Content by Sara Wahls. Edited by Kim Bimestefer
After struggling for years to lose stubborn fat, I finally found the answer. Through the adoption of paleo principles and achieving a much better understanding of my body’s food sensitivities, I have successfully addressed inflammation – an enemy that many scientists are now blaming for a host of health challenges. The result? I have lost over 15 pounds. My acne has cleared up, and my bouts with eczema have improved. Best of all, I feel better, and I am more confident in my ability to fight off chronic disease, which is really important at this stage of my life.
My hope is that by sharing my findings and the lifestyle changes that I have made over the last six months, that I can help others achieve similar health improvement results.
Who am I? I am Sara T. Wahls, a woman approaching 50, in a happy relationship celebrating 16 years this fall, who likes her job, and enjoys a variety of active hobbies. I am not a scientist, teacher, writer or nutritionist. But I do value helping others better address their health by sharing what I have learned. Here is my story.
We All Struggle. Most of us struggle to lose weight. And as we age, we discover health challenges that first present as “increased risk” before evolving into chronic disease – like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, back pain or other musculoskeletal conditions, etc. I am no different. My health challenges revolved around tendonitis, eczema, adult acne, and slow but steady weight gain over the years. Cancer and circulatory conditions run in my family, so I have always been concerned about my gene pool’s ultimate impact on me.
I suppose a greater readiness to change evolved as I started approaching my 50’s and realized how important it is for my partner Kim and I to be able to do all the things we want to do in our next chapter – not to allow our dreams of an active life to be shattered because of health issues. That risk became real as I watched my step mother and father battle cancer, both my mother and Kim’s mother pass way too early, and as we watched friends and relatives deal with chronic conditions that completely changed their outlook on retirement and life. I wanted to control the controllable and increase the chances of living out the life I envision in the years to come.
As my motivation to change grew, I started thinking of foods differently – more like my cousin Dr. Terry Wahls had taught us in her book “The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine”. She says that the most powerful factor that impacts our health, for better or worse, is food. During Terry’s visit to our home last summer, we asked her to go through our pantry and refrigerator and review our staples. She threw our vegetable oil out, and asked us to replace it with extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. In the same fashion, cow’s milk was out and coconut milk in. Sugar out, fruit in. Processed peanut butter out, unprocessed organic cashew butter in. Bread – out. I then had to ask myself if I really loved bread, cow’s milk, eggs, processed cheese, fries, ice cream, cosmos, peanut butter, chocolate, diet soda and other processed foods more than my health, my partner, my family and my future. The motivation grew stronger. It was time to change our eating habits, and apply all the learnings that were being presented to me.
Paleo Principles. Following the Paleo principles involves eating like a cave woman – think hunting and gathering – not fast food or processed foods. My partner Kim summarizes it this way, “If God didn’t make it, don’t eat it.” If you can’t hunt it, spear it, fish it, dig it up from the ground or pick it off a tree, then don’t eat it.
So, what does that mean for us here and now – in the 21st Century? My food choices are focused on meats, fish, vegetables and fruits. The secret, according to Dr. Wahls, is to crowd out the sugar and processed foods, and give your cells what they need to be healthy and battle disease. The processed foods? Kim and I look at those as poison now – something that poisons your cells, causes your aches and pains, and makes you sick.
And since some of the toxins in food can reduce the positive impacts, it is important to make healthy decisions around organics and the removal of GMOs and other unnatural processes or additives. For example, buy grass fed beef, not beef full of steroids. Buy free range chicken and organic veggies and fruits. That means that some fruits and vegetables won’t be available all year. That’s OK. Food rotation is a good thing. Terry Wahls recommends 2-3 cups of leafy greens, 2-3 cups of sulphur-rich vegetables and 2-3 cups of bright colored vegetables/fruits daily, which I was able to find room for once I omitted bread and cheese. It’s important to have a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables; they contain a diverse array of vitamins and minerals. For help with recipes, I just google the food name and “paleo”. There are plenty of good ideas online.
Here are some of the things we eat each week, following the paleo principles.
- Proteins: lots of fish (wild caught, not farm raised), and lean meats like poultry (chicken and turkey – free range), beef (grass fed), pork tenderloin, lamb
- Steamed, roasted or grilled vegetables: asparagus, squash, zucchini, broccoli, snow peas, turnips, brussel sprouts, eggplant, kale, broccoli, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, beets, mushrooms, bok choy, summer squash, spinach, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, collard greens
- Raw vegetables: cut carrots, celery, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, radishes, lettuce
- Fruit: watermelon, oranges, apples, grapes, honey dew, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, bananas, pears, cantaloupe, papaya, mango, peaches, plums, grape fruit, cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, guava, kiwi
- Healthy fats- avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, olives, flaxseed, fatty fish
- Hot fruit: place fresh blue berries and/or peaches or strawberries in a sauce pan on the stove, and heat for 2 minutes. Awesome, fun, easy.
Best Wishes! I wish you luck on your journey. You are important. Your future is important. I hope the ideas and learnings I have shared herein will help you on your own personal path towards better health!
Other excellent resources that influenced my lifestyle change
I definitely recommend the book by Dr. Terry Wahls, “The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine”. It has lots of outstanding information on her recommended paleo-based protocol, the interesting and motivational science behind it, the importance of Vitamin D, as well as recipes to support your success.
Dr. Wahls offers 2 great options for you if you are new: 30 Day Quick Start Programs, which includes 30 days of menus and shopping lists to really jump start you into the Wahls Protocol and you have the 3 levels to choose from or you can go through each of the 3 program levels, and the Wahls Protocol Membership site, which enables you to get additional information about the Wahls Protocol, ask a monthly question to Dr. Wahls, and interact with your peers.