This is another installment in a series of Guest Posts from real life friends from Matt and Stacy whose exposure brought them to their own health journey. It doesn’t look like ours, but it’s inspirational in it’s own merit.
Daynah and Stacy met in college and were surprised to discover that they lived in the same apartment complex 10 miles from campus. They soon became the closest of friends for many years until further education took Daynah to the other side of the country. After drifting out of touch due to that distance, they’ve recently reconnected and found their friendship still durable. Daynah has always been the most talented writer we’ve ever met and we’re very glad that she’s lent her skills to us here.
I was particularly inspired by the change she writes about in her attitude towards food. Trying new foods and exploring the culinary arts is enjoyable. Trying to live your life as a culinary explorer, however, misses the point of eating: fueling your body. Once you start accepting that food is fuel and you will fuel your body as it requires first, the health benefits will follow.
(Or How Eating Paleo Really Changed My Life)
My Paleo journey began only two months ago. But it really started over a year ago when my daily battle with feeling tired, unfocused, despondent began to impact my quality of life. I had seen my doctor several times and come back with the most bizarre diagnoses. Last year, I couldn’t believe it: I had shingles! (An auto-immune virus that is incredibly rare in people my age–mid-30s.) Instead of addressing my bizarre symptoms holistically, my doctor insisted I make individual appointments for all of my symptoms, and urged me to lose weight by cutting calories and fat. And so I began counting calories, eating Lean Cuisines and exercising when I could. Only my weight wasn’t budging and I still felt terrible!
Then I began to take notice of Stacy’s transformation. At this point I hadn’t even seen photos of her weight loss (we live on opposite sides of the country), but her overall attitude about life was overwhelmingly positive. She reported sleeping better, had energy to spare, allergies were gone, depression diminished, and her body looked and felt healthy. Everything she said addressed the problems that I struggled with, so I thought — what the hell? — I’ll give Paleo a try. I began with a very basic menu: meat, nuts, fruits & veg. Starting out, I wasn’t interested in getting creative with the diet. I just wanted to see if it worked.
Within days, I felt better. Most notably was my ability to stay focused at work. Previously, I had seriously considered talking to my doctor about Adult ADD medication because I was so scattered at work that my job performance plummeted. With Paleo, almost immediately I found myself able to sustain focus without crashing at all in the afternoon. It was like the clouds parted and gentle harp music began to play. Until…
Two weeks after I went Paleo I became more aware of what was happening inside my body, and a persistent pain my left side sent me back to the doctor. Since I had seen her two months prior, I’d dropped 7 pounds (which pleased her) and my blood pressure was way down. Looking for the source of my pain, she suspected my new “kooky” diet was the culprit. So many nuts and seeds can cause diverticulitis (another old-people disease: a pouching of the lower intestine). I insisted that the problem was further south. Turns out, I was right. The source of my pain was a 7 x 7cm cyst on my left ovary. Not only had my doctor missed this in my last annual exam, but a low-glycemic Paleo-type diet is the first step in treating these kinds of cysts (which grow partially from insulin-spiking). The low-fat diet she recommended to me had made my ovarian situation WORSE.
It’s shocking to discover that you know more about your body than your doctor does, and even moreso to learn that the diet and treatment your doctor recommends made your problems worse than they needed to be. I’ve since had my cyst removed, found a new doctor and made clear to him that Paleo principles are the way I want to fuel my body from now on. And just days after my cystectomy, I feel surprisingly great! Had it not been for Stacy & Matt’s blog and their commitment to sharing their journey, who knows what kind of shape I would be in now, or if I would have ever been properly diagnosed so that my body could feel better.
Obviously, Paleo has helped me with my health, but it has also helped me with the way I think about food. For me, this lifestyle is deeply ironic because I am a die-hard foodie who loves inspired cuisine and sampling tasting menus. I love flavors and textures and creative presentation. But what I’ve learned to accept is that you can’t (nor should you strive to) eat that way every day. In fact, I’ve found there’s a freedom in not having to prepare an elaborate meal every night of the week. I find cooking Paleo to be far easier, less expensive and less time-consuming than how I was preparing our family meals before. We’d have a Korean feast one night and French-inspired dish the next. My pantry was embarrassingly full of expensive, esoteric ingredients that I’d use once or twice and then throw away.
We began doing some simple math and found that we spent $1600 per month on groceries (and another $800 eating out!). Even for a family of five, that’s inexcusable. Since we’ve gone Paleo, our grocery bill has been reduced by a third, and eating out is rare. Admittedly, I do have the benefit of my family’s local farm which raises organic, grass-fed beef, pork and lamb. My dad raises the meat and we only pay to have it butchered (about $0.45 per pound). For a Paleo diet, that goes a long way! My pantry finally makes sense, and I now save so much money preparing my own lunches and food for the family using ingredients that multi-task. Reaching the end of a bottle of home-infused olive oil or a package of walnuts or a bag of baby bok choy feels so much better than throwing it away. My years of foodie-hood have prepared me for cooking this way, so it’s not a challenge for me at all — if anything, cooking is easier and simpler than ever before. For me, having fewer options is actually liberating.
Everything about eating Paleo works for me and my family. My youngest’s body is changing: she is noticeably leaner with more muscle. I’ve dropped 16lbs (and counting!). The best part is that I’m never hungry, we feel great and we’re finally saving money. As cheesy as it sounds, I’m so grateful to Stacy and Matt for introducing me to this life-changing lifestyle. Thank you both!