Quinoa Was Killing Me: The Importance of Fixing Our Biggest Problem First

Why identifying (and fixing) your #1 problem is the key to long-term health

By Mark Hamblin

It was late afternoon on a Thursday in sunny Palo Alto, California.  I was leaving my doctor’s office, pondering what he had told me just a few minutes earlier.

I thought, “Well, I better do some research on Google when I get home.  It’s time I start getting healthy for once and figure out how I can lower my blood pressure.”

After all, I was convinced that WAS my biggest problem — my high blood pressure — especially since I did have some history of cardiovascular problems in my family.

…Or so I thought at the time.

Sure, I was already obese, weighing (only) just over 300 pounds at the time (on my way to 400+).  But the only thing that was REALLY “wrong” with me, on paper at least, was my slightly elevated blood pressure.  My weight?  Nah… that wasn’t causing any REAL problems, at least nothing that could be written in black and white on a lab report.

So, sure enough, I went on a bit of a “health kick” for a while to lower my blood pressure.

I consulted with all-knowing Google and figured out what foods are good for lowering blood pressure.

I started making “healthy choices” at my office cafeteria, opting for whole wheat tortillas for my overstuffed burritos rather than those “much unhealthier” white-flour based ones.

I started taking a daily vitamin.

I started buying everything organic and was shopping at Whole Foods instead of my regular “big box” grocery store.  I mean, if I’m buying the super-fancy expensive food, then it MUST be healthier, right?

Oh, and I even started eating quinoa… you know, that amazing super-food that is so healthy that you actually add 10 years to your life every time you eat it?!

So, that must be how I started getting my health under control, right?


Over the next few months I gained even more weight, my blood pressure didn’t improve, and I was continuing to go trudge farther down the road of poor health.

My “healthy choices” were actually making my problem worse…

The Right Solution for the Wrong Problem

Since you’re a smart person, my dear blog reader, you can already see where I went wrong…

I was focused on fixing the wrong problem.

I was focused on trying to lower my blood pressure, but that was merely a symptom of a much larger underlying problem.

Using 20/20 hindsight, my obesity was obviously the real culprit, which in-turn led to the high blood pressure.

I may have been eating “healthy” foods, but it wasn’t “healthy” for my particular situation. I was making my already-bad insulin resistance worse by eating huge amounts of carbs, and I was probably eating too much quantity overall.  (Quinoa is actually very high in carbohydrates, FYI.)

And most definitely, I was being a little bit stubborn, ignorant, and dishonest with myself about what my REAL problem was to begin with.

The good news is that I did eventually figure out my #1 problem.  And since then, I was able to lose over 200 pounds on the Ketogenic Diet, improving literally every single health marker I’ve had measured… dramatically.  Including my blood pressure.

But even then, it took a lot more emotional stress, more weight gain, more health complications, and external motivations to finally get me into action.

And most certainly, I lost some time.  Time that I could have been enjoying life in better health, and maybe even some time off my life.

Figure Out Your #1 (Health) Problem & Prioritize That

Looking around at the society we all live in, it’s easy to see how we can lose sight of our real health priorities just as I did.

We are bombarded by news headlines and food labels telling us what is healthy and what is not.  Things like “Eat These 7 Things to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer” or “Take This Vitamin To Improve Mental Focus.”  And of course all the “Organic / Non-GMO / Healthy” buzzwords plastered all over food labels these days.

All those words are certainly appealing and attractive — we feel great when we make “healthy” choices.  And, in fact, many of those things probably are healthy for us…

But for many of us, myself included, they don’t necessarily do ANYTHING to address our #1 health problem.

They’re just distractions.  Distractions that waste our limited time and effort and lead us down the wrong path.  Just fancy window dressing on a dilapidated house.

If you are significantly overweight like I was, there’s a good chance that the weight is your #1 health issue.  And most likely the root cause of your #2, #3, #4, and #5 health issues.  If so, then focus on doing things to address that, AND ONLY THAT.  The rest of your health will likely miraculously improve along with it like it did for me.  You can worry about the small stuff once you fix the big stuff.

Organic foods?  Great, but don’t pick those thinking you’re now all of a sudden being “healthy.”

“Whole” foods?  (As in Whole30)  Fine, but you’re probably better off skipping all the carbohydrates — that’s more important for your situation.

Un-processed foods?  Fantastic, but not at the expense of your weight loss, at least not for now.

I think you get my point…

Give the Ketogenic Diet a try — I think you’ll like it.

So You’re Saying To Lose Weight At All Costs?

My only point is that you should be honest about what your real health issues are, and focus on your #1.

Perhaps weight and insulin resistance are not your #1, and maybe you just want to lose 10 pounds to look better at the beach.  That’s totally fine — maybe you have a different #1 health issue to focus on.

And if you are overweight, maybe you’re now thinking that you should rush out and get bariatric surgery to fix your weight problem quickly… that sure is focused action.  But just like my logic from above, I don’t think that’s actually fixing the real underlying problem — it’s just treating the symptoms.  And there are better, safer, more sustainable ways to do it, such as Keto + Exercise.

Moral Of The Story?

Identify your #1 health issue, and be honest with yourself.

Focus on fixing that, and only that.

Ignore the rest.

Everything will get better as a result.

It certainly did for me.


Keep it real, and keep it Keto.


Mark Hamblin

Mark is a Keto Diet blogger, author, and coach, helping people all over the world reach their individual weight-loss goals. He has been following the Ketogenic Diet himself since 2013, achieving a staggering transformation from a very unhealthy 405 pounds to 195 pounds today. As a day-job, he works as an executive in the global electronics industry. He splits his time between San Francisco, Copenhagen, and China.
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