Friday, January 10, 2014

No Grains, No Gains

A group of Primal/Paleo/Grain Free women who blog about their experiences/life/benefits without grains. A great way for others (who may be wanting to lose weight, reverse an acute/chronic health trend, and/or transition from commercial weight loss programs) to read about real like women who are living the life and succeeding!

I was very honored and humbled to be asked (in the middle of December) to be a part of a monthly blog topic for a group of maintainers who are living a grain-free lifestyle. We call ourselves No Grains, No Gains. Once per month, we will each answer the same blog topic and link to each other's blogs. So without further ado, here is blog topic #1 - How I found Paleo!

My name is Leigh Costa. I'm a 43 year old wife (to Rob) and mother (to 6-year-old Julien). I work full-time and my husband is a stay-at-home father (who should probably write his own blog). I am 5'7" and currently weigh 157 pounds and wear size a 8 (US). My comfortable weight range is a new number because my goal weight was 165, and I lost 8 pounds over the last three months with little effort (I'll get back to that in a little bit). I'd like to stay within 5 pounds of my current weight. My heaviest recorded weight was 310 pounds. But I went several years without weighing myself in my mid 20's and I know that my weight was higher than 310 from looking at pictures. You can read a more in depth post about "My Story" here.

This is me at 25, eating processed carbs and refined sugar like it was
my job. I know I weigh over 310 pounds here. This was me at my biggest.

I live in Southern Ontario, Canada in a city called Hamilton. Hamilton is about 75K west of downtown Toronto, and 75K north west of Niagara Falls. I work in Toronto, so I have anywhere between a 1.5 - 2 hour commute each way.  My husband and I follow the Paleo lifestyle and we are both runners and are currently training for our first 30K road race (which happens the last Sunday in March).

I was morbidly obese for most of my life. I am from the Ojibwa First Nation and was adopted as an infant into a Scottish/Polish family. I began gaining weight at the age of 7 and was the only obese person in my family. I was raised on a carbohydrate heavy European diet, and became addicted to grains and refined sugar at a young age. As a child I hoarded food and ate in secret. I have tried many times over the years to lose weight and nothing worked for me. I am a text book binge eater. After my son was born, I looked into weigh loss surgery and was put on a waiting list to have gastric bypass, but the surgeon lost his licence (due to inappropriate sexual conduct with female patients) and the list no longer existed.

When Julien was 3, we went on a family vacation to Williamsburg, VA and I couldn't fit on a ride with him at Busch Gardens. I had to get off and my husband went on in my place. As embarrassing as that moment was, it was the wake-up call I needed. I realized that my weight issues did not just effect my life, but they were effecting the life of my child as well. I vowed at that moment to get healthy. When I got back from Williamsburg, I went to see my family doctor to discuss weight loss options. He made another referral for gastric bypass surgery, I got a prescription for Xenical, and he also suggested that I check out a diet clinic that was covered by our health care plan. I weighed 297 pounds.

This is me in Williamsburg VA, the
summer of 2011.

I got called by the diet clinic within a week and went in for a consultation. I qualified for the diet because I was on 2 blood pressure pills to treat hypertension. I learned that I would have to give up all processed carbs, refined sugar, dairy and legumes and would only be permitted to eat lean protein and vegetables that grow above ground. I was also allowed to have artificial sweeteners and some specialty low carb foods. This diet was not Paleo, but it was a high protein, low carb, low fat, low sodium diet developed by Dr. Poon to treat type II diabetics and help them get off medication. This was my introduction to the Dr. Poon Metabolic Diet.  When I started Dr. Poon's diet, I stopped taking the Xenical.

Although the diet is strict, and I initially balked at it, I was never hungry. I was allowed to eat as much lean protein and leafy green vegetables as I wanted to feel full. I made two week goals for myself and as the weight started to come off, I was motivated to keep moving forward. I discovered something very important about my relationship with food. I cannot eat anything in moderation. The reason why this diet worked for me where so many others failed is because I cut out all the foods that were my binge triggers.  The longer I stayed away from them, the easier it became to resist them.  Even though I got an appointment for the Bariatric clinic regarding the surgery three months into my Dr. Poon experience, I cancelled the appointment and decided to stick to what was working for me.  I lost 132 pounds in 15 months.

When I reached my goal weight of 165 in December 2012, I was very nervous about what maintenance would look like for me.  I was terrified of gaining weight back when I started reintroducing foods back into my diet. This caused me a lot of anxiety, and I had an a-ha moment when I realized that I didn't need to add grains or refined sugar back into my diet. EVER. Once I made that decision, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I'd already been without them for 15 months, and I honestly didn't miss them. I also read blogs of women who were successful maintainers and grain free (see links below). I decided to take my grain-free lifestyle a step further in March 2013, and go Paleo.

I had been eating pretty close to Paleo anyway, so the transition was pretty easy. I had to give up dairy, artificial sweeteners and legumes, but I ate those in moderation anyway so it wasn't too difficult for me. I think it was much harder for my hubby. He went from eating everything to eating Paleo. He's not as strict as I am, but he has managed to drop 20+ pounds over the past year and is building a lot of muscle through running.

As I previously mentioned, I am also a runner. I began running when I weighed 230 pounds. That was back in March 2012.  I had been following Dr. Poon's Metabolic Diet for the previous 6 months and had lost about 60 pounds, but reached a bit of a plateau. I had never exercised a day in my life and decided to join a learn to run clinic through my local Running Room.  I met my running mentor Carol there, and she encouraged me and believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. If it wasn't for Carol, I don't know if I would have continued running after the clinic finished. Running was one of the hardest things I ever did, but I kept with it and have completed 2 half marathons as well as numerous smaller races.

I was training for my first marathon this past fall, but broke my ankle and was unable to run for 10 weeks. During my running hiatus, I ate diligently and lost a few pounds which could have been muscle. Once I started running again, I began to drop weight. Even though I don't measure portion size on Paleo (except for nuts) and I eat until I'm full, my weight dipped down to my lowest adult weight ever. And I wasn't even trying to lose anything!

I love the Paleo lifestyle because it is simple to follow and structured. I am in the best shape of my life and have the resting heart rate of an athlete. I have tons of energy, and I learned how to have a much healthier relationship with food. Being a former binge eater has made me realize that moderation will never work for me.  I cannot ever have "just one" and I know that. But you know what? That's okay. I don't need one, I have many years of good health ahead of me and I'm enjoying my son's childhood.  There is no better feeling than setting (what not too long ago would have been impossible) goals to reach, and actually completing them. For the first time in my life I feel like I'm in complete control of my eating.  That is an awesome feeling and there is nothing I could eat that would be worth giving up anything I have achieved in the past couple of years.  Now I ask you to go and check out these wonderful ladies!  They have interesting stories and information to share.  The unknown can be scary, but knowledge is power!

Against the Grain
For Life
Living the Life
Garden Girl

This is me grain free! And wearing horizontal stripes!!!
Michael is my official (@ work) photographer and honest to God, he cracks
me up. The middle picture is the best non-laughing picture we got today!