First things first, if you are reading this article because of its catchy title, I want to apologize to you. Not because anything I have said in the title of this post that is inaccurate, but because titles like this are a little bit hacky. However, I can’t help myself; I really, really want you to read this. You know how sometimes you experience something that is so life-changing you can’t help it, and you want every single person to know about it? Well, that’s me. I really NEED you to know this, and if it takes a hacky title to get you to read this article, then so be it.
But before I tell you how to lose weight, I need to establish some context and tell you about myself. I’m female and right now, 35 years old. In high school, I was like many people. I could eat whatever I wanted thanks to my high metabolism and five hours of dance every night. In college, I gained the “Freshman Fifteen” and maintained that weight but still looked okay. In grad school, I gained even more weight, but thanks to routinely weighing myself on a scale on top of carpet, I thought I hadn’t gained anything. Immediately after college, I got married. I weighed myself, this time first thing in the morning on a tile floor wearing my birthday suit, and I realized that I had gained another seventeen pounds since college. Yikes! At first, I was horrified, but I didn’t do anything about it. Instead, I was too busy eating whatever my husband ate and enjoying being a young married couple. I gained another eight pounds and wasn’t looking or feeling too hot.
That’s when I finally decided to do something about it. At first, I decided to work out like a crazy person. I found a workout class that I liked (which was really hard to do, by the way. I hate most exercise classes!) and went six days a week. I lost fifteen pounds. Then, I went on a diet. I was eating 5-6 small meals a day and counting every single calorie that went into my mouth. I was practicing what is known as “clean eating.” I lost another six pounds. I hadn’t weighed this little since college. I was ecstatic! The problem was that it was nearly impossible to maintain this weight and eating a tiny bowl of oatmeal every morning with a couple of berries wasn’t cutting it for me.
And then, life happened. My husband and I moved. I was stressed out of my mind. I stopped exercising. I stopped dieting. I gained all of the weight back (and I mean, ALL of the weight plus two additional pounds). Suddenly, I weighed more than I had ever weighed as an adult. And the worst part of all was that I was stuck! I was 30 years old now. You know, the age when your metabolism suddenly crashes and burns…
I went back to counting my calories and my six small meals a day. No weight change. I went to the globo gym. No change. I started Crossfit. No change. I began to eat Paleo (sort of). Nothing. I went to another gym and did HIIT workouts every day. Nope. I started carb cycling and then tried intermittent fasting. Nope and nope. My periods stopped, and I went to a fertility doctor where I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). A symptom of PCOS is it’s difficult to lose weight. I really was stuck and was debating whether or not to go on the drug, Metformin. Does this paint a good picture for you?
So what changed?
Well, I read a book. A single book called Whole 30 by husband and wife authors, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. Actually, it was my husband, Erik, who read the book first and then suggested we do it together. My first thought was, “What do I have to lose?” The answer was absolutely nothing, but I was convinced that following this book wouldn’t make a difference, just like all of the countless other things I did before made no difference.
To find out about my Whole 30 experience, you can read about it here, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! It made all of the difference in the world, and for the first time in five years (five years!!!!), I lost weight.
So what is Whole 30? Well, it’s a lifestyle change. The authors make it very clear that it is not a diet because the goal is not to lose weight (although weight loss is going to happen for the vast majority of people). Rather, it’s 30 days to reorient your mind and your relationship with food. Because we as human beings have all sorts of food issues. There are some of us who eat when we are stressed. Or don’t eat when we are stressed. Or always think we need to gorge on food in order to truly celebrate something. Or get upset and “have to have” this one particular thing to eat. And then there are some of us, like me, who have had all of those issues at one time or another. And so the purpose of Whole 30 is to get to the root of all those issues so that they go away.
Now, I am not going to rewrite the entire book here, but one of the ways you get to those root issues is by eliminating all foods that tend to cause inflammation:
Sugar (and all sugar substitutes including the Paleo-friendly ones)
Legumes (yes, that includes peanuts)
But that’s just a quick snapshot. There are other ingredients you avoid too like soybean oil and carrageenan (again, see the book). And you also stop eating foods that are emotionally comforting to you even if all of the ingredients in them are “okay.” You stop weighing yourself. You stop chewing gum. You do all of these things for a minimum of 30 days, but you can also do the program longer.
So at this point, some of you are probably thinking to yourself, “With all these things that you can’t eat, what CAN you eat?” or “This sounds like a pretty restricting diet, no wonder you lost weight!” But let me say that while you are basically eating just meat, fruit, veggies, and healthy fats for 30 days, it doesn’t feel like a restricting diet, and that’s what’s important. There is no counting calories or dividing up your meals into smaller portions. You eat until you are full. And for myself, I suddenly discovered that I could eat a lot more than I used to. Plus, I finally gave myself permission to eat a lot of fat which I used to previously avoid like the plague. For example, every morning I would eat (and I still do) sliced potatoes cooked in avocado oil, bacon, eggs fried in bacon grease, and half an avocado. Uh, that’s a LOT of fat! And all of that fat helped me to never feel hungry or foggy-headed or deprived.
If you’re still tracking with me, you are probably wanting to get to the weight loss. Will you lose weight? Yes, most people do. In my first 30 days, I lost eight pounds. My husband lost eight pounds. We began talking to everyone we know about it. My father-in-law did it and lost 21 pounds in the 30 days! Erik and I kept doing it because we were so happy, and in three months, I was back down to the smallest I had ever been as an adult. Only this time, I did it with no exercise, no yo-yo dieting, and eating bacon every single day. And this time I was 35 years old, not 25. Hooray!
But as awesome as the weight loss was, and as grateful as I was to finally have these pounds off that I thought I would be stuck with for forever, I gained sooooo much more from my initial Whole 30 experience. In my review, I go in-depth with all the things that I experienced, but here, I want to emphasize just one: food freedom.
I used to stare at a donut and have an inner dialogue with myself that went something like this:
“That donut looks good!”
“Should I eat that donut?”
“No, I want to be good.”
“But you could always spend 30 extra minutes on the treadmill after eating the donut.”
Eats donut. Is angry at self for eating the donut.
That inner dialogue is now gone! I don’t want to eat those things anymore. And on the rare occasion when someone has begged me to eat something like a piece of their homemade cheesecake, it literally doesn’t taste good. AND that’s what makes the Whole 30 program so special. Not that you will lose weight, but that you will be free.
So why am I telling you all of this? Because I want you to be free too. You may not be ready for it right now, and that’s okay. But if you’re reading this, thinking “I want this!”, then go for it! And know that I am here to help you and encourage you. I have several posts that will help you:
And you can always ask me questions through the comment section or send me an email.
Oh, and one last thing. Was I sponsored to write this review? No, absolutely not, although I will get a very small commission if you buy the Whole 30 book using the links above, but that commission comes from Amazon, not Whole 30 or the Hartwigs. I am writing this because in January 2015, I was angry and tired and frustrated. I was also feeling hopeless, and I know that there are other people who are probably feeling that way too. I want to give you all hope. Just ask yourself what I did, “What do you have to lose?”
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