I am semi-embarrassed to share this post with y’all. There’s nothing like setting up a tripod and snapping a picture of yourself, no makeup, no figure-flattering tummy-tucking outfit, with every flaw brutally exposed, to send out into blogland for the whole world to see.
This post is as raw as I’ve ever gotten. It’s real. And I honestly thought about not sharing it considering it really has nothing to do with home decor and DIY.
But then I thought harder about it. My ultimate goal with this blog is always to help people, to empower others, to show that we’re all human beings just trying to do the best we can in our everyday lives. So I’m going for it.
I have to confess something to you. I’ve hated my body ever since Olivia was born (exactly four years ago tomorrow) when I had gained 50+ pounds. I don’t like to admit it, but that’s just how I’ve felt for so long. My weight has gone up and down based on my stress, our family vacations, our busy schedules, around holidays, etc.
I’d lost all of my baby weight around a year post-partum, but those last 10 pounds somehow always creep back every now and then. And despite my weight being back down to pretty much where it used to be, my muscle composition is completely different. (Just proof that the numbers on the scale don’t always give you the whole story on your health.)
This summer, I got to the point where I dreaded walking on the beach in a bathing suit. Then in August, after returning from my last summer vacation with family, after devouring Lord knows how many empty calories with ice cream and cheeseburgers, I decided now was the time for change.
I had to take control of my health, not just for my own mental and physical well-being, but to also teach an important lesson to Olivia on how to really love her body.
I challenged myself to do the Whole30 Program. Y’all! It was hard. REALLY hard. But this progress pretty much speaks for itself. And so many of you were so encouraging when I first started and mentioned it on Instagram. (Let me apologize in advance for this long post ahead, but it’s worth it, I swear.)
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I mean… it probably helps that in that after shot I’m wearing makeup. When I took that before picture, I had no idea I’d be posting it here, so I just tossed my unshowered hair into a messy bun and snapped a pic.
It was mainly for me to use as my own measuring tool to gauge how much my body was changing doing the program. Oh my gosh, did my body change! Do you see that tummy shrinking action?!
If you’ve never heard of Whole30 before, it’s a program where you drastically clean up your diet and avoid any foods for 30 days that could be having a negative impact on your health- dairy, sugar, grains, legumes, and alcohol. There’s the Whole30 book, which I highly recommend reading if you want major success with it.
I technically only made it to Day 25. Robert and I had to go on an unexpected weekend trip where we would be eating a lot of meals in a 14-hour car ride on the road, and continuing Whole30 was going to be a bigger challenge than we could handle, so we chose to end it early, unfortunately. And, I should note, I only visited the gym twice during the whole time we were on the program since we were wrapping up a room makeover and a fall tour.
But in those 25 days, these are ALL the things that improved with my health:
- I lost 14 pounds in 25 days!
- I lost several inches, but I was terrible and didn’t measure myself at the beginning. All I can say is I went from a size 8/10 to a size 6/8 in jeans in less than 4 weeks.
- Boundless energy! Before doing Whole30, I had many sluggish days where I always felt exhausted. After 2 weeks into Whole30, my energy was through the roof! My to-do list was easier than ever to handle because I was suuuuper productive and clear-headed. Have you ever seen the movie Limitless? I imagine this is how Bradley Cooper on NZT-48 felt.
- My mood improved drastically and my usual everyday anxiety was virtually nonexistent (which is a big accomplishment when you’re dealing with regular temper tantrums from your preschooler.)
- My skin was glowing! I’ve had bouts of adult acne before, and my breakouts had flared up this summer because I was eating so poorly. With Whole30, my breakouts completely cleared up and my skin’s texture hadn’t felt this amazing in over 10 years. My skin, not just on my face, but all over felt baby soft.
- Headaches cleared up! At least once a week, I usually get a headache, either from stress or sinuses or fatigue. Whole30 made all of that go away.
- Seasonal allergies were gone! In August/September especially, I usually get a seasonal allergy attack. Something always blooms around that time that doesn’t agree with my sinuses. But I had no issues at all this year by just cleaning up my diet. (And guess what… as soon as I went back to my bad eating habits while we were on the road, my allergies acted up on me. Maybe that’s a coincidence. I don’t know.)
- My taste buds changed! By the end of it, the bad-for-me foods didn’t even taste very good. I actually craved vegetables! Don’t get me wrong, I devoured some chocolate when it was all over, but I was completely turned off by the thought of French fries. It was like by eating loads of salt and sugar before, I couldn’t really taste fruits and vegetables. They suddenly had way more flavor.
If you’ve wanted to try it too, here are some of my tips to help you survive the Whole30 program:
- Do Whole30 with a friend or spouse. – Robert and I did Whole30 together and I could not have done it without him. (He lost 15 pounds!) We sort of made it a competition. As in, “If you eat that brownie, that means I win at this no-cheating thing. Ha!” We were both determined not to be the one to crack under the diet pressure first. It was great motivation.
- Read the Whole30 book! Just do it. – Instead of mindlessly scrolling through Facebook on my phone like I sometimes do, I would try to read a chapter or two from the book at a time. It was so eye-opening to understand why I needed to avoid certain foods and see all of the studies behind the science. I got a better understanding of my own psychology that always ends up being my downfall during “healthy phases” so that I could be more determined to fight back against bad cravings.
- Read this Whole30 timeline. Seriously. – This timeline was so spot on to my moods throughout the program. Psychology plays a big part in this (because you’re fighting with yourself the whole time), so if I knew what tricks my brain was going to play on me, I could be more prepared. Also, it’s pretty hilarious. The “Kill All The Things” phase is so real. On Day 5, I really was ready to murder some people. Grouch status.
- Drink water like it’s your job. A lot of times, we confuse hunger with thirst.
- Plan ahead. I always like writing down my weekly menu before grocery shopping, so I know exactly what to make for dinner every night and how those dinners can be stretched into leftovers for lunches.
- Have fun with new recipes. – If you see cooking and eating your meals as a big chore, it’s going to be an even bigger challenge. But if you can see it as an exciting chance to test your skills in the kitchen and try new foods and pretend you’re Chef Ramsay for a month, it’s really a lot of fun! The Whole30 Cookbook is a great start. I searched online for Whole30 recipes too and came up with some really amazing ones (which I listed at the end of this post).
I wasn’t the best at documenting my meals, but I snapped photos of a few typical breakfasts and lunches I had. I’ll tell you now, eggs, avocados, almond butter, and potatoes will be your best friends. You definitely will not go hungry on this program. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so. much. food!
Most mornings, I ate veggie scrambled eggs, with spinach and diced tomatoes, a fruit of some kind, sliced avocado, and bacon. (Make sure the bacon is the kind with no sugar. I discovered the low sodium kind usually has no sugar in it.) And I had coffee with coconut milk and coconut cream to help cut through the bitterness.
If I needed a quick and easy lunch and didn’t have any dinner leftovers prepared, tuna salad in a lettuce wrap was a go-to. I made mine with avocado mayo, topped it with some avocado slices, and it was soooooo good.
I made salads frequently for lunches too. I discovered if I cooked a big batch of grilled chicken to last us through the week, I could make meals more easily when I was in a rush by shredding it up into a soup or on a salad or in a lettuce wrap, topping a chicken breast with some salsa, or whatever I needed to do to keep it interesting.
The one thing that was tricky was salad dressing. Pretty much all of them have sugar! I never paid much attention before. This Greek vinaigrette was my go-to and completely Whole30 compliant.
Whenever I had a major sweet tooth craving, I usually had a small bowl of Monkey Salad, unsweetened applesauce with cinnamon, apple slices dipped in almond butter, or a Larabar (the ones without peanut butter or chocolate). It helped in a pinch when I felt ready to devour any doughnut in a reachable distance.
I discovered a lot more about myself as a cook because I was able to play a lot more with flavors and tossing in spices and combinations I’d never really attempted before. And I loved it!
Here are a few other recipes, Robert and I really enjoyed:
- Grilled Swordfish with Peach Avocado Salsa (leave out the honey)
- Crockpot Chili
- Cuban Picadillo (served over cauli-rice instead of brown rice)
- Roasted Snapper Fillet (with almond flour instead of breadcrumbs)
- Garlicky Shrimp (I made this with cauli-rice too and it sort of reminded me of shrimp & grits.)
- Slow Cooker Pot Roast
- I also used a lot of recipes out of our Practical Paleo cookbook that we’ve had for two years now and love! My favorites are the Citrus & Herb Roasted Chicken and Stuffed Grape Leaves. The Mustard Glazed Chicken Thighs are awesome for an easy-to-make dinner too.
For sides, I usually just roast vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts seasoned, tossed in olive oil, and put in the oven at 425 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.
- Our grocery bill was pricey. We were spending easily $200 per week at the grocery store for all of this fresh meat and produce were were cooking up. But considering we weren’t eating out really at all, where we used to eat out 3-4 times per week for lunches or dinners when we were feeling lazy or in a rush, it mostly evened out.
- Grocery trips are frequent. The shelf life of fresh food is very short, so you will likely be making grocery trips at least once a week.
- The first two weeks were the hardest. Really hard. You might have a short fuse for a few days. If you can make it past Day 12, you’re mostly in the clear!
- It’s time-consuming. I had to make a conscious effort to set aside at least half an hour, sometimes more, to cook breakfast and dinner. It’s definitely challenging if you’re already really busy. But hey, if you get that awesome burst of energy and clarity it gives you, making time becomes easier.
- It doesn’t travel well. The two restaurants we could depend on if we were driving around and needed a meal were Chipotle and Chili’s. At Chipotle, we ordered salads with carnitas, salsa (not the corn kind), and guacamole. It was sooooo good! At Chili’s, we ended up getting lettuce-wrapped grass fed burgers with tomato, avocado, and mushrooms with steamed veggies on the side.
- Your kitchen will always be a mess. It’s a fact. We were always grilling chicken, scrambling eggs, and chopping veggies (this food processor helps). Just tell yourself it’s only for 30 days, and you’ll be okay. Knowing this diet wasn’t going to be forever gave me that “light at the end of the tunnel” mentality I needed sometimes.
It’s now been a couple of weeks since we finished the program, and even though I’ve gained back 2 pounds and don’t have as much of a strict diet (we’ve now switched to Paleo and allow ourselves treats on weekends), I still feel like I’m much more educated in terms of my health and am more conscious of what I eat. I feel more in control of my body, and that’s a great feeling.
Robert and I are already excited to try another Whole30 round next month (and hopefully make it to the end, busy schedules allowing). Now that Olivia is back in preschool, I’m hoping to make regular trips to the gym again too. (Or at least bust out my 30 Day Shred DVD that helped me lose my initial baby weight.)
Out of all the makeovers we’ve had on this blog, I have to say, this one was definitely the most challenging but also most rewarding. For the first time in years, I actually love my body. And that’s a huge victory for me.
If you’ve been struggling on a weight plateau or with skin issues or have had zero energy lately or a whole slew of health problems, I’m telling you, YOU CAN DO THIS! Every journey has to start with that first step. Losing a loved one is hard. Raising children is hard. Beating cancer is hard. By comparision, eating more vegetables and less junk is not hard. YOU’VE GOT THIS. (Oops, sorry. I’ll stop yelling.)
Have you ever done Whole30 before? Or Paleo? Have you thought about trying it? Do you have any tips that helped you? Or favorite recipes that you cooked? I’d LOVE to know in the comments. And hopefully, it could help others with the same struggle too.
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