Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's a Paleo Life for Me!

A Step Back in Time

Fitness has always been an integral part of my life going all the way back to being in the 3rd or 4th grade and running around the junior high track or neighborhood block.  Running has always been a refuge from the crazy going on around me.  It was liberating, free and my time - alone.  In all four years of high school I took physical education(PE) five days week where we lifted weights 3 days a week while doing other activities such as swimming, running, tennis, badminton etc.  My love for working out and running began at a very young age, and mainly due to the freedom in being able to do something without having to worry about being told I couldn't.  
My nutrition as a growing child/teen mainly consisted of foods that I now know are part of the standard american diet(SAD).  My mom made meals most evenings but they almost always consisted of having some sort of canned vegetable, white flour product(bread, pasta), iceberg lettuce mixed in with the meals.  I don't recall my parents ever talking about where our meats came from, but I can only assume they were commercially raised and what was on sale at the grocery store.  I never cared much for meat as a child/teen, especially red meat.  There were many nights that I sat at the dinner table whining to get up, but told I needed to finish my dinner.  
I moved into my first apartment at the age of 18, and my real diet of eating SAD began.  My diet wasn't the best as an early adult - fried foods, ramen noodle soup, pizza, taco bell, DR Pepper - typical SAD diet.  I bought whatever I could afford and started gaining weight slowly.  Around this time I got a physical and my first cholesterol test and found out I had high LDL, Triglycerides and low HDL.  My Dr at the time instantly put me on Lipitor.  Can you say insane?!?  I had a severe reaction to the medication and ended up in the emergency room.  After this happened I told my Dr I wasn't down for taking medications and there had to be another way.  He sent me to a Dietitian - who mainly taught me to start eating fish(up until this point I had only ever had fried fish or fish sticks from a box), cut back on salt, and stay away from butter, red meat(wasn't an issue since I didn't really care for it much at the time) and bacon.  I slowly started cutting these things out and my digestion/bloating stomach issues went into over drive.  The first time I remember taking TUMS & Gas-X was around the age of 18 or 19.  More issues started popping up and around that time my severe allergies to many things outside -  in comes Allegra, Claritin and Zyrtec as well as an inhaler when I got wheezy during allergy season(which plagued me for almost 10 yrs!).  Eating this way also caused me to start gaining weight and at my highest point I was around 140lbs.  I know this doesn't seem like much but gaining 25-30lbs in 2 years time isn't healthy for your body especially with the way I was eating/treating my body.
April 2000 - Corn Fed Indiana Girl moves to SF Bay Area 
I moved out to the bay area at the age of 22, and got my first real full time job weighing in just over 140lbs, with probably 25-35% body fat.  As a side note - I would like to thank my Aunt Pam for my Cali opportunity.  Moving to California when I did helped build the foundation that helped me become the woman I am today.  Her love for great food helped refine my palate and opened my mind to thinking more about what kind of food I was putting into my body.  I started running & lifting weights again, riding my bike to/from work everyday and my diet started to change more and more.  I stopped eating fast food, drinking soda and started dropping weight.  Eventually I got back to my old weight and felt better about myself, but the digestion issues nagged at me almost daily.  There were times when I would be out and my stomach (which I now know was my small intestine & leaky gut issues) would start to bloat and get super hard and so uncomfortable that the only thing I could do was go home and curl up in a ball, take some extra strength gas-x and wait for it to pass.  In addition I started getting bad headaches, body/joint aches, focusing/memory issues, sleepless nights, indigestion, heartburn, atopic dermatitis on my arms and 5lb water retention during my cycle.  My digestion/health concerns kept piling up and I was only at the ripe age of  24.  
At the age of 24 I met one of my best friend's who is vegan now but was vegetarian at the time.  We talked a lot about her dietary choices, and my journey began with being vegetarian.  After all being a vegetarian must have been a good path for me...cutting out meat and poultry should lower my LDL cholesterol(since the Dietitian told me to avoid eating Saturated Fats) and who knows maybe it could help with my digestion.  Of course I started eating what I thought was healthy - faux meats, soy, soy, and more soy  products.  My digestion issues never went away if anything they got worse.  Every 2-3 years of the 9 years I was vegetarian I would get this insane craving for chicken or pork.  Eventually I would allow myself to eat a little chicken or bacon, while feeling insanely guilty like I had failed myself for not sticking with vegetarianism.  After 3-6 months of eating chicken/pork/fish I would go back to being vegetarian and the cycle continued as did my health issues.   In September 2009, I started school at Bauman College for my Nutrition Educator Certification.   I remember having a conversation with one of our teachers about how I was feeling and my cholesterol levels that plagued me since the age of 19.  Her first suggestion was to start eating pasture raised chicken or grass fed beef or at the very minimum drink homemade chicken stock to help heal my body, she thought I was low in essential minerals/nutrients and possibly a leaky gut from years of eating processed carbohydrates.  Instead I decided to start incorporating fish and omega 3 cod liver oil into my diet from time to time, thinking it would do the job.  Being vegetarian and consuming fish oils helped my HDL, and Triglycerides but didn't really do much for LDL numbers and I still felt drained, achy, and bloated.  
March 2010 my husband and I went on a two week vacation to Chile/Argentina.  I decided about a month prior that I would try and be pescatarian on this trip.  Every day I watched my husband eat grass fed steak after steak with the most delectable chimichurri & provencal.  The fish in Chile/Argentina were loaded with creamy sauces and extremely over cooked so I started resorting to white pasta dinners(this is something I hadn't ate in a long time - mainly I ate quinoa, whole grains, legumes, tempeh, soaked beans for protein) because I didn't want to end up hating fish by the time our trip was over.  Of course eating this way started making me feel super bloated & cranky.  Towards the end of our trip I snapped and ate some of my husband's steak.  It melted in my mouth and tasted so delicious, but the best part was feeling satiated after.  It instantly sparked conversation between us about how we could purchase meats/poultry locally over the coming months.  We ended up joining Tara Firma Farms out of Petaluma - they offer grass fed beef, pasture raised chicken, pork & eggs.  I have to admit beef still isn't one of my favorites but I am starting to learn new ways to prepare it that help me enjoy the taste/texture.  My fatigue started to diminish after introducing meat back into my diet, but I still battled with stomach discomfort/bloating, headaches, body/joint aches, memory issues, sleepless nights, indigestion, heartburn, skin rashes and bloating/weight gain.  Obviously I didn't find exactly what was causing the issue..and it's now 10-12 years later from the onset symptoms. Enough is ENOUGH!
Eliminate and Symptoms be GONE! Almost...
In January 2011 I did my first elimination diet and removed Gluten(Barley, Wheat & Rye), Corn, Soy and Dairy for 6 weeks.  During this time almost all of my symptoms got better, but I wasn't completely in the clear and feeling 100%.  It snuck back into my diet a bit when we went to Mexico for a friend’s wedding that spring.  Once I hit late May I decided it was definitely time to get a hold on this for once and all.  My journey continued well into the summer where I read up on various ways of eating to help relieve some of my symptoms with food (while trying to avoid prescription medications).  My friend Diane from Balanced Bites had been talking a lot on her blog/facebook about being Paleo and doing Crossfit.  I decided to read Diane's ebook Practical Paleo and mentioned to her that I was thinking of making the switch.  This started changing my outlook on eating any grains amongst other foods that are known to cause inflammation.  I was finally starting to get it..and it made perfect sense to me!  Any type of  Grains, Legumes or Beans aren't a real whole food that we(humans) can pick from the earth, or hunt on our own and eat immediately.  These lil buggers have to be soaked or heavily processed before we can even think about sticking them in our mouths.  Why was I eating these again?? Because I thought they tasted good..but when you take away all of the seasonings, sauces we use to make them taste good..they actually taste gross. 
It's MY Time to Get Primal and Go Paleo!
Diane recommended picking up Robb Wolf's book The Paleo Solution, and Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes if I needed even more convincing hard facts.  In July 2011 I started reading Robb Wolf's book The Paleo Solution and everything he wrote made perfect sense to me! He was a vegetarian for a long time, and also encountered a lot of the same health issues I had been experiencing for YEARS.  It really hit home, sank in and set me on my way to the next stage of truly eating healthy and getting fit.  
September 5, 2011 -  I started my journey eating Paleo/Primal and doing Crossfit and haven't looked back.  When I tell people what I am doing with my diet way of eating sometimes they look at me like I am crazy, but I know for a fact eating this way is healing me from the inside out.  The years of food destruction caused within my digestive tract won't disappear over night, but they will heal if I listen to my body and treat it the best I can with proper nutrition, exercise, good sleep and relaxation.  I cut out my chronic cardio sessions with running & cycling and started doing crossfit 2-4 days a week.  It's not to say that I still don't enjoy going for a run or a ride on my bike.  I still have a special place in my heart for training to complete an endurance event while fundraising for various charities.  My outlook on cycling and running has become more about pleasure again and a way to relax/clear my mind just as it was when I was a child.
November 28, 2011- Got my first complete metabolic blood test  & VAP Cholesterol Test completed.  I found out that my LDL Particle Size is type A Large Bouyant (fluffy & safe).  Yay for me!! My days of worrying about a high LDL(bad cholesterol - even though cholesterol is never bad our bodies need it to survive), High HDL(because I am eating so many great veggies/fruits/good fats in my diet), and Low Trigyclerides (Excercising, Not eating Processed Carbs) are pretty much gone.  I am still going to try and lower my LDL naturally with diet, and I think in the coming months this number should start to come down.  My next blood test will take place sometime in March, at that point I will be a little over 6 months into being Paleo/Primal. This is a great blog post from Chris Kesser on Cholesterol - I highly suggest watching it.
December 5,2011 - I looked over my notes/photos from the past three months and realized I lost a total of 7lbs, dropped 2 pant sizes (I have not worn this size since my freshman year in high school - kind of CRAZY!), lost 3 inches off my bra band size and definitely lost fat while gaining lean muscle.  My health concerns/issues are starting to diminish more and more every day.  I have to admit I was kind of nervous about posting photos of myself in a bathing suit for this blog, but decided it was necessary because it clearly shows the changes my body has undergone in such a short time frame eating paleo/primal. 
Before Paleo - 9/5/11
Before Paleo - 9/5/11
What foods/ingredients do I eat most being Paleo/Primal?
  • Seasonal/Local/Wild Seafood & Fish - Galvin’s or Whole Foods
  • Local, Seasonal, Organic Vegetables and Fruits (2/3 of my plate always includes varying colorful vegetables) 
  • Organic Raw/Soaked Nuts & Seeds  
  • All Spices/Herbs
What fats/oils do I consume?
Saturated Fats - Safe to Use for Various Cooking Methods
  • Lard or Tallow made from the Meats/Pork mentioned above in my diet
Unsaturated Fats - Unsafe for cooking methods, best used cold
  • Organic, First Pressed, Extra Virgin varieties of Olive Oil, Nut Oils (like macadamia, walnut, hazelnut, etc)
  • Avocado
  • Nuts/Seeds - Purchased Organic/Raw, soaked over night, dried(in dehydrator or oven) and stored in an air tight glass container
What fats/oils do I AVOID?
Saturated Fats/Oils
UnSaturated Fats/Oils - Highly Processed to produce large quantities and oxidize easily
  • Canola Oil (Don’t believe the hype - check out this youtube video to see how this oil is made...its disgusting. Washed with a solvent, Refined with Sodium Hydroxide, Bleached to Lighten the Color, Steamed to remove the odor.  Any health benefits it may have had are completely ruined by this process.  Can you say rancid oil and free radical damage as soon as it gets into your body?!?
  • Corn/Vegetable Oil 
  • Soybean Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil (I use this oil as part of my skin care regimen..but that’s it!)
What foods/ingredients do I AVOID?
  • No Grains (Always 100% no GLUTEN containing grains - Wheat, Barley, Rye) - Don’t forget corn is a grain too.
  • No Beans (including Soy)
  • No Legumes
  • No Sugar 
  • No Starches (including white potatoes)
  • Dairy Rarely - I took dairy out for the first 30 days being Paleo and reintroduced it.  I have found that I can digest full fat raw dairy cheese from goats, but not cows.  The grass fed butter/ghee I am still testing out but my hunch is I might have to omit this from my diet as well because it causes congestion with my sinuses & stomach discomfort.  If you find you don’t have problems digesting the protein in dairy it’s okay to have on occasion.
Additional Non Food Tips
  • Restful Nights Sleep - Use an eye mask, get blackout curtains, avoid alarm clocks - wake naturally, avoid using laptops/tvs - 1-2hrs prior to bed
  • Sit Down and Slowly eat Food at every Meal.  Chewing a minimum of 20 times before swallowing.  This helps get your digestion going to help you absorb all of those nutrients you worked so hard to prepare.
  • Get your Lymph(ass) moving every day or two - Even if that means just walking around the block. 
  • Stretch, Yoga, Pilates are great compliments to Crossfit or any activity of your liking.
  • Drink Filtered Water Every Day - If you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated.
  • Laugh often
If my REALLY long blog post has kept you interested thus far, I would highly suggest giving this way of eating a spin. What do you have to lose? Maybe some unwanted weight, and a little more time in the beginning until you change your routine and body and start being a fat burning machine.  What do you have to gain? A healthy & fit you as nature intended.

If you would like more guidance on your nutrition, please feel free to contact me directly for one to one services.  My services can be provided via phone, skype, email or in person.  More details can be found under the tab Nutritional Coaching on my blog. 
Live, Love, Laugh & BEE Healthy Doing It! 
Chrissy Bernazzani, NE
-Certified Nutrition Educator-
Eat2BEE Healthy
p: 510-957-8086
Twitter: @Eat2BeeHealthy

My favorite Blogs/Websites/Sources:
My favorite Books/Sources to get you started:
(eBook) Practical Paleo Guide by Balanced Bites -
(eBook) 21 Day Sugar Detox by Balanced Bites -
Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health by Gary Taubes -
Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It by Gary Taubes -

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