How the heck did I get involved in real food/Paleo nutrition anyway? I thought I would my personal story with you all, and hope it inspires you!
I first started eating a gluten, dairy, egg and beef free diet in the later months of 2008, when I was 18. I was experiencing horrible, painful, cystic acne that was stubborn as all get out and would not respond to conventional treatments. I went to a naturopath seeking out some answers and hopefully a solution. Through a series of food allergy tests, it was discovered that I was sensitive to those foods mentioned above. I was hopeful that by eliminating them my skin would improve.
I really didn’t know what gluten even was at the time and I can remember looking through our pantry at the things I had been eating and realizing all of the crackers, cereal and processed foods were now off limits. Since I was only eighteen and still living at home at the time, my mom played a big role in the diet transformation. She was willing and eager to help me eliminate those foods and see if it made a difference for my skin. I remember saying to her, “Eliminating beef and eggs won’t be hard, it’s the gluten.”
Eliminating those foods was a platform and starting place for my journey. It got me to learn about gluten, food allergies, intolerances and how they can play a role in skin health. I began reading labels and learning what was in the food I was eating. I like to think it’s what led me to begin studying nutrition in college.
So, I stuck to my limited food diet very strictly. I was at my wits end with my skin and willing to try just about anything. It was difficult at first, explaining to people why I wasn’t eating the foods I normally did anymore, and modifying foods that I had eaten for the past eighteen years. I did see improvement in regards to my skin, whether it was the elimination of dairy, eggs, gluten or beef, my skin slowly (so very slowly) did improve, although hardly to my liking. (Will it ever be to my liking?!)
Fast-forward almost four years, I had graduated high school, moved out on my own and was in college studying nutrition. Still eating gluten and dairy free (I incorporated eggs and beef back into my diet with no problems). I first heard of Paleo in school, being touted as a fad diet, but no details about what it was all about. Then, my hairstylist told me she followed a Paleo diet. I still didn’t think much of it after learning what it actually was, but decided to try it for a week. I was running a fair amount of miles per week at the time and was under the impression that all my energy to run MUST come from carbohydrates. After the week, I convinced myself I just didn’t have enough energy to run and eat Paleo and it wasn’t for me.
However, I then met a guy (of course, right?!) who was a Crossfit coach, passionate about nutrition and all things Paleo. He explained Paleo to me when I asked about it, but never passed any judgments when I replied with the typical response I had learned in school that “one should never eliminate an entire food group.” While we were dating I never fully believed all the hype as I do now. (Totally not hype, either! It’s real stuff!) We have since parted ways, I do however credit his passing down of knowledge as the initial spark to delve HEAD FIRST into learning about Paleo beyond what I already knew (which wasn’t a lot).
In the fall of 2012 when I was 22, I started reading books, researching online, listening to podcasts and following Paleo food blogs. I read Paleoista by Nell Stephenson and started to think it might all be true. Then I read It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig and knew this stuff was legitimate. I began following the Paleo greats; Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser and Mark Sisson. When I bought Diane Sanfilippo’s book Practical Paleo, I felt like the food was stuff I would actually eat and began to cook from it. Little by little, I stopped eating oatmeal for breakfast and ditched the gluten free pasta for dinner and my health begin to improve.
I will not lie and say the transition to eating real, unprocessed and nutrient dense Paleo foods was always easy or that I stuck to it 100% in the beginning (or even now). Even starting out from a gluten-free diet that eliminated a lot of the non-Paleo foods already, it was difficult. It is a constant learning process. A learning process of not only gathering concrete information or learning about new foods for a recipe, but a learning of what your body truly needs, what it responds best to and learning how to fuel it to feel your absolute best.
Paleo has not only brought me a greater understanding of all aspects of food, but a new insight to fitness, healthy living, and has essentially taught me to cook. Through the many bloggers, authors, chefs, entrepreneurs, scientists, and fitness advocates out there who encourage a Paleo/Real Food lifestyle, I have transformed my way of eating and essentially my way of living in an immensely positive way.
This coming fall will mark two years since I began my Paleo journey. While there have been definite ups (finishing the 21 Day Sugar Detox!!) and downs (eating 21 times the normal serving of almond butter in one night), I am SO very grateful I have chosen this path. I can’t imagine going back to the diet I once ate knowing what I do now and realizing how much better I feel eating the way I do now.
My style of eating has evolved over the years since my original spark of Paleo inspiration. I incorporate some non-paleo foods that work for my body, allow me to enjoy life and still maintain a healthy and happy balanced with my food!