I finally call myself Paleo after a long journey. It was a convergent evolution for me.
I had a long (> 15 years) history of trying to lose weight with all the various diets. They had worked quite well but the results just did not last, as maintaining those diets just weren’t very practical.
The last “diet” I tried was a low glycemic impact program. That was the first time I learned about insulin, body composition, and losing fat rather than weight. Lo and behold, I went from a size 12 to a size 6 within 4 weeks. Interestingly, my acne that plagued me since my teenage years disappeared. I was bursting with energy.
Then, I got into bodybuilding. For the first time, I was the leanest ever, but my hours on cardio machines weren’t adding up. I wanted abs and less flab. I purchased Flavia del Monte’s exercise programs after seeing her ads on Facebook and and followed it.
I was flabbergasted when I saw my abs in the mirror one day. How could that be possible? I wondered. after 25 years of being chubby and 15+ years of chasing the body of my dream.
After hearing a few girlfriends complain about their bodies (like we always do), I couldn’t help but to get my own fitness and nutrition certifications so that I can help them.
Through bodybuilding, I learned that I actually needed a lot less carbs than the Food Pyramid said. In fact, that reduction in carbs was required for me to get lean, based on my endomorphic body type. I was basically already eating very little grains by the time I stumbled upon Paleo. However, I was reluctant to call myself Paleo for a little while as the amount of fats seemed a little too crazy. It just seemed like many recipes that were compliant with my personal nutrition guidelines happened to be Paleo.
Fascinated by how the changes in foods changed so many things in my life, I decided to study Holistic Nutrition at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. Holistic Nutrition is more like the naturopathic version of nutrition, where we look at humans as whole beings, how everything functions together, how to optimize our health rather than at alleviating symptoms or curing diseases.
Few things made more sense to me (a biologist) than the fact that mother nature does her excellent job, and it is far better to support her work than to interfere with it. The beauty of nature was why I decided to become a biologist in the first place. When I study the DNA and how it functions, it’s perfect. When I study a tree and how it functions, it’s perfect. When study an ecosystem – like a forest or the ocean –and see how every component of it exists and function together, it’s perfect. We humans do a lot of things to taint such beautiful things.
Before I was reminded of this, I was a medication junkie. When I finally learned about why many symptoms of illnesses were there to help us heal, and many medications interfere with the processes, I had a change of heart. I learned the difference between suppressing the symptoms, versus identifying the root causes and supporting the body’s own healing processes.
At about the same time, I got the worst eczema outbreak of my life. Supporting my body rather than suppressing the symptoms were rather easier said than done, when I was literally itching and bleeding in hell. As bad as it was, I never picked up the steroid prescriptions. Later, I found out that topical steroids had very bad side effects that can take debilitating years to recover from, and was glad that I never actually used it this time around.
I took the eczema episode as my body was telling me something was wrong, and I chose to remove that something rather than silencing the noise. Working with a naturopathic doctor and implementing what I learned from my courses, I cleared up 99% of my eczema and maintained it without medications.
It ain’t as easy as applying topical steroid cream, but it was worth it. It was simple, though: just removing everything that my body didn’t like. I went 100% organic with foods and all personal care products. I had to eliminate environmental allergens in my house, fix my stress and my sleep problems. I had to do a very strict elimination diet and (being a scientist) tried many healing modalities.
In the process, I learned about great practitioners who support the Paleo lifestyle like Chris Kresser, Yuri Elkaim, Dr. Daniel Kalish, Dr. Sara Gottfried, and Aglaee Jacobs. I was impressed by how intelligent these practitioners are, and how they are able to support their treatment choices with real science, even when it goes completely against what everyone else believes. It just all makes sense. With these people winning me over with their expertise, I became a proud Paleo practitioner.
In all honesty, it’s a lot more than eating a lot of meat and saturated fats. Paleo is being thankful for what mother nature gives us and recognize that there’s a lot more to being healthy and happy. This was a very spiritual process for me.
Here are my primal changes:
– I make sure that all my animal products come from sustainable sources that respect the animals. I eat a whole chicken rather than only the breasts.
– I eventually stop going to supermarkets (despite living near 3 major ones), and get my local and organic produces from Karma – my local food coop and farmer’s market.
– I ban factory-farmed foods from my diet, both plants and animals.
– When I work out, I make use of the full strength potential rather than letting any cultural or mental messages be my limit.
– I choose to play outside and be surrounded by nature as much as possible.
– I maintain close relationships with people and take care of other people.
– I am spiritual and have life purposes.
– I respect my circadian rhythms and my sleep.
– I minimize exposure to toxins in personal care products and my environment by installing water and air filters, and making my own personal care products.
– I get in touch with how I feel with respect to different environments, foods, exercise protocols.
– I stop chasing an ideal body and go by optimal health instead.
– I limit my exposure to electronics and take breaks from them every once in a while.
– I learn to sense my stress levels (as it is the biggest factor affecting my health) and manage it.
– I choose healing modalities that support my body’s healing rather over those that interfere with it.
If you have recently gone Paleo, been Paleo for a while or are contemplating it, let me know what you think through your comments below.