Another day of early rising, only to sit around and wait for that elusive subbing call…. I know it’s only the first week of school and many teachers won’t be calling off yet and I shouldn’t get worked up about it. So, I’m not going to. There’s a nice breeze and the sun is shining outside while I sit here and type, sipping my morning coffee. That’s something to be cheerful about. Plus, I’ve lost another four pounds. That’s definitely something to be cheerful about! How, you ask? Well, that’s a long story. Since I seem to have nothing but time, I suppose I will tell it.
It all started this past February. All winter I had been getting rather sick (which was nothing new for me, to be honest). I had come to terms with having a horrid immune system and chalked it up to pulling the short-end of the stick in the gene pool—asthma, allergies, almost constant sinus infections and upper-respiratory infections, polycystic ovarian syndrome, an abnormal and erratic menstrual cycle, hypothyroidism, costochondritis, chubbiness, poor eye sight, an inherited predisposition for diabetes and osteoporosis, and most annoyingly, a general feeling of misery (headaches and tummy aches) every single day. To add to the list, I also carried around with me a sense of dread and foreboding, as I was almost positive I was unable to ever get pregnant. I know…. it’s a long list. Not fun. So, let’s bring it on back to February. I was constantly sick and just happened to be the heaviest I had ever been. To top it all off, I was swollen everywhere. My ankles were double their size and shoes weren’t fitting properly. My face looked like someone had stuck an air compressor in my mouth and forgot to turn it off. From head to toe, I felt (and probably looked) like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Of course, I still was complaining of my constant aches and pains, too. I went to the doctor hoping he could shed some light on the subject. He was a new doctor for me, as my insurance had switched and I could no longer go to the doctor I had been seeing for years. This was good. I needed a fresh perspective.
After I had given the doctor my long schpeel, without doing any tests, he offered me his opinion. He said, almost instantly, that I probably had food allergies to go along with my indoor/outdoor allergies. In no time at all he explained how gluten and/or dairy sensitivity could explain away more than half of my health issues. My jaw nearly hit the floor. My complaints had been the same for nearly 8 years and not one doctor ever suggested this to me, yet it all made perfect sense. My body was reacting poorly to the years and years I had been consuming toxins, essentially. To be sure, he sent me to an allergist. The allergist not only tested me for my regular indoor-outdoor allergies, but for food allergies as well. The test was conclusive, to say the least. The hive that appeared on my arm from the gluten test was massive—humungous, if you will. It took over my entire fore-arm and didn’t go down for nearly a week. Not only was I allergic to gluten, but I developed a hive from the dairy test and almost every single test for the indoor/outdoor allergens, as well (molds, dust, and a few types of trees being the worst offenders).
It was odd. I had just received some pretty devastating news, yet I couldn’t keep from smiling. I finally had some answers and it seemed like a pretty easy fix. No consuming gluten or dairy. Hmmm, okay, maybe not so easy. My original doctor had suggested a few options. He told me to go home and google Mark’s Daily Apple and the Paleo Diet. After doing so, I was skeptical. Both Mark’s Daily Apple and the Paleo diet sounded, to me, like health-nut mumbo-jumbo—something I couldn’t sink my teeth into. Plus, I had a birthday celebration to attend that weekend. There is no room for health-nut mumbo-jumbo during a drunken outing that promised a late night El Gallo trip and a severe hang-over, to boot! Yes, you are correct. I was making excuses. I was completely unaware at the time that this drunken outing was to include my last round of Vegas Bombs, my last regular (gluten-infested) beer, my last mouth-watering El Gallo pork taco, and my last horrifying handful of drunken-Nicole-fat-pictures.
That next Monday (two days after the party) I started my Paleo journey. At the time, the Paleo Diet still seemed ridiculous: eat as cavemen did, only eat food that was on the Earth at least 10,000 years ago, and eat nothing processed, grown with hormones, or containing dairy or gluten. Yikes. It sounded like my plate was full—full of seeds, berries, and raw meat. Yuck. But I was wrong.I put my research skills to the test. Finally, I stumbled upon a website that made sense to me: http://paleodietlifestyle.com/paleo-101/
This website gave me the “rules” to follow and the support to do so. All of a sudden, I had recipes, testimonials, scientifically-based explanations, and a place to go to with my many questions and concerns. One of my biggest concerns was having to do this alone. That became a non-issue as soon as I discussed this fear with Jacob, my future husband. He agreed (begrudgingly) to embark upon this journey with me! I had a gluten-free partner, thank goodness! The only thing Jacob wouldn’t sacrifice was his beer. No gluten-free beers for him. He wanted the real stuff, and I was okay with that.
The first week of my new lifestyle was exhausting. I was eating far fewer carbohydrates than I was used to and was constantly tired. Lots of protein, sprinkled with carbs from veggies, minimal fruits and nuts, and absolutely no dairy or gluten was my new regimen. I was eating hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, a little fruit (only citrus or berries) for lunch, and a hardy dinner of some form of protein and vegetables. I was sticking to the plan, but it was tough. Within that first exhausting week, I dropped 11 pounds. Now that I look back on that initial huge drop in weight, I’m almost positive it was all water. However, I was no longer swollen and had not been on the receiving end of headaches or stomachaches the entire week. If I hadn’t been so tired, I’m sure I would have been jubilant! This initial loss, though, made me stick to my guns. I was determined!
As my body adapted (to less carbs, more protein, and absolutely no gluten or dairy) I started to feel better each day. After rolling out of bed in the morning, I actually had energy! This was new to me, as I was never a morning person…. ever. Many of my health issues were easing up. While my indoor/outdoor allergies were still persistent, my asthma wasn’t bothering me as much, I wasn’t catching every cold/virus going around, and I even seemed to be more cheerful and optimistic! People were starting to ask questions, too. “Have you lost weight?” “Your skin looks great, what are you using?” “Did you get a haircut or are those new clothes? Something looks different about you!” These were all things I wanted to hear, but I wasn’t about to keep it a secret. I was enthralled to tell people about my new way of living. In fact, people were probably annoyed with me, as Paleo was all I could talk about!
A few weeks into my gluten-free journey, however, I started to get sick of eating the same things every day. I had to figure out how to make my new diet more diverse and satisfying. All of this whole food-nothing processed-organic-grass fed stuff was keeping me in the kitchen far more often than I was used to, and I was running out of ideas (more on the cooking aspect of my new way of life in later blogs—I promise). Having just purchased a Kindle Fire and Amazon Prime, I went crazy buying Paleo books, my two favorite being cookbooks (which I will share with you at some point, I’m sure). A new sense of excitement reinvigorated my Paleo journey. I was actually starting to like cooking. This was also strange for me, because I’ve never been interested in anything domestic. Jacob and I were cooking every single day, discovering new recipes, new tricks in the kitchen, buying new appliances, and getting excited over seemingly trivial things like the sharpness of knives.
There have been so many changes for me (and Jacob, too) in such a short period of time. It’s been 5 ½ months since we went Paleo and I don’t see myself ever looking back. I don’t miss doughnuts or chips. I don’t want McDonald’s or Burger King. I don’t even miss soda pop or Gatorade. In fact, I think I eat yummier stuff now than I ever did before! It’s like going to a gourmet restaurant every night—except we have to do all the work. But to me, it tastes that much better! Knowing each of the healthful ingredients, knowing that every single thing I’m putting into my body has a purpose, provides me with a sense of accomplishment and peace of mind.
I have a long way to go (regarding the numbers on the scale) but, to be honest; the weight loss is only secondary to all the health benefits of my new way of living/eating. Paleo is not a diet. It is a lifelong journey to health and well-being. I am down 59 pounds today, but I am also happier and healthier. And that’s something to be cheerful about!