“Arsenic is edible. But only once…”

Today’s post comes from one of my athletes with the inside scoop on living  paleo. As I always tell you about the diet. It can be broke down and I can explain what to eat. But for first hand knowledge go to the source. There are individuals who don’t have a choice in following this diet. I can tell you the benefits but I’ll let someone who really knows them explain. Thank you Anna for the great writeup. – Z

My Road to Paleo

From as far back as I can remember I’ve always had headaches. In kindergarten, my mom was called in to meet with the principal because I was always asking to go to the school nurse and lie down. They thought I didn’t like school and was using headaches as an excuse to get out of it. No one had ever heard of a little kid with so many headaches. By the time I was in high school, I just accepted headaches as a daily part of my life. Sometimes they were fairly minor and I could go to school or hang out with my friends. Other days they were so crippling that I’d have to find the darkest room in the house, put an ice bag on my head, wrap a towel around it to block out any sounds or light, and hope to sleep it off.

Growing up in a small town in New York, where half of my town was Amish and where we had to travel an hour to get to the nearest grocery store – there wasn’t a large selection of doctors. My parents tried a few – each one did a CAT scan, determined my brain looked fine, diagnosed me with migraines and said they couldn’t help.

When I got to college things took a turn for the worst. I couldn’t concentrate in classes and I started sleeping 15 hours a day – but no matter how much I slept I was always tired. I started to gain weight and pretty soon the freshman 15 turned into 50. Even more frustrating was the fact that I had to just accept the weight gain, because exercise was one of the things that was guaranteed to trigger a migraine.

After I graduated from college I moved to Seattle. One of the first things I did was head to UW and demand to see a specialist. My specialist quickly turned into a team of specialists and 6 months plus a ton of tests later they presented me with a diagnosis. It read: depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, restless leg syndrome, insulin resistance, crohn’s disease and adult-onset ADHD. I started to cry, they told me it would be okay, handed me a stack of prescriptions and told me to talk to a nutritionist.

For 6 months I took the drugs and followed the balanced diet that the nutritionist recommended. The diet included lots of whole grains and low fat foods. Nothing got better but I did develop a cool new tremor in my hands from some of the drugs. Finally one night I got fed up and threw the whole set of drugs and the instructions from the nutritionist into the garbage. Everything felt out of control in my life, so I decided to tackle the one thing I could control which was my weight. I dove hardcore into this strange diet fad called Atkins.

Two weeks into my new diet the weight started coming off. But more importantly, the headaches suddenly stopped. I waited two more weeks, still no headaches and I found I was less tired. I went back to my team of specialists and told them what happened. One blood test later, they ripped up my diagnosis list and replaced it with one thing – Celiac Disease, an immune disorder caused by a protein called gluten that is found in wheat.

For the last 5 years, I’ve lived completely gluten free. I also started reading – not just about gluten and all the places it can hide, but about the other vitamins and minerals that are important to a healthy, happy life. In my reading I discovered something called the Paleo diet, which was really exciting because it offered me a much broader range of foods compared to Atkins, and a much more balanced set of vitamins and minerals. I started taking supplements based on what I learned – I added acai for it’s important antioxidants, fish oil supplements for it’s omega-3’s and vitamin d for Seattle’s lack of sunshine, in addition to a daily multivitamin.

Each time I made a change to improve my diet, I noticed an improvement in my energy levels and ability to think clearly. My co-workers make fun of the giant bag of supplements that I keep on my desk, but I don’t care because I feel great and it’s all because I think carefully about what I eat. Instead of sleeping all day, now I do a lot of crossfit and play soccer 3 times a week. I’ve dropped 40 lbs, I can concentrate at work and I no longer feel tired.

We’re about to start a new CC, and Zach will be telling us all to try Paleo because eating meat and veggies will make our squats strong. Zach is completely right, but I wanted to encourage people to give the diet a try for a different reason. We live in a world where most foods are heavily processed and made mostly from chemicals. The Paleo diet is all about eating real foods, full of important vitamins and minerals that make our bodies work properly.

Paleo is not just for people who want to lift heavy weights or people like me who have Celiac disease. In the last 5 years I’ve read countless books on nutrition and there’s plenty of science to back up that the Paleo diet is good for all types of people with a broad range of goals. But more important than science in books, I’ve seen it help my family and friends. My parents finally adopted it after years of my nagging and my dad was off his blood pressure and cholesterol medication in 6 weeks. He’s lost 30 lbs in 3 months and he doesn’t even exercise. My aunt went from severely diabetic to off her insulin in 8 months on the diet. I’ve had at least a dozen friends try the diet in the last year, some have stuck with it and some haven’t, but each one has mentioned to me that while they were on it they felt more alert and energetic than ever before.

I asked Zach if I could write this blog post, because I really think people should give Paleo a shot during this CC. It’s only six weeks and I promise that Paleo isn’t as hard to follow as it seems – there are still plenty of foods you can eat and I happy to help people with suggestions about easy and delicious things to make. In the end, Paleo may not work for you for whatever reason, but I think everyone owes it to themselves to try. You never know when one little vitamin, mineral or protein could completely change your life.

Posted by: Anna Sweet

7 Responses to ““Arsenic is edible. But only once…””

  1. Anna this is a great post. You are such a strong women. I plan on going paleo for cc. I currently only have one paleo cookbook do you have any suggestions?

  2. I like the recipes in the primal blueprint cookbook by Mark Sisson. My mom uses that one all the time, too.

    I have a cookbook called simply salads by Jennifer Chandler that keeps my vegetables from getting boring.

    When I’m craving a treat, I make something out of the Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam. We’re not supposed to eat nuts during the CC, but when you are doing this all the time sometimes you just need something different. You have to sub some things out to make it strictly paleo, but a lot of it tastes really good.

    There’s a new book called the Paleo Diet Cookbook by Cordain that comes out in two weeks. I’ve heard it’s supposed to be good so I’m going to order it and can bring it in for people to look at.

    Other than that, I find most of my recipes online. Again, not all of these are strictly paleo, so sometimes you have to sub things out, but some blogs I like:
    http://www.marksdailyapple.com (he doesn’t usually post recipes but always links to good ones in his weekend round up.)

    When I’m too lazy to cook a full meal, I just head over to Met Market. The meat counter guy knows me by name now, and there are plenty of paleo sides on their ready-made bar. The brussel sprouts are delicious.

    Also – not recipe related but if anyone is a science nerd like me and is really interested in the science behind all of this, I would recommend Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes.

    • Thanks so much, Anna!!!
      Awesome information. Really helpful.
      Knowledge is power!
      Maybe you should start your own blog…. hmmm? 🙂

  3. Awesome post Anna!!!! Thank you for sharing with us! Pretty amazing how you’ve impacted the lives around you through paleo 🙂 I know how paleo has changed my life but thanks to you I will definitely reach out more to those around me!

  4. Great post Anna! I can really relate. I have had gastrointestinal problems (diagnosed as Crohn’s disease) my whole life and have been off and on anti-inflamatory steroids since high school. Without getting in to the particulars of the symptoms (see WebMD.com), they caused significant pain, poor health, and secondary anxiety. I started crossfit a year and a half ago, and a few months later I adopted the Paleo diet. I tried it because I thought it would give me more energy for the workouts, but it turned out to be so much more for me than that. Within a few weeks of adhering to a strict Paleo diet, my symptoms steadily just went away and I have felt great (when I don’t cheat) since. I never thought I’d ever find anything that would do that.

    I have read up on the principles behind the science, and as a layman, it makes perfect sense why this worked for me, not to mention the other benefits that affect most everyone else. Specifically, we evolved for millions of years eating what was available in nature and non-toxic to our bodies, which the Paleo diet attempts to emulate. We are built to have the correct reaction and internal processing of that food. Processed grains (the big one in my mind) were not part of our diet until a few millennia ago, and only more recently being so widely available. It simply hasn’t been a staple in our diets long enough to have made us all perfect processors of this food.

  5. Nice post!! I was excited to read about your diabetic family member getting off insulin. Only after my family saw some SERIOUS results from me and my husband did they start on the bandwagon. My mom is giving it a 6 week trial and my diabetic insulin takin’ step dad is along for the ride. I hope hope hope they make enough progress and turn their lives around.

    For those of you that haven’t . .. do it. Focus on what you CAN eat, open your mind and enjoy the ride! This cavegirl is never looking back!

    Also. . everydaypaleo.com has some great recipes and is releasing a book soon. Healthy habits.com? has also got some great ideas!

  6. Nice post. I loved it

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