I told her that I'd give up the grains and "just see" if this really worked. Then she said smugly, "You know you can't eat dairy products any more either." "Wait...WHAT????? No way. I ain't buying it. I love my mozarella cheese stick that gives me about a block of protein for my afternoon snack! I won't give that up!" She laughed and while she was still on a roll, she teased, "You're gonna have to stay away from beans too. And peanut butter. They contain lectins and wreak havoc on your digestive tract and they are not paleo". At this point she completely ruined my day and I knew she had to be way off the mark. These were full food groups she was dismissing and I knew they were healthy. They had to be, right? I'd never seen anything bad written about them and I know my doctor always encouraged eating these foods. So as I digested this new information, I still had these thoughts going through my head. "Beans are a good source of protein. You have to get your calcium from dairy, and whole grains are plenty healthy...right?" The zone had worked for me, and I was leaner. But, I was hungry all the time and my body's joints were in critical condition. She planted a seed that I couldn't ignore.
I promptly went to Robb Wolf's website and started reading the stuff he posted. Three years ago, his site wasn't nearly as snazzy as it is today. It was pretty basic but filled with interesting, if not downright blasphemous nutrition information. From his site, I leapfrogged to other sites that he recommended. I started reading everything I could about this weird Paleo Diet that cuts out entire food groups. The more I read, the more I wanted to know. This was all starting to make sense and the dots were connecting. I started understanding the interplay between insulin and my carbohydrate rich "healthy diet" of bagels, low fat yogurt, juices, fruit, granola and whole wheat pasta. I was intrigued by the notion that inflammation in our bodies might be a result of our disproportionate omega 6 intake due to our over consumption of industrial seed oils and a grain based diet. My eyes were opened wide to the myriad of problems that quite possibly were due to gluten intolerance or sensitivity. I had no idea how important gut integrity was to overall health. These were all new concepts to me and all of a sudden I felt duped...duped by my doctor, the mass media, AOL health, Shape magazine, the American Heart Association, the Department of Agriculture and their ridiculous food pyramid, and everyone else who regurgitated the standard wisdom on diet and nutrition. I was duped by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, headed by Michael Jacobsen, when he went on a fat crusade and made every one of us afraid to eat anything with coconut or palm oil. He told us they were BAD saturated, artery clogging fats that could give us a heart attack and we were all told not to eat movie popcorn that was popped in this horrible oil. I never heard anything about carbohydrates causing problems...it was always about cutting fat. I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under my feet. "Why didn't I know about this sooner" I screamed, fists clenched and shaking at the sky. (well, not really but it makes for good drama).
As I learned more and gathered information, I was on a mission to share what I learned with people around me. We experimented with our gym's first paleo challenge in January of 2010 and while I was one of the trainers running the challenge, I was also a participant. Dallas and Melissa Hartwig of the Whole 9 Life blog had come up with their brilliant Whole 30 paleo plan and we used that as our 30 day template to bring common sense and health back into our lives. The process of completely eliminating all grains, dairy, legumes and alcohol seemed daunting but I knew it was the only way to really find out how food had been affecting us.
The success we had at the gym was nothing short of amazing. People's bodies were transformed over the course of 30 days. New habits were replacing years of bad, uninformed choices. We were making conscious choices based on an evolutionary template that seemed to be agreeing with us. And the ripple effect began as gym members began telling their friends and family.
Fast forward to today where the Paleo Diet is slowly becoming more mainstream. There are great resources in the way of blogs, books and cookbooks for anyone who wants to learn more and make this a permanent part of their life. A movement has been created and people are starting to take heed. As our country continues its path to obesity and metabolic syndrome in the aftermath of high carb/low fat doctrine, many of us are just saying no to crafty food manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies pushing their lifestyle drugs, and big agriculture with their unsustainable grain crops and sick livestock. It feels great to be able to make choices based not solely on willpower, but with brainpower. We are making informed choices. Of course, we are not perfect all the time, but with this paleolithic diet and lifestyle template, we picking our own path to better health. We don't have to assume that with age comes metabolic syndrome, weight gain, muscle loss, arthritis and thinning hair. We know better. We eat better. And we understand that the power of our choices today can make all the difference in the way we feel tomorrow, next week or next year.
Yeah, I remember 2009 BP (before paleo) like it was yesterday, yet it seems like a lifetime ago. It was a huge paradigm shift and a whole new way of looking and thinking about food. I am so thankful to the paleo giants in the community who helped me in my nutritional quest. People like Robb Wolf, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, Mark Sisson, Dr. Kurt Harris, Gary Taubes, Chris Kresser, Diane Sanfilipo and Dr. Mike Eades to name a few of my early favorites. These guys and gals weren't afraid to dig up the research, look at it scientifically, and educate the rest of us.
I am so glad my co-trainer planted that seed of information in my head that day. Thanks to that little seed, a whole new crop of thinkers has sprouted and our lives in 2012 AP (after paleo) have been forever changed, for the better!