Paleo Stories from the Frontline

Please read and enjoy this inspiring story from Midlife Army Wife. Thank you so much Stacy for sharing your journey with us!

My 30 Day Paleo Challenge

For the past 30 days, I have been following a strict paleo way of eating (I don’t like the term ‘diet’). I haven’t mentioned it before because I wanted to complete the self-imposed challenge first and see how it went.

There is more to it, but to sum it up quickly, this means no grains, dairy, beans, & sugar.  There is a lot of information out there on the science behind this, so I’ll let you do your own research.  Before you think I’ve lost my mind, let me explain how I got to this point.

The background:

I’ve struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember.

I have PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome), which comes with IR (insulin resistance) and seriously affects my hormones.

Diabetes runs in my family.

Statistics show that something like 40-50% of women with PCOS will develop diabetes by age 40.

I just turned 37.   I don’t have diabetes.  I want to keep it that way.

I need to lose 60ish pounds.

I don’t eat a lot of junk food, fast food or processed food.  For the past 4 years, our family has eaten 80% all natural/organic.  We don’t eat High Fructose Corn Syrup, artificial colorings or artificial sweeteners.  I rarely eat white flour, and instead eat brown rice, whole wheat flour, and other whole grains.  I don’t drink soda.  I don’t smoke.  I rarely drink.

Cutting out those things made no change whatsoever on my weight, and I was out of things I could cut out of my diet (almost).  So something else must be going on.

A little sidenote:

Over the past few years, as we have done more research on Lovebug’s Sensory Processing Disorder and ADHD, we also seen over and over that a GFCF (gluten free, caisen free) diet would likely be best for her.

I was fine with the gluten free part, after all there are tons of substitutes out there for breads, muffins, crackers, etc – many of which we already liked.

The CF, or dairy free part was another story.  Give up cheese?  Were they crazy?

Several months ago, I had tried the GF diet with Bug for a while (not even trying the CF part), and in even a short time I realized I felt better after eating.  Unfortunately, I was in over my head and didn’t stick with it because I was spending a fortune on groceries.  I had to take a step back and figure out how to do GF without all the pre-packaged foods.  I needed to get back to what I enjoyed – cooking from scratch.

Fast forward to recently:

I had heard of the paleo way of eating in the past, and knew that it was “no grain, no dairy”.  I had dismissed it once again because I could “never” give up cheese. Yet, this lifestyle kept coming back in front of me and I had a strong feeling that this way of eating would be good for me.

Recently, while I was doing some other research online, I saw several references to a “30 Day Paleo Challenge”.   Several people were saying, “just give it 30 days of eating the paleo way and see what happens”.

No grains, no dairy, no beans, no sugar……for 30 days? Could I do it?

I decided to give it my best shot.  I can do anything for 30 days, right?

Besides, I’m only cooking for 2 at the moment, and I’m in charge of deciding what we eat.

Preparing for the challenge:

First, in order to make my plan, I picked up a copy of the book Everyday Paleo. This book is written by Sarah Fragoso, who is a mom herself to 3 boys.  Her book contains a ton of yummy recipes (with pictures!!), as well as a 30 day eating plan, and grocery shopping lists.  Remember, she’s a mom, so these are even kid friendly recipes!  She talks about incorporating this way of eating into your kids’ lives, and how it can help them.  Both on her blog, and in the book, she’s very real about her lifestyle and how it works for her and her family. I love that!

I also cleaned out the fridge and the pantry before I started.  Like I said, we already have very few processed foods in the house, but there were a few things like chips & bread that had to go.  There are just some foods that I can not have in my house without eating them.

I also prayed about this.  A lot.  I knew that I couldn’t get through this without God’s help.  I am so weak, but He is strong.  So I asked for His help.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength! Phil 4:13

Then, I was ready!

The challenge:

I did not follow her exact eating plan because I already had food in my freezer that I wanted to use, but I did make several of her recipes and every single one was delicious!  I’ll post about those separately, but we’ve been eating very well.

I DID IT!  Not a piece of candy, no pizza, no cheese, no ranch dressing, no bread.  For 30 days.

The results:

I did lose 8 pounds.  That is amazing, especially considering I still haven’t bumped up the exercise to where it needs to be yet.  But, I can tell you that even if I had not lost an ounce, I would be sold!  The physical changes I’ve had are life changing!

Within the first week, I could already tell a difference in how I felt.  My energy level was amazing! There were several evenings that I was asking myself “did I have caffeine this afternoon?”, and the answer was always “no”.  I felt GREAT.  So great that it’s scary to think about how tired I was all the time before.  I’ve been running around chasing my daughter up and down the stairs, cleaning house late at night, and feeling overall amazing.

My mind has been clearer, and it’s been easier to focus.

I have had zero “afternoon crashes”.  Zero.  This is unusual for me.  I even had one day that I literally forgot to eat.  I met a friend that morning unplanned and then the day got away from me. Before I knew it, it was 3:00 in the afternoon and I hadn’t eaten all day.  I KNOW that’s not healthy, but the point is – I still felt great! Normally, I would have been literally shaking, and getting grumpy (just ask my hubby), but I wasn’t at all, so I was able to make a smart choice about what to eat instead of just grabbing something full of sugar to stop the shaking.

No cravings.  I am still in shock that I went this long without sugar, ranch dressing, and cheese.  Because I haven’t had the highs and lows, I’ve been able to make better choices and really think about my foods instead of just grabbing something because it’s easy or I’m craving it.

I have slept better.  I know this because when I wake up in the morning my husband’s side of the bed is still made, which means I’m not tossing and turning as much.  Normally, when he’s not in the bed, I end up with the blankets all over the place.

I’m also not getting up during the night to use the bathroom.  For ages now, I have gotten up multiple (3-4) times during the night, and had just resigned myself to the fact that it was just how I am.  Not any more!  I’ve been getting up once on some nights, and there have been many nights I haven’t gotten up at all.  Scary to think that the “excess urination” might have been caused by blood sugar issues all along.

Another awesome side effect is one that is probably “too much information”, but I’m going to share it because I know there are thousands of women out there dealing with this, and I want them to know about this!!  One of the side effects of PCOS is increased testosterone and unwanted facial hair growth (so my ‘sideburn’ areas often need a little plucking/waxing).  In the last 30 days, this has not been a problem! Unheard of! Oh, there has been a stray or two, but overall, I have seen this greatly diminish.

I can tell in my body that I’m less “puffy”.  I know that sounds funny since I still have a lot of weight to lose, but I can tell that my arms and legs and other areas are just less swollen.   I can see it in my face!

Life changing, I tell you!

What now?

I’m keeping on.  I’m sold on this lifestyle.  Does that mean I’ll never have bread again? Or pizza? Or ice cream?  Not a chance!  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  In fact, Sarah Fragoso wrote an awesome post about just this “all or nothing” topic. I think the 90/10 rule applies here.  If I can do this 90% of the time, then I’m good.  If I choose to have something that doesn’t fit this lifestyle, then it’s just that – a choice.  I can tell you that I will make wiser choices.  If I want pizza, I’ll make a gluten-free crust.  If I want something sweet, I’ll start with fruit, or some dark chocolate.  I’ll make ice cream with just coconut milk and fruit in my Vitamix.  I know I’ll have beans – I love beans.  And corn tortillas.  But I can leave off the cheese, and I can make gluten free choices most of the time.

I’ll bump up the exercise! I’m redoing my Couch-to-5K program because I had stopped it for so long that I had to start over.  That’s felt really good.  I’ll also add in more weight resistance, lap swimming & bike riding.  At some point in the future, I would love to look into some CrossFit or Mixed Martial Arts classes because I really want to get stronger in addition to losing weight.

I’ll also continue incorporating this into Lovebug’s life.  She’s been eating what I’ve had during this month, but she’s has extras too.  I haven’t stopped her dairy intake, but I did decrease it a lot, and I’m trying to make the majority of her foods gluten free again.  Overall, it won’t be too challenging to adapt her to this lifestyle, at least 90% of the time.  She is already an adventurous eater, eats a great variety of fruits and vegetables, loves sushi (sashimi, actually – she prefers just the fish), loves meat, loves to help me cook, and will try just about anything.  The other 10% of the time, she can enjoy her organic, dye-free, gluten-free candy guilt free!

Before you say “I could never do that”, I’m not saying it has to be for everyone.  Do your own research.  As for me, if eating this way makes me feel this good, I’d be crazy not to continue.

Sarah Fragoso

Sarah Fragoso is an international best selling author of 6 books, co-owner of the Chico, CA based gym JS Strength and Conditioning, and founder of the Everyday Paleo franchise. Sarah is the co-host of the popular Sarah and Dr. Brooke Show podcast and she also conducts workshops and retreats on the subjects of nutrition, lifestyle and fitness.

Her message is from the heart and she carries a genuine desire to help other families looking for guidance. These attributes have contributed to her successes and provide the drive to keep the discoveries coming.

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  1. WOW, you look amazing! I dabbled with Paleo for a bit but have gone full-throttle with it (and weight training and C25K) recently and love it all! I especially love Sarah’s butternut squash soup from EP; I made a batch in the crockpot on Sunday and am eating it for breakfast every day this week! Keep up the great work!

  2. Cyndi says:

    Congratulations!!!!! I completely agree with everything you say since I went Paleo almost 7 months ago. I had always eaten healthy (or so I thought) but I had a mean sweet tooth, and if I couldn’t have bread and crackers every day, I thought the world would end. I went on a modified diet “game” with friends for 1 month – whole grains, lots of veggies, fuits, water and felt better but lost NO weight. I gave in to Paleo the first day of this year, did the 30 day challenge knowing I couldn’t give up cheese and yogurt. Breakfast was the only hard meal. I was NOT a meat lover and had to learn how to be, tho. After the 30 days, I added back one small container of greek yogurt for my breakfast, but full on paleo for everything else. Yes, I probably eat a bit more fruit than Sarah’s book would want, but fruit is my saving grace, it’s my sweet fix and I don’t over do it. I was put on Prednisone last year a month before my son’s wedding for a cough that had broken a few ribs, and immediately put on 10 lbs – that on top of the 10 I had been trying to lose for the wedding, so I cry everytime I look at those pics now. But due to this medication, I developed a pot belly, something I had never, ever in my life had and couldn’t get rid of it no matter what I ate or didn’t. Guess what? Paleo lost me my little belly!!! gone!!! and as of today, all that weight is gone, took 6 months to do it slowly, but it’s gone with no hardships, eating more than ever, loving tastes that I never thought I would like and having fun on this “lifestyle” – see, I don’t call it a diet either, it’s now my lifestyle. Yes, I still have an occassional day off but it’s soo easy to get right back on it the next day. No urges for candy, ice cream, sodas, and most of all, bread nor crackers. Even my husband has seen fit to join me, somewhat, in this endeavor. He’s so thin that he doesn’t need or want to do this, but has seen the benefits of eating healthy and so has incorporated his meals with mine, just a bit more food.

    1. Ashantea says:

      You are my role model! Even though I have taken up sports like lacrosse and soccer no matter what I do I couldn’t lose weight! My mother said it was because I am terribly lazy. I know that it seems weird to say this only by reading your message, but I love you! Haha, I am only in high school and I’m a very picky person when it comes to food especially the textures of food. Can you give me some recipes that you just could not resist? Also I have a terrible sweet tooth, what did you do about your cravings?

  3. Becky says:

    Congratulations Stacey for a successful 30 day challenge and the desire to continue. This is awesome!! I’m so happy you are feeling so much better. Keep on keeping on!!!

  4. Andi says:

    awesome story! I am on day 25 of the 30 day challenge and I have had similar results! My story is coming!

  5. Rebecca says:

    Great to hear!! I too have PCOS and now that you mention it, the dreaded facial hair has diminished a bit, AND I took myself off of the Metformin I had been on for the past 7 years.

    I’m doing the 30 day paleo challenge starting July 18, and while I’m already doing paleo/primal about 80% of the time, I’m looking forward to seeing if I really can do it and be strict, 100% committed for 30 days.

    Great job!

  6. JasonS says:

    Great work Stacy! Keep at it. There are rewards beyond measure in your future.

  7. Kimbo9697 says:

    AMAZING! I have PCOS also and struggled for so long until recently finding Paleo myself! Keep up the great work! Your story is very moving and I will be posting to my facebook page!

  8. John Torres says:

    Way to go! Small steps will get everyone to their goal!

  9. Kelly says:

    You look amazing! 10 years younger in just a month!
    Goneraw.com has some recipes for “cheese” that are quite good and paleo friendly like the pumpkin seed cheese. My kids enjoyed this too.
    It seem as though your on a good path!

  10. Congratulations, Stacy! You should be proud of what you have acheived, and you can now look forward to the benefits of your new lifestyle. Especially when the benefits of exercise kick in!

  11. This is so inspiring! The changes are so evident after just a month!

    1. As a side note, I have PCOS too and it’s really helpful for me to read about women who have it and have successfully combated some of the symptoms with a paleo diet.

  12. Megan says:

    Sarah and Stacy, way to go!!


  13. Congratulations! You look great! Keep on going!!! Keep inspiring!!!

  14. Ginory Japson says:

    You look awesome I’m glad you decided to stick with it. I was introduced to the paleo way of life by my crossfit instructor Chris Russell and I could not tell him thank you enough. The greatest thing about it all is that I lost and amazing 15 lbs in the 30 day challenge. People at my job thought I was crazy but I stuck to it and will continue to do it, I think on of the perks is that my whole family my kids 17 & 13 are even doing it with no questions asked and no problems eating new foods. Good Luck on your journey!

  15. Lesley says:

    What an inspiring story! I also battle with PCOS, my main symptom being hirsutism. Boy do I know about the plucking! And I’ve been doing 90% paleo for just a couple of days…already my skin is smooth and the need to pluck has diminished. Just like you, it seems unheard of! You start to think this is an unavoidable part of life, or that you’ll have to be on medication for years to keep it at bay…not to mention all the other health risks that PCOS gals face. To think of how therapeutic eating choices can be! You should be incredibly proud of yourself, and THANK YOU for sharing this story. This is exactly what I have been searching for: someone who has really tried it out for a period of time and conquered some of the most spirit-crushing PCOS symptoms. Brava!

  16. Awesome! So inspiring! I went camping this past weekend and went lax… today I felt awful and I am sure part of it is because of all the breads I ate! Ugh!

  17. Daria says:

    Congratulations Stacy! If you are reading this, I can’t recommend enough that you read the book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” if you have not already. It addresses ADHD, and so many other factors. I learned much from it after realizing I was gluten intolerant (which I discovered from going paleo) and am using the knowledge gleaned from it to heal my gut.
    It sounds like you might have been sensitive to gluten as well from your immediate reaction to the removal of grains (higher energy and clearer thinking), I experienced the exact same thing.

  18. Kate says:

    Congratulations! So happy to hear about your great results. I am still trying to mentally prepare myself for taking on this challenge. Sarah’s book has been great for providing recipe ideas (I had the egg houses this morning–yum!). Now I just need to get my husband to stop bring home chips and treats.

  19. cTo says:

    That’s awesome! Two things interested/amused me:

    1) I first thought “Lovebug’s Sensory Processing Disorder” was the name of a disease, like how other diseases and conditions are named after a medical researcher who first described them, and I was like, “Wow, it must be weird to be a doctor named Lovebug.”

    2) I don’t have PCOS (or at least, never been diagnosed with it), but I have had problems with hormone imbalances, leading to dark facial and body hairs my whole life. My birth control makes it better, but not completely gone. I should pay attention now to see if the paleo is helping too.

  20. Congratulations! I’m just confused about the mentions of ranch dressing. If it’s a carb-free sugar-free ranch dressing, why is that bad? Clue me in! 😎

  21. Great job! & I really think that God gives us strength. I couldn’t do it without Him!

  22. Ann says:

    I want to thank you for sharing you story. I am also dealing with PCOS and IR. I have seen So, so many specialists and doctors. I have been on a lot of medication. I always work out hours a day… And I never make progress. Recently I have been doing a specialized work out s holistic treatment and I have been able to cut medications. I am not going anywhere weight wise.

    A friend who does cross fit recently mentioned paleo in a conversation. I have been reading Dr. Lustig’s work on sugar so I thought I would look into paleo recipes and read more on it. You story, honestly, gives hope and brought tears to my eyes because, as you know, after years of the PCOS hamster wheel, it can be hertbreaking. Thank you, thank you for sharing. And by the bye, I am a military wife too!

  23. Lisa says:

    Wow! I am truly inspired by your story and encouraged to continue on my journey towards better health for myself and family.

  24. Jennifer says:

    Congratulations, Stacy! I got serious about Paleo after struggling with PCOS and infertility..and after 6 weeks on Paleo got pregnant after 4 years of trying! And, while not close to even 50% Paleo in the first trimester, am back on track in the 2nd and all is well. You are right — it makes a huge difference in your hormones, and CONGRATULATIONS on your success! Keep it up!

  25. Ashantea says:

    Hello everyone my name is Ashantea, obviously and I know that someone my age shouldn’t be “dieting”, but as weird as it seems I don’t consider this a diet at all. Many people have told me that I should think of it as a lifestyle change. I am really looking foward to it, but sadly I live under my mother’s roof. She refuses to by anything that says ‘USDA’ and she refuses to help me with my transition. In our home everything is full of fat and I can’t take it anymore. So anyways, I’m on day one of my transition; and I am already struggling… RIGHT NOW I AM STARVING! I can’t figure out what to eat because my list of things I can eat doesn’t fit what I have in my pantry! Sooo, In other words I am wondering if anyone and I mean ANYONE! Strict Paleo or not so strict paleo, can you give me tips? Recipes that are easy to find and easy to make? Also on my list of things I can and cannot eat it doesn’t say anything about chocolate, you know the baking chocolate, or Zucchini!

    Please and thank you,
    PS: Just in case I forget this website, you can email me at akhope2014@gmail.com, ashanteahope@ymail.com (it’s a yahoo email just don’t type yahoo… it want know what you’re talking about), or hopeak1@hotmail.com again thank you I really appreciate any advice you can give.

  26. Amy says:

    Great job Stacy! I have been eating Paleo for about 3 months now, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I was interested in your story regarding your child with Sensory Processing Disorder. . .my 5 year old has a mild case, and I have not read that gluten free, caisen free is best for them. I am trying to convert my whole family to paleo, so this gives me more incentive. Thanks!

  27. Cate says:

    I have also been trying to do Paleo in 30 days. Going to be honest, I started out just doing it for quick weight loss…but I feel amazing and I don’t ever want to go back to my old lifestyle. I’m hooked! and your post just convinced me 100%. I am also struggling with PCOS (we believe) due to some symptoms. Keep it up!!!

  28. Sam says:

    Great job! Thanks for sharing.
    The whole “…unwanted facial hair growth (so my ‘sideburn’ areas often need a little plucking/waxing). In the last 30 days, this has not been a problem! ” That’s amazing! This diet stopped facial hair: crazy. Is there anythng paleo diet cannot do!

  29. Antonia says:

    I am so happy I read your blog today! Like your guest blogger I too was recently diagnosed with PCOS and while I dont have diabetes or high blood pressure, I do have unwanted pounds! I already follow a paleo diet (well only for 3 weeks now) and have had a few missteps but for the most part I have been good. I also feel better but havent seen any weight loss yet, I am going to keep with it though and thanks to your post I feel more committed. THANK YOU!

  30. Given a choice last year between taking statins or giving up cheese/full fat dairy , I stopped eating cheese and started using skimmed milk ( and a lot less of it !) . Cholesterol levels went down and stayed down . I’m delighted to see that Paleo has lots of tasty alternatives .

  31. Shasta says:

    I have just recently started following a Paleo lifestyle. I had my son almost 3 years ago and have struggled to lose the last 20 pounds. I never had a problem with weight before and no matter what I did (exercise, Weight Watchers, etc), the pounds weren’t coming off. A friend/family member of mine introduced me to the concept of Primal/Paleo eating. I was skeptical at first, but after visiting her and doing some research, I’ve decided to give it a try. My husband is very supportive (but who wouldn’t be…we eat a LOT more meat now) and I’m giving it a go. I’ll admit, the thought of the 30 day challenge frightens me (I’ve never been good at restricting myself), but I’m thinking about giving it a try. I’ve suffered from severe acid reflux/heartburn for several years now and I would really like to be able to go off of my medicine…I’m thinking changing my diet might help. Thanks everyone for your stories…I think I’m off to check into that 30 day challenge a bit.

  32. Ginny says:

    Your pictures speak for themselves! Pictures of me on gluten vs. more of a protien diet (grain/bean free) are also dramatic. I showed several friends a picture of me from when I tried to follow the lethal low fat diet/food pyramid, and no one can tell it is me because I looked like a puffball.

    I have been off gluten for years now, but with the availability of gluten free substitutes was still eating too many gluten free foods full of other grains and sugars. While much of my inflamation and arthritis was reduced by eliminating gluten, it wasn’t until I recently tried Primal/Paleo that I realized how much I was still inflamed and puffy from other grains/beans/sugars and how much it also impacted me mentally. The difference is amazing.

    This time I hope to stick with this way of eating for life, except perhaps on holidays when I may bake my favorite gluten free pumpkin treats.

    Good luck to you!

  33. Your story made me tear up and gave me so much hope. I do have PCOS and the dreaded side burns, I am just in the stages of preparing for Paleo and have some paleo days and some days that I eat the stuff that’s in the freezer, though I did do a pantry clean out/ give away. My husband and I are committed to making this our life and I can’t wait to reap the benefits, and I know your story is one that will keep me motivated when tempted by sugar and cheese.
    Thank you for sharing.

  34. Jamie says:

    You look amazing, but adding side swept bangs would be beautiful on you.

  35. Amanda says:

    I too noticed less facial hair growth, I googled it which is how I stumbled upon your blog. I love not having afternoon crashes too! You look great!

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