What circumstances brought my family to embrace a primal/paleo lifestyle? It started about 10 years ago, when I was 29. As a wife and mother of two young children ages 3 and 5, I was puzzled by the fact that I required a daily 2-hour nap to function through the afternoon and evening – on top of not being able to get up before 7:30 am despite going to bed at a reasonable hour (about 10:30). Shortly after my 30th birthday I started to gain weight as well. A couple of visits to the doctor did not yield much – maybe I was depressed? Maybe it was another prescription I was taking? Try some antidepressants? Well, I tried them and they made me feel much, much worse with symptoms like vertigo and nausea.
Finally a doctor visit within the year yielded a slightly out-of-bounds test result for thyroid hormone deficiency. I begged the doctor for a little, teensy, eensy prescription of Armor Thyroid, and from there I was allowed by my insurance company to regularly visit an endocrinologist to keep the hormones balanced. Still carrying around 25 extra pounds, a little sleuthing on the internet produced the idea that a low-carb diet helps people with low thyroid lose weight. My husband and I tried the Atkins diet a couple of years before, and by day 3 we were crabbing at each other over nothing, and decided to give up and go out for a carb fest, after which we felt much better. This time I approached the Atkins diet with a lot more information, a fully stocked pantry, and a plan for snacks in case the hunger monster hit. We both had success eating low-carb, but a lot of chemical-laden semi-foods found their way into our daily lives (Splenda! Atkins bars! Protein shakes!). It was a diet, not a lifestyle, so it was not sustainable for the long-term for me.
The next six years my weight continued to yo-yo, the variables being my eating and my thyroid numbers. I started working, and the more I worked the less I cooked. My kids were growing, and afterschool and evening activities also shoved cooking to the back burner. We ate out more, and had an amazing market around the corner from our house with a deli full of ready-made and healthy-ish dinner food. However, by the summer of 2009 I was heavier than ever while not pregnant, and I knew I had to do something about it. My husband was still in decent shape, making weight for his job, but carrying around a few extra pounds that made keeping physically fit more painful. I started back down the low-carb path, and lost a few pounds. Some more internet research led me to a website that has changed the way I look at how I eat and what I do for physical activity. It challenged me with thought experiments, showed me phenomenal success stories of real people, and had delicious recipes. In fact, there was a new post every single day of the week with practical tips on how to develop your own success!
That website was Mark’s Daily Apple (www.marksdailyapple.com). I bought the book and paid for a quick delivery – I wanted that book in my hands before spring break 2010. I read the book, and brought it along with me for encouragement. I did my best to avoid more neolithic-style foods, and actually lost a couple of pounds on the trip. I couldn’t stop reading passages of the book to my husband while we were laying on the beach – and soon he picked up the book and started reading for himself. I soon noticed that he stopped buying “low-carb” oatmeal and granola for breakfast. We were committed to working on our health and fitness together! We were having a great time, I think we went shopping for pants for him twice in two months! He was wearing a smaller size than when we got married! I however, would grow much, much bigger…from a surprise pregnancy, courtesy of my body feeling years younger than the 38 I actually was.
So while I was getting bigger, my husband was getting smaller. The first couple of months all I wanted to eat was rice and potatoes. Then my eating improved, but it was far from perfect and I went on to gain the normal amount of weight for me while pregnant – about 50 lb. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, but was able to manage it by avoiding bread and sugar, but I continued to eat rice and potatoes occasionally. My numbers remained within range, except for the one night I ate Pizza Hut, which I never did again after that! I delivered an 8#14oz baby at 39 weeks, and he did not have the precipitous blood sugar drop that his older brother had 12 years prior. The first six weeks I did not restrict my eating because I was nursing, taking care of an infant, healing from surgery…and running two teenagers around to their activities. I needed fast food on the go, and if it was a sandwich, then that was what I had (salads and leftovers don’t seem to travel well in a car!). I lost about 30 lb of baby weight, and then decided to get back to a more primal-style diet. My husband continued to get leaner and stronger during this time, I might add.
Did I mention we moved, across the country? So my adherence to primal and lifting heavy things was sporadic. Once things settled down, I joined a gym, joined an organic co-op, and started seriously planning our weekly meals. I am still busy driving the kids to activities, and thanks to our current location I get to drive a lot more! But I take the time to plan ahead, and have standby protein ready to go in case of emergency.
As of January 2nd, I have been on the Whole 30 challenge (http://whole9life.com/2012/01/whole-30-v2012/). The gist of what I have given up from the primal lifestyle is cream in my coffee, occasional dairy in recipes (cheese/yogurt), a square or two of chocolate after dinner, and alcohol, which I didn’t drink frequently anyway due to histamine intolerance. After a week I can tell I will need to go shopping again at the end of 30 days! My jeans are looser, my shirts fit nicely, and I can wear all of the cute clothes I bought to celebrate my weight loss just before I got pregnant! My husband is helping me in the gym – coaching me on deadlifts and recommending workout exercises and frequency.
We feel that we owe it to our kids to be as healthy and fit as we can be. The primal/paleo lifestyle allows us to do that in a way that does not require us to measure food, count calories, or spend hours in the gym lifting light weights or pounding out miles on a treadmill. We are also feeding our youngest in a way that is more compatible with a primal/paleo lifestyle. He does not eat teething biscuits, cereals, or juice. He does eat things like eggs, bananas, apples, sweet potato, grassfed beef, and Greek-style yogurt. He is healthy and happy and growing at a perfect rate!
I am not a medical professional or a dietitian (though I did get into an argument with one while I was pregnant over the “diabetic diet”), but I know from logic and now experience that eating a real food diet with lots of vegetables and good meat is what our bodies need. My energy now, at nearly 40, is much, much better than it was 10 years ago. I couldn’t nap even if I tried! I wake up at 6 with plenty of energy to tackle the day. I love my life this way.