I felt like I was closer to 70 years old rather than 50. I had problems getting out of bed, hangovers were worse, and I really felt like death warmed over most of the time. My fears were confirmed and my doctor read me the riot act about making changes in my life, so Amy and I made a plan, yeah the New Year’s resolution diet…two weeks later…5 lbs gained..back to drawing board.

February 2011 we came across your site touting a new way of thinking about how our body works and the word “diet”, and it struck a beautiful chord with us. Up until now I had always thought weight loss was all about exercise, and our new way of thinking became about what we put into our body, and sugar AND bad carbs was at the crux of it all. We tossed everything in the house that said sugar, corn syrup, or had any grain in it, and if wasn’t fresh it hit the trash.

Co-workers were less than supportive at first, lots of funny looks, scratching heads, rolling eyes, the laughter and “yeah right, caveman” comments flew everywhere. They offered up cake and candy like body snatcher pods to tempt me back into the fold on a daily basis. The headaches were non-stop; I carried 3 types of aspirin to experiment with for the dull thump of sugar withdrawal.

Life at home was much different and that made all the difference. With all the crap out of the pantry (except the kids SAD food) we had the beginnings of a culinary playground and Amy had recipes and fresh foods waiting for me when I walked in the door. All at once another positive, my creative side renewed itself, it was almost like a market basket competition from culinary school every day, and I had to find new and creative ways to make good food without sugar, bread or opening a box. We purchased several books with great recipes and experimented with eliminating or substituting SAD ingredients with Primal whole foods; it was easy and tasted great. We also started photographing and posting pictures online and the kudos from the paleo community were always welcome.

The weeks ticked by quickly and the first 30 days ended, and instead of feeling like Lent was over it felt more like jumping off the high dive, the headaches were long gone, food tasted better, my mood had improved, and I was pissing off the candy crowd. The fat suit was still wrapped around me but I felt lighter, quicker, and faster. I wasn’t having the 2:00 PM snooze desires anymore. I was actually thinking about how I could be spending my empty minutes…exercising? We added sack time and with only a few exceptions religiously cut off electronics and TV at curfew for a nine hour sleep date every night.

I think it was right about the 6-month mark was the beginning of my “aha” moment. We were eating fresh/ organic foods, grass-fed meats when we could, I was exercising at least 3 times a week, our SCOBY was getting thick and the kombucha recipe was perfect. The pictures of us were showing different people, but we were changing, too. A renewed interest in how we cared for each other and our kids was beginning to find its way into our home, and problems at work didn’t piss me off, I just solved them. I smiled more, a helluva lot more. Everything we had read was coming true and weight/diet wasn’t important anymore. We still wanted to look good naked, but everything else we were doing became the focus and weight became the by-product. We had been sitting on our asses getting heavier and letting life slip away from us, no longer wanting to fight back, and that was taking its toll on every aspect of our lives.

I can say for a fact that this past year and a half has been one of the most exciting years of my life, doors have been opened in more ways than I can say here, and I only see it getting better for the rest of our lives. I wanted to be fit and happy at 50, instead I was sick and depressed. At 53 now, I consider myself to be healthier than most 25 year olds I know and I’m still getting stronger every day. Amy looks radiant, I can’t keep my eyes off her and she grows younger and more beautiful every time I look at her. As a couple we have turned our lives around completely, and we live fearlessly now knowing we can face any challenges thrown our way (look out Mudders and CrossFitters). I can’t think of any more perfect way to spend the rest of our lives together, eating well, playing and exercising, and loving each other and our kids.

Thanks Mark for all your help and wise words, and thanks to this wonderful community we’ve become part of, I know we’ll spend our lives “Paleoing it forward” until everyone gets it like we did.

Ed Smith

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