3 Surprise Things that Changed when I Switched to a Real Food Diet
Health and wellness has always been a high priority in my life. Every hot new exercise, every food trend, and every miracle pill seemed so appealing. Who could resist a quick fix for weight loss? As a young adult, I lost a significant amount of weight from some of these trends. I swapped butter for margarine, soy meat for regular meat, and only purchased whole grain bread or pasta and fat free dairy products. I drastically restricted my caloric intake for months and ate sugar free jello or snacks when I wanted sweets. I kept my food under 1,000 calories a day, and if I went over, I hit the gym hard. I hit the gym hard anyway to boost results.
Short Term Results
Severe caloric restriction would work for anyone for a short period of time. I figured that losing over sixty pounds was a direct result of my great exercise habits and food choices, but looking back, I realize that I really just piled all of these trends on top of disordered eating patterns. At some point, my choices caught up to me. My skin was at its worst, I couldn’t stop gaining weight, and inflammation had taken over from fake foods and too much exercise. I was so hungry and deprived of nutrients, and my results were not sustainable. All of the conventional wisdom I picked up over the years couldn’t keep me satiated and healthy.
By the time I changed my lifestyle, I only wanted to lose weight. As an avid hiker, rock climber, and yoga teacher, I couldn’t understand why my body wasn’t a physical representation of my lifestyle. I felt so tired and couldn’t get a grip on weight gain. I also didn’t realize that many other symptom I had been living with my entire life were related to my diet. Tired of doing “everything right” without success, I decided to take a different approach to health for weight loss. The changes that came along with it were shocking.
I am no stranger to eczema and keratosis pilaris, or “chicken skin.” My arms were always bumpy and I often broke out in patches of eczema on my face, scalp, and other areas of my body. I spent many years in the dermatologist office as a teen and young adult, and no matter what I tried, it didn’t clear up my conditions. Anti-dandruff shampoo, over the counter creams, pharmacy compounded creams, special body washes- you name it, I tried it. I decided that I would just live with my skin conditions.
Within a month of eating primally, I stopped having eczema flares. My scalp started to clear and I noticed less dandruff. My arms, especially, started to clear up. I could not believe it. For the first time in years, I would wear black tank tops with more confidence than ever. Reducing inflammation through diet and lifestyle can reduce this autoimmune response, and allow the body to facilitate healing.
I recently worked with a client who struggled with athlete’s foot and toenail fungus her entire life. She, like me, tried everything to clear it up yet decided just to live with it. She couldn’t believe that her toenails and feet had cleared from a condition that she struggled with for over five decades. Her lifestyle reduced inflammation and candida, allowing her feet to heal and clear up the infection. The reduction in inflammation, yeast, and other factors played a key role in healing as symptoms cleared after dietary changes alone.
Every month, I had days of unbearable cramps and acne breakouts that came with my monthly cycle. Within two cycles of my dietary changes, my cramps had completely disappeared. I also stopped breaking out. Since I didn’t track my cycle, my period started to take me by surprise with symptoms. As I’ve grown older and had children, my period symptoms are a little different, but unbearable cramps that caused me to miss out on life aren’t part of my story anymore, along with hormone related acne.
Lowering systemic inflammation has been shown to reduce PMS symptoms. For many, instead of lowering inflammation with an anti-inflammatory pill, we can lower overall inflammation on an everyday basis.
Seasonal Allergies and Sinus Infections
Seasonal allergies are another part of my story that I figured I would live with. I spent my late teens on and off of antibiotics for sinus infections, per my allergist. I considered surgery for a deviated septum, or long courses of antibiotics to stop sinus infections.
I moved from the Northeast to California Where my seasonal allergies were far less frequent, yearly stints of allergy symptoms and sinus infections were still something I worked my life around. I started ditching antibiotics for these and adapted a routine of anti inflammatory medication, sinus rinsing, and allergy pills. It wasn’t enough, but it worked. I was just happy to only have three sinus infections a year during allergy season, instead of year long allergies and infections.
I didn’t notice this change immediately during my primal transition as I started in the summer, and my sinus infections typically hit in seasonal changes and winter months. By the following spring, I realized that I went through an entire season without purchasing my usual trifecta of medicine or missing work because of pain. Now, when I feel an onset of allergy symptoms, I only need to sinus rinse once or twice. Keeping inflammation at bay also keeps my allergy symptoms down.
A Personal Experiment
I’m not alone in these results. Anecdotal success stories that reach far beyond the scale are common in the primal community. The coach in me wants to call these non scale victories, as they aren’t scale related, but I think that they are far beyond measurable victories in inches, pounds, or clothing sizes. Reducing inflammation can allow people to gain their life back, even in symptoms that we’ve resorted to thinking of as normal. They aren’t normal, though. They’re common. Common doesn’t always equal optimal or healthy.
As I’ve grown older, my victories have changed, though these three remain constant in my health. When I get sidetracked from my own optimal way of eating, I notice joint pain in my fingers. brain fog, and am generally tired or on edge. When I eat to nourish my body, these symptoms subside.
The presence of nourishment and absence of inflammation can do amazing things for our mind and bodies. Are you living with symptoms that you’ve just accepted? Would you like to see if simple dietary changes can make a difference in your life?