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  1. I just finished Round 1 of my first Whole 30 and I liked it so much that I'm converting it into a Whole90. I lost 9.6 pounds in 30 days, y'all. I haven’t lost this much weight in a single month… ever. I’ve lost 7.5 (!) combined inches from my hips, waist, chest. I’m down at least one full clothing size. My migraines are almost entirely gone. My mood is like I'm a different person. After about 15 months of counting calories, an over 60 pound weight loss, and a 384-day MyFitnessPal logging streak (RIP), I was stuck in a 2.5 month stall and nothing I tried would shift it. Following an offhand comment from a coworker, I decided to take a break from logging and try the Whole30 program. As a historically BIG TIME proponent of calorie counting (I lost over 60 pounds that way, after all), I had previously been pretty sure that a program like this would NOT work for me. I was sure that I’d overeat and gain weight just like every other time I’ve tried to eat “healthy” or “intuitively." (How can someone eat “intuitively” when her intuition is telling her to order three double cheeseburgers and an oreo McFlurry in the drive-thru at McDonald’s?) But I was fresh out of answers, so I tried to be open minded. I read “It Starts With Food” and Melissa and Dallas convinced me that there MIGHT be something to the idea that the reason I overeat and gain weight when I’m not tracking is that the kinds of foods I eat are foods with no brakes — foods that are designed (often literally in a lab but sometimes in nature) to make me want to eat more and more even if I'm not hungry. Hello, tortilla chips, my old friend. I was still super suspicious and pretty sure this was all going to end in tears, but I was feeling so jaded over my 2.5-month weight loss stall (I still had 65-75 lbs I wanted to lose), I decided it was worth a try. I mean, how much damage could I really do in 30 days? What am I going to do, eat too much broccoli? So I tried it. Letting go of that MyFitnessPal streak was surprisingly hard. I had been holding onto that streak as the One Last Thing I was still doing right. Sure, I had completely stopped losing weight. Sure, I was back to ordering delivery pizza and eating my weight in mint chocolate chip ice cream. But I was still logging! I still had my streak! It gave me a sense of (false) control. My fear was that I'd eventually fall off the Whole30 wagon but having lost my calorie tracking mojo in the process. Then I would have nothing at all! I know one of the things we really stress on the Whole30 is that it’s NOT a weight loss plan. Sure, if you google it you’ll find hundreds of people online claiming to have lost seemingly impossible amounts of weight on it, but the gentle recommendation is that you chuck your scale in the dumpster. My reaction was: maybe you can have my food log, but you will pry that scale out of my cold, dead hands. Here I am 30 days later and while I’m not quite ready to chuck it in the dumpster, I’m actually starting to see a glimmer of understanding as to why I should put less emphasis on the scale (and perhaps even none at all). One of the things we push on the Whole30 is to pay attention to your measurements and not your weight. I rolled my eyes at that initially because duh, your measurements and your weight are the same thing. At least they always have been for me since I'm pretty sedentary. It's hard to cling to the idea that muscle weighs more than fat when you don't actually have much muscle. But I can't ignore the hard numbers here - the number of inches I lost in a single month is the same number of inches it previously took me seven months to lose (even though I exercised more in the previous seven months than I did during the month of W30), despite losing more pounds on the scale during those seven months! In other words, the inches dropped faster on the W30 than the pounds did, even without exercise. Also, for the first time I really noticed how minor weight fluctuations would harsh my chill (you’re not allowed to weigh yourself during the Whole30 but I did a few times because I’m a REBEL and also I make poor life choices). I would be in a great mood, noticing how light I felt, how much energy I had, how my clothes were fitting better — and then I’d step on the scale, looking for that extra boost from seeing a lower number... and I’d be disappointed when it wasn’t quite low enough. It stole my joy. And ultimately… for what? In 30 days, my weight went from 190 lbs to 180.4 lbs. Sure it’s cool to break into the next “decade” of weight, but would I really be healthier at 179 than I am at 180? Would I look better? Would I feel different? The answer is honestly no, but that half a pound made me feel irrationally disappointed after a month that is clearly an unqualified success. The scale is only one metric of progress and it’s not even an exceptionally reliable one. Lesson learned for the next 60 days! That scale has nothing for me. Repeat: that scale has nothing for me. So, in the spirit of the Whole30, I’ll stop talking about my weight loss. Another great success of this month is that I normally have a migraine 6-12 days per month (so many days!) and that's been happening now for several years (I even track them in an app). But this month I had a migraine only ONE day of the entire month and it only lasted a few hours! That is truly remarkable and tells me that diet is most likely a major trigger for me, something I had not previously believed. Even if I had experienced zero other benefits on the Whole30, this one alone is life changing. Another major benefit was the full 180 effect on my mood. Prior to starting this way of eating, I was depressed and anxious basically all the time. I struggled sometimes to leave my house due to anxiety (I work from home). I often felt hopeless about the future and the past. I ruminated endlessly over things that didn’t matter. Though I actually have a wonderful job, I would get set off by small irritations at work and go into an emotional spiral for the rest of the day, devoting half my energy to talking myself out of rage-quitting. Almost immediately after starting the Whole30, that changed. I found myself ending the day and when someone would ask “how was your day at work,” I would be surprised to hear myself say “pretty good, actually!” I noticed that I wasn’t getting angry about stupid things. I wasn’t reactive, responding with a snippy email over the slightest perceived insult or inconvenience. I wasn’t getting wound up and anxious about things that don’t even have much to do with me. I was, dare I say… chill? I am not, historically, “chill.” Where before I had barely had the strength to hang on by my own thread, I now had the emotional space to be compassionate, generous, supportive, patient, helpful. Not every second or as often as I would like, but noticeably more often than before. Could it be that for me, like for many people, there are dietary triggers that actually make me a jerk? Now I’m not implying that swapping pop tarts with zucchini will cure major psychiatric disorders or that I will never have a crappy day again. I did have one or two less-than-stellar days and there were definitely a few instances when I experienced a negative emotion in reaction to something that happened. The difference is that those reactions felt proportionate to the cause, like any person might experience, and the feelings passed in a reasonable amount of time. I didn’t fly into an uncontrollable rage or sink into an endless pit of despair. I just felt my feelings and then they passed. Before, my mood issues were suffocating me; now it feels like a fog has lifted. I feel more resilient – even while PMSing, which was the real test. A few things that the Whole30 didn’t cure for me (yet): my occasional acid reflux (I have a few suspects left in mind: tomatoes, alliums, coffee, eggs - PLEASE DON’T LET IT BE COFFEE (it’s probably coffee)) my keratosis pilaris (a common and benign but annoying skin condition that is often triggered by dairy - I guess not in my case!) my self-diagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome (nice try though) my poor sleep (which sucks because that's one of the most common benefits other people experience on this program - I'm guessing coffee again) dry hair / brittle nails (people often comment on stronger nails and thick, shiny hair after this program, but I noticed neither) If there was any downside to this program, it might have been these two: My grocery bill! Grassfed beef? Organic kale? Smoked salmon? COCONUT AMINOS WHATEVER THOSE ARE? Hope you’re the CEO of a multinational corporation or you get an employee discount at Whole Foods! (On the other hand: zero beer budget, no frappuccinos, no temptation to order stuffed crust pepperoni pizza.) That said, in defense of the program, there are certainly ways to be more budget-minded than I was,* I just happen to be CEO of a multinational corporation AND have an employee discount at Whole Foods,** so I made it rain in the produce aisle every week. Lucky me!* shopping at less expensive grocery stores, coupon-clipping, taking advantage of sales, pre-cooking meals in bulk, skipping the organic/pastured labels ** neither of these are true Good luck to you if you travel a lot or have any sort of social life. Lucky for me, I work from home and have zero social life where I’m living right now and I just happened to not have any business trips during this month. I feel for people who have to navigate those situations while on this program (I know it's possible). I only had to navigate ONE social event the entire month and it was a little challenging but I learned some tricks for next time.*** If I’d had to travel, I would have had to really think ahead (I even had a stress dream one night about trying to find Whole30-compliant foods in the food court at JFK), but I did find some Whole30-approved convenience foods I could stash in my bag for my next trip.*** bring a healthy snack to share while you wait for mealtime, eat before you go, try to convince people to migrate away from the kitchen for socializing Those were really the only two downsides I observed. My daily experiences didn't really track with the Whole30 timeline - I did have strong cravings the first several days (I literally smelled chocolate chip cookies baking everywhere I went like my mind was hallucinating them) but I never went into "kill all the things mode." I wouldn't say I ever got full on "Tiger Blood" either. In fact, my energy was up and down throughout the month - very low at first, then perked up after I realized I should eat more carbs (and more food in general), but was never like SUPER POWERED. Exercise probably would have helped as I spend a lot of my day sitting at a computer (which probably affects my energy, sleep, and of course aches and pains). The thing I thought would be most challenging about the Whole30 was all the cooking. Before starting the program, my idea of “cooking” was putting a Lean Cuisine in the microwave. I would even get annoyed by those frozen dinners that required setting the microwave to 50% power or pausing to stir in the middle of the cook time. I thought this was supposed to be convenience food, not The Great British Bake Off! I was also pretty attached to my processed food and fast food. And by “pretty attached,” I mean “pry it out of my aforementioned dead hands.” Ice cream was a nightly ritual. The baristas at Starbucks would see me coming and start unwrapping the plastic on my ham and cheese foldover. Frozen meals or delivery were pretty much the only thing I ate for dinner. Or lunch. Or breakfast. It wasn’t just that I liked processed foods, it’s that I didn’t feel I had time for anything else. I’d buy fresh produce at the grocery store to make my cart look a little more balanced, but then it would wilt shamefully in my refrigerator. I don’t have kids, but I have a demanding job (working past midnight is not unusual and I'm convinced the concept of "weekends" is a mass hallucination) so I was convinced that I didn’t have time to chop vegetables, wash dishes, etc. Not to mention the fact that I self-identified as a terrible cook. Plus, I was weighing and logging every bite I ate for over a year and packaged foods had calories on the package so they were easy to track! This was crucial. Crafting meals from scratch required advanced calculus if I wanted to attempt to log a serving size. And god help me if my scale zeroed out when I wasn't looking. The most surprising thing about this experience was learning how easy it actually was for me to throw together delicious meals with healthy whole foods and still lose weight. A staple breakfast for me now is to fry a couple slices of compliant bacon, then sauté kale in the bacon fat with a splash of coconut aminos, sometimes adding some shredded sweet potato (pre-shredded in a food processor on the weekend), then top it all with two runny fried eggs and a few shakes of iodized salt and crushed red pepper. It’s AMAZING and only takes a few minutes! Dirty dishes: one pan, one bowl, a spatula and a fork. That’s it! And it’s so filling that it doesn’t even cross my mind to snack until I eat lunch about five hours later. An easy, frequent lunch for me is a GIANT bowl of romaine lettuce with a homemade lime vinaigrette (pre-made and stored in a mason jar in the fridge) with a crumbled plantain-crusted pork burger (pre-made in a big batch on the weekend, then frozen or stored in the fridge). Takes just a couple minutes to throw together (if the burger isn't frozen), is unbelievably delicious and is so filling that eating again doesn’t occur to me until dinner five hours later. A dinner I made frequently this month was a Thai green curry with coconut milk, green curry paste, shrimp, zucchini noodles (purchased pre-spiralized from Whole Foods) and a crapton of frozen vegetables, served over riced cauliflower (bought pre-riced and frozen). Tastes exactly like a Thai restaurant to me! Even my family thought it was good (they aren't doing this program). It only takes maybe 20 minutes, is SO simple, and I have leftovers for 2-3 days. I ate delicious, high fat foods like that, measured nothing, counted nothing, didn’t exercise at ALL and still somehow lost almost ten pounds in 30 days. That’s like... magic. Snacking is pretty rare for me at this point, which I’m realizing is probably the biggest key to my weight loss this month. It’s not that I’m being so virtuous and disciplined; snacking just doesn’t occur to me because I’m eating so much fat at meals and I'm not eating sugar or any other foods that trigger cravings. Sidebar: I want to echo what the founders/moderators say a lot - watch out for Larabar, that foul temptress. I ate four of them over the course of the month, none in a true "emergency" as advocated in the program but more as a dessert. In each case, I could literally feel my sugar dragon sleepily opening its eyes. Though they are exceptionally delicious, I've learned I have to steer clear. Gee, it's almost like there's a recurring theme where I disregard the rules and guidelines of the program and then realize why those rules and guidelines are there. Anyway, I don’t want to imply by this INCREDIBLY LONG blog post that I am somehow “cured” of anything. I’m a sugar addict, a food addict, a binge eater. That behavior has historically been an ongoing, recurring part of my life. I would be surprised if those tendencies never rise again. In fact, in Melissa’s latest book “Food Freedom Forever,” she says pretty bluntly that they absolutely will. Success is not “curing” myself of those things; it’s finding tools to help me put them into extended remission, and then manage them when they flare back up. For the first time, I actually feel the confidence that I might be able to do that. To learn to do that. To practice doing that. Another cool benefit of this month is that I really slowed down. I actually would occasionally eat meals not in front of the computer. I started setting boundaries on my work day. I read a book about meditation. I started making my coffee in a Chemex instead of my Mr. Coffee because I wanted to learn to enjoy it black. Do you know how long it takes to make coffee in a Chemex? Like FREAKING FOREVER. I’ve taken a break from some violent TV shows I was watching and am surprised how much clearer my mind feels. I’m not saying I’ll never watch those shows again, but eating better inspired me to want to bring that lightness to other areas of my life as well. Free up some space. Breathe. I’ve been more grateful, more mindful. I feel closer to my family than I have in decades. I feel closer to my colleagues and more valued at work. I'm actually thinking of taking a yoga class. I signed up for a volunteer opportunity doing something I’ve been dreaming of doing for years but had been too scared to try. Things aren't perfect, but I feel more at peace with my life, both where I want to be and where I am right now, and all the uncertainty in between. What I’ve learned this month is that changing my diet = changing my life. I’ve learned that it IS possible for me to cook my own meals from whole foods, even with a hectic schedule. It IS possible for me to not eat sugar and grains (and more) for an extended period of time and not even miss it that much. It IS possible for me to lose weight without counting calories or weighing my food or over-exercising or going hungry. Lastly, eating a more nutritious diet DOES improve my mood and my migraines - dramatically! In light of all of that, I’ve decided to extend this program into a Whole90, which means no pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, none of my aunt’s famous chocolate chip cookies at Christmas, and no champagne on New Year’s Eve. Those things will be waiting for me on the other side if I decide I still want them. I’m hoping 90 days will help me cement these healthy new habits and continue to shift my tastes and my body. Will my weight loss stall again? It might! Will my migraines and mood problems return? I hope not! Or will these new healthy habits further solidify, fortifying me for when I eventually reintroduce the foods I’ve eliminated to learn which are my triggers and which are safe to enjoy? I’m hoping for the latter obviously. I’m also REALLLLLY hoping that my migraines aren’t caused by cheese. PLEASE IF THERE IS A GOD.
  2. I was in a bad place when I started the Whole 30. It was 8 months after giving birth to my second child. I was still 22 lbs overweight despite working out several times a week and choosing “healthy” foods (not much meat, lots of grains and beans). I ate zero packaged junk food, but I had delicious high quality pastries a couple times a week and thought nothing of it. Oh, and I regularly had 2-3 glasses of wine per night just to “wind down.” My childhood asthma had returned. My skin was on a hormonal rollercoaster; besides breakouts I had eczema and keratosis pilaris (chicken skin bumps on back of my arms). I was always hungry and always eating. I tried calorie counting. I tried Weight Watchers when the calorie counting got demoralizing. I tried weighing all my food when WW didn’t work. All that micromanaging sucked the joy out of living, and I still couldn’t lose the weight. My mantra was that I deserved that pastry/glass of wine/bowl of tortilla chips because I had been “so good” all day. I’d pile on the calories after the kids were in bed. But then I simply turned a corner, and decided that I deserved to feel healthy, to feel like I did before my pregnancy. Heck, why not feel even better than that? So I decided to give W30 a try. What did I have to lose? Which begs the question, 30 days later, what did I lose? As it turns out I lost ZERO pounds. 30 days of total compliance, and I weigh exactly the same. Yep, I’m one of those. (At this moment in time, while nursing, anyway.) I gave myself an hour or so to feel really down about it. But then I took at the NSVs I drafted yesterday before I weighed in. I weigh the same, but I’m not the same. I GAINED: - the ability to breathe freely without asthma. This is truly priceless. I have not touched my inhalers in one month. - a peaceful relationship with food. I’m not battling it any longer. I know what makes me feel good. And once I finish the reintros I’ll know what doesn’t! - knowledge and acceptance. I know my body is holding on to this weight because it needs it for nursing. Sure, I can tweak things here or there, but by and large I’ve proved to myself that it just doesn’t want to let go of it right now. I’m going to have to be patient. I am ready to stop nursing for a variety of reasons, but it may take a while for my hormones to catch up. So, what next? I’m going to do reintroductions to see which food group(s) were exacerbating the asthma. I'll have the occasional glass of wine over the next week or so (we’re traveling). I also had bloodwork done on Day 25. In two weeks I will meet with my chiropractor who has nutritional training to review that. Perhaps there are hormonal factors at play that can be worked on. Once I know the bloodwork results, I’ll decide whether to jump into another Whole30. For now, I will stay compliant while at home, avoid whatever it is that’s causing the asthma even when out, and have the occasional glass of wine. But mostly, I am going to enjoy the calm Whole30 has brought to my life and give my body some grace. Read on for details if you’d like. As always, I’m open to any feedback on how to move forward. These forums were an amazing resource through the whole process. NSVs: - Asthma GONE without the use of steroid inhalers - Skin clearer - Nails growing like crazy - Eczema gone - Keratosis pilaris (chicken skin on arms) drastically reduced - On the rare occasions where my alarm goes off before the kids are up, I only press snooze once instead of three or four times - I can see my waist again! hallelujah! - Clothes fit better and I can get into some I couldn’t a month ago - Even energy all day long - More time between meals means more efficient work - Free from cravings. I no longer struggle with food choices. - Not tempted to eat after dinner - I don’t “need” wine to relax anymore - I don’t need to weigh myself every day as I used to What went well: - I rocked it with the homemade condiments: mayo, ketchup, ranch dip and Nom Nom Paleo’s “magic mushroom” seasoning were my favorites - Egg bakes saved my bacon for breakfast - such a time saver, and great to start the day without having to “think” about the meal - Kombucha was the perfect treat instead of wine/beer/cocktails - I made it through Easter with flying colors - I cooked many compliant meals for my extended family (we’re talking large groups of 12-20 people, and they all loved them) - I did NOT evangelize to my family, which is something I’d done in the past, but tried to set a quiet example What could have gone better: - I ate more frequently and had more fruit and potatoes than necessary in the beginning. I was still breastfeeding heavily then (I’m down to one nursing session a day now), so I was nervous about my supply and likely overdid it. All compliant, so no harm done, but once I got down to 3 (large, by my previous standards) meals per day, which was about two weeks in, I felt much better. - Some days I ate 1/2 an avocado at every meal. Maybe I need to dial that back to 1/3. - Still having some skin breakouts but then again I’m in a transitional place hormonally as I slowly stop breastfeeding - Sleep is not a long or solid as I would like, mostly due to kids waking me up - if fact, SLEEP could be the largest factor in the weight hanging on. - I need to drink more water. 62 oz/day isn’t cutting it. What I’ll do in the future, to keep doing better: - Make fruit and potatoes a once a day thing, not an every meal thing - Aim to be in bed by 8 and asleep by 9 - Read for 1hr before bed instead of watching tv - Dial coffee back to one cup per day, replace second cup with matcha - Aim to drink 3 32-oz bottle of water/day - Keep working with my preschooler on not waking us at night when he goes to the bathroom in the middle of the night. He can do it, but it helps when we prep him by talking about it before bedtime. - Let my husband take over the 5:30 feedings when he is home so I can sleep longer - Take measurements to track inches lost, not just weight - Stay on whole 30 at home. I rarely eat out (maybe once a week) so that would be a pretty complaint lifestyle, and I find it easy to do at home. - I won’t go back to having stevia in my coffee. That was the hardest thing to give up, and I think it was triggering a cycle of sugar cravings. In fact I may even give up my almond milk. I think I’m ready to enjoy coffee black, and I like the simplicity of that.