Introduction to Paleo - My Story

Since I have five blog posts under my belt (a feat for me!), I thought I'd go a different direction and talk about something else near to my heart: Paleo!If you have spoken to me in person recently, follow my personal FaceBook account (or Instagram or Twitter, for that matter), or have ever tried to eat a meal with me since Christmas, you probably have heard about the Paleo diet. At it's core, it's a whole foods diet. If you're not familiar with it (and you're curious), just google it! The Whole30 Program is where I started learning and implementing Paleo last October. This is a more strict version of Paleo, which does not allow for even a small amount of unrefined sugars (think maple syrup and honey), or dairy, as some versions of Paleo do.But the best part about the Paleo "Diet" (read: Lifestyle) is that since each person is different, each person can tolerate certain foods differently! That's why the Whole30 - to detox your system, then systematically reintroduce foods to see which ones you tolerate, and which you don't.My personal journey to Paleo is long and winding. Here's the short(ish) version...Paleo Food Collage 050115A few years ago I encountered some health problems. I was going through some personal things at the time, and, as a result, was constantly running to the doctor (stress, anyone?). The symptoms were diverse and most decidedly NOT medically based. Funny how stress wreaks havoc in the body!Things improved slightly, but due to continued stress, I stopped eating. And when I say stopped, I mean one bite at each meal. I loved the weight loss, but even I knew that wasn't sustainable. Fortunately, as soon as my biggest stresser resolved itself (I found a job, in Michigan, in 2010), I started eating again. But the health problems continued. (During that period I also landed in the hospital with a kidney stone. Learned A LOT about what caffeine does to my body, let me tell you.)Even after getting married the next year, my health problems persisted. It seemed my symptoms were constantly mutating into something new, something else I'd run to the doctor to diagnose, only to insist they give me antibiotics when they didn't find anything medically wrong - which would only clear up the symptoms for a short time before they'd come back! It was a frustrating, vicious cycle (not to mention the other problems all those antibiotics caused!)Okay, this may not exactly be the short version...So I went to see a doctor for a procedure that was supposed to help what they thought was happening. Let me tell you, that procedure was probably as painful as the kidney stone, and I blacked out for a few seconds. Following that procedure (of which the only relief was that they ruled out any cancer), my body started going crazy. Symptoms I'd never had before, in all different systems in my body. You ever feel like your body is attacking itself? Mine was in an all-out war.And the only thing the medical community could offer me was a shrug of the shoulders, an apology, and more medication. And that's when I got mad. There had to be a solution. But I had no idea where to even look.So I put up with the symptoms for a few years, trying to manage them the best way I knew how, basically avoiding the things I knew would cause pain or discomfort. Let me tell you, that's no way to live. But what other choice did I have?Then in January of 2014, due to even more stress, this time at work (anyone see a pattern?), my body shut down. I'm still not sure what to call it, but it was probably akin to adrenal fatigue. I had NO energy - and when I mean "no" energy, I mean it took all of my energy to lift a piece of paper. It took every ounce of effort just to get out of the house in the morning to continue going back to my extremely stressful job that was making my health even worse. My brain was foggy, I couldn't remember anything, my chest, back, neck, shoulders, arms, even teeth...everything seemed to be hurting. I was back to the doctor three or four times in the following month, each time for them to say that nothing was wrong.And can I just say, this was getting expensive.Then I had a thought, which HAD to have been God: my neck and shoulders were hurting, so why not address that? Let's go to A CHIROPRACTOR. (Cue the heaven-opening angel music.)We made an appointment, and my husband went with me. The doctor did one exam, then proceeded to tell me what all my symptoms were, before I even told him. My husband and I were just staring at each other, that half-dopey grin on our faces. FINALLY we were going to get some answers.And after the first adjustment, my symptoms were GONE. Oh, my body was far from healed, but I cleaned my bathroom for the first time that weekend since I'd gotten sick. There were definitely some relapses, and I'm sure they got really sick of me there, but I was well on the road to recovery.So I started asking the doctor about other ways to help my body heal. The chiropractic adjustments were great, but I knew my body needed all the help it could get. He suggested the Paleo diet in July, and I nodded, but secretly laughed it off. I'd heard about it before, and had done a little research, but I just couldn't see how it was practical in any way. (If only my future self would've visited me then.)Then in September of last year, my husband (who was WAY more involved on Instagram than I probably ever will be), started hearing about Whole30. It was a 30-day detox plan that helped reset your body and train it to burn fat instead of sugar for energy. (And that had to help me lose weight, right? I was about to turn 30 and had a weight loss goal, so I figured the time was this is like that time travel paradox...)So we ordered the book It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. And let me tell you, MY EYES WERE OPENED. (Cue angel music again, maybe with trumpets this time.) The book explains everything that food does inside your body, both good and bad. Then it gave a step-by-step, easy to follow 30-day plan to not only avoid all the bad foods, but also to enjoy all the good ones. And it even had recipe ideas in the back! Plus it lists ways to make your new way of eating (NOT diet) sustainable and manageable after the 30 days are up.After a little discussion, we cleaned out the fridge, the pantry, and stocked up on healthy, whole foods and meats. Nothing processed, no sugar (and I mean NONE - except the occasional fruit), just whole meats, veggies, and fruits, with lots of healthy fats (more than you'd think!).Long story short - after going through the reintroduction phase to get us into Thanksgiving, and *mostly* managing the holidays without incident, I jumped right back in. Due to all my health issues (and plentiful food intolerances, at least for now), I've been trying stricter versions of the Paleo diet (AIP, low FODMAP) and, for me, the low FODMAP was the key. My body hasn't worked this well in a long time.And I did lose the weight, too.Ahhhh. That was long, wasn't it? Sorry - I told you I was a writer, so you were warned.All that to say this: everyone's journey is different and everyone's body is different. Paleo has worked for me, and has worked for so many others, so I encourage you to try it! I started (back over a year ago) by cutting out refined sugar and flour, and that helped me to see all the ways you DON'T need pasta and bread in your life. (But maybe the occasional donut, once your body has healed.)It can be difficult at times, but I've become a MUCH better cook (I used to only buy foods in boxes that had instructions on them, because those were the only things I knew how to make). I've even made a few of my own completely-from-scratch recipes! And altered many more to suit my tastes.And can I just tell you, the food is AMAZING. And that has nothing to do with my cooking ability, just the ingredients. (read: COCONUT OIL)So if you're curious, buy a book, research online, just try it! I feel amazing, my body has stopped fighting me (all those health issues were ALL related to systemic inflammation in my body, caused by the food I was eating), and I'm not overweight for the first time in a decade.If you'd like, I can post a few recipes, but this post is already long enough! Maybe I'll get a few up this week...Have a great week; go do something healthy!