Melissa, a passionate health and nutrition enthusiast from Indiana, has walked a challenging path.
Battling Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and exploring various dietary methods, she has transformed her adversities into a pursuit of wellness.
Today, as a member of the Optimising Nutrition community, her story stands as a powerful reminder of how informed dietary choices can lead to transformative health outcomes.
Dive deep into her journey and discover a wellspring of inspiration for your own health goals.
Melissa’s Big Why
My big why for joining Optimising Nutrition and starting the courses stems from my desire to be the best version of myself.
After health issues early on in my life, I realized the importance of prolonging my health span long into my senior years. A big part of that equation for me is fine-tuning how I need to nourish myself for health, longevity, strength and optimal body composition.
Between the ages of 30-43, I lost 13 years of my life to chronic fatigue syndrome and Myo encephalitis (CFS/ME), and I NEVER want to experience anything like that again!
I also see a lot of suffering first-hand in my critical care workplace, so it’s made me dedicated to taking a preventative approach to my own health and lifestyle.
While that’s the main reason that motivated me to optimize my nutrition, my ‘little’ why was my desire to lose the fat—mainly visceral—that I had gained over the last year.
Additionally, a very, very small why was wanting to beat my husband in a friendly competition; we had to see who could get visible abs first. It was somewhat of a joke between us, mainly to keep us motivated, but I won!
Since 2009, I’ve been focused on improving my health, so I’m not exactly new to the game.
In those 14 years, I have tried numerous approaches… and then some! Although I’ve experienced some failures, I’ve had some profound wins, and I’m incredibly grateful for everything I’ve learned.
While I learned a lot about what works for me, I’ve also learned what doesn’t. The main ways of eating (WOE) I’ve followed for at least two years or more (each) have been Paleo, Ray Peat Inspired, and Carnivore.
Paleo was great for my body composition (as you can see in the photo below), but I started having new problems with high-oxalate foods without knowing they were an issue for me then.
I was previously on a 50-day course of Levaquin (Levofloxacin, an antibiotic), which destroyed my gut biome. I had no idea my body could no longer process high-oxalate foods well. Despite not understanding why Paleo seemed to be failing me, I knew I had to make a change.
Ray Peat Diet
Fortuitously, my next discovery was the work of Dr. Ray Peat.
I was impressed by the rapid results I achieved with my overall health while eating per his regimen. Unlike Paleo, I was now mostly eating fruit and dairy, which are much lower in oxalates than nuts and spinach. Before long, most of my symptoms were gone.
Eventually, I expanded the variety and quantity of food in my diet, gaining more weight than my body’s frame could support. I entered menopause during that time and simultaneously crossed over into the ‘obese’ BMI range for the first time in my life. Peat’s diet is supposed to give you more rapidly available energy, but perhaps I’d consumed a bit too much?
Once again, I knew I had to adjust my application of Peat’s principles to accommodate my body and reverse that trend. I had a stubborn resolve to avoid falling back into CFS/ME, so I kept what worked for me and stopped what didn’t. Personally, this was mainly ice cream and too many calories and carbs.
I’m still involved in and value the Ray Peat Forum community that has developed around his ideas. I now take his message of ‘Perceive, Think, Act’ and his emphasis on individual context more seriously than the generic dietary guidelines associated with him.
Although I’m paraphrasing a bit, he also said he never promoted any specific diet, but rather that a person should eat to support their metabolism—which is what I’m now doing!
After Peat, I came across Carnivore, my last stop, before finding Optimising Nutrition.
Carnivore benefited me in the first three years; I lost the last 30 of the 75 pounds I had previously gained! This experience helped me understand the importance of protein from natural animal-based whole foods for my post-menopausal body.
Because I’m also celiac, it’s rare to ingest gluten when eating mainly animal-sourced foods accidentally. So, virtually bypassing this hazard enhanced my Carnivore experience further.
I must mention the not-so-positive Carnivore experiences. I made a massive error in my 4th year by upping my fat intake too much and regained about 10 pounds after being weight stable for two years. I also developed subtle signs of some deficiencies that didn’t resolve with supplements or food.
I’m looking forward to figuring that out in my upcoming Micros Masterclass!
Discovering Optimising Nutrition
I wasn’t in a bad place when I found Optimising Nutrition. Instead, I hoped to optimise my body composition and reverse the upward trends in my blood glucose and lipids. I’m now learning to incorporate my prior knowledge base of what works for my body with everything I’m learning through the Optimising Nutrition courses in hopes of mastering the art of maintenance.
The Results… So Far
I’ve only been here about two months and made it through one round of DDF, but I’ve already lost 8 of the 10 pounds I had put back with Peat and Carnivore.
I’ve also cut my visceral fat in half! The screenshots from my smart scale when I first read Big Fat Keto Lies and joined Optimising Nutrition and after my first Data Driven Fasting Challenge. Note how my weight, BMI, body fat, subcutaneous fat and visceral fat have dropped while my muscle mass, protein %, bone mass and BMR have increased!
My blood glucose values are now trending down to a more optimal level.
And here’s what the change before and after a couple of courses looks like!
Two big surprises for me were learning about the Personal Fat Threshold Hypothesis and our body’s energy storage tanks.
It’s been enlightening to look back at my glucose and lipid levels at various times and see how they correlated with my weight and the macronutrient breakdown of my diet during those times.
My Personal Fat Threshold appears to be relatively low. Because of my shorter stature, it makes much more sense why I’ve faced some challenges maintaining my desired body composition. I’m learning a lot about my body, like what it does and doesn’t need to thrive, and I love that!
I’ve enjoyed the insight I’ve gathered from the DDF app, which has served as a guide for me to understand how full my fuel tanks are throughout the day. I’m a grazer and have never been good at fasting, so it’s given me priceless feedback I’ve used to dial in a reasonable eating schedule that works with my lifestyle.
I had previously used Cronometer for ten years and a smart scale for one, but I now get so much more from both of those tools through what the Optimising Nutrition courses and community have taught me.
Advice to Newcomers
Even though I am one myself, I’d say slow and steady wins the race for people new to starting their Optimising Nutrition journey. Take it one day at a time, focus on progress over perfection, and most importantly, never give up! How’s that for a string of clichés? I believe them all; if I can do it, anyone can!
Join the Journey
If you’re ready to take back your health and make progress on your goals, sign up today! Our Welcome checklist will help you navigate the free resources and courses. Join Melissa and our community of Optimisers who are changing their health one day at a time. See you on the other side!