Once upon a time, ( not too long ago) I lived like most people in regards to lifestyle and eating habits: I ate and drank whatever I felt like, whenever it suited me, and with absolutely no concern for the consequences it could have on my body or well-being. Maybe this was just the nature of being a late teen or “early twenty-something” girl, but my diet consisted mainly of beer, cigarettes, sugar, soda, and Jack-N-The-Box. I always had a fast metabolism and was active, so weight was never an issue for me and if weight is never an issue….who cares what you eat? Right?
In 2006, I turned 21. It was the year I could FINALLY buy alcohol ( well, legally anyways..) and hit the bars with no concern. Ironically, this was the same year my lifestyle changed forever. Slowly, but surely, I started to notice “problems” that I never had before. I would feel really uncomfortable after most meals: I was bloated, had indigestion, and experienced what my husband affectionally calls, “the bubble guts” ( stomach gas pains that can knock you on your ass). I would be “feeling it” much more after a long night of beer drinking, sometimes being sick to my stomach all week. After 4-5 months of these symptoms, I could barely eat a single meal without being in incredible pain and discomfort. By 2007, I lost 15 lbs off an already thin frame ( 5″9, 145 lbs to 130). I looked gaunt, hollow, and just plain sick. On top of the stomach issues, I was diagnosed with anemia, perpetually tired, and sick all the time. Every cold, flu, and virus that was “going around” , I would get.
Over the course of two years, I visited three gastroenterologists. They all did a battery of tests, exploratory surgeries, and came up with their conclusions: “You have IBS” , “You may have Crohn’s Disease”, and my favorite, “Umm….we really don’t know what is wrong with you…..it must be stress.” Ironically, each of these possible diagnoses ended up with me being on prescription medications that gave me a new set of problems from their side-effects, not to mention, I still had severe stomach pain. By the end of Summer 2007, I finally had enough. I started to do research on my symptoms and discovered forums and discussions for “Gluten Sensitivity”. “What the hell is Gluten?” I thought. After tons of peer-reviewed articles and discussion boards, I decided to give an “Gluten-free” diet a try. What did I have to lose? Nothing else was working.
After two days of my new diet, I had felt better than what I had in a year. By two weeks, I could eat a meal with no discomfort afterwards. It was a miracle! I couldn’t believe it. I could barely hold in my excitement, so I had to learn more. I quickly called my Gastroenterologist and told her of my “miracle”. She suggested I come in for more tests. “I believe you may have Celiac Disease.” she said. She then explained to me what Celiac Disease was and how it affected my body. I couldn’t believe that all of my problems were because of the pie I was putting in my “pie-hole”. I felt that a huge weight had been lifted and that I wasn’t crazy, or this wasn’t “all in my head”.
I stuck to a strict gluten-free diet for a year. I felt pretty good! However, some of my ol’ habits started to come back, just in gluten-free form. I was eating crappy foods again, and all the time. Gluten-free beer, gluten-free cakes, pies, desserts, chips, dips, etc. Like many people, I fell into that trap that, ” because it is gluten-free, its good for you”. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. What I didn’t realize was most gluten-free alternative grains are just as, if not much more “carb-heavy” than their wheat counterparts. I had frequent sugar crashes throughout the day and was always hungry. I also was still sick a lot. My turning point came in 2008, when my father, who was 47 and in decent shape, was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. He was lucky number 6 out of 10 siblings who suffered from diabetes. I realized that if I didn’t shape up and kick my sugar habits, that this disease was most likely in my future as well, even if I was “skinny”. It was only a matter of time.
It was my wonderful husband, Jeremy ( who works in the fitness industry) who introduced my to the Paleo Diet in 2008. Unlike me, Jeremy always had to work hard to stay in great shape. When I could eat a box of doughnuts and lose a pound, Jeremy could look at the same box and gain 5. Given his genetics and being that fitness and health are his passions, he always educated himself on the newest and most effective ways to stay healthy. After some resistence on my part, I finally agreed to give the Paleo Diet a true try in January 2009. I have never looked back. I no longer consider Paleo a “diet” but a full lifestyle change. From my skin tone, to my ability to deal with stress, the Paleo Diet has improved nearly every aspect of my life. I rarely ever get sick and with the combination of Crossfit, I have never felt stronger or more alive.
This “diet” has changed my life so much that I have become a huge advocate for it. I . I have seen other’s lives ( whom started Paleo) change as well. Everyone has lost excess weight, including those stubborn 15 lbs they have always vowed to lose in January, but never could. Some have clearer skin, and many have become independent of their medications for depression, anxiety, and a laundry list of autoimmune diseases ( Crohn’s, Type 2 Diabetes, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac’s disease, Endometriosis, Psoriasis, Juvenile Diabetes, etc, etc).
With all of that being said, this is my story. It’s really not unique in the “Paleo world” of success stories. I can tell you that I plan on being on this diet for the rest of my life, so does my husband, and our newborn son (well, at least until he can make food choices on his own. 🙂 Why? The answer is simple: quality of life. I have no idea when my time is up on this earth, but what I do know is my quality of life will be fantastic until the very end. Now how many people can say that?