“Real People, Real Paleo” is a series of posts written by real people who were inspired to share their Paleo story with you. There is such diversity in the challenges that bring us to a Paleo diet and lifestyle and in what we hope to achieve by adopting them. These stories are intended to be a place of inspiration, written by real people, showing the diversity of our needs and our approaches to this way of eating and living, and explaining how each individual’s implementation of Paleo meets their needs. By sharing these people’s stories with you on my blog, I hope to redefine what Paleo success is. I believe that Paleo is about being healthy enough to thoroughly enjoy life, whatever that means for you, and about sustainability for our entire lives. If you are interested in writing up your story, please email my team at [email protected]
My story truly starts in January 2013. I was crying myself to sleep because of joint pain, was bleeding from my gums, had constant digestive distress, suffered from perpetual mood swings and chronic fatigue – yet the many doctors I had been seeing for the last 7 years swore I was perfectly healthy. I was also watching the number on the scale creep up slowly over the years. I weighed about 65 kg (143 lbs) at this point, and my size 40 (US size 10) jeans were too tight.
It was my sister who suggested I give “clean eating” a try. I did so, and my daily joint pain (meaning, the pain that never left me, not the pain that came from effort) disappeared completely within two weeks. I was sold with the idea that food equals health and started experimenting a bit more by cutting out gluten and dairy – and I started feeling amazing.
From there I discovered Paleo – and went low-carb, like so many newbies do. I was no longer crying myself to sleep, I could be physically active without debilitating pain, my gums had long since stopped bleeding, my digestive distress was slowly getting under control, my mood swings were few and far between and I no longer yawned my way through the day.
But most impressive of all, I lost a ton of weight – and loved it. I thought I looked amazing, but friends, family and colleagues kept worrying about me. I had reached a weight of 52 kg (114 lbs) for 166m (5’5”) tall. I was fitting into European size 34 jeans (US size 4). I had never before weighed so little. I kept lying to myself, telling myself I felt amazing, and kept going lower and lower carb as my weight loss stalled.
Then health problems, many of the same ones that going Paleo had initially “cured”, started coming back – and some new ones even appeared! I was weak, always tired, snappy, gaining weight, had cycle problems… it was horrible.
Thankfully, I stumbled upon a few amazing women who, as I read more and more about their own journey, convinced me that by chasing my “ideal” body, I was losing sight of my original goal: health. These women, listed simply in the order I discovered them in, are Stacy Toth, Stephanie Gaudreau, Sarah Ballantyne, and Summer Innanen. Each one had something different to offer me – and every bit of it was necessary for me to move on.
Thanks to these fabulous four, I finally decided to hide the scale, listen to my body and just focus on eating real food. I did so – and ballooned up! I gained so much weight in the first month after ditching the scale that I thought I was pregnant, sick or dying! It turns out, none of that was true – my body was simply “stocking up” on the good stuff after the famine I had forced it to endure. It was a hard reality to accept, but I was determined to put aside “skinny” and pursue “health”.
After months of allowing my body to heal (which also included a strict AIP elimination phase – of which I’m still doing reintroductions) I realized I was thinner than before. I became aware of this because when I was at my skinniest, I was forced to buy a new belt. I was once again wearing that belt – and I could close it at the same belt loop as the day I bought it.
I decided to step on the scale, just to see if I really had lost weight. I couldn’t believe my eyes – I was the heaviest I had ever weighed! That day, the scale read 72kg (159 lbs) – exactly 20kg (44 lbs) heavier than when I thought I looked my best!
I was heavy. But. I was constantly improving my performance at CrossFit and was capable of going 4 times week. I wasn’t tired, getting more than enough rest each and every night with as little as 6 ½ hours. I had regular, uneventful periods. I had gained weight – but it was apparently a lot of muscle. My body fat has redistributed itself – it’s now centered around my thighs and butt, whereas before it was mainly on my stomach.
I actually have a hard time finding jeans that fit me now – thanks to CrossFit and constant squatting, my thighs tend to need a European size 40 (US size 10), but the waist band is always way too big at this size… I’d estimate my waist to be about a European size 36-38 (US size 6-8).
To continue the list of improvements I noticed, my mood was stable and I was happy. I was happy not only in day-to-day matters, but also concerning myself. I actually liked what I saw in the mirror.
I guess the bottom line is, I went from sick… to sicker… to healthy – both mentally and physically – all because I was able to set aside my superficial desires and focus on healing my body. Everything else just put itself into place once I was able to get to that point.
Paleo saved my life in more ways than one – as cliché as that sounds, it’s true. But it wasn’t Paleo alone. Food is an important health factor, but mindset is really where it all begins.
Meg White is an American-Expat who followed her high school sweetheart to his homeland – Belgium. She learned French, got a teaching degree and now works as a primary level teacher, balancing 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th graders during her work week. In her spare time, she reads, crafts, and spends time with her hubster either hiking or exploring new cities. She also enjoys creating new recipes to share on her blog Be Paleo and Thrive, and translates those recipes into French for her second blog Paleo Belgique. Paleo and CrossFit have both become a huge part of her life, and she’ll share all she knows with anyone who’s willing to listen!