For some conventional medical practitioners, health management is just about writing off prescription. But from a patient’s perspective, there is more to life than just popping pills. This is the story of Jeanne Primo, one of Dr. Trish Murray‘s patients. Jeanne relates the frustration of taking 11 pills a day and not getting better. She finally took things on her own hands, sought support and is now seeing the results of her hard work. Jeanne also talks about the little steps that you can also take to start your journey to better health. Making lifestyle changes takes time. Some days could be tough but if you put to heart why you want to be healthy, things will get easier and easier.
Listen to the podcast here:
A Patient’s Perspective with Jeanne Primeau
Jeanne And Dr. Trish Discuss Jeanne’s Journey With Discover Health
Welcome to the show with my good friend and patient for a number of years, Jeanne Primeau. Jeanne, how are you doing?
I’m well. Thanks.
Jeanne has agreed to come on this show with me. She’s been a patient for a number of years. The main reason she agreed to come on with me is she‘s been so successful that she wants to be able to share with people what our mission is about. The idea that you truly can empower yourself to succeed. This is truly going to be from a patient’s perspective. I’m excited that you’re here, Jeanne, to let people know how positive life has changed for you. As you said to me, a light bulb has come on that a number of years ago now that you could take control of your health.
I’m happy to share my journey with your readers.
Why don’t we start from the beginning? What motivated you to come to see us, seek out our assistance and Discover Health?
Like many people, I was unhappy with who I was and how I felt. I felt that I was overweight. I felt that I didn’t have enough energy, that I had brain fog. I couldn’t think clearly. I wasn’t motivated in my life. The final straw that broke the camel’s back was when I went to my doctor for the umpteenth time and I left with two more prescriptions in my hand. I realized that every time I went to my doctor, I leave with yet another prescription. I said, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m not getting better. I’m on a slippery slope. I’m adding more prescriptions every visit and there has to be a better way.“
When you first came to us, how many prescription medicines were you are?
Eleven.There’s nothing like praise and encouragement to keep you going. Click To Tweet
What types of diagnoses did you have?
It started with asthma when I was in my 30s, then high blood pressure, high cholesterol. Pre–diabetes led to diabetes and thyroid. I didn’t want to know what was next.
This is common for many Americans and people in any industrialized country in the world. Our industrialized worlds are full of toxins, full of fast foods and full of foods that are packaged. That’s what we educate people about. It’s a slippery slope to the grave for many people and it’s sad. How did you get started?
I got started by coming to see you and attending way back a few years ago when you first started giving lectures that were open to the public. You were explaining about gut health and about the fact that wheat, gluten, frozen products and dairy products can affect your toxins in the environment and things that I hadn’t considered like processed foods could affect your health. It started with attending a lecture of yours and finally seeing that there was somebody that had something new to offer, not just another pill. I went home after my first visit here. I cleaned out my cupboards. I boxed up everything that wasn’t healthy, that had too much sugar, too many carbs or too many additives and preservatives. I opened my refrigerator and did the same thing. I found all the hidden sugars in my ketchup, pickles and my mustard.
Pretty much when I was done, there wasn’t a whole lot left to eat. I was a little concerned that my usual numbers of foods I could select from had dwindled. Yet I’ve come to realize that those are the things I should be eating and I’m happy to be eating them now. I went online and I started looking for healthy recipes. I developed a whole notebook of possibilities for new breakfast ideas, healthy lunches and snacks on the go and things like that. The last thing I did was I bought a notebook. I decided to track my progress. I began every day tracking my blood sugar, my blood pressure, my weight, whether I exercise and how much, what I ate for my meals and how I felt that day. I kept a journal. I found it very helpful because I can go back now and see how I started, see how far I’ve come and it surprises me.
The journal, that is a huge piece because you’re holding yourself accountable in the idea of as we go through this, maybe we’ll keep track of the different tools that you seem to use so that the readers can say, “I don’t do that,“ or “Yes, I do that.” The journal is huge. We say it and we say, “I eat pretty good. I know how to eat right.“ I’ve heard that a lot from people. You went home and you truly look through your cupboards, you look through your refrigerator and you realize, “Most of this I shouldn’t be eating.” Now it’s like empty. You realize, “I can start from here.” The other thing was to keep the journal and to write things down, “What am I doing and what am I not doing?“ Therefore, you can take control.
How am I feeling? There are ups and downs. There are times when you’re frustrated. The holidays are difficult. Putting it down on paper and being able to refer to it because I have hit some plateaus. What’s helped me is to go back and remember what recipes I was making back when I was successful. What I was doing that was different and just going back to the beginning.
I remember also at the very beginning, about a few years ago, that was when we did our first group visit type thing or group community gathering where people work together. Back then we called it the Wahls Protocol because we’ve used Dr. Terry Wahls’ protocol. Can you comment on how powerful that group was for you? There are many people from that group always come back and say that was such a powerful thing for them.
That was an amazing group of people that are committed three months of following one of the three levels of Terry Wahls Paleo Protocol and sticking with it and meeting, sharing ideas, sharing recipes. We got weighed and measured. It was a real sense of togetherness and some of us have bonded so much that we still get together this day. It taught us about journaling. It taught us about certain aspects that we didn’t think about like the infrared sauna and the exercise component, which has been huge for me. We read chapters in the book. We discussed chapters in the book. People brought things like chicken feet to share, recipes and ideas, where to pick blueberries, joining up with other people to go apple picking. The CSAs, Community Supported Agriculture, we had speakers. We learned about the health benefits of mushrooms. It was inspiring and it kept us going and moving forward.
We now do group visits on a regular basis for at least five weeks at a time. People can do one or multiple. The bottom line is that idea that people are supporting and learning together so that as you are trying to get your crutches together and go into a cane with the concept of on your own ability to be completely independent. You’re able to lean on some of the other people and learn from each other. You have been flying independently for a while as far as what you’re doing.
I do have my support system. My children, they’re married. They support what I’m doing. When I visit, I’ve told them to make sure there’s no ice cream in the fridge and that we eat healthy. They know that they need to cook healthy meals with me and get more exercise. We go for walks. They’re supportive. The interesting thing is I have found that I’m gravitating towards other people that have a healthier lifestyle. My friends have changed somewhat. I hang out with people that are doing things similar to me. We go picking berries. We go for hikes. We do healthier things and sitting and watching movies and eating popcorn.
That’s exactly what people learn as we move along. You made a choice to be healthier. The other thing start to happen naturally.
The final thing is that when you come to discover health, it’s not like a doctor’s visit where you have one visit and you don’t come back for six months. There’s always something here to bring you back. There are the podcasts, webinars, potlucks, lab reviews, lectures. There’s something it seems every month that can keep you in touch. I appreciate that.
Thank you. That’s another tool. If you will do or concept to be successful, you have to engross yourself in the lifestyle change and the fact of your new life. Everything you focus on is about being as healthy, active and well-rounded as you possibly can. That’s why I do the podcast. That’s why I do the webinar. That’s why we’re doing the community gathering where we will feed everyone. People will have fun together and do icebreaker activities because we want to build a community. The community where everyone is successful and we all bring up the weakest link. Jeanne, what was the most challenging change you had to make?
My most challenging change was not snacking. I was brought up to believe that your body was a furnace and you need to stoke it constantly throughout the day. I would snack all the time thinking that’s what you were supposed to do. It’s quite a habit to break. Now I’m eating three meals a day and I would not snack. In the evening after dinner, I still sometimes want to get up out of the chair and go snooping for something. Snacking was huge for me. Snacking is bad for me I find.Better health does not happen by chance. It happens by change. Click To Tweet
Unless someone has an issue medically, for example, with low blood sugar or if someone has something like hypothyroid where you don’t want to go too many hours between meals. Three solid meals a day should be fine for anyone with low thyroid. Let’s say someone’s trying to go twelve hours between meals, only two meals a day. Someone early on with hypothyroidism that might not be the best idea. For the majority of us and even someone well controlled on thyroid and has made a lot of the changes you have and have come to a balance, possibly doing even two meals a day or three round meals a day is fine. This concept of intermittent fasting is what is found to be the most healthy.
I have done that.
You were doing Keto.
I did Keto for two months. My weight had hit a plateau. Everything seemed to be stuck. I thought that Keto would be a good way to jump my body back into action because my body had figured out what I was doing, eating healthy and all. It decided to adapt and adjust. I had to trick it into thinking it didn’t know what I was doing. I ate Keto. I enjoyed it very much. I didn’t know if I could stay on a Ketogenic diet forever. It was a lot of planning and meal preparation. It was a little difficult like eating out, going to social events. I’m very close to Keto the way I eat right now anyways.
There’s a bit of an overlap between Paleo and Keto and the idea of low or no carbs, much more protein and good healthy fats with a foundation of color and fruits and vegetables, but the lower glycemic fruits like berries. We haven’t set to people yet. Let’s make sure people realize how successful you have been. You started out on eleven prescription medicines. How many prescription medicines are you on now?
I‘m still on five of them.
You cut out six. You cut out more than 50%.
My cholesterol is normal. My blood sugar is getting better. My blood pressure is much better. I’ve seen good results in my blood work.
How much weight have you lost?
I have lost 68 pounds in a few years nicely and slowly so that I’ll keep it off.
How about your energy?
I finished four hours of heavy yard work and I’m not even tired. I could not walk around my block a few years ago without resting when I got home.
Women don’t like to tell their age, but is it all right if we ask you your age so people know?
I’m 71 and my primary care doctor says that I’m her only patient that is getting younger, not older. It thrills me to hear that. She has come on board. She’s always supported me throughout this process. Although we’ve had a few arguments about certain medications or blood tests I wanted her to run. She would if I justified them, but she is so on board and has been supportive.
You want to find if you are working out there with primary care who is a functional medicine provider, that’s the optimal world. If you’re working with someone like myself, I’m a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and I was a primary care doctor in the past, but I’m out independently on my own. It’s very difficult me to be a primary care doctor. I choose not to be and to remain a specialist within the functional medicine world and the osteopathic manipulative medicine world. Each of my patients is required to have a primary care doctor. It’s obviously optimal if we can find one that will work collaboratively with our concepts. Jeanne has been lucky enough to find that with Dr. Hamilton here in Conway, New Hampshire. How do you stay on track?
I stay on track because I reflect back. I have a picture of myself at my highest weight. I was up 248 pounds. I don’t even look like myself. People can’t even recognize me from my picture. That’s on my fridge. I also have my creed on my fridge, my mission statement. I review that from time to time. I’m out and about a lot and people are complimenting me as they see me lose the weight and asking me how I’ve done it and making me feel good. That positive reinforcement, there’s nothing like praise and encouragement to keep you going. I have trouble during the holidays, but whereas I used to think like, “It’s all over. I may as well go get ice cream because I blew it.“ I don’t go as far out of off the deep end as I used to. I catch myself quicker. I forgive myself or sometimes I knowingly go into a situation deciding upfront. I’m going to have this. That’s all I’m going to have and it’s fine.You can facilitate your body’s healing abilities by providing it with the best nutrition possible. Click To Tweet
That’s what people also have to understand is habitual lifestyle changes takes time. You maybe sometimes going to take three steps forward and two steps back. Sometimes you’re going to take one step forward and three steps back. The point is you get back on the horse. You keep looking forward. You mentioned this idea now. I’d love for people to know more about this. Your mission statement, I love that. What is that? How did it come about? Will you share it with people?
Sometimes when I’m having a tough time, I say to myself, “How bad do you want this? How bad do you want to feel better, get better, live long enough to enjoy your grandchildren, be around and have a good quality of life? If you want it bad enough, you know what to do.” I sat down one day when I was feeling impassioned and I wrote down my mission statement, which is from the heart. It says, “I want to improve my health starting at the cellular level. My job is to facilitate my body‘s incredible healing abilities by providing it with the best nutrition possible so that my faulty and broken cells can be replaced with healthy ones that will become the building blocks to better health. As I work at promoting healthier cells and organs in my body, I will also use exercise and stress reduction to be the best me I can be. Better health does not happen by chance. It happens by change.” It moves me every time I read it because it took me a long time to realize that I could do it.
You said, in the beginning, a light bulb came on. Comment on that for people.
It’s easy to say, “I’m going to lose weight. I’m not going to eat sweets anymore.” Those cravings are undeniable. They’re like an addiction. When I came here, I realized that you could lose the cravings that certain foods created, cravings, potato chip manufacturers know that we’re going to crave more than one and sugar makes you crave. As soon as I could get rid of my cravings, I didn’t have any problem with eating healthy. I could never walk by a dessert table without wanting one of everything. I don’t even need to go to the dessert table. I find that amazing.
The other thing for people to understand in terms of size on the point you’re making right now, Jeanne, is that not only is it the food like the potato chip makers like you say and the commercial food producers putting more sugar in foods so that we become addicted. People also need to understand is that what you feed your microbiome, the bacteria that you live in a symbiotic relationship with is determining which bugs you’re living in that symbiotic relationship with. Those bugs want you to feed them what they want. Some of those cravings are coming also from your microbiome if you have the wrong bugs running your neighborhood, the wrong gang. That gang is also pushing you around a little bit. My point here is that for people sometimes it can be an eye–opener to say, “I don’t want the bacteria and yeast that I’m living in relationship with to be telling me what to eat.“ You’re going to have to stand up to them because they can be pretty pushy. My point is they’re causing your cravings. If you realize that it’s like, “I want to be in control here. Not the companies making the food and not the bugs that are living in and on me.“
It may be mad that food manufacturers know what they’re doing and they’re making us want to buy more and eat more. I look around and the American population is getting heavier and moving less. I didn’t want to be one of the sheep.
You talked about support and a support system. Do you want to comment more about that with people?
There’s more and more awareness, especially in this area because of you and your message. There’s more and more awareness in the media that we need to eat healthier. We need to avoid processed foods. I find it easy to find people who are supportive of what I’m doing as well as the new friends I’ve met. Finding stores to shop and to buy the products. More and more grocery stores are adding healthier foods, sections that are gluten–free and carrying almond milk and coconut milk. I’m finding restaurants that have gluten–free meals and healthier meals to eat at. I find that there’s support everywhere if you know where to look and if you ask around.
Has anything about this journey surprised you?
I’m surprised looking back at how easy it is now. It wasn’t easy in the beginning. It took a lot of adjustments. If you’re used to always having bacon, eggs and toast for breakfast. It’s an adjustment to change what you eat in the morning and how you fuel your body. A few years later, it comes so naturally to me to eat right. I have changed that habit completely. That it works. It does work.
If people look in the mirror, I say it’s first every day, every once a week at least. As time goes by, it’s like if you look in the mirror once a month, once every couple months, and you say to yourself, “Wow.” Not just looking physically, but the idea if you think to yourself, what’s working, what’s not working? You say to yourself, “I don’t eat any, for example, that anymore. Look at the level of exercise I’m able to do. Look at how much more happy I am.” There are going to be things that you may say, “I’m not doing this or I’m not doing that yet.” You make your new decisions and your new goals because we’re constantly changing our goals and things. That’s another question about exercise. In the beginning, what level of exercise were you doing and how is that different now?
I hold you responsible. Most doctors will not say to you, “You need to lose weight. You need to exercise.” They’re afraid of offending us nowadays that they won’t say what needs to be said. I’ll never forget that you said to me, “Jeanne, I want you to pick an exercise to do and I don’t want you to tell me you’re going to do it. Pick something you’re going to do because I can talk a good story.” Follow through wasn’t great. I thought to myself, “What’s the easiest exercise I can do?” I chose the water aerobics. It was a very good start for me because when you exercise in the water, you have more flexibility. You can do things that you can’t do on land. I can do deep squats. I can twist further and jump higher. That was a good exercise. It was easy on my weights. I started doing bone builders because I thought that would be easy.
It’s for seniors. I thought it would be a bunch of little old ladies sitting in a chair. When I went the first time, I was shocked by what they could do that I couldn’t even do. I was younger than them. They use arm weights and leg weights and use a program designed specifically for seniors by Tufts University for flexibility, strength and resistance. A few years later, I am now the leader of the Bone Builders Class. I graduated from no weights up to three-pound weights, which is great. You keep increasing your weight as you reach the point where you can tolerate the next level. Finally, I felt that I still needed one more thing and that would be cardio. I’m doing the treadmill, the recumbent bike and stretching always. I have a nice well-rounded workouts schedule.
How many days a week do you work out?
It’s every day. Sometimes two exercises a day. My life does center around exercise a little bit because certain things have times where you must go at a specific time. In addition to that, I garden. I kayak. I am so different than the person I was a few years ago. I remind myself of myself in my 40s.
We all need to have a little bit of a mix between weight resistance type stuff or anaerobic where you’re not using too much oxygen to do it and aerobic where you’re doing the treadmill and cardio where you require ongoing intake of oxygen more to be able to maintain the exercise. That is the optimal mix is to have anaerobic and aerobic type exercise and to mix it up. Those people that walk into a gym three days a week or four days a week, whatever it might be, and do the exact same workout every time are not going to be doing as well as someone who mixes it up and does gardening now and goes to the gym tomorrow and gets on the treadmill or their bike the next day. Mixes up the type of exercise.
You’re using a specific set of muscles over and over. I’m trying to work every part of my body in different ways.As soon as you could get rid of your cravings, you won’t have any problem with eating healthy. Click To Tweet
Not let your body get used to it because there’s something called muscle memory. The idea is the muscles say, “She’s going to do the same workout she always does and we’re ready to go and no big deal. It’s not hard.“ We’re going to plateau and we’re not going to get our steps forward and make more progress. That’s awesome that you’ve mixed it up and you learned that on your own.
There are days when I don’t want to go and do the cardio. What I tell myself is you have to do ten minutes on each machine, not twenty. I go there and I do the ten and I say, “You can do the other ten.” It works every time.
We even learn our own mind games over yourself. This has been fantastic. Thank you so much, Jeanne. Do you have any tips for other people who want to feel better? What would be your final comments? I’m also going to ask you for the one secret that you think would be your top secret for your success.
People need to start, not make excuses, start. Put one toe in the water so to speak. Anything you do that’s a positive movement towards your ultimate goal will at least get you started. Maybe give up bread, maybe go and buy a notebook and journal about how you feel. Maybe find a couple of new recipes. Change what you eat for breakfast or stop having bread for sandwiches at lunch and have something different, take one step because that’s what I did. One step at a time, one day at a time, always pointed towards my goal. Steadfastly it’s like walking into the wind, keep your head down and keep moving forward.
That is the one tip that people would walk away with and the fact put your toe in the water, start, do something that you would look in the mirror and look at yourself and say, “That’s the one thing I will commit myself to and I will do.” See how fast that leads to the next step as long as you’re being consistent in the next step and the next step. Some of the things to summarize and the tools that have come through, what Jeanne has said and how well she has done, we started out with looking through the cupboards, the refrigerator and looking at the ingredients in the different packaged products that are there and realizing how much sugar, how much toxins are truly in all that food. Learning how to take those things out and then realizing, let’s say 50%, 60%, 70% of what that was in there was a problem. Learning how to fill it with healthier things.
Next was to keep a journal. I can’t emphasize to write your goals down and to take a journal every day. How are you feeling? What’s been good? What’s your peach and what’s your pit? I liked that. Let’s do that with your family at meals even, what was your peach? Your favorite thing that happened and not always emphasizes the positive, but what was the pit too, why and support someone through that. You can do that with your own journaling. You can also share things with your family. Leading to the next tool, which is to find a community and your support system. Whether that’s going to be combined with your family or whether that’s going to be a group outside your house.
Hopefully both. Whether that’s going to also be through a medical providers’ community to help you support you with group visits and other things. Another one is the other tool you mentioned for us, Jeanne and I love it, is this whole concept of sitting down and thinking through a mission statement. Someone can keep on the refrigerator or up on their wall in their bedroom or in their bathroom or wherever it needs to be. They’re going to see it and remind themselves every day on a consistent basis of what their goals are and why they want to make these changes. The final one that I wrote down as we’ve been talking, if you have another one that I missed, start put your toe in the water and make some positive change for yourself. You’ll be shocked at how many changes start happening automatically. Would that be about the main things we wanted to hit on, Jeanne?
That would be it. My secret tip, it’s not a huge thing. It’s that every morning I make a cup of coffee and sit at the breakfast table. I plan what I am going to eat that day for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner. I make sure I have that food in the fridge or I put it on my shopping list. I don’t wait until noon and starving and go searching around for what to eat. I know what I’m going to eat and I plan ahead so I have that food ready. If I’m going on a car trip, I make sure I’ve got a healthy snack in the car because there’s no rest area that I’m aware of that has a healthy snack that you can grab.
When you‘ve been driving for five hours, you’re starving and you’ll eat anything. I have a cooler and I have my food. If you go to a party, graduation, anything, I always bring two things that I can eat. I went to a birthday party. The only thing I could eat at the entire party was the vegetable platter. They had pizzas. They had some sandwiches, chips, cookies and brownies. I had brought a small container of chicken salad. I had brought what I used to do is to buy a gluten–free brownie so that I would stay away from the other treats. I don’t even crave that. I always show up with chicken salad wherever I go.
The last tool she’s given you is the ultimate secret is to plan ahead and plan your day so that you’re not driving around hungry and saying, “I don’t have anything and I don’t know what to do.” You pull into the local gas station and buy a candy bar. That is not going to help you get where you want to go. Jeanne, that’s been so helpful. I hope everybody in the world will read this because, at the age of 71 years old, you’ve lost 68 pounds. You’ve dropped from eleven medications to five. You’re doing fantastic.
I am. I’m going to continue that life too.
Take care, everyone. Thanks for reading.