I was debating writing this post for a while because I hated that my earlier healthy lifestyle came to a grinding halt with pregnancy #2. It took me a little over a year to start learning a TON about nutrition, health, and wellness. I learned more in that time about food than I did in my entire life, and definitely way more than I learned in medical school (where teaching nutrition is, in retrospect, puzzlingly not a big priority). My own self-education arose through trying to figure out how to get back to my normal, healthy weight after baby #1, but in reality the struggle started a few years prior to this. I luckily always had a fast metabolism and could eat anything I wanted while maintaining my weight, as long as I exercised. That all changed, as I detailed more in this post. I tried increasing exercise, dieting (at one point down to 1400 Cal per day…and now I kick myself for even thinking that was normal or doable), and aiming for “healthy eating” without any results. Even after being diagnosed with hypothyroidism and starting medication, I did not notice a huge shift in my metabolism or weight.
I can’t pinpoint exactly how or when I started learning about the paleo diet. It probably was because my husband kept telling me to try “low carb” and me resisting that because it was not sustainable for the long-term — or so I thought. Also, the time that he tried low-carb, he basically only ate meat and no veggies. Clearly that would not work for me (or anyone else)! I did not want to tack nutritional deficiencies onto my problems. However, over time I decided to give it a try and just reduce processed carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, cereal, baked goods, and the like. The more I searched for recipes, the more I came across the word “Paleo.” I thought this was some sort of fad diet, but as I researched into it, it made a whole lot of sense. We both decided to give it ago, and it truly worked! Combined with some fun and varied exercises, I finally got back into shape. Most importantly, it stopped being about vanity/appearance and started being about health and wellness.
We kept up paleo eating for quite a while, and at times would add in starches when needed (mainly in the form of white rice. Not brown rice – that’s a topic for another time). Most of our starch came from veggies, however. We never felt starved, deprived, or like we were missing out because our diets were now higher in healthy fats (which taste pretty darned good and keep you full for WAY longer than carbs). I still ate some legumes and did not give up dairy, so I was not 100% paleo. I also switched to cooking with coconut oil and sometimes olive oil. I recall that I could eat a protein and fat-rich meal for breakfast and not feel the slightest pang of hunger for 4-5 hours at least, whereas if I previously ate oatmeal or a bagel, I’d be starving for more food within 2 hours. Not only this, but our energy levels and digestion were vastly improved. I did not get that mid-afternoon crash while eating paleo. My glucose and cholesterol levels (which were already great to begin with, thank goodness) only got better. Notably, my triglycerides (blood fats) improved despite being on a higher fat diet. I soon learned that TGs are more linked to sugar than to fat.
It’s important to note that during the learning process, I also learned that a high-carb and high-sugar diet is linked to many other diseases, not just diabetes. Autoimmune diseases are included, interestingly. Autoimmune means the body attacks parts of itself because it sees something as foreign when it is not. Why would the body do this? It seems that somehow (and this is a very superficial description), inflammatory carbs trigger this process. Such diseases include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (what I have), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, and many more. I heard countless stories of people suffering from severe and debilitating autoimmune conditions for which current treatments include immune-suppressing medications with a whole host of potential side effects and complications. They tried the paleo or keto route and reversed their illness through diet alone.
I also learned that 100 calories in a “snack pack” are much different than 100 calories of real, whole foods when introduced into the body. This is partly why a restrictive diet does not work. Eating oreos instead of real food is not good for you, even if you stick to your set calorie limit.
When I became pregnant with baby #2, the first trimester was not as terrible with the nausea and food aversions, but my energy levels were super low and I constantly craved salt and carbs. I know this is pretty normal, and I trust the human body to know what it needs and does not need. It makes perfect sense to want salty and starchy foods in the first trimester, if you think about it. Not only do those foods help with nausea, I was probably in need of electrolytes as well. Unfortunately, those cravings led me to go back to eating processed starches and gluten (UGH). I noticed that my energy, mood, and even immune system took a big hit from these dietary changes. I truly blame my return to gluten as majorly contributing to the 3-4 bouts of bronchitis that lingered on forever throughout the first 6 months of pregnancy. While eating paleo, I was not sick once! It solidified the reality that gluten and processed carbs are inflammatory foods. Yet, I had basically face-planted into those foods and it was SO HARD to break the cycle again. It’s amazing how addictive sugar really is.
Finally, in February I decided to try the 21 Day Sugar Detox. I knew it would be totally doable because I had eaten that way for over a year. I just needed some extra motivation and guidance to kick my butt back into gear. Unfortunately I got hit with the stomach flu that month and had to quit it. Then starting on March 1, I decided to cut out gluten again. I would allow natural sugars at times, but not via processed foods. I have been keeping track with my new Commit30 planner (which I am LOVING), and I get to reward myself with a small treat at the end of the month if I hit my goal. (My treat is a new 32 oz water bottle since mine is almost busted. I know, I’m so cool).
It’s now day 5 of being off gluten and I already feel loads better, more energetic, and truly happier. In the meantime, I continue to listen to some of my favorite podcasts and read some of my favorite health/fitness blogs (see below) to keep me motivated.
I recently talked about the paleo diet and keto with a family member, and it solidified it even more because she was just starting to learn about all the benefits and considering taking the plunge. She told me about the Tedx talk below by Dr. Sarah Hallberg, and I love it because it is everything I believe and have witnessed to work first hand for myself and others. I encourage anyone, whether you have health problems already or not, to consider reducing or eliminating processed carbs and sugar from your diet for just 30 days and seeing how you feel! Several of my own patients have had great success with losing weight, getting off their diabetes meds (including insulin), and being healthier and happier overall. What’s the harm in trying?
Here are the blogs and podcasts I love if you’re interested in learning more about paleo, keto, fitness, exercise, delicious recipes, and overall health!
www.fedandfit.com (Fed & Fit podcast on iTunes)
www.paleomg.com (PaleOMG Uncensored podcast on iTunes)
Balanced Bites podcast