A Paleo Success Story

This is a guest post by Kristin Jekielek. She emailed me a few weeks to find out if I’d be interested in letting her share her Paleo success story with the readers of my blog. Of course I agreed – I think it’s great to hear the kind of health improvements people have seen when making dramatic changes to their diet and lifestyle!

Read on for her Paleo Success Story and to learn a bit about her new website Paleo Trail.

My 3 1/2 Year Paleo Journey

My Paleo journey doesn’t have a dramatic before & after story. I don’t have a fat pants photo. What I do have is a story of improvement, ups and downs, and the knowledge that eating Paleo helps me be the best me.

I stumbled across Mark’s Daily Apple back in early 2009. I read nearly every post on the site and was convinced enough to give it a whirl. This stuff made sense! Before that I had been on the low-fat, processed food, whole grain bandwagon and carried around a tally of my daily calories, carbs, fat, and protein in my head. Ugh!

Paleo Made Things…Better

I started eating Primal in July 2009. That first month was eye-opening (after I got through the carb flu at least). My energy was up, my mood was better and more consistent, I wasn’t bloated anymore, and I even dropped a couple pounds without trying. I even repaired my relationship with food and found nothing but pleasure in my new diet. Pretty cool stuff!

I haven’t shared this with many people before, but I’ve been living with an eating disorder for a long time. The most powerful benefit I got out of eating Paleo is that it helped me to make huge strides in my progress. Eating Paleo taught me for the first time that I really was addicted to food, especially sugar. Once I stopped eating the grains and sugars, my eating disorder symptoms reduced drastically. I believe this was because my hormones were able to balance themselves out, and I was recovering from my addiction to these foods. Having a strong support system was also crucial for me, but eating strict Paleo is an essential piece of my recovery.

…Until I Did This One Thing Wrong

I went all-in on Paleo. I was preparing 90% of the food I ate, eating only local & grass-fed/pastured animals, local & organic produce, and even switched from table salt to sea salt. That’s what I’m supposed to do, right? Well, it gave me an iodine deficiency.

To avoid an iodine deficiency, you must include sources of iodine in your diet. Real food sources are wild caught ocean fish and seaweed (although there are concerns about high levels of bromine). Regular iodized table salt is also a good source.

After working with a doctor and doing two different types of tests to confirm the deficiency, I started supplementing iodine and saw immediate improvements. My hair texture went back to normal, my nails stopped peeling off, and I could walk down the street without getting light-headed once again.

However, my recovery stalled out after a couple months. I was still very fatigued and foggy-brained. My doctor ordered some blood work, and I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune condition. I was prescribed Synthroid and saw some mild improvements.

My Path to Health

My journey got worse before it started to get better. I had a stressful office job that I disliked, and I continued going to CrossFit at my normal high intensity. I drove myself into the ground and into Adrenal Fatigue.

It got to the point where I had to drop everything. I could barely walk around my apartment without getting extremely winded and fatigued, and my concentration was almost nonexistent. I didn’t learn this until it was too late, but my compromised thyroid put extra strain on my adrenals and other systems. I simply couldn’t handle the stress load like I used to.

I found success in adopting a more traditional diet, beyond just eating Paleo. Bone broth, kombucha, raw sauerkraut, lacto-fermented pickles, and fermented cod liver oil are all consumed frequently as part of my continued gut health and energy levels.

I’ve worked with several alternative health practitioners over the past year and a half and have seen much success. One thing they all had in common was that they all asked me to track my meals. It helped them understand if my diet was contributing to my symptoms in any way.

Why I Track My Meals

Eating Paleo was definitely helping me through my health issues, but diet tracking helped me fine tune my eating patterns to fully support my particular issues.

I discovered there were shortcomings with traditional diet tracking methods. Virtually all the online trackers focused on calories & portion sizes. With my eating disorder background, I know that calorie counting isn’t a healthy behavior for me. Calorie counts just don’t show you how clean you’ve been eating over time, either.

I wanted diet tracking to focus on the quality of the food choices I made while also being fast and convenient. That’s why I created Paleo Trail. It lets you track your Paleo diet online in less than 5 minutes a day, without ever counting a calorie. Instead, it’s based on the Quality Rating system.

The Moral Of The Story

I’ve faced some serious issues with diet and health over the past few years. The keys to my recovery have been keeping an open mind on what will work best for my body and being willing to experiment. Tracking my diet has also been crucial. However, the number one thing I recommend for others is to research, research, and research this stuff for yourself! My health issues weren’t diagnosed until I took matters into my own hands, and I have a really great understand of how to eat to support my health. Consider more than one person’s opinion on any topic and be your own guinea pig for best results!

  • http://yelling-stop.blogspot.com/ Tuck

    Congratulations, Kristin!

    You might find this post of interest:

    “Iodine and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis”

    http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2011/05/iodine-and-hashimotos-thyroiditis-part-i/

    Read both parts!

    The author suggests that Hashimoto’s appearing after iodine supplementation can be caused by a selenium deficiency, and can be resolved by selenium supplementation.

    If you’re not familiar with Paul Jaminet, Mark Sisson just wrote the introduction to his new book…

    • http://www.PaleoTrail.com Kristin J

      That article changed things for me! I eat brazil nuts daily for selenium, and I definitely notice a difference. The new PHD is on my Christmas wish list :)

  • http://www.6packsuccess.com/main Victor Dorfman

    You know Kristin, I actually enjoyed reading your before/after story more than the dramatic “fat pants” stories. It’s doubly hard for somebody who THINKS they’re relatively healthy to experiment with Primal nutrition because they don’t have the giant, glaring health problems spurring them to action.

    I also really like how you stay flexible and adapt your diet based on lab work and new developments. Too many folks are stuck in the paleo bermuda triangle but people like you, Mark Sisson, Dave Asprey and others are changing that. :-)

    Peace,
    Vic

    • http://www.PaleoTrail.com Kristin J

      Thank you for the kind words, Vic! I don’t think anyone has ever compared me to Mark Sisson and Dave Asprey before, lol. Self experimentation is where it’s at.

  • http://notjustpaleo.com Evan Brand

    Cool article it felt very thorough to read! I too started as a relatively healthy person who just wanted to gain weight. I wanted to grow muscles, increase my confidence in every physical aspect of life. That’s when I realized that my diet was very similar to the Paleo diet already, except for the fact that I ate a lot of pasta in my early lifting days around 2007-2008. I’ve been healed of my IBS and fatigue symptoms since switching to Paleo.

    Thanks for the story!

    Evan

    P.S. The “Paleo Trail website has very poor safety and website ratings from my web of trust plugin. Not sure if it’s wordpress security issues or what, but if fixed, would help site credibility!”

  • http://www.thoughtfulcavedad.com PaulL

    Kristin,

    I love this post! Thanks so much for sharing it with us! It’s important to realize that Paleo is not a panacea for everything, and that even once you’ve got your diet dialed in that there are still many things that can go wrong in our bodies.

    It’s great to hear how you’ve worked with a doctor you know and trust to get your health back on track. Good luck on your continued journey!

    I love the concept of Paleo Trail, and am waiting for the iPhone/Android app (hint, hint ;)
    It would also be quite cool to cross-reference foods with a nutritional database of some kind like nutritiondata.self.com to be able to see how any given meal stacks up on the nutrient scale.

    Thanks again!