We’re back for part 4 in my weight loss series of how I lost more than 50 lbs – and how I plan to keep it off.
Last I posted, I shared with you about the “lightbulb moment” I had after attending a lecture by Dr. William Davis, the author of the book, Wheat Belly. His book started me down a road, which ultimately led to success with weight loss. But like the rest of this story, just because I found the road doesn’t mean I immediately got on the express lane.
In fact, even though I had come to appreciate the physiological effects of grains and sugar on my body, it took a lot longer to fully internalize the emotional hold they had on me. To continue with that “road” analogy, there were many traffic jams and detours along the way.
After sticking to a grain-free diet for several months, I fell of the proverbial wagon in the late fall – which, looking back, I now see is the time that I tend to lose most of my nutritional focus. And as with past weight loss efforts (even though cutting out grain wasn’t entirely about weight loss for me, it was a big part of my motivation), falling off that wagon started slowly, but quickly gained steam.
I allowed myself to have a few slices of pizza one night. A few days later, I took a brownie — or two (or, um, three) — at the Shabbat table. The next week, I indulged in a sugary beverage. I stopped paying attention — in fact, I willfully ignored my actions, stuffing down some emotions in the process. And before I knew it, these “treats” were no longer exceptions, they were the rule. I had gotten pulled back into the vicious cycle.
Something had to change.
Scratch that: I had to change.
Thanks to social media, I had been hearing a lot about this crazy thing called Whole30. I read countless blog entries of people touting how thirty days of totally clean eating had changed their lives. How they’d lost all their cravings for sugar. How they shred 15 pounds or more — and kept going. How they got off cholesterol or blood pressure meds, cured their eczema, and slept through the night for the first time in years.
It seemed like a miracle cure.
But could I really do it?
The Whole30 is typically defined by what you can’t eat, but I prefer to focus on what you can eat: You can have meat, poultry, fish and eggs for protein. You can have all vegetables (including potatoes now, although when we did our first Whole30, white potatoes were off-limits) and any fruit. You can have nuts and seeds, olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.
(For those wondering, the list of off-limits food is rather long: no grains, no dairy, no soy, no beans, no sugar or sweeteners of any type – not even honey. You must read ingredients compulsively – or do what we did, skip the packaged foods altogether, other than oils and spices.)
Frankly it sounded all but impossible, but I needed to do something, so I found myself talking my husband and two sons (at the time, they were 8 and 10) into doing this with me.
(Lest you’re worried – or thinking about doing this with your kids – rest assured that I did extensive research about the safety of children eating a Whole30 diet; I also talked to our doctor about whether this diet would be healthy for my children. “What could be healthier?!” was his reassuring answer).
I detailed our experience with this Whole30 – which we completed in February of 2014 – on the blog. This public accountability made it a lot easier for me to stick to the plan. I also spent hours reading the comments on the Whole30 message boards, which gave me solace since others shared my detoxing misery.
Although I had cut grains out of my life previously – and tried (unsuccessfully) to eliminate sugar drinks – I’d never gone completely cold turkey on everything. So when I say “detoxing misery”, I’m not exaggerating. Both my husband and I had the physical signs of withdrawal, including headaches, massive stomach ‘issues’, and flat-out exhaustion the first two weeks. We also had the classic emotional signs – we were short-tempered and cranky!
There was one “symptom” that I never experienced on the Whole30: Hunger. You eat to satiation on the Whole30. As much as you want – of the permitted foods. You are also encouraged to eat enough at your three meals a day that you don’t eat snacks in between. (This was a major switch for me, by the way. All the mainstream dieting advice I had ever read said six small meals a day – it’s totally the opposite on the Whole30.)
This permission to eat as much as I wanted – of Whole30-approved foods, of course – turned out to be kind of life-changing. One of the challenges I’ve faced in the past with dieting is that I have a bit of a rebel personality. I don’t like being guilt-tripped or told what to do – even when I’m the one telling myself what to do. So not having to count calories (or points) or weigh ingredients definitely gave me a sense of freedom.
That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I spent much of these 30 days fantasizing about what I was going to eat when it was “over”. It got easier – and less all-consuming – as the month went by, but I definitely wasn’t ready – yet! – to embrace this is as a life-long change.
Still, by the end of the 30 days, I was experiencing a number of “non-scale victories” (as Whole30 folks call them), including better sleep; longer, healthier hair and nails; and a major reduction in my life-long “funny tummy” issues.
I also had a pretty awesome scale victory – but before I tell you how much weight I lost, you need to need to know that I didn’t work out once during the 30 days. Oh sure, I had plans to start a Couch-to-5K program, but the truth is I was so exhausted from my detoxing (and from spending so much of my time in the kitchen – when you can’t eat stuff out of a box or a can, you spend a lot more time cooking!) that working out just didn’t happen.
So, with zero activity but 100% adherence to Whole30 nutrition, I dropped 10.5 pounds in 30 days. For the first time since I got pregnant with my oldest child (remember, he was 10 years old at this point!), I weighed under 150 lbs. I was thrilled!
Here’s a picture of me and my husband three days before the end of our Whole30. That dress is a size 10 and I felt fantastic. (My husband dropped 15 pounds doing the Whole30, too, by the way!)
That was two and a half years ago – and the experience is was what I like to call “the beginning of the beginning”. Unfortunately, it would take me another two years to completely embrace this way of eating on a mostly full-time basis, but it definitely opened up my eyes to the impact of certain foods – on my body and my mind.
Next week, I will wind up this series, but sharing how I finally fully internalized all these personal “truths” about food. And how doing that helped me to turn the corner and drop the rest of the weight – for the last time. Perhaps most importantly, I will share the strategies I’m intentionally using to keep the weight off — so I can stay healthy and continue to feel in control of my eating (rather than being controlled by it).