One of the things I’m often asked about eating paleo is, why? To an observer (and to me before I started!) it can seem restrictive and severe. In truth, over time, it becomes second nature. Yes it takes some adjustment and a shift in your thinking. It took me about a year to fully get my head round it and adopt it as a lifestyle rather than just a ‘thing’. I had fun in the process and still do!
I’ll admit that my main reason at the start was weight loss, or perhaps more accurately, weight maintenance. I was fed up of yo-yo-ing between periods of dieting and ‘eating normal’. But I knew after reading It Starts With Food, that paleo could also bring with it health benefits. I’ve never been seriously ill, but like many people I had a series of slightly annoying, mild conditions. Here’s some of the things that paleo has helped me to identify and work on:
Headaches – Do you hear people say ‘I’m a headachey person’? That was me, and to a certain extent it still is, but I now know what triggers them and can avoid the causes. Before turning to paleo, it hadn’t occurred to me it might be food related. I took painkillers almost daily. I thought dehydration could be an issue but other than that I was at a loss an just accepted it was part of me. I learnt that my triggers are sugar, alcohol, not enough water and stress. I know now that if I choose something with sugar in it what the consequences are. I’m all about the informed choices! So as a general rule I stay away.
Silent reflux – This was a condition I’d had for a couple of years. Much investigation work was done to figure out why I had a constantly sore throat, raspy voice and felt wheezy when I lay down. So after cameras up my nose and down my throat it turned out I had silent reflux, which is a bit different to normal reflux, but anyway I was given medication that I took daily for over 2 years. Paleo helped me to come off that medication completely. I identified what the triggers are, and as you’d expect it was things like dairy, alcohol, sugar and bad fats. My body tells me pretty quickly when I’m eating the wrong things now.
Energy – I can’t stress enough how different this is for me. I was a nightmare in the mornings, sometimes dragging myself out of bed at the very last minute for work. This changed drastically almost instantly after my first Whole 30. I found I had far more energy, not just to get out of bed in the morning but to keep me going right through the day, without that afternoon slump.
Sleep – I’ve always been a light sleeper, and that still remains (which I tell myself will be handy if there’s ever an emergency during the night!). But the quality of my sleep is so much better. Is it perfect? No. The fella works shifts which means neither of us ever gets an undisturbed night’s sleep, except on the occasional weekend night, but I definitely get a better quality of sleep when I’m asleep, than I did before.
Skin – Suddenly at the age of 30 I developed skin problems! How infuriating after navigating the teenage years spot-free. I was plagued on and off with huge, often painful spots. My skin cleared up miraculously on full paleo and looked much more vibrant. They return pretty quickly when I veer too much in the wrong direction. So over the festivities, due to tiredness, stress and too much wine, they returned with gusto! They are an indicator that I need to get back in check. I also noticed that these tiny annoying bumpy spots on my arms disappeared. I’d had them my whole life, and was sure I’d read something years ago that dairy may contribute. Well, whatever it was, it they’re gone!
Colds – I probably got at least 2 colds a year before, and the fella had one every 2-3 months when we first met. Neither of us gets them at all now. I think this is a good indicator (completely fabricated by me) of how healthy you are generally. If you don’t catch viruses easily, that could mean you have a decent immune system. We get the odd sniffle but it never seems to turn in to a cold and we know how to nourish ourselves to nip it in the bud.
Weight – Many people report weight loss as a benefit of paleo and for people who need to lose a lot of weight it can be great. I did lose some weight, although I wasn’t overweight to begin with. But more importantly I’d say my weight has normalised – meaning I feel like I’m the weight I should be. I don’t know what it is because I don’t weigh myself. I just intuitively know when things go too far either way.
Relationship with food – This is maybe the most surprising and beneficial result of paleo. It’s made me examine my eating habits and how I relate to food. Am I ‘cured’? No! I’m sure there will always be a part of me that’s an emotional eater. I can still be found spooning 100% cashew butter right out of the tub sometimes – which is still binging even if it is paleo! But I’m far kinder to myself than I used to be. And I’m aware of my eating patterns and triggers, which is a pretty good starting point.
All in all, I feel like I know and understand my body better than I ever have, and I’m still learning. It can be frustrating to discover that there are things you just shouldn’t or can’t eat. You have to grieve for them! And sometimes you’ll still choose them knowing what will happen. But knowledge is power, and it gives you the ability to take back control of your own body and choices. I’m looking forward to continuing to learn 🙂