My paleo transformation began on September 19, 2011. I decided to participate in the paleo challenge that my CrossFit box, CrossFit Synergistics (CFS), was organizing. I was hugely skeptical and highly afraid. I mean, I make my own yogurt. And what do you mean whole grains, dairy, and legumes are not good for me? WTF is that? What about the food pyramid? You know that poster that hangs up in my wellness classroom in my school? What I base my lessons on? I actually took nutrition in college back in the day and I have taken quite a few graduate level classes from Framingham State College in nutrition in the past 4 years. To say I was skeptical would be putting it mildly. But as a wellness teacher, and specifically a nutrition teacher in my school, I decided to take this challenge on from a few perspectives. First of all, I decided that it would be a good experiment for me to do this personally so I could accurately give my opinion to my students and to others who ask me for advice. Secondly, I decided that I had nothing to lose in trying. I remember saying to Brent (the night I told him that I was going to do the paleo challenge) that after 19 months of half and full marathon training that my body was still not where I had hoped it would be. Sure the scale read a lighter weight, and I was happy that I lost enough to lower my life insurance premium, but physically I still wasn’t happy with how I looked. I felt skinny fat. I had been CrossFitting for 5 months when I decided to start the paleo challenge. The first few weeks were hard. I craved sugar in the worst way. The hardest thing was not putting any sugar in my coffee. I tried really hard to drink it black. I just couldn’t do it. I finally settled on a homemade coconut milk creamer that is actually really yummy. It took me so long just to pack my lunch for work! According to the rules of my challenge, I needed to have a protein, carbohydrate, and fat with every meal-and a meal was every time I put food in my mouth, and I needed at least 5 meals! I remember the first few weeks… it took me a good 30 minutes to make a lunch! Luckily for me I really didn’t eat too many grains, dairy, or legumes to begin with. I just had to eliminate sandwich bread and some dinners that included pasta, string cheese, and yogurt. Legumes were easy because I pretty much stopped eating them anyway. I noticed that every time I had some sort of bean, that I had an upset stomach and was bloated the rest of the night. Dairy was definitely the hardest to give up. I remember asking Linda and Elizabeth, the wives of the owners of CFS, how they lost their baby belly. “Definitely the dairy” is what they told me. Not exactly the answer I was hoping for….
October 3, 2011 was a night I will never forget. It was the night that I received a call from my mom’s friend. I was in the middle of putting the kids to bed so I didn’t answer the phone. No one really calls my house phone so I assumed it was a telemarketer. When the kids were in bed I checked the voice mail to find a random message from one of my mom’s friends. She didn’t say what the call was for so I immediately got worried and called my mom. When she didn’t answer her house phone I called her cell. I was relieved when she answered, but that was short lived. She told me she was on her way to Miriam Hospital’s emergency department with severe stomach pains. “What? When did this start? You were babysitting the kids today!” She told me that she had been having stomach pains for a few days but blew it off thinking it was nothing. I ended up driving to Miriam at 8pm and stayed with her overnight while the doctors ran tests. A CT scan showed a ruptured colon. I was dumbfounded. How does a person go from a stomach ache to a ruptured colon in 3 days?
My mom ended up having a portion of her colon removed via emergency surgery the next day. She had an ileostomy bag for 3 months while her intestines healed. In January 2012, she was healthy enough to have the ileostomy reversed. All of this took place exactly 2 weeks after I began my first paleo challenge and exactly 13 months after my dad died of cancer. Oh and we never did find out what the primary cause of his cancer was. We just knew that it metastasized to his bone.
The more I learned about the reasons why grains, legumes, and dairy were not allowed, the more I needed to know. I bought books, subscribed to paleo blogs, and listened to paleo podcasts. In a nutshell, grains have anti-nutrient properties called phytates. Yes I said anti-nutrient as in they attach to minerals like calcium, zinc, magnesium, and iron and create an insoluble mass that basically passes through your digestive track the same way it came in. Fan-friggin-tastic. Let’s not forget about gluten-the protein found in most grains. Gluten is also poorly digested and consuming gluten disrupts the flora or good bacteria found in your gut. With compromised gut flora, the gluten is allowed inside your intestines which initiate an immune reaction as your body wages war on this foreigner. If this wasn’t bad enough gluten also causes a change to the walls of the intestines. Basically gluten pokes holes in the walls of the intestines which allow the contents inside the intestines leak out into your body. This is referred to as leaky gut syndrome.
So let me get my family history straight….my dad died of cancer of unknown origin and my mom had a ruptured colon/diverticulitis. To say that I was scared of my own health future and the future health of my children would be putting it mildly. Can you see now how I was able to jump in 100% in favor of completely overhauling my diet and the diet of my family? Now let’s move on to the next reason…..RESULTS!
Results-that’s it, just results. Paleo works and I have the photos to prove. Isn’t the definition of crazy something to the effect of doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results? If your goal is to look and feel better, yet you are unwilling to try something different, can you really be disappointed when failure happens? I want to show you some before and after pictures. The picture on the left is when I was starting to train for my first half marathon in January 2010. I made sure to take before pictures because I was positive that training for a half was just what I needed to get back into shape from having my daughter who was 9 months old at the time. I always “ate healthy” and now I was not only exercising but I was training. (Doesn’t it sound so much more legit when you say training instead of exercising?!) Fast forward a few months when the race was over in May to the picture on the right and……voila! I.look.exactly.the.same. Seriously? There has to be a mistake? How did I train for so many months, run like a crazy person, only to look exactly the same? I was devastated and pissed.
Here are the before and after photos from my first paleo challenge which was 63 days. I had been CrossFitting for almost 5 month by the time the before picture was taken. If you want to see just what 5 months of CrossFitting with my regular Standard American Diet (SAD) just compare the after picture above to the below picture here.
Notice anything different? What’s that you see? Muscle definition is in the house
Here are the before and after pictures of my most recent paleo challenge and I am proud of what I have accomplished in a year of CrossFitting and 9 months of eating a paleo lifestyle. I have more muscle definition and I look fit not just thin. And even more important than aesthetics, is the fact that I am strong and that is empowering and fills me with the self-confidence I only wish I had when I was in my 20’s.
Here is one of my favorite pins:
So what are you waiting for? Are you willing to give this whole paleo thing a shot? You have nothing to lose and so much to gain! What if this is the one that works for you just like it did for me? Check out Whole 9 to learn how you can start your own 30 day paleo challenge.
Yours in health,
I wrote a post called 6 Reasons Why Paleo Works and you can see an updated before and after picture of me from March 2011 (1 month before I was to run the Boston Marathon and 2 months before I started CrossFit) to May 2013 (when I had been Crossfitting 2 years and eating paleo for 1.8 years.)