Battle Of The Beige

Alright, folks. I promised y'all a post about Paleolithic Nutrition (Paleo), so here it is. If you have any additional questions after reading this, don't hesitate to reach out to the people mentioned in here. They're real people who are super passionate about this subject and will most definitely entertain your inquiries. Here we go!

I'm a registered dietitian, most of you know that. Most of you also know that I have struggled with my weight for my entire life. Laugh all you want, it's cool with me...I know my patients have over the years. Who's going to take any diet and weight loss advice from a "professional" who can't even keep her own scale in check, right? Right. It goes without saying that business was bad for a while and I was not surprised.

What was surprising was that I was following the same diet prescription that I would give to my clients. Low-fat. Whole grains. High fiber. Small portions. High-carb. Lean protein. Sugar substitutes. Diet soda. Moderate exercise. Blah, blah, blah...you know the drill. On paper, I was the perfect patient. On the scale, I was clinically obese. I didn't understand it.

If you want to read about my epic weight loss journey, click here. If not, here's the abbreviated version: I tore my ACL, had surgery, went through rehab, started salsa dancing, became obsessed with salsa dancing, started smoking, drank too much coffee, stopped eating, lost 458973875454 pounds, stopped smoking, took myself off of birth control, met a boy, started eating, drank too much coffee, gained 45638473 pounds and stopped menstruating. Phew.

Okay, "phew" probably didn't cover up that bombshell I dropped at the end of my recap. Yes, I said I stopped menstruating (that means I stopped getting my period, boys) and no, you're not going to catch me on an upcoming episode of I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant. I had never had this problem before. Then again, I had never been off birth control before either (it regulates a chick's periods), so I just assumed I was knocked up (even though two pregnancy tests told me otherwise) and made an appointment with my OB/GYN. I gave him the run down of everything that had been going on with my little baby body over the last couple of months and he decided to give me an ultrasound. This is the conversation we had while he was checking out my lady bits...and the reason why he is no longer my OB/GYN.

Him: "Okay, we're going to take a look at your uterus now. Are you ready?"
Me: ::indiscernible grunting noise::
Him: "Like we thought, no baby. Ah. But you see that right there? That stuff that looks like popcorn. Yeah, that's your ovary. See that other patch of popcorn over there? That's your other ovary. You only have PCOS, no biggie."
Me: "ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS I ONLY HAVE PCOS NO BIGGIE YOU'RE NOT EVEN GOING TO BREAK DOWN THE ACRONYM FOR ME EVEN THOUGH I KNOW WHAT THE FUCK IT MEANS?" ::coughs up $20 copay...angrily::

Well, there you have it, people. Although he was a total jerk about doing so, in about 3 minutes and with only 54 words, this doctor gave the answer to every question I had ever asked concerning my blubbery body...PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. I'm not going to write another 239875209 words about how not cool PCOS is because Wikipedia did it for us already. You just need these terms to follow where I'm going with this post:

Menstrual Disorders 
Metabolic Syndrome
Central Obesity
Acne
Insulin Resistance
Infertility

Fun, right? Yeah, especially that last one! Ugh. Well, at least I had my answers and it all started to make sense! The weight gain. The inability to lose weight. The acne. The other stuff. It was all me and it had been me my entire life! I just want to throw in right here that my Love Cub was ridiculously supportive during this whole process. I was a hot mess when I came home from the doctor and told him that I was 239857309857325% sure I wasn't going to be able to bear him babies. His reaction: "We'll figure it out, babe." See why I'm marrying him?

Anyway, I mentioned earlier that I was already familiar with PCOS when Dr. Jerky McJerkerson diagnosed me. Let me clarify my level of understanding of the disease by saying that I had read about it in a nutrition journal 239875 years earlier; that's about all I knew. From that article, I remembered that women affected by it were unusually hairy and were shaped like football players (my mind holds onto the strangest information). I needed a little more than that to work with, so I started doing my own research.

I learned that a BIG issue for women with PCOS was disordered metabolism of glucose and insulin. Without getting into too much detail, I'll just say that my "popcorn" ovaries totally wack out the way that my body responds to sugar and its dietary sources (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.). Great, all the good stuff. All the yummy, delicious, fantastic beige stuff! All the low-fat, whole-grain, high-fiber, small portioned, high-carb stuff I had been stuffing my face with for 2353254987539857320574354 years and had been promoting to all my clients. Nice.

Needless to say, I was a little bummed. My $80,000 college education seemed a total waste of time and money considering that living by it's main tenants was kinda killing both me and my hopes for a family. I kept digging around on the Internet and eventually found that there was a large group of women who were reporting success in controlling or even reversing the disease by adopting a Paleo Lifestyle. A lifestyle that significantly reduces dietary glucose intake and insulin production. Hmmm... 

Wonderful, yet another thing I needed to research. I didn't have to dig too deep to get information about Paleo though. This was Summer 2010 and a good girlfriend of mine was talking a ton about some guy named Robb Wolf and a book he was getting ready to release called The Paleo Solution. She also turned me on to Everyday Paleo, a website managed by wonder mom, Sarah Fragoso. I started playing around with some of the recipes I found on Sarah's website and was surprised that I really liked them! I was surprised because the recipes are all completely devoid of beige. 

Where's the BEIGE?!
No beige. No bread. No pasta. No rice. No WAY! I'm Cuban and Italian...I was raised on beige! I wasn't completely sold on cutting the carbs until Robb's book came out in September 2010. Fireworks. That's the best way I can explain the action of the neurons in my little baby brain after reading The Paleo Solution.

The argument is this: We evolved to eat meat, not grains. When humans popped around 235423857203 years ago, we hunted and gathered our food and we were F-I-N-E, fine! No cancer. No food allergies. No high blood pressure. No obesity. No PCOS. No nothing! It wasn't until the advent of agriculture and eventual processing of foods that the human race began to develop debilitating diseases. 

I was sold even though eating Paleo went against everything I was taught in school. High-fat. High-cholesterol. High-calorie. Red meat. The American Dietetic Association's nightmare. Oh well.

I'm not going to sit here and try to explain how much I learned from this one book because I will surely make a mess of the details. I'm no biochemist, Robb is. All I'll say is that the way the government has suggested we eat for the past 50 years is ALL WRONG! Just buy the damn book and see for yourself. It's the best $24.95 you'll EVER spend on yourself, I promise! While you're at it, pick up Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes or anything by Michael Pollan. Okay, enough with the plugs...back to me. 

It's a little more complicated than just eating meat, veggies, fruit, nuts and seeds. First of all, it's a commitment. Wil and I sat down and had a very long talk about our (specifically, my) health. If I was going to do this-to take this challenge and change my lifestyle-I needed his full support. No questions about my plate, no complaints about our dinners and definitely no sneaking beige goodies behind my back.

Second of all, it's expensive. It's a sad truth that it's cheaper to eat unhealthy processed "food" than it is to eat real food. We needed to agree to devote more of our income to purchasing products that would promote our health. Products that were, themselves, healthy. You are what you eat...and what what you eat, eats. 

I decided to make a sacrifice for me and my family. I decided to take the plunge and quit the beige cold turkey! I decided that spending money on my family's health was more important than buying a new pair of shoes every month. I've been eating Paleo for over seven months now and honestly, I don't view it as that much of a sacrifice anymore.

One. I lost 29875402398547 pounds without even trying!
Two. I don't have violent drops in my blood sugar after every meal like I had in the past.
Three. My periods come every 28-days to the minute!
Four. I feel FANTASTIC!
Five. I can eat as much as I want!
Six. Do I really need to continue?


No, I don't think so. I honestly didn't think that it was possible to eat this way AND change my health condition AND convince Wil to eat brussels sprouts. Paleo is a miracle, believe dat! I'm experimenting with new foods and recipes every day and sharing everything I've learned about Paleo with my family, friends and clients. I will never go back to my old eating habits. True story: a co-worker of mine asked me if I was going to "stop dieting" after the wedding. My response, "This isn't a diet, it's a lifestyle." Unbelievable.

A special thanks to Robb Wolf and Sarah Fragoso for making this transition a little less scary and a little more palatable. I'm happy and healthy. Wil's happy and healthy. Our future family (that I'm 239857309857325% sure will be on it's way next year) will be happy and healthy, too.

Maybe this wasn't the Paleo post you were hoping for, but I hope you still found it helpful. It was part-Paleo, part-personal and all me. Please share this with anyone you think would benefit from a shake of the ol' lifestyle tree. Now, if you'll excuse me...I'm off to make some beef short ribs.

23 comments

Francesca said... April 7, 2011 at 1:25 PM

I love this!!! I have PCOS and I have had countless people/doctors tell me that there isn't much that can be done other than take birth control and go on fertility drugs when we want to have kids. I am going to go get these books and see if I can for once be a skinny girl and not sit here wondering why every diet I have ever tried hasn't worked!!!! <3

Linnette said... April 7, 2011 at 1:29 PM

You're so awesome!

Lani said... April 7, 2011 at 4:16 PM

This is so interesting (and i'm so happy you figured this out!!)! Have you heard of a book called "Why We Get Fat: and What to Do About It"? I haven't read it yet but I picked it up in Borders and couldn't put it down. It seems to be more data to support what the Paleo diet is all about. Anyway! More food for thought. Harhar.

Danfredo Rivera said... April 7, 2011 at 4:25 PM

Funny you mention that one, Lani! That's Gary Taubes's newest book! I'm planning on picking it up soon, myself. Be sure to read "Good Calories, Bad Calories," too. That's another one of his that you wont be able to put down even though it's 239854 pages long and 20985472305 pounds! LOL

Firestar-2011 said... April 7, 2011 at 11:57 PM

Very good info and thank you for sharing your journey:)

Wilfredo Rivera said... April 8, 2011 at 7:13 AM

Good blog babe ;-)

Liz said... April 9, 2011 at 4:01 PM

What a great post! Did you ever have another scan to see how your ovaries are doing?

Danfredo Rivera said... April 9, 2011 at 4:10 PM

Thanks, everyone! I haven't done another scan, but am planning on it at my next annual. I'll keep y'all updated. :-)

whitney said... April 9, 2011 at 9:58 PM

This article is really awesome. I love it! I reversed my MS with all the same resources you used and I totally understand how you feel about it. I am posting this link on my FB page (what I have until my web site goes up) which is a clearinghouse of imformation about curing yourself with paleo, specifically for autoimmune. Congratulations to you on your incredible story and on this piece of writing. It is engaging, well written and informative, a trifecta of excellence. Rock on, lady!

Danfredo Rivera said... April 10, 2011 at 4:53 AM

I'm so happy for you, Whitney! Paleo is an incredible thing. We need to share its benefits however we can and with as many people as we can. If you need anymore information (or writing for your website) in the future, don't hesitate to reach out to me. I'll be here. :-)

danfredorivera@gmail.com

Shauna said... April 23, 2011 at 10:28 PM

I dropped 15 lbs within 3 weeks (without exercising), then another 20 once two weeks after I started working out. It took me about a week to get adjusted, but it made me feel so at one with nature and more in line with what being healthy is all about! Great blog, Danielle....keep them coming!!!

aglaeejacob said... May 14, 2011 at 7:22 PM

Hi- I am so glad to find another fellow RD like you! I have dealt with similar issues and am now in favor of the Paleo diet, although it is contrary to everything we learned in school. It now makes so much sense though! =) I am keeping track of my journey at adietitiangonepaleo.wordpress.com.

Diane @ Balanced Bites said... May 18, 2011 at 1:21 AM

Wow! That's the paleo pyramid I designed! Glad you found it useful... LOVE your story. Would you mind please linking back to me to credit me for the image? Thanks! www.balancedbites.com

Rock on sister!

koprime said... May 18, 2011 at 1:20 PM

i like your arbitrary numbers best of all :)

Nicole Marie said... May 30, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Having polycystic ovaries does not mean someone has PCOS. Most obese have polycystic ovaries, without having the full spectrum of the actual syndrome. I have been able to maintain weight by running and keeping my carbs low. Paleo is one way...but there are many. Natasha, from raw radiant health, reversed polycystic ovaries on the raw food diet (no meat). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDp0uc6C63o

Anonymous said... May 31, 2011 at 7:04 AM

I'm sure the vegans and vedgies feel uncomfortable about the facts of Paleo (i.e. that human beings live long and healthy lives on meat filled diets) however, as much as I love animals too, I love humans more and I have so many vedgie friends with PCOS it's beginning to look like it's catching. The results of not eating meat are a no-brainer really given that cutting out meat means you have a big whole to fill and therefore carbs become a large constituent in the diet. There is a way to do vedgie paleo - try fish but for vegan's it's VERY HARD and raw diets are probably even harder for most people.

I know a lot of animals suffer for human food, so in our family we drive for 1 hr every two weeks to a farm where they look after their animals during their lives, let them eat grass (not annoying substitutes), let them roam free and then they are very humanely dispatched for our consumption. I know it's not perfect but it's a start. If I was of higher moral fibre I would just eat fish but in absence of that I think we are doing the next best thing. Keep writing Danfredo your blog is awesome

pinamarie said... June 1, 2011 at 2:57 AM

Thank you so much for this post. I have been down a similar journey these past couple of months. I ended up loosing an ovary to a nasty case of endometriosis (8cm cyst growing off my ovary...worst pain I ever felt when it ruptured). I have adopted the paleo diet for the last 3 months. Strict...absolutely no grains, sugar, dairy, soy, rice, beans, and corn. I love the way I eat now. I understand that controlling it is all about regulating insulin levels. My question is did you cut out all fruit? I am having a hard time with this. I feel like by cutting out all grains and sugar I have probably already regulated my insulin levels to the point where they need to be. What did you do? It seems like cutting out fruit is even harder than cutting everything else out. It is so hard!

Danfredo Rivera said... June 1, 2011 at 5:25 AM

@ pinamarie, I eliminated fruit from my diet for the first couple of months on Paleo, but only because my metabolism was SOOO messed up. I've reintroduced it at this point (it's been nine months) and I've been tolerating it just fine. I tend to limit myself to one serving a day, if I have anything at all. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so staying away from fruit isn't too much of a big deal to me.

Sunny said... June 2, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Thank you for sharing your story. I have PCOS. I was diagnosed at 18, right before I got pregnant. I have been able to manage my weight so far, but it's starting to creep up, as I get closer to 30.

When you are ready for that baby, check out Taking Control Of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. It was so enlightening as to the signals the female body gives off to indicate fertility (also useful for non-hormonal alternatives to birth control).

Bill said... June 5, 2011 at 7:49 AM

@Whitney What is your blogspot site or FB address? I have several family members with MS who will not consider diet as a therapy! I would really like to see how you approached it and to be able to give them a link to someone who has had success.

Liv Szari said... July 27, 2011 at 10:27 PM

Oh my goodness! Danielle, this is an amazing story! My sister in law lost about 120 pounds thanks to the Paleo diet! She has a glucose allergy and PCOS, went to tons of doctors, tried tons of diets and nothing worked until she went Paleo! I don't need to lose weight but I do want to feel and be healthy. I am always tired, always craving sugar, and always feeling like poop after I eat! I'm really considering this...now I just need to see how the husband feels about it! =)

Sweetie Pieties said... January 7, 2012 at 10:27 PM

Love your blog! I have PCOS, too, just started eating paleo and have been doing crossfit for 3 months. I'm finally starting to see changes in my mid-section. I have 3 children (1 set of twins) thanks to the help of fertility treatment. I'm so glad to have found your blog! It's great and I can relate!

Amanda Moore said... April 15, 2012 at 12:43 AM

Thank you so much for being such an inspiration, and giving me the courage to jump onto the Paleo wagon!

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