I had been fairly healthy my entire life, but had always carried a few extra pounds. When I turned 24, that changed. All of a sudden, I started experiencing allergies. Major weight gain. Depression. Acne. Itchy scalp. Boils. Missed periods and debilitating pain when they did come. Joint pain. IBS. These were all new things to me.
I saw dozens of doctors – German ones, Canadian ones, American and Dutch. Some told me I was suffering from allergies. Others made me keep a food journal and count calories. Some gave me acne medication. I was poked, prodded and bled. The one conclusion that all of the doctors shared was that I was overreacting, hysterical and wasting their time. According to them, I was just fat and lazy – and probably a hypochondriac.
I was miserable. I tried everything to lose weight, but I was just so tired all of the time. I diagnosed myself with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Metabolic Syndrome, endometriosis and depression, which the doctors then confirmed. They put me on Prozac, which made me gain more weight. At my heaviest pre-pregnancy weight, I was around 235 lbs. I am a 5′9″ female. 235 lbs is not a healthy weight. When I asked the doctors HOW to lose weight, I was told, “We don’t know. Just lose it. Then symptoms will go away.” So, Google it was.
After months of trying to find information on PCOS online, I discovered a random comment on someone’s journal that said that some women with PCOS had had success losing weight with a low carb diet. That was the only help I could find. I dropped carbs that first day. I went zero carb overnight and felt amazing. I got my energy back. Exercising became fun again. I shed 40 pounds in two months and kept it off. I stabilized at 185. I realized that my previous diet had consisted of nothing but simple, refined carbs. Thinking I needed lots of carbs for energy (thank you, USDA!) I had thought nothing of eating an entire plate of white rice for dinner, with nothing else.
Things got better – but only slightly. I started eating carbs and grains again – in moderation. When I found I could maintain my weight and pretty much eat whatever I wanted, I let it slide.
I practically killed myself to get down to 175 for my wedding in April 2005. I had to go to the gym and work out 5 days a week, hard and watch everything I put in my mouth. I was still eating grains and everything was going soooo slowly. The minute I said, “I Do,” I gained 5 pounds. By the time we got back home from Las Vegas, I was back at 185 lbs and didn’t know why.
From 2005 to 2009, my hormonal issues were wiggin’ out of control. That was 4 years of hair falling out, suicidal lows, no sex drive, mysterious hives, rashes and boils. Tons of doctors and no solutions – the only help they would give me were useless tests and pharmaceuticals. I had my thyroid checked over 10 times. Each time it was fine. Google and I were on close terms, and according to it, my hormones were way out of whack (or I had some sort of cancer. Nothing like WebMD for scaring the crap out of yourself!) Because I didn’t know any better, I didn’t realize the part that insulin was playing, and instead, concentrated on getting my estrogen/testosterone levels right. Which didn’t work. Once again, the doctors had failed me.
The whole time, I was freaking out for a baby. We had to resort to IVF to get pregnant, since the endometriosis had ravaged my fallopian tubes. I had a miserable, sugar-soaked, bed-ridden pregnancy and identical twin boys in January of 2009. My kids were born two months early, but I had somehow managed to gain 80 pounds during the short pregnancy. By May of that year, the scales started to turn against me. I had been somewhere in the 240s, but all of a sudden, I was gaining weight again. I was at 253 pounds and PISSED OFF because I had been told (and believed) that breastfeeding burns calories and that the weight would “just melt right off!”
My brother, who I am super proud of and who is one of my greatest influences and motivators, sent me Mark Sisson’s book, The Primal Blueprint in May of ’09. It literally changed my life. It made so much sense to me that we should be eating the way we had evolved to. I looked up the Primal/Paleo lifestyle and found a community of people who had been suffering from a lot of the same maladies as I had been but who now seemed to be completely CURED. Where did I sign up?
I immediately cut out all grains and sugar, but I still didn’t have it right. I had been eating so much sugar before that cutting it out completely was unbearable to me. It was my only vice so it seemed so justifiable. Instead of Sweet Tarts and donuts, though, I ate fruit. A lot of it. And tons of nuts, too, since they are allowed on the Primal diet. I didn’t stop eating dairy, either. But cutting out grains and white sugar was having an effect. I lost 20 pounds pretty quick.
I started tweaking my diet. Way less fruit – mainly berries and the occasional apple. Whipping cream instead of half and half. Limiting nuts to once a week. More fat, fewer carbs. My palate changed. Biting into a kiwi gave me the same satisfaction that Sweet Tarts used to. Salads came alive and cooking became fun again. The Primal Blueprint allows for “cheats” if you stick to the lifestyle 80% of the time. So, I allowed myself treats from time to time but I planned them and enjoyed the hell out of them. I didn’t suddenly pack on 10 pounds if I ate something bad, because I stopped at that one thing. Instead of “falling off of the wagon,” I listened to my body and occasionally gave into cravings when they came. It became easier and easier to say “no.”
During this time, I noticed that most of my hormonal issues were disappearing. My periods became super regular. I barely noticed them, to be honest, which was NOT the norm for me. My skin cleared up, I didn’t need to use moisturizer anymore, I was freakin’ HAPPY all the time, and I was losing weight. It was slow, about a pound a week but it was coming off. And I wasn’t really trying all that hard! The Primal Blueprint mentions that nutrition is 80% of the battle. I especially liked Mark Sisson’s take on fitness – you don’t actually have to do as much as the industry would have you believe. I also learned that most people are working out incorrectly. Hours of “chronic cardio” on the treadmill is actually having the opposite of the desired effect – people are overtraining, injuring themselves and making themselves hungry as hell. (It’s a lot easier to justify a donut when you’ve worked out hard, right?!) I didn’t have to work out hard to see results. I now do CrossFit once or twice a week, yoga once (maybe), sprints now and then and the occasional walk around the neighborhood with the kids. I guess when I stop to consider it, I probably do do more exercise than the average person – I tend to do a proper deadlift when I lift each one of my 30 lb boys and will sometimes drop down and do a couple burpees for no reason at all. I blame that on all the extra energy I now have.
I’ve just passed my two year anniversary with the Primal lifestyle. I’ve been so enamored with this way of life that I have completely changed the way I live. I’ve done tons of research, reading and studying. I had never really thought too much about the environment, but some of the stuff I uncovered – about pesticides, chemicals, hormones and antibiotics being used in the food industry – has made me change a lot of the ways I do things and I feel like I’m doing my part for the environment now. I compost with worms for the free fertilizer, I’m growing a lot of my own vegetables and I even got a few chickens for my backyard. I get 4 organic, free-range eggs a day and I don’t have to worry about them being loaded with antibiotic residue. I eat grass-fed beef.
Mainly, I eat real, whole foods and I eat less than I did before. I’m at 150 lbs as we speak. I’m 5′9″ so I’m at my goal weight for the first time ever. I weigh less and am smaller than I was in high school! In order to lose the dreaded “last 10 pounds,” I incorporated intermittent fasting. Since my insulin and blood sugar are working properly now, going a whole day without food actually leaves me feeling fantastic and energized. I couldn’t have imagined missing even a single meal in my old life! In fact, since my blood sugar was so out of whack, missing a meal meant bouts of hypoglycemia, where I felt like shit and was a total bitch to everyone around me. That’s gone. I take 6000 units of Vitamin D a day and I’m sure that is helping towards my overall health. My depression, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis and everything else is just… gone.
I’m studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer so that I can officially start helping others, but the conventional wisdom bullshit I’ve been forced to learn is making me crazy. It’s going slow. However, my passion for nutrition and the Primal lifestyle has flourished. Mark Sisson, the Primal Blueprint and Mark’s Daily Apple have changed my life and I would like to pay it forward. I’ve been volunteering with the Ancestral Health Foundation, creating a cookbook and appearing on CBS News. I’ve recently appeared in Mark Sisson’s latest book The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation and will be a presenter at PrimalCon2012.
In September of 2011, I cut out dairy to see what would happen. What happened was I lost another 7 pounds, effortlessly. I’m now at 143, a weight I’d never thought I’d see.