I recommend reading a variety of books about nutrition and longevity so you can use all of the information you have learned to create a diet that you can happily and easily live with for the long-term. I highly recommend reading some of Michale Pollan's books. Also, throw away your scale. You don't need to know how much you weigh. I have completed several Whole30s over the last couple of years but I do not follow a strict Whole30 diet every day. It is simply too restrictive. I focus on eating 3 balanced meals a day with lots of veggies, fruits, protein, fat and carbs. I don't snack and I make sure to drink enough water every day. I also focus on really enjoying and savoring my food. Occasionally I eat dark chocolate, beans, rice, corn, oatmeal and really good homemade sourdough bread. I limit myself to four drinks a week. Rarely I'll have really good cheese with wine. All of the food I eat is very high quality and I make sure I am nourished and satisfied every day.
Today is day 31 and I lost 4 pounds. I was hoping for 4 - 8, so not disappointed especially considering I've been eating like a lumberjack. Seriously. I've had ribeyes at least twice a week, handcut French fries under the broiler, everything sautéed in ghee and I've finished off 4 JARS of different nut butters. (Walnut butter is my fave.) I'm reintroducing legumes today, just to see what's up, but I'm planning to keep the general W30 thing going for about 14 more lb. with limited exceptions (my daughter's birthday next week, wedding in late Oct, etc.)
Just FYI about my start - I'm 55. 5 years ago I weighed 274. After starting Zumba, then walking, then eventually running, then cutting calories, then adding weight training, then counting macros, I lost 105 lb. in 2.5 years. And I have been on a solid plateau since. W30 is my jump-off-the-plateau plan to get to my goal of under 155.
My journey is pretty text book, days 5-6 I thought I was getting the flu! I had itchy skin on my neck and upper chest for 8-10 days in the middle. My constantly drippy nose has almost completely cleared up, except during the hardest workouts. Day 28 was literally the hardest day ever. I desperately wanted an English muffin, then a Snickers bar, then a cocktail, but I survived. Because I don't need it I don't have my 10am nor my 2pm cups of coffee anymore. I also don't have a snack after work anymore. I never mastered Pre workout meals. I'll focus on that as I continue. I have not seen a huge change in running or workout performance, but a dress I bought 2 summers ago that I could never really wear comfortably now fits well and looks pretty good on this ol' girl!
My favorite W30 hacks are: 1. Breakfast sausage of ground pork seasoned with cayenne/cumin/paprika, hand-pattied and fried in the same pan as the eggs and spinach. 2. Steak sauce made with Murray's olive tapenade/tomato paste/Coconut Aminos. 3. I found the 2 W30 salad dressings I tried to be overly tangy, so I drizzled some tahini over my salads and added 1/2 the usual amount of dressing. 4. Plantains cut in half, then each half cut into 4 slices long-ways, then browned in ghee, served with a drizzle of coconut cream and a dash of cinnamon. 5. A wine glass of Kombucha to round out the evening while relaxing before bed (the spot formerly filled by wine).
I honestly can't believe how fast this time went. After 1 week, it was all fairly routine. My biggest struggles were days with little structure which for me is Saturdays. I even managed to attend a couple of local baseball games with little difficulty. In the morning when I packed my lunch for work, I also packed my dinner. When I got home, I popped it in the microwave, took it in the car with me, and ate it in the parking lot before entering the stadium. (On both occasions, I sneaked in a La Croix and a baggie of mixed nuts. Shhhh....) Problem solved!
Thanks so much W30 community! I have enjoyed reading everyone's questions, getting advice and growing healthier together!! Let's keep at it!
I commonly like to write as an outlet. So my wife has been encouraging me to write an article about my health journey and Whole30. I finally wrote it down. But really don't have anywhere to post. This seems to be the most appropriate place. So here goes... Apologies for the length. Wasn't initially writing it for a forum.
I’m awake… What time is it? 5 am… I got roughly five and a half or six hours of sleep. That’s enough for me. My wife and daughter are still sleeping. This is a great time to get in a workout. I ran yesterday and my knees can’t handle two days in a row. I could ride my bike on the Silver Comet Trail up to Powder Springs and do some strength training at their outdoor fitness center along the trail. But maybe I’ll save that for the day where I can only take an hour to workout. Tomorrow has rain forecasted, so that’s a good day to use the rowing/ERG machine. Good… Because today is beautiful. I’m gonna go hike Kennesaw Mountain.
I work from home which affords me a luxury of convenience and time. But I need to be at my desk and actively online no later than 8:30 am. That gives me a few minutes to get my gear and get on the road. When I roll out of bed, the dog jerks her head up at the sound of 12,000 snaps and creaks of joints. Then I shuffle myself to the bathroom. I weigh myself every morning and there is no way I’m going to sour the results by holding in a few ounces of urine. After the exquisite relief from a night of holding in the gallons of water I now drink in a day, I step on my Withings scale. I gained a pound. Weird… That happens though. Tomorrow I will have lost a pound. The trend line progressively moves down. But my body composition is looking good. My body fat percentage is going down and my muscle mass is up. So the weight gain doesn’t concern me at all. When I step to the vanity I grab my nasal spray. My sinus cavity is usually stopped up in the mornings because I don’t sleep with my CPAP machine at all anymore. I try, but the prescription is so high and my apneas have decreased so much, it’s too uncomfortable to sleep with it now. My BMI has dropped well below the obesity range and I’m a solid “overweight” which is reason enough for my insurance to cover a new sleep study, according to my ENT. Maybe I can get my prescription reduced to a comfortable level again. With the sinuses clear I then inspect the various prescriptions medication and vitamins. I take a vitamin D supplement, a vitamin K, something to aid liver function and then a prescription for my blood pressure. Still working on that. In the back corner of my vanity sits a bottle full of a three months supply of a prescription proton-pump inhibitor. The standard prescribed medication for treating Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Otherwise known as Acid Reflux. Why do I keep it there? In case I ever need it again? I know that’s the opposite of what I want. One pill could undo a lot of hard work on my part. So I ponder throwing it away. Yet I don’t. I keep it there as a reminder. Hopefully, soon I won’t need to take any medication in the morning at all. That’s the goal.
I get dressed, grab my gear, kiss my wife and sneak out the front door, hoping not to wake my daughter. Although she’ll sneak down and jump in bed with my wife while I’m gone. She won’t know this for a long time, but she is a big reason why I do all this. I want my daughter to grow up seeing what a good foundation for health looks like. It’s more than that though. I needed to get healthy. I look at the calendar on my iPhone and see I’m meeting a friend later today I haven’t seen in a few years. Last time he saw me I was 50 pounds heavier. I’m in a different place right now. Inevitably, he’s going to ask what I’ve been doing. As a result, I’ll be going into the long explanation of my journey. As I start the car and drive off, I think about everything I’ve done and how to explain it all.
You see, 50 pounds ago, I was sick. I didn’t/don’t have cancer or anything like that. I was no more sick than your average overweight person. We all are constantly fighting regular symptoms that we’ve simply grown to accept. We wake up each morning and take our cocktails of prescriptions to shield us from these symptoms. Then mundanely trudge through our lives denying ourselves the messages our bodies are telling us. Back then, I had a bevy of issues. My blood pressure was consistently hovering around 150 over 95. I would have regular diarrhea and I had severe acid reflux. If I so much as went one day without taking my prescription, I would have unbearable reflux and then nausea. I was also fighting something I didn’t understand. I had a perpetual lump in the back of my throat that I could never swallow down. On top of that, I had constant post-nasal drip down the back of my throat as well. This forced me to do regular, and disgusting, nasal and throat clearings that sounded like I was working up a gross loogie. What’s worse, if I failed to get that drainage out, then it gagged me. Its great in public having to do that in front of people while they look at you in disgust as you fight back that reflexive pre-vomit convulsion and croak. It would be great if I could have just excused myself to somewhere private. But this issue never gave me any warning and it never chose convenience. I felt it most after eating a meal and after waking up. But I felt it pretty much all the time and I was sick of it. I couldn’t live like that anymore.
I had no idea what was causing all of it. But I had a bunch of self-diagnosed grasps at desperate conclusions. Anywhere from allergies, to possibly needing surgery. I talked to my primary physician who eventually got me to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist (ENT). Together we started crossing off boxes and trying different approaches. This lead to me getting my CPAP in the first place. But nothing made these symptoms go away. We eventually diagnosed me with a condition called Laryngopharyngeal Reflux. That mouthful is simply known as LPR. Also referred to as silent reflux. With LPR, your stomach acids aren’t just traveling into your esophagus. They are traveling all the way up into your sinus cavities and irritating the area. For me, this was causing the lump in my throat and post-nasal drip as my body’s reaction to the acids. At that point, I’m already taking a proton-pump inhibitor every day. Yet I still have this reflux finding a way to impact my life. In my limited understanding at the time, I felt lost. How can I fix this if a medicine isn’t working? My ENT had me on various treatments. Nothing worked though. It became an exercise in futility. But he always reminded me that losing weight would help.
There it is. Losing weight. As a society, we focus primarily on the vanity of this initiative. We understand that there are positive health impacts too. Of course. But deep down we all just want to look good by the pool. When you are overweight or “obese”, this is the subject you dread when you go see a doctor. Because you know they are going to tell you this every time. It takes on gut-wrenching humility to be reminded of how you are allowing yourself to slowly continue to slide. As if we all know the formula to health and happiness but we willingly sabotage it by giving in to gluttony. I’ve been there. I’ve lost weight before. Only to put it back on. Many of us have done it over and over again. It becomes discouraging as we begin to accept the futility of trying, yet it only results in another letdown. I honestly don’t want to hear it from my doctor. Little do we patients know, but that doctor is equally discouraged from having to repeat this mantra to his patients on a daily basis. He is likely advising me with a sense of pessimism. Why not? Obviously, I’m not going to do what I need to just like everyone else. I’ve lost that weight struggle to regression already so many times. I couldn’t do it again. I considered maybe this is what I’m meant to be from a health perspective. The last time I lost 50 pounds, I still had these same symptoms. So is it really the weight? Maybe… Maybe it’s more than just losing weight. It’s definitely more than the vanity of it all. As I said, I couldn’t live like that anymore. If all my doctor is going to do is throw out redundant platitudes, as far as I was concerned, then I was going to do this myself.
I park my car at the Burnt Hickory Road trail entrance. Stretch a little because I’m not in my 20’s anymore. Warm-up the muscles a bit, throw on the gear and then head out. It’s still dark so I put on a headlamp. The trail is well blazed so its easy to stay on it. I begin logging the hike in Strava and got a podcast going while I enjoy some nature. When I’m on a hike like this, I get a lot of time to reflect on things. The route I normally hike takes me up Pigeon Hill, then Little Kennesaw, then on to the peak of Kennesaw Mountain. From there I work my way down the other side towards the visitors center because its easier on my knees. Then I circle back around towards Camp Brumby before I reach the cutoff back to Pigeon Hill and then to my car. All in all the hike is roughly 6 miles and I get it done in about 2 hrs. Barely enough time to be back at my desk. As I work my way up the initial ascent, I appreciate the solitude. Hiking this early is the best time. Nobody on the trail yet. Remembering my meeting later today with my friend, how do I explain the way I got from where I was, to where I am?
The first thing you need to do is figure out what is REALLY wrong with you. But more importantly, WHY it’s happening. If you are like me, you can’t just blindly accept something as fact. You have to know why something is. You need to understand it. When you can do that, your actions become more thoughtful. In my case, I needed to figure out what was causing my LPR. There are so many theories out there. The common assumption is the acid levels in your stomach are too high and that’s why you need a proton-pump inhibitor such as Pantoprazole or Omeprazole, etc. Essentially they reduce the production of acid in your stomach. They are the most commonly prescribed drugs for gastric issues. Its a rather basic approach. Acid burns your esophagus, so reduce the amount of acid. Duh… Except it’s not that simple. We’re all different. Some people might have a hiatal hernia. Doctors also believe conditions such as reflux and heartburn could be due to a poorly functioning diaphragm allowing acids to leak up into your esophagus. You may hear things like “sleep elevated slightly” and “don’t go to bed within a few hours after eating”. The logic here is that being reclined will simply enable gravity to push the acid into your esophagus. I’m no doctor, but these presumptions never felt right. I wasn’t buying it. I get bad reflux even when I’m standing up.
Finally, through my research, I came across some different thought processes. What if too much acid in the stomach is the exact opposite of the problem? What if it’s not enough acid? You see, when you have low acid levels in your stomach, a few things can happen. First and foremost, you aren’t adequately digesting your carbohydrates. That doesn’t mean go on a low carb diet and problem solved. There are good carbohydrates in even healthy vegetables. No, you have to take this on. These maldigested carbohydrates become sugars and can ferment. Especially in this lower acid environment that is now failing to kill off harmful bacteria rather than foster the good bacteria of a healthy gut. So not only are you walking around with fermenting sugars from maldigested carbohydrates in your stomach, but you’ve also possibly got harmful bacteria in you as well. In this poorly digesting environment with fermenting sugars, you develop a lot of bloating and gas pressure. That pressure pushes the stomach acids up through the diaphragm and into your esophagus. So, if this is the case, why are we taking proton-pump inhibitors that reduce our acid levels at all? Isn’t that making things worse? Well, they were never meant to be permanent long-term solutions. You should generally go on a proton-pump inhibitor regimen temporarily. But many people take them daily and have been for years. Years of slowly building a stomach environment that will perpetuate your problem while at the same time shielding you from the symptoms that are your body’s way of telling you what’s wrong. Then the realization hits me. If I’m ever going to NOT be sick, I’m going to have to quit taking this medicine.
45 minutes later and I’m at the top. Its a solid climb and a good workout. The sun is coming up and people are coming up the other side of the mountain along with it. The path up from the Visitor’s Center isn’t very technical or challenging. Still a workout, but mostly switchbacks up the side. I then consider the parallels of scaling a mountain and my issues. Finally discovering what’s really wrong with my health and having that “A HA” moment was a personal mountain. All downhill from here right? Nope… Sometimes going back down is even more difficult. And it’s often longer. At least it is for me. Time to get going though and in more ways than one. First challenge, I can’t just quit taking my meds cold turkey. But I also can’t keep doing this to myself. There is more to all of it. This is no chicken or egg argument. The reflux came before the medication was prescribed. So there is something else impacting things that I need to consider. By now, that should be obvious. The dreaded “diet”. There are a whole bunch of various diets out there and I’ve tried a few of them. They all seem to produce results but none have ever lasted. Worse yet, with all of them, I still experienced the same reflux and even LPR symptoms. So it’s conclusive in my mind. My efforts can’t be about a weight loss diet. And let’s be honest with ourselves, those were miserable anyway. You lie to yourself saying you feel great and don’t miss other foods while you log your calories in your nutrition and fitness app taking pride in the fact that you said “no” to croutons on your salad. Meanwhile, your inner monologue is reminding you how much this sucks. My diet has to change, I had accepted that. But it wasn’t going to be some branded diet. It had to be MY diet. My body needs to tell me what I can eat and what I can’t. I can’t just give up a bunch of stuff I love without knowing the impacts. My focus has to be on healing my LPR, not losing weight. But how?
I head off again working my way down the other end of Kennesaw Mountain towards the Visitor’s Center and my mind drifts back on topic. There was a problem with all this. First, I can’t stop taking my meds cold turkey, but if I do take them, I won’t be able to tell which foods are immediately causing my body to react in a certain way. Not only that, but I need to get my gut healthy ASAP too. Then finally, I need to reset my stomach. Because I’ve got an entire lifetime of developing tolerances for symptoms and such that I’ve accepted or my body has adjusted to. Until then, I’ll never be able to adequately develop my diet. Lots to do and no sure answers on how to get there. So I did more research. A friend provided a wonderful guide to natural healing that started as a good reference. I bought a bunch of vitamins and supplements to get my gut and my body charged up. I was going to slowly ween myself off the proton-pump inhibitor. Maybe take it every other day. Then gradually start taking longer days off in between as things feel better. Along with that, there were going to be some immediate diet changes. Since sugars are what’s causing the bloating and pressure that forced the acids up into my esophagus, then sugars are going to be my enemy. So, I decided to eliminate deserts. I got rid of anything with high sugar content. No more soft drinks either. I stopped eating fried food also. And I was going to just try to eat “better”. I’m not going to count calories. I’m going to eat the amount my body tells me. In addition to that, the nutritional health book also recommended a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a tall glass of water to drink with every meal. So I’ll give that a try as well. This isn’t too grueling. I can do this.
The results weren’t miraculous. But they were immediate enough to give credence to the logic of my conclusions. Within a month I had lost over 10 pounds (probably mostly water weight) and I was taking my proton-pump inhibitor every 3 or 4 days. Better yet, the LPR symptoms were extremely reduced. Unlike vanity diets where you can only rely on positive self-image, I was feeling real health benefits. But it’s still early yet. I have to keep paying attention to my body. And I’m still feeling symptoms so I’m not quite healed. A month later my brother had come to town on business and stayed with us for a couple of days. One afternoon we sat in my office chatting while I was working and we discussed my journey. He had noticed the weight loss obviously and I explained everything thus far. Ending with my remaining challenge of resetting my gut. I hadn’t quite determined how I would do this. At the time I was considering regular fasting and even a juice fast. My gastroenterologist had no issues with that. But my brother, who is very active and health-conscious (he currently trains to compete in triathlons), had a different proposition. He pointed me to a diet called “Whole 30”. He told me that he and his wife do a Whole 30 at least once annually. They have a website and everything with loads of resources. There are also plenty of books on the topic. I recommend checking it out. But for the sake of time, I will summarize it like this. A Whole 30 is a 30-day diet plan. The entire point is to accomplish exactly what I needed. To reset my system. To change my body composition back to a healthy one. To get my body off its sugar addiction. But also a number of other things that our bodies aren’t used to. In general, you give up (for 30 days mind you) all added sugars (especially synthetic), all grains, all dairy, all legumes (even peanuts, soy, and chickpeas) and certainly all alcohol. Don’t weigh yourself during the diet because it’s not about that. Stay away from junk foods and processed foods. Try to get your body back to eating whole fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Important note, you are allowed salt, ghee, potatoes, and green beans so it’s not unrealistic. When you come out of your Whole 30, you then slowly begin to re-introduce foods. You don’t go on a bender eating a deep-dish pizza and a pint of gelato. It’s best if you start slow and maybe try pasta one day. Your body will tell you then how it reacts to that food. If I do that, then at that point, I will be able to develop my own personal diet plan for a healthy life. It was exactly what I needed.
Coincidentally, I am also turning a corner on my hike. I’m at the bottom of the mountain. Turning on to the Camp Brumby trail. But I had turned a corner with my health too. I now had a path. I knew how to accomplish my goals. It should be pointed out that at this time I had also started working out again. I learned that getting regular exercise is also good for your reflux. I made a goal of getting 30 mins of cardio 6 days a week. I was still technically “obese” and as a result running was out of the question because of my knees. So I would either go on regular walks, or I would row. The rowing machine became a perfect low impact cardio workout as well as provided some good strength training. While this was going on, and I was continuing with my supplements and current diet plan, I was prepping my pantry for my Whole 30. I picked a date to start and was making all the arrangements. A Whole 30 isn’t something you go into lightly. However, I do all the cooking at home anyway and we planned on eating at home every night. My wife was willing to accept Whole 30 dinners. So this was going to work. The morning I started my Whole30 I weighed myself. Since I had begun this journey I had at that point lost 25 pounds and I was only taking proton-pump inhibitor once every 5 days. Now I’m going to truly put this to the test.
When you are on your Whole30, your body goes through a range of states. The website has a great document on it and its an entertaining read. I went through most of them at varying times. But here is the big thing for me. Sugars in my diet became way more noticeable. I mean, you can’t just go to a grocery store and find the no sugar section. There are added sugars in nearly everything we eat and buy. The challenge was finding anything at all that didn’t have added sugars. But the alarming thing is your body’s reaction to denying yourself this sugar. I made it a point to not eat fruits after 2 pm during my Whole30. I didn’t want my body to adjust to getting sugars from fruits in the evening. This was an important decision because my body would register it as a dessert in my mind. You are allowed fruits on a Whole 30. But if all you do is fill up on fruit, you are still giving your body a lot of sugar and thus missing the point. The term “sex with your pants on” is often used among Whole 30 folk. Essentially, the implication is that people on diets are always looking for ways to get around sneak around the rules. Anyway, denying myself fruits in the evening enlightened me to just how addicted I truly was. For the first couple of weeks in my Whole 30, I would eat big dinners with lots of vegetables, maybe a baked potato and some tilapia or something like that. I wouldn’t worry about quantity because I was denying myself so much more. So I made sure I felt satisfied as far as hunger. But it blew my mind when later, I would still feel hunger. There was no other way to say it. I felt full, yet hungry. I knew what that hunger was for too. It was for the sugars I was now denying my body. Whether it was a bite of chocolate, an alcoholic beverage, added sugars in a packaged good or something else. My body had been on a routine with sugars and was reacting to me changing it. That was enough proof for me that this was working. I struggled with my Whole 30 but I stayed true. Never cheated. It got hard. You have to apologize to people if you go to parties or you are invited over for dinner. You are going to be “that guy”. If you go out to a restaurant, it’s best if you bring your own salad dressing. But I got through it.
I’m moving along the trail and note all the morning runners. A lot of trail runners like the Camp Brumby trail. I’ve reached the Pigeon Hill cutoff now. I’m on the home stretch. I think about what I’ve been through. When I finished my Whole 30 I didn’t need to take my proton-pump inhibitor anymore. Proof that my issue was 100% diet-related. When I stepped on the scale on day 31 I had lost another 10 pounds from the diet. I was feeling good and strangely scared to NOT be on the Whole 30. Apparently, that’s common. I started reintroducing foods at that point. But most importantly, I could firmly commit to never taking any kind of acid-reducing medication again. More than that, I am never going to agree to take a medication whose purpose is designed to relieve or mask symptoms. These symptoms were my body’s way of telling me something is wrong. And instead of listening to it, for years I masked it until I got so bad that I couldn’t live with it anymore. From then on I made a commitment to be more natural. With the foods I eat and the products I used. Natural soaps, deodorant, cleaning products, whatever possible. I then learned “my” diet. I learned that my favorite thing to eat, chocolate, unfortunately, was the biggest cause of my problems. I learned that fatty red meat like a delicious ribeye affected me. I learned that fried foods, added sugars, gluten and too much dairy all have an impact. And all should only be consumed in moderation. My body lets me know what that moderation is. I learned that it’s easier giving these things up when I know that if I eat them I’ll feel horrible. Getting myself off the proton-pump inhibitor gave me that gift. So I don’t truly miss it and I’m not worried about regressing. I learned that now I can truly say I feel better. That it’s not some lie I tell people because my vanity diet was a punishment I didn’t want to admit. There were reasons and purpose behind all of my efforts. I learned that as I continue to lose weight and exercise, my body evolves. I can run again. Twice a week, I can run and it won’t kill my knees. Twice a week I bike as well and I try to go on regular hikes when I have the time. I also get in some modest strength training. Nothing too major. But I truly feel good from it. Not just mentally. I get the same sense of accomplishment and the endorphin spikes and all. But exercise along with eating the right foods prevents me from feeling sick. I feel it now. I eat as much as I want now also. Just that what I do eat is “good” food. And you know what, I still get to enjoy a glass of bourbon in the evening.
I’m back in my car now. The hike is done. It’s beautiful out. Time to get home after a good workout. It’s been 7 months since I started this journey. I’ve lost a total of 50 pounds. All of my doctors are ecstatic. When I meet with my ENT, we discuss everything I’ve learned. We discuss how medicine was keeping me from realizing how to make myself better. But I sympathize with him. How hard it must be to see all these patients who still haven’t had the same “A HA” moment that I had. I get it now. We talk like old buddies. To him, I’m a success story. 7 months seems like nothing. Hardly time to declare victory. But it is. I was never trying to look good at the pool. I was simply trying to cure myself of acid reflux and LPR naturally. And I have done so while defining a path to keep it that way. Ultimately, he was right all along. You DO have to lose weight. But that’s an oversimplification. In reality, you have to take charge of your health and body. Losing weight is merely a common result of that. I think what truly has to happen, is in your “A HA” moment, you have to make a decision. You have to decide that you don’t want to be sick anymore and you are going to do what is needed to be better. That’s a tough thing to face. Because when you face it, and you decide not to commit to your health, then you realize that you are in fact actively and willingly keeping yourself sick. Some people would rather not swallow that. I guess I decided it was time for me to come to those terms. I’m driving home to get ready for work. Looking forward to seeing my daughter. She’ll ask me about my hike. She’s intrigued. She’s curious about everything her daddy is doing and how he’s changed. She sees the positivity in what I accomplish. She wants to go hiking with me. Maybe this weekend.