In December 2009, I was 25 years old and weighed 210 lbs. I was obese for my 5'5" frame, never felt well, and was popping handfuls of pills every day just to get by. I was taking 2 anti-depressants, anxiolytics, prescription sleeping pills, courses of Prilosec once or twice a month, acid-blocking pills or antacid tablets 1-3 times a day, anti-diarrhea pills several days a week, and I was constantly catching respiratory infections and frequently took courses of antibiotics. In fact, I was put on chronic antibiotics by a dermatologist to treat rosacea, acne, and a truly horrible condition known as hidradenitis suppurativa (acne inversa). I would take them for several weeks at a time until everything calmed down, but inevitably within a few weeks more I would end up with another debilitatingly painful HS boil and would need to start up the antibiotics again. I also got either a yeast infection or a urinary tract infection almost once a month (and sometimes both in the same month). I had dysmenorrhea and would typically miss one day of work per month due to my cycle. In the summer of 2008 I was diagnosed as pre-daibetic with metabolic syndrome and hypertension, so by the end of 2009 I was quite probably a full-fledged type II diabetic, I just never got an official diagnosis. I was falling apart mentally and physically, and scared to death of a miserable future full of multiple chronic illness and scary prescription medications, so I decided to make some drastic changes to my lifestyle. I resolved to do my research over the holidays and begin in 2010 with a new way of life.
I read up on all the conventional wisdom suggestions for weight loss, and believed in the now debunked theories of "a calorie is a calorie" (calories are all created equally, so just eat fewer of them and you'll lose weight!) and "calories in, calories out" (just exercise to create a calorie deficit, you'll lose weight!); that fat, especially saturated fat, was to be avoided at all costs; whole grains, especially whole wheat, were the ultimate health foods; meat should be avoided except for chicken breasts and fish, and meat replacement products should constitute the bulk of protein intake. I limited my portions, restricted calories, started up chronic cardio exercise (3-5x/week, 30-60 min at a time) with some machine work for strength training once or twice a week, too. My choice for cardio was running, because I couldn't stand the idea of using some man-made machine for that purpose. Just like with the food recommendations, I followed conventional wisdom for purchasing the best running shoes. They were motion control and ultra-squishy (or as I like to call them, marshmallow shoes). They were designed to "correct" over-pronation and protect my body from the shock of repeatedly pounding my heels into the ground.
I kept up this new "healthy" eating and exercising routine for several months, and in that time I didn't really see the scale budge (it would fluctuate down maybe 5-10 lbs but then creep up again) or notice my clothes fitting any better. But I sure did notice that I was hungry all the time, sore all the time, and almost felt worse than before I started! I felt so helpless and discouraged, and started to wonder if I would ever see any results.
If you've ever done this kind of routine, you know --- it is miserable ! No WONDER so many people who "go on a diet" and "start exercising" fail to achieve results or maintain the regimen for very long. It simply isn't sustainable, and all of that exercise isn't good for an overweight or obese body. I learned that the hard way: I hurt myself running. It turns out, though, that getting hurt was one of the best things that ever happened to me and ended up leading me to the Primal lifestyle.
I was so frustrated when I had to stop exercising. I felt so betrayed by the bad advice I had gotten about running, so I started seeking alternative advice. I searched for things like "how to run without injury" "are motion control shoes necessary", etc, and I found Danny Dreyer's Chi Running, and soon thereafter Chris McDougall's fabulous book Born to Run, and from there found Barefoot Ted's Google group. I devoured all of the information I could on barefoot running and immediately converted. The mechanics of proper barefoot running made so much sense to me, as I had always walked with a forefoot strike when barefoot (I have vivid memories of being teased for this as a child, but I didn't care, and continued with my "cat walking", as I called it). I was a regular on the Google group, and one fateful day somebody posted a link to Mark's Daily Apple, the companion website to Mark Sisson's book The Primal Blueprint.
I was completely blown away. Everything I thought I knew to be true about diet, health, and weight loss was all wrong. I spent the next few weeks reading as many articles as I could on his website and spending time in the forums. I cross-checked references and read what was published in the scientific literature at the time to verify that he was actually sharing valid information. Ultimately, it was the success stories on his site that gave me the final push to try it myself. All of this coincided perfectly with the September 2010 30-day Primal Blueprint Challenge, which is when I took the plunge (albeit a few days late, due to travel), and I haven't looked back since.
I lost 10 lbs and 2 inches off my waist in the first 12 days. By 1 month I was down 15 lbs and went from a pre-Primal size of 18 down to a 12.
The weight continued to fly off after that. I didn't keep super careful records of all my milestones, but by 1 year I was 80 lbs lighter (130 lbs) and in a size 6 and sometimes a 4. Just after my 2 year anniversary, I was pretty much the same weight but leaner and smaller, generally wearing size 2 or 4 but sometimes a 6, depending on the brand. Now, just after my 3 year anniversary, I actually weigh in at 140 lbs but I'm still wearing sizes 2-6 (and the same clothes I was wearing a year ago). I've added lots more body weight exercise to my routine and am definitely stronger. Also, I have also had an increase in breast size. I'm not exactly sure what to attribute this to, but I think it's due to some positive hormonal changes, because I now typically have zero negative symptoms associated with my monthly cycle. While I saw huge improvements in this area shortly after going Primal, I would still occasionally have a bad one (although it was mild in comparison to pre-primal -- I stopped missing work over it!) So, despite weighing a bit more, I'm still the same dress size, and the weight is due to some muscle gain and breast size increase (can't complain about either!). As I continue to progress, I expect to gain more weight (as lean mass) while my dress size stays the same or decreases.
Regarding my health, I noticed tremendous alleviation of my multiple gastrointestinal ailments within just a few days of being Primal. I never realized how used to feeling bloated I had gotten -- it felt so wonderful to have a calm tummy! By the end of the first week, I no longer needed antacids and acid-blockers. Within a few days I also noticed incredible new mental clarity, improved mood, lower anxiety, and improved sleep. I stopped getting acne outbreaks, and best of all: I had immediate relief from hidradenitis suppurativa, and eventually enjoyed remission of the condition. My blood pressure normalized and I regained insulin sensitivity.
In middle and high school, I was always between 115-135 lbs, but I was anywhere from a size 6-10. I now realize I was always "thin fat": so-called normal weight but very flabby and weak. Most of my life I have also struggled with low self-esteem and been very critical of my body, even before I became obese. Finally, I am able to feel confident and beautiful despite my flaws (losing 80 lbs of fat does a number on your skin), and I am strong, energized, off all medications, have reversed all of my pre-Primal ailments,and feel wonderful!
Why am I telling you all of this? Because I wish somebody had told me a lot sooner! I want my success story to inspire and help you to lose weight and regain your health. I am a scientist by training, with a Master's Degree in neuroscience from Tulane University. I know how to scrutinize a scientific journal article, and I look forward to sharing and disseminating new relevant research findings as they are published. This way of living is grounded strongly in science already, and the published evidence in favor of it is mounting steadily. Check out the Ancestral Weight Loss Registry for a lot of exciting information about the science behind the diet and other inspiring success stories. Also check out my Science page, which is a repository for relevant scientific journal articles.
On a very personal note, I am doing this website in honor and memory of my mom. She passed away suddenly due to some sort of cardiovascular event (stroke or heart attack) at the very end of June of 2012. Beginning when I first learned about paleo/primal in 2010, I started sharing all the new information I was learning with her. I always encouraged her to give it a try alongside me. Since I had such great success, it was very likely she would've seen similar rapid results, especially since she was suffering from a nearly identical ailment list. She would go through periods of compliance and report that she felt better, but that wasn't enough to reverse the disease processes going on inside her that had been brewing for decades. Unfortunately, she never committed to it fully, and lost her life at the young age of 62. Could she have reversed her significant cardiovascular disease if she had gone paleo? Possibly. But we'll never know. She was so proud of me for losing all of that weight so quickly and effortlessly, and told me how young and healthy I looked, and she encouraged me up until the very last day we ever spoke to start a website and share the information with others. So that's exactly what I've done.
Here are some additional progress photos, to show my dramatic physical transformation:
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed medical practitioner and the information presented on this website is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.
These are the books that helped me on my journey, and I think they may help you on yours, too! These are affiliate links. To learn what that means, click here.