My fellow blogger, Katie Doyle, of Personally Paleo contacted me this summer for her “Core and Coffee” series where she joins Chicago bloggers in a workout of their choice, grabs some coffee together and does an interview. I was impressed with the way Katie kept up with our Logan Square Xfit classy (read more about the Tabata experience here). This high intensity interval training is tough and Katie kept up perfectly. We grabbed coffee next door at Intelligentsia and Katie told me her story – struggling with her weight before discovering the Paleo diet and a love of fitness which ultimately led to a vibrant, healthy-weight Katie, founder of Personally Paleo! I was really touched by her honesty and inspiring story. She listened with an open mind to my values as a vegetarian and plant-based dietitian and I realized more than ever that each person’s story is so personal and emotional that we simply must respect each others dietary choices. I am not the most pro-Paleo nutritionist but after talking to Katie, I’m more open than ever to how a variety of diets can work for people. I was so interested in her that I counter-interviewed her. Thanks so much to Katie for her friendship and I hope that our relationship through differing dietary views is an inspiration to forming bridges for others as well. Read on to learn how Katie made it work for her and my take on Personally Paleo: crossing dietary boarders.
Katie, why did you go ‘Paleo; and what is your definition of that diet?
My entire life, I struggled with being overweight and had pretty extreme keratosis pilaris on my arms. These combined left me with pretty crappy self-esteem and confidence levels. When I moved to Chicago with my boyfriend 4 years ago, I was at one of my highest weights and not in a great place mentally. I woke up one day and realized that I had to make a change. To this day I can’t pinpoint what the difference was between this time and every other, but it was this intense feeling and motivation to finally be happy. I began working with a personal trainer on both exercise and diet. After 3-4 months I had lost weight but eventually plateaued. I continued on after my sessions ended with the low-fat, whole-grain-everything diet they had started me on, still with no additional change. Then, my boyfriend Kyle started looking for a homeopathic remedy for ADD. He stumbled upon Paleo, and really wanted to try it. He showed me Marks’ Daily Apple, and I read it for six hours straight. I said, “Alright. Let’s do this.” I spent two weeks planning all of our meals, cleaning out our cupboards and scooping up new information. I agreed to a trial run of thirty days; but when I realized how easy it was and how much I was benefiting from this lifestyle, I never looked back.
Part of the reason that I love paleo so much is because it teaches you how to know your body. You give up grains, legumes, unhealthy oils, refined sugars, gluten, etc. and then gradually reintroduce them to your body individually. You can learn what negatively affects your physical health, skin and really anything. This is different for everyone. The first time I had legumes after transitioning to paleo, I experienced excruciating stomach pain. My body doesn’t digest them properly and therefore causes me discomfort so I don’t eat them. Paleo is understanding that not every body is the same and doesn’t respond the same. Paleo is eating food in their natural form for the biggest nutritional benefit. Paleo is getting proper nutrients to counteract the damage you may be causing it otherwise. Most of all, paleo is living a lifestyle that allows you to be your healthiest without missing out on anything.
How is it a “lifestyle” for you vs. just a fad?
Honestly, I didn’t know how big of a “trend” paleo was becoming when I first made the transition. I went through this change because there were physical problems still ailing me that others had experienced and no longer did because of this lifestyle. I don’t ever see myself going back from this. I’ve experienced too many positive changes in my life to even comprehend how a Standard American Diet could help me perform any better. I feel better than I have physically, mentally and emotionally and I don’t want to go back from that. No one should have to go back from that.
What are some of the health benefits/weight loss you have experienced with your dietary change?
Pre-paleo, I had lost weight with my trainer but not enough to get me down to an “optimal” weight. I had started running, but couldn’t keep up my energy enough to break a two mile barrier. I was constantly plagued with keratosis pilaris (“chicken skin”) on my arms. I never, ever got a full night’s sleep. When I started paleo, I noticed a change immediately. For the first time in years, I slept soundly through the night. I had more energy. My arms started clearing up within a couple weeks and I haven’t experienced an outbreak since. I continued to lose weight to a total amount of 85 pounds, putting me exactly where I should be. And three weeks after starting paleo, I ran a 5k for the very first time. Without stopping. For a girl who has been overweight her whole life and constantly thought “I can’t do it,” there was absolutely nothing that could have made me feel more on top of the world.
How you follow your 80/20 rule with flexibility to go out and have fun still?
This is what I love about paleo. I have said before that paleo is about making choices that work for your life. I’m a 26 year old living in Chicago and I like to go out with friends, eat French fries and grab a beer every now and then. Doing this doesn’t make me a terrible person and it doesn’t make me “not paleo.” It makes me a human. The 80/20 rule means that I follow the paleo lifestyle at least 80% of the time but give myself some wiggle room. While each person can decide how to use this wiggle room, it’s still good to make smart decisions. I know that my body handles corn and white rice OK. It also doesn’t seem to have a big aversion to French fries. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for me, which is why I don’t eat it all the time, but it means that if I want to splurge on one of these, I’m not going to experience excruciating pain for it. The problem is making sure the 20% doesn’t become 30%, 40%, 50% etc. It’s easy to fall into old habits, so it’s important to have a checks and balances. I can go out on weekends or weeknights occasionally but I have to keep myself in check and make sure I’m not doing it every night.
Any plant-based suggestions you have for being paleo without eating meat?
While paleo does seem to be an intensely meat-focused diet, there are plenty of individuals out there who don’t eat meat while still being paleo. The options for protein can relate to knowing how your body responds to groups. Eggs are a great source of protein. If you don’t eat eggs, another option is dairy. While dairy isn’t strict paleo, many find it OK as long as a) their body doesn’t react poorly, b) it is full fat and c) that it comes from a quality, grass-fed source. Another option is to get some additional starchy carbs from root vegetables, like parsnips.
Being obsessed with breakfast food, some of my favorite meat free meals are just that. Of my own recipes, I like my Quiche Kathleen which has a meat-free option. Another personal favorite are my Fluffy TigerNut Pancakes.
Thank you my new Paelo friend for sharing your story, insight and a workout. I would love to know what fellow dietitians think, what the Paleo crew thinks, or what other thoughts people have. Let me know in the comments below and thanks for reading Personally Paleo: crossing dietary borders!