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 fat. Mind 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.
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.