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How Whole30 Changed My Life

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Have you heard of the Whole30 craze yet? It has gained a lot of popularity since I first discovered it a few years ago. I discovered Whole30 about 4 years after ‘recovering’ from an eating disorder. I had finished my therapy and was now trying to figure out how to live a balanced life. Even though I was finally eating three meals a day, my relationship with food was still so damaged. I found that if I tried to focus on getting in shape again and being healthy, it would trigger old habits too quickly and I would start to obsess and quickly become miserable again. If I went the other way and didn’t try at all, then I felt sluggish and heavy and guilty. I was using an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication to dull the guilt and anxiety surrounding food, but I knew I couldn’t do that forever. I hated my postpartum body but was too scared to try and fix it. I feared becoming ‘sick’ again, and I had sworn to myself I would never do that to my husband and daughter.

About a year and a half after my daughter was born, a friend of mine posted a food photo on Instagram with the hashtag #whole30. I asked her what it was, and got the run down: No grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, or alcohol for 30 days. This intrigued me! I jumped in without doing much research and not fully understanding the concept. I admit that I desperately wanted to lose a bit of weight and this seemed like a great way to do it. (Now, years later, I understand that the program is NOT meant for losing weight, although most people do lose weight on it).

Seven days into the program, I couldn’t believe how different I felt. My body was settling into a natural and comfortable weight. Energy was coursing through me for the first time since before puberty. I was able to eat and not feel guilty after. I was having fun experimenting with new foods and new ways to cook. My clothes were fitting differently and I had an overall feeling of lightness. I often joke that I even became more fertile than usual as I discovered that I had become pregnant with our son during the thirty days, completely by surprise.

By the end of the thirty days I felt fantastic. I was so happy with the results. I was convinced that everyone I knew needed to try the program! Unfortunately a few weeks later I became extremely ill while pregnant and could not stand the sight or smell of any protein and very few vegetables. For the rest of my pregnancy I survived on toast, apple juice, goldfish crackers and the occasional carrot. I undid all the good things accomplished during my first Whole30 challenge, but this time I knew how to fix it. I knew that as soon as my pregnancy was finished, I could do another round of Whole30 and get back on track.

Six weeks after my son was born, I did my second round. This time I researched a lot and read It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, the creators of Whole30. I learned the reasons behind it, how to properly reintroduce food after the thirty days, and how to live a balanced life after. I incorporated all kinds of exercise. Again the results were so fantastic and came quicker during the second round.

The best thing of all: I learned to stop seeing food as the enemy.  I learned that the number on the scale is meaningless. I learned that I don’t have to waste my time counting calories. I learned that strength is beautiful. I learned that it’s important for my children to see me eat and enjoy food and use food to give me energy. I learned to see food as fuel for my body.

I can’t even begin to explain the freedom I have experienced. Freedom from medication, freedom from guilt, freedom from self-hatred. I used to fall asleep at night in tears, hating myself and hoping that the next day I would be able to eat less and less and less until there was nothing left of me. Now, I fall asleep knowing that I’ve done my best for that day to show my children that food is wonderful, food is energy, food is strength. 

So, now what? Almost a year and a half after my second round of Whole30, this is how I live: All the food that I eat in my home is Whole30 approved. Because I am a stay at home mom, this makes up about 90% of my meals each week. When I go out for dinner with friends, holidays, or special occasions, I enjoy myself and eat whatever I feel like eating, knowing that I will most likely not feel my best the next day. I understand that when I do this, I am not choosing the best fuel for my body. But because I do not do this often, I am completely okay with those choices. There is no more guilt associated with poor food choices. I am not ‘cheating’ on some kind of diet; I am making conscious decisions. This kind of balance works for me. My body feels better than ever. I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I am a good example for my children. I feel healed.

If you feel guilty about your food choices, if your body feels exhausted, or if you just want to clean out your system, I really encourage you to check it out. Click here to check out the official program.

If you decide to try out the program or if you have any questions, I would love to be a resource for you. Almost all of my recipes filed under ‘Cooking with Joanna’ are Whole30 approved, and I think you’ll find my Ten Tips for a successful Whole30 very helpful. I am happy to answer any questions you might have and would love to offer encouragement! Follow me on Instagram at @wellnesswithjoanna also, as I am constantly collecting and sharing Whole30 approved recipes from other recipe bloggers. Happy Whole30-ing!

And PS – so much thanks to that friend for sharing her Whole30 experience on Instagram. You know who you are.

29 Comments Join the Conversation

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  16. Heya! I know this is sort of off-topic however I needed to ask.
    Does managing a well-established blog like yours take a massive amount work?
    I’m brand new to operating a blog but I do write in my diary everyday.
    I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my own experience and views online.
    Please let me know if you have any kind of ideas
    or tips for brand new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

    Reply

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  18. Hi…your story resonated with me on so many levels. I completed a whole 60 and have stayed 98% compliant another 45 or so days. I feel sure this is how I should continue to eat. I have dieted off and on for over 30 years. To make a long story short before Whole 30 I felt like a slave to my cravings…almost helpless. I never purged but I binged frequently. I am now so afraid of trying any former comfort foods or favorites for fear of cycling right back to where I was back in Jan. I have lost the same 10 # about 5 times and recently lost 23#. I was miserable and hated myself for knowing better and not doing better. Like then, I know I should do but will I? Any pointers for allowing myself some indulgences without fear of going back to that terrible place I was before?

    Reply

    • Hi there! Congratulations on completing a Whole60 and even more! That’s fantastic. It sounds like your relationship with food may not be completely healed, even though your physical body is healed. For cases like this I often suggest finding an accountability partner, a health couch, or a counsellor or someone who can help you work through learning how to continue on with normal life and allow indulgences without triggering binges after. I have some rules for myself to help with similar issues – everything I eat in my house (about 80-90% of my food intake) is Whole30 or extremely close to Whole30. When I’m out at a restaurant, I can make a conscious choice to eat something less healthy, knowing in my mind that 85-90% of my food choices are fantastic for my body, and so there is no guilt or “cheat” feelings surrounding my less healthy choice at a restaurant. It takes practice and a LOT of mental effort. I’ve worked for a long time on my personal feelings surrounding food and my mental mindset regarding healthy vs unhealthy, guilt, etc. You CAN get to that point, I promise!

      Reply

  19. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about
    this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you can do with some pics to drive the message
    home a little bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog.

    A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.

    Reply

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