Most Paleo progress photos tend to focus on weight loss. Paleo is a great weight loss strategy for many and the 'before' and 'after' representations of people who have undergone a Paleo transformation can be inspirational to say the least. My own Paleo transformation is less visibly dramatic. At the time that I started a whole food, nutrient-dense diet, I needed to gain weight, not lose it. I was ill with a serious GI condition (at that time, my diagnosis was Crohn's disease, although it is less clear today if that diagnosis was accurate) and struggling with tremendous pain and fatigue from autoimmune inflammatory arthritis. I had lost roughly 10% of my body weight. I did eventually gain back all of the weight that I lost and today I'm at a healthy and happy weight. But, in general, looking at pictures of me before and after I started Paleo is not that motivating. Like a lot of people who struggle with autoimmune disease, I felt horrible, but I probably didn't appear to look "sick" on the outside. The biggest transformation after discovering a whole food, nutrient-dense lifestyle happened on the inside of my body, radically healing my body and improving my quality of life.
But the saying is, "A picture is worth a thousand words", so here is my 'before' pic:
Before discovering the Paleo lifestyle, I was on 13 different prescription medications. This represents a snapshot in time right before I started Paleo. On any given pre-Paleo day, I could have been on more or less medications, depending on what was going on with my health and what I had given up on as far as getting real answers to. I was a frequent flyer in the doctor's office well before I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease. Numerous symptoms of autoimmune disease were treated by "slapping a bandaide on a gaping wound"-- in other words, covering up the symptoms without addressing the root cause, time and time again. I have 2 large drawers in my bathroom filled with nothing but prescription medications that I have been on at one time or another (I'm setting a poor example as a nurse for not disposing of these medications properly yet, but I'm going to get to it soon!). Of the medications in the photo, 6 were for GI-related symptoms, 3 for inflammatory arthritis, 2 for anxiety, 1 for migraines, and 1 for acne.
And now, nearly a year later, here is my 'after':
Zero, zilch, nada. I am taking ZERO prescription medications. But more important than how many prescription medications I am or am not taking is how I feel--and I feel better, healthier, and more wholesome than I have in years! I will be the first to admit that there are still days that are more challenging than others and I don't always feel 100%. The bitter cold of the Midwest winter and the ever-changing weather of this region does sometimes affect my joints, but it is mild and I do not require the use of any medications. Every once in a while, I will try to reintroduce some foods that I still have reactions to. These are foods and spices that are prohibited on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, but still fit into the regular Paleo diet parameters. Sometimes I discover that my body can now handle a food, but other times I find that it results in mild joint pain or minor GI symptoms. Recently, I had to remove eggs from my diet again because I determined that, sadly, they were still having an impact on my joints. At this moment, I have no joint pain at all, but obviously, I still have some healing of the gut to accomplish. The journey to discovering optimal health is a process and I am continuing to learn and grow every single day.
There are a few supplements that I use to augment my whole food, nutrient-dense diet:
My practice has always been more holistically focused and I've used herbs and supplements for healing for many years. Now, due to my training with the Nutritional Therapy Association, I am more informed and knowledgeable about the use of herbs and supplements and I am more selective about what I use and when. I did use a variety of herbs and supplements earlier in my healing journey, but this is what I'm using now to address my current health status. The blue bottle on the left is low dose naltrexone (LDN). Technically, LDN is a medication, but it is considered an alternative treatment. It is the least toxic medication that I'm aware of and that includes any over-the-counter medication. It has virtually no side effects--except feeling better, that is! You can read more about LDN in this post. LDN is not a prescription medication (for me) because I don't obtain it through the conventional health care system. After years of less than satisfactory experiences, it is my personal preference to depend on a conventional doctor for as little as possible. Thankfully, there are other options for obtaining LDN. The other supplements that I'm using include magnesium and calcium, zinc and copper, an adrenal support herb, and vitamin D. The reasons why I've chosen these supplements go beyond the scope of this post, but basically it comes down to what my body is deficient in at this point in time. But please don't assume if you have similar health issues that you also need these supplements. Everyone is individual in their nutrient needs.
Many people who eat a standard American diet think of Paleo as restrictive. "I could never give up bread and pasta" is probably the most common reaction that I get to talking about Paleo with others. To me, Paleo is anything but restrictive; it is the definition of freedom. Freedom from medications with toxic side effects, freedom from frequent and frustrating doctor appointments, and freedom from being sick, sad, and scared of the future. It has given me my health and life back and I am so grateful for that.
I'd love to hear from you-- What does your Paleo 'before' and 'after' look like?