I’ve known Kristin for a while now – on Facebook anyway! She’s been doing a lot in the Paleo community and there’s even a pic of her and her sister with Mark Sisson in Mark’s new book.
One thing I wanted to mention – something you guys hear from me all the time and something I hear more and more the more people I talk to – is that Kristin is taking charge of her health by reducing her stress and changing her lifestyle. It’s not just about “Paleo” as a diet or going to “CrossFit,” she’s working on the WHOLE PACKAGE to get where she wants to go and nurture her body…
But, I digress.. Here’s Kristin’s story in her own words along with some Questions and Answers at the end!
My Primal journey doesn’t have a dramatic before & after story. I don’t have a fat pants photo. I didn’t recover from a debilitating disease. All that happened on the outside was a few pounds lost with hardly any effort (while eating bacon, cream, and red meat). On the inside, though, I felt BETTER…. I can’t think of another way to put it simply. My thoughts were clearer, I was more energetic, I liked the way I looked, my skin cleared up, my food cravings disappeared, I learned what it meant to be hungry again (and not just tired), and I came to LOVE cooking. Everything just kinda got….better. This all happened in July 2009 when I first learned how to work WITH my body instead of against it by eating a Paleo diet. Six months later I joined a CrossFit box and fell in love with Olympic Weightlifting. The positive changes I saw increased exponentially.
Paleo Just Makes Sense…
The Paleo lifestyle just makes sense. This has become more true for me as I keep learning about our bodies, food, health, and illness. It gives the greatest results for the least amount of effort once you get over the learning curve. Fats and protein work WITH my body to let me know when I’ve eaten enough, and I no longer experience hunger-inducing insulin crashes from gag-inducing low-fat whole grains.
I have become passionate about providing new, useful Paleo tools that help others. For when you’re on the go, I created PaleoGoGo as an iTunes & Android app that provides recommendations on what to eat at chain restaurants. For when you’re at home, I partnered with James Gregory to create FastPaleo, a paleo recipe sharing site where anyone can upload and share a recipe, no blog required. I also give Paleo nutrition seminars at CrossFit gyms across Philadelphia and work on-on-one with clients. I really want to see people succeed with this lifestyle.
A Twist to the Story…
However, my story does come with a twist. I gave myself an iodine deficiency. Your thyroid is dependent on the stuff, so methodically removing all dietary sources of it over the course of a year and a half causes it to misbehave. This is bad because your thyroid impacts all sorts of little things like metabolism and hormone regulation.
So what happened? Since I was eschewing processed foods, eating strictly grass-fed/pastured animals at home, and cooking 90% of my food with sea salt instead of table salt, I was unknowingly omitting all iodine from my diet. The very first day I supplemented with iodine I saw a remarkable recovery. It seemed like an easy fix, and I continue to supplement with iodine daily.
Several months down the road my condition had improved to where I was about 75% better and eating 95% primal because cheating still made my symptoms worse. More blood work identified yet another thyroid problem. I was diagnosed with autoimmune Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a disorder that causes hypothyroid symptoms while the immune system slowly destroys the thyroid. It’s likely that I’ve had it for years and that it was exacerbated by the iodine deficiency. Hypothyroid symptoms include extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating, brain fog, acne, change in body composition, depressed mood, sleeping a lot more than normal, zero libido, and more.
I see it as a blessing that my Hashi’s was brought to light at this point. Otherwise, it would have continued to destroy my thyroid for years and may not have been diagnosed until there was very little left of my thyroid. Right now I have the chance to actively manage my condition and try to preserve my thyroid for as long as I can. It turns out that staying Paleo is a crucial aspect of this, along with stress reduction, stress management, drastically reducing high-intensity workouts, and getting 9 hours of sleep every single day. If you want to read more about my experiences with diagnosing and managing Hashimoto’s, I wrote a blog post about it here: http://fastpaleo.com/what-the-doctors-didnt-tell-me/.
Learning, Growing and Changing…
I have had to completely change my life to accomplish my goal of managing Hashi’s. It has been unbelievably difficult, but it’s my only choice since I have made health my top priority. I don’t go out nearly as often as I’d like because I need my sleep. When I do, I have to make sure to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum or I’ll be laid out with hypo symptoms the next day. I changed jobs because the stress was causing me to relapse, with a huge decrease in pay. I can’t work out often because my body just can’t handle that added physical stress, so I go to CrossFit about once/week. I’ve learned how to ask for help from others, and more importantly, I’ve learned that I can’t and shouldn’t always try to do everything on my own.
My dedication to overall health has really paid off. While many women with hypothyroidism experience uncontrollable sugar cravings and weight gain, my body has maintained itself at a fairly consistent body composition even though over the past year I’ve lost 10 pounds of muscle because I can’t work out like I used to. I have less definition and a little extra flesh, but it’s not a drastic change. Eating Primal has even helped me to retain a surprising amount of strength during this time. This experience has really driven home the saying that “body composition is 80% diet”.
Is my body where I ideally want it to be? No. Do I think I’m doing really well for the circumstances of the past year of my life? Absolutely. We have to look at the big picture if we want the motivation to truly succeed. Because of this, I will continue to put my health first and make a strict, clean diet my priority.
I’m currently in a transformative phase. I’m beginning to feel like myself again after a year and a half of serious health issues that kept me from being able to think and act normally, but I still have to take it day by day. I can’t set my expectations too high for each day because sometimes the hypothyroid symptoms come back with a vengeance, leaving me weak and unfocused. I have instead learned to be grateful for each good day I have, to get the most out of each day, and to be kind to myself so that I can have more good days. The future holds many possibilities, and I will continue to focus on my health so that I’m in the best place possible each day to take on new challenges.
Some Q and A…
You’ve been really active on Strong is the New Skinny on Facebook for a while now. What does “Strong is the New Skinny” mean to you?
At the heart of the message is empowerment. To me it means taking back the definition of female beauty. Instead of following the cultural norm and spending time, money, and energy on attaining the warped ideal of “skinny”, women are using their bodies to the fullest extent to create bodies that are truly works of art. Instead of hating their bodies for not conforming, women are taking action to make their bodies into powerful forces that uplift their spirits and self-confidence. Women are taking pride in what they can do, and they’re showing us that they can do a whole hell of a lot more than they ever thought possible.
Where do you see yourself physically, mentally and health-wise in the next few years?
This is a difficult question for me to answer. Living with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism requires that I release my expectations day to day because sometimes I am physically unable to exercise. However, within a few years I hope to be in a place where I’ve nurtured myself back to my full potential and am off the Synthroid. I want to be CrossFitting 4 times each week, mixed with a nurturing exercise like yoga. I understand recovery time and mobility are essential for continued strength gains. I’ve started to incorporate relaxation tapes and meditation into my daily routine, and I expect to have these formed into a solid habit by then.
My ideal state of being is active and focused while being mindful and calm.
[A note here for Kristin and anyone else who might be interested in guided relaxation/meditation is that I LOVE Hypnotica's Yoga Nidra Mediation as well as his other work. Definitely check his stuff out on CD Baby!]
You’re really active in the Paleo community and CrossFit communities online. Do you have a vision for where you want to see these communities in a few years?
Both communities are set to explode in the next couple years. CrossFit is really gaining popularity through the Reebok sponsorship in addition to word of mouth, and the knowledge of the Paleo diet will spread with it. However, Paleo is also spreading to other demographics based on its own merit. We’re already seeing greater acceptance of Paleo principles in mainstream media. The results are real, and we’ll see more attention being drawn to this.
The Paleo community is absolutely thriving online. There are small groups already doing this across the country, but I’d love to see more in-person meet ups happening. The power of numbers will go a long way towards getting better food options at local stores and restaurants, which will clearly help people day to day.
And… Back to Me…
Thanks SO MUCH for being a SINS Angel and for ALL that you do in the Paleo and CrossFit communities, Kristin! Good luck and I’ll see ya on Facebook!