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Changing a lifetime of bad habits one day at a time!


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I finished the Whole30 on Tuesday, and just wanted to share my success story! Just to set the scene, here is some background on myself – healthy eating was not a part of my childhood. My mother was a single mom and did not cook so I lived off tv dinners, boxed macaroni and cheese, bologna sandwiches, and hot dogs along with one to two dinners at restaurants a week, where I would usually have chicken fingers dipped in massive amounts of ranch . I never ate fruit. Ever. Amazingly, I never got over maybe 155lbs, but I am 5'4†but I have a very small frame so 155 was enough for me to considered quite chubby. From the time I was 15, I got regular headaches – almost daily. This persisted for years.

I finally cleaned up my diet around age 25 – I ate out less, ate fewer processed foods, and learned to cook. This was after trying chiropractic care and massage for the headaches (which both helped to some extent), and many visits to a GP and a neurologist where I was told nothing was wrong. Eating healthier helped enormously. I also started walking more, and eventually my headaches eased. It took a few years, but finally I got to the point where my headaches were few and far between. Now, at 31, 95% of my headaches are self-inflicted (read: hangovers!), with the balance typically occurring when I haven't been drinking enough water and a few glasses later, I'm fine.

Seeing how drastically my health could improve from changing my diet helped me believe that food truly has an effect on our health - a massive effect. And although my headaches are so much better, I still have a whole mess of other health issues to deal with. The non-exhaustive list includes shoulder pain, knee pain, epic periods (greater than 10 days, typically 14), excessive cramps, eye twitches on occasion, lack of energy to get through the day, chronic coughing (I don't smoke), and allergies.

I stumbled across the Whole30 when my doctor suggested I may have PCOS. And I'm so glad I did! I bought the book and devoured it – my “healthy†diet was exactly like the example diet in the book, the bad one! My muesli in the morning wasn't healthy?! My quinoa, my black beans!?! WTF? So I decided to commit to the 30 days and see how things went.

It was not a perfect Whole30, but the fact that I survived as well as I did is something I am incredibly proud of. I did eat out six times – three breakfasts and three dinners. I did not ask what the food was cooked in, instead I ordered the most seemingly compliant food I could find. And I know many people would not consider it a true Whole30 then, as I am sure something was cooked in butter or vegetable oil. But I ordered SALMON and ASAPARGUS as my meal!!! I by-passed a burger and fries for the healthiest option on the menu. This is something I have never, ever ever done in my entire life. Another time, I got grilled chicken breast and a side of sweet potatoes. I would NEVER order a grilled option when going out to dinner. So, yes, it wasn't perfect- but it was a massive improvement for me and I am proud of myself.

All in all, I lost 6lbs and 1.4% of body fat (granted, this was on a body fat scale which is imperfect I know, but I will presume if it is wrong, it is at least consistently wrong and this is still a loss!). The weight loss was enough to make my clothes that were getting too tight fit perfectly again. I would have liked a bigger body fat % loss as mine is quite high (I only weigh 128lbs now but my body fat is 28.1%) so I would really like to see that come down more, but this gives me a great goal for the future.

I did get six headaches during the Whole30, in the middle, which is more than I've had in the last year probably (excepting hangover headaches), so that was a bit disappointing. I am not sure what caused them but they subsided in the last half so I will re-visit that in the future if I need to. Other than that, I have only seen positive changes. I sleep incredibly deeply for one. My partner regularly comes to bed about 2-3 hours after me, and I used to always wake up when he did. This was terrible for our relationship as I would get upset, and then be tired and crabby the next day. Through almost the entire Whole30, I did not wake up at all when he came to bed! This might be favourite side effect of the Whole30. I still struggle a bit to get out of bed in the morning, but my energy is more constant – no more afternoon slumps and I can make it through all my nightly tasks (going to the gym, cooking dinner, cleaning up etc) without being too tired to finish. I am sneezing far less (and stopped my allergy medicine on Day 1), and am not stuffed up in the evenings which I had been previously. I no longer need snacks during the day. I stopped my Coke Zero habit.

My diary reintroduction was largely disappointing – nothing was worth it, and although I didn't feel sick, I did feel bloated. However, I am due to start my period any day so it's hard to tell what was causing it. I also was sneezing more, to the point where someone asked if I was okay. My grain introduction was also disappointing – nothing was worth it and my tummy was mad at me all day, AND I was stuffed up at night for the first time in 33 days.

So what now? I will do another Whole30 in January, after the holidays. I will commit to avoiding social events that surround food during that time so that I can go the whole way through without eating out. There were some transitions that were so easy for me that I will keep those in the meantime. For example, switching to black coffee was somehow a piece of cake for me. I had a latte for my dairy reintroduction but it wasn't worth it. And you know how I said I almost never ate fruit before? I had one piece of fruit every day through the Whole30 – where most people on here seem to have to cut down their fruit intake, I wanted to be able to have one piece a day regularly as I know fruit has its place in a healthy diet, as long as you don't over-do it! I had an apple with breakfast (WITH, not for breakfast!) every day and I don't think I'll stop that habit now. I will incorporate protein into my breakfast as a matter of course to help sustain me until lunchtime.

The Whole9 facebook page had a quote recently about how food should nourish, not nurture. So many people liked this but when I read it, something didn't sit right with me and I thought about this statement for days afterwards. Finally I realised why – I don't think it's all or nothing. I think there should be a nourish/nurture ratio. When I was a kid, that ratio was probably 1:9. Pre Whole30, it was probably 7:3 but with some misguidance on what that 7 should contain. I think I'd like to aim for 9:1. I want to be able to eat sweet potato casserole in all its buttery , sugary glory on Thanksgiving and remember all my wonderful Thanksgivings past. And on Christmas morning, I want to make the breakfast sausage casserole full of cheese and bread that my aunt made every Christmas growing up. And when someone gets engaged, or married, or has a baby, or gets a promotion, I want a glass of champagne to celebrate. And if I eat to nourish the rest of the time, then I'll be happy with that. But I still have a ways to go, so onward! :)

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What an excellent, well-written post. A big hearty congrats to you! Also, that nourish/nuture quote struck me the wrong way too, and I looked at it for a good couple of minutes wondering what it was that I wasn't getting about it. On a technical level, food really does nurture--growing a bean-sized baby into a strong and sturdy adult, and as the Hartwigs have noted, so many important cultural traditions/ events center around food, the emotional and spiritual significance I think get lost when you adopt a bloodhound's view of food as fuel. Also, nurture and nourish share the same etymological root: Latin's 'nutrire,' which means both to feed and to cherish. Just sayin'. ;)

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Great post! It never ceases to amaze me how much what goes into our bodies affects us so drastically. I am with you on the "not so strict but with the best intentions" Whole30. I don't have the best relationship with food so the fact that I've done as good as I have makes me very happy and is an amazing step forward for me.

Congratulations and keep it up!

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