My name is Nevada Gray (@thepaleopharmacist) and I’m a 42-year-old pharmacist and registered nurse living in Boston. A health emergency motivated me to try keto and a carnivore-style diet, and I lost 90 pounds.
I started to rapidly gain weight in my late teens and early 20s when I started struggling with hormonal issues that coincided with my menstrual cycle. I was noticing changes in how my body looked and felt, and I started to feel concerned that something more was wrong with my health.
I got my hormone levels tested and discovered that I had elevated DHEA and abnormal levels of androgens. Doctors diagnosed me with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a lifelong hormone disorder with no cure. In the 90s when this was happening in my life, I was hard-pressed to find much information on PCOS.
Determined to find a cure for PCOS and improve my health, I decided to shift my career path from the arts to medicine and science. In the early 2000s, I changed my degree track from graphic design to biochemistry and nursing with a plan to go to medical school. After working as a nurse in a neuroscience department, I went back to school to become a pharmacist, earning a doctor of pharmacy degree in 2010. I knew I was achieving so much academically, but I was losing myself health-wise.
I graduated in 2010 at my heaviest weight of over 220 pounds (at 5’4’’) and pre-diabetic. I wondered, how could I help my patients when I couldn’t help myself?
After being told that I was on the verge of diabetes and seeing a diagnosis of obesity in my medical chart, I knew I needed to take drastic action.
I hired a personal trainer and spent a ton of time in the gym. I also started following a paleo diet after reading about it in fitness magazines. I would eat every few hours and meal prep like crazy.
In 2014, after barely seeing any results, I reduced my carbohydrate intake and lost 50 pounds (which was a struggle) over the next two years. But in order to maintain this weight of around 165 pounds, I had to keep up with two-a-day workouts, hours of cardio, and settling for never feeling satisfied in my hunger. Also, my PCOS symptoms and pre-diabetes still hadn’t improved. Not sustainable.
Another major health curveball came my way—and it led me to the keto diet.
In January 2016, after suffering almost two years of unrelenting back pain, I herniated a disc at the bottom of my spine that resulted in a rare spinal cord injury called cauda equina syndrome (CES) that paralyzed me from the waist down. Fortunately, I was able to quickly get to a quality medical center the morning I woke up unable to move my lower half and was promptly diagnosed. I underwent emergency decompression surgery. Recovery was a long road and the greatest challenge I have ever faced.
Given that it’s a rare diagnosis, CES doesn’t have a ton of scientific literature on it, never mind a recovery protocol, so I tried to figure a lot out on my own. I dove deep into the medical literature and connected with functional medicine experts to try and learn ways, even unconventional ones, to manage my condition and recovery.
I started a strict ketogenic diet that included fasting after reading about the possible neuro-protective effects of being in ketosis in neurological/neurodegenerative conditions. A year and a half on a ketogenic diet, I noticed that I felt better eating primarily meat and animal fat.
I also discovered the work of carnivore diet advocates/experts Shawn Baker, MD, Georgia Ede, MD, and Amber O’Hearn, and I began a carnivore diet that consisted mostly of steak, eggs, bone broth, salmon and salmon roe, salt, animal fat, and black coffee. The standard American diet simply did not work for me. I also started drinking a gallon of water a day and made eight hours of solid daily restorative sleep part of my routine.
Here’s what I typically eat in a day now:
- Breakfast: Black organic coffee blended with a tablespoon of ghee.
- Main meal: Steak and eggs. Every other day I also have one cup of bone broth and I a piece of wild caught salmon or salmon roe in addition to my steak and eggs.
- Dinner: My lunch is my main meal of the day.
In addition to my ketogenic-meets-carnivore diet, I worked with a physical therapist for two years after my surgery, who helped me get back into fitness.
My therapist helped me regain my strength, learn to walk with a normal gait, and correct muscle imbalances.
In an effort to empower myself and feel in control of my situation during my recovery, I earned a personal training certificate via the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), which not only provided a goal to work towards, but also empowered me in developing a solid fitness routine that helped correct my back issue. I also do fasted cardio.
I have lost 90-plus pounds over five years and am in the best health of my life at 42.
Almost four years after my spinal cord injury and series of accidental discoveries along the way that evolved into my personal healing protocol, I have made a complete full recovery from cauda equina syndrome, and I’ve managed to get my PCOS symptoms under control and my pre-diabetes into remission. I’m not saying this would work for everyone dealing with PCOS or pre-diabetes, but this is my story and what worked for me.
The most important lesson I learned while on this journey is that I needed to listen to *my* body.
I believe your body will tell you what to do, and you know your body better than anyone else. I also realized that it’s okay to look for answers outside of the standard health system. I felt empowered to arm myself with information from resources in science and medicine that I may not have expected before learning about my diagnoses.
A carnivore diet won’t work for every single person out there, and you should talk to a doctor and/or dietitian that you trust and have your best interests in mind if you’re unsure about your diet and read everything you can before you overhaul your own lifestyle. Find what works for you, and experiment with dietary changes safely.
Empower yourself with information, listen to your body, and choose the strategy that works best for you and gets you the results you are happy with. And most importantly, make sure whatever system you land on has you feeling good physically and emotionally.
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