I wasn’t always a cave girl.
I too lived a life full of toast/cereal breakfasts, pb&j lunches, and spaghetti dinners.
This really wasn’t an issue for me until I got to high school. Puberty happens, hormones go nuts. We’ve all been there. I’m going to be honest with everyone and tell you everything, so here it goes. My reproductive system has never been regular in it’s history. From 13 to now, at 21. Never ever regular. I’d go through periods (pun!) of regularity, but they’d never last. I have not been diagnosed with anything as of yet, as hormone disorders are difficult to pin down. I’ve self diagnosed myself with PCOS, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome. I have pretty much every symptom, if you are unaware of what it is, let me tell you!
Every month, an egg is released from an ovary. In women with PCOS, the hormone progesterone is low, so the ovary doesn’t get the signal to release that egg. This causes many cysts to form on the ovary-the cysts being the unreleased eggs. This can cause irregular periods, infertility, and a slew of other problems. That’s the long and short of it.
Back to high school.
Being from an Italian Catholic family, every year building up to Easter, is Lent. You abstain from something for that period of time. Going back to being Italian, bread was my life. So, knowing it would be difficult, I decided to give up bread. Holy cow did I notice a difference. I was less groggy, irritable, sluggish, and to my surprise, my periods seemed to get on a slightly more regular schedule. At the time, I didn’t understand how or why my experiment had these results. All I knew is that my body responded positively to eliminating wheat. So, I believed that I was gluten-intolerant.
This hypothesis was further confirmed when my cousin was diagnosed with Celiac disease, another cousin found out she was sensitive to wheat, and then my mom also discovered she functioned better when she was off the wheat. Because, these allergies are genetic and run in families, it’s no surprise that I have a sensitivity.
My senior year, I began having stabbing pains in my lower left abdomen. Believing that it was an ovary, I saw the doctor. Nothing abnormal was found, both to my relief and dismay. Nothing was wrong with me, but I knew something was wrong with me. I tried the gluten free diet for awhile again, but with college preoccupying my mind, my health kind of took a back seat.
I had never eaten as unhealthily as I did my freshman year in college. Which most people would expect. But I lost weight instead of gaining weight. In about 4 months, I was down 15 pounds. I was at my lowest weight to date, but I still felt so tired and sick all the time. I attribute my weight loss to the fact that I was BEYOND stressed. I was a BioChem major at the time and the work load was just too much for me. Plus I wasn’t really sure if that’s the direction I wanted to be going, so double stress. By the end of my freshman year, I had decided to transfer back home and go to a community college, studying something I had originally wanted to do; medical lab technology. Seriously. It’s awesome. 😀
Back to the food!
Once I made the decision to stay home, a wider array of food options opened up to me. I had been doing research on PCOS and found that insulin resistance and estrogen dominance were associated with the disorder and that a low glycemic index/low carb diet and exercise can help the symptoms and irregularity. I further researched that and came across paleo. At first, I was extremely hesitant because I was unaware of the potential this diet had. Also because it meant ‘sacrificing’ my favorite foods in exchange for a bunch of unknowns.
I was never a picky kid. I ate calamari at 4 years old, popping them into my mouth like candy. Whatever my mom put in front of me, I ate. Except for lima beans. I hate you, lima beans.
My point is, eating a lot of vegetables wasn’t a big deal to me. I have nothing against them, they’re super tasty in the correct preparations. My fiancée may disagree, but more on him later.
My problem has always been sweets. I LOVE pastries of all kinds, namely donuts and croissants. If I could eat my way into a blissful oblivion, it would be through these foods. The thought of not eating them, at the time, seemed like such a sad existence. Curiosity got the better of me, and I figured I may as well give it a try, so I did. But I could never do it fully. I’d cheat here and there, because I couldn’t bring myself to just PUT THE COOKIE DOWN! So I saw myself as a failure. And what do a lot of us do when we’re depressed and discouraged? We eat things we shouldn’t, in large amounts. Then we feel bad about THAT, so we eat MORE. At least I do. So, up until this year, I had put on more and more weight, going from my lightest of 140 to my heaviest at almost 200 in a three year span. That’s a lot of weight.
But all is not lost!
Let me tell you about Steve. Trust me. It ties in.
I met Steve in October of my freshman year of college. We were inseparable from the beginning. We dated for 18 months, when he proposed to me last June-I knew it was meant to be. He’s seen me at both my lowest and heaviest weight. Not once did he even bat an eye. He’s always encouraged me to do what I feel is right, about my health. I love that guy. Anyway! I began fiendishly planning the wedding, because that’s the kind of person I am. I love planning all sorts of things. And this is like, the mecca of planning occasions. To say I’m excited is an understatement.
The excitement turned into panic when I realized that in order to find a wedding dress I liked, I’d most likely have to lose weight. Which has always been difficult for me. My body so stubbornly holds on to every bit of fat no matter how hard I work. But that was before I was paleo, so why not try again? Different strategy. Different points of attack. Victory has to be mine! And it WILL be, because I said so.
The wedding isn’t until next October, so I have a little less than 18 months to get in shape. Which is a great amount of time to healthily and slowly lose weight/pack on some muscle.
So, this past January, I challenged myself. I decided to do the Whole30.
Now, the Whole30 is paleo on steroids. You may be thinking, WHAT?! The major difference between paleo and the Whole30 is sugar. On Whole30, no sugar of any kind (unless it’s from fruit) is allowed. No honey, agave, maple syrup. Nothing. It’s meant to kick start and detox your body. I figured this was a great opportunity to go cold turkey and cannon ball into the pool of healthy eating, if you will.
For the month of January (30 days), I ate strictly Whole30. The only time I allowed myself to cheat was my first Blackhawks game with Steve, I had a margarita. Other than that, I really pushed myself. I also didn’t weigh myself regularly. I was used to being disappointed when the numbers didn’t go down, and I didn’t want to get discouraged and quit. So I stayed away from the scale.
When I weighed myself halfway and discovered that I had lost 6 pounds, my jaw hit the floor. I wasn’t doing any exercise, just following this diet. I couldn’t believe it. So, naturally I wanted to keep going! I stuck it out for the rest of the month. At the end, I was down about 11 pounds. Through the whole thing, not once did I feel hungry, or tired, or foggy. My reproductive system got a kick in the pants, and I was a bit more regular than usual. I was in great spirits and I felt amazing. I felt even more amazing that I had accomplished something that I couldn’t have done on any other diet before. It was the turning point for me.
Now, a small disclaimer. I never felt hungry, but you WILL have sugar cravings that first week. It’s totally normal. Your body is most likely so used to the processed sugars that are found in EVERY food, so removing it will be confusing for it for a bit. But this is also when it’s most crucial to not give in. If you can stick it out through that period, you’re golden. And you’ll discover that you won’t even want to eat those foods anymore, because you’re satisfied. The sugar and carb will make you sick, believe me. If I can do it (I lack much self- control), anybody can. Cliché, but very true.
So that brings us to now. Since stopping the Whole30 and being about 50/50 paleo and non paleo, I’ve pretty much stayed the same weight. So, seeing as it’s May already I decided to dust off my bike and get serious about my food again. And also to start this blog. This is in a way, a way for me to record my findings as I go through this journey. It gives me incentive to keep it up! I will fit into that wedding dress I want. I WILL. And I also just want to be as healthy as I can possibly be. Health trumps physical appearance……but it’s a nice bonus, right?
Also, if you’re not ready to make this change, it won’t work for you. Steve struggles with it, and I don’t blame him. I’m not saying it’s easy in the beginning. He happily eats what I make, and he’s never complained about it. When it comes to making things on his own, he runs into trouble. This does require a level of dedication and perseverance, because the world is against you. Every single boxed item has some form of sugar in it. If you don’t believe me, go check your pantry. If it’s not sugar, it’s soy. If it’s not soy, it’s MSG, preservatives, chemical stabilizers, and things that you can’t pronounce. Paleo requires very little pantry space, I can tell you that much. I shop the perimeter of my grocery store, and the occasional mosey down the organic aisle for almond flour and coconut oil. This is an overhaul of how most of us have eaten from birth (even the premade baby formulas are riddled with soy and chemicals). It can be a difficult choice, but it’s a great one. Pinky promise.
I’ve learned many things about myself and how my body works, just by eating this way. It’s not a gimmick, or a fad diet. This is about eating whole, real food. This is about going back to the way food was before commercialization and factory made and processed. Just eat food. It’s as simple as that.