There’s a fine, fine line between a diet and a lifestyle—and often, those lines get blurred when you’re a disordered eater. So why, then, do I advocate a Paleo-style template? Well, you’ll just have to read to find out: Is … Continue reading
How is it already Friday again? Where does the time go? If you’re looking for a little light reading as you head into your weekend, check out my latest piece for Paleo Movement Online: The Paleo Spectrum: Agree to Disagree … Continue reading
I can’t tell you how excited, proud, and grateful I am to have had the opportunity to speak with Jimmy Moore of Livin’ La Vida Low Carb on the air about how moving toward a more Paleo/ancestral diet has helped facilitate my eating disorder recovery.
Jimmy Moore, as you may recall from the Finding Our Hunger podcast episode, had a huge impact on my own recovery–and my desire to get into this whole health coaching business–and he is someone I feel blessed to be able to call friend.
You can listen in on our podcast episode HERE!
PS I’ll hopefully have a “Tune Up” update for you soon…now that my voice is finally returning after my fun little illness…
My Disclaimer My decision to stop being a vegan was based on a gut feeling–literally and figuratively: the blog post(s) that I’m about to provide you with are simply based on all of the research I’ve done since making the … Continue reading
Disclaimer: I wrote this post on the airplane home, coming down off of the adrenaline rush of spending some of the best four days of my life with incredible people and after not sleeping for 24 hours straight…I’ll be back … Continue reading
Calories in/out rant ahead. Be prepared.*
Good morning, friends! And Merry Belated Christmas!
I’m sorry that I haven’t been by the blog in a week…I can only hope that you haven’t either–after all, this is the time of year to be spending away from your computer screens and spending time with your friends, family, and loved ones.
It’s strange to be away from the blog for so long–or what feels like so long, anyway. I’ve been doing a ton of writing, but, unfortunately, none of it for myself. Between the writing I do at work (who knew it was possible to go 8am – 6pm without putting down a pen or moving away from the keyboard while writing about a single topic?), the writing I do for freelance projects (hooray for commuting on the train sans wifi), and the transcription I do for the Relentless Roger & The Caveman Doctor podcast (which you should immediately go download and listen to if you haven’t already….I’ll wait.
Aaaaaaand we’re back.), I haven’t actually had the time to analyze, synthesize, and write down my thoughts on any topic that truly hits home at the In My Skinny Genes blog.
But here we are…just a week away from New Year’s, and everyone’s making resolutions about weight loss, exercise, and control.
At the same time, there’s been a lot of chatter in the Paleo-blogosphere about low carb vs. calorie restriction for weight loss, and I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at what’s been going on:
As some of you may be aware, the inimitable Jimmy Moore of the Livin’ La Vida Low Carb blog and podcast as been doing a nutritional ketosis experiment. (For those of you who don’t know what nutritional ketosis is, you can read up about it over at Jimmy’s blog or at itsthesatiety/myketohaven or Peter Attia’s Eating Academy. Suffice it to say that it’s a way of forcing your body to burn ketones instead of glucose for energy by eating a Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diet. It has nothing to do with Dr. OZ or raspberries.)
Jimmy Moore is doing this experiment because of his health: for the past 9 years, he’s been blogging about his battle to overcome his obesity and his struggle to understand and control his nutrition and fitness so as to live an optimal life. And this nutritional ketosis experiment, which he’s doing for himself and not for anyone else (in fact, he won’t even post his meals, so it’s not like he’s proselytizing a specific diet plan to anyone else), has been a huge success in terms of helping this very insulin sensitive person fix his health. The weight loss is just a part of that.
Of course, Jimmy Moore’s success has spawned debate. He isn’t counting calories or doing high intensity exercise. He’s just eating a lot of fat–not overeating, but just eating until he’s full–and not a lot of carbs . (Like, tons of butter and avocados and coconut and meat and sour cream and all of the things that conventional medicine tells us will kill us). He has lost a ton of weight, started to change his body composition, improved nearly all of his blood markers, etc. etc., But the main thing that people seem to care about is that he’s lost weight. And if he’s lost weight doing this experiment, then perhaps, they reason, so can I. And therefore, in the Paleosphere at least, nutritional ketosis–eating fat until satiety and not counting calories–is being hailed as the next intermittent fasting.
And so those in the very low carb high fat camp have taken up the battle cry, “Calories don’t count! Eat fat!”
And, of course, Robb Wolf–who is a total fitness BAMF and one of the biggest names in Paleo–recently published a post about calorie counting vs. low carb diets. His argument was based on his own experience with very low carb eating in an attempt to change his body composition. Robb, mind you, was an already slim person with a good amount of muscle mass. This, of course, sparked a whole big debate around the blogosphere. The gist of his argument is that, while LCHF worked for a time, eventually it became difficult to support his body composition goals using that diet. (Robb, for the record, was a Crossfitter and now does Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, among other gymnastic and strength protocols.) His argument is well reasoned and based on his own case study: “LC is fantastic for this in that one typically feels satisfied on high protein, moderate fat, loads of veggies. If one is insulin resistant, this approach can be nothing short of miraculous. HOWEVER! If one manages to cram enough cheese, olive oil and grass-fed butter down the pie-hole, this is in fact, a ‘mass gain’ diet.”
Robb says (and I’m quoting here, so sorry for “screaming” in caps lock), “CALORIES MATTERED MORE THAN CARBS FOR BODY-COMP.”
Do me a favor, all of you, and just keep that sentence in mind for the rest of the post.
I read another argument about the efficacy of calorie counting vs. low carb/high fat diets for weight loss over at Weight of the Evidence. The argument there looks at Jimmy Moore’s 85% fat, ketogenic diet, and asks if it’s more useful for weight loss than calorie restricting.
The argument opens with a quote about carbohydrate recommendations made by the Atkins Diet and other prominent low carb advocates, such as Phinney and Volek (two vey prominent LCHF researchers who have published the modern day HF bibles, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living and The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance). The author uses Phinney and Volek’s own words against them in order to make the case that, in the end, calories matter most. For example: “…of course, if one eats too much fat during that low-carb diet, you’re not going to lose weight; there are differences in metabolism, but calories count in the process of eating a low-carb diet” from Steve Phinney, and “Don’t count calories, although we ask you to use common sense. In the past, some individuals made the mistake of thinking they could stuff themselves with protein and fat and still lose weight. If the pounds are falling off, forget about calories. But if the scale won’t budge or it seems to be taking you forever to lose, you might want to do a reality check, caloriewise” from New Atkins for a New You.
Reminder: keep Robb Wolf’s quote in mind: “Calories mattered more than carbs for body comp.”
So then “That Paleo Guy,” Jamie Scott in Australia, posted an absolutely brilliant rebuttal to pretty much everybody. His argument is that, yes, calories count. Sort of. If you eat enough of them and don’t do anything about them, then sure, you’ll gain weight. BUT the composition of those calories count just as much, if not more. If you can, go check out his absolutely brilliant currency analogy. (Summed up: Calories in and calories out is not just like putting money in checking or savings, but about what kind of currency conversions you’re doing, whether you’ve devalued the currency by flooding the market, etc. etc.)
I’m not going to go into the finer points of everyone’s articles and just rehash and rehash the same thing over and over again. Why? Because the articles are already written, and there’s no need to opine when the opinions are already well-documented…but also because I think everyone’s kind of missing the point.
And the point is this: What is the purpose of focusing on calories in/out vs. LCHF in the first place?
I want you to think about a time when you, or someone you know, started on the calories in/calories out bandwagon or started a diet or made a resolution to go to the gym. What was the reason you gave, regardless of your actual weight?
(I’d place money that the first reason, no matter what you actually meant by it, was the phrase: “to lose weight.”)
If you recall, the first time we even started worrying about calories was in that diet book, Diet and Exercise with a Key to the Calories by Lulu Hunt Peters in 1918. It was, let me reiterate, a diet book. A book about losing weight for cosmetic reasons.
It was a book that villainized body fat, not because of its health implications but because of its social implications. It was a book about losing weight.
Now, when we talk about calories in/out in the “real world” today, we use the phrase–no matter what we actually mean by it–”to lose weight.”
If we look at Oxygen Magazine and its fit sisters–Women’s Health, Self, Health, and the like, you’ll see the “lose weight/cut calories/eat less fat” message repeated over and over, with “lose weight” used as a synonym for “stay fit.” I have friends who love their fitspo and go to the gym every day and plug away at their cardio machines, because they are trying to maintain or increase their fitness. They tell me, however, that they are trying to “lose weight.” When I was 112 lbs, cutting/restricting calories, and adding an hour of cardio to my weights workouts, it was because I was trying to increase my fitness/maintain my level of leanness (or so my anorexic brain told me)…but the words I’d use to describe what I was doing was “trying to lose weight.”
Do you see where I’m going with this?
“Lose weight” does not always mean “maintain body composition/increase fitness.” That is not to say that the two can’t happen at the same time (look at Jimmy Moore: he’s losing fat and increasing muscle mass by eating LCHF and performing low intensity/heavy lifting exercises)–they’re mutually exclusive. And we’re using them as synonyms. And then making arguments based on not necessarily aligned goals.
So here’s the thing–and then I’ll shut up about the calories in/out thing for a little while–I just want you to consider this:
When you look at all of the bloggers and fitness gurus and tweets by Dr. Oz and fad diets on the Today Show and try to parse out a definitive answer to whether eating fat or burning it with exercise is going to be more efficient…it’s impossible. The problem here is that everyone has the right solution…but maybe focusing on and fighting about the solution isn’t really a solution at all and just an excuse to continue feeding a disorder.
So I think we need to stop arguing about which diet is more efficacious and look instead at why people care so much about either diet in the first place. And I think the biggest issue for me is that when people say “weight loss” they actually want “sustained weight maintenance.” Or they need sustained weight maintenance because they’re already at a healthy weight/level of fitness, but are busy chasing after a disordered, aesthetic goal.
Body composition isn’t everything. Weight maintenance is not the same thing as athletic performance OR aesthetic goals. It can be, but it isn’t always.
You have to ask yourself whether you’re living on ketones because you’re trying to improve your blood lipid profile or because you’re trying to get better at kipping pull ups or because you want to look better in your lululemon sports bra. You have to take stock of whether your diet is supporting weight loss for your health, weight maintenance for your well being, increased fitness for your sport, or aesthetic goals because you want to look like one of the skinny celebrities on the cover of Shape.
Whatever your goal, you have to be honest with yourself and others about why you’re striving for it and what your diet and exercise is actually accomplishing.
If you’re an intense exerciser, you need to eat the food that will fuel your exercise, just as if you’re a light exerciser, you might not need as much food (not calories, but food, there’s a difference thankyouverymuch) to fuel your everyday goals.
Low carb high fat is not necessarily a solution for getting a six pack (it can be but not always), but it is a solution to help you get in touch with your body’s satiety signals, to help reset your neurotransmitters, to help end cycles of snacking and bingeing. It’s not only a solution for weight loss (although it can be if you’re starting with a sad diet or processed food/carbohydrate dense diet), it’s a method for finding and maintaining homeostasis. If it is psychologically sustainable for you (i.e. you’re not looking at it as an “Atkins induction phase” and waiting for it to be over so you can eat a doughnut), then it’s just as good as spending 100 hours on the spin bike, if not better.
Calories in/calories out is a short term solution that people mistake for a long term practice that they ultimately can’t sustain. LCHF is a long term solution that people look at as a short term diet fix. Do you see the problem here?
Jimmy Moore is using nutritional ketosis to lose weight. Robb Wolf was using LCHF to increase fitness/change his body composition. Those are not the same things. Maybe they’re both in perfect health for where they need to be, but that’s not always the case. It wasn’t for me. When I ate a calorie restricted diet with moderate carbs, I could do 10 perfect dead-hang pull ups and run for an hour in the hot sun, but I was also not getting my period and at a risk for osteoporosis. And I believe that there is a large contingency of people out there who read these blogs and don’t have the insight or the self-awareness of the Jimmys and Robbs of the world–people who truly understand their own body’s needs, who both understand how to do the exercise and eat the food that works for them.
Instead, these people–my friends, my acquaintances, my coworkers, my blog readers, my strangers-I’ve-eavesdropped-on-at-Starbucks–these people honestly believe that they have to lose weight because they have to be fit, and they honestly believe that they need both of those things to be healthy. So they’ll listen to any person who can podcast their message loud enough, because they’re chasing this magical dream of “losing weight” so they can have a six pack.
So here are my last words (for now, because I’m sure I’ll end up having more to say about the subject) about calories in and calories out:
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: “in shape” does not equal healthy.
Burn all the calories you want. Run yourself into the ground. Restrict your food and grow yourself a six pack. But DO NOT mistake that for health.
Conversely, eat all the fat you want and don’t think about quantity at all. Gorge yourself on cheese and coconut and never touch a weight. Sit on your butt eating egg yolks. But DO NOT mistake that for fitness.
My unsolicited advice? Eat a diet that helps you clue into your satiety signals and eat until you’re full. Exercise enough to stay fit and healthy without turning muscle into a measure of your worth. Eat fat if it supports your goal. Eat carbs if it supports your goal. Go to the gym or do sprints or take a spin class or do crossfit, but don’t bear your exercise–or the calories you do or do not expend–like a cross. There is more to life than “losing weight,” whatever the hell that means. Find a balance, stop counting calories, and quit quibbling over the minutiae. Or at least stop trying to compare apples to bacon and just eat them instead.
P.S. I hope this rant made sense. I am writing it before the sun comes up after only about 4 hours of sleep. Just to clarify, in case my thesis got buried: It makes me sad when people sit down to eat together and spend the entire meal discussing a) how guilty they feel for not eating a salad because they don’t like the way they look, b) how they’re eating a salad because they’re trying to count calories because some doctor on TV tried to sell them a fitness tracking device and a calorie counting app, c) how they’re just going to be a “pig” and eat what they want because they’re going to gym later anyway, etc. etc. and that’s how you “lose weight.” I am sick of people conflating “weight loss” for health, and embarking on restrictive diets for aesthetic goals instead of scientifically-reasoned diets to support fitness/athletic goals. Especially when they take a way of eating, like low carb/high fat, and turn it into a weight loss miracle instead of a way of supporting physical and mental health. Does that make sense? I hope so.
*Note: Please don’t read any negativity toward Jimmy Moore or Robb Wolf into this post. I think they’re both incredible and have done SO MUCH to help thousands of people change their lives. I highly suggest following the both of them to learn as much as possible & then go and make educated choices about how you choose to live your life.
If you want to read the whole series in order, start here:
I cannot even begin to articulate how frustrating it is to see improvement with acne only to find the “solution” to be ultimately lacking.
I saw definite improvement now that I wasn’t eating vegan. The massive, constant flare-ups began to slow, and I was able to wean off of the (completely ineffective anyway) Doxycycline. My face was finally starting to clear up, but I still had some pretty serious cysts on my chin. It didn’t make sense: here I was, eating squeaky clean paleo (perhaps too squeaky–I was still afraid of eating fats), eliminating nightshades, washing my face with nothing but baking soda and apple cider vinegar, and de-stressing to the best of my ability.
I racked the internet for answers, but all that was out there were glowing accounts of miraculous skin health reversals that read just as emphatically as the vegan transformation stories that had snared me months earlier.
I was fortunate enough to have a ton of time on my hands, so I began to do some more in-depth research. And it was during this time that I stumbled upon the concept of “n=1.”
As humans, our bodies were crafted by the same artist, but sculpted from different clay, fired in different kilns, and painted different colors…and so the best light in which to display our art cannot be found in a single gallery. Though we’re all part of the same species, we are each so unique–genetically, epigenetically*–that it’s almost insane to presume that there’s single diet (and by “diet” I mean lifestyle/way of eating) to which we’ll all respond the same. In other words, some people can eat dairy while others can’t. Some people seem to thrive on so many starchy carbs, while others can’t look at a sweet potato without having an adverse insulin response. Some people have great skin because they’re vegans, others because they’re chowing on beef liver.
For the non-science majors among you, n=X refers to the sample size of a population in any given experiment. So, if you did an experiment with 86 female runners, for example, “n” would equal 86; an experiment with 101 obese rats would be described as n=101, etc. When it comes to finding the diet/nutrition that works for you, you can’t necessarily look to the latest study out of Stanford or Harvard that touts results based on a sample size of n=100, 1000, 1,000,000 to get a personalized result. And so the concept of n=1 was born: instead of looking at what works for the group on average, figure out what works for you.
“Nutrition is for real people. Statistical humans are of little interest.”
Roger J. Williams, PhD (poached shamelessly from Eathropology.)
I took that to heart and turned away from the internet. Instead of posting in a Paleo Hacks forum, I asked myself about myself.
Self, I asked, what have you been eating consistently that could be causing such a reaction? I took an inventory…and suddenly it dawned on me, with all of the poetic grace of a Mack truck: what’s the one thing that I ate at least once (if not twice or three times) per day, whether I was “cleansing” in New York City, starving myself in England, training to be a fitness model, or avoiding animal products?
The answer? Apples. My favorite food.
As soon as I made the realization, things started to fall into place. I hopped back onto the internet and did a little investigating with Dr. Google. “Apples + Acne” returned this: Birch Pollen Allergies.
The explanation’s a little convoluted, but bear with me here: birch pollen allergens contain a protein that is similar to a protein found in certain fresh fruits, nuts, and herbs. Individuals who have a sensitivity to birch pollen, then, can find that allergy expressed as an oral food allergy when they eat those birch-pollen-similar foods. An oral food allergy can express itself in a number of different symptoms in varying degrees of severity: itching of the mouth and throat, swelling of the tongue, oral ulcers/blood blisters, anaphylaxis, etc. So…what does this have to do with me?
Do you remember waaaaaay back to the beginning of my eating disorder story, when I mentioned that I had to give up soy until an allergy test revealed that I had a “heightened reaction” to tree nuts (like hazelnuts and almonds)? Okay. Well, I ate tree nuts for years with nary an episode of anaphylaxis, so I disregarded that diagnosis.
In between said diagnosis and now, I developed a fatal attraction to apples. Not your horrible, mealy Red Delicious, but the big-as-your-head and juicy-as-hell varieties like Honeycrisp. During my freshman year in college, I became something of an apple connoisseur, able to distinguish between a Braeburn and a Gala with my eyes shut.
During the height of my second relapse into ED–the summer I went to England–I started eating two apples a day. Even after I started teaching high school, I kept up my two-apple habit, and that continued into my body building days…until I completely gave up carbohydrates. At that point, I started eating almond butter every night (and you’ll see why this is relevant in a second). While I was weightlifting, my acne wasn’t horrible, but it stayed present. Then, when I started working at the Kool-Aid store, I reintroduced apples, getting up to three apples a day by the time I went vegan (during which time I also relied very heavily on soy to keep my protein intake high).
Now, some of the “do-not-eat-if-you’re-allergic-to-birch-pollen” foods include: apples, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, peppers, and soybeans. And, according to at least one study I found on PubMed, a “secondary soy allergy may cause severe chronic besides acute symptoms” in children with a birch pollen allergy. So maybe the soy thing wasn’t completely off-base after all…
How do I know that this is my issue? Well, in the months leading up to my n=1 discovery, I had started complaining that my mouth and throat itched when I ate apples. Later, I started developing really painful blood blisters in my mouth after eating a snack of apples and rice cakes. At the time I thought maybe it was because the rice cakes were somehow irritating my mouth. I thought wrong.
I had also started using raw apple cider vinegar on my face a few months into the vegan experiment. Apparently that exacerbated my problems.
Although it pained me to stop eating my daily apples and almond butter, I managed to almost completely heal myself from the inside out. My skin cleared up. I struggled, for the first few weeks, not to unconsciously reach for my beloved apples or mix up a couple of tablespoons of almond butter and chocolate for dessert, but over time I stopped craving them.
There were still other issues to be addressed with my hormones, but, by and large, the acne problem became a thing of the past.
Out of curiosity a few days ago, I decided to test the efficacy of my experiment after a few months. So I bought an apple at Trader Joe’s. Three bites in and my gums started bleeding. Needless to say, I’m convinced. No more apples.
I’m so glad I discovered n=1 and stopped looking to others for the answers. And I so appreciate hearing about the acne cures you guys have shared with me through the comments and offline: it reaffirms for me that we’re all wired differently, and that we have a duty to take care of ourselves based on what works for our individual genetic and epigenetic makeup. And I think this extends beyond acne to other issues, in the realms of fitness, nutrition, and mental health. I challenge each and every one of you, the next time you decide to try the latest fad (be it nutrition, fitness, etc.), go into it with an n=1 mindset and make changes based on how you actually feel, not how someone says you should be feeling.
Now, all of that said (and I apologize, ‘cause I realize I said a lot), after I made my acne discovery, I still had a ton of self-realization awaiting me as I stared into the seeming abyss of life after veganism.
P.S. Just so you know, the saga is far from over. A few days ago, my chin broke out again, and I had no change in my diet. I had to seriously consider what might have changed to have provoked such a reaction. I realized that the only change I had made was the introduction of biotin into my supplement regimen. (I started taking it, despite its dubious ability to expedite hair growth, because I’m desperately trying to grow out a horrible haircut.) I stopped taking it about a week ago, so we’ll see if that cures my problem. After I stopped the biotin, I stopped my hormone replacement therapy (more on that in another post) because I’m tired of feeding my body synthetic hormones, so I’ve started getting acne on my forehead and hairline again. It’s a never-ending struggle for balance, but I think I’ve at least gotten closer to understanding the mechanisms that make my skin react the way it does. And hopefully I’ll have clear enough skin to begin dealing with the horrible scarring soon…
I cannot recommend more highly this series on n=1 nutrition at Eathropology. These articles are well written and meticulously researched. They’re long, but they’re so worth the read. (Especially if you’re interested in public health, nutrition, and epidemiology!)
*Epigenetics: how our genes express themselves
If you want to read the whole series in order, start here:
And so here I was, at a crossroads. I had committed to being a vegan. I wanted nothing to do with meat. And yet I was broken down mentally and metabolically. Worse, I was doing nothing but accumulating scars on the most visible part of my body. I agreed to at least indulge my mom in exploring another way of eating.
As I mentioned before, my mom is into Crossfit. And the people at her gym introduced her to a way of eating called the “Paleo Diet.” She was convinced that if only I started eating bacon, I’d be cured. I did not harbor such preconceptions when I suspiciously opened up Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint and started reading.
And I read the Primal Blueprint with a serious amount of skepticism. It basically told me that the lifestyle I’d been living and the diet I was following was completely wrong: my high-carb, low-fat, moderate-to-as-high-as-I-could-get-with-hemp-powder-and-brown-rice protein diet ran directly against the Primal Blueprint’s guidelines. Moreover, my sleep and exercise were, according to Mark Sisson, completely off-base and out of rhythm with my body. I finished the book in one night, and went to sleep with my brow furrowed.
I wasn’t convinced. After all, everything I’d read since becoming vegan said the opposite. How could eating meat be good for me? Weren’t egg yolks the reason for heart disease? What about the China Study?!*
It wasn’t until I borrowed Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat from the library that things started to make sense.
According to Taubes, the science behind the low-fat, high-carb diet is inherently flawed. The FDA adopted the low-fat mantra after confusing correlation with causation. The connection between dietary and somatic cholesterol has been debunked time and again, although the results of those studies have been purposely obfuscated by the government and the media, or else just simply misunderstood.
Moreover, if you look at the rates of heart disease, diabesity, and related diseases, you’ll see a direct correlation between them and the adoption of the low-fat, high-carb diet (circa the 1980s). And there are scientists today who are proving causation in study after study after study.
(For more on that, check out Taubes’ 2004 article “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?” in the NYT, then read the book–and if you want to get seriously serious, read Good Calories, Bad Calories, Taubes’ 400+ page tome on the subject.)
Anyway, I’m not here to argue about plant-based versus animal protein diets (today). Just to explain why I decided to give Paleo a try.
Now that I had at least decided to proceed with an open mind, I borrowed my mom’s copy of the Whole30 and got to work.
The Whole30 is a tough-love 30-day diet and lifestyle change meant to help you cold-turkey transition to a healthier, cleaner way of eating. For people who approach it from the Standard American Diet of processed foods, it’s a shock to the system–no sugar, trans fats, packaged anything–that probably results in weight loss and huge medical benefits (I say “probably” because the creators of the Whole30 suggest that this isn’t about weight loss but about establishing healthier food habits). But there’s a shock to the system for recovering veg*ns, too: when you shift your diet from grains, grasses, beans, and legumes to animal proteins and healthy fats, you are fundamentally changing the way your body runs and reacts.
And since I’m no stranger to 30-day diets and transformations, I figured I’d give it a go. Why not? Giving up food wasn’t new to me. Every “diet” I’d tried was about what I couldn’t eat. Even though I constantly thought about the things I was eating–trying to trick myself into looking forward to egg white pancakes or packets of “green” meal-powders–it was always within the context of the things I wasn’t eating. And god forbid I go “off-plan” and cheat–then it was open-season for ED to start shooting me down with reminders of how horrible I was for eating the things I “couldn’t” have.
I was pretty much convinced that the Paleo thing would just be another list of foods I couldn’t have. And, technically, by starting with the Whole30, it was: No grains. No beans. No peanuts, for god’s sake.** No dairy.*** No, no, no. I even went further and did an autoimmune protocol, which means excluding potentially allergenic foods that cause or exacerbate everything from autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis to acne (the latter, of course, being the reason I tried it). On the autoimmune protocol I further limited my diet by excluding “nightshades,” which are a class of vegetable that contain “alkaloids[, which] can impact nerve-muscle function and digestive function in animals and humans, and may also be able to compromise joint function.” These foods include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and any pepper, from sweet to hot.
And so this was how I found myself eating a breakfast of scrambled eggs for the first time in almost a year. (Okay, fine: scrambled egg whites. I had read and understood Why We Get Fat on an intellectual level, but ED doesn’t listen to intellect–ED only knows that there are more calories in whole eggs than in egg whites.) This was how I found myself enjoying tuna fish for lunch. (No mayo, but it’s surprisingly good with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and Italian spices!)
The Whole30 went well–in fact, while I wasn’t weighing myself, I visibly lost my vegan belly bloat.+ My acne, though by no means cured, was hugely alleviated. In fact, I was able to stop taking the doxycycline I had been prescribed during the vegan disaster.
Now that the month was over, however, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I still hadn’t completely gotten rid of the acne, still hadn’t completely committed to the idea of eating animal fat, still hadn’t moved past the 30-day diet mentality.
Staring into the abyss of “what next,” I failed to recognize that I was so busy concentrating on the foods I couldn’t eat that I had forgotten to consider the ones I could.
*The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell is the number one document to which the veg*n community turns to validate the high-fat:cholesterol connection. Denise Minger of Raw Food SOS debunks the China Study here.
**No peanuts because no legumes. Apparently, as a defense mechanism, legumes contain a indigestible anti-nutrients called “phytates.” Phytates make all of the nutrients that Fitday calorie counters tell us we’re eating unavailable to our bodies. Moreover, peanuts contain proteins called lectins, which permeate the lining of our digestive tract and wreak all sorts of havoc on our guts and bloodstreams.
***Not a problem for me, since I’d stopped eating dairy in January of 2011. I’ve since had one container of Greek yogurt (July 2011-ish, if memory serves), and I felt so horrible after eating it that I haven’t looked back.
+Ah, the dreaded bloat. My yoga-and-vegan-induced weight loss lasted until November or so…After that, I started to gain weight and lose muscle (in part due to the fact that I wasn’t able to exercise at the level I had previously due to my ankle). But even after I returned to working out (and working through the pain), I couldn’t seem to get comfortable in my own body.
I will admit to taking progress photos for the sake of the Whole30. I have not done so since, nor do I feel the need to anymore. I’m posting them here solely to demonstrate the physical change that occurred after giving up veganism. Here is what happened after a month and a half of “Paleo” eating:
…for a couple of random updates and thoughts:
– First and foremost, the surgical procedure was short and simple, and now my ankle has no choice but to heal. The doctor put me in a hard cast this time so that there would be less chance for reinfection. So now I’m once again hopping about on crutches, but hopefully for the last time.
– The allergic reaction also appears to have calmed down. It still hurts to run my skin under hot water, but I ate grapes without dying, so I suppose that’s a good sign.
– Most importantly, I am absolutely flabbergasted by the response to my blog. It’s funny: when I started writing a few months ago, I was just planning to share this new way of eating and living that had helped start to free me from my ED, and it’s become so much more. As I started to explain why I first ate red meat after 13 years, I fell down the rabbit hole that was my introduction to ED, and in the process, was forced to face some of my hardest truths–truths from which I’d hidden for a very long time. And that inspired me to go out and seek help.
But nothing has helped so much as your support, and your willingness to share your own stories.
And I can only hope that, as I get through my story and start sharing solutions, that you will continue to share your stories with me. I can only hope that this blog becomes a place for recovery–not just for myself, but for all of you out there. I can only hope that we can, together, find a way to stop becoming a nation of starving girls, yo-yo dieters, fad dieters, overweight-and-hating-it, calorie-counters, over-exercisers, and people out of touch with our own bodies. I can only hope that we can all work together to find a solution.
Anyway, I promise to keep up my end of that as best I can, and I hope that you’ll stay with me–and invite others–along the journey.
Thanks for sharing the love, guys.
And now back to your regularly scheduled programming!
P.S. Be sure to check out my spiritual bucket list below. Maybe it can be inspiration for one of your own?