“I’m an Air Force reserve physical therapist who stumbled upon the Paleo/Primal lifestyle in my struggle to become healthy. After years of eating “healthy whole grains” and the Standard American Diet (SAD) in an attempt to be … well… healthy, it backfired and I gained weight over the years and became so sick that I had to have my gallbladder out.
A Weight-Loss Plan
I have struggled with weight and tummy troubles since my teens…and OH, the migraines!! In 2011, I moved to Japan for work, and started a plan to lose weight. I fastidiously counted EVERY calorie that went into my mouth and every calorie that went out via workouts. The app I was using was telling me that to get to my ‘target weight’ by my goal month, I’d have to eat no more than 1150 calories a day. So… I tracked each and every calorie in and out. I was walking 1-2 miles a day and doing my workout videos 3-4 times a week. Supposedly burning between 250 – 400 calories a day with exercise. Meanwhile eating only around 1500 calories so that the math would ‘work’ and I’d lose weight. All that, and I only lost 5 pounds over 4 months.
Getting Very Sick
Then I started ‘getting sick’. After eating a snack of black bean dip one day, I got a real dull ache that felt as though someone was slowly pushing their fist through my solar plexus to my backbone. The pain got so bad that I rushed to the emergency room. By the time we got to the hospital though, the pain had receded and the doctors told me to take something for indigestion.
The next time the pain came, I went to the ER after I suffered at home over 1 ½ hours (I didn’t want to hear it was just indigestion again). The pain was the same, but more intense – most intense in the solar plexus area that radiated into my back and up my breastbone and around my ribcage now. Since I was over 40, overweight and had chest pain along with the other complaints, I got seen right away. Cardiac enzymes – perfect, EKG – normal, then the workup started for other things… ultrasound for gallstones – none, X-ray of belly for ??, some constipation – yeah, what else was new?
So, not finding anything beyond a little increase in my liver enzymes… the doc figured I was literally full of sh*t and gave me some fast-acting stuff to make me ‘go’. I went, but the pain continued for 6 ½ hours. When it finally receded, I slept for about 3 days.
This time, I did my homework. Went straight to WebMD. It said I could have gallbladder stones/disease, cancer, etc… so, I started looking up gallbladder disease. Hmmmm… the descriptions of where the pain comes was similar, if not spot-on… so then I found an awesome website called gallbladderattack. The heavens opened and the angels starting singing!! I FOUND my problem!! She also had suggestions of foods to avoid and a tasty little treat to eat daily to help the gallbladder get healthy.
It suggested I avoid certain foods:
beans, fat, eggs, pork, onions, fowl, dairy, wheat, nuts, corn, coffee, chocolate, tea, ice cream, red meat, carbonated water, tap water, fruit juice, turnips, cauliflower, colas, oats, sweeteners… did I miss anything? HOLY CRAP!! WHAT COULD I EAT? Seriously, what could I eat that wouldn’t hurt??
Her list of what I COULD eat:
cucumbers, beets, green beans, okra, sweet potatoes, avocados, vinegar, garlic, shallots, tomatoes, lemon, grapes, apples, berries, omega 3 oils – not cooked, and vegetable juices.
I was SO desperate NOT to have pain again, I’d try ANYTHING.
So during this time, I was still diligently writing down all I ate and figuring out the calories, fat/carb/protein amounts. So… on my best days I got to 1000 calories. On my worst days it was 800 calories. My portion sizes were tiny and I was losing weight.
I continued to get sick and eat foods I didn’t realize were on the “do not eat” list (pinto beans, wheat, red meat) and got sicker. Beans were THE food that would push the pain to a 10 out of 10. Eventually, I was seriously eating just beets, cucumbers and apples as they didn’t hurt. But, I was in constant low-level pain. And even after several more months of all the regimented, limited eating, I had only lost 8 more pounds.
In the end, I had to have surgery to have my gallbladder removed.
No Gallbladder, but still SAD
Once I had the surgery, I felt a whole lot better! I experimented with eating a little more and it didn’t hurt. Yay. Nope, wasn’t going to eat beans.
The next few months, I was still counting calories, not eating beans, but pretty well my Standard American Diet (SAD). I dropped 3 more pounds. I was still conscious of what I ate and tried hard to eat what I was ‘supposed’ to eat via the FDA guidelines. Wheat-something at each meal… oatmeal or wheat cereal for breakfast, sandwich of turkey breast, tomato, lettuce, no mayo for lunch, and lean meat, veggie, brown rice for dinner. I was being GOOD. Why the heck couldn’t I continue to lose weight? Only 1 ½ to 2 pounds per month since the surgery…
The Paleo Solution
Finally, on a much needed vacation back to the states, my brother-in-law told me all about his health journey and finding the Paleo/Primal lifestyle. He showed me the blogs and websites and books I could read. I sat down with Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution right then… it was my mother-in-law’s book, and I devoured as much as I could in a few days. She showed me how to cook and he talked to me about the horrors of grains, sugars and beans/legumes. I literally ate it up!
I was a newbie Paleo. I bought spaghetti squash so that we could try it as noodles and I rejected all grains, except corn on the cob… ’cause, well, it was fresh (and I was on vacation, and I hadn’t yet read about how genetically hybridized corn is….). Back home in Japan, I purged a lot out of the pantry and I decided to truly “go Paleo”. I bought the book on my iPad AND a paper copy from Amazon.
We started eating more red meat, and saturated fat. *gasp*
SAY ITS NOT SO!!! Yep… on the Paleo, you get to eat saturated fat along with your monounsaturated fats.
I continued to read everything I could, from blogs to facebook pages, to books… I got on the Gary Taubes (Good fats, bad fats) ‘cholesterol is good for you’ bandwagon and ditched ALL grains in my diet. Yep, corn and rice, too. I also tossed or gave away all canned beans and bags of beans for soups. I bought coconut flour (yep, ME and coconut… hell DID freeze over!!) and almond flour and started experimenting with ways to cook. I started cooking up bacon and reserving the drippings for use in other meals.
A typical caloric day? Let’s see… between 1400 – 2000 calories and approximately 40-45% fat, 25-30% protein, and 30% carbs (the kind you get from veggies!). NONE of my fats are trans fats, a little of them are polyunsaturated fatty acids (but NEVER canola oil or safflower oil anymore!) and most are saturated fats and monounsaturated fatty acids… uncooked nut or olive oils, and bacon grease or coconut oil for cooking.
In just 6 weeks, I was down another 10 pounds. I’d say that’s healthy weight loss… about 1 ½ to 2 pounds a week. Just comparing my arms from the first photo to now… makes me proud. I was getting healthy and had a LOT of energy. The only time I hurt was when I cheated and ate out… soy sauce can cause bloating all over and stomach upset for an entire day afterwards. Life is good. I get compliments on my skin, hair, shoot… even my EYES!
Since going Paleo, I have clear skin, bowel regularity (yay!! first time in my life for that!), no abdominal pain, less arthritic pains, a LOT of energy, and 90% reduction in migraines!! I also have no depression anymore… I’ve struggled with that for years and now I’m just … HAPPY 🙂
I credit Mark Sisson (Primal Blueprint) and Robb Wolf (The Paleo Solution), plus Sarah from Everyday Paleo, and the book Wheat Belly, with my newfound health. As of now (June 2013), I am 44 lbs down, but the best thing is that I can exercise, began running, and amazingly enough have NO MORE tummy troubles! I have so much energy and life in me… and I just turned 46!! If I can do this… anyone can!
I am actively trying to get the word out that grains, specifically wheat/gluten, are bad for us (humans and dogs alike… I have a dog with type 1 diabetes) and that losing weight begins with what you eat (not how many calories)! Secondarily to the weight loss, I’ve become healthy and realized how incredibly wheat-sensitive or intolerant I am. I see myself morphing into a motivator for others, like me, who strive to be healthy and, unfortunately, got sicker by trusting the government to know what’s healthy for us. Self-education is KEY!”
Debi Lost Her Gallbladder, Her SAD Diet and Finally, Her Weight – October 2013