Back in April of 2015, I had no idea my life was about to change in a very profound and dramatic way by completing my first Whole30. I give full credit to the life I have now to the Whole30 program. I won’t ever deny that if it wasn’t for randomly hearing about it, I would not be where I am today.
On a seemingly normal day, my best friend and roommate at the time came home from a hair appointment and told me about this crazy (but awesome) thing her hairstylist was doing. Enter: the Whole30. Intrigued, her and I decided we should give it a shot. I went out and bought It Starts With Food and she got the Whole30 book.I’ve since wondered if her recruiting me into this with her was a silent attempt at trying to help me and showing her love and concern for how unhealthy she had watched me get over the years. We’d been best friends since 6th grade and I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her to see me go through the struggles that she had a front row seat for. She never talked about it though and she not once made weight an issue in our friendship or how she treated me. I love her for that. And whether it was for her own benefit of having a Whole30 buddy to embark on the program with or if it was because she was truly worried about me or if it was a combination of both – I’m forever grateful that she introduced me to the Whole30 program and did my first Whole30 with me.
I started the program at 293 pounds. They only allow you to take photos, measurements and weights at the beginning and at the end. I remember taking the first set of photos and they were so, so painful to look at that I just barely glanced at them, emailed them to myself and then swiftly deleted them from my phone. I couldn’t have them on there. In fact, it was almost a year before I could even dig them up from my email and look at them again. When I did gather the courage, I was shocked at how sick I looked. At the time I knew it was bad, but I didn’t realize how bad until I saw them through a different mindset.
The first month was really, really hard. I remember being so inspired and so committed despite the difficulty. I reminded myself constantly that the hard parts of this month were nowhere near how hard it was for me daily being 300 pounds. It was tough love time. If getting in and out of cars were hard for me, I probably needed a little bit of this kind of hard for a while.
A big mentality shift that got me through that first month, and one that I still rely on today, is that I found myself saying “I’ve ate plenty of pizza/pasta/gummy worms/whatever in the last 22 years, I will be fine without them for a few days.” I reminded myself that it’s not that I can’t have something. I could eat anything I wanted to, but I don’t want these foods right now.
I used to binge eat more frequently than I would have admitted. Those tendencies, habits and compulsions don’t just go away. What I did find during my first Whole30, however, was that after my body had started adjusting to the new foods and way of eating was that I was thinking of binging less because I was so satiated with the meals I was eating – something I previously didn’t know the feeling of.
Another difficult aspect of my first Whole30 round was the amount of time I would spend in the grocery store and in the kitchen. Being an obese 22 year old college student, not only did I not know how to cook for myself or meal prep but I also had never tried. I had to Google search just about everything and had many trials and errors with meal prepping. The time I felt, at the moment, to be sacrificing turned out to be incredibly beneficial and educational. I learned so much that month. I learned about new (to me) veggies and how to cook them, how to shop for healthy, whole foods on a budget, which meals were good as meal prep staples and I increased my understanding and knowledge of nutrition exponentially.
I lost 22 pounds during my first Whole30 round, even without exercising. This was a huge accomplishment for me, but because I was so heavy the other results were much more noticeable and exciting. I had never remembered feeling the way I did towards the end of that month. I had more energy than I ever had before. Even in high school I was over 230 pounds and didn’t know what feeling ‘good’ actually felt like. I was always tired, moody and avoided doing anything physical. It was just my normal and I didn’t know anything different. That all changed that first month and I caught a glimpse of what normal, healthy people must feel like. Things started to become easier and take less effort. From getting up and out of bed in the morning, getting out of the car, running errands, even doing things around the house.. things that normally would wear me out started taking less out of me.
I felt empowered and capable. All of the new knowledge I was acquiring was giving me power to make better choices. I realized I could take my health into my own hands and I didn’t have to continue down the path that I always just assumed I was going to. When reintroduction started looming near, I remember thinking to myself that I feel so good right now and I’m treating my body better than I have in my entire life, why would I stop now? I also knew that my eating habits needed more time to make the fundamental changes they needed to if I were to truly change my life. Everything I did revolved around food for so many years, one month wasn’t long enough to reverse and correct my thoughts and patterns. I continued on by sticking to a Paleo diet after that first month and continued repairing my relationship with food. I’ve since lost over 120 pounds.
The thing about Whole30, if you do it mindfully, is that each round teaches you something new. It can be an incredibly beneficial exercise in self-awareness. Everyone I’ve talked to, even when they say it was difficult, never regret doing it. After the 30 days you’ll realize why it’s not a diet and you’ll feel so great that you’ll have your own long list under the pros column.
For tips on how to complete your own Whole30, check out my 23 Steps to a Successful Whole30!
What was your experience with your first Whole30 like? Are you planning your first round soon? Let me know!
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