My Journey (Thus Far)

Who Am I???

My name is Christina and I am an American ex-pat living in England.  I am a wife to Craig (pictured) and stay-at-home mother to four (4!) children: Annie, Alex, Lucy & Sam (you can find out more about them under The Monkey House Project tab).  As my 'About Me' bio states, I'm attempting to put the Primal/Paleo diet into practice in the real world for myself and now my kids. This is my journey to (hopefully!) health and happiness starting at the beginning.

In my head I have three books to write about my life: 'WTF', 'Inherited Children' and 'Practicing Primal'.  Prior to those chapters I was a typical white, middle-class, Christian American child and teen growing up in Spokane, Washington, USA.  I had (have!) great parents, a younger sister and brother and extended family and friends forming a good support network.

The real trouble started when I moved away from home to attend George Fox University for undergrad.  The first year there I met and dated a guy who I thought I was going to marry; he had different ideas.  The next year, on the rebound, I began dating my future ex-husband.  We never should have gone past the dating stage, but I had it in my head that you only have sex with the guy you're married to... Since we'd had sex, that meant we had to get married, right?!  Thus I entered the 'WTF' stage of my life.

Three years dating and five years married to a bi-polar, sex addict, alcoholic, serial cheater, emotionally/verbally abusive man changed me forever.  As a social worker, I thought I knew how to take care of all those problems, but instead I was just living the life of one of my clients.  March 2009 I decided that I had done absolutely everything that I could do and I was ready for a divorce and started the proceedings.  Around the same time as my divorce I found out that I was being laid off from the hospital where I worked as a social worker for the L&D, Mother-Baby and NICU units as our non-profit had been bought out by a for-profit.  Since my ex-husband kept the house and the dogs in the divorce I was free to start an entirely new life.  I found out that the United Kingdom was looking to hire foreign Master-level social workers as they couldn't produce enough of their own at the time.  Nine months later on 7 February 2010 I was entering the UK Border Patrol & Customs at Heathrow Airport and my 'Inherited Children' phase.

Prior to moving to the UK I was on and moved my profile to England.  I began talking to Craig at the beginning of January and he came to meet me the day I arrived.  We've pretty much been together ever since!  He had four children with his late (deceased) wife who he was raising on his own.  I began working a new job in child protection social services and, at the same time, I inherited four children and all their foibles and history.  Their mother had been sick for a very long time and Craig worked long hours so they did not have a lot of structure and discipline in their lives and so they all had some behaviour problems.  Add to that one of them being on the high-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum, another with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder and all of them dealing with grief.  A year and a half after moving to the UK I quit my job to be a stay-at-home mum and married my Englishman on the 4th of July, 2011.  A year and a half after that I adopted our four kids on 22 October 2012.  Finally, life began to settle down.

Nothing can ever be too easy, however, and my health problems that I'd had off and on my whole life came to the forefront.  So, here we are in the 'Practicing Primal' stage...

Why Eat Differently???

I'm doing this lifestyle change (notice I didn't say "diet") due to a variety of symptoms that are plaguing me and I can't get rid of.  These have bothered me in one variation or another for as long as I can remember.  Most of my symptoms can be linked to a variety of main-stream illnesses (namely hypothyroid, irritable bowel syndrome and dysthymia), but conventional treatment (medication!) of these has not helped. I have also been diagnosed in the past with several "alternative" illnesses (fibromyalgia, gluten and casein intolerance and adrenal fatigue), which I have also not been able to beat. Through the years I have grown more and more unhealthy with the last two being the worst.  My symptoms include:
  • Tired but Wired (Although I'm exhausted all day and tired at night, I can't get to sleep until quite late no matter how many sleep routines I try.  Sometimes I get bouts of insomnia.  Often I wake up several times through the night)
  • Exhaustion (I take a nap every single day... can't get through the day without it.  When I was working I would fall asleep while driving the 45 minutes to/from work and had a really hard time keeping up with my case load)
  • No to Low Energy, Sluggish, Unable to Motivate (All. The. Time.  I also have a hard time doing things with the kids, getting housework done and exercising)
  • Brain fog (sometimes I have a hard time tracking conversations and can't think straight)
  • Forgetful (I can't remember things like appointments or paperwork unless it's written down and in front of me. And I can't remember a lot of events that have happened.  One day I even forgot my own last name for a panic-filled 30 seconds)
  • Stomach pain and cramps, constipation and loose stools (I won't go into detail on that one!)
  • Headaches (some so bad that they border on migraines)
  • Tender muscles (poke me anywhere - like the Pillsbury Doughboy - and it's tender)
  • Dry, itchy skin (especially at night and this includes excema in my ears and puritis ani)
  • Easy to bruise (I'm forever finding a new bruise that I have no idea where it came from!)
  • Hard to loose weight (when eating a "healthy" diet that includes all the different food groups, I have to eat a strict 1200-1500 calories per day and exercise to loose any weight)
  • Depression / Low Mood (I'm never really happy for any sustained amount of time.  Most of the time I'm not happy or sad, but just kind of flatline.)
  • Cranky, irritable, easily annoyed, short temper... (Just ask my hubby and kids!)
At my heaviest I weighed 235 pounds (January - July-ish 2011).  I was approximately a size 22UK/20US, but I'm not sure of the rest of my measurements.  Here's a few pictures (you can see how I felt about weighing that much!):


Why Primal / Paleo???

The Paleo Pyramid
(this infograph is not quite accurate... The fruit section should
actually be Healthy Fats and the nuts section should be Fruit & Nuts)

In June 2012 I visited home (Spokane, WA, USA) and I was sick.  Like SICK sick!  Not only did I have all my regular health problems going on, but I also caught some kind of bug on the airplane and I was NOT doing well.  I was pretty much death warmed over.  My mom suggested I see her Naturopath, Dr. Policani of Evergreen Naturopathic.  Dr. Policani did some tests and took some history and agreed with the other alternative therapists I'd seen... my thyroid was not well controlled and I possibly had Wilson's Syndrome and/or Hashimotos Thyroiditis, as well as adrenal fatigue and food sensitivities.  Besides a daily handful of supplements, she recommended that I begin eating Paleo.  She gave me the name of a few books and a handout on Paleo eating.

I was actually on board with Paleo eating as I had recently done the UltraSimple Diet by Dr. Mark Hyman for five weeks and that was the best I'd felt in a long time.  It is very similar to Primal / Paleo, with the exception that you can have brown rice and you have daily breakfast smoothies.  The only reason I'd quit after five weeks was because of some nutritional testing I was supposed to have done, but through a comedy of errors never happened.

I returned home to England and tried out this Paleo thing.  And returned to eating SAD (the Standard American Diet).  Tried out Paleo again and returned to SAD.  Found out about Primal and tried that out.  And returned to eating SAD.  Tried Primal out again and returned to SAD. 
The Primal Pyramid (by Mark Sisson)
The yo-yo-ing between Paleo, Primal and SAD ultimately went on for almost a year.  During that year I pinned a lot of recipes on Pinterest, followed a lot of blogs and Facebook pages and thumbed through a few books and websites.  Then I found The Whole30...


Whole30 Attempts: March/April 2013 -vs- SAD: May 2013

During the months of March and April I attempted to do a Whole30... three times.  I think I probably ended up doing close to 30 days, but not consecutively and I could never get past the 13-day mark.  I was detoxing continuously and getting really frustrated.  Then some wise person in the Forum suggested that I take some time off and plan a new start date.  Until then, I should focus on psyching myself up and getting myself in the right mind-set to complete a Whole30.  So I decided to take May off to celebrate my birthday and start again on June 1.  And I REALLY took May off! Ate SAD and pigged out on all my favourite foods.

While some of my symptoms began to resolve during my Whole30 attempts in April, they came back full-force during my off-month.  I noticed that month that I am much hungrier and eat a ton more when I'm eating SAD.  I also realized that I'm a serious sugar addict, even more than I previously thought.  Finally, I began having severe joint pain, especially in my hands. It kept me awake several nights that month and I had to take narcotics to relieve the pain.

My First Whole30: June 2013

When I started my June Whole30 I was in the right mindset and completed it relatively easily, despite almost three weeks of detoxing.  Part of what made it easier was my mom who was doing it long-distance with me, and I was publicly recording what I was doing on my Facebook page: Practicing Primal.  Beyond the improvements at the end of the 30 days in weight, measurements, size and symptoms I also found that the skin on my face cleared up and my hairdresser pointed out that I had about an inch of new hair growing all over my head - double the hair volume: bonus!

Reintroduction (eating Primal) in July 2013

My second wedding anniversary and a trip home to meet my new nephew precluded a continuation of the Whole30.  I decided that I would eat Primally for the month of July.  That meant I added back in whole-fat dairy, dark chocolate and paleo-ized baked goods.  I also decided that I would off-road drink alcohol and eat ice cream (my favourite food!).  After a 27-hour trip West with layovers in Amsterdam and Seattle I made it to Spokane and had a fabulous 10 days at home.  I ate exactly how I was planning except for several added sugars that were in a bunch of the foods my mom bought for us to eat (sauces, coconut ice cream, etc.).  I got to try several things that I haven't been able to get in England such as the coconut ice cream, kombucha and goat's milk kefir.  I noticed by the end of my vacation that some my symptoms were beginning to return.  When I returned home after the 19-hour trip East I could not catch up on my sleep and remained exhausted.  I also chose to continue to eat off-road with alcohol and ice cream - those definitely didn't help.  As I was feeling crap again I started another Whole30 on August 1st.

August 2013....

Further Whole30s - Started August 2013

I started another Whole30 on August 1, 2013 and was going to make it a Whole90 (ie. continuing the W30 through October).  Unfortunately, I only got to Day 40 - you can read more about it here: My August Whole30 and here: Why I Quit My Whole90 At Day 40

The Monkey House Project: Go Primal - Started August 2013

For further information about our family's project to go from SAD to Primal/Paleo/JERF, check out The Monkey House Project tab.

Relaunch of Practicing Primal [and Paleo]

About this time I relaunched Practicing Primal.  You can read the first post here.



You can follow what I'm doing currently at My Facebook Page, Practicing Primal.  You can also sign up for blog updates on the right side of this page.

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