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It seems lately that some of the most popular punching bags on the interwebs are CrossFit and the Paleo Diet. Every week we are seeing articles and books coming out saying CrossFit is dangerous and the Paleo Diet isn’t effective. I have to admit, I have let some of the naysayers creep into my head a bit about Paleo.
To some degree, I tend to think there is some truth to these statements … but then I read a testimonial like the one below, from Robb Wolf’s blog, and I am reminded why Paleo isn’t dead yet. These testimonials get me to thinking about folks in our own community who have seen tremendous results after “going Paleo”. Can I say definitively it’s because they aren’t eating gluten? I don’t know. Could it possibly be just because now they are eating more whole foods and less processed foods? Could be. At the end of the day, do I really care about what you call it? Not at all. What I care about is people feeling better, and if giving someone a general construct of a diet and calling it Paleo, even if it’s not 100% historically accurate works, well guess what, that’s what I’m going to continue to do.
Almost two years ago, I wrote to you the email below to express my gratitude for all the good things you brought into my life via your book and the Paleo Solution podcast. I was also very happy to receive few words from you afterward.
Once again, it is time for me to take the time and thank you for all the things you taught me and many other people during those two years via the podcasts the Paleo Solution, the Controversial Truth (and the apparitions you did on other shows – loved the Rogan one), I am still listening to them weekly. Let’s not forget the links and other interesting (or funny) things on your Facebook pages.
Two years ago I was living in Australia, and I was trying to convince my parents via Skype to give a shot at the Paleo diet for 3 weeks since my dad was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and my mom from insomnia. As you can imagine, asking a couple of French 50+ year old’s to stop eating bread just didn’t work out… But there’s a happy ending to that story.
After living abroad for 10 years, spending most of those 10 years in front of computers (for my studies and job), hearing about Paleo diets and cavemen and so on, I decided it was time for a change. So I thought about it long and hard (for the majority of a year) and decided to quit my job in IT for Investment banks and come back home to see how the situation was here. It was bad.
My father’s RA had become way worse than when I left Europe 2 years ago. But of course no one would tell me over Skype. My mum had put on weight and my sister too after her 2nd child. Being 17kg heavier than she used to be, she started getting clinically depressed.
As soon as I came back, I started going to all my dad’s appointments with the doctors and the unemployment office – because of course, he’d lost his job in the meantime. His company went bankrupt, and having been a builder for almost 40 years, being 55 with RA, he won’t be able to find another job. Thank God this is happening in France. Even though I think things have been pretty sh*t for a long time in this country, the medical system is partly taking care of him financially.
The whole situation looked pretty bad but still, I managed to change the eating habits of those 3 people. The gatekeeper was my sister.
I asked her if she wanted me to create a diet and training program for her to lose weight. Her answer: “Yes, I need help. I don’t know what to do, and I hate running!” – “No problems, what about weightlifting? Just 3 sessions a week and a nice 30 minutes walk every day?” – “Err, I don’t want to look like you!” (Since starting Paleo and lifting weights twice per week as S&C for my Muay-Thai, I’d put on 7kg in 2 years) – “You’re a girl, not enough testosterone, don’t worry”. 12 weeks later she’s lost 6.5kg and has a pretty decent deadlift.
Seeing that my sister managed to survive on a meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and the occasional dark chocolate diet, seeing she didn’t feel the need or craving for bread and cheese – and maybe fed-up of hearing me begging him to try – my dad gave it a go.
I pulled up the autoimmune protocol from your book and added some supplements like glucosamine, chrondotoin, etc. I asked him every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner how strong his joints pain were from 0 to 10 (once he told me that 10 meant he couldn’t walk). We started at an average of 8. Two weeks later, he’s around 3-4. It’s been a complete game changer for him. Where before he was relying only on what the doctors had said: “You can eat whatever you want, you have RA, food isn’t going to change anything, you have to live with it”. I was in the room when his doc said that (because I’d ask about food causing inflammation such as gluten and dairy) and I was fuming inside. But I didn’t say anything, after hearing how useless it was to argue with doctors.
At this point I had convinced 2 people out of 3. My dad was now thinking more about his diet and the pain “It’s painful today, oh yeah, we had some heavy cream with the fish at your uncle’s last night, I’ll avoid it next time” – I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. And my sister was losing bodyfat while getting stronger at the same time, she just wouldn’t stop smiling and laughing, all the opposite of when I came back. But my mum… she just wouldn’t try. I tried to talk to her, and she wouldn’t even consider it: “I NEED bread to get through the day”. So knowing her I waited.
And she took the bait. My dad had lost 2kg and my sister another dress size. Mum: “If I do your lifting thing, will I lose my belly fat? I just want to lose my belly fat.” – “Mum, 80% of the progress is the diet”. – “What’s the point of starting the diet? I’m going on holidays in 2 weeks.” – “Great, then, try it for 2 weeks, if you’re happy with those 2 weeks then we continue afterward, if you’re not, then you haven’t had bread and dairy for 2 weeks and you can have a feast on holidays. Deal?” – “Ok”. In 2 weeks, she lost 2 kg and slept like a baby: no more insomnia. She went on holidays for 12 days with my dad (during which I took care of the “farm”: rabbits, ducks, chicken and a huge garden) and they both came straight back to Paleo.
After 3 months on the lifestyle change, my dad’s RA pain has gone to 2 now. He’d started at 8. He doesn’t clench his hands anymore, doesn’t have cramps in his fingers either and almost doesn’t limp anymore (his right wrist and left foot have been deformed by the RA).
Right now I am thinking into getting him to lift weights twice a week. I’m looking around the internet to see if it is a wise thing or not due to his condition. I am aware that what I am doing now with Paleo and weightlifting sounds like “when the only tool you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail” – and by being conscious of it I try I always ask myself if my approach is the right one – but he has lost 14kg in the last 5 years since the RA started. The guy was a builder, short and strong, you could say he used to look like one of the dwarves in the Lord of the Ring movies!
Anyway, hopefully I should be able to put some muscles back on him and also to get the RA pain down to 0 so he can slowly try to get off the antibiotics and Enbrel.
So that’s it. That’s the happy ending Robb, and it’s thanks to you. I used all your advice, all the experiences you shared with us, your greasy salesman pitch and so on. I had never been much of a family man, but now at the age of 29 I can finally enjoy spending time, sharing and teachings things to them. I can finally help them. We always used to fight with my sister and it was nasty, now we’re making up for this wasted time. My dad was never a big talker, now he opens up more because he sees I care about him and try harder than the doctors to “fix” him. And I can now spend some one on one time with my mum during our morning walks. I’m confident that one day my brother will give it a go too, and my nieces are having a better start in life now since my sister gives bacon and eggs to her 2 year old’s instead of cereals and biscuits for breakfast.
I know this whole story sounds a bit mental: “Paleo fixed my family”, but it kinda did. And I have to say it is thanks to you Robb. Like I said two years ago, “You are one of the few people I admire and consider a role model in this world.” And I still think so.