My route towards a Paleo diet was accidental in many ways. I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease four years ago and my life changed dramatically, mostly for the worse. My weight skyrocketed from already obese levels and my general health plummeted. After three years of steadily increasing the strength of my medications, I had hit a crossroads. I was told to start taking a dangerous medication that had caused splenic lymphoma in young males or consider surgery and have part of my colon removed. Something clicked in my brain and said there has to be a better way.
I asked my doctor if he had heard of any alternative treatments. He dismissively mentioned something called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, designed to treat a variety of GI diseases and ailments. He said his patients hadn't had much success and continued to discuss pharmaceutical options. I went home and bought a book and did my research. For those who are used to the concept of a Paleo diet, the SCD should sound rather familiar. No grains, added sugar, or processed foods. Instead the focus was on meat, fats, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. I began this diet with only a passing, vague knowledge of something called a "caveman" diet . It wasn't until a month after I began the SCD that I discovered the similarities and incorporated more Primal concepts into my diet.
It has been seven months now and I haven't felt this great since...well, ever. I have lost a total of 135 lbs in a year, 90 of those pounds lost from strictly following a Primal diet. The weight loss and increased energy has been fantastic, but the greatest benefit for me is the slow and steady improvement of my Crohn's disease. I went from having to administer weekly injections of an immune suppressing biological medicine in conjunction with rather large quantities of steroids to now being medication free. It now seems like common sense to eat whole foods that are bodies were designed to eat. I know now that it was my insanely poor diet that caused my Crohn's disease. I don't think it is any coincidence that the foods I ate the most of pre-diet are the ones that are outright banned now.
I admit I would have found it more difficult to follow my diet so strictly without having Crohn's disease. I initially thought I would do this diet until my Crohn's was cured and go back to the way I was eating. Now, I wouldn't do that if you paid me. I now weigh 175 lbs. down from my highest of 310 lbs. a year ago. It is such a relief to no longer worry about the scale and work on building my strength.
The challenge for me was playing serious catch-up in my knowledge of food and cooking. I had lived solely on processed junk, mostly fast food, for my entire life. I remember starting to learn how to cook and had no idea what olive oil was and how something could be extra virgin. To me, that was like saying someone was extra dead. As soon as I learned how to cook, my taste buds were transformed and I experienced a whole new type of healthy cravings.
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?
The most helpful bit of advice I feel I can offer is to stick to it when you take that initial first leap. I know that seems very generic and cliché, but it is true. The roughest time will be the first few weeks. If you are used to a lot of carbs and sugar, you will crave them like never before. As time goes on and you stick to your guns, the easier it becomes. I never, ever, in a million years, would have believed that I'd be eating this way a year ago. I feel like a new person and I know that if I could share that feeling with anyone just starting for even a second, they wouldn't turn back.