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It took two tries, but I did it!


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I transitioned from a SAD diet to Mark Sisson's take on paleo last September and loved it. I didn't have a ton of weight to lose at that point, but I effortlessly dropped about 15 pounds by the end of October or so. I've been slowly tweaking things since then and continued to see improvements as I dumped things like heavy cream in my daily coffee, frequent use of smoothies, and reduced my consumption of nuts.

I got the Success Guide as part of the Paleo Summit package deal a few months ago, read through the guide and sat on it. I was still seeing results with very little effort, and I wasn't ready to commit to the challenge of a Whole30. Things became 'too easy' and I started to take for granted the effort required to truly be on top of my game. I was snacking more, succumbing to mindless eating when I didn't really need food, eating more dark chocolate and other paleo treats than I should, etc. Essentially, I was justifying bad habits with "It's paleo, so it's okay." Cue up the Whole30...

My goals going in were:

  • stay mindful of all food choices, every day... not just the major meals
  • reign in snacking
  • finish the challenge doing the best I could to be 100% strict

I started my first Whole30 attempt just after the Whole9 forum opened. I logged my food in the Whole30 Log Forum, and I appreciated the feedback and encouragement by all who checked in. It wasn't difficult to eat Whole30 approved foods because I was starting with a decent paleo diet. What I found difficult was truly appreciating the focus required to remain mindful of all of my food choices, all the time. But, I didn't really know that until I fell off the wagon. I made it 22 days without a cheat, sailing right along... eating the correct foods... limiting snacking... bla bla bla. On the surface, everything seemed great!

But, I was still asleep at the wheel. I wasn't truly mindful of all of my food choices... I was letting the Whole30 rules and my already-paleo eating habits dictate to me what was cool to eat. There was no critical thought on my part... almost like I was going through the motions relative to my goals. I guess context does matter! :) On day 23, I woke up, got out of bed and fell into a mug of bulletproof coffee, loaded with organic unsalted butter. My brain was so stuck on auto-pilot that I didn't realize I had blown my Whole30 until later that day. Was it delicious coffee? Yes!!! Mindful of my food choices? I think not!!! I was really ticked off at myself when I realized what I had done. But, I celebrated my partial success with some Lindt 85% dark chocolate after dinner that night then jumped back on the wagon for Part Two, Day One on May 2nd.

Big takeaway? The Whole30 is simple, but not easy!

The second time around, I was more focused. I felt like a dork for being derailed by a cup of blended coffee. My wife wasn't thrilled when she found out I wouldn't be done until after my birthday and after our anniversary! Timing hasn't always been my strong suit... but she supported me nonetheless. During my second Whole30, I was much more in touch with my food choices overall. I didn't take it for granted that I would 'automatically' do the right thing. I snacked more in the last couple weeks than previously, but I was at least aware of it and consciously choosing to do it. Also, I had been playing with intermittent fasting for a few months, including during my first Whole30 attempt and some of my second attempt. It was interesting and had benefits, but I ended up dumping the experiment. After returning to a more conventional Whole30 meal plan, I feel like my digestion improved with my food spread out throughout the day.

I did take some before, during and after pictures, but I didn't do any measurements. I started out 6'2", 198 lbs on April 9th and finished at 193 lbs. I think the pictures show a slight but noticeable improvement in leanness, but 5 lbs is bordering on statistical irrelevance. I feel good, better than when I started... but the outward physical changes are subtle. Little things here, little things there. My main goals were mental, and I believe I have improved in that regard. But, the mental game for me is always the most challenging and I'm sure I will have to revisit it again and again.

One important thing I learned is that if I stray too far from a healthy nutritional path, I can start to find my way back relatively quickly by using the Whole30 template. For that knowledge alone, I'm grateful.

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Very insightful, Jim. Thanks for sharing. I can relate to your comment about the mental part being the most challenging. Five months ago I NEVER EVER thought I could eat this way and maintain it, but mostly because mentally I didn't want to. I think awareness in this whole thing is so important too - listening to our bodies - not listening to the little sugar/snack guy, and keeping ahead of the game with planning.

Good for you for jumping right back on another 30 days so close to your end!

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