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For the Love of Pete. This is Hard. HELP.


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Dear Whole30 Community: 


Health is extremely important to me. Except when it's not, apparently.  


I would love some insight from someone...anyone. But, for some reason feel compelled to provide way more back story than is probably necessary. I suspect catharsis is the culprit.




I am a very anxious person. I get stressed very easily. I'm a perfectionist (so if it's not perfect, I come down with a case of "what the hell"s). I do wonder how much of this is stress and anxiety is food-related. I often start out gung ho about making a change and new habits, but gradually begin to panic then second guess that I'm actually making any progress at all leading to the sad demise of the change or new habit. 


The past year and a half of my life has been incredibly stressful: I quit my job to pursue a very difficult theatre apprenticeship wherein I worked 60-80 hours/week for 13 months while maintaining a marriage, then opened my first professional show, immediately thereafter my husband and I bought our first home and had a huge change in our income, leaving me living 400 miles away from my husband for the next 2 1/2 months. Suffice it to say, there have been a few things on my mind.


But things have finally calmed down. I have the time and the space to really dedicate to getting healthy. The problem: I'm finding it very hard to actually do it. 


MY (blasphemous) BROWNIE POINTS


I DO sleep. 7+ hours/night. 


I DO exercise (so, I've got that going for me). I do crossfit 4-5 times/week, supplement with a run or something once or twice a week, and take at least one day off each week. And I push myself. Exercise has never been the problem - it's amazing. I love it. I'm religious about it. ...It's with food I have a problem...


So let's get to what I eat, shall we? 




I've been mostly paleo since May 2014 (my longest strict paleo stint was this past April to mid-August). There has been some noteworthy off-roading between then and now (including a period of about a week wherein I ate cookie dough for dinner...dark times). I have completed two whole30s - but let's be honest: I don't think I committed to them as much as I could have. I've thought about why...a lot: 

  •  I use fruit as a crutch. A lot. In fact, I think I've essentially prescribed the Sugar Dragon steroids (apples, bananas and dates feel like food with no brakes for me)
  •  I eat emotionally (when sad, anxious, angry, lonely, stressed etc.)
  •  I don't understand how to listen to my hunger because, honestly, I don't think I've consistently really tried to do it
  •  I haven't been eating a post-workout meal...? I usually work out in the morning, then eat lunch when I get home (30 min to an hour after my workout - I've read that you should give your body the chance to reenter rest & digest mode before eating anything?)
  • I do not drink very much water...maybe 32 oz/day (I'm not clear what Whole30 suggestions are for water consumption)

During the past two months I have started two Whole30s, falling off the wagon on day 10 and then on day 17 (yesterday). Again I say: for the love of Pete! I start to feel resentful about what I can't have. Pizza is just too friggin' delicious to say no to. The Sugar Dragon demands donuts and 3 enormous honeycrisp apples aren't even close to the infamous SWYPO. And when I fall off the wagon, I develop a monstrous case of "What the Hell"s (or WTFs might be more accurate) and EAT ALL THE (bad) THINGS. 




I am less than delighted to say that I am overweight. In high school I weighed 176 lbs. I lost about 40 lbs when I went to college over the course of a year (this seems to be an important fact for me, because it's proof that I have made a dramatic change in the past and could do it again). Today, 4 years later, I am 5'-4", 160 lbs (I've put on 5-10lbs during this stressful year). I don't care about weight; I think muscle is bad ass. I care about body fat percentage, but weight is the only familiar way I know to measure the unhealthy change in my body. Some of my current weight is muscle, but it certainly isn't all muscle. So. I don't think I need the post-workout carbohydrates. In the same vein, I try to stay on the lower end of the fat spectrum (usually limiting it to the 1-2 TBSP of fat from cooking oil). I figure the more information I provide, the more you lovely people will have to go on. 




I feel so frustrated when I think of how I hold myself back and where I could be if I just gave my body the fuel it needed! I don't want to feel like I have no control, like the Sugar Dragon rules my life (it's hard to imagine that I'll ever be over it). I don't want to abuse my poor digestive system any longer. I don't want to have so much anxiety and guilt about food for the rest of my life. I don't want to fall apart at the slightest sign of uncertainty or stress, just when my body needs me to take care of it most. Apparently life is rarely a smooth sailing experience. Who knew, right? 


I know there are things I'm doing wrong (feeding the Sugar Dragon being the main one here), but I think I still need to hear it from someone else. To have an outside perspective. With all of this in mind: Are there any suggestions for staying the course? For really committing to the Whole30 guidelines? For giving it 110%? 200%, even? 



Thanks for reading to the end   :). Your thoughts and encouragement are appreciated. Go team.


Hearts and Glitter, 


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Body.  Mind.  Spirit.  There is a spiritual component to the Whole 30.    You need all three to run on all cylinders...to carry you through 30 Whole days and waaay into your future.  


In the beginning, if you can't find the reasons to do it for yourself, a spiritual component is a powerful projection that will take you far and away from the old habits that got you here in the first place.  Old stinkin' thinkin' can be traded UP for a deeper purpose.   The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose. 


Find that anchor or mantra.  You may need to change it up all of the time to keep yourself motivated.  You can tell yourself  "This is what healthy looks like" or whatever means something to you.  New behaviours are not difficult to adopt if you add in the spiritual component.   Just practice, practice, practice until they become your skills in your wheelhouse.


It will take time and 30 days is often not enough.  When you have the equipment you need (new cognitive behaviours),  they will give you confidence.   Thoughts always precede behaviours.


Destructive thought patterns lead to poor eating and overeating.   Your tolerance and indifference to old triggers and play foods is a muscle that will grow stronger with use.  A Whole 30 is only 30 days but if you draw on your spiritual component,  you can return back to your original factory settings.


Back to the days when everything was second nature as a child and food was not an emotional crutch.

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I am not an expert but maybe I can give you another perspective.

#1 You mentioned that you are a perfectionist. Maybe this will be good for you to try and let the perfection go during you whole30. It's not about perfection it's about changing your eating habits. Sometimes you eat a large bowl of fruit salad or entire jar of almond butter. It happens. No worries try to do better tomorrow. 

#2 You have some positive things going on including sleep and exercise so give yourself a break.

#3 The more you exercise the hungrier you will be so you may want to cut back on the tough workouts during your whole30. Do yoga, take a dance class, take a walk or take a nap. It's all good. Listen to your body it knows what you need.

#4 Food. The goal is 3 meals a day. I can only do 3 meals and a snack. It's all good. Do what works for you. 

#5 Emotional Eating - This is tough. The whole30 is going to make you face emotions you didn't know you had. It's part of the process. When you detox your body you can also detox your mind. There will be days when you want to Kill All Things and other days when you want to give up. Try to think about why you are doing it and keep going. You can do it. Even if you just try one meal at a time.

#6 Water. The recommendation is 1/2 oz of water for every lb of body weight each day. That is a lot of water and can help with cravings.

#7 Remember day 10 is the day when most people quit. You got the flow going, maybe you are feeling better and so your brain says "Let's quit"

#8 Gluten and Dairy are very addictive. You are probably going through withdrawals like a drug addict. They can be the same. Also your body wants that gluten and dairy so it is going to throw a fit until it gets what it wants. 

#9 You may need a gentler approach to this style of eating. Maybe cold turkey is too much. Check out Revive by Frank Lipman M.D.

I hope you feel better. Good Luck. 

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Hi, emtg. I'm sorry you're having a rough time.


First, some general forum bookkeeping stuff -- it's against forum rules to cross post the same content in multiple places. I've deleted one copy of this topic, leaving this one in the Troubleshooting section and the one in the Your Whole30 Log section, since if you're planning on using that thread as a daily log/journal, I didn't want to delete it.


Next, I wanted to acknowledge that yes, Whole30 is challenging, especially if it's a big change from the way you ate before. But, you are a capable person who has dealt with difficult things before, so it is definitely a challenge that you can meet.


Now, let's talk more about a plan to get you through a Whole30.


DO NOT try to go too low carb, but definitely focus on limiting fruit to no more than two servings a day, with meals. Have at least one fist-sized serving of starchy vegetable every day, and honestly, given that you're crossfitting often, running, and you're prone to anxiety, I'd start with more than that. Seriously -- those starchy vegetables in a post-WO replenish glycogen levels, but in a more general sense, they seem to help keep people's moods more even. (Here's an article with more on what and why to eat post-workout.)


I'd also say not to worry about staying on the lower end of the template for fat. Fat plays a big part in keeping you satisfied between meals, which helps combat between-meal snacking. In addition to your cooking fat, add some avocado or olives, or make some sauces, dips, or dressings to add to your meals. Try it this way for 30 days, having carbs and fat, and see how you feel. 


You mentioned anxiety about eating. That's a tough one, and if you feel that it's truly interfering with your ability to eat healthily, you may want to consider speaking to a professional who has experience dealing with disordered eating, so that you can work on getting past those anxieties now before they get any worse.


You also mentioned giving 110% or 200% -- no one expects you to do that. You can't do that, at least not for any length of time, and be healthy. 

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You have to decide to do a real Whole30. That means you need to eat a good portion of fat at every meal. You need to eat starchy veggies at least twice per day. You may think fat loss is your main issue, but your brain needs the carbs. I would have said one serving of starchy veggies per day but you are pushing the edge of exercising too much and need more. You need to drink at least 80 ounces of water per day and probably a bit more. You cannot go by hunger signals at this point. You need to compose meals according to our meal planning template and eat them whether you feel like it or not. You need to eat your veggies and stay away from fruit. Fruit is okay for normal people, but you are not safe with fruit at this point. You have to start eating post-workout meals in addition to your three main meals. And you need to eat them at the gym before you get in your car to leave. 


If you do these things, your life will change for the better. If you adjust the program to fit what makes sense to you, you will keep getting the results you've gotten before. 


How much to eat
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You've already gotten a lot of good advice so I'm just adding a little personal encouragement.


Your story sounds very similar to mine in a lot of ways. Emotional eater, sneaky eater, exercised like a fiend with no outcome, stress easily because of perfectionism.


The biggest thing I think that changed for me is in the language I use around food. I never say I can't have something anymore...because I'm an adult...if I want something I CAN have it. If you change deprivation language to choice language you get power instead of being a victim. Saying I'm choosing not to have pizza right now to improve my health is power. Saying I can't have pizza induces a meltdown tantrum especially for people with our personality type.


Aside from that I'd say stick to the recommendations (meal template etc) and do Whole30 to the spirit of the law not just the letter and throw your stupid scale away. Honestly I'm also 5'4" and I teach group fitness and weigh about 15 lbs more than you do. My body fat has slowly but steadily gone down. Find somewhere you can get that measured or just use a tape measure. The scale is poppy cock. BMI is stupid. I don't know about your frame, but 160 looks pretty darn thin on mine.

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Sorry for breaking posting rules! I'll pay closer attention. 


This is all very helpful: 

  • 80+ oz of water/day
  • Eat immediately after working out
  • At least one serving of starchy veggies/day
  • Stay away from fruit
  • Use choice language 

Thank you, everyone. 

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One trick that works for me is to reframe the "I can't have ..." feelings. I imagine someone else is telling me I can't do whatever it is (Whole 30 in this case). That gets me into the "oh yeah? Just watch" mode. Then, I'm unstoppable.

I fully agree.  I like to say 'I am valuing my health more than I value this donut (fill in the blank).  It's pretty hard to argue with that, even if the only one you're arguing with is yourself.

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