I want to share my weight loss journey with you. It is really a lifetime story. I was a chubby kid. I am not sure what factors contributed to this, since none of my siblings were chubby as kids. I was self-conscious about it. At times I had to buy jeans in the boy section of the department store. (That was if I was lucky enough to get clothes other than hand-me-downs!) And when you are the youngest of six kids, you receive a fair amount of teasing.
By the time high school started, I stretched out a bit and slimmed down. I was active, but not particularly involved in any sports or regular physical exercise. Then came college and the freshman ten. It’s funny, because I’d give anything to be back on a college campus now. They are like cities and I am sure I walked 10,000+ steps back in the day. But there was also bad dining hall food, endless buffets, late-night pizzas, burgers, and beers. At this point, I made a concerted effort at regular exercise. It began with Jane Fonda records in the dorm hallways and jogging. But this is also the period in which I realized weight can steadily increase and does not easily come off. (I later became disillusioned with Jane Fonda when I found out she had plastic surgery.)
I started my first job and remember going out for lunches or packing a minimal grapefruit lunch and the five pound, never-ending weight loss battle began. I was never thin “enough.” I was never at the right “weight.” At this time I began attending Jazzercise. I really enjoyed the program. It was fun. I loved to dance and I met a lot of nice people. I continued to attend Jazzercise after I married, moved to the suburbs and had children. I danced my way right through my four pregnancies. I also gained five pounds with each of those pregnancies.
Those last five pounds that don’t come off after a pregnancy don’t seem like much – until you multiply them by four – and until you imagine carrying four sacks of flour around your waist! Somewhere during this time, I realized that the calories I burned off at Jazzercise could be consumed in a candy bar. I was exercising, active, and healthy, but my exercising was not enough to lose weight.
So I decided I had to try something new and I selected Weight Watchers. Around this time my kids were getting older and it was getting more difficult to carve out time in the evenings to go to Jazzercise. I was active with the kids: walking, biking, swimming. I didn’t want to attend the Weight Watcher meetings, so I tried Weight Watchers online. The program was successful. I lost close to 20 pounds and it taught me a new way to look at food by counting points (and calories.) I lost the weight, but didn’t want to continue to pay, so I stopped the program. And, slowly, the weight came back on.
I continued to be active. But the weight wouldn’t budge. I tried Weight Watchers again, with little success. I also tried Spark People: counting calories, tracking exercise. I also hit age 50. I don’t want to use age as an excuse. However, I felt different. I felt like weight wouldn’t budge and I also felt I was thickening around my middle. So I focused on upping my exercise. I decided to give running a try. My daughter Annie did the Couch to 5K program with me. I ran really slow, but was amazed that I could eventually run for 30 minutes! I enjoyed the challenge and enjoyed participating in 5K races to keep me motivated.
The weight didn’t budge. Last Christmas, my kids bought me a FitBit. And I GAINED WEIGHT. How did that happen? I tried logging my food and FitBit will increase the amount of calories you can consume based on your activity level. It all makes sense, but I am sure that I cheated it. (I don’t need to log that handful of pretzels or that one cookie….)
I had been seeing some posts about Whole30 on my Facebook feed. In particular, a friend named Pam was posting her meals. I was intrigued so I asked her about it. I got the book from the library and decided I was going to give it a try. I don’t think there is a perfect time to dive in. But I decided to give it a go after my niece’s wedding. We had two weddings this summer and the photo above was taken in August – the day before starting Whole30.
I did not take a before and after photo of myself. However, I was photographing the last of my holiday quilts before sending them off and snapped the photo above. That is me – with my shirt tucked in! I can’t tell you how long it has been since I have tucked myshirt in!
Let me tell you the results first. To date:
- I lost 23 pounds
- 7 inches off my waist
- 4 inches off my hips
- 4 inches off my bust
I feel good! I feel like I am at my body’s equilibrium. I am eating good food.
I will admit that I tried Whole30 to lose weight. The program does not sell itself as a weight loss program, although most people lose weight. In fact, they want you to ignore the scale for the 30 days. What is Whole30? It is 30 days of eating good food! There is a science behind the program and it is explained in the book “It Starts With Food.” The basic idea is that the sugar and carbohydrates we eat fuel our body. But they burn off quickly and we “crash”, causing us to reach for more carb goodies. While Whole30 eating, we eat nutrient dense foods that fill us up. We eat good fats that help kick in the proper fat-burning mechanism. The Whole30 plan also eliminates the foods which are likely to cause inflammation in the body: sugar, dairy, bad fats, alcohol, grains.
Yes, you eliminate foods for 30 days. But not forever, although you may choose to do so. After the 30 days, you can reintroduce foods and see how they affect your body.
One blogger described the Whole30 as eating nothing with a label. I think that accurately describes the program. With the book in hand, I dove in. The book is a must for success. I, somehow, managed to renew my library copy for four months! I received the book as a gift from my husband for Christmas. I love the book because it has fantastic recipes and also descriptions of basic cooking methods such as how to roast vegetable or hard boil eggs.
There are suggested meal plans in the book which I used as a guideline. I normally plan a weekly menu and shop once a week, so planning wasn’t too difficult. During the first few weeks, I felt like I was spending a TON of time in the kitchen. I learned how to streamline the process as I went along. Now, I still plan my menu, but don’t necessarily plan every side dish. I just buy a lot of vegetables every week.
What I LOVE about Whole30:
- no calorie counting
- no logging exercise
- feeling full
- improved energy
- feeling good about eating good foods
- feeling my clothes get baggy
What was hard about Whole30:
- the sugar headache
- coffee without cream and sugar
- parties and picnics
But about the “hard” part…..none of it was really hard. Yes, there are a lot of things you cannot have. However, the basic template is that you create three meals with: protein, vegetables, added good fat and occasional fruit. Fruit is eaten with meals and not as a snack since you are trying to break the sugar/sweet craving. And this template works so well. I was amazed at how full I felt after a meal. The program helps you tune into your feeling of hunger and fullness and you naturally limit how much you eat. The leftovers are always good the next day! During the first 8 days or so I had a dull headache. Everyone told me it was the “sugar flu” or sugar withdrawal. I never thought I ate that much sugar. But because of the program, I started reading labels. Sugar is added to almost everything: cereal, yogurt, taco seasoning, ketchup, deli turkey (yes – who adds sugar to a roast turkey???), spaghetti sauce…. I was truly amazed how much sugar was added to my diet by pre-packaged foods.
When I started the program, my four kids were home and getting ready for school. There was a lot of chaos. I remember cooking the meals for my family, but adapting them for myself. If I made spaghetti, I still made pasta for my family but I ate the sauce and meatballs with zoodles. Eventually, I learned to adapt my own meals for Whole30. Recently, I made mini-meatloaves and I simply left out the bread crumbs. You can eat white potatoes and sweet potatoes. I try to eat those on active days. You are even allowed to eat a fourth meal post-exercise. I highly recommend getting good quality olive oils and balsamic. We have a wonderful store called The Olive Scene which has excellent products. I was eating a lot of salads for lunch during the first few weeks of the program and the good oil and vinegars were essential. In fact, around week two I had a slight belly ache. I thought I was getting sick of eating olive oil every day. But then I had my husband taste it and we concluded it was rancid. It was basic grocery store olive oil. Despite the sell by dates, it is really hard to know how old the oil is. I returned that oil, bought a higher quality brand at the grocery store and added the better oils from The Olive Scene.
Some people experience “Tiger blood” during the Whole30. They experience a surge of energy. I have always been a fairly energetic person, so I did not notice any significant change. However, I did notice that I never got the afternoon slump or desired a second cup of coffee. My energy levels stay fairly consistent throughout the day. I did find that I was a bit irritable. I am not sure what caused that. It could have been the stress of getting the kids ready for school and college. It could have been that I resented that my husband didn’t join me in the program. He ate – and loved – the dinners that I made. And he modified some of his habits – snacking on a hard-boiled egg, for example. However, he still packed a sandwich for lunch. Despite not following the program to the letter, he lost ten pounds.
I missed having a glass of wine, but I certainly didn’t crave it. In fact, I was amazed at how cravings disappeared. Even the hunger pains disappeared. During the 30 days, I rarely snacked. The few times that I did, I had a small handful of almonds. I was truly amazed at how full I felt. We had some picnics to attend. For the first one, I bought some of the flavored waters. However, I did not like those. I found that they reminded me more of the sweetness that was not there. Instead, I simply drank water. Sometimes I would add lemon or lime. But that was not a big deal. If I knew what was being served at the picnic, I would plan my meal around it. Several times I made my own hamburger and asked the host to grill it for me. I LOVE the burgers. I eat them without the bun and usually add lettuce, tomato and onion. Once I tried grilled green pepper slices as my “bun.” The recipe for coleslaw was a popular side dish for me to bring. At one picnic, which was catered, I didn’t have enough time to prep food. They served burgers and some sides that I could not have. So my dinner was two burgers and some tomatoes and lettuce. It wasn’t the easiest meal, but those occasions were rare. Dining out was not even that difficult. I learned to ask for oil and vinegar for the salads because the vinaigrettes often have sugar added.
I have eaten a lot of eggs. I think I have had scrambled eggs for breakfast for the past five months. I usually mix them with spinach or green pepper and onion. I know that may sound monotonous, but after I eat them I feel very full. Lunch is usually a leftover protein with salad. Dinner is a variety of meals from the Whole30 book and my own recipes that I have adapted. I love the stuffed pepper recipe in the book. I have tried new-to-me vegetables. My spaghetti and meatballs is now eaten with zoodles or eggplant. I haven’t even felt like I’ve had to plant my head into a bowl of pasta!
Making it through the 30 days was not that hard. After the 30 days, I had lost 12 pounds, 4 inches off my waist and 2 inches off my hips. I was consistently running because I had a 5K coming up and felt good. Also, after the 30 days, I felt like I was suddenly floundering without all the strict rules of the Whole30. I had a college football trip planned, so it was not the best time to do a careful reintroduction. The book talks about how to reintroduce the various foods and test their effects on the body. I did enjoy that first glass of wine….but I didn’t go crazy.
It has been almost five months since I started Whole30. I continue to eat mainly in the same manner. I do not screen everything for added sugar. I am certainly trying to keep sugar to a minimum. But if I’m at a restaurant, I don’t necessarily ask for oil and vinegar. I had my homemade pie at Thanksgiving. I have had an occasional ice cream. And I continue to lose weight and inches! I was really amazed that I kept shrinking. So I am just staying with the plan. I enjoy wine. I add a little cheese to my eggs occasionally. I am inspired by Whole30 recipes on Instagram. I see many Paleo feeds and admit that I am still confused by the Paleo movement. There is a lot of information and books available. The Whole30 diverges a bit in that it doesn’t seek to replace waffles, cookies, etc, with compliant versions – as you will find recipes for paleo waffles and paleo cookies.
I have learned to eat good food and love that I am putting good food into my body. As Melissa Hartwig (coauthor of Whole30) stated, everything you put into your body is either good for it or bad for it. I am thrilled that I have finally made a change to my body which seemed to be only getting bigger. I still wear my fitbit, but it is a glorified step counter. I am still running and walking.
I have contemplated another Whole30. There is a big January Whole30 movement. It would be a great time to join because there will be a lot of support. If my husband commits to it, then I am in. I think it is a lot easier to do with someone else. I am grateful for the support of my friend Pam who was able to give me advice throughout the process. The book also tells you what to expect during those 30 days.
Looking back, I feel like I failed my children because, despite cooking many meals, I relied on a lot of packaged and sugary foods over the years. If I could do it over again, I would have had them eating “whole” the “whole” way! I give credit to my daughters. One did Whole30 in college, which was not an easy task. The other is trying to eat paleo in college. As people rediscover the value of eating good food, it is my hope that the market will catch on. There are some companies that make compliant foods, but I did not try any.
If you have any questions about my Whole30 experience, feel free to contact me. Since several friends and family members are trying their first Whole30, I wrote up a few notes that may help them. You can find the notes here.