Have you ever suffered from a migraine headache so painful that the world in front of you shimmered and you puked every time you tried to stand up? How about one or two of those a month? Have you ever experienced sudden dizziness, sweating, and nearly fainted because you waited too long to eat between snacks? How about every day?
For many years my “leave the house checklist” looked something like this: Purse, kiddo stuff, migraine meds, granola bars.
The real kicker is this: I was incredibly fit. I trained like a madwoman and raced mountain bikes. In fact, I was an Oregon Cross Country Mountain Bike State Champ for three years running. I won every solo 12 hour mt. bike race I entered and consistently finished in the top third of the field for any running race I chose to enter for fun.
So what if every hard race landed me in bed with a severe migraine for two days? Also, eating something carb heavy every 1 ½ to 2 hours was just what my body needed. Otherwise it wouldn’t threaten to shut down on me, right?
As my kids got older I became more of a “Soccer Mom” and less of a racer, yet my migraines and extreme energy dips remained the same. I found myself drinking one to two pots of coffee a day, each cup topped with a couple of spoons of sugar. I fed my family and myself what I thought was an extremely healthy whole grain diet. I kept the fats to a minimum. I still exercised hard several times a week to keep my fit physique. Despite my best efforts, I was exhausted all of the time. I mean ALL of the time. My brain resided in a constant fog and I started hurting everywhere. I feel it’s safe to assume that while I was active and fit, I was far from healthy.
My husband finally asked me to go to a doctor who determined I had extremely low levels of vitamin D and magnesium. Supplementation began, but the rest of my lifestyle choices were deemed “healthy” enough to not need changing. She did ask me to tone back the coffee! The supplements helped the brain fog and body pain fade away, but the migraines and constant need to eat remained.
About six years ago a simple diet book began my transformation. It was a gift from my mom that promised lifelong energy and health if I followed the “do eats” and “don’t eats” from its extensive lists. I tried it for a week to make my mom happy… and lost five pounds of water weight. I was sold! Within a few more weeks my migraines ceased popping by and I actually could wait until I felt hungry to eat! It was then that I stopped seeing food as merely an energy source to keep my body running. I began to understand that food can be medicine or poison. Little did I know that I was close to following the 80/20 rule of primal eating!
My knowledge of the paleo/primal lifestyle came a couple of years later when a friend’s Facebook post of a cupcake asked the question (sarcastically, of course), “Is this Paleo?” What in the heck is Paleo? I wondered. Within minutes I had immersed myself in the “Beginner’s Guide to Paleo” on the Nerdfitness website. That day I decided to try for 100% paleo eating. I settled for 80 to 90 percent many days, but that small boost gave me what I needed to look further into a primal-aligned lifestyle, which led me to Mark’s Daily Apple and its bounty of information.
As my energy levels stabilized I began to get the itch to race again. I knew I didn’t want to dedicate myself to a full season of chronic training and racing. I did, however, want to see if I could still complete a solo endurance effort…and do it while eating and training primally. The answer to both of those was yes. In December of 2015 I began to train using the guidelines in Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns’s book, Primal Endurance. I won’t bore you with the details of how excruciating it was to go slow, then slower, then even slower in order to keep my heart rate in check, or the excitement of finally making it through a three hour aerobic ride consuming nothing but water. If you’ve ever done it, you understand!
My dedication to this crazy, counterintuitive way of training paid off In September of 2016 when I completed a 24 hour solo mountain bike race. I finished mid-pack of all of the solo racers combined. The best part? Each of my laps was quicker than the previous year when I was on a four person team and had trained according to my old standard. Also, I didn’t suffer from a post race migraine, I recovered incredibly quick, and I had zero sugar/carb cravings during that short recovery!
With that success I became more motivated to train, eat and live primally. Friends and family began asking for diet and exercise advice, and while I would steer them toward what worked for me, I wanted to really be able to give them solid answers as to why these changes worked so well.
I had seen the link to the Certified Primal Health Coach Course many times while perusing Mark’s website. I had just never thought of myself in a Health Coach role. One day, I listened to the course “sales pitch” and rather than feel overwhelmed by the prospect, I felt excitement. Still, I waited a few weeks to consider this decision logically, with a pro/con list and everything. In the end, the decision to enroll was guided less by logic and more by instinct. Every time I imagined myself learning and becoming certified to really help people, I felt just as excited as the first day I looked into the course!
Initially, I just wanted solid answers to the questions I get approached with, but as the weeks and months of studying and sharing my excitement continued, friends and acquaintances in the medical field began encouraging me to actually become a practicing coach. Health Coach? Me? Get paid to help people? The idea was daunting, but as I gained knowledge about how the body works and why our choices are important I also gained confidence in my conversations about health with people. I was becoming an expert thanks to the tremendous amount of content covered in the course. It really is no joke! The biggest surprise at the end was the amount of tools provided to guide me through starting a coaching business and effectively coaching clients. Everything from solid advice, to templates and forms, to a step-by-step program for guiding your first client. These are invaluable resources to anyone starting a new business! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first clicked that link several months ago but am so thankful I did. Knowing I have a smart and dedicated team offering knowledge, advice, support and encouragement through every stage of this journey has bolstered my confidence.
Today, I’m thrilled to report that I am a Certified Primal Health Coach and I’m well on my way to having my business, PaleoStrong Health Coaching, up and running. More importantly, I’m enjoying a healthy and satisfying existence. I have a few more obstacles to clear in regards to sleep and my love of good microbrews, but every day provides me with a new opportunity to improve! I’m still incredibly fit. In fact, my body fat percentage is lower at the age of 40 than it was in my 20s when I was training so hard! A big part of my personality is to push myself physically, so when I do decide to race once or twice a year, I make it a team effort like a long running relay or team mt. bike race. I personally feel that the friendships I build and the tribe I’m surrounded by during these endeavors far outweigh the two days of high stress and sugar burning I put my body through.
I’m also happy to report that these days my “leave the house checklist” looks something like this: purse, water.