Over 2.5 years ago, after many years of yo-yo dieting, poor sleep, a terrible menstrual cycle, and other more or less annoying “side effects of aging”, I made the very important decision to cut out all grains, legumes, refined sugar, and dairy. I embarked on a journey like no other, lost almost 40lbs, met some inspiring and highly intelligent people, found better health, and came to the conclusion, that these “side effects of aging” were really the side effects of a poor diet, the Standard American Diet (SAD).
Within six months I was a new person. And of course, I talked about my newly found wisdom to anyone who would listen. If you’ve been following this blog at all, you’ll know, that this was not my Happy End. Unlike beautiful people like Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, Mark Sisson, and Robb Wolf, I started falling off the paleo bandwagon. I even added dairy to my diet in the hopes that it would help me get past my cravings for sweet things, for sugar and chips. I have fallen off, and jumped back on probably about 10 times. In my mind, I knew that I needed to stick with a primal lifestyle in order to maintain a healthy weight and feel good.
But I, like countless others, have fallen into the “gluten free” trap. Gluten free pasta, cookies, chips, bread, crackers. Slowly, silently, one after another made their way into my kitchen pantry. Each one was defended by me. I am a busy mom, housewife, freelance writer, and the Operations Manager of fastpaleo, too! I don’t have time to spend countless hours in the kitchen, cooking and baking, figuring out ways to make life with my reluctant children easier.
Eventually, I found great people like Sean Flanagan and Antonio Valladares, both of whom brilliant people in their own niche of the health food business. Their reasoning that sugar addiction as such did not exist, was a powerful message to me. Something else must have be the underlying cause of my endless sugar cravings. So, instead of avoiding sugar, I added it back into my diet. I bought ice cream and chocolate, didn’t shy away from taffy when we went to the beach. I was absolutely thrilled that I maintained my weight, and everything seemed fine.
I became a bit of a skeptic about all things paleo/primal. I continuously read messages, that seemed to confirm that us paleo folk were taking this health food thing to an extreme, that we didn’t need to do this in order to stay healthy. Sure, eat clean, but don’t worry about the sugar, the rice, the quinoa, the ice cream. Keep a healthy balance, and don’t eat too many calories.
And this is where things turned sour. I went from 100% primal, to 90%, did well, and went down to 80% and then to 70%. Pretty soon, I ate gluten free bread on a regular basis. I bought a bar of German chocolate and devoured it in one sitting. Instead of one glass of wine with dinner, I had three. Rice became a food to be enjoyed once a week, not once a month, and those delicious shakes from Burgerville down the street were now a regular treat.
After my initial diagnosis with my hemangiomas of the liver, I was also told to stop doing CrossFit. For the better part of summer, I sat around, ate junk, felt sorry for myself, and lost complete control of what went into my body. And when my weight slowly started creeping up, I chose to ignore it, thinking, all I needed to do was go back to CrossFit eventually, and everything would be fine.
Well, I was cleared for modified CrossFit by my surgeon, and I have been going for about a month…. but I still hadn’t changed my ways. I was still out of control when it came to my food. The truth is, I was probably now eating worse than before I went paleo. In my head I rationalized, that I was doing all the right things. Sugar, sugar, sugar… I could stop any day I wanted. In the meantime I gained more weight. I ended up gaining 20lbs. 20! Think about this. I let this happen to myself! I chose to ignore my weight gain until I stepped on the scale and found that I had regained half of what I’d lost two years ago.
Look, the truth is, I only partly understand the science behind sugar, and whether or not it is addictive. Maybe Antonio is right and I have something else going on inside me that renders me helpless when I am confronted with a bar of German milk chocolate. But well, I am not about to find out. I have had my blood works done twice this summer. Maybe they should have run some additional tests in order to pin down my “disorder”, if in fact I have one. The fact is, I am as healthy as a horse (well, with the exception of those hemangiomas, but those are a whole different story). The fact is also, that I CANNOT eat sugar. I need to stay away from it. Not because of some scientific truths, but because of MY truth. My truth is that I can’t control myself. My truth is, that there is a difference between refined sugar and raw honey. For me there is, be it physical or psychological. Who cares! My truth is, the stuff is not good for me.
My truth is also, that gluten free products are great… for other people. Not for me. Gluten free bread, you can have it. I don’t want it. I am going back to my “old ways”. I am going primal, and I’m staying primal. I’m doing this for myself. Not for anybody else, and certainly not to prove anything to anyone. My body has made a simple request, “Be kind to me.” And being primal is my way of being kind to my body.
I did, in fact, come full circle. And maybe I needed to go through all of this, to arrive back just where I started almost three years ago.
I encourage YOU to do the same for you! If you have found what works for you… be it paleo or primal, or a combination of lifestyles, then stick with it. Make no excuses. This is YOUR health and your life, and YOU have to live it.
Update: I had a thought. I’ve struggled with falling off and getting back onto the bandwagon for well over a year. Remember the blog post I wrote about kids: Choosing your battles – Life with teens? I had written the following:
Education ≠ Behavior Change
Sure, I knew all about paleo and that it was great for me. But somehow, after falling off and not seeing immediate negative results, I lacked the trigger to get back on.
Education + Motivation + Ability + Triggers = Behavior Change
I am more motivated than ever to get back on and stay on. I certainly have the ability… and finally I also have my trigger. 🙂