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I have never been one to flirt with 'fads.' I'm also the farthest thing from a habit-forming person you will meet, for good and bad. That's why when a good friend introduced me to Whole 30 six weeks ago, I was hesitant. Not another wacky diet plan that promised results that never materialized, or if they did promised to make me miserable in the process. Still, I knew changes were necessary. I have fought weight issues and joint pain much of my adult life. Last year was going to be the year I got serious, so I committed to losing 50 pounds over the course of a 12-month period. I lost two. Worse yet, I just felt awful. Back, hip, shoulder, feet. Some days it felt like every major joint in my body belonged to someone 25 years older than a man in his early 50s. As a result, my energy level wasn't where it needed to be for someone with a relatively demanding job, and I couldn't remember the last time I had back-to-back good nights of sleep. So, when my friend said she had lost 13 pounds on Whole 30 and that her joint pain had all but disappeared, I was skeptical but decided to take a look. After all, what could it hurt? The concept was familiar, if a bit extreme-sounding to a guy who had consumed a half-dozen Diet Cokes a day for decades, and who enjoyed milk and cheese more than most anything else in life. Still, one concept resonated with my desire to think we all have some degree of control over our lives: 30 days of focusing on healthy, whole foods shouldn't be hard. It was a matter of how badly I wanted to force some discipline on myself. Or put another way, how badly did I want to try something that could help me feel better and gain greater control over my health? Thirty-four days later (I've extended my schedule by a week as I plan for reintroduction) I can say this is one of the smartest decisions I've ever made - and one of the most unexpectedly pleasant surprises I have ever encountered. The highlights: I am nearly 20 pounds lighter than when I started. My blood pressure has dropped 20 points. According to my Fitbit sleep analyzer, my resting heartbeat has fallen from 77 to 65. I'm routinely sleeping better than I have in years and my aching joints have stopped barking at me (I've not taken an anti-inflammatory in a month). Beyond that, my energy is up and I am more efficient and focused at work. I've begun working out regularly and can see a day when I lose the "big number" of pounds I have been dreaming about and create the healthy lifestyle that has largely eluded me for many years. I have developed new eating habits and a healthy appreciation for what it means to fill my tank with quality fuel. It wasn't always easy, especially the first two weeks. And, I'll admit to being bored to tears with water at times. It also wasn't as hard as I thought. Once I started seeing results and fell into a routine, I stopped obsessing about what I wasn't eating and enjoyed the many delicious foods I was eating. It also became clear that I wanted the good results to continue more than I wanted that Diet Coke or cheese and crackers. As I stare reintroduction in the face, I'll admit to a bit of trepidation. I don't want to fall off the wagon and go back to feeling the way I did pre-Whole 30. I also realize that I have a lot more work to do to get to my ultimate "fighting weight" and to reach my health goals. Still, I'm choosing to trust the process and to view reintroduction as the next necessary step in providing me the knowledge base I need to truly control my food choices. I know that eliminating dairy, grains, legumes, alcohol and sugar lad to dramatic gains in health and energy; now I need to know which doors lead me down a dark alley and which will help lead me toward the light (I'm really hoping dairy is one of the good guys). The learning process has been an unexpected benefit of my Whole 30 journey, and I'm excited about the next stage. And the one after that. For now, though, I felt the need to share my story as way of saying thanks. To my friend who cared enough to gently persuade me to give this a try. To my wife who has been uber supportive throughout this (although she didn't join me on Whole 30 her eating habits have changed noticeably as well). And to the entire Whole 30 community for providing the tools and support to make this possible. With appreciation and excitement about what comes next, - ML