Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why Paleo?

When Superman first told me about the Paleo diet, I scoffed.  Loudly.  Live without bread?  Without rice?  Without milk or yogurt or, heaven forbid, cheese?  It can't be done.  It's stupid.  And what's more, it's probably not healthy.  Grains are good for you, right?  They're wholesome food.  That's what I was always taught, anyhow.

You need to know that I consider myself a pretty healthy person.  Just over ten years ago, I lost nearly fifty pounds doing Body for Life.  I run and I lift weights and I rarely buy pre-packaged foods.  I love to cook, and I love to cook healthy.  I started doing Crossfit about six months ago, and I feel better than ever.  I admit, with the increased intensity of my workouts, I've indulged in "Free Day" foods more often...but it hasn't really mattered, at least as far as my body weight goes.  I've followed the plan that worked so well for me:  balanced protein and carbs at every meal, plus veggies.

Still, I was willing to experiment and give it a go.  Why?  Well -- TMI alert -- I've been dealing with severe IBS symptoms for years.   Sometimes things got so plugged up, I couldn't move my bowels for up to two weeks, sometimes more.  Superman wondered if changing my diet would help. 

But the thing that really pushed me toward this experiment was my daughter.  My 16-year-old is a gifted ballerina, hard working, muscular, passionate and devoted.  She dances 15 - 20 hours a week, is contracted with a pre-professional ballet company, runs, lifts weights, and watches what she eats.  She knows more about nutrition than most kids in high school, truthfully, more than most adults.  And yet, her weight continues to increase.  One of the hardest things about ballet is body image...there you are, wearing leotard and tights, seeing yourself and the other members of the company in wall-to-wall mirrors.  But even beyond that, if you're dancing on pointe, there are risks to carrying too much weight.  Her dream is to pursue a career in dance, but at her current weight, will probably struggle to even get accepted into a dance major.  I had to do something.

I figured that the God who created my body could tell me how I should fuel it.  I pondered and prayed to know how to help my daughter.  And these were some of the thoughts that snuck into my brain:
  •  diabetes and hypoglycemia are well represented in my family
  • sometimes we form allergies to foods we over-use, and I know we've been relying on wheat and cow's milk heavily
  • we avoid foods that give us heartburn, gas, diarrhea, or that make us gag or feel nauseated.  Why don't we avoid foods that make us fat?
But then I watched a segment of the Dr. Oz show, where he went head-to-head with Gary Taubes.  And Mr. Taubes said something that really resonated with me: "It's unfortunate, it's unfair, but if you have a tendency to gain weight, carbohydrates are fattening."  He never said any of those ludicrous things like all-grains-are-poison, or cow's-milk-is-only-for-baby-cows.  I just don't buy into that stuff.  But being aware of what my body can and can't tolerate?  Yes, that idea is for me.

I did a little research, and felt confident I could pull this off.  Paleo, on a budget, as a single parent with a busy schedule, with three teenage daughters.  Yes, I was up for the challenge.  And to naysayers who assert that it can't be done, I say keep reading.  I believe I'm about to prove you wrong.


  1. My dad did the HCG thing with a former friend (who NEEDED to lose the weight and was too much of a wimp to do it alone) a couple of years ago. We joined him on the 30 days without starches or sugars, and it was HARD. Refreshing, but hard. Anyway, we found out several weeks after that month had ended that my sister had developed a pretty bad intolerance to artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup. We think that was triggered by not having anything BUT HFCS and artificial sweeteners. She can't have anything with Aspartame, Splenda, Sweet-n-Low, Xylitol, etc, or even honey, because it rips her insides apart. They say your body can't tell the difference, but try telling that to HER body. :)

    In her case, the actual sugar is better for her than anything else (and you know how sneaky the sweeteners are), and it was only because we DIDN'T eat sugar that we found out.

  2. Thanks for that insight, Heidi. I'm a firm believer in the idea that diet and nutrition are very individual.

    Let me also clarify, though, that we are not partaking of artificial sweeteners either. No aspartame, no saccharin, no truvia, no Splenda. Not even agave or molasses. Even if we're not addicted to sugar (although I believe most people probably are), I do believe we're addicted to having things be very sweet.

  3. I think you're right, and I have a huge sweet tooth to prove it. I don't go all crazy over sweets, though, and I've been blessed with a pretty good metabolism. Thank goodness. I've really enjoyed your posts, and I think you'll figure out some surprising food intolerances.

  4. I read Gary Taubes' writeup of the Dr. Oz taping on his blog, and this line resonated with me: "Those of us predisposed to put on fat do so because of the carbs in the diet."

    I'm not ready to go Paleo, and I'll even admit that I would fail miserably if I tried it. However, I read this after I had already started counting calories--something that IS working for me--and I've made adjustments to skew the calories I DO eat away from carbs. I think it's helped.

    And as of this morning, there is 20 lbs less of me to love!

  5. DeShawn, good for you! It's a great feeling! And way to go, finding something that's working for you. Congratulations!

  6. Thanks, Julie. And I'm SO glad that eating Paleo is working for you and Ballerina! Congratulations right back at you!

  7. Out of curiosity, did your daughter notice any changes (improvements or otherwise) with her training when switching to paleo? Has she stayed paleo?

  8. Out of curiosity, did your daughter notice any changes (improvements or otherwise) to her training and dancing after switching to paleo?

  9. Alysserina, thanks for your comments. I'll let my daughter know you asked, so she can respond!

  10. Alysserina, this is Ballerina. :)
    When I switched to Paleo, I definitely noticed a difference! I lost about 10 pounds when I was strictly paleo for an entire summer, and I felt great! I had so much more energy, and I felt stronger and more centered in ballet than I had before. I'm no longer strictly Paleo, but 2/3 of my meals are Paleo. Since I'm no longer strictly Paleo, the energy increase and weight loss is not at the level it was before, but I still feel so much better than when I ate grains at every meal. Hope that helps!