ENTREPRENEURSHIP: The Journey to Joy: The Paleo Blogger

Health is a key ingredient to entrepreneurship, no matter what we do. It can change our lives, heal our words, and double-reinforce our mindsets for success and triumph over every sour setback life can offer. I'm honored to present this guest testimonial from a new friend, Rachel Peterson, the Paleo Blogger--author of the blog Austin Paleo Grrl, about how her decisions to live healthier changed her life as a blogger, and as a successful, joyful woman. 

Hey, y'all!!

It’s been a minute since I slayed you with my delicious words. But alas, the time has come, and it's gonna get REAL up in here! 

So, flashback to November 2013: My life was pretty good. I was engaged to a seemingly perfect, charming man named Eric. He was my rock. We had been together for almost three years before he finally popped the question. I opened up the ring box to reveal the most beautiful rose gold diamond engagement ring you've ever seen - with a decent-sized rock in it. I was interning (paid) in the marketing department at Grantham University at the time, trying to get some experience in blogging and social media. I was in a healthy relationship, finally getting some writing experience under my belt, and feeling good. I was on Levothyroxine at the time for my hypothyroidism. My numbers were stable there too. All the boxes were ticked.

Fast forward to Summer 2014: Wedding plans are finalized and I was doing well. I found work as an Account Manager at a small ad agency in Kansas City. I loved my job! I got to paid to write copy, blogs and do social media on a daily basis, as well as chatting it up with clients, making sure they were well taken care of. Then in August, I got laid off due to budget cuts. I was devastated. I got a small severance package and scored an interview for a writer position at a compounding pharmacy publication fairly quickly. I rocked the interview and was offered the job a few days later. Then, my health suddenly decided to take a detour. I came down with EBV (Epstein-Barr virus). I wasn't tired though, like classic cases of Mono, I was quite the opposite: I couldn't sleep well anymore. I went from getting eight precious hours of snooze time to maybe five or six for no apparent reason. I also found out I was VERY low in Vitamin D (in the 30's) and dangerously low in iron. We're talking borderline anemia here. So, the doc I went to for these tests put me on a whopping 25,000 IU of Vitamin D2 (bad kind!) and I was in so much pain for an entire week! I could barely walk. The dosage was just too much for my 5'3" frame, and my system couldn't handle all it. He also put me on ferrous sulfate iron supplements, which constipated me horribly. It was painful. Iron supplementation is fine, if it's the right kind (chelated iron or iron bisglycinate). So, I was declining fast with low iron, poor sleep (down to three to four hours a night), and low Vitamin D levels. Then, my thyroid turned its back on me. I tried Armour (NDT), which is derived from the glands of pigs and supposed to be a better alternative to big pharma thyroid meds like Synthroid and Levothyroxine. I did not tolerate the Armour AT ALL. It gave me heart palpitations, induced heavy sweating and made me feel like I was going to have a heart attack. So, I called the doc and told them my symptoms and they immediately switched me back to my old standby, Levothyroxine. The heart palps and sweating ceased, but I still felt unwell. Armour works well for some, but it was reformulated in 2009, and additional additives and fillers were added, which messed with a lot of people as it turns out! 

I felt so sick from all of these issues that I was unable to take the new writing job that I had so rightfully earned. It was a terrible feeling to have to call their HR manager and explain that due to health reasons, I felt as if I couldn't perform the job. 

I was growing increasingly concerned about the rapid declination of my previously picture perfect health. My sleep had gotten so bad that I was down to about two hours per night. Then a week later, zero hours. Yes, you read that correctly. I couldn't sleep anymore. I tried supplements like valerian, and ashwagandha to see if they would help, but to no avail. I became so desperate for sleep that one afternoon at home alone, I made the decision to call a local mental health helpline to talk, because I was considering hurting myself. I know that may seem crazy to some people, but I was at the very end of my rope. The lady on the helpline suggested that if I could, I drive myself straight to St. Luke's emergency room and check myself in to get help. So, that's what I did.

After an assessment by a mental health counselor, I was told that I was a possible danger to myself and was urged to check into their mental health wing. My mom showed up for support, and I checked in. I didn't know what to expect. My thoughts traveled back to the 2010 movie, It's Kind of a Funny Story, where a mentally exhausted teen checks himself into a psych ward. I was just like that kid. I thought about potential weirdos talking to themselves in the hallway, rocking themselves, screaming obscenities at invisible friends and so on. It was nothing like that (thank god!), but instead, a very supportive environment consisting of people mostly my age with some depression and anxiety issues, many with sleep problems like me. We had three square (mostly) healthy meals a day, daily group counseling and were assessed and given medications. I was given Trazadone my first night there (anti-depressant sometimes used for sleep), and I was knocked the hell out for eight or nine hours. Finally, sleep. That was night one. The second night, they gave me Remeron (low-dose anti-depressant sometimes used for sleep). I slept ok on this, but it only lasted two nights and then I was right back to square one. I was given a script for a few different medications and sent home three days later.

The Remeron/Trazadone combo helped. Then, it all stopped working. I would lie awake all night, trying to find a way to fall asleep. I listened audio files and binaural beats on YouTube, which relaxed me, but didn't get me the sleep I desperately needed. 

I called my assigned psychiatrist and he suggested I lower the Remeron and increase the Trazadone. Once again, this worked for only a few days. At the time, I wasn't working and had too much free time on my hands. My thoughts began to travel into dangerous territory again, and one afternoon, I decided to take about 60some pills with the goal to end my life (about three different medications total). My health and my life were spiraling downward, and I'd had enough. I got in the shower and almost blacked out. I managed to get out and get dressed and lie on the bed. I immediately called 911, realizing what I'd done to myself. An ambulance showed up with about six or seven EMTs and I was wheeled out into the ambulance to be taken to a nearby hospital. There, I was interviewed by a mental health counselor that by law, determined I had to be admitted into yet another mental health facility. She said that I was too much of a danger to myself to be left alone. My now husband was there, becoming increasingly concerned, but at the same time, growing emotionally vacant. He was more worried about the mounting stack of medical bills than he was about me. He came to visit me twice at the facility (my mom came to see me every day she was allowed). I was there for about five days and given a plethora of meds: Zoloft, Lunesta, Klonopin, Ambien to name a few. Then I was again sent home with some new scripts for sleep medications. The Ambien actually worked for a while, but then back to no sleep. I was seeing doctor after doctor, each one studying me, trying to figure out why I could no longer sleep. I did a sleep study (on medication), which surprise, came back as inconclusive. Complete waste of time. My relationship with my husband began to crumble at a fast rate. I moved in with my mom, so that she could be with me during the day and drive me to doctor appointments. This further removed me from my husband, and he'd finally decided he'd had enough. He wasn't strong enough to stand by me in my greatest moment of weakness. In February 2014, I received a knock at the door with marriage annulment papers delivered by a process server. I wasn’t surprised. We'd only been married five months and didn't have any assets together (besides wedding presents like cash and various kitchen gadgets), so we divided up what we had been given, me taking most of the kitchen gadgets, because I'd always loved cooking.

Still with me? Let's press on...

So that’s it. Marriage over. I was still sick, unemployed and the little money I had ran out. So no money, no job, no hope for the future. Luckily, I didn't have many bills, and my wonderful mom was more than willing to let me stay with her as long as I needed. My friends Alex and Jamie were also a source of support, and I'm forever grateful to them for this. I attended a wedding with Alex in late June 2015, and had a blast. This is when I was also at my heaviest (around 154 lbs on my little, 5'3" frame).

I finally found a Web Merchandiser job at the Hallmark Corporate office for a few months making good money there. I was doing better, but still having thyroid and major sleep issues. My mom and I decided to pack up and move to Phoenix to get a fresh start. I looked for jobs in marketing, but the market was very competitive and I couldn’t find anything. I was home all day watching tv, eating a lot of fast food and merely existing. I worked in retail over the holidays part-time, but that was it. We both decided we hated the Phoenix heat, packed up once again in August 2016 and moved to Elgin, TX, where my aunt and uncle live. We found an apartment in Elgin within a month of searching (Austin is a tough city to find an apartment). I needed money and a job, so I went online to search jobs with Advantage Solutions, a company I'd previously worked for doing retail merchandising. After a brief in-person interview, I was called the next day and offered a full-time job. Finally, I was back! It wasn't marketing or writing, but at least it was a source of income! I was still on medication for sleep, but managed to keep my energy levels up to do my job and the medication was allowing me to get about five to six hours of sleep each night. My current job keeps me very active. I walk around stores all day checking out of stocks, and reporting on-shelf items for Mars Petcare. I learned how to talk to managers in my stores. And, I became VERY good at my job! I was always very shy in the past, but my job forces me to interact with several managers a day, so I got rid of my shyness quickly.

I don't remember the exact moment, but I decided wanted to wean myself off gluten. I’d read about the dangers of a highly-processed carbohydrate diet for persons with thyroid issues, so I think this is what kicked my butt into gear. And man, I was a r pasta-holic! I started out slowly, cutting out bread and eating rice pasta. Not too bad. I started reading food labels more, performed my job at 100%, and began losing weight rapidly. I was shocked at how much different I looked and felt by cutting out gluten. It was so simple. The only exercise I was getting was walking around my stores, bending and lifting 30-50 lb bags of dog food, but all of that helped too. By March of 2017, I was ready to take it even further, so I made the jump to Paleo. I started eating salads every day for lunch with protein and avocado, cut out rice pasta and flour, and eventually all grains and dairy. I had been soy-free for years, because of my thyroid, so that wasn't an issue.

I also decided to start blogging again. I had blogged in the past with jobs and internships, and I missed writing. It's my drug of choice, and I was always good at it. So, what to blog about? What else? Paleo, duh!

By April 2017, I had lost about 30 lbs. I started going to Zumba classes twice a week and became hardcore, balls-to-the-wall Paleo. I'm talking 100% grain-free, dairy-free, nightshade-free, almost AIP (Autoimmune Paleo), but still eating nuts and eggs occasionally. I was holding steady at about 122 lbs and feeling pretty good. But still, I wanted more.

I attended Paleo f(x) in May (read my awesome recap blog here), which was a game changer for me. I got to meet my heros Mark Sisson, and Josh Axe (heavy-hitters in the Paleo world) and listen to some really good discussion panels and do some HEAVY networking. This is how I earned my first blog affiliate, 2XL Premium Angus, LLC (a 100% grass-fed/finished angus ranch, which I’m currently visiting).

I became curious about how to step up my exercise game and challenge myself, so I inquired about a little something called Barre with my friend Alli. She said it was an awesome leg and core workout. I was sooo in! I bought a ten class Groupon pass for a studio called Todd Pilates and Barre in Austin (read  my Barre blog here). After two classes, I was HOOKED. I started going twice a week, then three times. My favorite class is with Whitney, an amazing instructor who pushes you to be better. 

So I'm loving barre, my new Paleo way of eating, and I am blogging again. I even taught myself how to do email campaigns for the blog! 

Yeah, definitely within a healthy range! I'm now beginning to build muscle, burn fat (by cutting carbs and sugar), and I'm doing it the RIGHT way. I don't take diet pills or subscribe to the latest fad. And if you think Paleo is just a 'fad diet', think again. Paleo has helped so many people and it isn't going anywhere as far as I'm concerned. And so says the other thousands of people from around the world who attended Paleo f(x) with me this year. Paleo has not only helped me lose weight, it has also improved my skin clarity (I have rosacea), improved my digestion, gives me steady energy throughout the day, blood sugar levels are fantastic, and I don't get hangry anymore!

I love talking nutrition so much that I decided to sign up for Mark Sisson's Primal Health Coach program. I want to help others, and I believe this is my life's calling. I stewed for a while, and I finally decided to JUST DO IT (like Nike lol). I'm still keeping my merchandising job to pay the bills until I finish my training, then who knows? I'd love to be my own boss, and I'm very driven and ambitious by nature. I know how to network, and I LOVE talking to people about their health. I  with their weight on an almost daily basis. I try to set an example for others and share the knowledge I've gained. Bottom line: many people need help turning their health around, and I believe it's my mission to help them do that. I already passed Module 2 of my training (genetics, anyone?), and now on Module 3 Yup. Bring it.

I've even started an Austin Paleo/Primal/Keto/AIP Meetup group in Austin, and it’s growing each day! I'm so excited to meet like-minded people!

I know I've shared some VERY personal information with you guys. Why did I do it? Because I trust and value you as readers and I know what it's like to struggle. I've been to hell and back. 

In closing, please contact me anytime via the blog, at risforrachel@gmail.com or via social media (links below) if you ever want to learn more about the Paleo way of doin' things! I'm happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability! I hope you'll be inspired to carve out the life you’ve always dreamed of, because it is achievable.

As always, BE WELL and THRIVE!


Austin Paleo Grrl is a Paleo lifestyle blogger and Primal Health Coach in training from Austin, TX. She enjoys reading nutrition and health books, blogging in her spare time, barre classes, posting her random musings on social media and cooking for friends and family!


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