Primal Success Story: Johanna

So, lots of people think that Oatmeal and I are crazy for eating the way that we do. Even though I’m known to have dessert or a cheat meal once in a while, we still catch a lot of comments from people who think that eating clean and avoiding processed food and grains is “extreme” and “unrealistic.” The worst, though, is when we hear the following:

“Oh, well just wait until you have kids. You won’t be able to eat so healthy anymore. You’ll just feed the kids whatever they will eat, and you will not have the time to plan your own meals the way you do now!”

I never really want to respond to this comment, because, well, it’s true! I don’t have kids! So, it’s pretty easy for Oatmeal and I. I have no doubt that it’s a totally different ballgame to eat healthy once you have wee ones. But, ironically, the person who actually talked me into this Primal Lifestyle is… none other than a busy stay at home mom of two small children. I still remember complaining to her that “I won’t have time to cook!” or “It just sounds so much more expensive!” But you know, she had no problem reminding me that if she and her husband could do it on one income with two kids, then Oatmeal and I could certainly do it on two incomes with zero kids. So yeah, she had a point there. Darn, the truth hurts!

So read below about Johanna and how she keeps herself, her husband, and her two kids (Addison, 3.5 and Watson, 20 months) eating Primal.

Johanna's Family: Johanna, James, Addison (3.5 years) and Watson (20 months)

1. I’ve been Primal/Paleo since: February 2011

2. True or False: Before going Primal/Paleo, I thought I could never do it. True. I thought it sounded crazy, and that I would never be able to do it. I especially thought it would be impossible to do with my husband and kids.

3. The one food I thought I could NEVER give up: Cereal. I used to love to eat it all the time, but now I haven’t had any cereal in over a year. As for my husband, he thought he could not live without pasta, but he has survived. Luckily I still get to have my chocolate. 🙂

4. The most overwhelming/intimidating aspect of this transitioning to this lifestyle for me was: Honestly the entire transition was overwhelming to me because there is just so much to learn. I not only had to relearn how to feed myself, but my entire family. I am the kind of person that once I decide something, it is going to happen immediately! My husband must have thought I was crazy when I cleared all non-primal and non-paleo food out of our house, which left our pantry pretty empty.

5. The person who was the most supportive when I was going Paleo/Primal was: My husband. It took him a little while to get on board when he realized there would not be pasta for dinner every night, but now he is 100% supportive. Luckily my friends and family have all been really supportive as well.

6. The best resource I found to help me go paleo/primal was: The first books I read were the Primal Blueprint by Mark Sissons and the Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf. They laid an excellent foundation. I also loved the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. Now that I understand it, my main resources are just websites and blogs for meal ideas. I like Everyday Paleo, Wellness Mama, and NomNom Paleo just to name a few, but I am googling recipe ideas on a daily basis.

7. Of all the people I told about my new lifestyle, the person(s) who thought that I was the MOST insane was: Probably my husband and my mother, but only in the beginning. My husband did not think he could live without weekly Whataburger trips and nightly pasta. My mom was worried that my family would not get enough fiber, but then I informed her we would be eating fruits and veggies!

8. My favorite primal snack is: I really try to limit my snacking and instead eat very filling meals, but I love cashews, boiled eggs, and smoothies. The snacks that I feed my kids are usually more filling and have more carbohydrates, because the kids need the carbs. They snack on Lara Bars, any variety of fruit, raisins, nitrate free lunch meat, beef jerky, freeze dried fruits without any sugar, nuts, sesame crackers, frozen blueberries, and the list goes on….

9. My favorite primal meal is: Anything with bacon! Another of my favorites (because it is so easy and tasty) is ground beef tacos wrapped in lettuce and topped with avocado and salsa, or just a taco salad. I also love pork shoulder with cauliflower mashed potatoes and broccoli.

10. Did you and your family ease into this lifestyle, or did you dive in all at once? I jumped in all at once, but the transition for my family was slower. I cleared all of the non-primal/paleo food from our home, but it was still possible for them to make non-primal food choices outside of the house. My kids actually adapted really fast. My daughter was 2.5 at the time, and she did ask for waffles and crackers for about 2 months. My husband took longer than the kids to catch on, but soon he realized how bad he felt physically after indulging himself with whatever restaurant food he wanted when he wasn’t eating at home.

11. How often do you “cheat” and what is your favorite “cheat meal”? I really don’t cheat very often, because when I do I truly pay for it later. But, when I do it’s usually on a really great dessert. That is the only time it is worth it to me. I don’t keep any traditional desserts at home, so it only happens on special occasions and it has to be something really good. Since I don’t eat sugar very often anymore, most desserts don’t taste as good as they once did anyway. I usually just stick to snacking on good dark chocolate at home.

12. How often do you eat foods that contain gluten and/or dairy? I really try to avoid gluten and it is very easy for me because I don’t keep anything with gluten or wheat at home and we rarely eat out. So, I may eat gluten once a month or so and it would be outside of the home. I am more relaxed about dairy, but my family doesn’t eat it on a regular basis. We probably eat dairy once a week or so, usually cheese.

13. How often do you exercise? Usually 6 days a week. My main exercise is Crossfit 3-4 times a week, and I go on walks with my kids twice a week. Sometimes when I’m at home or at the park with the kids I will do ab exercises, air squats or pushups. I keep it simple and encourage the kids to do it with me, which they like.

14. What types of meals do you prepare for your kids on a daily basis? My kids eat what my husband and I eat, with some slight modifications. For example they eat more fruit than we do. For breakfast I feed them eggs, meat (bacon, sausage or ham) and fruit. Sometimes I will make paleo pancakes or paleo muffins with fruit, or a breakfast smoothie (coconut milk, banana, berries, avocado and protein powder). Lunches are usually just leftovers including a meat and vegetable. Sometimes as a treat they get a gluten free tortilla. For dinner they eat what my husband and I eat, meat and vegetables, unless it’s spicy and then I modify it for them to avoid the spiciness. I did give my kids milk when they were young, but now all they drink is water. I don’t give them juice at all, other than what they get their hands on at the occasional birthday party.

15. How do you handle social functions with your family (ie family dinners, other kids’ birthday parties, etc?): Social functions are really hard, and I just have to try not to worry. I make sure we eat at home 90% of the time, and the kids eat my food 21 meals of the week, so if one meal every so often isn’t the best I try not to stress. I usually don’t mind if they have a few chips or a cupcake at a birthday party, though I do pay for it later when they are having tantrums or meltdowns from sugar highs. Luckily with our 20 month old, he doesn’t even really know what sweets are. Our 3.5 year old is another story. She can spot a cupcake from very far away! I will let her have one on those special occasions, but I try to be tricky by scraping most of the icing off of it when she isn’t looking! As for family events, we are lucky that both my parents and my in-laws are very respectful of our eating and will cook something we can eat, so that has not been an issue.

16. How much time do you spend planning meals for your family? When I am on top of things, which doesn’t happen often, I plan our meals on Sundays and it takes about 30 minutes. Otherwise, I just make sure to stock up on meat and veggies and make things up as the week goes on. Most days I am googling recipes on my iPhone, using key words of ingredients that I already have at home and need to use. Once I got our fridge and pantry stocked with good ingredients, it is pretty easy to cook.

17. How much do you spend on your weekly groceries? Do you think it’s reasonable? I don’t have an exact number because I buy so much food in bulk, and I buy from many different sources. I mainly shop from HEB or Costco. Most of our meat comes from a farm that will deliver into the city, and I try to get our produce mostly from a co-op. My estimate is that we spend $200 per week on food for our family of four. I think that is very reasonable considering we do not eat out, my husband always has a packed lunch, and we are eating such good quality food.

18. What changes (immediate and long term) have you seen in the way you look and feel? the way your family looks and feels? Hmmm… there are so many things. First of all, I look way better. My body composition has changed dramatically, I have less overall body fat and much less cellulite. I also just feel better and am more happy in general. I can tell when I cheat, because I feel more edgy and anxious about daily life. My husband has also seen great changes. His mind is more clear and focused and if he cheats he feels foggy and gets gassy, too. 🙂 I feel great about feeding my kids this way because I know it is the best thing for them. They are healthy kids and pretty well behaved when they eat well. I definitely pay for it when they eat processed/sugary foods. They are harder to judge because they are so young and changing every day. A 3.5 year old and 20 month old are unpredictable, so it’s hard to tell! Overall I just feel good knowing I am putting the healthiest food possible on the table, and hopefully we will lead healthy lives because of it.

19. What advice do you have for other moms who are trying to transition their families to a more healthy lifestyle? First you need to read a book or research online, because you have to truly believe it is the best way of eating. I also think if you or your kids have a health or behavior problem, it is a great idea to rule out a possible diet issue as the root cause. I believe you are what you eat, your gut is connected to the rest of your body! Once you decide it’s the healthiest way to feed your family, just do it. Just do it for 30 days and see what happens. Kids are more adaptable than you think, and if the food is not in the house, they can’t eat it. I truly think you have to remove ALL the non-paleo or non-primal food from your home in order to succeed. You will have cravings for those conventional foods while you adjust, and it will be too easy to cave if it is nearby. Remember there are paleo substitutes for just about any recipe, we make paleo pancakes or paleo muffins all the time. Breakfast can be the hardest meal to change (kids are used to cereal, waffles, pancakes) so just make paleo substitutes for them. Also, in the beginning it does take so much time and planning, but it gets better!

20. You’ve had two kids and lost the baby weight, but you didn’t begin eating this way until your youngest child was already 7 months old. Do you think it would have been easier to lose baby weight if you had eaten this way while pregnant? Losing weight after the kids without eating Primal was challenging, it took about 10 months with each of them. But, once I started eating this way and working out at Crossfit, the change in my body composition was dramatic. I contribute that to my diet and the Crossfit.

I don’t know about you, but I get a lot of inspiration from Johanna. Scroll down to view some pictures of her, before and after her switch to Primal living.

Johanna after running a half-marathon, taken well before she began eating Primal and beginning Crossfit.

Johanna with her daughter, Addison, roughly 9 months after having her.

Johanna with her daughter, Addison, at about 9 months old.

Johanna and her husband, James, before switching to the Primal lifestyle.

Johanna's Pre-Challenge Photos, taken just after she lost her baby weight. In this photo she had just begun eating Primal and going to Crossfit.

A behind picture of Johanna (taken the same day as the photo above)

Johanna at the end of her initial challenge, just 4.5 months after switching to Primal eating and working out at Crossfit.

Johanna, 4.5 months after switching to Primal eating and going to Crossfit. (Taken same day as picture above.)

A recent picture of Johanna at her Crossfit gym, in great shape after a year of Primal eating!

Recent picture of Johanna at Crossfit.

Recent picture of Johanna at Crossfit.

Recent picture of Johanna at Crossfit.

Photo credits: Many thanks to the Crossfit 1525 Location in Houston, Texas, for posting the above pictures on Facebook!

A recent picture of Johanna and her crazy munchkins!

Johanna, husband James, and friends at a recent wedding event.

Okay, I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired! I will definitely be reading and rereading this post in the near future – especially after I have my baby and begin my mission to lose the baby weight!

Have a great weekend!

Please contact us if you have switched to Primal and/or Paleo eating and would like to be featured on our blog.  It is very easy, we just send you a questionnaire for you to fill out and ask you to send us pictures.  You can proof the blog before it is published, and it’s a great way to stay motivated and share ideas!  Click on the Success Story tab above to also read Jessica’s story.


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  1. Loving your inspiration stories! I so need them! 🙂


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