From Introvert to Extrovert – This Was My Missing Vitality!

Testimonial written by: Dave


From Introvert to Extrovert: My story of paleo and personality change

Is it heretical in a sense to dare say that one’s personality could change to such an extent that one can shift from introvert to extrovert? Did I simply fall prey to the American ideal of extroversion which judges and belittles introverts? Am I simply an introvert who learned to put on a strong extroverted front for the world? These doubts run through my mind all the time when I experience myself these days as discontinuous from the person I was before finding paleo. My story is different than the majority of, still inspiring, people who have lost weight and made great progress towards many physical ailments. My story is physical too, but much more psychological. It begs the inquiry of how much the personality can change once the body and nervous system are functioning optimally.

As I grew into late childhood and early adolescence, I became extremely socially anxious and introverted. I remember simply not feeling right much of the time on top of this growing social anxiety. I remember some amorphous gut problems improved when I ceased drinking milk in second grade because my father had done the same at the time. But this did little to curb an extreme introversion and anxiety that grew and grew until I felt completely enfolded inside myself, as if there was a wall between myself and others in conversation. I talked in a very monotone fashion, giving people one word answers or grunts. I made my teachers insane by seeming a brilliant thinker but doing as little as possible to pass each class and never studying. I seriously did not care about grades. School didn’t seem to address the fact that I didn’t feel right. To sum up my adolescence, it was difficult and unrewarding.

When I hit young adulthood I began to open out of the shell I felt I was in and attempted everything I could to counter my personality. I went far away to college, partied and had a brief period of heavy drinking and other things. All of which only made things worse. Then I worked for the emergency services as an EMT and then a Paramedic. This was extremely difficult, as I had to learn to pry myself with force outside of my inner world to be of service to the outer world but I persevered and little by little began to become that “external person” that I always wished I could be.

Now I have heard of many introverted types who seemed to be more at peace with themselves and eventually find their niche in life that fits their personality. This was never me. I never felt like myself. There was always this sense that I had this dormant vitality that I was after but could never get at. It tormented me throughout my 20’s that I could not find the energy and vitality for life that I felt was my birthright.

Two other developments occurred in my young adulthood. First, I became interested in weightlifting and fitness nutrition. It’s much to get into but I towed the line of lower fat, especially super low saturated and anything animal fats since I was about 18 to 28. I have always been skinny with a lean and pretty ripped body of which I was never happy with because I wanted more mass. In quick summation, I am forever grateful for the ancestral health fitness paradigm for changing the way a truly fit and healthy male is seen, as opposed to the unrealistically large bodybuilder ideal. I have been cured of a poisonous body image brought on by the mainstream gym culture.

The second thing I found was an interest in self-help and psychology. I ate up everything I could on way of changing oneself. In 2007 I had an interesting peak experience which led me toward the meditative and contemplative world as well as the psychological. I researched and practiced everything I could on eastern and western approaches to change. I had many shifts and changes but to my dismay, my health began to take a downward turn in my early to mid 20’s.

I began experiencing these debilitating “fatigue spells” as I would describe them. It was like being hit by a tsunami of a brain fog and feeling like I was drowning underwater for up to 1/3 of my day at times. It truly felt like being poisoned. My mind couldn’t function. Even when I was working with patients in emergency situations. I felt severely anxious and it felt like my personality would contract inwards and I had no resources to deal with anyone or anything. Everything felt like an irritation. I played with health a little bit but not enough. I was eating nothing but lean meats, veggies, whole grains and the like. My fats consisted of peanut butter, mayonnaise, and canola oil. I felt bloated and fatigued after just about every meal.

By the end of this, I went to see a gastroenterologist who said that I may have had intestinal overgrowth and wanted to scope me. PPI’s did absolutely nothing.

Just before this, I had a partner on the ambulance who put on Fatheads at random on Netflix. Like so many others I was floored by the lipid hypothesis and went on a saturated fats binge, before ever beginning paleo at all.

Many people have noted feeling more energy and a sense of well being on whole foods diets but it hit me like a sledge hammer. I felt this heat go through my entire body. I became what would be called in psyche jargon: “subclinically hypomanic.” I was up for several days without feeling tired. It felt like every nerve in my body was firing at maximum. Every excitatory neurotransmitter seemed to be potentiated: serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine and so on. This occurred just before a trip to Maui. On my flight back I bought Robb’s book and later Sisson’s and slowly became fully paleo. I didn’t do a 30 day. I slowly worked into it over a summer. The more I cut out wheat, dairy (I’ve never liked dairy anyways), and legumes the more I felt this immense sense of energy and vitality. I also need to note that I worked on fixing my sleep and I shifted my exercise routine to be more along the lines of Mark Sisson’s recommendations.

This was 2.5 years ago and all I can say is that I feel that my nervous system has been reborn since that time. The first thing I noticed was a need to move all the time. I have always been fidgety but it became difficult to sit in one place. I was in grad school at the time and used to imagine hunting with a spear while sitting in lectures. I think that this level of energy was so new that I did not know what to do with it or how to express it.

I wanted to engage and socialize with everyone. Although extremely independent, something I have mistaken for introversion, I truly began to become more and more energized by engagement and challenge. My mind was sharpened and I became outspoken and had to learn how to temper myself to be more likeable.

THIS WAS MY MISSING VITALITY!! This was what I was always looking for! I recall these days that before this change, I simply did not have the resources to develop and deal with the stresses of adolescent life. There were many emotional and psychological issues I had on top of this, but I’m very curious to know how I could have handled other issues if I had developed with a functioning gut and nervous system.

I can now explore what made me think I was fundamentally an introvert, or in adulthood: an ambivert. When I have gone too far off paleo, such as when having much sugar, wheat, or dairy, I feel this inner sense of contracting inwards. I feel depressed and don’t want to deal with others or the world. I just want to sit at home and watch Netflix. It’s like a state of dysphoria that comes over me, and it is accompanied 100% of the time by my gut being bloated and that familiar and dreaded brain fog.
When I’m fully functioning I’m like a big ADHD kid. The average person cannot keep up with me. My mind is quick but scattered but can focus when I need to. I’m now generally fun loving and optimistic.

The last part of my story involves how I had to shift away from my older self to this new version of me in process. I had built up many self-images of myself over the years which had to come down completely. Some things have been a struggle, as I chose a new career path several years before this change based on my old self and now I have to scramble to find something that truly works for this version of me. There were limiting ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that I had to see through. There were things I was doing and not doing that I have had to take a long look at. It is as if I am slowly learning who I truly am and have never truly been myself. How can be truly be the person our genetics and existential situation predispose us to be if our entire system is poisoned, limited? I’ve been driving a car with the parking brake on for 28 years and suddenly it has been taken off. Part of me feels only 2.5 years old and is thus a seed that is slowly germinating as I realize who I am truly meant to be.

Categories: Anxiety and Depression, Featured Testimonial, Paleo Testimonials


Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation

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  1. says

    This is awesome, Dave!
    Really glad you found a way to step into the life and the personality you always knew were inside you somewhere. It’s an awful feeling, being uncomfortable in your own skin.

    Such interesting stuff. I honestly think modern psychiatry is doing a huge disservice and injustice to people when the prescription pad is the first (and often the *only*) solution. It kills me that more psychiatrists and psychologists aren’t steeped in nutrition. How many issues that are “all in our heads” are actually almost all in our *bodies?* (Maybe the causes aren’t 100% physical, but there are mountains upon mountains of evidence linking nutrient deficiencies and food sensitivities/intolerance to behavioral and personality issues.)

    I honestly think that except in extreme and utterly intractable cases of anxiety, depression, bipolar, unfounded phobias, etc., dietary and lifestyle changes should be the first course of action and medication used as a last resort if diet and lifestyle changes fail. Wishful thinking, I know.

    That being said, I don’t think introversion is necessarily a bad thing, or that indicates someone is “wired wrong” or that their diet is off-kilter. I think some people are introverts, some are extroverts. I wouldn’t want to live in a world where everyone was an extrovert. Would we ever have any silence? 😉

    And I also think introversion isn’t necessarily a “side effect” or byproduct of a wacky diet, leaky gut, or food sensitivities. If anything, I’m more inclined to see it as a *natural* response of the human animal to an *unnatural* physical and psychological environment. I talked about it more eloquently here:

    This leads me to think more counselors should dig deeper with people who are depressed, anxious, can’t leave the house, etc., and ask *WHY* they feel that way. Is their living situation totally incongruous with how they thrive? (Maybe they’re in a big city when they would do better in the country? Maybe their job is a drain…perhaps they work quietly by themselves all day when they’d prefer to be interacting and talking with people, traveling to different locations.) Again, the pill bottle is usually the first choice, rather than trying to find out *why* someone is struggling with things. Many times, it’ll have a lot to do with diet, but if you hate your job, your home, maybe even your spouse or significant other, then all the vitamin D and magnesium in the world ain’t gonna fix that. 😉

  2. DJDeeJay says

    Thanks so much for telling your story. I went through somewhat similar changes when going Paleo but not nearly to the same extent you have so I’m a little jealous of how much energy you’ve gained from your dietary and lifestyle changes. So congrats to you for figuring it out and sticking with it.

    Also, thank you for this: “I am forever grateful for the ancestral health fitness paradigm for changing the way a truly fit and healthy male is seen, as opposed to the unrealistically large bodybuilder ideal. I have been cured of a poisonous body image brought on by the mainstream gym culture.” We’re constantly made aware of women’s body image issues (as we should be, as it’s pervasive throughout our culture) but it’s nice to see this addressed for men, too. I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to see on other blogs when they post a pic of a buff celebrity and all the women’s comments are along the lines of “Wow, now there is a MAN!” or “Finally! A real man!”

    But also, I can’t tell if you have actually done research into what makes someone an introvert, extrovert or ambivert of if you’re just going by the conventional but somewhat vague ideas of those terms most people think of. If you’re really interested in how introverts and extroverts work (it has nothing to do with shyness or anxiety, even though those traits can exist in both introverts and extroverts), I would recommend reading The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney. It’s fascinating read into the neuroscience of these personality traits (not related to her or work for her – I just read this book years ago and it really helped me understand myself better).

  3. Keyzhia says

    Hi Robb, just found your site! Very glad that I found something I’ve been looking for so far, the explanation of paleo diet. Very clear that you have been explaining here.

    Also, I write some about paleolithic diet at

    Please stop by there if you have sometimes and give me your thoughts bout my blog ^_^

  4. Cindy C says

    Hi Dave,

    What saturated fat did you eat? I did start eating a lot of butter, mostly grass fed, ghee, meat fat, and coconut oil. I noticed a big change in that my social anxiety was much less, and I could start looking people in the eye. I am still somewhat of a quiet person, but nothing like I was before. Diet changes our gut bacteria, and our gut shapes our neurotransmitters. As Amy mentioned, there are things we all need to work on, besides just diet, and exercise.

  5. says

    What an awesome story to read and to see you’re journey from finding a balance with your introvert side. It’s amazing how what we eat greatly affects our body. Once starting Paleo I began to have more energy like I’d never had before. It also has helped with my performance as a Crossfitter.

  6. Vibhuti Narayan says

    Hi Dave

    After reading your testimonial, I find that it’s word to word my story of life. I am about to hit 21. I would like to have a chat with you as I had some questions. Could you please reply to this?

  7. says

    Hi Dave! I’m thrilled that you are feeling so much better! I disagree with your interpretation of what it means to be introverted versus extroverted though. In our society, being extroverted is sometimes perceived as being more desirable, but there is nothing inherently wrong with being introverted. There are a lot of misconceptions about introverted individuals, but I can assure you that we are not more depressed, unhappy, or socially awkward than extroverts. Introverted people may find large groups draining and they need more “alone time” to recharge, but we can be just as social as extroverts.

    I’m happy that you are finding balance through Paleo!

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