Real Life Changes – Emma’s Story: A yoga teacher gone Paleo

Diane Sanfilippo Featured, Lifestyle & Mindset 6 Comments

This is a recent testimonial from one of my readers and a yoga teacher of my mother's, Emma, who lives in New Jersey and runs a fantastic studio called South Mountain Yoga.


I've had digestive problems for years.


I remember leaving the dinner table when I was a kid, using the excuse of going to the bathroom, and then just hanging out waiting for dinner to be over. It wasn't that I didn't like the food at my house – my parents are great cooks. It was more that after many rounds of antibiotics in my childhood and teen years, my digestive system was shot. I had trouble digesting meals, very sensitive blood sugar, and I frequently felt tired after meals. In an effort to manage these issues, I have flirted with vegetarianism, a gluten-free diet, the GAPS diet, and allergen-free diets.

Finally this year, at 35, I've finally found a way of eating that makes me FEEL good. Surprise… it's Paleo!

The thing that turned me on to the Paleo diet was this: despite, or maybe because of, many years of digestive problems, I've always been satisfied with my weight. After my 35th birthday… that was no longer true. So I went on a diet. I have been gluten-free (more or less) for several years, and I simply kept my usual diet, but restricted the calories. The problem was that after eating my allotted 1,500 calories a day I was still starving, and not losing weight.

I'm a yoga teacher, and it seems like every day, another one of my colleagues is touting the benefits of green juice, green smoothies, green cleanses, or raw food.

I understand the benefits of those foods, and I'm sure they work for some people. But with my compromised digestion and very sensitive blood sugar, I was unable to really digest raw food, and felt jittery when I drank green smoothies.

I don't remember how or when I first learned about the Paleo eating plan, but I know when I really made the switch: it was after I got Diane's book.

Diane's mother is one of my yoga students and she brought it to me. I came home and read it cover to cover. The information was extremely well-presented, clear, and engaging. I instinctively knew that this was a way of eating that would work for me. On some level I had noticed over the years that I did better when I ate meat and a combination of cooked and raw vegetables.

em_shivaposeI knew I didn't do well with only vegetables, and certainly not with only raw vegetables.

I knew that I needed to avoid gluten, but I also knew that I many gluten-free replacements made me feel lousy.

I knew that starting my day with green juice or a green smoothie was a recipe for disaster.

Know what breakfast really makes me feel good? A turkey burger and kale cooked in butter.

These days I feel fantastic. I'm not jittery or exhausted after meals. I eat three meals a day and feel full and satiated.

I'm happier with how I look.

One really delightful side effect of going Paleo is that with the help of Diane's book, I've really learned how to plan meals for myself and my husband. I do all my food shopping one day a week and have home-cooked meals three times a day. I can't even tell you how satisfying it is to feed myself and my husband home cooking! We eat dinner together every night at the table and have a little ritual where we tell each other our favorite things about our day.

Diane, your book really helped me learn how to take care of myself so that I can be my best. I can't thank you enough. 

Comments 6

  1. Cool to see another yoga teacher taking this path. It’s important to listen to your body. Eating Epi-paleo works for me. (Eating local fruits & veggies in season for where you live along with clean animal proteins) I tried vegetarian, green smoothie & raw food diets as well, they didn’t work for me. I had some severe responses to a few pure raw foods. Yoga teaches balance. Epi-paleo helps balances your body with your environment.

  2. Good for you!

    I also tried the current green drink wave. I suffered through many green drinks trying to pretend I like kale. It gave me gas. The touted benefits of it never surfaced. I dropped the kale and continue with green drinks from other wonderful sources and continue organic meat in my diet. I feel better removing the kale and have been able to go off low-thyroid medication by having green drinks which help me.

  3. I used to be a yoga girl who ate little meat, had little energy, and suffered without knowing why. (before that I was a Jazzercise girl… I’m 54!) Now, I am so completely paleo and I CrossFit. I can’t believe how much better I feel. The arthritis, the scoliosis, even the osteoporosis – everything is better!

      1. Important observations! My particular interest is tracking paleo effects on my stretched yoga.
        Not competitive, but diet has made a big change in my tendons, so much
        more comfortable. Am working into BloodType A vegan from raw, and
        finding it very good for congestion on all levels! Iyengar teaches
        inversions for digestion, sadly missing in Bikram, etc.

  4. Wow, reading this felt like I was reading about myself. As a yoga instructor I felt I needed to be vegetarian or vegan despite years of low energy, horrible digestion, thyroid and sleep issues etc. After finding an awesome doc who asked me lots of questions we also attributed it to the many antibiotics I was put on growing up. Got put on better thyroid meds, vitamin D and a elimination diet and although still healing, feeling much better. Glad you are too!

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