Whole30, Take One

To be honest, a lot of my starting the Whole30 was a whim. I’m part of a group on Facebook that encourages each other toward health and fitness, and several of the girls in the group were planning to do Whole30 together. I had done some research on it before, but not too extensively. Just enough to know that it seemed pretty extreme, and cheesecake was going to be a non-option. For a really long time, that was enough to tell me that it wasn’t for me.

A few weeks before I found out my girls were going to be doing it together, I began encountering a problem I’ve never had before in my life. I started getting cystic acne underneath my arms. Huge welts, so painful that moving my arms at all made me want to cry. On several occasions, students would come up to hug me, squeezing my arms up against my torso, and I would literally have to concentrate on not pushing them off of me. 

I’ve never had acne problems, ever in my life, including during puberty. So for me, this was a red flag that all was not well with my body.

So when the opportunity to do Whole30 with accountability came up, I decided I didn’t have anything to lose. I jumped in head first, and Josh decided to jump with me.

If you’re not familiar with the program, it’s a month-long elimination diet that takes out food groups that commonly cause inflammation in the body. The biggest culprits are grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, and alcohol; Whole30 eliminates those food groups and some oils, and gives your body 30 days to heal any inflammation and resulting damage that may have been caused to your system. And then, after the 30 days, you reintroduce those food groups individually over the course of about ten days, watching for new symptoms as you reintroduce. This procedure gives you a chance to figure out exactly what foods, if any, are causing your issues. Any foods that don’t cause any symptoms can be safely incorporated into your diet, whereas any foods that cause problems can be either moderated or eliminated altogether.

So the long and short of it is that Josh and I spent 30 days eating a steady diet of meat, vegetables, fruit, and healthy fat sources. Despite the fact that we were eating the exact same thing, our experiences with the 30 days of the program were very different.

I felt good on day one. Day two, I ended up with a migraine-caliber headache about halfway through the day. My energy also crashed, since my body had become used to a steady diet of sugar and caffeine and refined carbohydrates as its main energy sources. Day three, I woke up feeling pretty good, and throughout the rest of the 30 days, I felt increasingly good.

I noticed several changes, health-wise. Some immediate, and some over the course of the month.

Immediately, my cystic acne began subsiding. I had one major outbreak right before I started Whole30, and it cleared up quickly, with no outbreaks to follow. By day three, I was no longer having energy crashes in the afternoons. Within about five days, I began noticing that bloating in my face, legs, and midsection was beginning to go down. Sometime in week two, I started noticing that I was falling asleep easier, sleeping more soundly, and waking up before my alarm. Overall, my energy just kept getting better and better.

One of the things I noticed the most, though, was the fact that food no longer consumed my mind. I have struggled for several years with binge eating tendencies, and I have never been in as good a mental place with food as I was during the Whole30. I didn’t restrict my calories, I ate a ton of delicious food, I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t feel deprived, I didn’t struggle with cravings often. Food just did not take up a big a space in my mind as it always has previously, because I knew exactly what I would and would not eat. It took all the decision making out of the equation. So I just mostly didn’t think about it.

Josh, however, had a slightly different experience. He didn’t notice a lot of the changes in how he was feeling until we started reintroducing. The biggest thing he noticed during the month itself was that his digestive system was a WRECK. For a solid three weeks, his body was slowly detoxifying himself, and his stomach was a mess. His cravings for sweets were also still very strong until about three weeks in. Somewhere around the last week, he started feeling a little bit better, and then a lot better.

Reintroduction, for both of us, has been a HUGE eye-opener, in different ways. Josh’s reactions to reintroduction were more extreme and much quicker than mine, 

About a week after we finished Whole30, Josh and I went to our favorite little breakfast place, where they make these incredible buttermilk pancakes. The first thing we noticed was that neither of us could finish our pancakes. They were too sweet, too heavy, too much. So we stopped eating about halfway through, paid, and left.

About halfway home from breakfast, Josh’s acid reflux recurred. When his acid reflux flares up, he has these burps that literally sound like they are incinerating his esophagus on the way out. They are awful. They used to happen all the time; literally, several times a day. He’s been taking OTC medication for acid reflux since we got married five years ago.

When the first burp popped out in the car, we just looked at each other with this blank stare. Neither of us had realized it until it started happening again, but he hadn’t had an acid reflux attack since we started Whole30. Hadn’t needed to take his medicine once.

That was the first of many shock and awe moments for us, following Whole30.

By the time we made it home, both Josh and I were ready to crash and take a nap. At 10am. We both felt lethargic and foggy, and I could feel a headache coming on.

Today, about three weeks after the challenge ended, we have fully reintroduced, and have basically gone back to our old diet.

And we are going back to Whole30 style eating. Because we both feel like crap. My acne is back, Josh’s acid reflux is back, he has pain in his joints again, another thing he didn’t realize had gone away until we reintroduced. We’re both back to struggling with fatigue and brain fog, digestive issues aplenty. The bloating that had so quickly disappeared for me is back, full force.

In all honesty? I wish we’d never reintroduced. It was a great experience in that it taught us in a very specific way how much better we feel when we’re eating whole foods, but I don’t want to waste more minutes of my life feeling like hell.

There are a lot of people who talk about how a lifestyle like this isn’t sustainable.

I beg to differ. I’ve reached the conclusion that,for me, what’s not sustainable is constantly feeling heavy, exhausted, and sick. That’s not the life I want to live. I want to live an abundant life, one I can enjoy and participate in fully.

So please. Please, let me encourage you. If that’s you, if you feel like you’re stuck in a cycle of feeling physically and mentally terrible? This is not normal. It’s common, but common and normal are two very different things. You CAN do better. You CAN feel better. And you CAN change your life. 

If you have questions or concerns or thoughts, contact me. Please. I will support you, I will encourage you, I will share our recipes and resources and tips. I can’t tell you how much I wish I could get everyone I know to try this whole thing, just for a month. Just to see what happens. Just to see how they feel. 

Because what if?

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