I was born on March 21, 1973, in Germany. Based on my parents’ accounts of my early years, I had skin issues, constant bloating and digestive problems, constipation in particular, pretty much from the start. By the age of four, I was diagnosed with severe seasonal allergies. From then on, antihistamines, wearing gloves to stop me from scratching, having my arms wrapped up in bandages because my continued scratching led to infections, and not being able to go outside to play during the spring became the new normal.
I fell asleep in school because the daily dose of antihistamines knocked me out. Topical steroids in mega strength became the go-to methods of dealing with my constantly itching skin. In high school I was made fun of because my neck looked like that of an old woman.
When I was in my early 20s, I saw an alternative practitioner who told me to avoid wheat and dairy. So I went on my first elimination diet, which did not do anything but aggravate my symptoms. Lacking information and consequently not being strict enough, I was frustrated with this approach and considered her a charlatan.
In retrospect, she was the first person who actually had hit the nail on the head with her diagnosis. A dermatologist scoffed at this alternative “crap”, recommended to eat whatever I wanted, and to apply more cortisone to help with the inflammation and itching. I would follow his advice for many years, almost ruining my skin in the process.
I do not recall when I first knew that I was experiencing every month is premenstrual syndrome. For a while, I just assumed it is normal to turn into this vicious hulk without any control over my temper. Breast pain, forgetfulness and mind fog, pimple outbreaks, worsened eczema, water retention, constipation, sugar cravings from hell, and mood swings comprised the collection of my symptoms. Pretty much ten days of each of my cycles were spent like this, every single month, for more than 30 years.
Another hint at a serious hormone imbalance was the way I used to store body fat. I have always been lean, but whatever fat I had I predominantly stored around my hips, butt, and thighs. I could train as hard as I wanted – I was an avid step aerobics and dance aerobics instructor – and it would not shift my body composition.
In 2006, I moved from Germany to Los Angeles for my postdoctoral studies, met my husband, and stayed here. I still shudder when I think about all the crap I used to eat after I got here: cookies, fast food, soda; free food was always available on campus and it still is. Over the years, I had times where I paid a bit more attention to my eating habits, but mostly, I just did what everybody else did, until the fall of 2013.
Around that time a friend of mine told me about LCHF and her success with it, which led me to start the classic journey from the standard American diet via low carb and keto to eventually zero carb. Over the course of this almost 5-year dietary experiment, I cut out the usual suspects like flour, grains, sugar, and in conjunction seed oils. I of course baked all sorts of low carb bread, cookies, cakes, and other sweet goods and used dairy, coconut oil and low carb sweeteners in abundance.
Over time, I had been able to weed out serious offenders, while still clinging to almond and coconut flour, sweeteners, and dairy. After reading that dairy could be a culprit for chronic coughs, runny nose, and weepy eyes, I performed a dairy elimination experiment. After an entire month of dairy abstinence, I started coughing immediately upon reintroduction. My runny nose and weepy eyes returned as well, putting the nail in the coffin for diary. The following year, I experienced my first spring without seasonal allergies!
With dairy gone and my base line much lower, it was easier to track my skin condition and bloating. Over the course of another 1.5 years, I learned that sweeteners, coconut flour or any kind of coconut products, and almond flour either bloated me or made my skin itch like hell. I also learned that PMS causes eczema flares, especially around my eyes. The next natural step was to eat meat and veggies. At this point, I suspected as much but still did not want to face the fact that all the yummy low carb veggies I liked hated my guts, literally.
When I came across Shawn’s tweets about eating only meat I was at the same time intrigued and disturbed, but mostly intrigued. Following him on Twitter was probably the best thing I could do. Not only was he documenting his progress, but other people who tried it out chimed in with their successes and improvements. Rationally, it all made sense to me. Taking the leap and trying it for myself took until the first 90-day carnivore challenge with Nequalsmany. I knew I did not want to compromise my data collection, so the challenge was a good incentive to keep me on the straight and narrow.
Coincidentally, my period started on Aug 15, 2017, the first day of the challenge. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to observe how my PMS issues would behave. I was blown away with the almost complete lack of any symptoms during the first cycle. Barely noticeable breast tenderness and some eczema around my eyes were the remainder of my symptoms. My hope for reproducibility was not disappointed.
Now, six months into zero carb, I have zero PMS. Zero! In addition, I can observe my body composition changing; my thighs are getting more defined, my quads getting visible, and my hips and bum are getting slimmer. I hypothesize that my hormone imbalance has been resolved.
Bloating after eating is a thing of the past, as is chronic constipation. I seem to be more resilient toward colds. In the past, I used to catch everything that was going around. I am observing no sunburns (in SoCal) and easy and quick tanning, just like when I was a kid. My mood has been even keel; zero carb serenity is truly a thing and keeps the hulk in check.
I get less or not sore at all after workouts. My training is more intense. I have explosive speed for kickboxing despite the lack of carbs. My eyesight has been improving recently. I had to start using my previous pair of glasses (-3/-3) because my most current one had become too strong (-3.5/-3.25).
The most recent success is the remission of eczema. As of today, I have no visible signs anymore after 44 years of constant itchiness and severe discomfort. Even my scarred neck is healing, something I had thought not possible (see attached picture, no make-up, no photoshop, no moisturizers).
It took about six months to get to this point, with sometimes going one step forward, two steps back. This feels new and fragile. I am fully aware that any kind of missteps, may it be food (chicken is a suspect) or the fabric of new clothes, can trigger a flare; however, I now have the opportunity to really figure out all my triggers and to fight habitual scratching.
Thinking back how I had, unknowingly, mistreated my body over the years, I realize a couple of things that might be of help for others who are at the cusp of starting their journey. First off, I wish I had taken the alternative practitioner seriously. I was out for instant gratification, but that is not how resolving decades of health issues works unfortunately, in most cases anyway.
Secondly, the human body is an amazing machine that can withstand a lot of dietary abuse, for a while at least. It has incredible repair capabilities if one lets it and gives it time to do what is has been evolved to do with the right nourishment. I am looking forward to discovering what other health benefits this way of eating will bring.