"...what a person accomplishes in life is directly correlated with the people around them." - John Berardi

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thankful Thursday: My Story

Today I'm thankful for the life-style changes I have made and continue to work on. I'm thankful for the health and strength that I enjoy each day. I'd like to share my story up to this point in my life since I've had a number of people asking about it lately. Hopefully this isn't too personal but might help someone who is experiencing similar things. Here it goes...

I never really worried, cared, or thought about food, exercise, & lifestyle until college. I was a very active kid and played sports, mostly volleyball and tennis all throughout middle school & high school. I always felt bigger than the girls I associated with but overall wasn't too concerned about it. I guess I found contentment in people telling me that I had an "athletic build" and was "bigger boned."

A couple of semesters into college (probably in 2005) I started having stomach pain pretty much every time I ate. To the point that I didn't want to eat, which was weird for me since I love food and was kind of proud of how much I could eat (kind of weird, I know). I didn't really change anything, that I recall, but it seemed to get better after one really rough semester of stomach pain.

The pain would come back randomly but I never knew why. I got married in October of 2009, enjoyed every minute of it for the first year and a half and then for our 2011 New Year's resolution, my husband and I set a goal to lose a few extra pounds we were both packing. We of course went with the conventional way of tracking calories in, calories out and tried exercising more. What happened? I only lost a few pounds, was starving all the time, and developed an obsession with food. I would track food in a phone App as soon as I ate it and would indulge in poor food choices when I actually did have a few "extra" calories remaining for the day. I felt grumpy way too often, started binge eating, and it just wasn't working.

I remember one distinct night, just sitting in bed and listening to my stomach grumble and churn. It had been at least 3 or 4 hours since I had eaten dinner. I couldn't believe how loud it was and this type of "performance" from my stomach was happening almost nightly. I told my husband "something is not right. I want to know what is causing this. I'm tired of stomach issues and not feeling great so much of the time."

At this point I was having a hard time with situations at work, which didn't make the food obsessing any better. This went on until about July of 2011 when my husband starting searching for other "diet" options to try. He came across the Paleo Diet and told me how they don't eat dairy, soy, grains, legumes, white potatoes, sugar, etc. I was shocked and thought there was no way I could do that. What would we eat? I was a bread & pasta lover! I made awesome rolls and cookies all the time. One of my favorite places to eat out was the Olive Garden and eat tons of bread sticks, share a pasta entree with my husband, and finish off by sharing a piece of cheesecake. Dessert always pushed me over the top but it tasted so good that I rarely passed on it. I knew giving up some of these foods would be hard but told my husband I'd be willing to give it a try.

The next day he told me about something similar he found but that was a little "less strict" called the Primal Blueprint. He showed me Marks Daily Apple (we still love reading the success stories together every Friday), we bought Mark Sisson's book The Primal Blueprint and dove right in! My husband immediately started feeling like he had tons more energy and me on the other hand, definitely experienced what is often called the "low carb flu." It was awful for a few days. I was tired, had headaches, and really felt like I was dragging. Thankfully, it lasted less than a week.

We both started to drop 1-2 lbs per week without being hungry/starving all the time. It was wonderful working out less (Primal Essential Movements {PEM}), enjoying more sunshine, playing often, eating plenty of great food and seeing/feeling fat loss. I even lost a pound while on a 7 day cruise! I used to have headaches fairly often and those went away. The best  part, was that the bloating and stomach pain was gone! No more weird grumbling every night. Overall, I mostly had positive body composition changes (even though people were often asking me if I was losing weight) but my husband really lost the weight, roughly 30 lbs! I didn't think he had that much to lose!

During our trip to Idaho for Thanksgiving that year, I was about 8 weeks pregnant and started having some bleeding. I immediately thought I was having a miscarriage but after getting back home and tons of labs later, found out it was an ectopic pregnancy. The Dr. assumed it was in one of my fallopian tubes but was never able to see it in an ultrasound. I was of course devastated and ended up getting a couple methotrexate injections to stop the cells from growing randomly in my body & keep me from losing a tube.

My 2012 New Year's resolution was a little different. I was told that my body would need quite a few months to heal before trying to conceive another baby and so I decided to really take time to work on my health. We bought road bikes and used them a ton that summer! We also ended up purging our house of all flour, sugar, beans, other grains, processed & boxed food, etc. It was a lot of food! I grew up in a home where we were taught to not waste food, so that was a little bit hard for me. I think the hardest thing at this point in our journey was convincing people that this was a life-style change (hence the pantry purge) and not a short-term fad diet. It's been going on for a couple of years now so hopefully it's starting to stick :)

It was a lot of fun and kind of hard doing a 21-day and 30-day primal challenge. We found tons of free cookbooks and purchased some to help us with this new way of cooking. We started to fill our kitchen with some of the whole food cooking staples like coconut flour, coconut oil, ghee, coconut milk, and tons of spices. We also started investing in a good blender, dehydrator, and food processor. It took a while for me to get brave enough to start making some of my own recipes and change up recipes we used.

I also came across the Whole30 program and that was really eye-opening for me. It made me realize just how often I was using food, especially sweet things, to try to remedy my emotions. I ate when I was tired, bored, annoyed, you name it. Any bloating I still occasionally experienced went away and I also finally started ovulating again while doing a Whole30.  We were elated to find out that we were pregnant and expecting a baby boy in May of 2013!

As I've become more aware of how foods affect my body and make me feel, I think it really helped me have a pretty good pregnancy, delivery, and recovery. I certainly still had some intense pregnancy cravings periodically and didn't have a "perfect" diet but I ate a lot of delicious whole foods and felt quite good throughout it. I also feel that my body bounced back pretty quickly after the delivery.  During my pregnancy, I also became a certified Nutrition Coach through Precision Nutrition! Now I'm a mom, trying to raise my handsome, passionate, and energetic little boy to have the best health I can offer him. I've had to practice a lot of self-love recently and really focus on the blessings of health I enjoy with all the changes my body has experienced with pregnancy, childbirth, & now motherhood, instead of worrying about whether or not I am at the weight or body fat percentage I think is ideal for me. Health is about so much more than that.

My amazing husband is so busy with full-time work and a very busy position in our church. I've been amazed at how great he looks with everything he has going on. Even though he doesn't get in as much exercise as he would like some weeks, he's able to maintain a healthy weight and keep up with the busyness by eating real food, making sleep a priority, and managing stress.

It's funny that we went with the "less strict" primal option, because the more I learn and experiment with foods for myself, the more I am becoming more "paleo" in my diet. I am definitely a slow carb-burner and have to limit starchy carbs and fruit (unless I've done a really tough workout), otherwise I quickly put on belly fat. I also tend to not handle "indulgences" or dairy as well as my husband. We're all different. Figure out what makes you feel the best!

I want to wrap up by sharing some of the things I have learned, especially in the past 2-ish years:

1. There isn't 1 diet that will work for everyone. I suggest starting with a Primal/Paleo template and then making changes from there. What works for you today, may not work tomorrow or in a year (e.g. training for a marathon, being pregnant/breastfeeding, recovering from an injury). Overall, eat real food!
2. Getting enough sleep and managing stress is crucial to maximizing results with your nutrition & exercise plan. This is something I will probably have to remind myself off and on for the rest of my life :)
3. Find exercise that gives you joy during all seasons where you live. If the word exercise makes you not want to do it, then find fun ways to PLAY ! The point is to get up and move daily!
4. Our bodies can do a lot of healing on their own by eating real food & cutting out destructive ones (having bad skin, constant headaches, bloating/puffiness, stomach pain, menstrual cramps, etc. may be common but isn't "normal").
5. Don't be afraid to question conventional wisdom & try something different. Our poor country and world is in trouble with health; something has to change. I don't want to watch anymore people I care about get sicker and sicker when we may be able to prevent some of it with lifestyle changes.
6. Exercising more is not always better. Allowing yourself to recover is super important.
7. The scale is not a good indicator of health, instead, pay more to how you feel. There are plenty of "skinny-fat" people who may look great from the outside but have all kinds of systemic inflammation going on in the inside.
8. Eating good, whole foods and staying away from processed ones helps strengthen our immune system. Hopefully this can motivate us all with the flu season underway!
9. Eating sugar is a slippery slope for me. Once I start, I never know when I'll stop. It's better if I just don't go there...
10. Give yourself permission to love yourself and your body no matter what stage it's in today. Building and maintaining health is a journey and life-long process. Loving yourself right now will help results come!

Sorry this was so long. I hope you find it helpful or will at least give you something to think about. Have you stopped recently to be thankful for the areas of health you enjoy?