Growing up, I was diagnosed with severe allergies at the early age of 8. On the allergy test, I scored a remarkable 93/100. That is great for school, not for allergies. For the next 14 years, I received an allergy shot in each arm on a weekly basis. And to think after 14 years, I never felt any better. Fortunately, I was pretty active kid and I seemingly forgot these allergies while playing sports: baseball, basketball, soccer, etc. During the 5th grade, I had a form of mononucleosis that year that left me utterly miserable. I came extremely close to repeating because I missed 28 days of school that year (30 was the cutoff). Fortunately, they didn’t count the days I had to leave early from school. I don’t want to delve too far into my illnesses as a kid, but these samplings give you an idea of what I was dealing with. And, of course, being on the typical SAD.
Looking back on my childhood and teenage years, there were definitely symptoms of gluten intolerance in my body (dermatitis, respiratory issues) but the maniacal metabolism of a growing teen appeared to trump those aggravations. I was the guy who tried using weight gainer supplements and actually lost weight.
After college, I settled into a desk job as a software engineer and the waist began to expand. This was very strange for me, as I had always been able to eat whatever I wanted without gaining a pound. All of a sudden this 6’3’’, 165 lb college frame was carrying 220 lbs. So after the tonsillectomy, I decided to try something I hadn’t done since high school: running.
It had been a long time since I laced up the shoes, but I had no idea how hard it would be to get started. But after a couple of years, I was logging 40-50 miles a week and was “down” to 208 lbs. I realized I had reached a plateau and needed to switch things up. I decided to try a gym membership. I’ve always hated the gym, so I retained the services of a trainer to keep me motivated. I “improved” my diet based on his recommendations of whole grains, healthy carbs (like pasta!) and supplemental shakes. I noticed that my physique was improving but I still felt “skinny-fat”. After a couple of years, I had reached 202 lbs. Not quite the results I was looking for. I plowed along for the next few years alternating my gym workouts with running. I was maintaining and not improving, and I figured that this was as good as it was going to get. Then I noticed some changes: my blood pressure increased, I was having increased heart palpitations and was having difficulty sleeping. How could this be? I was doing everything right, right? I went to the doctor. Actually, I went to several. No one seemed interested in solving the problem, just treating the symptoms. “Here, take this blood pressure medication.” “Now, take these sleeping pills.”
I realized it was up to me to solve the problem. So, I quit the gym and stopped running. I also gave up coffee and alcohol. I saw the advertisements for P90X and decided to give it a shot. I went all in, even following the nutritional guide. I dropped to 190 lbs and noticed some improvements with my blood pressure and heart palpitations. I loved the workout. It was exactly what my body was craving.
However, I started to become sick more often. Whether it was stomach or respiratory, something always seemed to be nagging. Doctors weren’t helping so I started researching my symptoms online. Everything pointed to a gluten allergy. Could it really be this simple? I started a gluten free diet and immediately experienced the results. I was down to a 180 lbs. My stomach and respiratory problems disappeared. However, my blood pressure was still elevated and the heart palpitations still occurred (albeit less regularly). That’s when I came upon the “Paleo Diet” and “Eating Right for Your Blood Type”. Again, I saw improvements but their methods seemed unsustainable as a diet. Frustrated, I was ready to give up and accept my fate of dealing with these issues for the remainder of my life. Then, I came upon the Primal Blueprint while shopping at B&N. I remembered you from the P90X ads in the DVDs. As I flipped through it, my eyes lit up. This wasn’t just a diet, it was a lifestyle. Duh, that makes so much more sense. I bought the book and devoured the contents. The results were almost immediate. I’ve begun using the Primal Blueprint supplements and eating like Grok. I still enjoying working out a bit more than Grok (I love P90X and Insanity type workouts), but I stick with the diet by adding a few more carbohydrates with quinoa, wild rice and sweet potatoes. I’m now a lean 165 lbs, the blood pressure is better than ever and the heart palpitations have stopped.
The biggest challenge was accepting the fact the traditional food pyramid was not the answer for me. I have difficulty following paths that are not the norm.
What advice (if any) would you give to someone interested in trying a carbohydrate-restricted or paleo diet? Were there any obstacles that you overcame that could help future dieters?
If you have any side effects, remember, they are only temporary.
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