A Transformation in Disguise

Jordana

Hello everyone! Today I welcome the first primal success story on my blog. I plan on publishing a success story on most Sundays. If you want yours shared on this blog then please contact me.

I have always viewed Sundays as inspirational as its a time where we tend to kick back and relax and reflect on how lucky all of us are to be living in todays world. Reading success stories like the following add a large dose of inspiration. To me, its the best way to begin a new week. Enjoy!

I’ll let Jordana, blogger at Healthy Curls, take it from here.

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I’m writing this because I had a revelation yesterday.

See, I had asked the fabulous Gina Garbero of Garbero Photography to take some photos of me for my web site(http://healthycurls.net). I wanted my readers to see me in all my dorky glory, and I desperately wanted something that I could use as a header image on the site.

The shoot was amazing. I never thought I would be the type to be comfortable in front of a camera, but Gina put me completely at ease. The results, however, caused me to make some pretty astounding realizations.

Gina did exactly what I asked her to do. She got some terrific hair shots… like this one, for example:

 

There were also a lot of full body shots, though.

Thus… an unexpected consequence of having photos taken was makingsome realizations about my weight loss journey.

Here is a photo of me from August of 2009 next to one of the photos from the shoot:

 

Seeing these photos side-by-side results in some serious mixed feelings.

See, I hadn’t realized just how much of a transformation has taken place. While I recognize that I’m wearing clothes in smaller sizes now, I hadn’t fully recognized just how different I look.

It’s something I’m actually having trouble wrapping my head around. In my brain, I’m still the person on the left. It’s requiring a lot of external support and congratulations for me to even begin to start to recognize that I look much, much better now. (And in case I haven’t thanked my family and friends enough yet for all of their support, I just have to say, once again, THANK YOU. There’s no way I could have done this without you.)

I posted these photos on my facebook page, and there have been a number of questions about how the loss was achieved, and, specifically, what I mean by this word “Paleo” that I keep using.

We all know that proper nutrition and exercise is important, but where does one find the motivation to get started? And how does one do it in a way that is easily sustainable? For me, Paleo answered those questions.

I think when it comes to trying to be healthy, a lot of us fall into one of two categories:

  1. Those of us who try to adhere to some vague idea of a “healthy lifestyle,” and have some mixture of successes and failures doing so. That’s a pretty accurate description of what I’d been doing my whole life. I didn’t have a very clear idea of what it was that I was supposed to be doing beyond thinking that getting as close as possible to the USDA food pyramid and keeping my caloric intake within a certain range was a good thing, but I constantly felt like I was failing at that. I tried counting calories and measuring all my portions for a while, but it wasn’t something I was ever able to stick with for any period of time. I feel fairly strongly now that this strategy is, quite simply, contradictory to the way that humans evolved to eat.
  2. Those of us who adhere to a well marketed (and well intentioned) weight loss plan, and possibly succeed in losing some weight, but don’t feel healthy or happy and don’t successfully maintain the new habits over the long-term. I put traditional “diets” and plans like Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, SparkPeople and HCG into this category. The weight comes off if the person adheres strictly to the prescribed plan, but the prescribed plan is not one that a person can happily live with for the rest of their life. It is, quite frankly, a pain in the ass, and generally the meals are unsatisfying and leave the person wanting more. Inevitably they return to some version of “SAD” (the “Standard American Diet”) and the weight comes back on.

My attitude towards trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle was forever changed when I discovered Paleo Nutrition, by accidentally stumbling upon The Paleo Solution on Amazon.

What’s interesting is that weight loss was not my primary goal. I had health issues I was very frustrated in modern medicine’s inability to resolve, and because of that, had been trying to avoid gluten and dairy for over a year. When I was successful I noticed a huge difference in how I felt, but it felt unecessarily complicated to have to remember what had gluten and what didn’t, and gluten-free products are so very expensive, and every meal felt like a frustrating challenge. Thus, I was “cheating” more often than not.

Once I read The Paleo Solution, though, I realized that I had been making “living healthy” far harder than it needed to be. Paleo Nutrition is, in brief, based on the idea that humans were far healthier before the agricultural revolution; meaning, of course, during the Paleolithic Era. What one eats is simply what one would envision a caveperson having access to. Meat, vegetables, seeds, nuts, some fruit, and so forth. It’s ridiculously easy to adhere to. No measuring. No memorizing or analyzing ingredients lists. It’s just food, plain and simple.

As I learned more about the diseases of Western civilization, it became fairly obvious that Paleo Nutrition was likely going to save my life, my boyfriend’s, and his son’s. I have a strong family history of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease, and he of diabetes, obesity, and Fybromyalgia, and both of us have family members with mental health concerns. I hadn’t known how closely linked these issues are to consumption of grains and other high carbohydrate foods. To be honest, I had been trying to avoid gluten primarily just hoping and praying for some relief from my allergies, asthma, and chronic sinusitis. My boyfriend knew he should try to avoid sugar, but neither of us knew that even “whole grain” products cause insulin spikes that are just as harmful (if not more so) as downing straight sugar by the spoonful.

It’s funny how the reaction to the idea of going Paleo is pretty much the same universally: “But what about grains!? And legumes!? Bread!? Pasta!? Black beans!? Lentils!? Don’t these foods have nutrients our bodies need!? HOW ON EARTH WILL I SURVIVE!?”

Quite happily, actually. Your body needs carbs, it’s true. That’s because your body needs vegetables. Lots and lots of lovely vegetables. Vegetables have all the nutrients that your body needs, and in far greater quantities than grains or legumes. You don’t need grains and, once you give them up, you’ll miss them about as much as a hole in the head.

It’s rather like me and smoking cigarettes. I quit smoking over a dozen years ago. I’ll still inhale wistfully once in a while when I smell someone’s cigarette… but man, if I tried taking a puff, I would feel awful. I know that, so I don’t really crave it. And now, it’s the same way with grains. Why would I want to eat something that makes me feel sluggish, congested, and bloated, and increases my likelihood of suffering a broad variety of health concerns? That’s just crazy talk.

(A quick aside: I wish Everyday Paleo had been in print when I started this journey; it was only released a few weeks ago, so wasn’t available when I was just starting to get into all this. It’s fantastic, and I highly recommend it. If you’re less interested in the science and just want to get straight to the recipes and the “what to eat,” this is the book for you. I also recommend Mark’s Daily Apple; it’s a wonderful resource as well, but perhaps a bit overwhelming as an intro to Paleo Nutrition and Fitness.)

Anyway, I stopped eating grains, legumes, and sugars. ALL grains – even corn and the supposed “gluten free” grains. I started only buying the items that were available around the periphery of the supermarket – the meats and the produce, primarily. I cut out processed foods completely. I stopped worrying about my fat and calorie intake – in fact, I stopped measuring portion sizes completely. I ate when I was hungry, and stopped when I felt full.

My energy level skyrocketed. My mind became clear – “brain fog” became a thing of the past (for the most part… my boyfriend might disagree on that point!). I started needing to work out in ways I never had before. I craved muscle fatigue. I was aching to lift, pull, punch, and push to the maximum I was capable of.

Trying to keep my fat intake at the recommended levels had brought me only misery and lethargy. Embracing fat brought me energy, clarity, and lightness of spirit.

The author of The Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf, asks his readers to give it 30 days. Just to give it a shot and see how it goes. After a week, I knew I was never going back.

As far as my workouts went, I have this little elliptic machine in my living room. I love it and it slides easily under the coffee table or an end table when not in use. I had been doing 45 minutes on it, 3 times a week, for about a year and had dropped 1 pants size (size 14 to size 12). To be honest, while I was on the elliptic for 45 minutes, I probably wasn’t really pushing myself as hard as I could. I hate cardio. Still do in a lot of ways.

Spark People was really what changed the game for me. I’d been a fan of the site for years, but in March of this year, right around when I discovered Paleo Nutrition, I discovered that their 10-minute bootcamp routines are simply amazing. They are created to encourage strength-training newbies (such as I) to go at their own pace, learn proper form, and to get in the habit of carving out a little time every day for just a small amount of exercise. At first I couldn’t even use weights! Just lifting my arms was enough to get me sore the next day! But soon I was able to use little one pound dumbbells, then 3 lbs, then 5 lbs…

I did try to get some cardio into my routines, too, even though I always would prefer to be in front of the computer or on the couch. Leslie Sansone’s “Walk Away The Pounds” videos were excellent for getting me moving when nothing else could. I also recommend Prevention Fitness “Get Moving.” (Side note: while Jillian Michaels’ DVDs get rave reviews, I do NOT recommend them for a newbie. I injured myself quite badly with 30 Day Shred a couple times, and am only able to do her videos now that I have built up some strength and have learned proper form.)

Finally… I tracked everything like you wouldn’t believe. Tracking workouts on the computer didn’t work for me. I marked up a wall calendar. Each month I would write my workout goal for the month (such as, “Sparkpeople Strength Training: Every Day,” or “30 Day Shred, 3x/week”) in big letters next to the month name. Then I would have it on the wall, in plain sight, all the time. That was probably my best motivation, now that I think about it. Blank squares on the calendar annoyed me and I couldn’t ignore them when they were on the wall, in front of my face, all the time rather than on a web page!

It took over a year for me to get from a size 14 to a size 12 with regular cardio workouts and trying to eat healthy. It took two months for me to get from a size 12 to a size 6, and I was barely trying. All I was doing was sticking with Paleo Nutrition and focusing more on strength training than cardio.

One other thing: I never weighed myself. I know this will shock some of you, but it was simply a personal choice. The scale depressed me. It actually still does, funny enough. I hate numbers. I’ve dropped from a size 14 to a size 6, but I’ve only lost about 30 pounds. Thirty pounds? What does that mean? Certainly doesn’t seem like very much!

Instead of weighing myself, I took pictures every two weeks… in front of a full length mirror… in my workout clothes. Scary, yes? Tell me about it. I learned a lot more about how my body was changing through pictures than by stepping on a scale, though, particularly since I was putting on so much muscle.

I wish I had thought to start taking pictures sooner, but alas, I did not. My first photo is only from February of 2011. This side-by-side comparison is February compared with… well, a few seconds ago, actually:

I kind of want to show this, too, for no reason other than the fact that I’m proud of it:

 

While I recognize that I have accomplished a lot, I can’t help but look at my current pictures as my new “before” shots. Fat loss has been fun, but now I have new goals.

I’m strong now… but I want to get stronger and more toned, simply because I never, ever thought I’d be able to do something like that and it feels like a possibility now. I’ll be so proud of myself if the next time I sit down to write something like this it’s to talk about and show off that I’ve gotten really cut. And you know what? Being proud of myself is a pretty stinkin’ awesome feeling.

 

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. :0)

Update

Two things I neglected to mention: (1) The book “Everyday Paleo” spawned from the fabulous website of the same name, which I also highly recommend taking a look at: http://everydaypaleo.com/(The only recipe I can vouch for so far was the Quick Curry Soup, but it was definitely a hit and really easy to make!)

(2) If you like how my curls came out the day of the photo shoot, here’s the lowdown:

  • Deep conditioning treatment that morning with (of course) Jessicurl Weekly Deep Treatment.
  • After rinsing, applied a huge dollop of Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose conditioner mixed with a pea-sized dab of Biosilk Rock Hard Gelee.
  • Flipped my head upside-down and used a hair pik on it before scrunching with my Curl Ease towel (GOD I love that thing- it’s definitely essential to any good hair day!).
  • Plopped for about half an hour while I dressed and ate breakfast.
  • After removing the towel, shook my hair out like a dog, then scrunched a little more with my towel to make sure curls re-formed.
  • Finally, scrunched a tiny bit more gel into the ends, clipped the roots, did my make-up, then diffused dry.

Nail polish: Zoya
Envy

 

Comments

  1. says

    Very cool to see. You have every right to revel in the glory of the changes you’ve made to your diet and hence your body. I think your next step is to update your exercise routine to something a bit more involving, varied, and rigorous. Great job though, keep it up!

  2. says

    Fantastic story! You look amazing!

    I wish my curls would behave like that! They used to, but I have lost an extensive amount from PCOS. Yours is gorgeous…I am proud of what curls I have left, and proud that my girls have amazing curls too :)

  3. says

    Wow!! just WOW!! firstly, AMAZING transfmoration! and 2nd…I LOVE this idea, toad…I wanna see more stories! love sunday now!!

  4. Jenny says

    Great summary, thanks for sharing! Congratulations on everything youve achieved so far… Oh and nice hair. :)

  5. Lori says

    Awesome post! Very inspirational! So great to see a woman do so well on her Paleo journey! My husband has had awesome changes since starting Paleo last year, and I am always excited/inspired by females who have had equally impressive success stories! Anybody else out there who is a female, in the “over 45 age group” who can share as well??

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