What Whole30 Did for Me: ABsolutely eating healthier & feeling better!

Please don’t hate me when I tell you that I’ve never really dieted. What I have done consistently all my life is exercise like a fiend and eat like a banshee (for the most part consuming large quantities of anything and everything I wanted.) My personal training clients and people who have seen me racing (triathlon) or training, all assume that I eat healthy and adhere to a strictly nutritious diet. Only my inner circle know my dirty secret: horrible eating habits. “Do as I say, not as I eat.” I’m embarrassed to admit how much junk and chocolate and sugary items I’ve consumed every day for decades. And I now realize how fortunate I am that it didn’t have a disastrous effect on my health.

Another confession is that I have secretly envied people who eat nutritiously and say they feel great and perform better. I’ve always wanted to make healthier choices and reap the rewards of eating more nutritiously. But as we all know, wanting isn’t doing, is it?

What made me give Whole30 a try? I’d heard about it before (a colleague at work had an incredible post-pregnancy transformation) and my sister happened to mention that she was doing it so I figured, why not give it go? I’ve been feeling a bit sub-optimal and wanted to get rid of the bloating around my abs (that were a 6-pack not so long ago) and reduce my body fat %. (Note: the pics of me in the margins of this website are about a decade old.) I also wanted to defy the stereotype of the 50+ woman complaining that belly bloating and belly fat are inevitable consequences of aging. I’d say belly bloating and belly fat are inevitable consequences of chronic inactivity and poor food choices. For me, it’s the poor food choices.

I also wanted to see if losing some weight and eliminating inflammatory foods (such as dairy, fatty red meats, cheese, margarine, processed meats, alcohol, refined sugar and additives) would help me with my knee pain. (After 35 years of running, I literally ran through the cartilage in my knees and have severe arthritis, which prevents me from running and causes pain when biking, swimming, hiking, and even walking.) They say every pound of body weight equates to about 4 pounds on the knees so that in itself was enough to spur on my dietary experiment. I planned to do Whole30 for ~2 weeks or so to see what would happen. Note: The creators of Whole30 are adamant about sticking with it for 30 days and not weighing yourself until the end. I violated both these rules, and by Day 10, I’d lost 6 pounds and 2% body fat. Wow, I was impressed and hooked. Granted, I was super grumpy the first week and had to put myself on house arrest to avoid temptations of social eating and drinking. Within a week, I noticed my abs were coming back and belly bloating had become a thing of the past.My knee pain had faded too. I put on a pair of shorts that used to be a bit tight and the waist and backside area were loose. On Day 11, I went on a one-week active vaca, managing to stay true to the plan about 85 percent of the time.

It’s Day 40 and I’ve lost 7 pounds & 3% body fatMind you, I still exercise somewhat fiendishly, but am no longer eating like a sugar-crazed banshee. Note: I’ve been genetically blessed with a relatively flat stomach and high rib cage,which helps pop your abs when your body fat percentage is low. (My fat storage area is my butt and legs.) Also, I’ve never had kids so that could be considered another “unfair” advantage.

Here’s my ab progression:

I’ve also been able to run about 3 miles on the beach in the thick sand 3X without knee pain. Most importantly, the plan has led me to a healthier way of eating and living.

Hitting the reset button with Whole 30 was exactly what I needed to change my eating habits for the better. I actually enjoy cooking now and coming up with creative, satisfying pure and simple nutritious meals.

Sure, the strictness of Whole 30 or any diet that eliminates certain food groups in their entirety, may not be sustainable, but “eating clean” / consuming fresh, unprocessed food is. Sure, it takes effort, discipline and determination, but I am here to tell you it works. Look for my updates at 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and a year from now and I’ll share how I’m doing.

If you try it and then use it as your general guide or launch pad for your plan to eat healthy for life as I have, it just might work for you too.

What is the Whole30?

The premise of Whole30 is that certain food groups (like sugars, grains, dairy and legumes) are likely having a negative impact on your health and fitness—energy levels, moods, ache and pains, skin, digestion, allergies, sleep, bloating tummy, weight gain, body fat %, etc.

With Whole30, you eliminate these food groups (many of them inflammatory and blood- sugar spiking) and all preservatives and chemicals completely from your diet and focus on eating clean, pure, simple foods. (Recently read an article that your body transforms chemicals, preservatives and other unnatural ingredients into fat. Here’s the scientific study on that one. Another study just came out that diet sodas causes diabetes too. And yet another study linked sugar to Alzheimers. YIKES!)

Thirty days gives your body time to recover from whatever ill effects those foods may be having. It’s like pushing the reset button on your health, habits, and relationship with food while highlighting the physical and psychological impact of the food choices you’ve been making.

The promise

Weight loss and enhanced wellness is the most obvious benefit, but that’s not all they promise:

It will change the way you think about food. Yes, I’ve been aware that I’ve been poisoning my body with sugar / chocolate binges, exacerbating my knee pain, and sabotaging my health. I always wondered what good nutrition could do for me. Finally, I’m on the path to reap the rewards.

 It will change your tastes. Vegetables are tasting sweeter and I am enjoying them more.

It will change your habits and your cravings. Given that I have walked by rows of candy bars and passed them by several times, this must be true. And as I get more results, I become more resolved to stay true to eating well.

It will restore a healthy emotional relationship with food, and with your body. Yes, thinking of sweets as “treats” or “rewards” is a trap that sets up eating nutritiously as a punishment. This is part of why I was so grumpy the first week. You have to find other ways to reward yourself– mani-pedi, massage, chat with a friend, take a walk, play a game, etc.

It has the potential to improve the way you eat for the rest of your life and to improve your life on a larger scale. Yes, I believe and am now an evangelist. Try Whole 30 for a jump start to eating clean for life. Share your healthy eating story and tell us how you did it.

Note: I’m not an advocate of gimmicks or diets per se, nor a paid spokesperson for Whole30. As a personal trainer, I like to share what has worked for me and what may help others on the path to live more vigorous and healthy lives.

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Tips to maximize your trail time: Head for the hills or mountains

Getting outside on the trails for a refreshing workout beats the gym any day. First, the immersion in nature is a feast for the mind, body and spirit. Second, there are too many benefits to count, including the cardio advantages, reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, obesity and lowering your blood pressure. Muscle benefits extend from your calves up to your quads, hamstrings, hip flexors and glutes through your core (especially if you’re trail running) and up to your shoulders. Sold? Ok, now if you want to get the most out of your trail time, head for the hills, or mountains, for that matter. L backside monserate

A 5%-10% incline boosts your calorie burn by as much as 30%-40%. I’m a glutton for the incline. (Check out the Monserate hike here.) Traversing uneven terrain, recruits your core muscles, and helps improve balance and flexibility.

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Using hiking poles will amp your caloric burn up even more as you engage the muscles of your upper body. (Poles will help save your knees on steep downhills as well.) Carrying a stuffed backpack will also boost your caloric burn by another 10-20%, depending on the load. Get the scoop on this amazing hike in Mammoth Lakes.

To top it all off, that magical combo of exercise, nature and fresh air will have you sleeping like a baby.

Like the idea, but not sure you’re ready to “go wild”? Start by walking with a friend in your neighborhood, then head to a park. Before you know it, you’ll want to explore more – farther, longer, wilder. Be safe, use common sense and the buddy system.

Happy Trails!

Sustainable fitness: Get back to you and rediscover physical bliss.

Fitness means cultivating an active lifestyle that’s sustainable for you. That means it has to be fun and rewarding for you. Exercise / moving our bodies should not be a necessary evil, but a fundamental pleasure.

I run into lots of people who suffer from various forms of workout “burn out”. Unfortunately many of them drop all activities and  loose what fitness they’ve gained. Many of these people have personal trainers who have over prescribed regimented routines or they’re following some training guide or guru.

I know someone who was on a strict, intense Ironman training program for 2 years. She set goals, signed up for races with friends, and followed the program to the letter. And she succeeded, completing Ironmans, half irons,  many sprints, marathons, halfs, etc. She accumulated so many finishers’ medals that she had to buy racks for them.  Now despite her achievements, and possibly because of them, she has zero enthusiasm for biking or running. It’s more than the familiar post-race partum. Here’s the rub, she doesn’t like biking or running, never has. So instead of checking the triathlon and running activities off her list and pursuing something she enjoys, she’s made a pact with a friend to run a mile a day, every day for 12 weeks. Sound like a good plan? Not to me. If you dislike running, how is forcing yourself to run a mile a day for 84 days in a row going to make it better? TBD if she sticks with this pact. If it works for her that’s great―everyone is different. I’m skeptical because it sounds like punishment (a minor daily flogging) without the promise of enhanced fitness or renewed mindset.

The struggle to overcome inertia happens to ALL of us

Yes, even the biggest workout fiends have those days where they struggle to pull themselves out of bed to make that 5:45 AM swim session, etc…And if having a pact with a friend helps us show up to our activity that’s great. As long as it’s an activity we like that yields the results we want.

But it’s important to know the difference between every day inertia and your body or mind telling you, “Hey, a break is the healthy choice today.” As in, recuperative sleep is going to do your body more good than a junk workout in an exhausted condition that may make you more susceptible to injury.” And in the scenario above, running a quality 3 miles a couple days a week is going to do your body and mind more good than slogging out an uninspired mile every day will. I get that some people need discipline and regimented workouts to overcome inertia. I’m just saying monotony is monotony and if you’re already burn out on an activity, forced monotony is not going to help.

What’s important is that we make the positive choice to move more often than we succumb to inertia. And as long as we’re happier for it once we’ve done it, we’re choosing the right activity for ourselves. Dread must transform into pleasure―whether it’s the endorphins, the fresh air, the company, the scenery, the results―it must make us happy, or we won’t sustain it for the long run.

If you find yourself force fitting some type of exercise, why not substitute an activity that makes you happy? Note I chose the word activity because exercise and workout have taken on negative connotations. Life’s too short for self-inflicted punishment when there are so many joyful ways for us move, experience the world around us and interact with each other. Change your mindset on exercise. Think of activity time as your adult play time with or without playmates.

8 Questions to help you discover your activity bliss

  • What activities do you love that you “used to do” ? What’s keeping you from enjoying them today? (Ok, injuries are legit excuses. My favorite activity was trail running and severe chrondomalacia/ runners knees prevents me from doing so, but I still hike…)
  • What activities have you always dreamed of trying? Set a goal of trying 1 a month.
  • When was the last time you mixed it up? (The same routine day in and out not only kills motivation, but it won’t rack up the results you want.) Keep it fresh by rotating your activities, and adjusting intensity and duration.
  • Are you getting results? (When you define and attain results that are meaningful to you, you’ll appreciate the activity more- lower body fat %, personal record run times, stress release, a calmer, happier mind set, etc..)
  • What activities have you tried once and dismissed? Try again.  If it’s skill -based, you need to give yourself time to develop the skills before making the final determination. Also as you evolve, you may find your activity tastes change. (For me, yoga falls into this category. Previously, I resented taking time from my endurance sports. Now, I really appreciate the balance it brings to my body and mind and understand how it could have benefited me then, had I been more patient.)
  • Are you having fun; does the environment engage you? (What would make it more fun for you – add music, friends, a change of venue, etc…)
  • Do your favorite hobbies involve movement? Here’s your excuse to indulge in them.
  • Who inspires you? What are they doing? Even personal trainers need inspiration now and again. I follow a few kindred spirits on Instagram and have a couple of people in my life who help keep me motivated and engaged.

Get back to you and rediscover your physical bliss.

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Sometimes just getting back to the basics can be refreshing. Long before triathlons, I was big on weight training. I’m coming back to it now because it’s a great way to maintain muscle tone and boost your metabolism. Both become more essential as we get older…

 

Tell me, what’s your physical bliss? How do you overcome exercise slumps?

PS: Want a great running substitute that will bring back childhood memories and can be done anywhere? Pick up a jump rope, you’ll get an efficient workout in less time and with less impact than running.