As a doctor, I am trained to be skeptical of people’s stories: they are anecdotal and if the lesson isn’t the result of a randomized controlled trial, it simply isn’t true. I used to believe that. However, I have lived long enough to realize that very few parts of real life have been subject to a clinical trial, and there are still universal truths to be found. For most of my adult life, I believed that “everything in moderation” was the healthy way to go. Physicians don’t get much more nutritional education in medical school than that. If I hadn’t lived my story, I wouldn’t believe it. But here I’ll tell you the story of how I went “paleo” and how really doubling down on the principals of primal living has transformed my life.
I have had a chronic cough since I was a resident in the mid 90’s. I moved to Seattle at age 26 and soon found I had a mild dry cough. I thought I might have had some mild allergy to something in the air here. The cough got worse throughout my 20’s and around 30 I decided to have a work-up. I saw a pulmonologist, gastroenterologist and an allergist. The GI doc put me on a drug to decrease acid in my stomach, since maybe the cough was from reflux. It did not help. The allergist told me I had a mild allergy to cats, but my cough was no worse around cats. The pulmonologist put me on an antihistamine and nasal steroid for “allergies” which I continued to take for 20 years, but the cough was unrelenting, and slowly got worse. Eventually it was a productive cough that I had most of the time, worst at night, so bad that it kept me up at night and I would need chloraseptic spray to numb my throat just to get to sleep. I lived that way for 20 years.
When I was in my mid 40’s, my wife wanted to try a new diet which was very strict (no grains, dairy or fruit) for 6 days and had a “cheat day” on day 7. I offered to do it with her to be supportive. After a few weeks, I realized that the cough that I had learned to live with was almost completely absent during the 6 days, but came back with a vengeance on cheat day. I could not believe it, as neither I nor any of my doctors thought that a cough could be from something you eat. The worst part: my favorite food was a delicious french baguette from Bakery Nouveau in West Seattle (honestly-- it is like being in France) and camembert cheese. That’s pretty much all I ate on cheat day. So, suddenly I was facing the sad fact that one or both of my favorite foods was causing the cough. After a short trial, I found it was the bread. And then it all made sense. The symptoms were dose-dependent-- the more bread or other gluten-containing foods I ate, the worse the cough would be. (It was particularly bad after Chinese food-- who knew there was so much wheat in soy sauce!) That’s when I gave up wheat (and all other inflammatory grains) entirely. About 7 years ago, I went completely Paleo and my cough almost completely resolved.
After going grain-free I did not worry about my overall caloric intake or any component of it, and I continued to drink alcohol-- mostly wine. There are lots of Paleo-friendly treats, and I tended to eat some of those (in moderation!) every day. These are grain-free but still high in carbs. My weight slowly crept up around 3 lbs/year, despite never eating bread or pasta and always working out about 3-5 times/week. I had reached a weight that approached my peak pregnancy weight (and I had twins!!!). Finally, my New Year’s Resolution in 2019 was to do a Whole30 in January to try to reset my body. For 30 days I ate only whole vegetables and various protein from meat, fish, and fowl. No more paleo treats, no alcohol, minimal fruit and no dairy. My carbs were below 50g each day. As you might expect, I lost fat-- about 7 lbs that month. (As of this writing, I’m back down to my young adult weight). But the most amazing and wonderful thing happened also-- I felt huge energy boost and a mental clarity I hadn’t felt my entire adult life. I felt so amazing, I was actually upset that I had never figured this out before. At 51, I suddenly felt better than I ever had.
I found myself compelled to find out everything about nutrition and how our diet and exercise affects our well-being and mental acuity (not just how to become a fat-burning beast, although that part is fascinating too). My medical degree from Yale and 25 years of practice did not provide any new information on nutrition. Since January, I have spent all my free time reading as much as I can on the topic. All that research lead to my enrolling at the Primal Health Coaching Institute to gain a more thorough and intimate knowledge. I did not intend to change my career (yet again) and become a health coaching guru. But even before I finished the 20-week course, I felt I had to do something to change the world. Or at least help a few people feel this great. So, in addition to medical aesthetics, I am now offering health coaching to a few people each month who are interested in changing their lives the way I have.
The new program is on the web site here: GlowFit Health
I hope this inspires some of you to join me!