First of all, congratulations to Janice, the winner of the Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil giveaway!!
Second, on May 1st it will have been one year since I started living a Paleo lifestyle. So I thought I’d share my journey and why I would never go back! Let’s start with how I grew up. I was a picky kid. My parents gave it a fair fight, but ultimately I lived on mac and cheese, cucumbers with a gallon of ranch dressing and cereal. A lot of cereal. I was an ADD kid and though smart, couldn’t focus long enough in school to do excellently. The way I ate worked out fine for awhile, I was on swim team and swimming 5-6 days a week. In high school (Freshman year), when I quit swim team and became more sedentary, I started to gain weight. I was never obese, but always felt like the “chubby girl.” I figured that’s how I was built and I would always be that way.
In college, I started to run and enjoyed that – but still ate pretty terribly. I was eating more vegetables, but was still eating a TON of processed foods. I also started to have really weird symptoms that my doctor (after ruling out lymphoma) declared was “some kind of food allergy.” Hot flashes and an achy feeling all over my body plagued me a couple times a week. I figured I was healthy though because I exercised often. I again thought I would always be “chubby.”
After college, I decided two things: to figure out how to get rid of the pain and hot flashes and to get serious about how I was eating. I started eating a typical low fat, low(er) carb diet and exercising more. Eventually, I did my best to cut out what I considered processed foods (anything with a name I couldn’t pronounce, or basically packaged). I was feeling better and loved exercising more than ever before. I fell in love with it!
That’s when I really fell in love with running and triathlon. I felt better and was more confident! I also cut out dairy and found that a lot of my symptoms (pain and hot flashes) decreased and came back whenever I decided to indulge in some cheese or ice cream!
However, I was still living the a SAD (sad american diet). Basically, I was working out like crazy, just to keep the weight off. And eating a carb heavy diet because I was working out so much. I also started to have pain in my joints again and some significant gastrointestinal issues. Believing and knowing that there is a strong connection between what we eat and how our body feels and acts, I decided to start trying different diets. I started with The Blood Type Diet and it made me crazy. Then I tried a vegetarian diet and that made me sick and weak. Then a CrossFit coach, and my dad’s best friend (yes Chris, you were right) led me to the Paleo/Primal lifestyle. I was so fed up with the way I felt, and so even though I believed that grains and legumes were good for you (of course they were, all the health magazines said so…), I decided to do some research and give it a try. What I read in The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf made a lot of sense to me. All the over processing of grains and legumes (especially soy, I was eating a lot of soy) was causing my body to be more inflamed than it already was. I finally realized the connection to all this and an auto immune disorder that I was diagnosed with at 14, Raynaud’s syndrome. It only took a week for me to start feeling better and having more energy!
A year later and I still feel great! I don’t need my inhaler anymore and my Raynaud’s symptoms did not affect me this winter like they have in the past. My gastrointestinal issues are gone, too (I’m sure that’s the part you really wanted to know about)! In grad school, though I enjoy working out, I don’t stress about it like I used to before because I don’t need to work out a ton to maintain my weight. I also am doing better in school than I ever have in my life. The focus I have is nothing I experienced growing up or in undergrad. I believe it all has to do with the way I eat!
I know to a lot of people think Paleo sounds crazy or extreme, but it’s just about eating real food. Fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy fats and meat that’s fed and raised the way it’s supposed to be. Even “organic” processed food is still processed. I am not great at explaining all of this, so I’m putting some of my favorite resources down at the bottom of this post. I tell people just to give it a try. Give it 21 days. Or even a week. I promise you’ll feel better!