I’ve never believed in “diets” since I have seen what happens in the overwhelming majority of cases – follow the “diet,” lose weight, back to the same-old-same-old, pack on more pounds than before. So I decided to be sensible and follow conventional wisdom. By instituting sustainable changes to my diet (counting calories, adding more healthy whole grains, less fat, less junk food) and a manageable exercise routine (worked up to chronic cardio!), I met my goal. By mid-April 2011 I was down 23 lbs. and 2 sizes. Woo hoo! I should have been ecstatic, but I knew I had a problem.
I’d lost the weight, but I was feeling weaker and had experienced a couple of really scary incidents of severe diarrhea which lead to incapacitating dehydration compounded with hypothermia. I had to be rushed to the emergency room twice over a two-month period. After numerous tests and consultations between my GP and the ER doctors, the diagnosis both times was stomach virus. Great. They were clueless.
The second incident had been worse than the first. By the time the paramedics arrived (quicker than the first time) my veins had already started collapsing and I was non-responsive. I didn’t feel too confident about surviving a third bout. I learned to become aware of the initial signs of dehydration and was able to manage it by drinking ridiculous amounts of water (12 - 16 glasses a day!) supplemented with Gatorade. There had to be a better way. Of increasing concern to me was that over the next three months I dropped another 10 lbs. without trying, and started developing sagging skin – a sure sign of muscle loss. Being small-framed and with a family history of osteoporosis, this was not good.
Somehow I stumbled upon Mark's Daily Apple. As I started reading, a lot started making sense. The exercise portion was a lot like what I did as a kid. Having grown up in NYC with no car in the family, my feet were a basic mode of transportation. Sprints were how my friends and I got to elementary school (had to wait for mom to catch up to cross the street), lifting heavy things was how we got groceries home and up the stairs, and let’s not forget going up and down stairs (2 or 3 steps at a time weighted down with books in jr. and sr. high school) in the train stations, as well as regularly climbing 2 - 5 flights of stairs to reach family members’ and friends’ apartments (elevators were not an option).
After reading The Primal Blueprint (the only “diet” book I had EVER purchased), I came to the realization that my “healthy” lifestyle was going to kill me, literally! I must admit that even in spite of that, I had a lot of trepidation about going without the grains and legumes and increasing my fat intake. I had no problem dropping processed foods because my dad didn’t consider anything out of a can or pre-frozen to be “food,” and my mom made the distinction between real food and party (i.e. junk) food. For over 50 years I had eaten oatmeal or cream of wheat as part of my healthy breakfast almost every day. Breakfast without grains just did not seem like it would fill me up. Being of Caribbean ancestry, rice and beans had also been lifelong staples. However, on July 23, 2011, I decided to give this primal thing a try for a week. One week later I was down another 3 lbs., but, in spite of my husband’s concerns about my “anorexia” – no worries – I was also down one full size! Using one of the online body fat calculators, I estimated that my body fat had gone down about 3%, which correlates well with the 3 lb. weight loss. Over the next few months I took a few forays back into the world of "regular" foods, because I wasn't going to let some "diet" deprive me of my old comfort foods. My body didn't like that and let me know loudly and clearly.
After 5 months of having said goodbye to the “healthy” whole grains and legumes, embracing the fats, dropping the chronic cardio, exercising less (but more effectively) and playing more, I lost a total of 6 lbs. Almost a year into my primal journey, I’ve regained all of the weight that I lost since I went primal. What has left me and all that have seen my transformation dumbfounded, is that from July 2011 to now I dropped from a size 4 to a size 0 with a net weight loss of ZERO pounds! Let me summarize that -- I dropped 36 lbs. and went from a size 8 to a size 4 following conventional wisdom. I’ve dropped a whopping 0 lbs. and have gone from a size 4 to a size 0 following the primal blueprint.
More importantly, I’ve noticed that a lot of nuisance health issues that I had attributed to aging and/or had for so long that I accepted them as “normal,” are gone. To name just a few, the achy shins and joints, compliments of power walking (I read that it was easier on the joints than jogging, lol!), are no longer achy. I no longer feel like I am going to pass out if I don’t have breakfast within the first 30 minutes after I wake up. I no longer need to constantly pack snacks for my mid-morning and mid-afternoon hunger pangs/shakes. I no longer get in a foul mood when I’m hungry. I don’t drink anywhere near the amounts of water I drank regularly when I was constantly fighting dehydration, nor have I had a need to drink Gatorade. I have more energy than ever (I was anemic from childhood until a couple of years ago). Spicy foods no longer mess up my stomach. That stuffed feeling 10-15 minutes after a meal is gone. My pipes no longer leak.
My primal journey continues as I try out different things and continue to learn how my body wants me to live. At age 53 I am stronger, leaner, more energetic and feel healthier than ever.
What was the biggest challenge to adopting a carbohydrate-restricted or paleo diet?
My biggest barrier has been psychological. It has been difficult for my brain to accept that so much professional advice about healthy eating was wrong for me.
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?
1) Commit to following the plan for a limited time frame.
2) Eat well - prepare meals that you look forward to.