|Cathy and her dog, playing on the beach.|
For about a year after being introduced to the Paleo lifestyle by Diane Sanfilippo (who is an old high school friend of mine), I was both fascinated and fearful of this word. It made so much sense, but after spending 30 years as a bread, meat and potatoes kind of girl (hold the veggies), I did not think I could possibly remove all grains from my diet and be… well… both happy and full.
I read what I could on blogs and websites while simultaneously continuing to eat my breakfast of Honey Bunches of Oats with skim milk, Turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch with a side of chips or chocolate chip cookie, or both and some sort of meat and side dish – usually either rice or pasta- for dinner, with maybe a vegetable every 5th meal. Not to mention beer several times a week and that I also liked to snack on cheddar bunnies, Swedish fish and bread dipped in olive oil.Did I mention that my stomach constantly gurgled, felt “off” more often than not, would be constantly bloated and that I could go from zero to starving in 6.5 seconds sending those around me running for cover or a granola bar to help “save” me?
|Cathy actually played basketball in college
though this isn't a basketball photo 🙂
As a former college athlete, I have actually kept my form over the past 10 years and although I could probably lose 10 lbs or so I am not overweight. I've been lucky and that I have never had to think too much about food since I was that person who was constantly told “I hate you, you can eat anything and not put on a pound.” But i knew I wasn't “healthy” and that even if the food wasn't effecting my waist it was definitely effecting other things.
The more I read about Paleo the more it just made sense.
Over that summer, I see-sawed back and forth between making eggs for breakfast and eating cereal. Frankly I was scared sh*tless of fat. I was even more scared that if i didn't “do it right” by cutting all grains then the “evil fat” would be even worse for me. I had one foot in the door and one foot out. I was totally sold on how bad grains were but I literally couldn't picture my life with out them, in addition, I couldnt totally swallow the “fat is good” mantra.
Over the next six months…
As I read more and more about Paleo and peppered my old friend with questions, I slowly but surely became more comfortable with less and less grains and more and more whole foods and (eek!) FAT in my diet. I was eating eggs for breakfast, but would still sometimes eat a sandwich for lunch. Our dinners had less and less “side” dishes like rice and pasta and more veggies, but we still ate bread and plenty of other grain products especially when socializing.
|More fun with the pup!|
Finally in November I realized that I wanted to do this Paleo thing for real, that going full hog might be scary and seem impossible but it was worth it. After convincing my partner to do it with me (Want to eat bacon and get skinny?), we “practiced” our diet through out the month of December, allowing ourselves leeway for parties and other holiday endeavors while keeping each other in check.
Over the Christmas break we read both Robb Wolf's and Mark Sisson's books and then after a fun filled New Years weekend we both gave up grains on January 2, 2011.
After weaning ourselves off grains for almost 6 months we did not have as hard of a time going fully grain free as I had feared. (We do still have some heavy cream and hard cheeses, so I guess we are technically Primal). The hardest part for me was the time it took my body to adjust to burning fat. Even though I was eating plenty of calories, I would still get hungry in the afternoon and have to snack on nuts, nut butter and cheese and just be hungry until dinner. But as our bodies adjusted and we stared cooking more and more delicious amazing filling food, my afternoon cravings have dwindled. And I have found that I don't wake up hungry either.
|A happy, healthy, Primal/Paleo woman.|
Fast forward to the end of January…
The visit of a old friend who just got back from her final tour in Afghanistan. The tradition when she visits is to get chocolate covered Cannoli's from the North end. These things are divine and I couldn't say no to someone who just completed the last of her 3 tours in the middle east. Instead, I thought… its a test, and if i am gonna break this grain-free thing on anything might as well be on the best cannoli ever. The cannoli was delicious, but the next morning my stomach was gurgling and felt sore, like someone scraped the inside of it with the dull end of a blade. Surely that couldn't be from the tiny tiny bit of pastry in the cannoli? Wait, can it? Although I didn't feel as awful as some people do when going back to grains I recognized that feeling in my stomach as something I used to put up with all the time as “normal” but was not something I wanted to feel on a constant basic. A second chance to “cheat” presented itself the following weekend at a dinner out with my significant other. I made another conscious choice to eat gluten. This time three small pieces of bread used to sop up the sauce my mussels were sitting in. Again the reaction was the same. Now convinced that the gluten was to blame (and not the sugary, chocolaty, cheesy goodness of the cannoli), I can confidently say that I am not terribly interested in ingesting gluten anytime soon.
After a year of trepidation, experimentation and finally jumping in, I am ecstatic to say that I am both happy and full eating Paleo foods.
I am not scared of fat anymore and in fact love cooking my foods in good fats like bacon grease, coconut oil and ghee. My partner and I love discovering new recipes, and spend more time preparing our foods and talking in the kitchen and less time in front of the TV. And although we talk during the prepping of our foods, we tend to not talk while eating since we way to focused on the delicious Paleo food in front of us.
I am truly grateful to my old friend Diane for introducing me to the Paleo lifestyle and for answering all my questions and guiding me along the way.
Now its time to search out that gluten-free beer…
Cathy M., Age 32 – Boston, MA
BS, Certified Nutrition Educator, C.H.E.K. Holistic Lifestyle Coach
San Francisco Nutritionist & Paleo Nutritionist serving the Bay Area and beyond via phone & Skype consultations.
Love this story Cathy! Thank you for sharing it Diane. Everyone's time line is different in length but the process is the same… so much of what you said was me or a story some has recently shared they felt as well. Good to know you're not the only one who experiences the denial, disbelief and even "testing with cheats"! More than once too! Some people just can't believe how little gluten it takes to up set your whole system.
Wonderful story, thanks for sharing. I'm going to give this post to my significant other to read. So far she is reluctant to get on board and isn't sure on the fat issue.
Great story! And, got to love the puggle 🙂
Cathy, thanks for sharing, this!
It sounds like your path to gluten free paralleled mine. I started on the Zone diet last July, was mostly gluten free by Thanksgiving, around which time I attended Diane's seminar. For the month of December I was in "practice" mode, and on January 2nd I went strict paleo. At this point I have minimally re-introduced dairy with no ill-effects, but I'm actually pretty nervous about even trying grains at this point!
I too, was always looked upon as the person who could (and would) eat anything and never gain weight. Sadly, this means I will never be able to convince my family, all of whom are very overweight and unhealthy, that they should kick grains. They have always looked at me as the genetic anomaly in the family. That I was also the only extremely active one plays no part in their thinking… I'm thin and have no weight issues because I "got the good genes"… Oh well, more bacon for me 🙂
I think the coolest thing about Paleo is that I am never, ever hungry. I tend to eat when I think I'm supposed to, not when I'm hungry. If I waited until I was hungry, I'd never eat 🙂
Thanks again, Cathy and Diane!
Great story 🙂
"I think the coolest thing about Paleo is that I am never, ever hungry."
This lifestyle took away 95% of my cravings and obsessions with food, and frankly, even if I wasn't losing weight (which I am, of course), just having that monkey mostly off my back is worth it.
The cravings I get now are not physical in nature, only mental, like if I get triggered by seeing or smelling something, even a commercial on TV, but because the physical feeling isn't there most of the time, it's a lot easier to get past.
There is sooooo much information out there in mainstream media, on tv, magazines, everyone's beliefs that is erroneous, that it does make me question myself some days. Then, I go read a passage or two out of Good Calories, Bad Calories. That cures it.