This month completes a total of 4 years since I’ve transitioned to an ancestral food and lifestyle template – let’s call it my Paleo-versary. Four years, can you believe it? Certainly a long time for what some people consider to be a fad diet!
How and why did I begin my journey you may ask? Very simply put, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. For those of you who don’t know, I have a past of drug and alcohol addiction and have been sober for almost 16 years. A little over 4 years ago, I had picked up a very problematic binge eating habit. In fact, my binge eating scared me so much because the guilt, shame, and remorse surrounding it made me feel like when I was drinking and using – bad news.
My husband saw me struggling and he felt totally powerless. One day he brought home an eBook called The Whole30 Success Guide and said, “Maybe we should try this?” The Whole30 is a short-term reset program designed for optimal health and food freedom. The words freedom hit me like a ton of bricks – that’s what I needed! In fact, the program has been so successful that the authors are publishing an entire book called The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom.
Today my diet consists of: pastured meats, organic vegetables and fruits, healthy fats and minimally processed foods. It rarely includes: grains, vegetable oils, sugar, dairy, legumes, highly processed foods and artificial ingredients.
I had so many victories on my list so I picked the top 10 I’ve had over the last four years to share with you –
1. I lost 13.5 pounds or almost 10% of my body weight during the first 30 days. I start with this one only because weight is what most people look to as a metric of how successfully a program works. I’ve kept it off for the most part – I did gain some weight due to three cortisone shots to my spine in 2014 but the weight came right back off once my body healed and my hormones settled back down.
2. The scale does not rule my life. This feels so good and is possibly too hard for me to describe. I learned that weighing myself does horrible things to my head! If I stand on the scale and it says what I don’t want it to say (I weigh too much), I get a case of the “f-bomb its.” Meaning, why not eat whatever I want because obviously, what I’m doing isn’t working. Or in contrast, if the number that appears says what I want, I get the feeling of self entitlement and that “I deserve a treat” message which loops in my head until I inevitably give in. A recipe for total disaster of binge eating and yo-yo dieting. To this day, I even go so far as to close my eyes while the doctor weighs me and ask not to be told how much I weigh. My mind feels so much clearer with those pesky numbers and scale talk gone from my mind.
3. When the seasons change and I pull out either the cool weather or warm weather clothes, they always fit! This non-scale victory shows me that my diet and lifestyle work. I don’t gain weight over the winter, only to find my spring dresses or my summer shorts fitting a little too snug. This shows me that my weight is stable without having to constantly monitor it on a scale, which works for me!
4. I don’t binge eat any longer. Sure I have my moments where I might overeat and become too full but it’s always a mildly pleasant feeling after a wholesome meal of healthy meat and vegetables. I no longer binge on refined carbohydrates for days (or weeks) at a time, where I’d never get full or feel like I had gotten enough. Food doesn’t hold me hostage any longer.
5. I fell in love with real food and learned how to cook! OMG, real food is delectably delicious! I have eaten so many sodium-laden, fat-removed, carbed-up Lean Cuisines and Weight Watcher meals for years that I had no idea what real food tasted like. I learned I can grow my own food and cook my own food. Wowzers, I’m actually a pretty good cook! I now understand that food is neither good nor bad – it’s just meant to be enjoyed and also nourish the mind, body and soul.
6. There are no YES foods or NO foods, there are only foods that don’t make me feel good. Since nothing is off limits, I don’t feel deprived and this leads to a very sustainable way to live and eat. I don’t know if it’s because I have addictive tendencies, but when I think I can’t have something, my brain constantly will dwell on the thing I can’t have leading eventually to a binge.
7. I completely changed my career and walked away from a very high paying corporate job that I hated and walked into a career I’m passionate about! What does this have to do with food you might now ask? Remember I said food and lifestyle above. Having read a ton of Paleo books, the importance of lifestyle became crystal clear – I would not feel better or resolve my binge eating issues completely if I did not change the stress I was under. I learned how to prioritize and the powers of the universe took care of the rest!
8. The hot flashes I suffered from 4 years ago completely disappeared and haven’t returned even though I’m of a “certain age” where hot flashes are the norm. Removing refined processed carbohydrates and adding back healthy fats enabled my hormones to properly balance themselves, relieving the dreaded hot flashes.
9. My emotions, and in turn, my sobriety run on a much more even keel. This is big. Before, when I wasn’t fueling my brain appropriately, bad things would happen and I would melt down. Life seemed harder and I felt like I had no resilience. Now, when the aforementioned difficulties in life show up, I intuitively know how to deal with them – no meltdowns needed!
10. I don’t have to run for miles and miles or exercise every day to stay fit and trim. I’ve learned that running isn’t for me and found a way to exercise that works for me. I’ve written at length about fitness in my series – Exercise Smarter Not Harder Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 – but in short, I walk daily and lift weights. I truly enjoy working out, unlike before when it felt like a chore to be endured endlessly.
As I said, there are many more victories on the list, perhaps the beginning of a book I’d like to someday write! I mentioned earlier that it’s hard to describe how good I feel every darn day and the depth of happiness I have in this life I love. Is it all due to the food I eat? Probably not entirely, but I know how I felt before and I know in my heart that real food, as well as the lifestyle changes I’ve made, play a major role in the profound happiness I have today.
Have you tried changing your diet and lifestyle? What changes or successes have you noticed? I’d love to hear your real food and lifestyle related stories too!!