Emma is the creator of Paleo with Mrs P, a website dedicated to creating simple, healthy, nutritious recipes which are free from dairy, gluten, grains and refined sugar. Diagnosed with diabetes just before her eighteenth birthday, Emma later fell in love with the Paleo diet and how it calmed her symptoms, as well as making her feel happy and healthy. Here is her paleo story!
You were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when you were 17 – that must have been very challenging. Can you tell us a little about this time in your life?
It was 2 months before my finals at school (A-Levels) and 3 months before my 18th birthday, I had been feeling very low for a while and had adapted to all the symptoms of Type One Diabetes, thinking it was just A-Level stress. I was weeing constantly, drinking anything I could get my hands on, I lost 2.5 stone in weight in a very quick time – thinking that it was just “my time” to lose the weight, as my mother is naturally very slim. I also had chronic thrush (sorry boys!!), my body was constantly going into cramp spasms and I felt generally very low. So low, I took myself to the school Dr who did a routine blood test and then the next thing I knew there were blue flashing lights and I was in hospital being diagnosed as Type one diabetic with the highest blood sugar they had ever seen – and questioning how I was still standing. It was a shock.
How did you discover the paleo diet and lifestyle?
It was in mid 2013, my husband had just proposed to me and we had decided that we were going to get married a year later on a beach in Indonesia. I had 4 stunning and slim bridesmaids and it suddenly dawned on me that I was in no fit shape to be a beach bride. I decided to invest in a personal trainer, as I thought it would be a great way to get in to shape and to focus on my diabetes, and get it in better control. Early on Henri (my personal trainer, and now one of my best friends) mentioned the Paleo lifestyle to me as he’d heard of it being of great benefit to other Type 1 diabetics. I cut out all processed foods, sweetened drinks, refined sugar, dairy, gluten, grains and soya overnight and within 5 days my mind had cleared, I felt happier, lighter, had more energy, no headaches or bloating and my blood sugars were much more stable. I was able to eat some meals without giving myself insulin- which had NEVER, in my whole 10 yrs as a diabetic, happened before. Along with all of this I managed to lose 2 stone in weight, which changed my confidence immeasurably.
How would you describe your own personal eating framework and lifestyle?
My view is that life is for living and food is for enjoying. At home, my husband and I make everything from scratch. During the week we stick to Paleo foods, especially as they work so well with my blood sugar control. If we are going to the gym then we will have some sweet potato with our meal or other starchy veg but otherwise we stick to grass fed meats, salads, stews, seafood, frittatas and my favourite nut butter curries. I am lactose intolerant so I steer well clear of it, otherwise my stomach balloons and I feel very sick and uncomfortable. I adore cooking and for me it’s a good escapism from my day job. We love eating and I would never prevent myself from having anything if I really wanted it. I think the second you start thinking about what you are eating too seriously then Paleo suddenly becomes a diet rather than a lifestyle and this is not healthy for the mind!
Has a paleo diet / lifestyle helped you control your diabetes?
Going paleo has completely changed my life. Before I began I was addicted to diet coke. If I didn’t have one by 11am each day I would get a pounding headache and feel irritable and lethargic. It was my medicine. I was also a milk chocolate fiend (officially the world’s worst diabetic!). I was eating a lot of ‘low fat’ yogurts, bread and other processed things. My blood sugars were on a constant roller coaster, from high to low and this in turn would make me feel very down and permanently bloated. I would sporadically go to the gym which would really help my diabetes control and then I wouldn’t go for 6 months (but continue to pay the fees on the off chance that “I would go soon”..crazy!)… Within a week of starting to follow the paleo lifestyle I had managed to cut my insulin control by 50% and then the weeks following 65%. I have not looked back. Having a stable blood sugar as a diabetic is so important for long term health and wellbeing. The ability to maintain control through eating paleo is a real revelation.
Aside from controlling your diabetes, what are some of the other changes you’ve noticed in the way you look and feel since you started your paleo journey?
Since I started following the paleo lifestyle, I have managed to banish a number of persistent health issues including headaches, irregular periods (having being diagnosed with PCOS back in 2005 and never having more than 3-4 periods a year, I now have one a month!) and clearer/ brighter skin. I generally have so much more energy, I’m much happier in myself, my hair and nails are stronger and I can finally wear clothes I never had the confidence to wear!
What’s your favourite way to stay fit and healthy?
I go to the gym about 3 times a week where I will do 30 minutes fast, high intensity cardio followed by some weights. I will then train with my wonderful friend and trainer, Henri, once a week where he will work on my movement, technique, strength and generally break me. Working out for me not only helps with my blood sugar control but it really helps with my mood and general positivity. At the weekends my husband and I try to be as active and “outdoorsy” as we can as we both have office based day jobs so we’ll try and do lots of walking and play tennis.
What does your own typical day’s menu look like?
Breakfast is probably my favourite meal and the reason I can bound out of bed so quickly. I usually have something like a blueberry and cinnamon omelette with lots of seeds on top and nut butter as this really fills me up. Lunch is at my desk at work. I will go to the supermarket on a Monday and stock up with lots of organic spinach, avocados, beetroot, olives and tomatoes. I will then cook a ham or chicken and lots of boiled eggs on a Sunday night and take portions for my lunches. Supper is with my husband at home. We will cook most nights, anything from homemade burgers with sweet potato fries, cauliflower and chicken rice, to butternut squash curry or a big kale, avocado and chorizo salad. I think variety is key or things could become very repetitive. Snacks wise I will make a big batch of energy balls / raw brownies every Sunday evening, wrap them in greaseproof paper and store them in the fridge ready for a snack during the week. I also love carrot sticks with almond nut butter and sea salt or kale crisps are fun too!
What are the top 10 ingredients we are most likely to find in your grocery basket?
Avocados (because I am completely obsessed with them), coconut oil, blueberries, butternut squash, coconut water, macadamia nuts, almonds, 90% dark chocolate, free range eggs, organic chicken.
Is there anything about the paleo diet / lifestyle that you find challenging?
It’s most challenging going out with friends for drinks or supper. I am not a fussy person and would never expect people to change their eating patterns for me, but it’s the consequence of “eating and drinking normally” that can send my blood sugars crazy for days afterwards. As I’ve got older I’ve got more sensible and try not to avoid things that I know will make me feel unwell.
Last year you started a gorgeous blog Paleo with Mrs P which recently made the Academy of Culinary Nutrition’s list of the Top 50 Paleo Blogs – congratulations! What inspired you to start your own blog?
Thank you! I started my blog having just got back from getting married in Indonesia. I had been following Paleo for about 9 months at the time and was uploading photos of what I was eating to my old instagram account, people kept asking me to share the recipe so when I got back I just thought I’d start a blog of everything I’d been making. I never imagined for one second that I would be on the Academy of Culinary Nutrition’s list of the Top 50 Paleo Blogs less than a year later. I am loving every moment and seeing my little blog grow is so exciting.
Do you have a favourite cuisine or favourite recipes?
My favourite cuisine(s) are Indonesian and Thai. I think spices and herbs are integral to creating a great dish. We got married on the island of Lombok in Indonesia last year and for our wedding supper on the beach we had a traditional Indonesian satay feast which was just incredible. My nut butter chicken curry on my blog was inspired by Indonesia and the satay sauces. Its probably my favourite recipe as it’s not only a beautiful reminder of our wedding but it is so simple, quick to make and the flavours are divine.
If you could have anyone over for dinner (dead or alive), who would it be and what would you be eating?
Ooo…. this is so hard! I would invite the Queen but I would request that I cooked for her at Buckingham Palace and she would need to bring Prince Philip along for comedy value. I would do a beetroot and coconut soup to start with homemade cumin crisp breads, followed by roasted cod with a brazil nut pesto crust and for dessert I would do a blood orange and chocolate mousse (made with avocado).
What’s the best wellbeing tip you’ve ever been given?
Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live.
Do you have any advice for someone starting their own paleo/primal/wellness journey?
Life’s too short and food’s too delicious so don’t let it stress you out, enjoy it. Preparation is key, so try and keep things simple by writing up a plan and sticking with it as best you can. Try cutting out gluten / dairy / refined sugars and processed foods for 5 days and see how you feel at the end. I can guarantee you wont look back and will want to keep going!
Would you be able to share one of your recipes with our readers?
Yes, I’m going to share my recipe for Simple Paleo Scoth Eggs. Find the full recipe here.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. As we always recommend, please make sure to talk to your primary health practitioner before changing your diet.