My story is not so much about weight loss-I don’t have any impressive before and after shots because I was never very over-weight (I was perhaps "skinny fat")-my story is about the unexpected benefits that happened on the INSIDE when I was simply looking to improve my middle aged body composition. What drives my passion the most, however, is how transitioning to a diet of whole foods and healthy fats helped my kids too.
I’ve always been involved in fitness and nutrition-but mostly in the conventional sense. For many years I worked evenings and weekends in a gym and later as a racewalk coach as part of a corporate wellness team and on my own, in addition to a full time career. A few years after son #3, life got much more challenging, so I narrowed my focus to my kids, their activities, and volunteering in their schools. During all the time I kept up with the latest and greatest in nutritional news and had tweaked our diet accordingly-to what I thought was very healthy.
As glamorous and exciting as stay at home mommyhood and volunteering is-after a while, I let it wear me down by not taking proper care of myself. Accompanying me was all the pesky peri-menopausal stuff. I wasn’t sleeping, was stressed out, was kind of blue, and was not making it to the gym that often.
One day, my husband, brought home P90x. The program has it’s flaws (IMO) but I DID IT and it got me out of my slump enough to try to figure out how to look like those “after” shots after all that HARD work (BECAUSE I DIDN'T)-and honestly, now I don't care so much about looking like those after shots, I care more about how I feel. Anyway, I didn’t think I needed to change my diet because as I thought, my diet was really clean (low fat/whole grains/mostly organic), plus I was totally uninspired by the diet booklet that came with the program. That said, it was obvious that exercising for umpteen hours alone does not necessarily deliver desired results. [I don't want to dis P90x because my husband benefits from the structure and home workout aspect of P90x and still does it regularly-P90x is sort of like CrossFit at home (and you CAN overdo it).]
About the same time, it just so happens, I was listening to the audiobook version of The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris and reading his blog. My interest peaked when I read about his new 4-Hour Body book and diet (slow carb). I was drawn to the structure and rules of the diet and figured it would be a good New Year’s Resolution.
This was the real beginning, the baby steps that eventually lead me to Paleo. The slow carb diet is not hugely different than Paleo except it discourages fruit and starchy tubers (such as sweet potatoes) but allows legumes and a once a week all-out cheat day. I didn’t notice significant results until around week 6, however, those results were surprising. I had hoped to just lose a couple inches here and there but what I got was a lot more-way more than any results from any diet ever (except Paleo, which came later). I had MUCH more energy, I was sleeping better, my mood had significantly improved, my blood work was the best ever and I was kicking those menopausal symptoms in the butt! My family and friends started asking what I was doing so I began sharing with them and connecting with others in online forums.
So, what lead me to Paleo? Well, our middle son was preparing for wrestling season and knowing that he wanted to wrestle at a lower weight and we probably couldn’t stop him, my husband asked if I could put together an appropriate diet for him. We first tried the slow carb diet but it wasn’t working as a wrestler’s diet. A couple people on Tim’s forum suggested Paleo for Athletes by Loren Cordain. I read the book, listened to every Paleo podcast I could find, and put together a plan. With a lot of trial and error and keeping the once a week cheat day, we made it work. He made weight while eating all he wanted, stayed hydrated, and was strong and powerful as ever. He also stayed healthier than any season prior to this one. At just about every match we went to, people asked what the heck I was feeding him. He ended up the regional champ. Of course, it wasn’t just the diet, my son had the heart and determination to stick to the diet and to win his matches!
My youngest son, listening in to some of the podcasts, and also wrestling, asked if he could do the diet too. We said yes, but told him he didn’t have to (he was 13 at the time). This was his first real season (after a not so great try when he was much younger) and he won 3rd in our district!
Not long after the whole family (at home) began eating (mostly)Paleo, my husband and I started noticing significant improvements in our boys’ moods, skin, body composition, attention, and much more. My youngest son had has most successful school year ever and adults close to him took notice. Besides all the benefits I mentioned a few paragraphs earlier, after removing the legumes and once a week cheats with gluten, my Raynaud’s Syndrome & digestive issues finally went completely away. My husband has also greatly improved his body composition and overall health. These positive changes have really motivated us to stick with a Paleo framework as a lifestyle. We are not perfectly Paleo all the time and we got a little off track this summer, but the consequences of those choices has made us that much more resolved to get back and stay on track.
My oldest son was in college when we started Paleo and isn’t totally convinced yet but is slowly incorporating what makes sense to him. Actually, my middle son is away at college now too. Choosing to stay Paleo is now completely up to him. It will be a challenge in the college dining halls but he knows what to do and I’m confident he will make the best of it.
I firmly believe that although my family was not eating much junk food before, we were eating too many grains & soy, too much sugar, not enough animal protein, and definitely not enough healthy fats. I’m very concerned about the typical standard American diet and how it is affecting the well being of our children. Interestingly, although my body composition improved through all this (and I am happy about that), the biggest reward for me was what happened on the inside-my overall health and well-being. I also changed how I look at and accept my own body. I no longer feel the need to attain that (perception of the) perfect body (which was previously an obsession). I feel confident, strong, passionate and so much more. What I do with my body and mind (not how I look) is what truly matters. This transformation has inspired me to go back to school to study nutritional therapy. I really hope to inspire others and make an impact like all those that have inspired me down this path.
I have a lot of people to thank, chiefly my very supportive husband, Tony. My kids have been awesome too, even though they like to poke fun at me about my “passion”. Parenting has been harder than any job I ever had-my three spirited boys have taught me a lot about thinking outside-the-box, patience, tolerance, acceptance, & resiliency. [And karma-oh those past judgments!] They have a lot to do with who I am now. I also have my parents to thank, they have been my cheerleaders since birth, always encouraging me to follow my passions and to stand up for what I believe in! I was also lucky to get my genes from them and to grow up eating mostly homemade meals that included things that were good for me, but I didn’t necessarily like-such as liver!
I really want to thank all the people I’ve connected with through social media too, people like Tim Ferris, Jimmy Moore, Robb Wolf, Diane Sanfilippo, Liz Wolfe, Angelo Coppola, Beverly Meyer, Ann Childers, Ute Mitchell, Jen Cereghino, the Paleo Parents, and Sarah-The Paleo Mom. Actually, the list of all the people that inspired me (including the food bloggers!) goes on and on so I’ll have to save that for another post or this one will never end! Last but not least are my friends, including those I met online in Facebook groups (Cireena & RF). Thank you-I hope you all know who you are!
Thanks for reading!