Donny is a student who found out, like many, only after years of struggle and almost by accident, that she has celiac disease and is lactose intolerant. Since then, she’s turned her life around and has some (very) mature things to say about weight-loss and self image. She has a paleo recipe blog with a kosher twist, The Kosher Cave-Girl
Read her before and after story below…
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I’m a student living in Columbus, Ohio, currently finishing up my last year of undergraduate study at The Ohio State University before heading off to grad school next fall. When I’m not buried behind a mountain-sized pile of books, you can usually find me on a yoga mat or in the saddle at the stables near my apartment.
I can’t sit still for long enough to stay in one country for longer than a couple of months, so I travel the world when I have time, soaking up other cultures. It’s really eye-opening and I’ve had some of the best adventures.
I thought I was fairly active, but I was a victim of chronic cardio. My idea of a great workout was spending 30-45 minutes on the Elliptical every day. Occasionally I switched things up and tried a few spinning classes and zumba, but nothing really resonated with me.I have loved yoga since I was a little girl, and that has been one thing that I’ve kept throughout this entire transition into a paleo lifestyle.
Now I go to a CrossFit box at least twice a week, and I try to lift weights at least every other day. I’ve become a little obsessed with weight training. I battled several trauma-induced eating disorders for five years before finally seeking treatment and sitting down with a nutritionist. My meals became a lot more balanced, but I was still having a lot of digestive issues.It wasn’t until a visit to my doctor showed that I had celiac disease AND was lactose intolerant that things really started to turn around. He recommended a paleo diet to heal my gut and at that point, I would have tried anything to avoid the pain I was in.
I left my appointment, hurried to the bookstore, and asked to be pointed in the direction of paleo lifestyle books. After staying awake all night reading, I woke up the next morning and immediately cut all grain, dairy, and processed food out of my diet. It was easier for me to dive right in, but that’s definitely a personal choice, and I knew that that would be the easiest way for my body to transition. It’s all about knowing yourself, and knowing what works best for you.
How paleo are you? (80/20, 90/10, autoimmune, etc.)
90/10. I’ve learned that if I really really want to try something, it’s okay to have a bite or two. I went to a bridal show this past week with my future mother-in-law, and I really wanted to try a bite of strawberry-white chocolate wedding cake. So I did. And I enjoyed every bit of that bite. And you know what? It didn’t kill me. It really didn’t.
Tell us about “A Day In The Life Of Donny” – a typical day especially from an eating and exercise standpoint before you went paleo:
- Exercise: morning run around campus for 30 minutes.
- Breakfast: an egg-white and sun-dried tomato sandwich on a pesto cheddar bagel from Breuggers Bagels with a medium hot chocolate.
- Exercise: spend the next 2-4 hours walking around campus from class to class.
- Lunch: at the cafe inside the university gym. Usually consisted of a salad with cranberries and goat cheese with a piece of salmon and a side of fruit salad and foccacia bread.
- Exercise: Elliptical for 30 minutes.
- Post Workout Snack: Peanut butter, chocolate, and banana “protein” smoothie from the smoothie station upstairs.
- Dinner: Varied. I had a closet-sized kitchen so I ate out a lot. My favorite dinner was always sushi (deep fried with cream cheese) and extra spicy mayo.
Then please tell us about “A Day In The Life Of Donny” – a typical day especially from an eating and exercise standpoint after you went paleo:
- Exercise: I’m training for the Columbus Capital City Half Marathon in May 2014, so I usually go for a 30-45 minute run, but instead of running at a static pace, I do a lot of sprinting and HIIT (high-intensity interval training).
- Breakfast: 3-4 eggs scrambled, sliced avocado, and a sliced apple with almond butter (If I’m doing a 21 Day Sugar Detox, as I am at the moment, it’s a green apple instead of a red one).
- I’m usually a couch potato in between breakfast and lunch… it’s when I catch up on my blogging, article reading/research and social media.
- Lunch: Seared ahi tuna steak (the more rare it is, the better. I love it when it looks more like sashimi. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the world that craves raw fish this consistently) with a side of sautéed asparagus and mushrooms.
- Exercise: After catching up on school work and running errands, I head to the gym, where I pick a muscle group to work out. I stretch, train for 20-30 minutes, stretch again, and head home. Every other day is usually a “rest day” so I’ll do a yoga class instead.
- Dinner: Steak with cauliflower mashed potatoes or cauliflower “fried rice”.
- Then I spend the night on the couch catching up on all my favorite tv shows. If I’m not doing a Whole 30 or 21DSD, this time usually includes a glass of white wine and a paleo treat (like an almond butter cup or homemade macaroon.)
- Snacks: During the day, I nosh on anything from apples to raw almonds. If I need an extra boost of energy, I’ll eat a spoonful of coconut butter. I keep a jar and spoon of almond butter in my car for emergencies too. (I’m strange, I know.)
What helped you when you were struggling?
Having battled an eating disorder for so long, sometimes I struggle with the amount of food that I’m eating. I eat A LOT of food. But honestly, I never feel guilty post-meals or after snacks anymore. And I think that’s because I know that I’m truly nourishing my body, not punishing it. I may eat an absurd amount of food, but every single ounce of it is real and unprocessed.
Were there any practical things you did such to support yourself – like clear out your pantry, eat before you went to a party to avoid the buffet table?
I definitely plan ahead a lot more than I did before. For instance, when I attended a bridal show this past week, I ate a balanced dinner right before walking out the door so that my stomach wouldn’t be able to trick my brain with cravings distorted by hunger. And it was great. I munched on a few cucumber slices, drank water and had one bite of wedding cake.
I do have a lot of non-paleo ingredients in my apartment, as my fiancé doesn’t lead a paleo lifestyle and I love to bake with my friends. I’ve found, though, that as long as I have a paleo option readily available, I’m not even tempted by the non-paleo one. Post-Halloween, there were several dozen Reese’s cups sitting on my kitchen counter (not my doing), but I reached for a paleo-approved almond butter cup instead. It wasn’t just out of habit— I was genuinely happy that I was reaching for a similar homemade treat that was going to make my body so much happier than the other processed version.
What do you say to people who ask you about paleo?
All of my friends make fun of me (in a light-hearted way) about being a hunter-gatherer, and my fiancé even came up with my blog name “The Kosher Cave Girl” because people would tease me about being one. I outline the basics for those that ask, and then refer them to Mark Sisson’s books if they want to know more. I never want to come across as preachy or pushy, so if they ask, I explain, but in general, it’s not something that I broadcast.
What has been the reaction to your paleo success from those around you?
In general, everyone is pretty thrilled for me, even if they don’t completely understand my new lifestyle. My fiancee even admitted that he was apprehensive about it when I first started following it, and thought it was a little ridiculous, but that he can see how it’s impacted my life in such a big positive way now. My IBS, lactose intolerance, and celiac’s disease are all but gone. I have great self-esteem (something I struggled with) and a healthy body image. My twin brother supports me as well, and he always makes sure to use olive oil instead of canola oil when making me dinner, or to buy me hard cider instead of beer when I’m watching a game at his place. The people who are closest to me support me and are happy for me, and I can’t tell you how much that means to me.
What three practical tips would you offer our readers based on your experience? (Refusing bread being brought to the table when dining out, packing all lunches yourself, asking other family members not to bring home cookies, that kind of thing.)
1. Don’t let your new choices affect your social life. Don’t decline dinner party invitations, just offer to bring something to the party that you know you’ll be able to eat.
2. My friends and I used to spend an exorbitant amount of money going out for nights on the town including dinner and drinks. Now, at my suggestion, we spend a lot more of those nights cooking dinner together at one of our apartments and then watching a movie or sitting around a table playing a board game. It’s really brought us closer, and we all agree that we have a lot more fun now.
3. If you’re dining out, outline the basics for your waiter. Most restaurants are a lot more accommodating than you think that they are, and will happily cook your food in olive oil and avoid feeding you gluten. On that same note, a lot of restaurants have gluten-free menus that aren’t advertised. I can usually find lots of paleo options (or options that can be made paleo) on those.
Sometimes, what’s really hurting you isn’t what you’re eating, but what’s eating you. I can’t stress enough that whatever size or shape you may be, focus on being happy. Life is about so much more than a number on the scale. And if you’re obsessing and focusing on your weight, you’ll miss all the memories that you could be making instead. So stop focusing on attaining the dream body that someone else has and focus on your own. Focus on making your body better… on making yourself better. You’ll be happier for it, believe me. I know.
“And if you’re obsessing and focusing on your weight, you’ll miss all the memories that you could be making instead.”
This is so true. Last weekend, I watched six performances of The Little Mermaid performed by our local children’s theater. By the end of it, I’d realized that the culture-inspired ideal female form is that of a 14 year-old girl. That is just about impossible for the vast majority of us to attain and yet look what we miss out on in the process of trying to. So happy for Donny that she’s feeling soooo much better!