#35 – Sarah Ballantyne: Paleo Isn’t Just Food; It’s a Lifestyle, Part 1

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Episode Summary

Welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life with Krisstina Wise. When Sarah Ballantyne’s first daughter was born, Sarah was morbidly obese and suffered from over a dozen immune and autoimmune-related diseases. Although she made changes to lose weight, Sarah still felt less than optimal. On this week’s episode, we learn about Sarah’s journey and why she’s a big advocate for the Paleo lifestyle. This was such an interesting conversation, that this interview has been broken up in two parts. Tune in next week to hear part two!

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You can also click on the time stamps below to jump to those specific points in the conversation.

What We Covered

  • [04:10] – How did Sarah start her health journey?
  • [12:15] – Sarah lost 100lb, but still felt awful physically.
  • [13:45] – Sarah was wearing long sleeves and pants in 95-degree weather, because she was ashamed of her awful skin condition.
  • [17:25] – Sarah decided she had to get healthy, not just thin. Losing weight wasn’t doing anything for the health of Sarah’s body.
  • [21:45] – How did Sarah make the transition to a paleo diet?
  • [25:50] – Sarah highly recommends writing your food intake in a diary.
  • [29:20] – Changing your diet is a lifestyle journey, and it’s not always easy.
  • [31:20] – Paleo has a learning curve because everybody reacts to food differently. We need to make time for self-experimentation, and to see what works and what doesn’t.
  • [37:15] – As we travel through a new lifestyle journey, it’s important to forgive ourselves if we mess up and go back to old habits.
  • [39:10] – Why did Sarah start Paleo Mom?
  • [44:40] – Motherhood made Sarah seek out healthier alternatives and options.


[Tweet “Being overweight felt like I’m wearing this badge of, ‘I’m not healthy,’ and ski”]
[Tweet “Healthy and thin — these words don’t actually mean the same thing.”]

Links Mentioned

The Paleo Mom Website
Sarah Ballantyne on Twitter

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You are at the intersection of wealth, health, and happiness. Welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life.

Hello, and welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life, the show about becoming wealthy without sacrificing your healthy. Each week, I interview a counter-cultural thought leader to bring you a unique millionaire mindset. I’m Krisstina Wise, bestselling author, millionaire coach, and your personal guide to money, health, and happiness.

Today, I tackle health wealth with Sarah Ballantyne, or as you might know her, the Paleo Mom. Sarah is the creator of the award-winning online resource, “The Paleo Mom”. She is co-host of the top-rated podcast, The Paleo View. She’s a New York Times bestselling author of The Paleo Approach, The Paleo Approach Cookbook, and The Healing Kitchen. She’s the creator of the new online program, Go to Bed: A Guide for Getting Healthier Sleep. Sarah is a PhD in medical biophysics, and through nutrition and lifestyle changes, Sarah was able to reverse over a dozen diagnosed medical conditions, and lose over 120 pounds. She now helps millions of others do the same. I loved our conversation so much I wouldn’t let her off the phone, so this is a long episode. I broke it up into two parts. This is part one of a two-part interview. I hope you enjoy.

Sarah, it’s such an honor and huge opportunity for me to be able to spend this time with you today. You probably don’t remember because you speak all over the place and do bazillions of workshops but —

I remember.

I met you at the Health e(fx) —

I remember you in my first workshop, right?

Yeah, I was. Anyway, I just wanted to say, number one, you were incredible during the workshop and I learned a ton, so thank you for sharing that with the group. But, what I really loved about you is like no ego, you were so helpful, approachable, real. You talked and your presentation about authenticity and then you’re actually authentic. I’m like, “Oh, how refreshing!”

Yeah, I had that one slide that was like making fun of businesses that embrace the concept of authenticity by like, “Now, let’s try and talk everyone into believing how authentic we are.” I’m like, “That’s not the point! The point is to just be a real person.”

Right. Be authentic, right. So, anyway, you are really amazing, and I was really impressed just to cross the board, so I wanted to just say that publicly. Then, of course, that was my first introduction to you, and obviously, I was incredibly impressed, and then when I went back and started doing research about who the hell is this Sarah woman is I just realized like, “Holy cow, you are incredibly accomplished.” I mean, PhD and in academic, and a researcher, and a scientist, and the more I learned about you, obviously, then I’m just awestruck. I’m like, “Oh my god, this woman’s incredible.”

But it sound like you have a really great story that I really enjoyed reading about and learning about. So, would you share a little bit about it? Because, it sounds like, great, you were way into your career and your study but you weren’t healthy. You were obese, I think, and you were pre-diabetic, and were having all these issues, and just no energy. But, you kept just powering through it as Superwoman until, finally, I think you just said, “This isn’t working.” Would you share more about that background?

I was morbidly obese and had metabolic syndrome. So, I had high blood pressure, I was borderline type 2 diabetic, and I had asthma, and allergies, and irritable bowel syndrome, and acid reflux, and horrible skin conditions, and early rheumatoid arthritis, and what I know is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, but at the time, just thought was low thyroid, and my doctors were, “Oh, it’s not low enough for us to do anything about it. We’ll watch it.” I’m like, “Great. Thanks, guys.” What I know now was fibromyalgia, that probably started in my teens, so just chronic pain.

I think that, at the same time, I was in grad school. That’s a super stressful thing. Especially in sciences, although grad school’s a super stressful thing in lots of other fields as well. I think I’m just a very stubborn person, and I think I taught myself how to persevere through pain and fatigue and discomfort. In a way, that has served me very well, clearly, but in a way, that eventually hit a wall, and that wall was after my first daughter was born.

So, I was obese through my first pregnancy, I had gestational diabetes, I ended up with preeclampsia when I went into labor, and then I had this colicky baby. She didn’t sleep and I would rock her. There’s this Happiest Baby on the Block is like — I loved it, and the whole thing is the 5 S’s, and she needed all 5. So, we would have her swaddled on her side, and we’d be shaking her and swaying as we were walking up and down the hallway, shushing in her ear, holding a pacifier in her mouth because she wouldn’t hold it in because she had a shallow latch. We’d do that for like 45 minutes and she’d finally fall asleep and she’d sleep for 20 minutes.

I love her dearly. She was a great kid, but she put us through the ringer, both my husband and I, and I was right finishing my second post-doctoral research fellowship, I already had my own grant funding, and the next step was 10-year track, faculty position, launch my own academic research program, and then this baby just completely turned my life upside-down. I was sleep-deprived, postpartum depression, and then still dealing with all these other health issues. I think, probably, one of the best realizations I ever made was I can’t do both. I want to be this perfect mother. I have these visions of making Halloween costumes, and decorating birthday cakes, and things that don’t actually happen. I actually buy Halloween costumes, and local allergy-free bakery for her birthday cakes.

But, at the time, I had these metrics that were going to be this journey of motherhood, and then at the same time, I wasn’t about to just do a half-assed job of being an academic researcher. You can’t. You can’t be successful, especially in those early years when you’re establishing your programs. Typically, most academics are working 60, 70, 80 hour weeks, doing a lot of the work themselves because they don’t have grant funding yet, and can’t afford technicians, and don’t have grad students, they have to train the grad students. It’s a really hectic time.

So, I decided, “Hey, one at a time.” Let’s do motherhood now because I can’t reverse the clock on that one, and we’ll do the academic career later. Fortunately, for me, National Institutes of Health had a program for women scientists called Re-Entry Grants for Women, and they allow women with PhDs and academic careers to take time off for not just motherhood, but whatever reasons women tend to end up in roles where they need that break, and then it pays salary and research support upon re-entry. We’re going to use this program.

I never ended up using the program, but it was my safety net when I decided that I was not going to go back to work, and that was probably one of the best decisions I ever made, because it allowed me the space, even though this baby was so much work, I still had more space than if I was trying to do hard baby and hard job. It gave me the space to start thinking about my own health, and start working on it. It was still years of — you know, I lost a lot of weight, but that didn’t actually make me healthy. I had a second baby, and that went a lot better. But, I had massive autoimmune flares after she was born and after she weaned, and my skin was a mess. I had lost the pregnancy weight, but I had depression, and anxiety, and migraines, and horrible skin, just covered in lesions, and I was miserable.

It was having made the choice to take a space, and that gave me the ability to start on my journey, and then really hitting that moment of frustration of I’d lost 100 pounds. Why doesn’t that equal healthy? Wait a minute. I did all the hard work.

When you say you weren’t healthy, I’m assuming — the reason why I’m asking this is a lot of my listeners and audience are high performers. So, they’re the power through high performers. They’re not feeling great, but they’re not really paying attention to it, and they just keep going. I mean, the resiliency, the psychological fortitude–

We push through anything, right?

The physical fortitude, they just keep pushing, right? So, it sounds like you had a life moment where you made this decision like, “I just can’t do both. I’m not going to do both, and I’m going to choose one thing over the other.” So, that was a real defining moment. But then, it sounds like that, “That’s great.” You start thinking, “Okay, I want to lose weight.” I’m guessing losing weight was the goal, maybe.

So, up until that point in my life, even though I had this list of diagnoses, right? So, I had this list of health conditions that I have, but I just really thought my problem was that I was fat, and I had so much self-esteem wrapped up in, or tied up in being overweight. I spent a lot of time pretending to be confident, but I wasn’t. When you’re overweight, you feel like a failure, you feel like it’s your fault, you feel like there’s something that you can’t control that thin people do. So, there’s this like — and then it feels a little bit unfair, because often, overweight people are actually making a lot healthier choices than lighter people. You watch this lighter person eat junk food and you know that if you ate that, you would gain six pounds.

So, there’s a lot of different very, very negative emotions, and a lot of very, very negative self-talk that tends to go with obesity. It doesn’t for everybody, but it certainly did for me. So, it’s a very bad mental health place to be in, and I really just felt like, “If only I was thin, everything would be amazing,” and I don’t think that’s a unique thought. I think that when you’re overweight, you really feel like this is the thing that I need to figure out how to change.

Yeah, and I think it really is the cultural common sense that we gain weight. A lot of people gain weight when they’re really stressed out and working long hours, and then there’s the kids, and snacking, and not really conscious of the importance of food and these different choices. So then the goal does become, “If I just lose weight, that will take care of all the problems, whatever the problems are, either realized or not so much,” and you were in that same spot, and I think that was such, maybe, a turning point. Where was it at one point where you’re like, “Okay, I lost 100 pounds but I still feel like crap.”? Like, what was this moment? Those things aren’t quite adding up like I thought they would.

I really had. I was sitting in my second daughter’s bedroom watching her play in the middle of summer. I had just had a break-up with my friend in a new city. So, it’s like the one person I had met, and I just realized that we actually weren’t compatible and there was not actually good friendship there. So, I was in that head space of, “I’m alone in a city, stuck home with two young kids.” So, not a happy place, and I was wearing pants and long sleeves in Atlanta in the summer because I have an autoimmune condition called Lichen Planus. It’s sort of related to psoriasis, and the lesions are very stereotypically on wrists and ankles. But, I had it on my ankles all the way up to my knees, sort of spots of it, and then on my wrists all the way up to my elbows. So, I was wearing long sleeves and pants in 95 degree weather because my skin was a mess, and at the same time, I also had horrible scalp psoriasis, so I was like wearing my hair up and not feeling attractive that way, and then I also had really bad cystic acne, which was something that I had battled with since puberty, and patches of eczema.

So, I was pretty much dealing with these like four different skin conditions, and as much as being overweight felt like I’m wearing this badge of, “I’m not healthy,” that everybody can see, skin conditions do that too. Here is this horrible mess of skin that people look at it and they go, “What’s wrong with you?” Thanks. Just a skin condition, but alright. So, I had this moment where like I always had the skin condition, but it felt like I had successfully resolved to this thing that I thought, “Well, if I just lose the weight, I’ll be healthy,” and here I have this, still this badge, this visible badge of, “Hey everyone, I’m not healthy,” and so much so that I feel like I have to be physically uncomfortable all the time covering it up so that people don’t see my skin.

It was this moment of, “Oh, I haven’t figured it out, and I thought I had, but I hadn’t,” and I ended up just doing an internet search and thinking, “Maybe it’s food.” It had come from just something that somebody had said once of eczema can be caused by egg allergy, or some little thing like that, and that internet search brought me to the Paleo Diet, which sounded completely easy and absolutely ridiculous, but it sparked my curiosity.

So, I spent a lot more time reading up about the Paleo Diet, but also reading up about food from a very different — in weight loss, I had thought about it in terms of calories and in terms of grams of carbohydrates. I had a fairly good idea of what’s macronutrients, and I had never really thought about micronutrients. I never really thought about, “Am I actually getting enough vitamins and minerals, and essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids in my diet?” and I’d never really thought about food toxins before, things that are in foods that are just inherently inflammatory or irritate the gut, in a way, or disrupt hormones. There are compounds in foods that actually undermine our health.

So, foods can have these sort of two things: vital nutrition – awesome, that’s what we want – and food can also have stuff that kind of erodes everything. You can have foods with both, and if you’re healthy, that food is probably still going to work for you, and then you can have both sides. You can have the food with tons of nutrition and nothing problematic in it, and then you can have food with tons of things that are really not going to serve you very well, health-wise, and no redeeming features whatsoever.

So, starting to understand food from that perspective, which led me — first, I was differentiating the words “healthy” and “thin”. These don’t actually mean the same thing.

Yeah, I think I read a quote of yours I really loved, and I think it was something like, “I decided that I would start to think of getting healthy instead of getting thin to get healthy, or healthy to get thin versus thin to get healthy.” It was at this moment of like, “Wait a second.”

It was certainly the beginning of that moment. I don’t think that I was able to distill it into such a great phrase until later. But, it was certainly that moment of thin does not automatically mean healthy, and healthy doesn’t necessarily mean thin either. If I have to pick between one or the other, healthy is going to win. Healthy sounds great. I love healthy. Healthy has all the good things. Thin has some good things, right? I mean, there’s some great stuff there, but if it’s a choice between the two, healthy is going to win. Ideally, I can have both, but let’s work on healthy first.

I also had to think about diet and nutrition. So, I had to think about food in terms of how it was actually fueling my body not just from an energy perspective, but from a raw materials perspective. There’s millions and billions of chemical reactions happening in our body in every moment, and those all take materials, and it’s the nutrients in food, the micronutrients, that supply those raw materials.

I had to start thinking about that differently. So, I ended up trying a Paleo Diet, and I, in two weeks, went off all six prescription medications that I was on at the time. One on two weeks. One of them I had been on for 12 years, and in two months, I’d lost a further 20 pounds. I had sort of thought my weight had plateaued. I was like, “Oh no, wait. 20 more pounds gone. This is great,” and my migraines went away, my irritable bowel syndrome went away, my asthma went away, my allergies went away, my depression and my anxiety attacks went away, I had more energy that I never had, my moods were better, my joint pains started to go away, and my skin started to clear up. The skin required, right? There was a greater journey around that. It required more tinkering, and eventually, in there, I did get my actual confirmation of diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, so I had to add medication back on.

It’s been a huge journey, but that amazing first couple of months, for me, was so eye-opening, because I had been doing medical research. I had seen amazing specialists for all of my health conditions, and yet I really didn’t understand the healing power of a nutrient-dense diet. That was something that I just felt like, “Follow the guidelines. I’m eating whole foods and I’m cooking for myself,” and I sort of had figured that was enough, and when I started really tinkering and pulling things apart, and understanding food at that much more detailed level, I went, “Okay, this actually is not hard and it’s not complicated, but it is more than the sound bite that we tend to get.”

We tend to get the set of rules, and depending on who you’re listening to, your rules are different. Some people say, “Eat your healthy whole grains and your low-fat yogurt, and someone else will say, “Don’t touch that. That’s poison, and eat your bacon and your kale.” I appreciate that a set of rules is a great starting place for a lot of people, but for my science background, I needed to know why and I really needed to understand. I think everyone can head around kale being a good, healthy choice, but I really needed to understand some of the foods that have a good reputation for being healthy, like whole wheat, and understand how that was actually harming my body. There’s a lot of digging for me through the science.

There’s a couple of things, like one thing where you just triggered me is that you lost a lot of weight, so I’m assuming it’s something like a low-carb diet or something, but it was “diet”. So, when you say you moved from that diet to lose weight to sort of this Paleo Diet/lifestyle, how did that look? Break that down. It was moving from this to what?

When I first went Paleo, and I really just did it on a dare. From the moment I did that first internet search to when I actually tried it, it was about three months. So, I spent about three months thinking about it, reading more about it, digging into the science, and preparing. Then I, five years ago, went, “Okay, I’m going to do this. I’m going to do this this day,” and I just started that day. At first, I didn’t feel that different from how I was eating, but also, at first, I approached Paleo from a very low-carb bias, and Paleo is not a low-carb diet. There are lots of people who eat Paleo in a low-carb way but it’s not inherently low-carb. There’s actually a ton of flexibility in terms of the macronutrient ratios in the Paleo Diet.

So, what a Paleo Diet is is it’s quality meat, seafood, tons and tons of vegetables of all different kinds, fruit, eggs, nuts, and seeds. So, when I first started, I still have this low-carb bias. It was meat and vegetables. I was switching the fats I was eating, and I went completely gluten-free and dairy-free for the first time ever, and I’d sort of, at various points in my life, suspected that maybe there were problems, and I had done gluten-free for a while and I had done dairy-free for a while. I’d never done them together, and I think, for me, now that I know how overly sensitive I am to those foods, that was a big factor in my sort of dramatic improvement over the first couple weeks of going Paleo.

So, it went from a diet that still contained, I think, a fair number of really sub-optimal foods, and was not particularly nutrient-focused. So, I started eating a lot more vegetables, I started eating a lot more seafood. Gradually, over the first year, I started seeking out things like farmer’s markets and working on food quality. But, when I first went Paleo, I was mostly shopping at Costco, and Costco, five years ago, which didn’t have the organic, grass-fed options that it has now.

So, it sort of actually really felt like it was not that big of a change. I would say, over the five years, as my understanding of nutrition has improved, now I could say the way I eat now is much more different from how I ate pre-Paleo, because I do eat a lot more carbohydrates and I do really seek out the most nutrient-dense foods. So, I eat a ton, ton, ton of vegetables and I really buy high-quality meat and high-quality seafood. I eat organ meat.

I’m really conscientious of all those things and I think I probably eat higher carb and lower fat now, which works much better for me. I feel like there was some ways that the low-carb diet that I did before Paleo was a real disservice to me. So, there was a lot of things that I was dealing with. For example, sex hormone imbalances, and thyroid issues, and cortisol issues that may have had their roots in a long-term low-carb diet. Although, like that speculation, I can’t necessarily prove it.

Well, it sounds like, ultimately, the biggest distinction is less focus on the macros and more of a focus on just nutritionally-dense food, and really focusing on those. I’m guess you, as a researcher, hacker, you’re just in there, really studying, maybe, the breakdown of the micros and different foods and the toxins.

Not to make it change my choices although it usually does. As soon as you start writing down what you’re eating, it usually changes what you’re going to choose to eat. But, every once in a while, what I like to do, every four or five months, do a three-day food journal and check my micronutrients, and there’s a couple of different apps that let you do that for free. I use chronometer, but I think MyFitnessPal does it as well, and just gives the breakdown of essential vitamins, and minerals, and fiber, and it breaks down the omega-3 fats versus omega-6, and just have a look at where I’m at, because my goal is, every single day, to get 100% of my recommended daily intake, if not 500% of my recommended daily intake of every single essential nutrient.

So, every once in a while, I do a little check-in. Am I really on track? And sometimes, I’ll go, “Huh, now I notice, I haven’t been eating as much of this food or that food that is what normally supplies this nutrient that I clearly need to be working on more.” So, every once in a while, I need to do that check-in, but I also write — I came at this with a history of obesity, which means I had a history of overeating and binge eating disorder, and a history of a very bad relationship with food. I ate for stress, I ate for loneliness, I ate when I was angry, I ate to be social, I ate to keep myself awake at night, I ate for energy. If you tick down the like “make sure you don’t” list of bad food behaviors, I did every single one of them.

Food addiction is a mental health problem that I still have lingering struggles with it, especially compulsion to binge eat, and I might binge on eating half a watermelon now, which is better than two pizzas and a gallon of ice cream, but it’s still a negative emotional cycle. So, I’d love to say, “Yeah, I’m on the other side and everything is sunshine and roses,” but it’s not. I have to be really dedicated to continuing to eat this way, and I have committed to it as a lifestyle, not as a diet to achieve a specific goal, but this is just the way I eat now.

But, I have to maintain that commitment and I have to maintain sort of an amount of vigilance and self-awareness and be really on top of really how lifestyle choices affect my eating choices. So, when I’m tired, I’m much more uninhibited with my food. If I’m stressed, I have cravings. If I’m not actually making as nutrient-dense choices as I normally make, then I’ll have cravings. So, I need to be really aware of how other things in my life are affecting my food choices because I’m not a person who can just listen to my body and eat instinctively and then all the magic, wonderful things happen. A lot of people can.

Thanks for sharing that, I think, because so many, let’s say, experts in this field, they make it sound so easy. So, thank you for being very vulnerable there and saying, “You know, this is a lifestyle and a journey and it’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s easier than other times, but I do notice these patterns,” and it’s really more of an awareness and choices and being aware of those things, and not beating myself up if I eat half a watermelon sometimes or whatever. But, thanks for being very open about it because I think that’s hard for people or they feel really bad about themselves if they think that, “Wow, it’s so easy for everyone else.”

Yes, and I think that as somebody who knows a lot of the behind the scenes, it frustrates me sometimes to see a lack of transparency in terms of — I mean, not that I feel like bloggers and authors need to be sharing their personal lives and all their personal struggles. I don’t think that the public is entitled to know all of that, but at the same time, I think that a certain level of transparency is important in terms of appropriately communicating what someone can expect when they’re making these changes.

I say, with Paleo, it’s not hard. There is a learning curve though, and there is a period of time for each of us when we start making these changes where we’re understanding our bodies in a different way than we’ve ever understood them before. We’re understanding food in a different way than we’ve ever understood it before. There’s a lot of room for self-experimentation. There’s a lot of grey-area foods. So, a lot of people in the Paleo community eat some rice, eat some dairy, maybe even have some properly prepared, nutritionally prepared legumes.

Those wouldn’t be considered strict Paleo, but they find their way into a sustainable set of choices that someone can actually stick with for the rest of their lives. It’s part of what I talk about as being balanced and learning, through self-experimentation, what it is that our bodies need to thrive, and then what it is that our bodies tolerate and living somewhere in between.

I think that’s the way that you make this a lifestyle as opposed to a cult, and I don’t think it serves any of us to make it a cult. I think it’s really important to say that, “Okay, so it is absolutely true that the bread aisle at the grocery store smells vaguely of urine to me now.” It used to smell really good. It would be like, “Oh, I miss bread,” and now I’m like, “What’s that smell?” like, “Ugh, it’s repulsive.” But, at the same time, the donuts that got brought in to my CrossFit box in the morning look really, really tasty.

So, there’s this weird like I sometimes find myself repulsed by foods that used to be my staples, and then I sometimes find myself really missing them. I have a recurring nightmare I get about every three weeks where I’m always eating my fourth piece of pizza, always my fourth, and I’m halfway through it, and I realized what I’ve just done, because I really don’t tolerate gluten, I really don’t tolerate dairy, and I really don’t tolerate vegetables from the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes. So, there’s the crust, the tomato sauce, and the cheese, that are all horrible things, and if I accidentally get exposed to any of those things, I have really bad symptoms. I’ve never intentionally eaten them in any kind of quantity, let alone fourth slice of pizza quantity. My dream is literally just, “Oh no, what have I done?” and it’s that waiting for, “I don’t know how bad this is going to be and I don’t know when it’s going to hit.” I wake up in like panic mode from this dream like, “Oh my gosh! Okay, no it’s fine. I didn’t really eat pizza. It’s good. Go back to sleep.

But, I think that’s an illustration of how addictive food is now in our society, and especially it’s not just addictive because the food is hyperpalatable, right? I mean, it is, but the convenience is addictive. I used to be able to just call a number and then delicious food would get delivered to my door, and that’s a much harder thing to achieve now with Paleo. I mean, there are definitely places where people can go and there’s more restaurants that can accommodate it, and there’s mail delivery services now, and it is definitely an easier community to be a part of than it was five years ago. But, it’s still not pizza. I think it’s important to acknowledge that there is a hold that those foods have on us that — I mean, I haven’t eaten pizza in five years, and I don’t ever intend to again, other than some specially prepared one with a lot of alternate ingredients – all alternate ingredients.

But, at the same time, I think it’s okay for us to be human. I can say, “You know what? I miss pizza. If it wouldn’t make me violently ill, I would occasionally eat it,” and I think there’s people within the Paleo community who do and it doesn’t make them ill. So, they do occasionally indulge, and I think that’s great. I have no like, “Gluten is the devil and we should never eat it.” You’ll find, when you eat it once in a while, it is not a health-promoting food. It does not have nutrition. There’s no nutrients in a wheat-based product that you can’t get 10 times as much in a vegetable. There’s nothing in it that’s feeding our bodies what our bodies actually need. Meanwhile, there are things that feed the wrong kind of bacteria in our gut, can irritate the lining of our gut, can stimulate inflammation, can potentially disrupt hormones, especially insulin pathway, because a lot of  these products are really high and refined, or easily accessible carbohydrates.

So, there’s all these bad things, but that’s sort of different than saying that everybody should never eat it all of the time. I think that when you get a diet, you lose the heart of it, which is let’s support health across the board with better choices as often as the time as we can manage, and that’s, to me, what Paleo is about, and what this broader community, as Paleo starts to share boundaries with primal, ancestral Western A-price clean eating. I mean, clean eating is pretty much Paleo. Even plant-based diet, Paleo is just a little bit more protein than a plant-based diet, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s in common, and I think it’s important to sort of look at that broader community and look at the commonalities and embrace food choices that are nutrient-focused.

I think that’s what I love about you and your work is you’re not dogmatic about it. You’re just educational, and here’s the science, and you simplify it, and explain it, and give people options. You know, I really love your approach, and it is different than such a culture dogma, or rule-based, or guilt-based, sort of a byproduct of if you don’t follow the rules, you’re a bad person.

Go to your weekly meeting for your diet plan so you can be accountable for every bad choice you made all week. Alright, let me just beat myself up on everything.

Oh my god, exactly.

I think we need to respect ourselves and love ourselves, and part of that means forgiving ourselves, and it means treating ourselves sometimes. There’s a fine line between, “I’m treating myself sometimes,” versus, “I’m derailing all my — I’m falling down that slippery slope.” But, that’s a battle for each one of us to figure out individually because we all have our different triggers and we all have our different speed at which we fall down. Like, I fall down the slippery slope super-fast. I’m like, “Oh, I just had a spoonful of honey in my tea. Give me all of the chocolate now. I must eat everything.” So, I fall down that, especially the sugar. I fall down that really, really quickly, but I know that about myself, and my husband doesn’t. He can just, “Oh no, I’m fine. I don’t want that.” How can you not want that?

How can you not eat that piece of cake? How can you not want that?

 I know that you just ate a filling meal, but there’s chocolate cake here. You should eat until you want to vomit because it’s chocolate cake in front of you. So, I think a huge part of Paleo or any shade of Paleo is really the aspect of self-discovery and really understanding ourselves, our bodies, and our physical and emotional relationships with food.

Yeah, so that’s another layer. It’s really looking at food from the nutritional aspect, and then really just getting more in tune with our body and how we react with different things, and making choices accordingly, and knowing that there’s certain foods and choices that don’t add any nutritional value, and actually can cause negative reactions and responses that ultimately make us feel less than optimal. But, we can try those things, so I love that. Well, let me ask you this. When did Paleo mom come into this?

Really early on.

So, you were on your personal journey, and when did that convert over to, “Wow okay, I need to share this with the world.”

I had such immediate success with it and saw mitigation of health issues that I had been dealing with, some of them for most of my life. I used to say, “All of my 5’6 life, I’ve been dealing with this issue,” and I’ve been 5’6 since I was about 10. I had such amazing success, I really became obsessed, and I became a zealot, and I listened to all the podcasts, and I read all the books, and I would try all the recipes, and I started experimenting in the kitchen, and I started talking — it was the only thing I had to talk about because it was like that or the temper tantrum my four-year-old just had for three hours.

I needed an outlet. I realized this when I found myself getting my hair cut and trying to explain, nicely, but there’s not a nice — it was just evangelical. I was trying to explain to the woman why the bagel that she’d had for breakfast was going to kill her, and that just wasn’t cool. Like, that’s not — I needed to have a place where I could put the information out there, but for the people who were already looking for it, and not going around proselytizing and going like, “Hey everyone, down with gluten, up with bacon.” That A) it’s not my personality, but B) I don’t think that’s how anybody can affect positive change, period.

So, I actually started my website two months after I had started Paleo, and it was literally two weeks before I had been at a yoga class, and someone had mentioned a blog, and I had gone on this like 10-minute rant at the end of the class about, “Blogs are dumb. I don’t get them. What is the — you have to go back all the time and they just have a new article every day,” and I just completely bashed the whole concept of blogs. Then, two weeks later, I turn to my husband, I’m like, “What do you think of the idea of me starting a blog?” I mentioned to him on a Thursday evening, and I was just like, “Yeah, I could just like blog about going Paleo.”

At that point, we’d had a couple conversations about him and the kids while we’re transitioning to it. I can blog about your experience, transitioning, and I could share my recipes. What do you think? And I think he was so sick and tired of hearing me talk about this Paleo crazy thing that I was doing that he was just like, “Yeah, I think that’s a great idea,” and I think it was just he recognized my need for an outlet as well.

It’s interesting because when I started, I’ve always loved cooking and I’ve always had a reputation among my friends as being a really good cook. So, I just thought it would be like recipes and the family stuff, but I’d have to summarize what Paleo is, and I’d put in these sciency summaries. I hadn’t really anticipated how much my complete inherent nerdiness and my own need to really understand the detailed science and communicate that would seep into every single aspect of my blog and end up really being the thing that my website has that’s quite unique, and also, I would say, even the heart. The heart of what I do is in proving scientific literacy around health topics, and I even would say that that transcends the Paleo template.

I think when something is Paleo or isn’t Paleo, but the contemporary science is not necessarily super supportive of that idea, I write an article about, “Well, is this a good food? Isn’t it? Here’s the pros and the cons and make a choice for yourself.” Not technically considered Paleo, but maybe that should change. I like delving into those more detailed conversations.

So, over coming up on five years now, my website has gone from what was really just a, “Hey, my kid tried Paleo chicken fingers today,” to I think of it as being an educational resource. Sometimes it feels like I’m writing a book out of order, but the science is infused into the whole thing, but I hadn’t anticipated that. I had just thought, “I’m the stay-at-home mom for now eating a Paleo Diet coming up with recipes, and we’ll call this website the Paleo Mom.” I don’t know if that’s what I would call it now, having — if my vision was what it is now, I probably would have a different name for it.

But, at the same time, it really is the roots of my health journey was motherhood, and it was wanting to be healthy for my kids and wanting to — and my kids giving me the space to understand what would make me healthy.

I hope you gained some new insights about nutrition, the Paleo culture, and overall health from my conversation with Sarah. If you enjoyed this episode, I highly recommend checking out Sarah’s blog, The Paleo Mom, Sarah’s podcast, The Paleo View, and any of Sarah’s courses and more. All of those links are available for you at wealthywellthy.life/podcast. Next up is part two of my interview with Sarah Ballantyne. If you want to hear the rest of our conversation, you won’t want to miss it. Here’s to a Wealthy Wellthy Life. I’ll see you next time.

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