One of the first questions my naturopath asked me was if weight loss was a goal. My immediate answer was “no,” and I meant it. As a naturally curvy woman, I had come to accept the extra padding on my thighs and booty, and had long decided that trying to look like a model wasn’t a reasonable (or desirable) goal for me.
I exercised and practiced yoga regularly, but I worked out because of how being active made me feel, not how it made me look. However, I had initially scheduled this naturopathic appointment because I’d been experiencing big, regular pockets of time when I wasn’t feeling good—and that had been going on for about a year.
In these moments, it felt like my energy was completely out of whack. My heart would race, my energy would drop significantly, I wouldn’t be able to make decisions, and I’d panic for no reason. In these moments, I could become teary and emotional over next to nothing.
I soon discovered that if I ate food, I’d immediately feel better, and the wave of panic would subside. However, this immediate relief was also often accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of drowsiness and the need to sleep—no matter where I was or what I was doing. I’m no doctor, but this sounded a lot like hypoglycemia to me.
Through my work with my naturopath, I discovered that hypoglycemia was indeed the correct diagnosis. Over the next few months, he worked with me to examine and refine my diet. Eventually, we discovered that every time I ate refined sugar or carbohydrates, my energy would bottom out—it appeared that I was overproducing insulin and had an extreme sugar sensitivity.
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In addition to removing any type of pasta, bread, or sugar from my diet, I also stopped drinking alcohol, caffeine, and any other stimulant or depressant that could impact my blood sugar. Every meal consisted of meat or fish protein, a cooked green vegetable, and healthy fats, and I also ate snacks like almonds, cashews, and nut butters between meals. Basically, I wound up on the Paleo diet.
The strange part was that while I wasn’t trying to lose weight at all, I ended up losing 20 pounds that first month. And believe you me, I was eating constantly—and eating a lot. Once I had removed the sugars and refined carbohydrates from my diet, my metabolism was suddenly faster than ever and began processing the foods I was eating super efficiently. I’d pile my plate high with meat and greens and fats, go back for seconds, and be hungry an hour and a half later—then snack between these huge meals. And the weight just fell off.
While weight loss hadn’t been a goal when I first went to consult with the naturopath, I ended up looking great—and fitting into every piece of clothing I tried on in a way that had never been possible for me before, which I’ll admit was pretty exciting.
But more importantly, I was feeling good. My energy and mood were better and more stable than they had ever been in my entire life. I suddenly became a morning person, I was cheerful and happy for no reason, and my mind was clear. Basically, as long as I ate food, I was happy—but it had to be the right food.
I’m convinced that my body had started working so efficiently because I was eating the right food for me. For the record, I’m not proselytizing the Paleo diet—quite the opposite. I believe that my weight loss came from eating the foods that were right for my metabolism. People always seem to want to debate about what the “right” way to eat is, but the truth is, there is no one right way to eat. Some people thrive on a vegetarian diet, while others need to eat meat. Some do well on a raw foods diet, while others’ digestive systems simply can’t handle that kind of eating.
And despite popular perception, weight loss isn’t about eating salad at every meal or depriving yourself of the foods that you love—instead, what really matters is noticing how foods make you feel, which is not necessarily a quick or easy process but is totally worth it.
Weight loss, sustaining a healthy weight, and getting your energy right is about getting to know yourself, your body, and what makes you feel good. Figuring out what works for you requires paying careful attention, and possibly the support of a professional who can objectively guide you through the process.
Weight loss for me was about coming into balance with my body and what truly fed me. Once I discovered that—the rest was effortless.
Rachel Leber is a freelance writer based out of Boulder, Colorado. Rachel has worked as a yoga teacher, massage therapist, and natural foods baker, and she is passionate about writing about health, healing, and transformation. For more, check out rachelrebel.com.