"Why are YOU doing a Whole30?"
Before I answer that question, I should give you a little background info on me....(or you can just skip right to my answer).
In my 48 years, I have lived many different diet and exercise programs and I can assure you it has not been a linear process. I have been fat / overweight. I have been through stages of extreme dieting and extreme exercising. I have suffered from disordered eating and starved myself down to 95 pounds. I know what it’s like to not want to look in the mirror. I know how it feels to hate being naked. I know how it feels to be so unhappy with your body that you hide it under layers of baggy clothes. I have been where you are.
I was constantly researching the latest diet and exercise strategies (and fads) searching desperately for that magic pill. Every time I heard about a new diet, I had to try it. You name it I’ve done it. I was frustrated that no matter how hard I tried I was never able to achieve lasting results.
After every failure (which was often) I always defaulted to the same behaviors. And instead of figuring out why I had failed (or rather, what habits / behaviors had failed me), I’d move on to the next extreme diet / exercise strategy hoping this time things would be different.
I swung between rigid control or diligent restriction and uncontrolled release. I was either “on the wagon” or “off the wagon”. In between was what I call the “fuck it moment”, known formally as disinhibition. I spent my teens and twenties on a roller coaster ride of starvation diets, binge eating, diet pills, over-exercising, self-destructive, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and lots of therapy.
Whenever I’d “fall off the wagon”, this confirmed the “I’m a failure” mindset. I became frustrated, demotivated, and even more convinced that I could not succeed. Or that I was somehow different and broken. I made my diet and exercise reflections of who I was as a person. When I was not what I would consider perfect I deemed myself a failure. My self-worth was based on my appearance and my numbers (scale weight, calories, and / or grams of fat). I compared myself to everyone around me, and I never quite measured up. At least not in my mind (huge self-limiting belief).
Because I didn’t trust myself, I would look for rules and regulations to follow. I didn’t have a basic idea of what reasonable eating looked like. So, I’d find some doctrine to live by. I spent years weighing and measuring my food, keeping a detailed food log, rigidly sticking to rules or plans. I used advanced strategies such as carb cycling, intermittent fasting, etc. I couldn’t see how unhealthy my “healthy” behaviors had become. By engaging in these behaviors so stringently and aggressively, my habits, thoughts, and feelings around food and eating (and training) had become disordered (again).
I struggled with all-or-nothing thinking and the "Either I'm perfect or I've failed" mentality. I started experiencing mental and emotional health problems such as anxiety and depression. My social relationships and other interests - which we need for overall wellness and quality of life - suffered. I couldn't detach my own self-concept from food and eating. Food and eating choices defined who I was. I was deeply attached to my strategies and outcomes. I was reluctant to give them up and was anxious about "losing control." I just accepted these things as trade-offs if I wanted to look and / or perform a certain way. But when I was honest with myself, I had to admit that I really wasn't living happily (or sanely). My "healthy eating" had passed the point of being healthy.
In August 2009, as an experiment, I completed my first Whole30 and it completely changed my life. Seriously.
Here's the basic jist...
The Whole30 is at its heart an elimination diet, designed to help identify food sensitivities and intolerances.
Certain foods – because of their psychological / emotional effect on you – promote cravings and overconsumption. Overconsumption (and the kinds of foods you tend to overconsume) then leads to allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities, hormonal dysfunction, metabolic dysregulation, gut irritation and intestinal permeability (i.e. leaky gut), and immune system disruption. The result is chronic systemic inflammation (excessive ongoing immune activity), which puts you at high risk for autoimmunity, digestive disorders, and a host of other problems.
Your body is the most powerful, least expensive, and best dietary experimentation lab in existence. And elimination diets, often prescribed by health care professionals, are the most inexpensive and accurate method to determine whether food allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities are to blame for specific symptoms you may be experiencing – from aches and pains, year-round stuffiness, and bloating, to bad breath, dark eye circles, and dizziness, to depression, anxiety, migraines, acne, asthma, excessive perspiration, and inflammation anywhere in the body.
Many people have issues with these foods and don’t even know it! The ONLY way to know for sure if you have an issue with certain foods is to completely remove the common culprits from your diet for a period of time. Then in systematically reintroducing each of these, one at a time every seventy-two hours, you'll know how these foods that you used to eat every day (foods commonly deemed as "healthy") were affecting your energy levels, sleep, mood, skin, hair, joint pain, physical performance, digestive tract, along with other hard-to-define symptoms, etc.
When I first learned about elimination diets, I had some reservations. By that point, my diet was pretty good compared to most people I knew. I was finally healthy, and I felt good. At least I thought so. The modifications I needed to make to my diet were relatively small. I couldn’t imagine it would make much of a difference. But I was curious enough to give it a try. Boy was I in for a surprise!
Within days I noticed a dramatic improvement in my energy levels and sleep quality (I fell asleep more easily and slept more soundly). My sinuses were clearer and my skin glowed.
Within a week I started to notice a change in my body composition (with seemingly little effort). My clothes fit better, and I felt more confident in my leaner appearance.
In less than two weeks I stopped craving the foods that at one point I could not imagine living without. I was happier, more optimistic, less anxious and stressed.
Over the next few weeks my bowel function normalized (Halleluiah!) and I no longer experienced the post-meal bloating, gas, and indigestion that I just attributed to overeating. I experienced improved memory and attention span, higher productivity, and clearer thinking. My athletic performance improved – I got measurably faster and stronger.
I also gained a keen awareness of my habits and cravings, and which foods trigger me (promoting overconsumption) or have an otherwise negative impact on my physical (and psychological) health and wellness.
I redefined my relationship with food and found other ways to reward or comfort myself and relieve stress. Based on what I know to be true I can now choose how often I include those foods as part of my regular eating plan, if at all.
Today, eating clean and enjoying what Melissa Hartwig Urban, co-founder of Whole30, calls "Food Freedom" is just a way of life for me. Through research, experience, trial-and-error, self-examination, and self-experimentation I have developed a sustainable eating plan that creates real significant lasting results.
FAST FORWARD TO TODAY
Someone once said, “Until the pain we are in is greater than the pain we fear, we won’t change.” Growth is painful. But it is nowhere near as painful as “living” a life of mediocrity or one that is not a true expression of you. Growth takes time and it is not always linear. When life gets "lifey" things can get messy.
Mostly due to stress, my old cravings, bad habits, and dependence on comfort foods have returned with a vengaeance. News flash: I am human
I take one step forward and two steps back more often than I care to admit. I do well, and then I stumble. At times I can be extremely disciplined with my nutrition. At other times, I cannot have one cookie without the flood gates opening. Next thing you know I'm eating like I just got out of prison.
Fortunately, after years of "inner work", I trust that failures are just opportunities for growth, self-development, and learning something new.
I had to admit (as difficult as it was for me) that I had (once again) fallen back into a dysfunctional psychological and emotional relationship with food. I came to the realization that I had been using food to numb out, escape, and / or self soothe when I was dissatisfied with other areas of my life. It became a compulsion. I wasn't actually hungry for food, but I couldn't stop eating. (And I can assure you, I wasn’t bingeing on chicken breast, steamed broccoli, and sweet potatoes.) It was the stuff Melissa Hartwig Urban, co-founder of Whole30, calls “foods with no breaks” – the nutrient-poor, calorie-dense, low-satiety foods that promote overconsumption – the stuff that once I start eating, I just can’t stop (pizza, cookies, chips, ice cream, chocolate, etc.).
I ate for comfort and reward and to manage my emotions or unwanted physical feelings (such as boredom, stress, loneliness, or anxiety). I tried to fill that void or emptiness or anxiousness with food. It (sometimes) worked temporarily because it numbed me out. But usually, it left me still wanting. I knew from experience that this was a sign that something – some part of me – was wanting my attention. Perhaps I had been working too much (Um, ya think?!), and self-care had been put on hold… Or I was wanting more quality / social time with friends and family… Or I wasn’t prioritizing sleep, recovery, and / or stress management. But instead of recognizing the message in this “hunger” I only seemed to recognize the feelings of dissatisfaction or anxiety and quickly turned to food to medicate myself.
I understand that using food as comfort, to feel good, and to stop feeling bad isn’t a problem on its own. Almost all of us do it sometimes. It’s normal and it makes sense. The problem happens when:
We do it to excess.
We can’t or don’t stop when we’re satisfied.
We don’t have any other way of creating connection or comfort or managing our feelings.
We feel out of control or compelled to do it.
Check, check, check, and check.
Since December 2021 I have gained 11 pounds. (Agh!! Because of my self-imposed pressure to be perfect It is very scary and difficult for me to put that out there. But there you have it.) But it's not just about the weight gain (By the way, Whole30 is NOT a weight-loss diet). I suffer regularly / daily from anxiety, depression, low motivation, energy, and willpower; fatigue, poor quality sleep, and gut irritation (manifested as gas, bloating, constipation, indigestion, acid stomach, etc.). I am stuck in a vicious cycle of relentless cravings and compulsions, immediate gratification / short-term satisfaction / relief, and long-term guilt, shame, remorse, and anxiety.
So, to answer your question, "Why am I doing a Whole30?"...
I want to experience what Melissa Hartwig, co-founder of Whole30 calls "Food Freedom". What is food freedom? The idea of food freedom means different things to different people. For me it means giving up my obsession with calorie / macro counting and tracking, food restriction and the scale, feeling in control of food, instead of food controlling me, indulging when I decide it's worth it, savoring the experience wihtouth guilt or shame, and then returning to my regularly scheduled healthy habits.
I am sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. And I need to find other (healthy) ways to reward or comfort myself and relieve stress. I'm ready for a "reboot", physically and emotionally.
“Reboot” is a term that is often used with computers. It means to reset an operating system back to baseline, so that you force some programs that are not working to quit. You may do this because it’s slow, inefficient, or not functioning properly. On a computer, you reboot it by shutting it down and restarting it, thereby giving the computer’s operating system and software programs a chance to start afresh and function effectively. Sometimes when we are not functioning at our best and the programs in our system are not moving us towards the best version of ourselves, it is time for a “Reboot”.
It's time to push the reset button with my health, habits, and relationship with food, wipe the slate clean, and (re-)create a new foundation on which to build the perfect balanced, sustainable, healthy way of eating for me.
You may also be wondering why I'm doing a Whole30, with my 25+ years experience in the fitness and nutrition industry. Shouldn't I already know what to do? That's a fair question. And my answer to that is, sometimes a coach needs coaching. Sometimes I don't want to try to figure it out. I just want someone else to tell me what to do (and, believe it or not, part of the Whole30 Food Freedom plan includes falling off the wagon!). Plus, I've done it before and it works well for me and it's sustainable. This way of eating is safe and healthy for the following reasons:
It is not a diet. It's a reset.
It is based on whole, unprocessed foods, thus making it very nutrient-dense
It is anti-inflammatory
It helps to regulate insulin metabolism
Eliminates most of the foods known to cause allergies and intolerances
For my own accountability, I will be documenting my Whole30 experience here so feel free to follow along! If you are interested in doing a Whole30 yourself and would like some professional guidance, support, accountability, and coaching please don't hesitate to contact me!
TO READ MY FULL STORY CLICK HERE
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases
The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom #ad by Melissa Hartwig Urban
The Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook: 150 Simply Delicious Everyday Recipes for Your Whole30 #ad by Melissa Hartwig Urban
The Whole30 Day By Day: Your Daily Guide to Whole30 Success #ad by Melissa Hartwig Urban