|I loved my recent conversation with Amy Ma, the “Paleo Angel” and maker of the hugely popular Paleo Power Balls (featured in the October box). Amy shares with us how she learned the hard way that eating “healthy” wasn’t enough to combat her autoimmune symptoms, and how her personal success with the Autoimmune Protocol took her career from the courtroom to the kitchen!
Amy, please tell us your story!
In 2012, I had begun my career as an attorney and was living an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. The “Freshman 15” never got me in college, but boy did it catch up to me during that first year as an associate! Long work hours in front of a computer and my food choices certainly did not help.
Looking back, my autoimmune disorders really flared during this period, but at the time, I did not make the connection between my diet and my condition. After all, it’s not like I was eating fast food tacos or abandoning the recommended servings of vegetables and fruit. I always made sure I chose wheat bread or low-fat yogurt, and what could be healthier than my daily oatmeal breakfast? I even got excited at the opportunity to select whole grain pasta when it was an option on the menu, despite the eye rolls and jabs from my friends. I thought I was pretty health-conscious. On days I was feeling more ambitious, I would write in a food journal and make sure I counted every last calorie to keep it under the magic number. Yet, I seemed to just gain more weight and feel more lethargic.
Then I got stuck sitting in a trial for six months, even though it was only supposed to last for two months. Day in and day out, I filed into a courtroom with limited, short breaks throughout the day to stand up, move around, or grab some food. One day at the trial, while I was wolfing down a turkey sandwich on wheat bread and complaining about decreased energy, one of my colleagues perked up and told me about a book she was reading called, It Starts With Food, by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. She explained the Whole 30 diet to me and told me that Paleo was alleviating her inexplicable stomach pains. She talked about omitting grains, gluten, dairy, and refined sugar. To be honest, I was pretty dismissive. I thought, “Give up sandwiches and pasta? No way, I’ll be daydreaming about spaghetti and hallucinating pizzas in court after a week. I’m already down to 1200 calories a day. Better stick to my 100-calorie snack pack.” I also considered myself a foodie, always trying new restaurants and interesting foods, so the “diet” described by my colleague did not seem feasible.
Over the course of the trial, though, I watched as my colleague’s cute little pencil skirt became looser, her skin became more vibrant, and her intestinal issues subsided. I was only half-convinced by my colleague’s transformation, but my interest was piqued and I decided to look into it. The first thing I did was pick up a copy of The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf. I chose this book out of all the Paleo books out there because it looked like it was the easiest to read and actually get through (keep in mind I was still sitting in a trial every day). Well, not only was it easy to read, it was highly informative, intelligent, and persuasive enough to convince my logical mind that Paleo might help me. And it did. Within days, I no longer felt that 3 pm slump and I was sleeping better at night. Within weeks, the weight was dropping off my body without effort, and I had not even increased my physical activity. I stopped counting calories, and in fact, I consumed way more calories (real food calories). I never felt the need to exercise extreme discipline and starve myself. And then…it happened…it took a few months, but I noticed major improvements in my “no cure” autoimmune disorders. For someone who had just about given up on ever getting completely well, it provided immense hope and motivation.
What hurdles have you faced, and how did you overcome them?
Before AIP, I thought that I was “healthy” but I now realize that I had a very skewed view about what that meant. I’ve suffered from Autoimmune Diseases since a young age, and stumbled upon the standard Paleo diet quite by accident when a colleague introduced it to me simply as a healthier way of eating. I tried Paleo just to lose a few pounds and gain more energy, not thinking it would have any impact on my autoimmune issues. When I finally noticed that it did mitigate my autoimmune symptoms, I researched further and came across valuable resources on AIP provided by bloggers and authors such as Sarah Ballantyne, Mickey Trescott, and Eileen Laird.
I came up with the idea of Paleo Power Balls as an answer to portable, nutritious snacks, which was a void in the AIP and Paleo communities. However, owning a small business is stressful, which is not good for autoimmune disease. I’ve learned to prioritize and keep things simple, such as always being prepared with a quick meal, exercising, and doing yoga as much as possible.
Why did you start your own AIP business?
On my AIP journey, I discovered that while many Paleo foods are available on the market, it is difficult to find AIP foods to grab on the go. In turn, I started making my own snacks, modifying Paleo recipes I would find on the Internet by cutting out the egg or nut ingredients. At first, this was hugely unsuccessful, as eggs and nuts (and nut butters) are commonly the binding agents that hold many Paleo snack foods together. After a lot of trial and error, frustration, and broken dishes, I finally developed a winning recipe for Paleo & AIP Power Balls. To my surprise, they were well received by both the Paleo and non-Paleo people in my life. The Paleo Power Ball solved my problem, and my company was born.
Amy, how can people follow you?
You can find me on:
Facebook at Paleo Angel
Or check out my website www.paleoangel.com where you can shop for the AIP Power Balls!