Elle Belle's Story of Health...
From a young age I can remember having a difficult relationship with food.
I can honestly say - I do love food. I love eating.
Like most people, I think it brings back comforting childhood feelings like Christmas feasts and Birthday love.
However, the problem with eating, or eating a lot, is that you gain weight. Eat the wrong foods and you become sick. Sick, depressed, lethargic and unhappy. I became all those things, hitting the height of my unhappiness when I was 20.
To throw a spanner in the works, I have always loved exercise. I played many sports growing up and was the kid that did 3 different team sports on Saturday morning (sorry parents). By my teens I was deeply involved in rowing, competing at a high level.
Although I was extremely fit, the weight was slowly creeping up throughout my teenage years, despite hours of exercise each day.
How could this be?
Sure, in my teenage years my diet was by no means perfect. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
But the energy in v's energy out should have seen me a lean, athletic figure instead of a podgy (but very fit) teenager.
Once I left school, the situation worsened. I was still rowing but my body composition was not changing.
Then I stopped rowing.
I lost all my muscle and was about 70kg. I am 164cm tall. I was probably about 32% body fat (this is a guess, but I’m going to say it’s probably not far off considering my experience in measuring body fat percentages on many other people).
I was sick all the time – like cold and flu sick, unhappy and probably depressed (although not clinically diagnosed).
I went on a strict calorie counting diet and started going to the gym.
This shaved off some of the weight but I still had a layer of podge.
I was battling IBS, bloating and constant stomach cramps where the cause was a complete mystery.
I just considered them normal.
Something that I just had to deal with.
I also only had bowel movements only once a week. Once I found out this was not normal, I saw a gastroenterologist. She couldn't find any internal problem and told me to eat more fiber.
Fiber from wholemeal bread and muesli…
What was I eating in those days?
I had a ‘healthy’ breakfast of muesli, low-fat yogurt and fruit, then a sandwich with wholemeal bread, margarine, chicken without the skin and salad, and a small serving of pasta with vegetable bolognese sauce.
These were wholefoods? Non processed foods? Enough fiber for me to poop non-stop for days right?
Nope, I’d been completely misguided by the national food guidelines and even a medical professional.
Eat ‘x’ amount of calories, lots of whole grains, low fat and you will lose weight and be the picture of health.
I was pretty sick, my intestines were a mess and I was in constant pain from it. The funny thing is, I don’t think I realised how sick or how much pain I was actually in at the time, because I never realised how good your body is meant to feel.
Acknowledging the Problem
Queue learning to eat again and PT days.
Because of my love of exercise and the fact I was coaching rowing, I decided to become a personal trainer while I was finishing my business degree.
Little did I know it would set the course for my future career and my health. Now the important part:
Everything I was taught about nutrition, even in my PT course, was blown apart by a very knowledgeable colleague who completely changed my view on eating.
I went on to research what he told me and sure enough, there is a tonne of evidence advocating eating differently to that which our government prescribes.
He basically taught me about paleo and convinced me to try it for a month. I can tell you I was pretty "angry" at the start because ALL of what I ate was the opposite of paleo!
What the hell am I supposed to eat for breakfast? I almost lost my mind when he told me to eat steak and vegetables. FOR BREAKFAST????? I am the classic example of someone being brainwashed by big business marketing.
Once I thought about it, I realised their brilliance!
The manufactures of cereals revolutionised breakfast and how we as a society eat - and then monopolised it.
They then went on to demonise everything that is actually good for you.
Foods which you should eat for breakfast, for example, eggs, are labeled dangerous as they 'cause' heart disease.
However, there is now a mountain of evidence, that refined grains and sugar in processed food, can equally be a contributor to cardiovascular disease.
The real problem is these companies claiming the health benefits of these sugar-laden processed foods. It’s very clever, brilliant even. Except it’s making us all sick.
A new lifestyle
Once I tried this different style of eating.
I never looked back. I will eat a typical dinner for breakfast no problem.
I discovered that gluten and I are just never going to get on, but I tolerate dairy.
I know when I eat something with gluten or heaps of refined carbs and sugar, because I feel pretty terrible.
I have discovered cooking! Making toast and cereal aren’t really exquisite culinary skills but I can now create a mean roast chicken and veggies.
So... what do I look like now?
I weigh 64kg, with 15% body fat. I do CrossFit which means my muscle mass is much higher than my body fat content. I have tonnes of energy, rarely get sick, poo twice a day, have no IBS or pains in my abdomen and feel light and vibrant.
I don't train to look a certain way but to hit goals!
When you chase health and vitality rather than vanity, everything just falls into place...
You start educating yourself on good food, and training to reach goals...
You become empowered and self-confident,
You love your body and enjoy moving and nourishing it...
If there is one thing I could get women to do it would be eat more vegetables and hit your athletic goals...
How you can do it too!
Because of this, I focus on promoting the paleo diet or variations thereof, to everyone and anyone who wants to listen.
Some think it's a fad, which I completely understand. I think the difference here, is the evidence. You see and feel the health benefits.
If I could give my clients or anyone, one piece of advise, it would be - just try paleo for 30 days and see how you feel. See what happens to your body, your health, your moods and your life.
I would also say eat vegetables every single meal.
Then you have a valid platform to say whatever you want about it.
My story led me to promote the paleo way because I see and feel the difference it makes to my life. More than that, I have numerous clients who feel the difference too. Although that's their story for them to tell!
If you are serious about not just your weight but your health and longevity, what are you waiting for? Give paleo a go for 30 days, feel and see the difference and enjoy the benefits and richness it gives your life.
Elle Belle xx