At the end of the summer, fed up with feeling bloated, gross and not my best, I decided to embark on a midlife Whole30.
I didn’t do it specifically to lose weight, although I did lose several pounds, which was a bonus and helpful for fitting back into my fall non-stretchy pants.
I wanted to figure out how I could reduce the number of migraine headaches I was having, lessen the achiness in my finger joints – and control my eternal addiction to sugar (aka, the devil).
I generally cook and eat quite healthy, but sweets tempt me in an irresistibly diabolic way and always always always derail me.
For those of you who’ve never heard of Whole30, I would describe it as an elimination and reintroduction eating program where you remove commonly problematic foods from your diet for thirty days in order to learn how those foods may be adversely affecting how you feel.
It is also a thirty day lesson in being more conscious about how, when and why you are eating which frequently results in the opportunity to correct your unique (often naughty) eating habits. This is a gross oversimplification – but it gives you the gist of it!
Naturally, I would encourage visiting your health practitioner before embarking on any dietary program. This is just what I chose to try while otherwise being medically ok and having been checked for my regular annual preventative exams, but still feeling – meh.
I’m neither a nutritionist nor a Whole30 expert, but I’ll give you the low down from my personal experience.
It’s a plan (but feels a little bit like an experiment) where by removing many foods and additives from your diet for thirty days that commonly trigger negative reactions, i.e. bloating, inflammation, indigestion, skin issues, fatigue, etc… you can learn how you feel without them.
It’s also a way to more clearly see the (unhealthy) eating habits you may have that are, at the least unhealthy and mindless, and at the worst – making you sick.
“Whole30 is like hitting the reset button with your health, your habits, and your relationship with food.” – Melissa Hartwig, CISSN, Whole30 Co-Creator
There isn’t any calorie counting, measuring or weighing foods. You basically stick to the foods allowed on the list (don’t be scared, it’s a long list with lots of yummy options) and try to avoid snacking and late night eating.
The program focuses on “Non Scale Victories” (NSVs) to be discovered along the way, which as aptly named, often turn out to be bigger wins about how you feel than the numbers on your scale.
It’s not uncommon for NSVs to unravel the non-specific physical mysteries of why you feel like poop.
It can be quite challenging to remove so many of our favorite foods from our diets for thirty days, but I found this program’s cold turkey approach worked best for me.
A strict no to certain foods was far easier for me to follow than a complicated compromise of portions or combinations to keep track of.
It’s like starting at base camp and making your way upward, learning as you climb through the month. It made sense to me that I’d need to remove all of the potentially problematic foods if I was going to learn how to reduce my migraines and inflammation (which, btw, is not good for any of us).
We are all different so the results differ for everyone.
Journaling and paying attention to how you are feeling is encouraged. There are Whole30 books that help you through the ups and downs of the thirty days. It helps to know that it’s normal to feel certain detox-like symptoms as your body readjusts.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
The first week was hellish. Week two was slightly better, and by week three I starting feeling much better. Both physically as well as my mood and general disposition.
By the end of the thirty days I really felt better. I felt less bloated, more energetic and focused. I was sleeping well and my finger joints hurt significantly less. I felt so much more in control of my eating habits.
Kind of amazing that at this point – midlife – we can still learn so much about how to feel our best.
I also discovered my previous M.O. of grazing all day had not been serving me well.
I even felt less of a get-the-hell-out-of-my-way-and-give-me-that-chocolate urge.
Everything improved, except my migraines continued.
I was still waking up with frequent migraines. I knew my diet was ultra clean and healthy and I was not eating foods that were common allergens or disrupters – so why should I be having the damn headaches?
Hhmmmmmnnnn. I’ve been a trail mix snacking kinda girl for years thinking nuts are a healthy choice.
During the thirty days, I way upped my intake of nuts, in an attempt to try to feel full. (Certain nuts are permitted on the program as healthy fats.)
I admit it. I went a little nuts on nuts.
Especially cashews. Don’t judge, they are freaking delicious and uberly satisfying.
Then, bam! The epiphany! It was the nuts!
Fast forward: I stopped eating the nuts and haven’t had a SINGLE MIGRAINE since that day (six weeks ago)! Anyone who has suffered migraines understands this is a whopping big deal for me!
And not a nut-bashing by any means. This is just what I learned about me from this program.
I’m sure there are other reasons that I may still get an occasional migraine. Like many migraine sufferers, I’m aware of sensitivities like being around artificial fragrances and smoke, and occasional sinus issues that can trigger me, but this was still a huge breakthrough.
So what’s the point?
The discoveries made in the thirty days are different for everyone. As much as our bodies are the same, they are unique and my personal NSVs will be different than yours.
After the thirty days, you reintroduce the food groups you removed (if you choose to) in a conscious and methodical manner, paying close attention to how you feel consuming those foods again.
Bingo! You can feel how you react or don’t to your favorite foods!
Here’s where the magical Whole30 “Food Freedom” comes in!
What you eat is your choice.
If you know certain foods make you feel like a bloated cow or put you in sloth-like slo-mo, you have the freedom to eat those foods and feel that way or to avoid them because it’s not worth it to you!
I miss my nuts, but they are SO not worth the migraine.
Fast forward again – to six weeks later.
Halloween came along and I ate not a single piece of candy, not wanting that sugar-addict-crazy-woman to reappear. I was so in control.
Then, the following day, I walked into the supermarket when I happened to be insanely hungry (never a good idea).
I bought a three pound bag of candy and ate two and half pounds of it by myself.
Over two days. It wasn’t pretty. I was so out of control. Was it worth it? Nope. Not for how completely awful I felt for the next few days.
Which brings me to why it can be helpful to do more than just one round of Whole30. Because we are human and our long-ingrained unhealthy food habits can be soooo hard to break.
And there is always room to learn more about ourselves, to further improve our habits, or figure out how to get back on track after a derailment.
Especially if we have big plans for rocking the after 50 second chapter of our lives, right?!
I want to live my best midlife and so I’m planning to do another round of Whole30 beginning on January 2, 2019!
Giving it a go any earlier would be within the holiday season of favorite treats, food traditions and toasts. But after the cookies, eggnog, fruitcakes and panettone are out of our homes, it will be the perfect time for a reset.
Want to give it a try with me?
I’d be glad to form a group to support each other using a private facebook group.
There are hundreds of healthy and super easy family-friendly recipes available in several Whole30 books, on Pinterest, online, etc…
Reply or send me an email if you are interested in being a part of this private January Midlife Whole30 Facebook group and/or would like a bit of direction to resources!
Cheers to trying new approaches to live our best midlife!
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