It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another 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!
Ever since I stumbled upon your blog a year ago when searching for information on the paleo diet, I’ve always found the success stories to be some of the most motivating personal accounts I’ve ever read. I never thought my transformation would be impressive enough to warrant my own success story, but after sitting down and truly thinking about all the positive changes that have happened in my life since committing to the Primal lifestyle in October, 2011, I wanted to share my story in the hopes that perhaps someone out there can relate to what I’ve gone through.
First, some background information leading up to the day I plunged into Primal living with both feet. As a kid I always suffered from severe eczema on my scalp and hands. I remember being 7 or 8 years old and sitting down every night while my mother massaged this tar-based “medicine” onto my head in the hopes that it would control the eczema. I remember being on puffers for much of my youth and being embarrassed to show people my hands in elementary school, leading to a love affair with long-sleeved t-shirts. Can anyone say food allergy?
As I got older, I seemed to outgrow these symptoms and entered middle school mostly eczema- and puffer-free. I was a fairly active kid all through my youth playing soccer, basketball, and hockey and participating in swimming, horseback riding, and skiing. When I got to grade 8 I started being overwhelmed with body image issues and thus began my 12 year struggle with disordered eating habits and self-loathing tendencies.
Though I was never hospitalized for my issues surrounding food, I would go through phases where I would be exercising 2+ hours a day and eating around 1000-1200 calories a day of CW proscribed “health” foods. I remember being 15 and losing about 20 pounds and being thrilled with all the positive comments I received. Clearly, however, these kinds of eating habits and lifestyle was unsustainable in the long term and so began my cycle of extreme “health and fitness” binges followed by inevitable weight gain. This cycle continued all throughout university and at my heaviest in 3rd year I clocked in at 162 lbs at a height of 5’4″. Even worse than the weight was that I suffered from extreme anxiety for many years and would go through phases where I would be so anxious that I would sit up at night curled in a ball on my bed, afraid to go to sleep for unknown reasons.
Perhaps my most unhealthy cycle began the summer after I finished my undergrad and before I started my MA. It was at this time that I discovered purging via laxatives and realized that I could eat whatever I wanted and have it leave my body as soon as I woke up the next day, ensuring, in my mind, that I would never gain any weight. My anxieties continued to plague me, though not quite as severe as before and the self-loathing I had for my body continued to grow. I hated my binge sessions where I was able to put away two large bags of chips, a family size bag of M&M’s, pizza, fancy cheeses, and other sweets all in one sitting. I would then be so overcome with guilt and anger at my lack of control that I would drive to a twenty-four hour pharmacy to pick up my laxatives and thus the cycle would start anew. At its height, I would sometimes repeat this cycle every day of the week to ensure I stayed a “healthy” weight. This pattern continued for three miserable years as my depression and anxieties grew once again. It always surprised me that I was able to keep this a secret from virtually everyone in my life, and to be honest this is the first time I’ve shared my story. Throughout the duration of my program I would fall into weeks of depression where I would sometimes only leave my bed for two hours a day, tops, and would rarely leave my apartment. On the surface I could make excuses and say I was busy working and because I was always able to put a smile on my face when I did muster up the energy to leave my house, none of my friends suspected the torment I was living with on a daily basis. However, several professional relationships were destroyed due to my inability to complete work on time and I would sometimes go off the radar at school for weeks or months afraid to open the emails asking me where I was. Then, as quickly as these depressive episodes would come on, they would taper off and disappear for a little while. The binging and purging cycle, however, was my constant companion.
A friend of mine in my MA program had told me about the paleo diet when we first started the program in 2009 and I had dabbled on several occasions with the premise, rarely lasting more than a week. Looking back now, I see that during those “experiments” I was binge and purge free for the whole time I was adhering to the diet, but of course some event like a concert or party would come up, and down the rabbit hole I would go, falling back to my habits of late-night pizzas, chips, cookies, and chocolate candies.
Fast-forward to September 2011 and I had just successfully defended my thesis and moved to a new city. I wasn’t quite at my heaviest weight, but I was hovering somewhere between 150-155. I moved in with my sister who has celiac disease and I decided to try cutting gluten out of my diet once and for all. I was still eating all manners of processed foods, but I was becoming more aware of the relationship between food and wellbeing. In October of that year I found MDA and read through the archives like a woman possessed. Everything began to make so much sense! The eczema I had suffered from, the constant illnesses, the fatigue, bloating, and weight gain could all be linked to what I was putting in my body. The next day I cleaned out the cupboards and started living a Primal lifestyle in earnest. And after a few weeks a funny thing happened. I was no longer biting my nails or pulling out my eyelashes, which were telltale signs of anxiousness. I was calmer, happier, and most notably I hadn’t binged or purged in weeks. My skin was clearing up, especially on my back where I had suffered from severe acne since I was a teenager. And I had slimmed down. Not in a dramatic transformation kind of way, but in a way that felt healthy and right. I couldn’t believe it. I had spent so many years trapped in CW’s rendition of “healthy” eating which had never worked for me in any capacity, that I was shocked when food really did seem to be a huge contributing factor to many of my physical and psychological issues. I was so struck by the power food has to heal the body that I completely switched from my path of applying for a PhD in English Lit and applied to a holistic nutrition program and a culinary nutrition program so that I can develop recipes and teach cooking classes.
My goal now is to spread the good food word to any and all of those people who are fed up with CW’s nonsense approach to health and wellness. I’m hoping to eventually start an after-school program that teaches children the importance of putting healthy food in their bodies and to run cooking classes for busy moms and working professionals offering up easy tips and tricks for healthy eating. Stumbling upon your blog was a defining moment in my life. Reading your informative and scientific posts sparked an intense interest in alternative nutrition, which has helped shape the direction of my life from this point on. But most importantly, your blog started me on a journey towards self-discovery and finally self-love, something I had never experienced in any true form up until now. I haven’t binged and purged in almost a year and I’ve discovered a passion for life I never knew I was capable of. So thank you Mark, for doing what you do so generously and with so much passion. Thank you for giving me my life back.
P.S. I’ve attached a couple of pictures. The first is me at my heaviest in 2007. The second is my brother and I a couple of weeks ago (he has lost over 60 lbs following a Primal lifestyle), and the third is me training for the Wall this past summer