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 name’s Amanda, and my decision to go Primal was the best thing that ever happened to me… even if I didn’t know what it was called at the time.
People often ask me, “When did you decide to lose weight?” The simplest answer (and one that, unfortunately, hasn’t been appropriately conveyed in my recent surprise media blitz) is that I didn’t; I was simply tired of being tired, and in trying to fix that, the weight loss naturally followed suit. For context, let’s jump back to the day I fondly refer to as my Day of Reckoning.
It was an otherwise forgettable Saturday in April 2011, and I closed my eyes as I gingerly stepped onto the doctor’s scale. In what I can only assume was an effort to lighten the mood, my general practitioner hummed as she gently tapped the counterweights into place. “222 pounds,” she announced. This was the first time I had weighed myself in over 7 years. I didn’t mention this fact to my GP; it was one thing to be 24 years old, 5’4″ and obese; it was another to admit willful ignorance of my health to the person I’d just tasked with fixing it. Because surprisingly enough, my weight wasn’t the primary reason for my visit to the doctor that day (I had resigned to being overweight years prior). Since graduating high school (and consequently living on my own), I was in a constant state of fatigue and anxiety. I was drowsy during the day and completely restless at night. I had horrible indigestion, regular migraines, mysterious muscle cramps, a myriad of skin problems…the list goes on. I had initially blamed graduate school for the constant headaches and your standard-issue lack of willpower for the insidious weight gain, but as I (and my academic performance) continued to suffer, I became desperate for answers. After a battery of tests, my GP concluded that I was “stressed”. As for the weight gain? “Not enough exercise”.
I left the clinic feeling initially defeated, but on that day, a single, unshakable notion implanted itself in my brain: there’s got to be something they’re missing. This nagging feeling drove me to a quest for knowledge. And after months of scouring the Internet, reading articles, and even consulting two other medical professionals, I still only had theories. In an almost last-ditch effort, a nutritionist friend recommended I try an elimination diet of the most common food allergens (gluten/wheat, corn, soy, eggs, nuts, lactose, casein, honey, etc.) for 30 days, then slowly reintroduce them and see how I feel. The idea that any of those foods could cause me pain seemed totally counter-intuitive to everything I had been taught about nutrition, but I was tired of being tired, so I figured it was worth a shot.
So on July 5th, 2011, I did a complete overhaul of my diet and started “eating clean”, as I called it. Within days, I felt better. I was more alert during the day. I had fewer headaches. I was less irritable. I slept like a baby. I was so ecstatic that my energy levels were up that I didn’t notice my clothes were getting a little baggy. Figuring I should probably learn from my past mistakes, I decided to buy a scale, snap one single “Before” picture and, just for funsies, keep track of whether or not I had lost any weight.
By August 5th, I had lost 18 pounds.
I wasn’t counting calories, practicing portion control, or even exercising (well, beyond walking to and from my classes). I had dedicated myself to “clean eating” so I’d stop feeling like crap, and the weight just kept falling off.
After the first 30 days, I reintroduced eggs into my diet with no discernible side effects. Two weeks after that, nuts and low-lactose dairy re-joined the party, also with no negative side effects to speak of. Two weeks after *that*, however, was my birthday. After almost two months of no bread, I had convinced myself that I deserved just one slice of thick, syrupy french toast (one of my old favorite foods) to celebrate my 25th year of existence. About 15 minutes after consuming said slice of deliciousness, I knew I had made a huge mistake. Almost immediately, I had a horrible cramp in my stomach. About 30 minutes after the pain subsided, I could barely keep my eyes open. I was in pain, moody, and exhausted… and it was only 10am! Sugar and wheat products were clearly problematic for me, and I quickly learned that not only could I, in fact, live without them, I could thrive without them.
I also started calorie counting, though not intentionally at first. Because the majority of my meals consisted of eggs/meats/fish and veggies, I filled up very quickly on significantly less food than I used to. Over time, I naturally began eating less and less. Purely out of curiosity, I started keeping a food journal to see how many calories I was consuming while still being satiated. I was pleased to discover that I was unintentionally eating at a deficit! On average, I was consuming about 1300-1400 calories/day, which for someone living a sedentary lifestyle like I had been, proved to be plenty of food.
To say I felt empowered is an understatement. For the first time in years, it actually felt possible for me to be in control of my health. But beyond anecdotal evidence and a lot of trial-and-error, I really had no idea what I was doing. That’s when I found Mark’s Daily Apple, and everything fell into place. Mark’s explanations and insights reaffirmed the core tenet of my own circumstantial lifestyle change: thanks to genetics and body chemistry, eating some foods will make you feel kind of terrible. Not eating those foods will probably make you feel better.
After even more research, I dialed in my diet and began applying ketogenic macronutrient ratios to my paleolithic food choices, a combination that proved to be quite powerful in my only-marginally-active state. I began posting about my efforts on a lovely little website called reddit, where I found a fantastic community of folks looking to improve their lives by reclaiming their health. While I posted my “final” set of progress pictures and advice there over a year ago, it was actually a repost of my pictures by an anonymous redditor a week ago (totally unbeknownst to me) that brought my story to its most recent “buzz” status.
It hasn’t been easy getting my full story out there. Many media outlets wanted to simplify and distill my efforts down to sound bites; others flat-out refused to report on my actual diet, as my happily eating saturated fat while shunning grains and not exercising simply didn’t fit their conventional “diet” narrative. It’s been very frustrating at times, but for every misleading news segment, I get a dozen or so folks tracking me down on reddit and asking me about my story. Needless to say, I dole out Mark’s Daily Apple links like it’s my day job 🙂
It’s been a little over two years since I decided to reclaim my health through the Paleo/Primal Blueprint diet with a “keto” twist. Admittedly, I’m still working on the “moving more” part of the lifestyle equation. My current approach has become decidedly less “keto” and more Paleo as I attempt to up my activity level (i.e., incorporate more carbohydrate on workout days), and I’m going back and reading all the MDA Primal Fitness posts with a new level of appreciation and zeal. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my health discovery will yield, and, honestly, I don’t mind one bit if I’m the only one around to see it 😀
A million thanks to Mark and this incredible community for everything that you do. Be excellent to each other and Grok On!