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EatSmarter! Exclusive

My Whole30 Journey

By EAT SMARTER

This past September I finally found the willpower (or courage might be more accurate) to try the Whole30 diet.

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Knowing my crazy sweet tooth (yes, I had something sweet every single night) everyone who knew me was betting I wouldn’t make it a week.  I honestly think my husband didn’t think I could make it a day on the Whole30 program!  

But I am proud to say … I made it the whole 30 days. And boy am I glad I did!

I feel like A TOTALLY NEW PERSON!

Yep,  I survived 30 days of no sugar, no grains, no legumes, no dairy, and most importantly, not one sip of alcohol.

Let’s start at the beginning to let you know why I chose to embark on this Whole30 journey.

I can’t believe I am putting this in print since when asked my age I always answer 29 but at 46, I found myself unable to drop the pounds I had put on over the past few years, sluggish, tired all the time, and pretty much not feeling good despite eating a pretty clean diet and exercising regularly.  I just felt like I was getting nowhere, no matter what I did.

About two years ago, I was diagnosed with a hypothyroid.  That’s when your thyroid is pretty much not working.  The version of this disease that I have is the autoimmune Hashimoto’s.   When I first starting taking medication (Synthroid), I did feel some relief of my symptoms, especially the lifting of that so-called “brain fog” that plagues most folks with thyroid issues.  But over time, we have had to keep increasing the medication to get results. Not so great for someone like me that really is not a fan of taking chemical-laden pills.

As a cookbook author and recipe developer, I know a lot about food.  I love being in the kitchen and my family has a home cooked meal most nights of the week.  With kids in the house, I always try to buy the best ingredients, most are organic and many are locally grown. Fast food and pre-made frozen meals really don’t happen at our table.  We had what most would consider a very healthy diet.

In addition, my kids have some pretty crazy allergies. One is allergic to wheat and eggs while the other is allergic to corn and dairy and both are allergic to soy.  I would say due to these recently diagnosed food allergies, our home was probably about 85% gluten-free and dairy-free.  Soy and most processed products were no longer in our home. I even had searched out organic chocolates that were soy and dairy free so we could have a treat! All sounds like we were doing what we were supposed to, right?!

For a while last year, I even tried a vegetarian diet.  I felt a bit better at first, but the weight kept creeping on despite completely shaking up my exercise routine by joining an early morning boot camp.

Completely frustrated at the time (and really missing bacon), I called a friend who is a registered dietician for advice.  That friend, Leslie Schilling,  told me that vegetarian diets are not great for everyone since the majority of the protein sources (whole grains paired with beans for example) are not as nutrient-dense as meat-based proteins.   She said that most likely my body needed more meat-based protein.

Fast forward a year later and Whole30 keeps popping up on my radar.  Friends talking about it, promos on my Facebook page and tweets on my Twitter feed, it was like someone upstairs was trying to get my attention!

I picked up the book “The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to TOTAL HEALTH and FOOD FREEDOM” and decided to start my Whole30 the day after a fun girls weekend over Labor Day.  The first few days were not too bad since I usually try to be super healthy to make-up for the over-indulging that happens over a long weekend with friends at the beach.  But then the weekend came! Uh-oh! When cooking at home, it’s not too hard to stick to this diet.  It’s dining out that is the challenge at first, especially when everyone is ordering a cocktail or glass of wine.  Sparkling water with a lime, please?

I survived that first weekend, which did include coming home from dinner out and eating something from my own kitchen and realized I can do this.

The authors Melissa and Dallas Hartwig start the book by saying “It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.”  I used those words as my mantra every time I was frustrated.

The biggest resource in this book for me was the chapter on “The Whole30 Timeline,” which starts on page 32.  (I gave you the page number because it is THAT helpful!) This timeline tells you how you can expect to feel almost every step of the 30 days.  And it was pretty much on the money for my experience.  It was reassuring to know that my extra sleepiness on days 6 to 7 was normal, that the bloating I felt on days 8 to 9 would go away, and so on.  This chapter also explained not only what you would be feeling, but what was happening to your body on those days as it adjusted to not having sugar as its energy source.

During these 30 days, your body learns to reset itself.  Instead of using sugar and simple carbohydrates as its energy source, your body starts to turn to stored fat for energy.  I loved that the plan explained all this in layman’s terms I could understand.

Basically, I learned that sugar really is the devil in our diets.  I was shocked at how much changed once I eliminated this from my diet.

I lost 11 pounds and 2 inches on my waistline.  Something I have been trying to do for years without any success. But I honestly now consider that a side benefit in relation to all the other improvements.

  • I have more energy and no longer feel like I need a shot of espresso or a nap to make it through the afternoon.
  • Gone is the hazy “brain fog” I had been experiencing.  You know what I mean if you have ever had it.
  • No more achy joints or muscles.  I haven’t needed an ibuprofen in weeks.
  • My hormones have evened out.  Probably too much info … but this month I had basically no side effects from Mother Nature’s monthly visit. And for you girls out there – that means no PMS or cramps!
  • My temperament is even.  I normally consider myself a fairly sweet and mild-tempered person but I do get stressed easy. (Gosh!  Can’t believe I am putting this in print!)  But I am finding myself more chill and less rattled than ever.  My hubby says he is loving the “sugar-free” version of his wife.
  • I have more confidence.  Some of that is probably attributed to the weight-loss but I think a lot has to do with my general well-being.

It all boils down to that I feel better and younger than I have in years!

I am so curious to see how all this has affected my blood work.  I have an appointment with my endocrinologist in a week and I am thinking that my thyroid panel will be in a much better place than my last visit.  And to think that in August I was about to call her to increase my meds, it’s amazing what can happen in just 30 days.

I have a few tips to help make this Whole30 journey easier if you choose to embark on it.

Cook at home as much as you can.  Cooking the Whole30 way is actually pretty simple as most dishes are pretty straightforward when you take out cheese, milk, grains, etc.  Thinks steak, potatoes, and steamed broccoli. EatSmarter.com has a bunch of recipes that can help you plan your meals.

Have lots of snacks on hand.  When you eliminate all those grains, you will feel hungrier than normal. I stocked my kitchen with lots of fruits and nuts so I had something easy to snack on. Carrots and guacamole make a great snack. Also, Lärabars® were an item I often kept in my purse. Whatever bar you choose, read the label to make sure no sugar or peanuts are in the ingredient list.

And speaking of snacks, always have some in your bag.  I promise it will help you out when you get hungry.  Not many Whole30 options are available at convenience stores or fast food restaurants.

Going to a cocktail party?  Eat before.  That way you are not hungry and can more easily say no to those cheesy, gluten-filled yummy treats that will pass your way. And a sparkling water with a lime looks like a gin and tonic!

So, in conclusion, I say try it! In 30 days, you could be a whole new person too!
 

Jennifer Chandler is the author of "Simply Salads" (Thomas Nelson, $24.99), "Simply Suppers: Easy Comfort Food Your Whole Family Will Love" (Thomas Nelson, $24.99), “Simply Grilling” (Thomas Nelson, $24.99), and “The Southern Pantry Cookbook” (Thomas Nelson, $26.99). She lives in Memphis, TN with her husband and two daughters. For more information, visit www.cookwithjennifer.com.

Check with your doctor or medical professional before making any changes to your diet and exercise routines. 

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