Before and during.

These pictures were taken about two and half months apart. The first one in May about two weeks before I started eating a Paleo diet. The second just Friday (August 23)

I don’t post this as a before and after, because I’m not at the end of my weight loss adventure.

I don’t post this because I want the world see. -No one likes seeing bad pictures of themselves, let alone publishing them.

I post this because it’s attainable. The girl pictured on the left, did not think change was attainable. She was wrong.

Two and half months.
Be intentional.

My path to Paleo.

I woke up this morning and read Rob’s Paleo testimony. It meant so much to me to read his story I thought I would share mine. I heard about Paleo for the first time a little over two years ago, I mentioned it to Rob, he wasn’t enthusiastic, but he didn’t dismiss it. We briefly discussed how it would be too difficult to give up so many foods we loved. I liked the idea, but it just seemed insurmountable, -to not eat bread. All my favorite foods were bread! How could I possibly live a happy life while denying myself all of my favorite things?!

A few years pass.

A few pounds are gained. (More then a few.)

Here is what my “before Paleo” life looked like.

At my heaviest point I was 95 pounds over the recommended weight for my height. I only stand at 5’3″ so that was the equivalent of carrying around a 6th grader. To much stress for my tiny frame.

I woke up in the morning, dragged myself out of bed, usually because my stomach hurt, and started my day by drinking around 40 ounces of coffee. *Just to get me up and going. I drank this from two 20 ounce cups and it seemed totally reasonable at the time. I never drank my coffee black, I started with milk and Splenda, but worked my way up to those super expensive and sugary creamers. (those add around 35 calories per tablespoon to your coffee, I was not using just one tablespoon) Some mornings we would grab breakfast from a drive through but most mornings, just coffee.

Then I’d head to work, I have a job where I am on my feet all day, and I was constantly looking for any excuse to sit down or lean on something, my feet hurt every night. Most days I did not eat at work at all, I would just keep pouring coffee and coasting through on caffeine and sugar. I was experiencing rises and crashes, and mood swings, but I thought that was all just “normal” because I didn’t remember a time in life where I didn’t feel them. If I did order food it was most likely an order of french fries from the restaurant next door which I would dip in ranch dressing.

I would get off work late in the evening, too exhausted to cook, most of our suppers were handed to us through windows. I would go home, eat my supper, and while I was eating it I was mentally planning what I would eat after my meal, I was starving from my day long fast and I could easily justify this binge eating lifestyle.

During this period of my life I was active. I jogged 3 times a week, went hiking on the weekends, I drank water, and occasionally ate vegetables. I thought of myself as a happy healthy person. I was so far off the path to health that I didn’t even know I was lost.

But I was beginning to worry about Rob. He seemed to be developing a sensitivity to gluten, and he was starting to deal with more and more pain on a daily basis. (so much so that I joked with him about diagnosing himself with a new disease daily) But when I pulled back and looked at that, clearly his body was screaming at him to make changes. And so was mine. But I didn’t want to hear it. I wanted another doughnut.

So Rob and I went to the lake with my family early this summer. We want to start a family and have been having a lot of talks about what steps we need to take now to be the most prepared for this next chapter of our lives. (in our health, our finances, and our marriage)

We knew we had a long drive in the car, so it seemed a good time to talk so we started talking about our health. Rob and I both fell into the OBESE category on the BMI scale. Genetically his family has a strong history of Diabetes. Mine has a strong history of heart disease. We saw the path that we were on, we saw the future. We knew it was time to change directions. We talked about the reasons why we wanted to make life changes, and it came down to this. More years with our children. Suddenly we had a new incentive. After all those years of telling myself I could never give up “__________” (insert soda, bread, french fries, ice cream etc. choose your poison) I started thinking of it in a new light, the dialogue of my self talk changed. Would I rather eat this ice cream or see my kids graduate from college?

(now if you’ve read my about paleo page, you know now I sometimes eat ice cream, please don’t think this is because I don’t love my future children, this was self talk I used to break a lifetime of unhealthy eating)

We talked about all kinds of ways we could improve our health, and we kept coming back to Paleo. I work in the beauty industry, I’ve seen A LOT of diets come and go. Everyone has tried something.

They all seemed to work, but none of them seemed to be a lifestyle I would be able to keep forever. I needed to learn to be a healthy person, not yo-yo between underweight and overweight for the rest of my life. Every person I’ve met who has converted to a Paleo diet, has stayed with it and continued to stay healthy. Now maybe I’m just lucky and have well balanced friends. But it got us talking. I messaged some of my Paleo friends on Facebook and asked them how to get started.

My friend Morgan recommended I start with Robb Wolf’s book “The Paleo Solution” I read the book, then about a thousand articles online and listened to just as many Pod-casts. Then I started watching documentaries on nutrition and how food affects our body.

It all made sense to me. This was my path to health. I kept looking for the Paleo haters pages, and they are out there, but there are even more stories of people just like me who changed their lives by putting down the doughnuts.

We’ve been eating this way for just a few months. It started with a conversation, that lead to buying a book, that lead to research. That lead to cleaning all the junk out of our pantries. We had to plan, we had to cook ahead on the weekends, we had to work together.

But it wasn’t hard. Not any of it. It was intentional. We were choosing our path instead of drifting. The changes were almost immediate.

There was most definitely a detox. It took about two weeks for me, the first 2 days were the worst (most of that was the caffeine) but my gut needed to heal, I craved sugar, I was a bundle of nerves and mood swings. But then everything changed. I was eating regular meals, my moods were stable. I wasn’t starving or hungry in between. I suddenly I felt SO MUCH BETTER. -Then of course there is the weight loss, neither Rob or I have reached our ideal weight yet. But I am no longer obese! In just a few short months I have experienced, healthy, steady weight loss. But for me what’s more wonderful then the number on the scale going down is the way my body has changed. Before when I have lost weight my profile although smaller has stayed the same shape. This is not the case now. I am leaner. It doesn’t even feel like I’m trying. I’m eating awesome food, I have energy to run and play and look forward to working out. My skin is clearer, I wear about a third of the make up I used to wear. I’m sleeping better, soundly deeply, waking up feeling rested. I’m hydrated, I am drinking at minimum 8 glasses of water a day, so my headaches are gone, my intestinal cramping is gone, so much of my anxiety is gone. The fact that my stomach is shrinking seems like such a tiny bonus. Life is good and we know it’s going to keep getting better. For the first time Rob and I are looking forward to a long and healthy future.

The picture above is my jawline on my first day of paleo, and then on day 19.

My Paleo Testimony

My wife wanted me to write something about what the Paleo lifestyle means to me. The simplest answer is that I’m trying to avoid the following foods, more or less in this order of importance. Grains, dairy, processed sugars, and beans. The more complex answer is, well, more complex.

I’ve been training in martial arts for most of my life. As such, I’ve been exposed to a lot of information about fitness, health, diet, and nutrition. And yet despite having that knowledge, I have been grossly obese most of my life. I could still train and teach, but I was a big fat guy. At one point I was training in karate and weighed 340 pounds! And it led to me eventually developing some serious health issues including a series of escalating joint and muscle injuries to both my legs.

In my youth I had actually lost all that weight once before. I did it by adhering to an extremely stringent and UNHEALTHY diet plan combined with near constant exercise. I would eat one pop tart or granola bar for breakfast, another for lunch, and a small dinner, like maybe just a single pack of ramen noodles. My diet was almost entirely grains and sugar, and I had reduced my caloric intake to around five or six hundred total a day. It worked, I lost 130 pounds and got thin, but I was never super healthy and a few years later when I went back to a “normal” diet I immediately gained back all the weight and more.

I had a lot of emotional baggage and stress tied up in my lifestyle. I’d eat a whole bag of chips and then excoriate myself for hours for being unhealthy and weak. I’d resist and resist and resist and then break down and eat a box of donuts and feel like a failure. Or I’d just give up and say “can’t win/don’t try” and just go along with the Standard American Diet, telling myself that the inevitable diabetes and rotting death I’d end up with was simply inevitable.

Before Paleo, a typical day of eating for me was a large supreme pizza for breakfast, two pounds of Chinese buffet for lunch, and a bag of tacos and burritos for dinner. Wash it all down with four liters of soda. And almost no water, ever. Like for weeks at a time. And that’s no exaggeration. I had back problems, knee problems, digestive problems, and lived in a state of more or less constant pain and discomfort. And I never really thought that was because of my diet. I just thought that was normal. After all, I was in my thirties now and they say it’s all downhill from there. Right?

During this time I was still training all the time. Maybe more than almost any time in my life. And a lot of the guys I was training with we’re getting into the Paleo lifestyle. I kept hearing about it, and I noticed that the guys doing it were the highest energy, most fit guys in the dojo. So I was intrigued, but I also thought there was just no way I could do it. No sandwiches? No dairy products? No beer? I could think of a million foods I couldn’t possibly live without. It seemed like an insurmountable challenge. Can’t win. Don’t try.

But I wanted to try. And then one night my wife came home and said, “Have you heard about Paleo? I think I might wanna try it.” And I said “Yes! Let’s do it!” And I started almost immediately.

The first few days were a little challenging. I still wanted to eat the same stuff I always did before. But pretty quickly those foods just didn’t appeal to me anymore. One of my challenges was that at the time I worked in two kitchens where I had pretty much unlimited access to foods that were killing me. And being poor, I felt like I had to eat the free food because I couldn’t divert the money away from my other responsibilities in order to eat healthier. One of the transformative moments for me was when my wife asked me, “If you worked in a rat poison factory, and they gave you unlimited free rat poison, would you eat rat poison for every meal just because you could?” And that changed everything for me. Once I really started to see things like pizza, and donuts, and ice cream, and cheeseburgers, and soda not as food, but as poison, I suddenly didn’t have any desire for any of it at all anymore. It became easy to say no to pastries and pasta and pop.

And once I started down that path, it became easier and easier and easier. At first I was still eating the same size portions of food. But I noticed pretty quickly that now that I was eating more nutrient dense foods I was getting full much quicker and leaving a lot of food on my plate. So I started eating smaller and smaller meals. And I was still full all the time. It used to be that I couldn’t get my meals below 12-15 hundred calories. Now my average meals are around 4-5 hundred. And where a lot of those calories used to come from foods that were difficult and even painful to digest, like bread or cheese, now I was eating foods that didn’t weigh me down or cause me discomfort.

And in addition to feeling comfortably full, I also noticed I had a TON more energy than I used to. I used to wake up a zombie and lurch through the first part of my day, until I could get some caffeine in me and then I’d get amped up for a while, and then I’d crash again and go back to dragging myself around. Before my day was filled with highs and lows, but since I started eating Paleo my energy levels evened out and elevated. I woke up alert and well rested, cruised through my day, and went to sleep easily and slept comfortably through the night. And in turn, I was becoming more active. I was working harder in the dojo, I started supplementing my karate with resistance training, and I even went running for the first time in years. My body started healing, even chronic pain from old injuries that had plagued me for months and years began to recede, and I was losing weight at an incredible pace.

I’m still new to this lifestyle. It wasn’t all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows everywhere. There was a transitional period in the beginning, for a few weeks, where I had occasional discomfort as my body detoxed from my previous lifestyle. I had to learn what restaurants I could eat at and what foods to order. From the outside it seems impossible. How could I ever eat Paleo when every food I was familiar with was “off plan?” But from the inside the answer is simple. Once you eliminate those old habits, you don’t have any choice but to find creative new options. Suddenly you’re eating at new restaurants and trying new foods. Trying things you’d never even considered before. I started ordering fish and salads and potato gnocchi. I started eating steamed vegetables instead of fries and ordering sandwiches without the bread. I started noticing Soup and Salad restaurants I’d never realized were there before and getting excited about the grilled chicken breast waiting for me in the fridge after work.

From the outside it seems impossible because everything’s so different from what you’re used to. But from the inside it seems easy because you’ve changed your whole perspective. You think “I could never live without mom’s lasagna!” And then you realize that you don’t have to, and that mom’s lasagna isn’t the issue, and that you were just using that as an excuse not to take responsibility for your actions and your decisions and the consequences thereof, and ultimately, that mom’s lasagna doesn’t have that much culinary appeal to you anymore anyway. So if you want to eat it, go ahead. But you can have a perfectly fine time with your mom eating salad instead, without it affecting your relationship or your fond memories of your childhood.

I’m really excited about all the changes I’m seeing in my life. Everything I’ve experienced and learned since starting this lifestyle has reaffirmed my decision to practice it. Every time I’ve gone back and eaten one of the foods from my old lifestyle, bread or cheese or sugar, I’ve experienced all the discomfort and negative side effects that were a part of my daily existence before, further reaffirming to me that I don’t want to put that stuff in my body anymore. I still have a long way to go on this journey. I still have weight to lose, I’m still healing. I’m still learning. But this has been a really positive experience for me. And I can’t wait to see what the future holds. Or to share it with you!

What is Paleo?

Sometimes it seems there are as many definitions of the “Paleo diet” as there are people on the Paleo diet. If you’re new to this site, or aren’t familiar with the idea, here is how Wikipedia describes it:

“The paleolithic diet (abbreviated paleo diet or paleodiet), also popularly referred to as the caveman diet, Stone Age diet and hunter-gatherer diet, is a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various hominid species habitually consumed during the Paleolithic era—a period of about 2.5 million years which ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture and grain-based diets. In common usage, the term “paleolithic diet” can also refer to actual ancestral human diets, insofar as these can be reconstructed.

Centered on commonly available modern foods, the contemporary “Paleolithic diet” consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, and dairy products potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.”

wiki link

That being said, here is what it means to us:

He said:
For me living the Paleo lifestyle means trying to avoid, more or less in this order, Grains, Dairy, Processed Sugars, and Beans. I try not to eat soy derivatives or vegetable oils and I try to keep nuts and nut products to a minimum. But I don’t get too wrapped up in reaching for perfection. To me, this isn’t about “being Paleo.” It’s about learning about food and nutrition and making healthier choices so I can live a longer more fulfilling life. If I want an ice cream, or a funnel cake, or there’s a sprinkle of cheese on my grilled chicken when the waiter brings it over that wasn’t mentioned on the menu, I don’t have a heart attack or throw a fit. I’m just trying to be conscious of when I need fuel and when I just want to eat poison, and making responsible decisions. It’s not a prison sentence, or a set of rules. It’s taking responsibility for the things I put in my body and being conscious of what effect those things will have on me.

She said:
I know that I feel the best when I eat vegetables and meat. I try to keep my focus on eating a wide variety of proteins, vegetables and fruits. I try to avoid grains, legumes, dairy, processed food, and processed sugar.

But I am human.

Sometimes I want ice cream.

…or melty cheese, french fries or sugar in my coffee and I eat it.

I don’t feel guilt about it.

I eat every bite. I even enjoy it.

Paleo is the plan I stick to 80% of the time, because I believe it is the path to my healthiest self. However sticking to a strict good food/bad food list for the rest of my life to me doesn’t sound like the path to my happiest self.

Eating isn’t a moral issue for me. I don’t experience any food allergies and rarely feel discomfort even after “bad foods” At the end of the day I want to have made more healthy choices then unhealthy choices. But I also want to live my life. So in summary;

-Food is fuel, cookies are delicious.