How Whole30 Changed My Life

Dec 10, 2018

In November of 2017, I set out to do a Whole30. What is Whole30? It’s a reset. Not a diet. You remove inflammatory foods out of your diet for 30 days and then reintroduce them back in to see what works for your system and what doesn’t. Before I move on, let me say, I do not recommend doing this during the holidays. Even the Whole30 people will tell you not to do a Whole30 during the holidays. However, I pushed through and stuck it out despite being surrounded by delicious food during Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving with my family.

I had attempted a Whole30 in the past but never succeeded because I wasn’t fully prepared. I had seen results from friends who had completed it so I knew it worked. That’s why I couldn’t give it up. I knew I had to give it a try. And I’m so grateful I finally did it.

Let me first give you a little background about my history with food, weight, and overall health.

I grew up in a relatively healthy family. No, they didn’t only buy organic food and drink kombucha, but my grandparents had a garden and I lived on a farm so most of our food was as local and fresh as it could be, which I realize now is a real blessing. Sure, we ate junk food sometimes. We ate school lunches and bought food from the vending machine at school occasionally, but we also ate real food more often than not. My siblings and I spent most of our time outside jumping on the trampoline, riding four wheelers, and playing on the awesome playground our parents made for us. I played softball for a year, danced from age 10 to 18, and was on the color guard team for a few years in high school. Not necessarily “athletic”, but I can say that I was active.

I am 5 feet 2 inches and weighed between 110-120 pounds all through high school and college. I did gain a few pounds when I first moved to college, but not because of the usual reason (alcohol). That was never my thing then. I was eating the cafeteria food, which was not the healthiest that I remember, and other than walking a lot, I was not exercising regularly. I rarely slept the first two years and that likely contributed to the weight gain.

I’m not sure how much weight I gained. Maybe 5-10 pounds. After college, I lost most of those extra pounds and maintained a healthy weight until I got married. Now, I’m not blaming marriage nor am I saying that everyone gains weight when they get married, but I did. When we arrived home from our honeymoon in Mexico, I weighed 120 pounds. But about a year in I began buying bottles of wine every time I went to the grocery store and would have a glass or two a night. It became a “ritual”. Something I did while I cooked dinner. I’d tell myself I “needed it” after a long day of work. We can go into the psychology behind that but we won’t in this post. Let’s save that for a different day. To be honest, alcohol, in my opinion, was the main contributor to my weight gain.

When I set out to do my Whole30, I was at my heaviest weight, 140 pounds. That’s 20 pounds in 2 years. Um, no. I was super unhappy with how I looked and felt. Something had to change and I knew it needed to be something as serious as this to keep me on track.

For now, I’ll explain what I learned, how it impacted me, and the tips I have for you:

I learned that changing your diet will do more for you than working out ever could.

Workout junkies may push back on this but I know from experience. I had practiced yoga for years, taught yoga, and I was working out three times a week doing HIIT (high-intensity interval training). I was getting stronger, but not seeing my body change a whole lot. It wasn’t until Whole30 that I saw inflammation decrease. My face starting slimming and I felt lighter overall.

Alcohol doesn’t do you a lot of favors.

Yeah, bummer, I know. Sure, it’s fun to drink socially, and personally, I love the taste of wine, a good craft beer, and an amazing cocktail. However, once I gave it up for 30 days, a lot of things improved. Mostly my sleep. I used to wake up at 3am every time I had a margarita. I’d toss and turn all night when I drank. I’d also wake up with a headache if I didn’t have enough water, which was often. My sleep improved and I’d wake up feeling refreshed during Whole30.

Grains were making me super bloated.

Anytime I ate bread, certain grains, or breaded foods, I’d feel like a had a balloon in my stomach. It was awful. Once I reintroduced grains back in, I found that I feel bloated most when I consume processed grains. Standard bread from the grocery store doesn’t work for me. However, if I eat bread from a local bakery, it doesn’t bother me.

My skin cleared up. And no, I didn’t change products.

This one was the most exciting for me. Yes, I wanted to feel better, but as vain as it may sound, I care a LOT about how my skin looks. Look, I’m pasty. Ya girl has some porcelain-toned skin and when a red bump shows up, I can’t hide it. I had tried all the products, changed my makeup, and was dousing on the essential oils. As important as all of those are, and YES, they are, I learned that when your skin is breaking out, it is your body telling you something from the inside.

For me, I found that peanuts cause my skin to breakout. Which, for a lover of thai food and those dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s, this was not exciting to discover. BUT, I now know and can decide when those foods are worth it for me – Food Freedom. More on this in a bit. Also, when I veer off healthy eating and consume too many inflammatory foods (sugar, dairy, grains), my skin reacts. Every time.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day + eating vegetables for breakfast isn’t that weird.

I already loved breakfast, so this wasn’t a hard one for me to come around to. I know many people who aren’t breakfast people. Their mornings are rushed and they often forget to eat a good breakfast. Here’s the thing, once you make it a habit, it’s not hard to keep it up. It also doesn’t help if you don’t mind eating the same thing over and over. This is me. I can eat the same breakfast every day and it doesn’t get old. I would roast a bunch of vegetables on Sunday, such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, and onions. In the morning, I’d warm whatever vegetables I was feeling, cook a fried egg, add it on top, and give it a splash of Frank’s hot sauce. I’m telling you, don’t knock it until you try it.

You can make it easier.

Often, people don’t do Whole30 because it seems so complicated, there is a lot of cooking, and you miss out on social events. Here’s my advice: MAKE IT EASY. Before you set out to tackle this, look at your calendar. Figure out a month you have very little, if anything, scheduled and accept that you might miss out on a night out or two. Then, SIMPLIFY.

There are lots of recipes, gadgets, and Instagram accounts with great tips and it can be overwhelming to take it all in. Look, you don’t have to buy a bunch of new kitchen tools to do this. You can roast a lot of veggies, eat a ton of eggs, cook your meat with a few seasonings, and use the crockpot for multiple meals. You already have to cook a lot, so make it as easy as you can and be okay with eating repeat meals. It’s not that bad.

Don’t overdo it on the sweet potatoes.

HA! I love sweet potatoes and ate a lot of them during my first Whole30, only to feel like my stomach was being twisted into knots about three weeks in. Yeah, it was painful, and after a quick Google search, I realized that too many sweet potatoes will do that to ya.

Eating out is hard.

Just being honest here. You can’t find much when you go to a restaurant. Because Whole30 is super restrictive about not cooking in butter and canola oil, you can’t guarantee that restaurants are using coconut oil or ghee to cook your food. It’s best to avoid eating out. Once you’ve completed Whole30 and are in your food freedom, you will learn what works for you when eating out and what doesn’t. More examples below.

There are lots of resources available for you.

Because Whole30 has gained such a loyal following of people and grown so much in recent years, there are a TON of resources out there. The Whole30 website has so many tips, recipes, and they will answer every question you may have on their FAQ page. You can comb through all of those and still feel a little overwhelmed SO I have a solution for you.

A friend and I are taking on Whole30 again in January 2019 AND you can join us. We are offering a support group where you can get the resources you need all condensed into a private Facebook group with like-minded folks who are doing this thing together. You’ll also get two meals together (one potluck where you bring a dish and one brunch where you just show up and hang out) and LOTS of motivation and support from people who have been there, seen results, and love this program. Head here to find out more! P.S. We are located in Greenville, SC and if you’re local, you’ll definitely want to come to the events, but if you’re elsewhere, you can still join virtually.

Food Freedom

Whole30 aims to get you to your own version of Food Freedom. What does this mean? It means that you’ve discovered the foods that work for you and the ones that don’t. For me, I found that peanuts break my skin out, alcohol gives me headaches and affects my sleep, too much grain makes me bloated, and the closer I stick to Whole30 in my regular diet, the better I feel. Here’s how this works for me:

  1. I eat a Whole30 breakfast almost every day. Usually, that includes some roasted veggies, a fried egg cooked in ghee, bacon that is Whole30 approved, and grapes. When I don’t eat this, I make a smoothie with Whole30 ingredients (coconut milk, ice, almond butter, cacao, and a banana). However, Whole30 does not recommend smoothies because they want you to eat your food, not drink it. More on that here. I’ve found that I don’t stay as full with my smoothie, but man is it good.
  2. When I eat burgers, more often than not, I won’t get a bun. I feel better this way.
  3. I don’t eat too much dairy. Now, ya girl loves cheese, but too much dairy doesn’t make me feel that great so I limit it. I will get milk in my lattes when I order one out, but if I make coffee at home, I drink it black.
  4. I do my best to keep sweets out of my house. If there is dark chocolate in my house, I’ll eat it. This goes for anything else I love. If there’s wine, I’ll drink it. Cheese, I’ll eat it. Rice, I’ll make it. If I can keep those things away from my pantry, I don’t crave them.
  5. Sandwiches, sushi, thai food, poke bowls, lavender lattes, ice cream, pizza, tacos… these are a few of my favorite things. I choose to have these foods occasionally because I love them. They are not regular foods I consume, but I enjoy them and believe life is short so we can have food we love sometimes. Plus, the more we stick to a healthy diet regularly and have our favorite foods occasionally, the more we will enjoy them when we do have them.

The numbers:

I lost five pounds during my first Whole30 and eight inches total. I found that I lost more in inches than pounds and it made a difference. My clothes fit looser, my face was slimmer, and I felt SO MUCH BETTER. I’ve since lost more weight by maintaining this new lifestyle, and I don’t workout as much as I’d like. I’ve recently started practicing yoga regularly again, but trust me, food does more.

While these photos don’t show *that much* of a difference, I can tell. I also remember how I felt before and after. Before (left) was August 2017 – 140lbs. After (right) was August 2018 – 130lbs. You can see it in my face, my arms, legs, and overall puffiness is reduced. It’s amazing, y’all. I’m telling you, Whole30 does wonderful things for you.

Here I am in August of 2017 (left) and in July of 2018 (right).

Man, what a difference a year makes. And a spray tan. 😉

So, that’s that. Whew. That was a long post. Thanks for reading this far. While losing weight and inches was a huge benefit, feeling different is why this program changed my life. I never knew how bad I felt until I didn’t feel bad anymore. Maintaining is a lifelong journey but it’s one that I love continuing to figure out. I now have control over how I feel because of food and that is worth the 30 days of “missing out”. While you might be missing out on social events, you’re changing your life forever, and I PROMISE that’s worth that one girls night you didn’t attend.

Note: This is a recap of my journey and I am not here to say yours will be the same or even similar. Your journey is YOURS and if this is something you want to do for you, I can’t tell you enough reasons to do so. I’m no dietician or doctor, but if you have Whole30 questions regarding my personal experience, I am happy to help.

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  1. Tabitha Cooper

    December 10th, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    Yes! Yes! Yes! So glad you’ve shared your story. Also, so glad you convinced me to give Whole30 a try. Cheers to helping others find their Food Freedom and build new healthy habits.

  2. Kristen Elrod

    December 12th, 2018 at 1:52 am

    Yes, cheers to that! I love that this program changed your life too and I can’t wait to help other people together!

  3. Kelly

    December 12th, 2018 at 12:17 am

    Love how honest and real this is. Starting life-long goals with 30 days doesn’t sound so bad.

  4. Kristen Elrod

    December 12th, 2018 at 2:22 am

    Thank you for those kind words, Kelly! It was not easy to be this vulnerable but I am glad to hear it inspired you. You’re right – those 30 days aren’t so bad in the grand scheme of things and it’s all worth it in the end.

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