Anyone who is involved in the diet and health industry in some form or fashion as an author, blogger, podcaster, nutritionist, registered dietitian or vocal advocate in the social media will tell you that the hardest people to reach with the healthy nutrition message is your own family. I experienced the frustration of this myself a few years back with my own brother Kevin before his morbid obesity and the associated chronic diseases that accompany it took his life at the tender age of 41 in 2008. It’s been nearly four years since that happened to my only full-blooded brother and the sting of that unnecessary loss still hurts me deeply to this day (and it likely will for the rest of my life). Even my mom who had gastric bypass surgery in 2003 and lost over 100 pounds with it has gained back all of her weight and my dear sister who is two years younger than me still struggles with her weight as well. While embracing a Paleo or low-carb diet doesn’t mean you won’t have challenges arise from time to time in your weight and health (as I can personally attest to), it does put you in a better position to be on the pathway to living as optimally healthy as you possibly can. This is something my friend, fellow blogger, personal trainer and low-carb/Paleo nutritionist Caitlin Weeks knows abundantly well.
After experiencing an incredible change in her weight (those before and after photos of Caitlin at the top of this post are stunning) and health by switching from a vegetarian to mostly a fat and protein-based Paleo diet (listen to her share her success story on Episode 25 of the “Low-Carb Conversations” podcast), the woman known as the “Grass Fed Girl” was ignited with an instant passion for this new way of eating that so radically changed her life forever. It was right after her stunning health turnaround that Caitlin attempted to talk about this Paleo thing with her family, especially her mom. Caitlin’s mom didn’t start having problems managing her weight and health until she had two kids after the age of 40. It seemed at that point in her life she “had a hard time getting back to a healthy weight where she felt good,” Caitlin shared. From the ups and downs of trying to count points on Weight Watchers to embracing the conventional wisdom of merely needing to eat less and exercise more to attain health and fitness nirvana, everything she tried would work for a while and then inevitably fail miserably. Sound familiar anyone?
Caitlin quickly recognized that her 62-year old mom was “depleted and depressed” from this ruthless cycle that far too many people put themselves through in the quest to lose weight and be healthy. “She was feeling hopeless,” Caitlin said, “wondering if it was too late for her to feel and look her best again.” Throughout 2011 Caitlin’s mom worked out faithfully three times a week and even hired a personal trainer to help her–but it barely helped her lose any weight at all. “Her weight would not budge from nearly 200 pounds no matter what she did!” I had the privilege of meeting Caitlin’s mom and grandmother in person in the Fall 2011 (see our group photo at the end of this post) when Caitlin flew out from California to my home state South Carolina last year to visit her family who lives here. We ate lunch on a Sunday afternoon at Whole Foods in Greenville, South Carolina right about the time Caitlin was working on convincing her mom about trying Paleo. You could tell even then she was finally ready to be receptive to the idea!
Caitlin’s mom has reached her wit’s end and started paying attention to the ideas her daughter had been trying to share with her about the keys to ancestral living that would apply perfectly in this modern world we live in. It quickly became apparent that she would have to start with some rock solid Paleo nutritional principles and allow those things to extend to every facet of who she was for the rest of her life. Daunting as it may have seemed at the time, Caitlin’s mom was ready to match the success she had seen in her daughter and son over the past few years following this lifestyle change. In December 2011 she began in earnest on her grain-free Paleo lifestyle change and just three short months later was able to show off the results of her efforts in that fantastic “after” photo to the left. WOW!
Wanna know what Caitlin’s mom did to lose weight and find success when nothing else was working? This will shock most traditional registered dietitians and so-called weight loss gurus, but she ate “lots of fat” and protein from eggs, grass-fed butter, coconut, bacon, sausage, chicken with the skin, grass-fed beef, pastured pork, wild-caught fish, some seasonal fruits, almond butter, coconut butter, raw nuts, full fat raw cheese and cream and 1-2 cups of sweet potatoes, squash, beets, turnips and carrots daily. Additionally, she went to bed at 10PM in a pitch black room each night, stood up rather than sitting down all day at work, and began working in her flower/herb garden. Seems simple right? What she DIDN’T do was just as incredible: no calorie-counting, no processed food consumption, no gluten or grains, no cardiovascular exercise except for walking her dog, no omega-6 rich vegetable oils, no sugary foods and no soy! I can only imagine what Caitlin’s mom was thinking as she was going through this process of change doing virtually the OPPOSITE of everything she had always heard was the “right” thing to do for your weight and health. But the proof is in the pudding.
Let’s take a look at what a typical Paleo menu looked like for Caitlin’s mom:
2 eggs cooked in coconut oil
2 pieces of bacon
2 Tbs raw unpasteurized sauerkraut
1-cup seasonal fruit
Almond butter w/apple
Green beans with Kerrygold butter
1 cup Butternut squash
Pure filtered water
Now THAT is what I called eating well! With food that’s both nutritious and delicious, who couldn’t stick with something like this forever? Besides being “her thinnest in years without trying very hard” having to buy “smaller and smaller clothes each month,” Caitlin’s mom has been surprised by her lack of hunger between meals and no longer needing to rely on exercise as a means for maintaining her weight. She has increased energy, improved mood, better concentration, stronger bone density, perfect lipid panels, sound sleep and perfectly regulated digestion. Caitlin notes that her mom “continues to see positive changes from her nutrient-dense diet as her body rebuilds itself from the inside out.” She even joked that perhaps her mom “is even getting younger.” And she probably is…metabolically-speaking!
All of this news brings a great big smile to Caitlin’s face because she knows the agony her mom has had to endure through this ongoing weight and health struggle. It’s obvious the vitamin and mineral deficiencies were taking a toll as well as the lack of beneficial bacteria in her gut and inflammation in her intestines that was spinning her health out of control. Unfortunately, this all-too-common scenario is quite typical of someone eating the Standard American Diet filled with rancid polyunsaturated vegetable oil fats (promoted as “healthy”), processed grains and sugar. Restoring the gut flora is the key to overcoming the deep cravings for more and more processed carbohydrates and inferior fats. Caitlin explained that “years of following a low-fat diet will lower the ability to make feel-good neurotransmitters, calorie burning muscle and youth promoting hormones.” Thus, switching to a low-carb Paleo nutritional plan with quality sources of meat and natural fats will lead to stronger bones, toned muscle and dramatically diminished hunger. It will also replenish the body with the vitamin, minerals and fats it needs to produce healthy weight loss and minimize chronic disease risk. Don’t believe me? Just ask Caitlin’s mom! CONGRATULATIONS–I’m so proud of you!!!