Looking Back on a Year of Paleo

It's hard to believe that it's been a whole year since I changed my diet and adopted the Paleo lifestyle. It feels like just yesterday I was doing research and wondering how the hell I was going to eat my eggs without toast. I'm not a doctor, and I'm also not saying that eating this way will fix everything about your life, but I feel strongly about my experience with it and wanted to share my story with you today.


Not this past summer but the one before, I had a few really bad months. A friend I grew up with died unexpectedly, and although some things in my life had been spiraling out of control for a while, I look back on his death as the day that I just dropped everything and couldn't figure out how to start putting the pieces back together. A month later, Rob and I moved away. I got homesick before we even left--it was the first time I was really living on my own, I missed my parents, and I thought about my lost friend every day, almost every minute. Life felt really heavy most of the time.

I had a thesis to write, friends in Charlottesville to spend time with, and a boyfriend to love, but a lot of the time I couldn't get out of bed. I was depressed and tired and sick all the time. I couldn't sleep at night and I couldn't get up in the morning. I took naps during the day that were so deep and weird that I would wake up with some kind of sleep-induced hangover. I got a job at a coffee shop, working afternoons, and I gained fifteen pounds in like, less than a month.

I've always been athletic--in high school I swam year-round, ran cross-country, indoor track, and outdoor track. When I went to college I gained five or ten pounds, but it just went away when I came home for the summer. I feel so lucky that I've never really struggled with my weight or body image. Even when I was at my heaviest, I was still thin.

I'm 5'4". These fifteen new pounds felt like a lot on me. My clothes stopped fitting properly and I got even more tired and depressed. I'd try to go for a run and end up walking. For the first time in my life, I started feeling bad about my body. The extra weight was frustrating, but even worse was the way I felt. I had been feeling sick for a few years--always dizzy and nauseated, sometimes throwing up randomly--but being heavier than usual just made it worse. My higher-than-normal anxiety grew even more, I had migraines, and I felt sad and depressed and scared all the time. I was breaking out, and losing hair, and feeling pretty pathetic in general. I would lie in bed and cry, and I could never specifically explain why.

So in October or November, when my mom started talking to me about this thing called Paleo, I was ready to try anything. Even if it meant re-learning how to eat. Accepting the fact that "whole grain" wasn't good for me, and that neither was dairy. No more lattes or grilled cheese sandwiches or pasta--three almost daily occurrences in my diet. I was almost a vegetarian. After a sort-of Paleo Thanksgiving at home, I jumped in for real. It felt good to take control of something.

Even after a week or two, I could tell a difference. My stomach felt less bloated and I was no longer in pain. My skin started to clear up, and I lost about a pound a day for a few days. When I woke up in the morning I felt human again. The coffee shop asked me to start opening instead of closing, and I know that I wouldn't have been able to get to work by 6:30 AM if I was still eating the way I had been.

I don't blame all of my past troubles on my old diet. But my new one made me feel a lot better, and that was something.

My anxiety subsided. Sure, I still get irrational every now and again, but I didn't spend hours upon hours obsessing about death anymore. That might sound morbid and dramatic, but it had been part of my life for months, and I was glad to see it go. I started running again. My headaches and dizziness and nausea went away. I had so much energy. I was able to get in control of my life again. I was happy, deep down, for the first time in a long time. And I wrote that thesis.

When people find out that I'm Paleo, a lot of the time they say something like "Oh, wow, I just couldn't live without cheese." It is so much more than that. Maybe it's cheesy (ha!), but I'm proud of myself. Our choices matter. And cheese is awesome, but it's not that hard to give up.

Paleo changed my life.

It put me back on track. It gave me health, happiness, and a sense of control when things felt like they were too much to bear. I will never go back, because the girl who used to eat grains and dairy and sugar was also sad and tired and afraid of everything. And she's not here anymore.


Do you have questions or comments? I'd love to hear them. For this post, I'll reply to everything right here in the comment thread, so be sure to check back later! Or, as always, you can send me an email at megan(at)freckleditalian(dot)com and I'll write you back as soon as I can.