Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The obligatory intro:

Nearly two years ago, I discovered something life-changing.
Like most life-changing things, I didn't realize it at the time. I was just doing that desperation-Googling that you do when you don't have the slightest clue what to do next.

I was 35- had just lost a bunch of weight, but I hit one of those dreaded plateaus. I was counting every calorie, logging every exercise session, and for three months, was confident that the plateau would "break". Not only did that NOT happen, but soon I was not only not losing weight- I was gaining. Somehow, the simple equation "two minus three", when plugged into the calculator of my body, was equaling "five".  I switched things up, I tried lifting weights, and I hired a trainer. I ate more veggies, less fat, more whole grains. It finally culminated in me messing up my back and going to the doctor, who was dubious.  She gave me a bunch of info I could have found in Women's Day, (Circuit training! Eat more whole grains!) and some painkillers. She also ordered a thyroid test which came back "fine."

I should mention that I wasn't trying to lose the infamous "last ten lbs" here- I am 5'7" and had gotten down from about 250 to 211 lbs. when the plateau started.

I suffered on for another month or two, and  kept right on gaining. I've yo-yo dieted my whole life, and I began to realize that I had "broken" something. The metabolism I had been at war with since the age of 12 had petered out after about 23 years of constant abuse. Enter Google.

And I lucked out. I could have found hoodia, I could have tried Bontril (again), or some other kind of snake oil.  What I found was Mark Sisson , Mark's Daily Apple, and The Primal Blueprint

The premise: avoid grains, eat fat (Fat? Saturated FAT?!!"), eat meat, eat veggies. Meat should be grass-fed, poultry should be pastured, veggies should be copious and organic. Dairy was OK in moderation, the best was full-fat, from grass-fed cows, and as minimally processed as possible- preferably raw. The idea was to eat like our Paleolithic ancestors ate. And to exercise moderately in a way that made sense, not the 30 minutes of high-speed striding on the elliptical machine that I was doing. Per Mark, I was literally on a stairway to nowhere. 

It sounded, well, insane. I believe I described it bluntly as "Low-Carb dressed up in a caveman suit." But it made a strange kind of sense. I started reading through the archives on the website, and while some of the people sounded fairly, well, normal, there were a lot of those "I want 5% body fat" guys as well. There was an overwhelming amount of information, including a ton of scientific research that was daunting to put into perspective and understand. I decided to do my best to keep an open mind until my book arrived from Amazon.

The day the book showed up, I sequestered myself away from my husband. He has had to deal with my constant war with my body for the past 10 years or so, and frankly, I didn't want to hear "Not again".
So I inhaled the chapters like a starving caveman with a ribeye steak. And I was about 3/4 of the way through when I read the after-effects of gluten sensitivity.

The ones that applied to me: Migraines. Infertility. Inability to lose weight. Acne. Recurrent infections, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Lethargy. Brain Fog. Rosacea. Depression. Congestion. Hair Loss. Widespread inflammation. 

In other words, pretty much 90% of the symptoms listed. This wasn't like typing "headache" as a symptom into WebMD and getting back "brain tumor" as a possible result. This was like looking up "gluten sensitivity" in the dictionary and seeing my picture next to it.  Holy crap.

I screamed and threw the book against the wall. Cover was instantaneously blown when Hubby started pounding on the door; "Are you OK?" (This is typical: if I drop the shampoo in the shower, he thinks I have passed out and hit my head on the faucet and am bleeding to death- I find it annoying, but also strangely endearing.)

The scream was due to my thinking about the years of medical visits: the number of thyroid tests I have gotten (at least 8), the acne and rosacea meds I have taken, including Accutane, and the permanent scarring on my face from the cystic acne that I still had, even in my thirties.

Then there were the days at work and special events I missed because I had migraines so bad I couldn't get out of bed. The bottles and bottles of Amoxicillin I went through as a kid, between my constant ear and bladder infections, and the sinus infections I got every year as an adult- they hung on for weeks. Getting in trouble at work because I had slept through my alarm- AGAIN. My constant congestion, which has caused me to snore my whole life long, because my nasal passages were swollen practically shut, but nobody could figure out why.

There was the fact that I refused to leave the house without heavy makeup, because otherwise, people would stop me on the street and ask solicitously about my "sunburn". Hating getting my photograph taken, because sometimes, the flash would reveal my secret hidden face- the one that looked like I was a burn victim. And oh, the fertility treatments I went through in my late twenties and early thirties, which cost thousands of dollars and were unsuccessful. My battle in college to focus or even attend my classes during the winter quarter. My long and beautiful hair, which was thinning at an alarming rate, and had been attributed to stress. And finally, my constant, horrific battle with the scale, which has shaped and bruised me since I was 12 years old. And the number of tears I had shed over all these things over the course of my lifetime.

Oh my god. OH MY GOD. There was no way that there could be one answer: and it could be this simple.

Could it?

While I was having this crazy epiphany, my poor husband was still knocking on the door. "Sweetie?!"

I emerged. and I think the look on his face frightened him even more. Luckily, he is supportive. (And wise enough not to argue!) I just gave him the Reader's Digest version, and began cleaning out the cupboards. It was worth a shot.

Within three days, my skin wasn't as red. Within a week, I started waking up before my alarm went off. My eyes weren't bloodshot all the time. My snoring grew quieter. My energy level went up.

By the end of the first month, I had lost about 5 lbs: not a huge amount, but the shocking thing was where I lost it. My double, getting close to triple-chin, had shrunk almost overnight. My tummy, while not flat, was noticeably less protuberant. And I suddenly, magically, had a waist again.

And for a person who used to get migraines on a weekly basis, I went an entire month without one. Within two months, my skin was no longer magenta, and it was clear: aside from the occasional "period zit", which was a minor miracle all by itself.  

My hubby (let's call him "Lord Grok" or LG for short) also benefited: while he wasn't strict about it, and would take advantage of the fact that he had the whole bread basket to himself when we went to restaurants, he has dropped weight a lot more easily than I have. By the end of the first month, he was at the tightest hole on his belt. He also noticed that his allergies were much easier to control.

This has been nothing short of a miracle for both of us. I plan to talk about a lot of different things on this blog, but at the bottom of it all is The Primal Blueprint. If I hadn't found it, I would still be trying to dig myself out of a seemingly bottomless hole.

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