he path that led to my Carb Backloading discovery wasn’t typical; I wasn’t an athlete in training, I didn’t lift weights, and I wasn’t a member of a CrossFit gym. My life was just the opposite, in fact.
Eight months ago, I found myself sitting on my bathroom floor, unable to walk. My speech was slurred and my breathing was labored. I was scared. It felt like my body was shutting down…because it was.
My symptoms had been gradually building for a long time-probably longer than I realize even now. The first significant symptom I remember was always feeling tired, but that’s normal, right? I worked full-time as a kindergarten teacher and had two young children. That meant early alarm clocks and not-so-early bedtimes. My commute was also long and I had to fight horrible Houston traffic twice a day. I had laundry to fold, dinners to cook, lunches to pack, and a house to keep clean. However, everyone has those daily stressors. It’s part of the job description in today’s modern world. Honestly, who isn’t tired all the time?
“The Grind”, as I started to call it, became overwhelming. I developed migraines. I was always cold and uncomfortable. I found it harder and harder to fit in my jeans comfortably. I was exhausted, but still wasn’t sleeping well at night. I was using sick-days every month because my periods were so painful. To put it simply, I was no longer a happy person. It was affecting my job, my friendships and my family.
I felt that there had to be something I could do to improve my situation. I started to eliminate my vices one by one. Smoking-gone. Diet Dr.Pepper®–gone. Lone Star® Beer–gone. Artificial sweeteners–gone. I did my first Whole 30. I started a regular yoga practice and began meditating. I began to see some improvement! My sleep improved somewhat, gradually and my migraines practically disappeared. The daily stressors of life seemed more manageable. I was still tired, but I didn’t collapse on the couch at the end of each day. I felt as though I could keep my head above water again.
Then, just when I thought I was on the right track, I was sucker-punched. At nearly 40 years old, I discovered, most unexpectedly, that I was pregnant, only to miscarry a week later. While still in the midst of the emotional shock and physical changes that come with both pregnancy and miscarriage, my father called and told me that my mom had suffered a severe seizure and was on life support. She died later that week.
In the months that followed, the same symptoms I’d been fighting returned with a vengeance. I naturally blamed the stress, grief, exhaustion, hormones and aging. I went in for my yearly physical, desperately searching for the cause and treatment for these nagging problems. My doctor at the time found nothing abnormal. I told myself that this was simply part of growing older and most likely something that I’d have to live with.
In my gut, however, I knew that something was wrong. This wasn’t just a case of “getting older”. I was sleeping 10 hours a night, and even more on the weekends, only to wake up totally drained the next morning. My body ached and I felt like I was coming down with the flu every single day. My muscles and joints were never not hurting. My hands and feet were inexplicably numb. I maintained an intense yoga practice 6 days a week but was constantly fighting to keep from gaining weight. My sex drive was non-existent. My friends, family members and co-workers became worried. Everyone seemed to think that I was depressed. The thing is, I wasn’t depressed…I was EXHAUSTED! It was a bone-crushing kind of exhaustion that couldn’t be put into words, the kind of fatigue that caused my brain to misfire. I would mix up left and right and forget my train of thought mid-sentence. I had to make notes to help me remember even the most basic things.
In short, I was losing it.
I went back to the doctor, who did more bloodwork. Then I went back again. And again.
Meanwhile, I became bedridden, unable even to walk to the bathroom without assistance. I could barely speak and was forced to quit my job and focus all my efforts on recovering. I saw four different doctors, all of whom did countless tests without finding an answer. Finally, I found one that was patient and thorough enough to solve the mystery.
I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder. It was also found that I had an extremely elevated Epstein Barr level, Myalgic Encephalopathy, and Fibromyalgia. I was immediately placed on a high-dose steroid regimen to get my symptoms under control, along with a host of other pharmaceutical medications, each with its own undesirable side effects. Even so, I was lucky. My doctor said that 99% of patients with my blood panel would be bedridden in a hospital with permanent organ damage.
What I wanted to know, however, was what had caused my illness? It’s impossible to know for sure. The doctor’s best guess was that the autoimmune disorder had been lurking in my system for quite sometime. Coupled with the years of accumulated stress and the acute strain of pregnancy and loss, the door was opened this monster to finally reveal itself. When the EBV was triggered, it also went undiagnosed for months, which caused the ME and Fibromyalgia to develop state so severely.
After discovering the truth and undergoing treatment, I slowly improved. Baby steps were made, but the steroid treatment had left my once-toned yoga body puffy, bloated, and soft. It was crushing to look in the mirror and see how quickly my illness had robbed me of all that I’d worked so hard to achieve. I hardly recognized myself, and I was scared that I would never see my former “self” again.
I’m a stubborn woman, however, and I don’t admit defeat easily. I began to research my diagnoses. There had to be more that I could do besides popping pills and sitting on the couch watching Netflix, filled with resentment. I continued to eat a whole-foods diet that was primal in nature. The diet seemed to ease my joint pain and stomach discomfort, and also lessened my headaches and sensitivity to light. This time around, though, I listened to my body and ate what made me feel good, rather than blindly following some program. I noticed that I could break some certain “rules”, while other cure-alls didn’t help. Dairy? Not a problem. Coconut oil? Hell, no! It made me horribly sick to my stomach. Eggs? Only in moderation.
Additionally, I began intermittent fasting. Many of the articles I read discouraged fasting when suffering from a chronic illness, but I opted to try it because I’ve never enjoyed breakfast. I’ve simply never been hungry in the morning. Even so, I forced myself to eat it every morning because I had read, time and again, that if I skipped the “most important meal of the day”, I would gain weight. Despite all the warnings, intermittent fasting fit my natural eating rhythm perfectly. My energy levels immediately improved. My body wasn’t using all of its stores to digest food; instead, it was leaving me with the stamina to do the things I found worthwhile. I felt much better and it seemed that I was getting closer to “cracking my code”. Even with all those encouraging improvements, I still wasn’t seeing a drastic change in my physical appearance.
That’s when I read about John Kiefer and his Carb Backloading program. GAME-CHANGER! Within two weeks, I’d lost all the puffiness and bloat that had been plaguing me for months. It was as if a fat-burning switch had been flipped that could melt away the excess pounds I’d been carrying. I was in awe. My husband was in awe. I’m still blown away by the dramatic shift in my body!
Strenuous workouts are still out of reach due to my physical limitations. I’ve recently been given the okay to resume my yoga practice once or twice a week, but even that is more restorative these days. Any physical changes I’ve experienced are due to my diet, not exercise. The number on the scale hasn’t shifted much, but I’ve dropped two jean sizes in less than eight weeks. I look even leaner and more defined than when I was practicing power yoga for an hour or more on a daily basis. My energy levels have increased and are more consistent, without the unpredictable peaks and valleys. The insomnia has decreased and I sleep soundly through most nights.
The best part is…it’s so easy! I simply save all my carbs for my evening meal. Usually, that means a serving of white rice, roasted Japanese sweet potatoes, a regular baked potato or some fruit. I’ve even found that I can occasionally “cheat”, as long as I do it at night. What was once completely forbidden, such as ice cream, bread or a brownie, can now be tolerated, as long as the timing is right and moderation is employed. I no longer have to suffer the backlash of negative side effects or weight gain. It’s like magic!
I do have certain physical symptoms that I manage on a daily basis I still take a few prescription medications, but my regimen is far smaller than my doctor ever expected. My condition is chronic and there is no cure, but through diet, proper meal times, and Carb Backloading, I’ve found a way to transform my health, my mind, and most noticeably, my body. This lifestyle change has brought back my shine and given me hope for continued health and wellness for many years to come.