My Story

Until my late thirties, I thought that how I felt on any given day was “just how I was”.  In other words, I thought that feeling bad most of the time — tired, bloated, sneezey, wheezey, depressed, anxious, and with frequent stomach upsets — was normal and that there was nothing wrong me.  Not that it was all in my head… but just that it wasn’t that big a deal.

Except that the wheezing kept getting worse.  And the allergies.  And the depression.

In 2010, I had my seventh child, my fourth C-section.  My C-section incision took nearly 8 weeks to fully close.  I was put on a 30 day course of antibiotics for an infection my doctor insisted was never there (although the midwives knew).  After the incision healed, for months I dealt with a stubborn recurring rash at the site which turned out to be yeast.

While all this was going on, we were in the process of moving from New York to Mississippi.  The day before we pulled into town, my father-in-law had a heart attack.  Those few months after we moved were incredibly stressful as we worried about my father-in-law’s health, in addition to a financial situation that had taken a serious hit with our move. Finally, in January of 2011, I felt so bad that I knew I had to do something on my own.  Andy had introduced me to Mark’s Daily Apple soon after we moved, so after spending my Christmas vacation reading about Paleo/Primal diets, I took the plunge.  I gave up grains, legumes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes (which was what most of the Paleo gurus were recommending at the time, although they’ve backpedaled from that somewhat now and have allowed sweet potatoes and potatoes back in).  Instead, I focused on eating meats, vegetables, and fruits, with a little dairy thrown in for good measure… and pizza on the weekends.

And it worked.  I lost a lot of weight.  The rash cleared up for good.  So did the acne I had battled since the age of 10.  More importantly, the depression and anxiety I had dealt with for years disappeared.   But I didn’t feel as good as I thought ought to, considering the glowing reports from others who had tried the diet.   For one thing, I was really, really, really tired.  My hair had also begun to fall out in big clumps.  The skin on my lower legs was incredibly dry.  And my wheezing came back with a vengeance when I was exposed again to mold.

This was not what I had expected.  I saw a doctor who prescribed me thyroid medication, which made my heart race and in general feel terrible.  But around that time, the Internet had begun to hum with similar stories.  As it turns out, many of us — athletes, nursing mothers, women of childbearing age in general — may need more carbohydrates than grain-free/legume-free/starch-free diets can provide.

I began experimenting with adding grains again, mostly whole grains, and potatoes.  I gained back about half of the weight I had lost, which distressed me, but I felt much better, for the most part.  One of the best things going grain-free had done for me (in the beginning) was to teach me what it was to feel really good.  So after adding back in wheat, soy, and occasionally cane sugar, I began to notice that I felt really bad after I ate those foods.  In the fall of 2012, while I was pregnant with my eighth child, I was placed on a strict gluten-free diet after blood testing indicated I might be gluten sensitive.  Through trial and error, I discovered that I’m also sensitive to soy, sugar and almonds, and that I also feel better when I limit my dairy consumption to cheese, yogurt, and kefir.  Beyond that, I try not to limit my diet further, and I don’t overly restrict calories to lose weight.  I eat almost entirely food that I cook, for me, my husband, and my 8 kids: gluten-free grains, meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, honey and maple syrup, nuts other than almonds, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, cheese and yogurt.  Because of my misadventures in low-carb dieting, I regained 20 pounds and then added 60 pounds with pregnancy, but at one year post-partum, I have lost 50 pounds of baby weight with 10 more pounds to go.