today i'd like to share the experience of one of my clients. she's not an ultrarunner, but a weight loss/health client i've been coaching since i worked as a personal trainer in seattle. i put her on the original human diet after she struggled to maintain the high carb, low fat usda lifestyle. just yesterday she completed 30 days and i couldn't be more proud of her efforts! spoiler alert, she ain't goin back. In summer 2009, I celebrated the accomplishment of losing 100 pounds. I used a typical low-fat/ high carbohydrate, calorie conscious diet coupled with consistent exercise. I was fit and athletic. I easily ran, cycled, swam and danced. With Matt's guidance, I became strong from strength work in the gym. I enjoyed buying beautiful clothes that fit me well.
But, I quickly started to struggle with psychological changes emanating from the incredible physical change I had undergone. As I worked to settle my psychological issues, I started to go back to old eating habits. High sugar and high grain carbohydrate foods soothed me. I quickly developed strong cravings for these foods. The weight crept back on. By winter 2011, I had gained back 65 pounds. Once again, I was obese. I was terribly embarrassed in front of everyone I knew and I experienced deep emotional pain at sabotaging something I cared very deeply about.
Last September, Matt started to talk to me about using the Paleo Diet to get back on track with healthy eating and weight loss. I proceeded to read Loren Cordain's "The Paleo Diet." I thought paleo was quackery! Why would I even conceive of banishing grains, legumes and dairy foods? No soy foods? Weren't these the healthy foods that prevented heart disease and promoted weight loss? Meat is bad for you, right? Wasn't weight loss about eating moderately from all food groups?
Matt was patient with me. I kept reading and asking questions. I read Robb Wolf's "The Paleo Solution," "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes and "Going Against the Grain" by Melissa Diane Smith. I searched the internet for information arguing for and against paleo. I asked Matt the same questions over and over again. I started to understand the science and it made sense to me.
For several months, I intermittently used paleo. I would cook paleo for a few days and then switch back to old eating habits. I mixed paleo with my usual addictive cocktail of high sugar sweets and lots of grain foods. I knew I was struggling to stay off the junk and I knew I was at huge risk for gaining all the weight back. In March, I was ready to go all the way and commit to the 30 day paleo challenge.
Yesterday, April 14, I completed all 30 days! I have not eaten any grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods or sweets! I feel absolutely incredible. My energy has positively rebounded. No more sleepy mid-afternoon energy slumps. I am back working out consistently six days a week. I am active and moving every day.
My appetite has evened out. I no longer experience strong hunger pangs an hour or two after eating grain laden meals. My husband reports that he no longer sees me grouchy and hungry! Paleo meals thoroughly satiate me for hours. I had to admit that vegetarian meals did not satisfy my hunger. Breakfasts with oatmeal and milk left me hungry mid-afternoon. Paleo breakfasts that include animal protein keep me satiated and energetic all morning. I am not craving sweets anymore.
I love to cook! Cooking paleo style has been an absolute joy. People ask me if I am on a "strict" diet. Not in any way do I feel that my diet is restrictive! I love to cook and eat all sorts of vegetables. I thoroughly enjoy the rich greens, such as collard, mustard, kale and swiss chard. Salads are bountiful with seasonal ingredients. I cook freely with fresh herbs and spices. I eat fish, chicken, turkey, pork, beef and lamb. I use delicious and satisfying oils, such as olive, flaxseed, coconut, walnut and almond. Eggs are a staple in my home. I never run out of ideas for meals!
I am consistently losing weight. I have lost about 15 pounds. At first the weight came off fast, but now I am averaging a steady two pound a week loss. I sleep nine hours most nights, which aids in weight loss.
The hardest part of a paleo lifestyle is eating socially with friends. I don't like a lot of attention drawn to myself, so I am still learning how to feel comfortable eating differently from those around me. I also have many satisfying "food memories" around temptations, so I have to be careful. It is a learning process!
I am committed to continuing with the paleo lifestyle. I still have a long ways to go to get my weight back in a healthy range. I still have the challenge of successful weight maintenance ahead of me. But, I am on my way once again!
I'm an ultra distance athlete who incessantly seeks out backcountry adventure. I'm an UltraRunner by trade, but I'm a multisport athlete at heart. Ski mountaineering in the winter, trail running and cycling in the summer. After 10 years in Seattle I moved to Salt Lake City because the Wasatch Mtns are simply amazing. I'm from New Hampshire originally, where I learned to "Live Free or Die". In December of 2005 I decided my desk job at Microsoft was in fact death... so i quit. I've been gettin' after it in the backcountry full time ever since. I coach, train and write the Ask the Coach column in TrailRunner Magazine