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    Primal Journal :: (little.owl)

    Primal Blueprint Expert Certification
    Here it is ... my Primal Journal! I hope to post occasionally, at least during my initial months of Primal adaptation! I'm going to write a background post to start, and going forward I'll keep a record of some of my food choices and my struggles and successes.

    Throughout my childhood, I was the world's pickiest eater. Despite my poor food choices, I was never overweight. I was a healthy 125 lb. at my 5'3" height when I began high school; at the end of high school I was at 140 lb. I was not dissatisfied with my body; compared to many people I encountered every day, I was slim. I figured I was average. I missed being 125, and I had gone through several phases of trying this or that to slim down a bit, but I hadn't gotten serious. Through the first couple years of college, it was the same; my diet improved slightly thanks to healthier options offered at my school cafeteria, but I always tended toward the SAD.

    Between my junior and senior years of college, I had a lot of anxiety issues. I've always been very Type A, but my stress levels began to escalate until I experienced panic attacks. Because the attacks were interfering with my ability to manage my life, I went to the doctor, who prescribed me paroxetine. She cautioned me that the pill may make me gain weight, but I told her I didn't care--I just wanted to gain control of my life again. I guess I didn't think it would affect me, because my weight had been stable since the tail end of puberty.

    In my junior year of college, still on paroxetine, I happened upon a pamphlet from PETA quite by chance, and after looking at the pamphlet and learning about factory farming, I was instantly transformed into a vegetarian. At this point, two things started happening. I began gaining weight like crazy--and I didn't notice; and my sleep patterns and energy levels went haywire. I couldn't sleep at night, and I'd crash during the day with exhaustion. I felt like I was floating through someone else's life. I began falling asleep during lectures and showed up late for class for perhaps the first time in my existence and I was actually written up at my tutoring job for missing a shift because I never woke up from my nap. That's when I knew something had to change. I called my doc and said I wanted off of the drug. Against her advice, I cut it cold turkey. Luckily, I avoided all the associated crazy withdrawal symptoms.

    My weight gain slowed, but I had no idea how to be a vegetarian. I was such a picky eater that when I stopped eating meat, I simply started eating more pasta, cereal, and peanut butter sandwiches. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Gradually, I began to introduce new, "weird" foods, like lentils and beans, veggie soup, stir fries, and even tofu! And as my palate adapted, I grew to love those foods. My diet was drastically better than it was before. But I was still overweight. At 160 lb., and after the foggy weirdness of the paroxetine faded, I realized that my pants were too tight and that my face had become a round, pale moon, and that the girl in the mirror wasn't me.

    It was time to lose some weight. I had no idea how to do it. When I got home that summer, I started by jumping on the elliptical at home and counting calories. I would take low-calorie soups and 100-calorie packs in to work with me to snack on. Artificial sweeteners and nutrient-bereft fluff is what it was. I remember priding myself on the days when I came in under 800 calories. And I started to take diet pills, too ... By the time I went back to school after my break, I was down to 145.

    It was my senior year. Then the real work began. I would go to the gym three times a week to run like a hamster on the elliptical until my hip was killing me and I had blisters on the bottoms of my toes. I continued to take the "weight loss" pills and obsessively count my calories. Once in a while I'd skip eating all day. When I had an excuse, I'd binge, usually on sugary garbage, which backtracked me. I was always busy: I was a school tutor and a private tutor; I was researching my senior thesis; I was preparing a separate honors thesis; I had other projects and senior classes; and I decided to learn a third language, German. German became my stress relief from the stress of thesis-writing--I studied to avoid studying!

    Let's just say that I hit that coveted goal weight of 125 in February, 2011, having lost 35 pounds in 9 months ... but not in a healthy way. I looked good in my dress when I was up there giving my presentations, but my tummy was still rather soft, and I was still way too focused on food, food, food.

    At that time, my now-boyfriend was my anchor. He coaxed me into visiting him for movie marathons and dinner dates. My friends were great, but he was really the one who helped me relax now and then. I owe a lot to him and his patience. When I went crazy with stress and told him, "I just want to go to Ecuador and volunteer as a teacher!" he told me to just do it, rather than laughing it off. So I did.

    When graduation came, I was at the very top of my class. I moved to Colorado to spend the summer with my aunt. I had a delicious adventure. We cooked together and ate out at the most fantastic restaurants. I was so excited by the variety of food to be found versus what I had at home that I tried new things every week. I ate to my heart's content and I gained a couple pounds. Then I went to Ecuador to volunteer. In Ecuador, meals are very carb-based (either rice or bread at every meal) but the food was amazing! I made friends and had awesome adventures and enjoyed myself to the fullest. It was the perfect break!

    When I moved back to Iowa, I was back to 135. I ended up working three part-time jobs while looking for a "career" job. I would get up at 4 am to make donuts at the gas station; then I'd cashier til 2:30; then go home and nap; then I'd tutor my other boss' daughter in English at the restaurant and go right into waitressing until 11pm. The shifts varied, but some days I did all four things. I went crazy and quit about the same time that I decided to go vegan.

    Despite my Holy Grail vegan diet, I didn't lose any weight. I never had time to cook. I subsisted on peanut butter and apples and soy patties, or something. I honestly can't remember what I ate. I was so depressed living at home ... my anxiety about the future and my disappointment because I was still at home was just a black plague of gloom. There were days when I'd just cry for no reason. It didn't help that my boyfriend was four hours away in Minnesota, in the same situation.

    Then, I got a job in a bigger city, out-of-state. I moved. My boyfriend found a job pretty quickly and came to live with me. I love my job and I love being closer to my man. I'm so happy with my life right now! And it was much easier to live as a vegan in the city than it was back home--I had access to all kinds of organic stuff, tofu, tempeh, lots of produce.

    But I still had a ways to go before finding the "ideal" lifestyle and diet.

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    Despite my "healthy" vegan diet, and despite starting to work out pretty intensely back in January, I stayed at the exact same weight: 135. I'm not overweight. But I'm not confident enough to wear a bikini, either. I want to look strong! My fitness levels have skyrocketed since I started training--I can actually do a real pushup now, and I can run a mile! RUN! A MILE! I've never run a mile in my life! I can do burpees (a few), I can do real sit-ups, I can lift weights. I'm making progress. I can feel that my muscles are harder beneath the squishiness. But I want to see the muscles!

    But after my crash diet and the subsequent foodtastic adventures in Colorado and Ecuador, my control around food had gone out the window. I constantly craved sugary things and I always wanted to eat bread. I would have a healthy supper, then snack on pita chips or bread or Clif bars and never feel satisfaction. My mind was always craving.

    It was time for something to change!

    I read about wheat's affect on the body during my Interent ramblings and I started seriously reflecting. I decided to cut out wheat for a month to see how I would do, expecting that I was "wheat sensitive." I learned pretty quickly that my food cravings, carb binges, and irritability were linked to wheat. While looking for more reading material on the subject I happened across Gary Taubes' Why We Get Fat. That was when I seriously began to consider reintroducing animal products (dairy and eggs). The thought seriously stressed me out, but I didn't want to become one of the vegans whose posts I was reading--people who'd been vegan for 10, 20 years, and ended up at the doctor with serious nutrient deficiencies. I came across Mark's Daily Apple again. I'd seen recipes and posts here before, because I was always reading about food, but I perceived the primal lifestyle as less ethical than veganism. Well, more books have cured that--I'm working on Meat: The Benign Extravagance right now. Responsible livestock isn't as bad for the world as people say it is, and primal peeps emphasize local, ethically-raised meat, which is something I can get behind.

    The benefits I've experienced thus far speak for themselves.

    FOOD CRAVINGS: minimized with wheat; now, with the restriction of all grains and sugar, they've diminished even more. For the first time, I feel barely any hunger. As a vegan I could eat oatmeal, a Clif bar, or a piece of fruit for breakfast at 7:30am and feel hungry at 10am, then have a huge salad at lunch and be starving after the gym. I'd spend the night trying to feed that hunger. Now, I eat a single egg cooked in coconut oil with some green veggies in the morning and I'm not even physically hungry at lunch. I eat a salad at lunch (my brain is still on a schedule). At night, I eat a piece of meat with some cooked veggies. I always feel satisfied.

    COFFEE ADDICTION: I'm also off coffee. I used to drink 16-32 oz a day; I'd have a cup with soy milk and Stevia while getting ready in the morning and take another to work. Now I don't even need coffee for energy! I am not going to drink it at all for the first couple months just to transition cleanly. Then I'll reintroduce it as an occasional treat, because ever since college I love the simple act of drinking coffee ... but it'll be about the taste, not guzzling it down to stay awake.

    MOOD AND STRESS: My mood swings have lessened, at least when it comes to interactions with my boyfriend. However, my job tends to be stressful. Sometimes I'll get tasked with things that have to be done RIGHT NOW, and usually those tasks come in groups. I've also moved from a basic entry-level position into a kind of internship where my work affects a ton of people, so there's a lot of pressure to get things right. My peers and leadership are all very supportive, but I take things very seriously ... like I always have. My boss has to remind me to smile! I'm working on that. (:

    PAIN: I carry my stress right between my shoulder blades, so it constantly hurts to bend my head down. I've been through chiropractic care to address my persistent headaches. I have "student syndrome" (my spine in my neck is completely straight, not curved ... from a lifetime of looking down at books and computer screens). I'm working to restore flexibility and I'm hoping I'll be able to at least coax the stiffness away in time and, with increased easy exercise, maybe I can minimize the risk of further damage.

    WEIGHT: I have lost four pounds! It's too soon to say whether that's permanent or just some fluctuation, but I'm at the lowest weight I have seen since Ecuador, so I am super excited. I am not in this for the weight loss, not really; I want to be in control of my relationship with food in a HEALTHY way, and I want to live a long and happy life. But, it would be very nice to start to see some results from my workouts! Once some of this softness melts away I might start to see those ab muscles I've been working so hard on!

    I am very excited to be on this journey with some really inspiring, intelligent individuals. I hope I've found the path that will lead to long-term health and happiness. It's exhilarating to think that we can control our health so easily to avoid many of the common health and weight problems that are on the rise. The most difficult part of being primal so far is holding back from trying to convert my coworkers and family members ...

    "Excuse me, sir, do you have a moment to talk about Grok?"

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