Meet the old Tracey.
Over the last few years both my husband and I have had difficulty maintaining a healthy weight, despite eating a diet that is pretty consistent with the government’s food pyramid (or the new MyPlate). In addition, we cooked most of our meals at home using good ingredients: olive oil, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, organic/local vegetables and pastured meat from a local farmer. Despite this, we were both overweight and on various medications. Something wasn’t working!
I started researching the Paleo or Primal way of eating, first by asking our friends how they ate and what the rational for the diet was. They were very helpful and pointed us to a few websites. In college, my initial degree program was biochemistry and I was fascinated by evolutionary biology (total Stephen Jay Gould fangirl). So when I began to understand that the underlying science of this way of eating was based on the evolution of the human species, I really got interested.
So what changes have we made? Surprisingly few. The basics of the diet are grass fed/pastured meats (already doing), vegetables (which have increased exponentially), some fruits, and healthy fats, such as coconut oil and avocado. We eat a lot more eggs (pastured, from a local farmer) and no processed foods. We seldom eat out, but when we do we avoid grains, breads, and starchy foods. We've eliminated dairy, although we eat some cheese, mostly as garnish. No breads, pastries, rice, pasta, etc.
Well, the proof is in the paleo pudding. I had my lab work done and a doctor’s appointment today. I have lost 30 pounds (just shy of 20% of my initial weight) and am in the healthy weight range for my height. I’ve also lost 6 inches (!!) off my waist. More importantly, my doctor looked at my lab work and stated “Wow! Whatever you’re doing keep it up!”
Fasting glucose 67 (down from 87)
Total Cholesterol 148 (relatively unchanged…I was still on pravastatin, which has since been discontinued)
HDL 63 (up from 54)
LDL 70 (down from 112)
VLDL 15 (down from 26)
Triglycerides 76 (down from 132!)
My vitamin D level went from 14 to 28 (still low but doubled from last time), so I’ll continue supplementation for a while, plus get my 30 minutes of sunshine daily at lunch (and much more when I’m not at work). My thyroid level has been low off and on, so we’ll continue to monitor (I have no metabolic symptoms so am not overly concerned). I’m off all medications and don’t have a follow up for 6 months!
I can’t see ANY reason to go back to the conventionally taught nutrition (eg, MyPlate). I think one of the reasons it’s working is the focus on whole foods; removing the processed garbage removes so many non-food, potentially toxic things from the diet.
More importantly, I feel fantastic! All arthritis symptoms are gone, my sleep is even better (shorter but deeper), and I look better than I have in, well, decades.
Initial carb cravings were hard; I used an Atkins bar twice to get through them. Eating out initially was hard, but I quickly learned what worked 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?
Be prepared for the carb cravings and have a plan. Don't focus on what you choose not to eat, but focus on the awesome food choices you have! Who needs bagels and donuts when you can eat bacon and eggs?