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laurielouise

Goodbye, Migraines & 2.5-Month Weight Loss Plateau. Hello, Food Freedom!

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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:
 
  1. 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

     
  2. 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.

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10 hours ago, MelissaO said:

Great post.........I'm on day 5 and I hope get spat out the other end with the same humour and determination that you seem to have :-)

Good luck, I hope the rest of your month goes great!

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Thank you for sharing! I've put off starting another round because I'm so freaked out about failing. Your post has given me the encouragement to just do it!! Hope your Whole90 goes fantastically!

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this is hugely helpful to read as a fellow binger, food addict, migraine sufferer (spent most of the day in a migraine haze thanks to the pills). I am starting to feel excited about making positive changes :)

 

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1 minute ago, CateL said:

this is hugely helpful to read as a fellow binger, food addict, migraine sufferer (spent most of the day in a migraine haze thanks to the pills). I am starting to feel excited about making positive changes :)

 

Yay, I hope it helps your migraines too! Mine didn't go away entirely - I still have them sometimes but they're less frequent and less severe and are knocked out more easily with an Aleve or a sumatriptan whereas before I had them all the time and they were so bad that I'd have to miss work a lot. I ended up sticking with Whole30 for 71 days and now am just following it about 95% of the time.

The amazing weight loss and mood improvements of the first month didn't continue in months 2 and 3 for me but I did lose a bit more weight (about 14 lbs total) and I LOVE how much better I feel about my food choices, my cooking, etc. I just feel a lot more in control and healthy. And I haven't gained weight back even without counting calories!

That said, I learned that this isn't a one-stop cure-all for all that ails me - I have to also manage my stress, my activity, my sun exposure, my sleep, my water intake, my medications, etc. When those things start slipping, I start having crappy symptoms again.

And I have to be VERY careful with sugar of any kind, even naturally-occurring sugar like in fruit and larabars. It makes me so exhausted that I can barely speak and I have out of control sugar cravings for days.

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My migraines are in general pretty good. I had encephalitis in March and since being diagnosed and treated for that (not fun) they are much less frequent than they used to be, probably one bad one every 3 months instead of 2-3 times a month. I need to lose a lot of weight (fact, not some kind of self-deprecation), work on my binge eating and diet caffeine soda addiction, excess alcohol. Lots of work to do but a program like this with structure, support and real parameters (Let's face it, if iIcould have just one of something I wouldn't be a food addict haha, abstinence is the only way for me with binge foods ).  I'm going to the supermarket tomorrow, i think I might get a shock at how much hidden sugars are in meats here in Germany...

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1 minute ago, CateL said:

My migraines are in general pretty good. I had encephalitis in March and since being diagnosed and treated for that (not fun) they are much less frequent than they used to be, probably one bad one every 3 months instead of 2-3 times a month. I need to lose a lot of weight (fact, not some kind of self-deprecation), work on my binge eating and diet caffeine soda addiction, excess alcohol. Lots of work to do but a program like this with structure, support and real parameters (Let's face it, if iIcould have just one of something I wouldn't be a food addict haha, abstinence is the only way for me with binge foods ).  I'm going to the supermarket tomorrow, i think I might get a shock at how much hidden sugars are in meats here in Germany...

Good luck! I had a serious Coke Zero habit before Whole30 and I actually wonder if that was big contributor to my migraines... though I had one a few days ago at an amusement park (I'd eaten some sugar and was crashing hard so I needed caffeine... vicious cycle that I don't miss being in daily) and didn't get a migraine from that luckily.

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Wow, thanks for this awesome write-up! Except for the migraines, my life pre Whole30 sounds a lot like yours was. I'm excited by your results! I'm going to start my first Whole30 in a week, and reading all of these great results stories is absolutely crazy motivating.

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This is a marvelous post! Have you thought about submitting it as a Whole30 Success Story (like the ones that appear on the front pages of the site)? I think it would help a lot of others who are doing (or not doing) the program. Thank you for sharing your experience!

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On 1/22/2017 at 8:01 PM, staceylc_w30 said:

This is a marvelous post! Have you thought about submitting it as a Whole30 Success Story (like the ones that appear on the front pages of the site)? I think it would help a lot of others who are doing (or not doing) the program. Thank you for sharing your experience!

I agree! I really enjoyed reading your post.  I was hunting around the forum for inspiration.  Well, here it is!  Thanks for sharing. 

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Laura Louis, thank you so much for posting This!  There were parts that had me laughing out loud (even during kids' nap time) because I can absolutely relate.

On 11/13/2016 at 2:00 PM, laurielouise said:

(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

Yep, that's me.   I just love the effect this has had on you and your mood.   Me too.  I didn't really expect that.  I want to sing the praises of this program Too!  I'm grateful to feel like a success story.  I never thought I could be one of those skinny girls that could say " I want a sweet treat, how about an apple." I used to think that there must  be something seriously wrong with those girls, but now I get It! Now it seems possible.  I've got a week left, then I'll write a story.  Thanks for posting!

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9 minutes ago, 711shay said:

I’m so glad I took the time to read this!  So well-written and a great motivator as I make my way through my first Whole 30.

 

Thank you! I actually just started another round two days ago. I've been so impressed that (a) the weight I lost really did stay off and (b) so many of the healthy habits I learned during my Whole30 have actually stuck with me. I am really impressed with this program! I took the advice in Melissa's Food Freedom Forever and let myself just live for awhile and then when I noticed that some of my habits were veering too far into the "taco truck and patio beer" category, I started up another round of Whole30 to course correct. I am a big fan of taco trucks and beer and wouldn't want to completely outlaw them from my life (unless I had to) but I can see now the difference between an occasional treat and a lifestyle haha.

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On 1/25/2017 at 8:14 PM, Beth ann e said:

Laura Louis, thank you so much for posting This!  There were parts that had me laughing out loud (even during kids' nap time) because I can absolutely relate.

Yep, that's me.   I just love the effect this has had on you and your mood.   Me too.  I didn't really expect that.  I want to sing the praises of this program Too!  I'm grateful to feel like a success story.  I never thought I could be one of those skinny girls that could say " I want a sweet treat, how about an apple." I used to think that there must  be something seriously wrong with those girls, but now I get It! Now it seems possible.  I've got a week left, then I'll write a story.  Thanks for posting!

Isn't that wild? Even months later, I'm still impressed at how my tastes seem to have permanently (?) changed from this program. I was on a 3.5-week trip last month and was afraid I'd pack on the pounds but I didn't actually gain a single ounce. I did enjoy some treats (possibly a few more than I'd planned, unfortunately) but I found I just don't have the appetite for bingeing that I used to, which I'm SO thankful for. I bought some Halo Top ice cream (which I love) and then forgot it in the freezer. I literally forgot to eat it! Who am I??

I just started another round of Whole30 two days ago to course correct for a little habit veering that happened on my trip (I'm a sucker for baked goods in the morning) and I'm so thankful for this tool!

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On 1/22/2017 at 8:01 PM, staceylc_w30 said:

This is a marvelous post! Have you thought about submitting it as a Whole30 Success Story (like the ones that appear on the front pages of the site)? I think it would help a lot of others who are doing (or not doing) the program. Thank you for sharing your experience!

I might, thank you!

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