People in my normal-don’t-know-I’m-a-paleo-blogger-freak life always ask me, How did you lose the weight? No, really what did you do? No, REALLY, what pills are you taking? It’s obnoxious. And rude. And hurtful. Frankly, NOYB. But, since they’re jealous and nosy, I’m happy to tell them I gave up gluten, dairy, processed foods & refined sugars. If they want more info and aren’t just probing to find out what trick I’ve got up my sleeve, sometimes we might even make progress.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t freaked out that starting today I can no longer say, “I’m not taking ANY pills. IT’s JUST REAL FOOD.” Starting today I’m on a protocol prescribed to me by Diana of Radiance Nutritional Therapy. After staying in a house with professional paleo nutritionists at Paleo (f)x, it became painfully obvious I needed supplements.
I was previously morbidly obese, metabolically broken, insulin resistant, with a leaky gut, and missing a gallbladder. My body doesn’t, and probably never will, work the way my healthy & active kids will. That’s not to say that anything I said in this post or this post isn’t true. But there’s a few symptoms I have that are clear indicators that I’m not absorbing nutrients properly. If there were a ten level scale, here’s how I’d see it:
- When I found the word “paleo” in May of 2010 and began dumping food out of the house and changing our lives – I was at a Level 2 or so on the health scale. I wasn’t actively suffering from type 2 diabetes or another disease, but I was surely on my way and exhibiting all the behaviors to get me there soon.
- In July 2011 I’d lost over 120lbs and was feeling so much better. My IBS was gone, my energy (that I didn’t know I’d lost) had returned, my joints felt better, my heartburn gone, my blood test results improved, and I was filled with an exuberance for life I hadn’t felt. Even though I felt like I was at the top of my game, I was probably hovering around a Level 5 on the health scale. I did still have some joint pain, I was still having massive pain if I got accidentally gluten-ed and my sugar, fat and salt cravings never really went away. But going from a 2 to a 5 is ah-mazing and a great and important step in my journey!
- Then we worked on the book that summer, we tested recipes like crazy – and my weight plateaued. I didn’t gain, but I wasn’t really losing anymore either. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t resting, I wasn’t “playing” as much, I wasn’t taking care of myself and I knew it. I gave up working out because my body was too stressed out from lack of sleep and workload. The summer flew by, I hardly remember a moment of it – sadly.
- Shortly thereafter, in the Fall of 2011 after we’d wrapped the book, I attended the Balanced Bites Seminar, learned about fats vs. oils, incorporated more coconut and animal fats – eliminated grapeseed and oils other than olive/macadamia/avocado and my gut started healing. I finally felt like my body progressed to Level 6 on the health scale, but Summer turned to Winter and I’d been gaining and losing the same 10lbs for months, I was hovering stuck (or so I thought) until I quit one of the many hats I was wearing.
- In March 2012 I “roomed” with the amazing ladies of Liz Wolfe, NTP, Balanced Bites and my now personal nutritional therapist, Diana from Radiance Nutritional Therapy. I attended the symposium where I heard a board of Paleo superstars (masterminds) talk about the differences between Supplements, Superfoods and just eating real foods. I had some personal reflection, and was ready to take the next steps to achieve the next levels of health.
Alright, so what were the symptoms that keyed us off to my needing some support outside of the real, whole foods we have everyday?
- I haven’t lost weight – despite following my appetite cues for hunger or lack there of, despite following a paleo diet, despite trying as I might to get in more sleep and water… it’s just not happening. I can do a sugar detox and see good results the first week (water weight) but that means loose stools (sorry, we’re being honest together, right?) because my lack of a gallbladder needs carbs.
- That brings us to point #2, I’m not properly digesting my food. If I don’t have a requisite number of carbs, my stools get loose. My nails aren’t hard and they easily break and peal. Plus, I crave fat – often – which drives me to eat more than I need (calorically). If I was properly digesting my food, my body would have proper leptin signaling to the other parts, “OK, got the nutrients we need, we’re good to go!” and then I wouldn’t constantly be craving things.
- By the very virtue of the fact that I am missing an organ which has an active role in the body, I need a supplement to do that work for me. I can cry and whine and justify as much as I want – but, until I’m at goal weight and perfectly absorbing nutrients, this is not an option.
- I get blurry vision after I’ve been working for a few hours straight. I’m fatigued, worn down and exhausted. I long for those days of boundless energy… when we’d go to the farm at 7am, clean the house in the afternoon, garden in the evening and then blog until bedtime. These days, we’re just doing so much that adding anything to our plate that’s not necessary feels overwhelming. I’ve clearly been tapping the adrenals too hard and it’s time to give ’em back a little love.
- Also, I’ve still got some joint pain, the occasional headache and difficulty sleeping (not falling asleep, but staying down for the count). I’ve been grinding my teeth too, which is no good at all.
- Last but not least, Wesley just weaned. My body’s finally mine again (for the first time in 7 years). My hormones are going BUCK-WILD and they need to be reigned in a little.
All of this basically tells us that my body is not properly absorbing the nutrients I’m giving it from my real foods diet, and it needs a little help to break it down. Because of my past, present and future, Diana was able to come up with a specific cocktail for me which I’ll call my protocol. It involves focusing more on Superfoods (my WAPF friends were here today and they TOTALLY made fun of me for being hippy-crunchy-granola when I broke out the goods I stocked up on this weekend in preparation) as well as taking some supplements to augment the “food supplements” I’m focusing on.
What’s the protocol? What the heck did I just spend a boatload of money on to get myself ready to fully heal and get to a Level 10?
- I’m officially on the 21 Day Sugar Detox starting today, April 2, 2012. That means I’ll stick to my usual paleo ways of no dairy, grains, legumes, or refined sugars (completely), but I’ll be adding in a layer of removing dense carbohydrates and fruit. I’m also giving up Kombucha, because even though it’s allowed on the detox it can allow the Candida gut bacteria to live.
- I will be eating fermented foods EVERY day to help heal my gut. This includes the infamous sauerkraut, but for the sake of variety I’ve gotten a few other varieties to enjoy as well (see above, kimchi, veggie salad, salsa and a green slaw). I’m looking forward to the fermented salsa on eggs with sausage!
- I’m adding more iodine-rich sea vegetables to my diet. I used to eat a ton of roasted seaweed, but when I stopped eating oils I stopped eating them because most are cooked in canola oil. But, after being reminded about how important iodine is (especially with my stressful lifestyle) I sought out Sea Snax and think they’ll make an excellent afternoon treat! Although my annual physical didn’t show me to have thyroid problems, this will only help if I do.
- You know what’s NOT a treat? Cinnamon Tingle Fermented Cod Liver Oil from Green Pastures. Do not believe the rumors that this flavor “isn’t that bad”. This stuff is NASTY. I accidentally inhaled some through my through up my nasal passage and was sick for hours. I’ll let you know if I come up with a way to take this without vomiting after. However, I’m not taking this for fun. It’s not supposed to be a treat… it’s medicine. And it’s going to help my joint pain, so I will figure out a way to get it to stay down!
- I will eat a higher percentage of calories from fat, reducing my overall carb intake. Ideally I’d like to even go so low-carb that I could do a ketogenic diet. I might be able to do this because of the next step…
- I’m taking ox bile and other supplements to help my boost my digestion, as well as specific items for adrenal support and general health. I’m a little uncomfortable saying exactly what I’m taking, because I don’t know how it’ll make me feel yet – and I also don’t want you just taking this stuff without a consult with a professional (call Diana, she’s awesome!) – it’s serious biz!
Ultimately, the point is, once my digestion is normalized my hormones will properly tell my brain when I’ve had enough of certain kind of nutrients – then I’ll eat appropriately to my needs and hopefully begin to lose weight again!
- I am only going to eat food I can chew. No more smoothies! That’s LOADS of calories and fat that my poor disregulated digestive system doesn’t know what to do with. Because of my previous maladies, I need the saliva and other body regulation cues that come with chewing. So, bone broth will be the only liquid food in my diet.
Now, I’m going to be frank with you.
There’s been a lot of talk in the paleo-sphere lately about women’s bodies (specifically those who represent the paleo community – see here and here and here, for example). I will never ever look like a model of health. Eventually I’ll do a “this is my saggy baggy elephant skin” post and you’ll see why… but, seriously.
If I never lost another pound I would be OK with that. When you’ve come from where I’ve been – 135lbs ago and in miserable health – and you rebound as luckily as I’ve been able to, you just don’t care. I have an amazing husband and family who love me regardless.
Of course I want to be healthy. But health isn’t always a measure on the scale, or even of body fat. I have FANTASTIC test results and blood work. I’ve alleviated MAJOR stessors on my body. If it decides that sitting at 200lbs is where it wants to be forever, I WILL CONTINUE TO BE GRATEFUL. So, go ahead and make fun if you must – but, there’s something very important to be learned from this.
I am mainstream America. I am the majority of women and men who need the paleo approach. I’ve been where they are. I know what it feels like. And the constant shun, the policing and politics of food, the constant discussion about optimizing performance and fitness – it doesn’t matter to the majority of people. They want the answer to their Syndrome X. They want to not be in a state of depression and pain, chronically ill. Or maybe they’re simply a mom struggling with children who won’t even try vegetables and are allergic to everything else.
The point is, the food drama: it’s disgusting. We’ve got to get over our own individual ideas of what this looks like in a perfect, ideal state and we’ve got to come together. That’s hard, even for Matt and I. But if we don’t, we’re never going to change the world.