I know, it's a big question. I was just thinking about my own journey, and became curious to hear some other experiences.
I've always been "searching" for a way of eating and life that felt true to my body and soul. The big shift for me was having children, and feeling powerful instinctual understanding take hold within me. I'd say I first started parenting "paleo" before anything else; homebirth, carrying my babies constantly in a sling, sleeping with them in our bed, learning their elimination cues and leaving them diaper free, extended breastfeeding... The list goes on. I later read about the "attachment parenting" theory, and it fit some of what I did, but I always thought of it as more than that, something basic and instinctual and natural. Eventually I decided to bring the rest of my life into balance with this deep understanding, and I found Mark Sisson's book. I haven't looked back, nor have I ever felt better.
What about you? How did you get here?
I was (finally) diagnosed with endometriosis in 2004 and went to see a nutritionalist in the hopes of dealing with it without recourse to hormone therapies which my specialist introduced with the comforting "well, we're not sure what will work ... it won't cure it ... we'll just keep trying you on different cocktails until we find something that makes you feel a bit better" Um? No, thanks!
The nutritionalist put me on a "healthy balanced diet" which excluded dairy and caffeine and sugar etc and it really did give me a big improvement. Then two summers ago I realised in late August that my endo symptoms had been hugely better over the summer and was trying to figure out what had made the difference - we'd had good weather and had been being "lazy" with cooking - meat and fish on the BBQ with just a salad to go with - no bread, no potatoes. About the same time I saw an article on De Vany which lead me to Cordain's book. I immediately went LC but fell into the "lean meat falio" pit falls of LC coupled with low fat which worked for a time but eventually lead me to suffer terribly with regular low blood sugar attacks.
Knowing I was on the right track but at the same time doing something somehow horribly wrong I turned to the internets for research, found PaNu, had a face-palm moment when I figured out I needed some fat in my diet to run the engine and started cooking with butter, chugging double cream and using coconut oils to cook with.
Things are going a lot better ....... :0)
I've always been interested in evolution and had reasoned out the paleolithic principle (through evolution we've adapted to our environment), but never really worked out the details. I cut out milk because it was obvious that we weren't adapted to drink other species's milk or drink milk after infancy. I figured that grains weren't an optimal food, more of a filler, but I didn't realize they were actively harmful.
Then I came across Protein Power (Eades's) and everything clicked. They were deriving a complete guide to health from the principle of evolution! From there I just kept reading and filling in the blanks.
It's a long story, but basically, I've been interested in human evolution and primitive technology and bushcraft skills ever since my first anthropology courses, and wound up doing a degree in the field. And I've always been interested in fishing and hunting and outdoorsy stuff like that, not to mention wild plant identification.
Then last fall, I herniated a lumbar disc and got diagnosed with diabetes (type II, mild), and while on disability leave, stumbled across Paleo through a couple of different sources (online friend, paleodiet.org). I read the Cordain book, kicked myself for not having come up with the idea on my own, went Paleo the next day (January 28, 2010) and haven't looked back. Love the food, don't miss the f00d much, and am really loving the easy weight loss and fact that my blood glucose is normal and I went from hypertensive to having normal blood pressure inside six weeks.
And now that my back is recovering, I'm starting to work some Sisson-inspired exercise into the program.
So I'm coming at this much more from a re-enactment perspective than a nutritionist one; eating Paleo ties in with a lot of my vert Paleo hobbies and interests and a recent interest in ecopsychology, and I'm not doing it for cosmetic reasons; the main ones are getting fit and functional again, taking some weight off my back, and keeping my blood glucose and pressure under control. And I'm trying to eat locally as much as possible.
About three months ago I was a card-carrying member of the SAD general public. Though I'd of course heard of various diets (Atkins, vegetarian, vegan, South-Beach, etc) I never had any interest or inclination to try any of them. I considered Taco Bell to be a staple food source. Monster energy drinks and Mountain Dew were the way to acquire more energy.
I also occasionally watched The Colbert Report and The Daily Show (funny stuff there!) and I happened to catch Colbert's interview with John Durant. Though the interview was comical in Colbert's normal fashion, the idea John was presenting made a LOT of sense to me, you could almost say on a primal level :)
I spent the next few days doing a lot of online research and reading, then I changed everything - food, drinks, daily sunlight, started climbing trees and running barefoot, etc. I love it, I feel great, and I doubt I'll ever go back.
It's funny and awesome where one fake-news interview can lead. I love it when inspiration sneaks up on me like that.
The first thing was the thought, "This is not working." "This" being everything about the SAD and associated lifestyle, and especially the advice of doctors and experts.
Then, I was reading the blog portion of mises.org and they mentioned the NYT caveman article, an extremely sexed-up version of paleo, complete with bloodletting, food deprivation, raw meat, discussing Jungle Law, and crawling through the brush in central park, so I just said "pfft...what will the vegan mindset think of next?" But a commentor, possibly the great Doctor himself, put up a link for Panu, and a little more searching led me to WAPF and Taubes, and things fell into place (I already bought the low-carb thing from minor success with South Beach, but that diet had left me gassy, irritable, and tired. The permission, as it were, to cut out the fiber and load up on animal fats was the god-send part of it for me). After a few months of going down the Panu steps, it turns out I'm sensitive to industrial oils, gluten, and some nightshades, and I've self-cured my migraines, lack of energy, bad sleeping, frequent colds, mood swings, achey joints (I'm in my early 20's, so my joint problems were very premature), and killer menstrual cycles. Really, cramps felt like a knife in my uterus. My seasonal allergies have been minimal so far this spring, knock on wood. All by not listening to my doctors. When I was talking to a nutritionist about dietary sensitivities, which was completely useless, she expressed amazement at my ability to eat eggs most mornings yet have perfect cholesterol, and almost had a heart attack on my behalf when I said I cook with coconut oil.
I was diagnosed with a bunch of food allergies and told to cut out wheat, corn, soy, eggs, yeast, and dairy and then systematically re-introduce. I didn't know about all the sneaky gluten-free imitations of 'regular' food, so I pretty much just ate meat and veggies. Then I started reading about nutrition via CrossFit-related stuff and found out that lo and behold, this is pretty darn good for you. I lost about 25 lbs had soooooo much more energy (probably part food allergy relief part paleo benefits). I ended up not even caring if I was allergic to wheat, corn, and soy. I barely even tested them... mostly just cut them out forever and ever, amen. I've intermittently gone back to as SAD as you can get without those ingredients, but I always feel better when I keep it clean.
I know I'm not going to live forever, but I want to live the best quality of life possible. Having had a lot of health troubles as a vegan, I started looking for a solution to always feeling (quite frankly) plain terrible.
I started eating a "clean" diet with whole foods, whole grains and some fish, a little bit of meat. (I haven't eaten dairy for years) but it just wasn't working... I still found that I didn't recover from exercise and generally still felt like crap. I stumbled across some advocates of Gary Taubes' work in a newspaper. I was horrified to see them advocating fat consumption so enthusiastically... after all, aren't we brainwashed to think fat makes us fat??? I was intrigued to find out more, so started reading, reading, reading and my whole ideology changed. I cut the grains, legumes and sugar and felt amazing.
There was something life changing about the simple act of consuming beef broth. I felt fulfilled, nourished and satisfied and I have enjoyed paleo eats since then.
I am also more than a little terrified of conditions like MS. My friend's mother passed away from it and it was devastating to watch her fade away. I eat paleo with the hope that it will help keep my system in check and strengthen my protection against such health problems.
Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes got me started. I just happened to run across it in the library. Here was the science behind what I had already observed of insulin's effect on my own body. That got me interested in exploring paleo nutrition.
It was, believe it or not, coincidence of some sort.
I was finally ready to start working out and eating right, and a week or so before this started, I saw the article in the NY Times (featuring Melissa). The Paleo concept seemed very fascinating to me, and after doing a little online reading, I went out and bought Cordain's book. I tore through it!
I started the PD and a variation of Cross-Fit (sort of a hybrid, you could call it) on January 15th and haven't looked back.