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A Young Woman's Wellness Journey

For the First Time In My 24 Years of Life, I am Happy. 

I’ve wanted to submit a success story for quite some time now, but I wasn’t sure if I should. After all, I’m still very much a work in progress.

My life didn’t start so differently than most other kids born in the late 80s – the era of low-fat. We always had a plentiful supply of margarine, and no one batted an eye when I put the box of Lucky Charms cereal in the shopping cart. PopTarts were my absolute favorite food, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was my staple lunch. My weight as a kid was always on the high end of normal, but it was still normal, so no one said a word when I polished off whole baguettes as “snacks.”

This story is about much more than weight, because for the first time in my 24 years of life I am happy. I am not in pain. I don’t have days where I feel like I want to end it all. I’m not angry with people. I feel energized. I don’t need ADHD medication anymore.

Starting around the time I was nine or ten, I used to get the worst stomachaches. My mom assumed it was a dairy issue and never thought about it any further. She never made any attempt to remedy the situation further than handing me a heating pad. These stomachaches were so bad I’d have to miss school some days. I would sit crunched over crying just assuming this was normal.

Summers were the best. There was a swimming pool in our townhouse association and I spent nearly everyday swimming, but I was ALWAYS sunburned. Several times I blistered over, even if I wore sunscreen. I once got sunburn on a cloudy day in February standing outside for only 30 minutes. I live in Chicago. That’s nearly impossible. (Hello, inflammation!)

Things started getting worse. In addition to the massive stomachaches, I started to get rashes on a daily basis. Then came the itchy hives. My parents took me to the doctor and she drew blood for an allergy test. We got the results back, and were informed that I only had one true allergy, but the data isn’t always reliable. It also showed somewhere close to 30 “sensitivities.” My parents tried to do the rotation diet my doctor gave us, but I was 13… not exactly the most cooperative age. The only thing that stuck was that I liked the super sweet soy milk better than cow’s milk. So the rashes and hives continued.

My teen years were a mess of acne medications and depression. I came dangerously close to suicide more than a handful of times. Rainy days would have me in tears with a razor in my hand. Of course I was depressed. When my body needed nutrients the most, I was eating Pop Tarts, adding sugar to my Rice Krispies in soy milk and avoiding the sun. I wish my parents knew the effects the food they chose to keep in the house had on me.

Things continued like this through high school, and the depression reached an all time high. I decided to go vegetarian because I saw some misguided animal cruelty propaganda. Then my dad passed away when I was 17. I was not a happy teenager, and I certainly wasn’t healthy. The stomachaches evolved into nearly twice daily diarrhea by this point, and my new favorite foods were “chicken” nuggets and breadsticks. I hated gym class. I couldn’t finish a mile in under 15 minutes. My knees ached. Climbing a single staircase left me winded. I failed most of the mandatory physical assessments. But still, I wasn’t overweight, so no one really thought food could be a problem.

I went to college, and I got worse. Unlimited cafeteria pizza, pasta and dessert do that! I also naturally started drinking. I was packing on the pounds at an alarming rate. The freshman 15 was no match for my freshman 40.

My stomach problems worsened still. The diarrhea was up to three times a day with the most crippling pain. It’s best described as a tiny monster clawing through my intestines.

I dropped out after only a year and in a moment of absolute total frustration I cried to my mom about how I couldn’t concentrate. Everything was always foggy. She took me to the doctor. He prescribed Ritalin.

We finally arrive two years later when I was 22. I was carrying around 185 lbs on my 5’3″ frame. I was miserable. I was angry all the time. I was ready to end my life. Something needed to change, and it was just one totally innocent comment from my boyfriend’s mom that set things in motion. “I try not to drink orange juice. It has too many carbs and I can’t keep my weight down.”

Hmm. Carbs.

So in October of 2012 I went on the Atkins diet. I lost 25 lbs the first month! (I should say that I was already eating meat again. Said boyfriend brought me back to the dark side with the most DELICIOUS chicken quesadilla when we were in college.) One thing lead to another, and in my low-carb quest I stumbled upon MDA (Mark's Daily Apple: a website).

My life was changed forever. Immediately my moods were better. My skin cleared up. I threw away my Ritalin. The weight kept melting off. I wasn’t even exercising! It was amazing. By August of the next year I was the slimmest I had ever remembered being. 120 lbs felt a lot better on my 5’3″ frame than 180 ever did. No more achy knees. No more foggy brain. Most importantly – no more thoughts of suicide! It took another year for my stomach to solve itself (and diligent probiotics!) but I don’t ever have digestive issues anymore unless I slip up.

(Before Photo: Wearing black top & jeans)

(After Photo: With my dog Zeppelin)

That isn’t the best part yet. The best part is helping the people I love to change their lives too. Remember that boyfriend? We got married. His parents are avid Primal enthusiasts now too. My mother in law is a nurse, and she preaches The Primal Blueprint to her coworkers and patients. (And anyone who will listen. And even people who don’t listen. Really she just can’t stop talking about it!)

My husband and I now have a baby Grokette! I’m eight months postpartum, and even though my body is still clinging onto an extra 15 lbs (necessary for breastfeeding, I assume), I am still 100% dedicated. I’ve started working out for the first time in my life, and after even only a month my body is changing yet again.

Everything about my health is awesome now and it’s all your fault, Mark! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You quite literally saved my life.♥

- Cherice -

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