A real food success story.

I love a good Real Food success story – and Julie has a great one. She has happily let me post it here. Over to you, Julie.

My name is Julie, I’m a 50 year old nurse, and Neale and I are coming up to our thirtieth wedding anniversary this year. I have four children and three grandchildren. While not being excessively overweight in my teens, I lived in a dieting environment with a mother always going on a diet “on Monday”. Food was always on my mind, the more I ate the more I seemed to want to eat. Four children and seesaw weight loss and gain followed. In 2002 I was heaviest I had been and a friend introduced me to the high protein low carb eating style and the rationale behind it.

The realisation that I had a high insulin response to carbs was liberating. I had always been constantly puzzled about the fact that no matter how much cereal and fruit and trim milk I ate for breakfast, by mid-morning I was ravenous, foggy headed and wanting to have a sleep. No one else seemed to feel like that and I concluded I was an undisciplined pig. If I was trying to lose weight and went to bed starving, that was a triumph. But the weight went back on – that old familiar story. So I read “The Protein Power Plan” and tried that for about a week and went through carb withdrawal complete with the headaches, moodiness and brain fog. I took that book back and she gave me “Enter the Zone” and this is when the light switch really went on and the liberation of knowing my response to carbs was not my fault allowed me to gain some control.

I counted blocks to the gram, lost weight, felt amazing and thought I could do this forever. And I did always continue to try and follow the very sound principles of eating in a balance of fats, carbs and protein to manage my hunger. But I was still eating grains (limited – low carb 2 slices a day with grilled cheese on top) and making choices for my blocks that were still processed and simply started eating too much always thinking “I’ll start again tomorrow” and lo and behold, there I was at the start of 2014 the heaviest I had ever been – again. A friend came to visit on January 2nd 2014. He is an amazing weight lifter and heavily muscled but wanted to lose some weight and he had read about paleo and was following the principles fairly strictly and lost weight fairly quickly. I had heard the paleo term round and about and admit I am guilty of dismissing things I don’t know enough about until it is thrust in my face, so had thought it was just a fad. I thought I had the tools with “the Zone”, I just needed to get my head back around it.

Neale was keen to lose weight as well so the next day we went to the butcher and vegetable shop and stocked up. I wasn’t prepared to give up dairy (again, I thought I knew better and I actually do tolerate dairy just fine, and don’t have as much as I thought I would want) but never ate bread again from that day – I knew it wasn’t my friend, I couldn’t afford to let it in. Do I want it now? Not a bit. Freedom. And I read. I read everything I could; Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser (I find his book is realistic and possible), Melissa and Dallas Hartwig’s “It Starts with Food” and others. I follow Facebook pages and blogs, and found Mikki in the “North and South” magazine at about that time and started following her as well. Mikki keeps it real too which made me realise this is doable. Forever. I still read and search for anything new, because knowing why I am making these changes makes it easier. But I must stress, it just hasn’t been that hard. The weight loss of 30 kilos is a bonus, but was certainly my main motivation in the beginning was because I wanted to audition for “Mamma Mia!”, the stage show. While I was never going to look amazing in lycra, I wanted to look as good as I could!

What do I eat? When I started I ate all the things “allowed” and quite a lot of it so after the initial loss of 7 kg, I stalled. I continued to read and found intermittent fasting. I would skip breakfast – just coffee with a bit of cream – and have around a 16 hour fast overnight. I was surprised at how well I functioned on two meals and consequently eating less (but never starving), the weight started to drop. Meals with adequate protein (palm of my hand) and lots of vege, never skimping on fat (butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado) kept me going in peak form. Two or three days a week I would add breakfast. My crockpot is my best friend, I make tons of bone broth which we drink or turn into soup in the crockpot again – kale or other greens, carrot, some kumara or pumpkin, swede (Southland swede rocks!), leeks, celery, whatever is available. Make enough for the week and lunches are never an issue. I have Melissa Joulwan’s “Well Fed” books and prepare as much for the week in one go as I can. I go to the farmers market and prepare vege, chopped, stir fried or mashed. I brown mince in a pan and use that to add protein to my soup. I keep boiled eggs in the fridge. Being prepared is the key and food is simple, often a one pan wonder, but always tasty because you cook in fat and add salt because there is no added salt in unprocessed food. When I cook, I cook plenty so there is always leftovers. I pin on Pinterest. I have a lot of recipes for treats, but in reality I hardly ever make them, because I just don’t yearn for them. But ideas are good. I do make treats for my grandchildren, and feed them a very clean diet. They love my home-made chicken nuggets from The Ancestral Table, and my 18 month grandson loves porridge made with banana, coconut milk, eggs and ground flaxseed. I make coconut flour waffles for waffle toast which gives them extra protein with eggs and added cottage cheese, and coconut flour mini donuts. I buy cheap apples at the market to make apple sauce for sweetening. It’s great to see Nadia Lim’s recipes guiding us to this way of eating as well.

Healing my gut has been important, I make water kefir and of course the bone broth helps. I sleep like a log, I take a magnesium supplement every night, my blood pressure is plum normal and I’m off meds – whilst it was never normal even on meds. I have stopped taking anti depressants, I feel calm and even in my mood. I guess my diet is fairly low carb because it’s hard to eat too many carbs when your main source is vegetables. I eat 1-2 pieces of fruit daily and some starchy vege like kumara. When I first started the Zone, I understood that it worked for me but I was constantly annoyed ( to say the least) that other people could eat bread and a “normal” diet without being starving all the time and not putting on weight. I just don’t feel like that now. I don’t feel cheated, or that I am missing out on anything. Exercise is something I haven’t done with much regularity and that’s just a mental block of mine which I will conquer next.

People ask me what I’ve done. I say I eat clean, I don’t love the paleo label, but at the end of the day if they want to make changes they will listen, and they will want to learn for themselves. A year may seem a long time but the time goes by anyway, so make it count now, not next year. If you want to see obstacles, you will. If you want to make a change to how you feel and ultimately look, you can. And the obstacles become challenges and then you rise to those challenges and you are there, and you will want to learn as much as you can. I eat what I feel like eating now and I only feel like whole, natural, unprocessed food, and continue to lose about a kilo a month. I have a pair of jeans I want to fit…..but the journey is as rewarding as the goal.


Julie’s transformation

Building beautiful from the inside out

On Wednesday night I’ll be talking with over 100 beautiful women at the Women’s pamper evening in Newmarket that is being hosted by Auckland’s original Paleo café, Wilder and Hunt. I’ll be sharing what I know are the building blocks of beauty from a nutrition perspective.

What makes a woman beautiful? Print and digital media influence what we perceive as beautiful in a woman and objectively speaking, we aren’t all going to agree – beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. If you look through the last 50 years of beauty as defined by the media there is a definite change in the physical features of woman – from Marilyn Monroe with a softer, curvier shape, to Twiggy, whose name aptly describes her physical features, to Elle Macpherson (The Body who, in my opinion, is more gorgeous now than the early 90s and her supermodel days) to Kate Moss. The focus on a women’s shape has largely been the determining factor, and the changing shape of a beautiful woman is telling of society’s acceptance of messages that are portrayed around beauty. While once we were bombarded with the ‘thin is in’ message, this has largely been replaced by images of a muscular yet equally lean woman with ‘strong is the new skinny’ as the tag line. Both, for the majority of woman, are unattainable and – if achieved – unsustainable in the long term. This definition of ‘the body beautiful’ is largely created from the narrow perspective of industry, media and the thousands of available diet and beauty products that try and sell you a magic bullet to solve your perceived beauty woes.

Body shapes aside, there are far more salient features that (to my mind) determine what makes a woman beautiful. We all know what makes a woman beautiful – even if you don’t think you ‘know’ or haven’t quite put your finger on why someone who might not be fit this narrow definition of beautiful but you find them attractive all the same.  It’s not their body size, their haircut, their muscle tone or the make up they are wearing. It’s the sparkle in their eyes, it’s the smile on their face, and it’s a sense of calm and confidence. It’s the glow of their skin and the condition of their hair. We know that beauty comes from within and this emanates health. How often have you met someone who you initially evaluate as attractive (because, let’s face it, we all make a judgment on someone upon meeting them). Then as you get talking to them this can change by (occasionally) what they say, but more by their body language, their facial expression, the lack of warmth. What makes a person, anyone, attractive, is the type of person they are – not what they look like. And what you eat plays a large part in that.

Beauty product manufacturers know that beauty comes from the inside out -however they deal in the superficial. They spend years and have big budgets to research ingredients for their top line products to ensure they help nurture good skin health. Beauty isn’t just about our skin, but one of the first places that reflect good health is certainly our skin. The skin is the body’s largest organ, is made up predominantly of collagen and reflects the health of our cells. The time it takes for our cells to turn over and regenerate increases with age, and goes from a few weeks to a few months. It’s not just chronological age though. If we don’t have the available nutrients to nurture good health from the inside out, then no amount of expensive skin cream is going to cover up the signs of a poor diet. The older we get, the slower our cells regenerate and turn over. At any age, however, this process can slow down if you don’t have a diet that supports healthy cell metabolism. You can encourage cell turnover through beauty routines that include exofoliation or microdermabrasion, however your best line of defence has to be your diet.

How can you easily find out which nutrients are important in cell health – take a look at the active ingredients in many skin care products. Vitamins A, C, E, along with omega 3 fatty acids have been found to be protective against inflammation in the skin and these may protect the whole body from sun damage – rather than the topical protection that sunscreen provides  These nutrients also play a valuable role in gut health, reducing oxidative stress in the body and (omega 3’s in particular) help with the elasticity of our arteries and cell walls – protecting against arterial stiffness and subsequent narrowing of the arteries. In addition, vitamin A works much better in the presence of vitamin K2 for encouraging cell renewal, and the antioxidant activity of both C and E is enhanced when they are delivered together

Likewise zinc, a mineral found in animal protein (the most available form in the diet) is essential for wound healing, cell regeneration and synthesis, and again plays a role in gut health.  A healthy gut is important for the absorption of all of the nutrients to ensure they are available to be utilized in the body. Co-enzyme q 10 is often touted as an essential ingredient in skin care and that is well warranted – research points to deficiencies in this leading to increased levels of reactive oxidative species (or oxidative stress) in the body due to it’s role as an antioxidant. And another important cofactor in skin (and overall health) is collagen – you could take Imedeen capsules – the original expensive skin care pill – or eat slow cooked meat or bone broth where the collagen has broken down and glycine is released – yet another important co-factor in our digestive health.

You know what? There are many different antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals that are responsible for cell health and regeneration in the body. I’ve scratched the surface here. But the main reason for writing this is to point out that the main building blocks for beauty aren’t purchased in a cream or a pill, nor are they necessarily sourced as an addition to an otherwise awesome diet. The co-factors responsible for building you beautiful are found in your everyday food choices: your fresh, seasonal vegetables, fruit, grass fed meat, free range eggs, full fat dairy and nuts and seeds. For otherwise healthy people, the benefit of whole food will shine through the skin, the eyes and the hair. In addition to that, the benefits of this for balancing stress and sex hormones, helping both energy levels and mood, the enigmatic aura that makes someone beautiful will shine through. And that’s the real benefit – how you feel. You can’t buy that in a bottle.