Friday, January 10, 2014

No Grains, No Gains - First Installment :)

No Grains, No Gains: A group a of Primal/Paleo/Grain free women who blog about their experiences/life/benefits without grains. A great way for others (who may be wanting to lose weight, reverse an acute/chronic health trend, and/or transition from commercial weight loss programs) to read about real life women who are living the life and succeeding!

I am beyond thrilled to group up with several rockstar blogging ladies who I have been reading for a long time, women I look up to and look to for inspiration when I falter (links at the end of the post). We will be all writing on the same topic once a month, so if you want to see how different people who eat paleo/primal in different lives approach the same issue, it is easy to click around, read and compare!! My goal here is for others out there contemplating this way of eating or new to this way of eating can get a more well-rounded look at all the different ways you can approach paleo/primal and find a way that works for them. Eating paleo has changed my life, and I'd love to share it with you!

Our first topic as a group is an introduction - who we are, why we live the way we live. Good for any new readers that happen upon us and set a foundation for the rest of the blog series!

So, about me.

The physical: I am 31 years old, 5'4, and maintain my weight between 119-124.

The life stuff: I am newly married, an archaeologist by trade (lecturing at a state university this year, working on my PhD), a dog owner, a music lover (my husband and I spend a lot of time at concerts and music festivals), a hiker (an Adirondack 46er!) and someone who tends towards romanticism and Buddhist spirituality. I end most of my posts with "namaste" which is often how yoga classes are concluded, is a salutation and generally implies that I wish you to be well. People might describe me as new-agey or "hippie-ish", but the truth is that I am a very moderate and normal human being, but I very deeply believe we should all respect the light and truth in ourselves and each other. When we recognize the humanity in each other, kindness is the result. So bear with me and my hopeful ramblings, I care about you (my readers) and wish peace for you!

About eating Paleo:

Now, this is a long and involved story, but I will make it as concise as possible.

The reasons I found this way of life start early - and they start with grief, sadness, and obesity. My mother died when I was 10 of cancer. My dad had to work, obviously, and us kids were left to our own devices (we ate a lot of pizza, cookies, chips and drank a LOT of soda... played on the computer instead of outside). I was obese by the time I hit high school. I was never really taught about nutrition, portion sizes, or activity. Just general health class lessons that didn't really impart real life knowledge to me. I was shy, dorky, and buried myself in books and the internet for many, many years. I had very few friends and never really experienced life.

This all lasted till college ended. I was sad, so incredibly sad, and knew life was passing me by. Something had to change or I knew life would become even more unbearable as an adult. I weighed myself for the first time in years (a pound shy of 200!) and I made a change that very moment. I took a year off between college and grad school and spent that time walking and cutting out junk food. I had a very basic knowledge of nutrition, but started to count calories, trying to stick to 1400 calories a day.

I will also cut in here to mention something that is hard for me: I was definitely a disordered eater (though never diagnosed with an eating disorder) since I was a teen. I was a binger for most of those years, occasionally starved myself for days before binging again, a binge-and-purger off and on through high school and college (though it never affected my weight), and still struggle with the bulimic impulses. It is mostly a control issue and rarely has anything to do with my weight - when life is out of control and a mess, disordered thoughts become louder and louder. This is a problem I have been forcing myself to be aware of for five years and actively trying to change. (Oddly, eating Paleo reduces these impulses - I have no desire to binge on meat, nuts and veggies/fruit or to purge them!) 

Because of my tendency towards disordered eating, I tried not to involve myself in "fad diets." They are often arbitrarily restrictive and unhelpful AND increase my weird control issues. I have slowly been developing a pathway towards total and complete health, body, mind and spirit. And though the Paleo Diet seemed very fad-like, the academic in me found it to have some very reasonable and sound science behind it. It seemed.... right. It was just a feeling at first, but the more I read about it, the better it sounded. Eat clean? No processed food? Meat and veggies? Shake up my whole understanding of food? Why not!!

Here is a basic timeline of my slow awakening towards total health:

2001- 2003ish: calorie counting and light exercise - drop 60 pounds in first year, weigh around 140 by age 23

2004-2008ish: starting to learn that TYPE of food matters, eliminate fast food completely, junk food levels drop as well. Also, at new lower weight, desire to be an ATHLETE appears - start running, participate in races, and develop love of hiking. Start to maintain weight in the 130s.

2009-2011: meet Chris (well, meet him again, I spent a summer doing archaeology with him during my last year of college), future husband, we both are surprised that neither of us are fat like we were in college! We both fall in love with each other and develop a passionate love for hiking. I truly become an athlete at this point in time. We hiked every weekend and were doing really long, hard, endurance hiking, backpacking and camping. We both are pretty interested in nutrition, being former fat kids who want to be great athletes (as it were). We drop white flour and refined sugars from our diets. After some "new relationship weight gain," and then getting back on track by joining a gym, I maintain weight in the low 130s.

Early 2012: I become an Adirondack 46er (hiked the 46 tallest mountains in New York). I am the strongest I've ever been at this point. I want to go further - be healthier, be fitter, be lighter, be stronger than ever before. I see it is possible. I want to get below 130 for the first time as an adult

April 2012 - I am interested in how much better I feel since dropping white flour from my diet. I hear rumblings about the Paleo diet (basically eliminating grains, legumes, dairy and sugar) and make some educated conclusions. I always feel worse after eating too much of those things... what if I stopped eating them altogether? So we did the Whole30 together (Chris' support was KEY). I dropped 8 pounds in a month, Chris dropped 10, we felt more energetic, healthier, less bloated and less inflamed than EVER before in our lives. I hit the 120s and never felt better.

How Long I've Been Eating This Way

Since the Whole30 in April 2012: We are no longer strict paleo, but we still eat about 95% paleo, for almost two years! We also learned even MORE about food and also went clean (we eat organic when possible or eat the "Clean 15" when not, also buy local and grass fed meat). I have never seen the 130s since going paleo.

In fact... I have been maintaining UNDER 125 in all of 2013 and will continue to do so in 2014. A weight I thought was impossible, having been obese for so long. But here I am. 

I have been tested. Life has been hard. In September, 2012, my father died tragically and unexpectedly. I inherited his house and his dog and a host of crazy responsibilities I wasn't ready for under the weight of my grief. But, with Chris' help, I persevered, didn't let my health get off track and began a long healing process in 2013. I got married almost a year to the day after my father's passing in September 2013. 

Staying paleo and staying healthy, keeping my body strong and energetic, helped heal my mind and spirit last year.

I know I will never, ever, ever go back to the Standard American Diet. 

Grains and processed foods inflame my body and cloud my brain. It was harder to live, love, thrive and be successful with that diet - even though it WAS possible to lose weight by reducing calories and eating grains, the difference in my body and life since ditching them has been immeasurable. 

The difference is so striking, people OFTEN come up to me in real life and ask what I do to look/act the way I do (Chris and I are known as an athletic couple with boundless energy in our social circle) ... I tell people I don't eat grains, dairy, processed foods, chemicals or junk. They kind of shy away and immediately act like it is impossible for them to do.

I used to think that, too. No bread? No cheese? I would miss them too much, I thought. I couldn't imagine what I WOULD eat if not bread and rice and pasta. Pizza was my favorite food!!

It was easier than I could have imagined.

My grocery shopping, meal planning and life have gotten exponentially EASIER since going paleo. I buy meat, fruit, veggies (including sweet potatoes - my staple!), nuts and fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocados). I stock my house with them. I cook them simply. I am kept full and satiated on less food (though I have found I can actually eat more calories and maintain a lower weight when I eat paleo.... 2000 cal/day maintains my weight, whereas I had to eat 1500/day to maintain on the Standard American Diet). 

I am on no medication. My blood pressure is perfect. My doctors love to see me for checkups. I have more energy at 31 than at 21. I am better able to handle life's craziness.

I reap all the benefits without being a super strict paleo crazy person (I drink alcohol about twice a month, eat dark chocolate, and give myself a few days a year to indulge in some decidedly non-paleo crap).

I am happier than ever, ever before and my diet is a HUGE reason why. It is impossible for me to be mentally and spiritually happy if my body is sick, inflamed and working hard to get rid of the constant toxins that are in the Standard American Diet.

I am a big anecdotal reason to give paleo/primal eating a try.

Sorry for the long winded post - but I am passionate about living well. And about sharing this with others. If you had known me 10 years ago, you wouldn't believe it was possible for me to be where I am now. But here I am - strong, fit, healthy, and happy.

Namaste, my friends. 

If you want to hear other perspectives and other approaches to this way of life, give my fellow bloggers a read:


  1. So glad you are part of the team, Jeanette! (and very glad I'm not the only one who put up a rather long post. LOL) You rock!!! Kaleesi for life! :)

  2. Hi Jeanette

    Good way to start 2014 - look forward to more individual and group posts

    All the best Jan

  3. That was a wonderful post! So great to know more about you and your journey with weight and paleo.

  4. Loving this post - gets me back into the groove of reading :)

  5. Jeanette thank you for sharing your story!!! I love that you are succeeding in long term maintenance. Honored to have you blogging as a group. I so wished I had found Paleo when I was young. Kudos for you for facing the challenges of life so early. Love your posts. Karen P

  6. Great post Jeanette and LOVE that you are an Adirondack 46er! Impressive!!!! Congrats on all your amazing accomplishments. And like Karen, I wish I knew then what I know now! Looking forward to sharing more posts with you!

  7. Thanks for sharing your journey! It's very inspiring!

    I eat some non-gluten grains a few times a week as well as some dairy, and it works for me at this point. But I think I may go completely grain- and dairy-free at some point just to see what difference it makes for me. When I stopped eating gluten and limited my grains a lot, it was life-changing as my stomach pain and discomfort (which was daily and severe) went completely away.

    That you are an Adirondack 46er is very impressive! Again, thanks for sharing your story!