Here's an honest look at how I landed on a paleo/primal type of real food diet. I say “Paleo” in the title of this post because I don't follow one specific diet 100% of the time, but I do what feels best for my body and what works for me intellectually as well as physically. My story is far longer than this post, but I kept it as brief as possible- enjoy!
I’m relatively new to Paleo (I think I first started the transition mid-February of this year – 2010), but I can already tell I’ll be a “lifer.” I feel so grateful to have stumbled across this way of living and eating at this time in my life. I am sure I would have gotten here sooner or later, but I am a firm believer in things happening for a reason and that when the time is right for people to hear the message, the message presents itself. And boy, if there was ever a time for me to get a clear message about yet another life-change, it was now. The fact that I’m someone who loves to shake things up and change my life around often is information for another post entirely.
That said, I’m going to do my best to keep this story as succinct as possible, but as you probably all know, it’s been a long journey. Mine began as far back as high school, when I can remember food being an issue for me. Maybe some of the things I’ll talk about will resonate with you, or you’ll see yourself in my story, or maybe my story is so different from yours that it’ll astound you that we landed in the same place. Whatever reaction you have, please share it with us all in the comments below.
As a result of my journey, I’ve developed The 21-Day Sugar Detox Manual to help jump start those looking to kick their sugar and carb cravings. It’s a perfect way to ease into the Paleo world if you haven’t yet, or to make some more positive changes if you already have. The 21-Day Sugar Detox manual is filled with lots of tips and tricks, information on good fats vs. bad fats, names sugar hides under in ingredient lists, and tons of recipes (all Paleo-friendly) to get you going.
I'm going to take you through the times in my life, what foods I was eating at the time, how I looked and how I felt about myself at the time chronologically from as far back as I can remember up until today. Here goes…
Time in my life: Growing up, as a kid
Foods I ate: Whatever I wanted, home cooked meals, some processed food, lunches at school grades 6-8 were French fries and chocolate chip cookies (yes, really).
How I looked: I was a pretty thin kid, I never had weight problems and don't remember even ever thinking about it much.
How I felt: It was so long ago, who can remember?
Time in my life: High school (1992-1996)
Foods I ate: Dinners at home typically involved lots of pasta since it was fast and easy and my Italian dad’s sauce can’t be beat, breakfast was cold cereal with skim milk or bagels and cream cheese, lunches were cafeteria food (ziti, pizza, etc.) or fast food when I was old enough to drive, snacks were whatever junk I wanted (chips, popcorn, soda, Gatorade)
How I looked: I was in pretty good shape as an athlete, but looking back at photos reveals a face that was still pretty round with “baby fat.” I remember wishing I could lose weight or be thinner somehow at this point, but I was never really on a diet or trying to do anything about it.
How I felt: I was an athlete. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. I drank lots of Gatorade and picked up a coffee habit. I felt okay, I didn't know any better. I was “always hungry” and started to carry snacks everywhere at this point. I would be sure to eat pretty soon before practice or a game so I didn't get light headed.
Time in my life: College (1996-2000)
Foods I ate: Freshman and sophomore year I chowed on pizza, wings, fast food, cafeteria food with the obligatory salad bar – which I enjoyed but I wouldn't say it was the main source of my food. Once I moved off-campus, I cooked hot dogs, mac & cheese, pasta and probably some frozen veggies from time to time.
How I looked: I started to pack on the pounds little by little. I wasn't working out at all and I bought bigger clothes year after year. My face was getting rounder and my body was just getting a little bit bigger all over the place. I didn't really notice it too much since it was gradual.
How I felt: I had a boyfriend and didn't think much about my weight at the time. I knew my older clothes didn't fit, but my boyfriend was a bit big himself, so somehow that balance didn't leave me feeling too badly about the weight gain. I wasn't moving or being active at all besides walking to class. I had lost touch with my inner athlete.
Time in my life: The Low-Fat Diet Years (2001-2006)
Foods I ate: I learned about Weight Watchers, counted points, counted calories and fat and fiber. I ate more real, whole foods but also was eating a lot of packaged foods that were low calorie and low fat. I was really into keeping my fat intake low and had snacks on-hand at all times (usually chewy chocolate chip granola bars).
How I looked: I was finally getting back to my old self physically. I was working out and was looking the way I used to. I was able to buy pants that were size 6 again and in styles that I liked. I wasn't hiding behind big sweaters any more and I even went so far as to get my navel pierced as a gift to myself for losing the weight. (Added note since the paleochix.com posting- I think I was sorta “skinny fat” – see photo to the right.)
How I felt: I felt happy and confident. But I also felt hungry almost ALL of the time. My friends joked about having to carry snacks for me, so I didn't get too starving and turn cranky! Many of my friends never considered me to be a bigger person, but after having gained the weight, I now had a sense that I was always going to feel like a “fat girl” despite my more lean appearance.
Time in my life: Reconnecting with my Inner Athlete and REAL FOOD (2006-2009)
Foods I ate: After a year of being in San Francisco and working with a personal trainer, I was still eating a low-fat diet and worked hard at choosing foods that wouldn't have too many calories in them. Chicken breast, veggies and whole grains were staples for me. Organic foods were just coming into play early on and by '07 I was eating nearly 100% organic.
How I looked: I began to change the shape of my body and gained muscle. I got stronger and leaner and started to look on the outside the way I felt on the inside. I completed my first 1/2 marathon and felt really strong. I learned shortly thereafter that endurance athletics weren't for me and pursued strength training to look and feel my best without working out so much.
How I felt: I was loving working out and felt great about being such a “healthy” eater, but I was still hungry all of the time. I'd finish a huge plate of veggies with chicken breast cooked in very little oil and still be hungry and I still suffered from hypoglycemic bouts. Shortly after my first 1/2 marathon several serious injuries knocked me down, not the least of which was adrenal fatigue.
How I look: As a result of beginning to attend classes at my local Crossfit gym combined with my Paleo diet, my body is regaining its once lean and muscular shape. I feel I've just begun this new journey and I'm tracking my progress. More importantly, however, is how I feel about how I look. I feel confident, strong and capable. Check out this little video on my YouTube page to see how I look these days (and you can tell how I'm feeling as well- this was SO much fun!): Playing around at Crossfit KMSF.
How I feel: To me, this is the most important part of the change in my diet. I NO LONGER SUFFER FROM HYPOGLYCEMIC BOUTS! Seriously. I've learned about the science behind why eating a carb-rich diet was making me feel awful (dizzy, light-headed, nauseous) and left me hungry or starving all the time. (Thanks to the nutrition program at Bauman College as well as Robb Wolf's Paleolithic Solution Seminar). I've learned how to balance my meals to leave me feeling satisfied, fueled and keep my body's metabolism in the right place. It's AMAZINGLY LIBERATING to not need to carry snacks everywhere I go. I now know that a proper meal will actually hold me for hours on end. I feel amazing. And I'm so happy that I've found a home with a Paleo diet.
Thanks for reading my story. I hope to post on some other topics in the future, not the least of which will probably be SUGAR! Don't forget to check out The 21-Day Sugar Detox Manual if you're looking for some great information on how to kick that habit and curb cravings. Join the conversation over on the Facebook page as well. I'd love to hear what topics you want to read about in future posts. I'm always open to teaching people more of what they want to learn.