Guest Post: Living the Paleo Lifestyle with Type 1 Diabetes.
Lindsay lives with type 1 diabetes and has guest blogged here before about her diagnosis. But today she's talking about living the Paleo lifestyle while managing diabetes, and I find her journey fascinating. I'm fortunate enough to call Lindsay (ahem ... I mean Linds!) a friend, and I encourage you to check out her blog or her Twitter feed for more information on how Paleo fits into her diabetes management. She's pretty freaking awesome.
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When I first learned about the Paleo Lifestyle, I was intrigued, as I have become with food and the effects it has on the human body since my late in life diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to fully live the Paleo Lifestyle having type 1 diabetes. Type 1 requires fast acting sugar at a moment’s notice, careful planning of schedules and exercise, and the ability to be flexible constantly. Glucose tablets, smarties, and Skittles, are not Paleo. More so, kale and carrots don’t exactly raise my blood sugar quick, so I was skeptical.
What is the Paleo Lifestyle? Paleo stands for Paleolithic, also dubbed the "Caveman Diet," or the "Hunter/Gatherer" diet. In short, if it wasn't around when cavemen were, our bodies weren't meant to eat it and can't properly break it down. If you have to process, breakdown, refine the food from its original state, then it isn't Paleo. For me a good rule of thumb to go by is that if it wasn't around 100 years ago, don't eat it. Think about your grandparents or great grandparents, who lived on lard, meat, potatoes, chicken, bacon…they lived to be 70s, 80s and 90s, why? Because they walked out their front door and sourced their meal from the barn, coop, etc. Think about it.
The more research I conducted, books I read, blogs I followed, the more I thought, there really is something to this Paleo thing, because it just plain makes sense. I decided that I’d give it a go, and see how it fit into my life with type 1 diabetes. Disclaimer: I didn’t “go Paleo” to try to be low carb (because of my type 1 diabetes), I went Paleo to take control of my overall health and feel better, not just from a diabetes perspective. Paleo has reversed and cured a lot of individuals from a variety of chronic health issues, which is amazing, however, I never went Paleo thinking I would cure myself of type 1 diabetes and go off insulin, and I know that won’t happen. BUT, I feel better (and different), so many things have changed, disappeared, or have become manageable that I didn’t even realize were an issue. One of the most common misconceptions that I’m sure a lot of individuals with type 1 diabetes can relate to, is this “oh, that’s right, you can’t eat that,” FALSE. I choose NOT to eat that, but thanks for assuming you know me and my disease!
Over a year into living the Paleo Lifestyle, I’ve lost weight (and can easily maintain the loss), my skin is clear, I sleep better, I feel better and the most important benefit for me, I like who I am. It’s been a learning process, still is, but I’m extremely passionate about it. I started a blog to share with others what I learn, and to try to help others feel better too. I’ve tried to find ways to share how being Paleo is easy, flavorful, and rewarding. In all of the benefits I’ve seen, my blood sugar is amazing I’d say 90% of the time. Hard to believe, but I see it with my own eyes, so, yet another reason why Paleo has been wonderful for me. My body behaves entirely differently when I eat real food vs. fake food.
What’s more awesome about being Paleo, is that I don’t have cravings (well, sometimes, but RARE), never feel starved, and eat more than I ever have! Everyone has to find the Paleo that’s right for them. Each person’s Paleo is different, but it’s about learning about your body, how you’re feeling, and eating clean. My definition of eating clean, is knowing what I'm putting in my body through reading and educating myself, what ingredients are (if there are any), properly washing fruits and vegetables, buying organic when possible, and eating grassfed/pastured, hormone, antibiotic free meats. I try to eat as fresh of food as possible, nothing boxed or with an ingredient list. Eating food that our bodies were meant to eat and digest properly fuels us and we receive the most nourishment and benefit from what we're putting in our bodies as a result.
Let me dispel a couple myths for you:
- I am not starving; people think because the list of foods I don't eat is much longer than the list of foods I do eat, that I'm always hungry. People also assume that I am dieting when I say no thank you to cake or bagels, when in reality; I choose not to put those foods in my body for health reasons, not because I'm dieting, OR because I have type 1 diabetes.
- I am not deprived; I CHOOSE to live this way, and am happy with my choice, so I don't feel deprived. After removing wheat/grains from my diet altogether, my mental health is much more on point, and I can actually correlate not eating those things with a healthier feeling in my body. Wheat has the same effect as meth in your brain on dopamine receptors, so you're not exactly thinking clearly when you eat grains, which is why they’re so addictive.
- I eat more than I ever have; I am always munching on fresh fruit, nuts, healthy meats, vegetables, etc. I feel like I'm always eating, and yet I don't gain weight. Realizing that the fewer the ingredients, the more flavorful the actual food is. My tastebuds have evolved with the removal of things like artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, grains, etc.
- I feel better than I ever have; I sleep more soundly, so I'm more rested. My blood sugar is so consistent; the lack of fluctuation helps my focus and concentration. My skin has cleared tremendously. Living Paleo and exercising regularly, I feel healthy and lean. I've actually had several individuals tell me that I look healthy, and I'd much rather hear that than “you’re skinny.”
- Living Paleo is easy and affordable; common misconception like with any diet or lifestyle that eating Paleo (or healthy) has to be expensive health foods, and that is not the case at all. There are a lot of posts on my blog about very simple recipes that can be made with very few ingredients that are Paleo. They’re all inexpensive. The next time you are making a recipe, try substituting a few key ingredients with more Paloe-friendly options, and then think about what else you could add for beneficial nutrients and minerals. Most of the time, I make something, then think, “oh that’d be good if I added that, and I have it on hand.”
Here are some Paleo posts that might be helpful: