At HLS, when everyone was asking how long I’d been blogging, I realized that Erica and I started this blog last June. Which means we went Paleo last June. Which means we’ve been Paleo for over a year. WOAH. Crazy. So I’ve been thinking a lot about my “journey” and where I was at last year vs where I am today and how Paleo has changed my life. I’ve never really sat down and wrote about it, but am going to today. It won’t be super exciting, it will most likely turn into a ramble (shocking) but hopefully it will inspire you in some way shape or form if you’ve been wanting to give Paleo a shot but need an extra boost. I’ve had a very positive experience with the “diet”, so here goes:
I’ve always been a healthy person. Played sports my whole life, started doing strength training and group exercise classes in high school, and grew up in a healthy household with the world’s best chef (my mom, for real). Since I was always active, I never really limited myself when it came to eating. My metabolism has always treated me well because I treated my body well. Minus a little 10 lb weight gain sophomore year of college (I blame NYC pizza) I’ve always been happy with my body image. I’d go through phases of “eating well” which basically meant limiting my caloric intake and focusing on low fat, low calorie foods, but for the most part, I had a consistent, normal diet. And felt fine.
About 4 years ago, I was getting really bad cramps in the back of my legs and arms. My doctors couldn’t figure it out. At first, we thought it was from exercising, but I was religious about stretching, and the cramping would occur on days I didn’t go to the gym. The cramping felt like my legs were falling asleep- numbness, a little bit of tingly-ness (not a word, whatever) and the only way to get rid of them was by downing Advil. Obviously, I did not want to make this a habit, but the cramps kept coming on. After lots of blood work and tests, my doctors suggested that I start tracking when the cramps came on. I did, and noted that it was occurring after large meals, such as pizza, pasta, sandwiches, dessert. All of my favorite things. GREAT. I almost wanted to keep it a secret, because I knew my doctor would tell me to stop eating those things!! Anyways, tested for celiac, dairy allergy, diabetes, and got nada. Well f me.
It was around this time that Erica started CrossFit, and was doing this crazy thing called the Paleo Diet. I literally would avoid talking to her on Gchat because all she would talk about was how great she felt and how Paleo was soo awesome and how she didn’t miss bread at all and STFU Erica! (Just kidding, love you!)
She told me I should try it. I told her she was crazy. There was NO way I was giving up pasta and sandwiches. I mean, the whole concept of just “eat real food” made sense to me… but it just sounded so… inconvenient. And no sandwiches? How inhumane!! But, turns out Erica is pretty persistent and I’m pretty stubborn and didn’t want to be proven wrong, so I told her I would do it for 7 days, and that was it. 7 days only.
Sooo.. 7 days… 1 year.. same thing.
How did it happen? I remember that night, after she convinced me to try it, I went out to sushi with my dad and brother. I got a salad and a roll wrapped in cucumber (no rice). I remember how shocked I was that I didn’t feel bloated and like I had a food baby living in my stomach after I ate. I felt… good. I didn’t want to feel good. I wanted to be pissed that I was missing out on carbs and delicious white rice that would stick in my belly for days. I remember sleeping like a rock that night. “Alright.. maybe this won’t be so bad. Maybe Erica is onto something here..” The rest of the week (I was still living at home) my mom was a rockstar (she always is) and made dinners that were all Paleo friendly and packed me lettuce wraps instead of sandwiches to bring to work (yes, when I was living at home my mom packed me lunch and drove me to the train in the morning. Yes, it ruled. Why did I move out again??)
Anyways, after just 3 days of going Paleo, I felt so different. I wasn’t bloated after I ate, I was sleeping like a rock at night, I had more energy throughout the day, I was waking up before my 5AM alarm, AND my legs weren’t cramping up. It was kind of a no brainer from there. Why wouldn’t I continue to eat this way? Why would I not want to feel this good all the time?
After the 7 days were up, I was convinced. I decided I would stick with it, for however long I felt like it. It was definitely a transition. I didn’t go hardcore Paleo on Day One. I still had dairy in the forms of Greek yogurt and cheese, and I didn’t realize until about 2 months in, after I read The Paleo Solution, that I wasn’t supposed to be eating corn or beans (whoops!). But cutting out the processed food, grains and gluten made a huge difference for me. In addition to not getting cramps and numbness after eating, I lost the 5 pesky pounds that I could never seem to get rid of (FYI I wasn’t trying to lose weight- it just happened). I FINALLY saw definition in my stomach. After years of doing crunches and ab classes, I realized the whole “diet and exercise” connection. I lost that little extra layer that had been surrounded my muscles and hard work at the gym for years.
This picture is totally unrelated to everything in this post. Just realized I didn’t have a picture to go along with it. I guess it sort of emphasizes how I feel after I eat gluten. My stomach just rips through my clothes. Sidenote- they NEED to bring this bathing suit style back. Bring it BACK!
Last August, when I moved out of the nest and into my own apartment in Boston, I had a new challenge- cooking. I’d never really cooked before since my mom is an incredible cook and always took care of that at home, and in NYC my kitchen was the size of my big toe so I was never really motivated to cook, especially since my schedule was so nutty and it was just easier to order out. Once I moved into my own place with a normal sized kitchen and appliances, PaleOMG became a part of my daily life. Seriously. I related so well to Juli and her sense of humor, and she made everything about Paleo seem so realistic. To boot, all of her recipes were really easy to make, and I found myself looking forward to going to the grocery store after work and cooking dinner at night. And, I discovered that there were such things as Paleo desserts. SCORE.
So here I am, a year later, still alive to tell the tale (unlike many of my caveman ancestors…). The main reason I’ve stuck with Paleo is that it makes me feel good. Everyone is different. Maybe being a vegetarian makes you feel awesome. Maybe being vegan makes you feel great (and make me think you’re crazy.. just kidding!). It’s all about what finding what works for you. I’ve had friends try Paleo for 30 days and literally felt no difference. I’ve had friends try it who have loved it and are now also following the way of eating. For me, eating lots of protein, fruit, vegetables, nuts, fats, and occasional dairy (and chocolate…maybe that’s more than occasional…) works for me. I understand there are benefits of eating grains and certain starches. They just don’t make me feel good, so I don’t eat them. I don’t eat this way to please anyone else or prove myself to anyone else- I do it for completely selfish reasons. I do it for me.
I’ve learned some huge lessons from going Paleo. I’ve learned about taking better care of my body, and seeing what foods have affects on me. I’ve learned about properly fueling myself before and after a workout so I can maximize my time and efforts on the bike or in the gym. I’ve learned the importance of getting 8 hours of sleep at night. I’ve learned how to COOK! I’ve learned how to make smart decisions when food shopping or eating at restaurants. I’ve learned the importance of checking ingredients, and not calories (seriously, I eat WAY more on Paleo than I ever did before.. and weigh less, and have a lower body fat percentage). I’ve learned that if I want to splurge on a piece of chocolate cake after dinner, that I’ll be holed up on my couch for the rest of the night. I’ve learned that I have more confidence in my body and how I look than ever before- and it’s because I take care of it and eat well and work hard. And I feel great. At this point, 1 year will probably turn into 2.. and then 3.. and then who knows!
I could probably continue gushing about Paleo for days, but I’ll leave it at that. Erica will be giving her recap on her experience at some point this week or next week. How about you guys? Who introduced you to Paleo? Anyone out there debating trying it, but have qualms about it? Would love to hear your stories and experiences!