Recently, I’ve introducing the Paleo Diet to my readers as simply as I can. In Part 1, I explained the premise and in Part 2, I tried to express the great and terrible things that can happen when you try to turn a life style change into a fad diet. Now I would like to talk about my favorite subject.
Just kidding. Well, sort of. I’m not that much of an ego maniac but I do want to spend Part 3 talking about my own personal journey and changes throughout the past year or so.
First off, let’s talk about the weight loss. Weight loss can be fantastic but I also don’t think that it should be the focus over health. But many times it’s what brings people to the Paleo Diet. It’s what originally got me interested. I was one of those lucky people who was born with a monster metabolism. I could put away more food that most grown men, and at 5 foot and 6 inches, I still only weighted 110 pounds my freshman year of high school. And I stayed pretty small until about 21 or 22, and slowly the weight started creeping up. Nothing major, though, this is not one those miracle stories, but it still crept up. By about 22, (with the help of working in a restaurant and let’s face it, way too much beer and box wine) I made it up to 146 lbs. And yes, I know that’s not a lot but I had two things working against me. One is that I am a very slender build and those love handles were painfully noticeable. Two is that even though I knew looking at the scale that I had gained weight, I couldn’t figure how to dress like I gained weight. I kept grabbing shirts off the rack that were way too small or pants that were incredibly tight around my bloated stomach. And as I’m sure many of you know, nothing will send into the arms of a glass of wine and bucket of ice cream faster than feeling like you’re too fat to wear anything.
So I tried what everyone tries. I started tracking my calories throughout the day. I lost no weight, and spent every single day only thinking about what I could eat, when I could eat, and how many peanut butter banana sandwiches I could have before I crossed over my calorie limit. I realize that limiting calories does work for a lot people, albeit mostly in the short term but for me, I couldn’t stand to be hungry. If I was hungry, I was unhappy. If I was unhappy, I wanted to eat. You can see the cycle forming. So I gave up. Fairly quickly. And bless my fiancé because I know there was a huge part of him that wanted to tell me that if I just eat a little less and exercise a little more then I’d lose weight. And partly because I am scary when I am angry but mostly because he loves me, he let me make my own decisions about my weight loss.
So anyway, fast forward. At this point, all my clothes were too tight and my acne, which was never an issue as a teenager, was terrible. I had very serious hormonal issues, as well as issues with anxiety. I genuinely thought that terrible gas pains and bloating were normal. I was just used to it so I never questioned the terrible stomach pains that followed each meal. Eventually, I watched a documentary that basically challenged the calorie obsession portrayed in Super Size Me. This documentary is called Fat Head. The director, Tom Naughton decided that he too, could eat McDonalds every day for 30 days. So he did and he made food choices that actually caused him to lose weight instead of gain it. It was sort of amazing. I highly recommend it and it is on streaming video on Netflix. It’s message really resonated with me. The idea that instead of eating filler food (bread, and other grain), eating nutrient dense whole foods made total sense to me. So I tried it. And I lost 10 pounds pretty quickly, but I didn’t know how to continue that. I didn’t know how to keep eating that way sustainably. Then my dad turned me on to this podcast called Latest in Paleo. Latest in Paleo is awesome. The host, Angelo Coppelo, is wonderful. He is sweet and genuine and when he talks about his wife and daughters there is such a sense of love that you feel that you are part of their family too.
So I started the Paleo Diet at this point. And I started it hardcore. And, wow, did it work for me. I dropped weight right away. I had a cyst that stayed put for 4 years, and the doctors were incredibly vague when I asked about it, but three weeks on Paleo and it disappeared. My mood got better, my acne slightly improved, not completely. That took further investigation and experimentation to get a hold on that. My energy level went up and my terrible eczema got better. It was awesome. I went from a size 8 in pants to a size 0, and I have kept it off for over a year. I felt stronger too. I don’t really exercise any more now than I did before but with the ability to burn fat, which I eat tons of instead of sugar, I build muscle fairly quickly. I’m still not as strong as I would like to be but I can do a couple pull ups and decent amount of push ups, and I haven’t been able to do that since I was 16. I felt like I had found the answer. Both my fiance and I finally felt like we were in our early twenties again, like we should have felt.
Everything was great, well, almost. My hormones still didn’t feel like they were quite right and my acne had not improved any where near what it should have. So I became frustrated. I was doing everything right and yet, my body would not do what I wanted. So I fell off the wagon. I never gained any weight back but I started introducing things back in. Too many chocolate bars. Peanut butter. Gluten free snacks, which is just normal junk food with rice flour instead of wheat. Recently, I was exposed to something when I went out to dinner. It was sort of my fault. I should have investigated the food, but I had become so lax. I had always avoided gluten, even when eating things that were not Paleo because at the time, I thought it was the gluten that I was allergic to. Upon being exposed in that restaurant, my body decided to fight back. And hives appeared under my eyes. Big giant, very embarrassing bumps. And the journey began all over again.
At this point, I was angry. I felt like I was living such a restricted life style. I couldn’t eat anything. Ever. Why could everyone else eat pretty much whatever and I couldn’t? And then came the journey of trying to figure out what I could eat and having no idea whatsoever where to start. I wasn’t sure if I was allergic to coconut or coffee or eggs or what. The thought of just not eating crossed my mind more than once. Oh, I know how dramatic that sounds but there is nothing quite like feeling like your body is working against you. And my issues are only an immune disorder that mostly only affects my skin. My heart breaks for people who have terrible debilitating auto-immune disorders.
So I started again. I started listening to The Paleo View and one of the hosts, Sarah Ballantyne, has Celiac disease and listening to her really made me start to understand what I was doing wrong. She explained how most people with Celiac disease cannot eat things like chocolate and coffee, or eggs and milk because the proteins in these items tend to act like the damaging proteins in wheat. And I realized that not only did I need to give up some of the things I love but I also needed to just go to the doctor and get tested for allergies. I kept putting it off because I just don’t think that doctor’s are sufficiently taught about nutrition. They treat symptoms amazingly but I don’t think they all know how to treat the underlying cause.
At this point, I stopped eating sweet potatoes, any dairy (including raw), eggs, coffee, chocolate, and any grains whatsoever. After my allergy tests, I received some really good news and some really bad news. The good news was that I do not have Celiac disease. The bad news is that even though I am not allergic to gluten, I am still allergic to wheat, corn, soy, shellfish, walnuts, and peanuts for sure. I think there may be a possibility that I have an issue with chocolate and sunflower seeds but that will be a later experiment.
So where does that put me right now. It still puts me mostly Paleo, I think. I’m just even more restricted than the general Paleo crowd, with some divergences. Like the fact that I do think that raw dairy is very good for you and that as long as you have no negative effects from it then consume away. Once I am able to do some gut healing for myself, 24 years of eating inflammation causing foods have done some serious damage to my health, then I am planning on reintroducing raw milk back into my diet. Many people in the Paleosphere you will find think dairy is bad because we didn’t start drinking until the Neolithic Era. I have to make the choice to eat and supplement as healthfully as possible. So that means my vitamins are all plant based, instead of synthetically made and added to corn starch pills. Which also makes them twice the price. And I will take my codfish liver oil everyday with my probiotics. I will try to eat my fermented sauerkraut at least once a day, as well as drink my kombucha, and will hopefully develop a taste for grass fed liver. And yes, I will try to eat sardines every day, too.
I almost didn’t put up before and after pictures to try and show off the changes that I have made in the last year. Part of me is incredibly self-conscious about it because even though I’m better, I still have a long way to go. Because of my recent exposure, my acne and eczema are terribly flared up. I can’t wear make up right now and even though, I want to be a person who’s 100% confident without it, well, let’s just say I’m not there yet. Whenever I want to encourage people to learn more about what they eating to help some issue they have, I want to put my hand next to my mouth to cover up the eczema patches that have recently appeared. It’s hard to try and tell other people how healthy you are when you know that you don’t always look it. But the entire point of even starting this blog was to encourage other people, especially women, that we should be proud of who we are. That as long as we are doing the very best we can for our health, that we should walk around like we are best looking people in the room. I’m on a journey right now to be the very healthiest and happiest I can be for me, my fiance, and our future family. And because of that, I have to be more forgiving of my faults. Please try to walk the same way for yourself. Stop being your worst critic and forgive of your own imperfections.
You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. ~Buddha