When people meet me for the first time and learn I’m a mother to four kids, the next question is almost always, “How do you stay so skinny?!”
I am skinny. I shop at Forever 21 and wear a size 5. I’m unafraid of slinking into bikinis and love wearing tiny skirts.
I typically tell inquirers proudly, “Oh my god! I eat Paleo! It changed my life!”
I’ll launch then into the same story: Three years ago, I weighed 145 pounds. I dressed like a mom. I looked like a mom. I had wiggly upper arms and stood hateful in front of dressing room mirrors. My body was soft and slack. I’d try to run but detested it. Lugging this slow hunk of flesh down city streets was a pain in the face. At night, I’d be so bloated and gassy, my then-husband would sleep in the other room. I tried calorie counting, fat burning and grapefruit diets, and veganism. And then, I tried Paleo.
Two months later, the 25 pounds had melted off. My stomach issues were gone. Sugar cravings subsided. I was a new woman in a new body. Confident in short skirts and high heels. Looking and feeling like a kid again. Capable of going for long runs on forest trails and about to become a duathlete, my desire for bread and pasta vanished.
And, it’s true.
Except, it’s not.
Somewhere in the middle of getting divorced, becoming a single mom and nearly sole breadwinner and caretaker for four children, I got stressed. I got busy. And I figured out that eating very little of just the right amounts of high-quality food, I could completely alter my quasi-chubby body.
And so, I didn’t just start eating Paleo. I stopped eating loads of everything, too. I just stopped. I don’t think I could have done it without the stress. I don’t think my willpower would have survived the rattle through craving-withdrawl and calorie cutting.
But, once the stress kicked in and I realized there was a tiny body hiding under that other one, I started wanting to fight for it. I liked feeling thin and pretty. And so I mostly stuck to Paleo, but I also started intuiting how many other things I could and couldn’t eat.
If there was a week when I really overdid it, I’d fast for a day or two to get back on track. Pants tight? I’ll drink bulletproof coffee in the morning and white-knuckle without food until the next morning’s breakfast.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I started eating twice a day. Coffee and eggs for breakfast, steak/guac/blueberries/raw almonds/creme brulee with a cookie for lunch. I found that sticking to this routine of decadent, high-fat foods plus a mouthful of sugary flour was enough to satiate me. And when I’d wake in the morning after skipping dinner, my belly felt thin. Thin belly = my new indicator of whether I’ve overeaten or not.
Add up all the calories and I’m doing okay. I feel healthy and full of energy and not obsessed about food. But sometimes it makes me wonder … am I misleading people when I tell them I’m Paleo? I mean, is Paleo really working for me? With my minimalist eating regiment and the intake of a daily cookie and creme brulee, have I just found a way to have my cake and eat it, too? Am I promoting the possibility for a body that most people want, obtainable only by a diet few would want to follow?
I think, mostly, the true confession here is I’m only Paleo part-time. And when I do follow the basic concept behind this often strict and culty food fad, it seems to work mostly. But, what really seems to work is cutting back on handfuls of mindless crap snacks, allowing myself a few bites of sweet stuff, and getting out on long, long trail runs for a long, long time. Those are all the big changes that have led to a littler body. A body I’m proud of and glad for and happy to put into tiny T-shirts.
Though, sometimes I wonder … if I knew back then how little food I really needed to eat to maintain a body I love, could I have ever done it? And is it fair for me to tell people it’s Paleo that got me here, when really it’s a whole lot more, a whole lot of less, and a single cookie every day?