It has almost been one week since Jackie and I finished our 30 Day Challenge.
I have been very busy handling bookings for the Paleo packages, among other things, so I asked Jackie desperately this week, if she could write about her experience for the blog and she did – thank you!!
30 days: it’s all pretty relative.
I’d heard about Paleo a number of years ago but never really knew much about it. Mostly it sounded like a make-over of the old Adkins plan, which always seemed like a fad to me, so I admit I didn’t pay much attention. Over the years if I had gained unnecessary weight I always tried to lose it the most logical way, through watching my diet and being consistent with my exercise schedule, perhaps ramping it up a bit. I’ve always stayed pretty active and so far it had always seemed to work.
This summer I turned 45. Over the last 4 years I’ve really struggled, first with that stubborn 12 pounds that I never lost after Viv was born. Then in the last year, with all of the stress and transition of changing countries –again-, another 10 crept on. How would I handle it? How would I get it all back off, finally? Conventional wisdom, the prevailing attitudes of “go low-fat, add more grains,” had always worked for me in the past. Black Beans and chick peas have always been my go-to “healthy” meals. Isn’t peanut butter on bananas or apples good for me? So I did. I went low-fat. I added more grains. For the entire month of August, roughly 30 days, I counted calories, in and out. I ate “better”. I ramped up my exercise, 6 days a week, serious training. And lost ONE pound. And not a single inch. I felt discouraged, to say the least, but mostly I just felt old. “Is this the end?” I asked myself. “Is this the part where that awful tire, that dreaded belly fat, becomes a permanent part of me? Is this the part where my metabolism slows to the point where I will never be able to get out in front of it?” Conventional wisdom, prevailing attitudes told me that was probably the case. Better start training for the next ½ marathon. Better yet, finally make it a full this time because the only way I would ever get rid of it, it seemed, was to become a slave to working out 7 days a week. And how on earth would I do that with a bum knee and a bad back? Like I said, I felt O-L-D.
I can’t remember the first time Antoinette mentioned to me that she followed a Paleo lifestyle. I do remember, though, that from the very beginning I found it intriguing. She’s certainly never preachy about it and is so sensible in every other aspect that I guess it naturally followed for me that this was a reasonable course to choose. But not only is Antoinette sensible, she’s knowledgeable. She always had an answer for my questions, or a book to recommend where I could find the answers to my “Why is Paleo healthier? Why shouldn’t I eat –XXX-” questions. “Read Robb Wolf”, she told me. So she lent me her copy of “The Paleo Solution” and I did. I read it and learned a lot. And felt hopeful for the first time in a long time. Maybe, when it’s all said and done, the conventional wisdom, the prevailing attitudes about healthy nutrition, the ones I had been following so dutifully, are wrong. Could this be why all my hard work was not paying off in any measureable way? “Do the 30 day challenge”, she said to me and I discovered I was actually excited about it. I really wanted to see if this Paleo stuff would work. The science and biochemistry made sense to me. I was truly motivated to give it my best shot.
So I did, and it did. It worked in all the measureable ways that the other has not. It certainly was a challenge. Any strict nutrition or fitness plan worth doing always is. Luckily for me, having done it before, having lived the lifestyle for a few years now, Antoinette had prepared me very well what to expect psychologically. It was isolating. It was frustrating. It is challenging to do it in a country where you often can’t read labels on products. Or there ARE no labels on products. And due to the language barrier you can’t ask in a restaurant how things are prepared. Having to prepare everything from scratch is tiring. Go without sugar for 30 days??? I don’t think I’ve ever been longer than 2 days without some kind of sugar fix. But I did it. And the detox was not fun. Over the years I have occasionally been mildly inconvenienced by Restless Leg Syndrome. Two weeks into the 30 days it showed up with an absolute vengeance for about 4 days, accompanied by an itchy rash on my arms and legs. Generally I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but that was excruciating. But I survived it. And in the end, I am so pleased with the results, with the way I feel, with the way it has all turned out.
I didn’t lose the number of pounds that I was hoping for, that I listed on Day One, but I did lose ten pounds. Fifteen was probably an overly ambitious number anyway. I still have a few pounds to go, I think, but the great things that have happened are: the entire shape of my body has changed, (serious dent made in that dreaded tire around the middle! I lost 10 cm, which is nearly 4 inches, around my waist!) and I have stopped being such a slave to the scale. My clothing fits completely differently. Yes, I am wearing “those” clothes again. You know the ones: you keep them in your closet hoping against hope that one day they will fit again. And quite honestly, as far as my fitness schedule goes, I have been really lax about working out during most of this 30 days. I’ve kept up mostly a 3 times a week schedule during the 30 days, -mostly-, which is very light for me, but that’s it. Which means I don’t have to be a slave to working-out just to avoid having to buy more clothing in the next size up. Again.
As I mentioned before, I believe in the science and the biochemistry. I do feel great, I am sleeping well, and my psyche has certainly been mended a bit. I believe that continuing to follow the Paleo lifestyle will keep me healthier, longer. I am fortunate that I do not have any pressing medical needs currently but I am an older Mom. I will be in my 60’s when my kids finish University. How old will I be if and when they finally have kids of their own? I want to, as Antoinette mentioned, run and jump and play with my Grandkids the same way I run and jump and play with my kids. I fully intend to work on their nutritional habits so that they can enjoy the same benefits, so they can live the best life available to them. I truly believe the challenges of pursuing the Paleo Lifestyle are worth it in the long run, and not only regarding my health. Grocery shopping can be much simpler. I love that the choices I make now have broad implications on my impact on the environment: locally grown produce, limited packaging, meats and poultry raised in humane conditions, supporting sustainable practices. I have yet to think of a way in which I have actually truly given something up. The time spent cooking is considerable most days but I never regret it, knowing that the outcome is bringing healthier options to my family. And Heinz is loving that fact that I have started to enjoy cooking again.