Buckle up my friends! This gets a little long, but I cannot tell my Whole30 story without weaving it into the rest of my life. I often say that the Whole30 changed the trajectory of my life, and it did. But I did not just do a round and POOF I am changed forever. It was the first step in many many steps. It gave me the tools to change my life. The tools, not all of the solutions. I hope you enjoy my story.
In September 2015 I was the mom of a two little girls. One was 11 weeks old and the other was 2 ½ . That was when I completed my first Whole30, but that is not where my this particular story starts. To unpack this I had to look back a bit, and then a bit more.
In August of 2013 (two years before my first round of Whole30) I had left my job as an investment accountant to pursue my love of teaching yoga and to raise my little girl (who was at the time an only child). Over those two years I taught so many yoga classes, managed a yoga studio, went back to my old company to work as an accountant part time during busy season, and then finally found myself in the summer of 2015 as a full time stay at home mom. I was also struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety, and was back on zoloft for probably the 5th time in 10 years. Since high school I had been on and off medication for anxiety and depression, always feeling like things were just harder for me than they were for other people. My anxiety and depression was annoying on its best day, and crippling when it was at its worst. It wasn’t until I read Kelly Brogan’s amazing book “A Mind of My Own” (anyone struggling with anxiety and depression needs to read Kelly’s book) that I can see my particular form of anxiety and depression was my body SCREAMING to me that it had some severely imbalanced foundations of health, particularly in my digestive system.
So in September 2015 I came home from a dear friends wedding and knew I needed a change. I wanted to lose the baby weight (side note: While Whole30 is not a diet and focuses more on non scale victories, my original catalyst for trying the program was to lose weight.) and take care of some bloating and digestive distress I had been experiencing for a long time (see above! I had no idea this was connected to my mental health, but it was).
I dove right in and really loved it right from the get go. I was finally given permission to eat all of the things I had loved for years but thought were bad for me, like steak and bacon. I ate with wild abandon, and felt incredibly satisfied for probably the first time in my life. When I was hungry, I ate. What a concept right? I was breastfeeding at the time, so I added some snacks to this round of Whole30. My milk was so thick and fatty, it was really amazing. I also experienced all of the negative side effects of the first few days. The hangover, the hate all the things, the egg fatigue. I experienced the entire full spectrum of emotions and feelings as my body shifted its focus from carbohydrates to being more fat adapted.
And then something happened. On day 10 I woke up with a clear brain and an open heart. Instead of feeling like I had to fight my way through life, like every step was a struggle, life became easier. It became lighter. It felt more manageable. All of this just from changing what was on my plate? There was something powerful to this program, and I was really just getting started.
I finished my first round and did not properly reintroduce. During my first round I had also not addressed any of my issues with emotional eating and when my baby girl needed surgery on day 32 I ate and drank my feelings in the form of sushi, wine, and cupcakes. I woke up the next day with a severe sugar hangover and SWORE I would start another round of Whole30 right away.
Spoiler alert. I didn’t. Well, I did, but I quickly slipped. Why did this next round feel so hard? Why was I unable to resist anything not compliant? I knew how good I COULD feel, so why couldn’t I stop myself from physically putting the food in my mouth? I think that these failed attempts at subsequent rounds of Whole30 were why I saw so much change from the program. These two failed attempts FORCED me to examine the questions I stated above. They forced me to address my issues with emotional eating and having an addictive personality. The biggest take away for me at this time was that anytime I allowed refined sugar back into my life my brain would once again slip into its anxious state, and whenever I allowed dairy to be consumed my digestive system would be torn up for days.
Over the next two years I completed a few more successful rounds of Whole30, but it was really those times in between that helped me in my journey toward food freedom. It was the times without the strict rules that I saw the most growth and change. Isn’t that always the case though? When we struggle the most is when we can shine the brightest. Those times helped me see that I was using food and alcohol to buffer from life’s big emotions. I immediately started seeking the help of a therapist and with her help I unpacked and dove even deeper into these issues. Through this journey I re-joined a church and started to see that the way we eat and the way we live is truly a spiritual practice. I began to live that everyday, and slowly overtime, things got so much better. Whole30 was the launching pad for me to do the work that would heal my life.
Unpacking these realizations is what lead me to stop drinking alcohol on November 5, 2017. You can read more about my sobriety journey here.
I felt so strongly about this program, and saw how my physical and mental health were transformed simply by changing how and what I ate, that I decided to become a nutritional therapy practitioner. In June 2018 I graduated from the NTP program from the Nutritional Therapy Association and then went on to pass my board exam through the National Association of Nutrition Professionals. Around this time I also became a Whole30 certified coach. Using my own experience and the tools I learned in school I cannot wait to lead people through this program so they too can change the trajectory of their life through food.
As you can see from my story, Whole30 was not the magic bullet. I was not broken on day 1 and healed on day 30. It is much more complicated than that. The Whole30 was the catalyst that taught me that I am in control of so much more in my life than I thought I was. I did not vanish into perfection, and still have not. I never will. Just like any practice, perfection is not the goal, consistency is. I still have really hard days and really hard seasons, and the answer to those situations are not necessarily what is on my plate. However, when I feed my body and my mind what it thrives on, doing the work to combat those hard times is so much easier.
This work is work worth doing. Taking your vitality back into your own hands, and allowing yourself the freedom to thrive because you deserve to feel good!