how whole30 changed my life (while barely budging the scale)

[warning: like, way oversharing, entirely vulnerable, and hopefully relatable rant below.]

this past july i decided to do to this thing called whole30. the reason? well, mostly because regardless of how healthfully i was eating or how much i was exercising, my body just wasn’t responding. and also partly as a sly little ploy to get my dad (re)focused on his health too.

since my mom passed away more than three years ago, dad and i have had similar experiences: initially losing tons of weight just out of sheer shock + inevitable depression, followed by a poundage pendulum-swing back over to the other side, resulting in both of us carrying extra weight above our healthy norm. like father, like daughter - how precious. (sense the sarcasm?)

first + foremost, i just need to clarify one thing: i don’t think i'm "fat" or even over-weight for that matter, but i know what’s normal for my itty-bitty, 5’2” frame. for the past few years i've seen numerous doctors, only to be told that i'm “not 25 anymore” (gee, thanks for the reminder), that i'm too hard on myself (ok, tell me something i don’t know), and to just eat healthier and exercise more. (oh, why thank you – why didn’t i think of that!?  yes, of course, i will try that – what a brilliant idea!!) again, sarcasm at its finest.

working out 5-6 days a week and eating healthier than most, nothing will drive you crazy faster than 110% commitment with zero results. in fact the scale (and body fat) just kept creeping upward. i preach moderation and shun obsessive ways, but let me tell you: recently, i've tip-toed entirely too close to my old ways of counting calories and (gulp, don’t judge me here) slipping back into starvation-mode in a desperate attempt to gain control...to no avail. nothing’s worked. with jeans that just keep getting more snug, let’s just say all the cute (one-size-bigger) pants i inherited from my momma have been my saving grace. things you don't want to inherit from your mother: a lovely genetically dimpled derriere and literally + figuratively "mom jeans". yeah, diamonds would've been preferred, but whatevs. add to this the fact that here i am the “chief fitlosopher”, feeling like a fraud more often than not because how can i be an example when i’m a hot mess over here???  live life fit, my ass.

but, i digress.

so, enter whole30: a month-long commitment to see how eliminating foods linked to inflammation might just be the answer.  people who complete this program rack up an insanely long list of impressive non-scale victories, and weight loss tends to be a healthy byproduct. thirty days? sure, sign me (and dad...and like a big handful of fitbookers/friends) up!  

in all honesty, it was hard. not actually doing whole30 (i kinda killed it, to be perfectly frank), but watching all the people i suckered into joining with me see results (which brings me amazing joy)...and then secretly wondering “why not me?”.   

dad has lost 16 pounds, dropped a notch on his belt and got back into his size 34 jeans. he also saw insane health improvements that reduced his reliance on meds. in fact, whole30 even got this freight-train-snoring father of mine permanently off his CPAP machine. not to mention, he just looks phenomenal - clear skin, no puffiness or bloating, and increased energy.  still going whole90 strong (again like-father-like-daughter), he's adopted this way of eating for life and isn't looking back. for his birthday just a few weeks ago, the whole family went up to the mountains, and he saunters over to me proud as a peacock sporting his live life fit shirt - a size large that he hasn't been able to fit into for years. you wanna talk about non-scale victories? it's not even MY victory and yet it is. a father who has a renewed lease on a healthy life? that my friends, is a victory indeed.

oh, but there's more. i admittedly suckered our fitbookers into joining me. all-star fab fitbooker megan lost more than 6 pounds, shed 9 inches overall + cleared up her skin, cravings AND digestive issues. my OG fitbooker cristal dropped 8 pounds, found four pairs of old jeans that she can now fit back into and most notably she experienced a shift in mindset to see that "food is fuel, not a therapist” (#preach). my fitlosophy board member + friend convinced his wife to do whole30 (again), and countless friends on facebook + followers on instagram chose to join me on this journey. um, y'all rock.

and me? oh aren't you dying to know? wanna see my before + after pics? well, you won't. and here's why i don't post half-nekkid pics:

  • because i don’t look like i used to  - and i'm insecure too, just like anybody else
  • because i’m so much more than what i look like
  • because i don’t like the comparison trap - you know, when you see someone's "before" + think "um, i'd take that as my after!"
  • because it doesn’t inspire you
  • because i don’t have anyone to take a pic (i mean, for reals)
  • because i’m not an object

and so, no half-nekkid pic for you! but here are my results in written form. brace yourself - it's mind-blowing. (not)

an inch each off my boobs + hips, and (la-di-frickin’-da), i lost 3.6lbs (and yes, the .6 matters). and because i know the scale doesn’t tell the whole story, i’ve also seen some seismic shifts, albeit tiny on the richter scale: i think i saw an ab poking through the other morning, and at the right angle, i do believe my bum is a bit perkier, with some some serious cellulite reduction in the bootial region. it could be my jergens cream, but i’m just going to attribute it to clean eating + working out. 

but whole30 is about so much more than the number on the scale. and these results are legit life-changing:

  • i went off my anti-depressants that i've been on for over 15 years - and happily report my mood has been stable.
  • i realized my sensitivity to alcohol + how it contributes to my tendency toward depression/anxiety and inability to handle stress.
  • i tamed my blankety-blank sugar dragon, meaning for the first time in my life i didn't turn to sweets to soothe my soul.
  • hello, glowing complexion. forget the expensive face creams - my skin has never looked better. 
  • i crave vegetables - and now it's second nature to have at least 1-2 (often 3) servings at each meal. 
  • i learned to cook for me - admittedly, i'm not a fan of the cooking-for-one life, so meal time can often just be quick meal assembly to avoid acknowledging this. whole30 transformed my thinking to cook new recipes and get adventurous in the kitchen...for me.
  • literally no joint pain from previous injuries (busted tailbone) that usually had me in dire pain all down my leg, all up in my booty, and serious lower-back issues. 
  • increased energy + better sleep quality, meaning I’m not reaching for 6 cups of coffee just to get through the day.
  • i started doing things that i love that didn't revolve around alcohol to fill the time - and kinda sorta found myself in the process. i mean, who goes country-dancing on a saturday night solo (because my friends don't dig it)? this girl. 
  • i learned to say "no, thank you." a people pleaser at heart, this was good practice in self-care, putting my own priorities ahead of what someone else might think of me. the scene: hot guy at bar, "can i buy you a drink?". ugh, no thank you..annnd goodbye, hot guy.

yes, all these results are amazing, but after 90 days of no cream in my coffee, not a sip of alcohol, and absolutely zero (zilch, nada) dairy, grains or sugar – coupled with working out 6 days a week and literally logging every morsel, can you see how one might go a bit batty when the scale doesn’t budge much at all? so at the end of my 2nd whole30 at the end of august, i went to the 3rd doctor in the past two years, hoping for some answers.

after being poked + prodded for extensive blood work, ultrasounds + appointments with (multiple) OB-GYNs, endocrinologists, and specialists, it was a doctor specializing in hormones who finally shed some light on what's been going on. [warning: girl talk ahead.]

basically, after my mother passed away, i realized that i had had maybe a handful of menstrual cycles in several years (yes, years) - so not normal.  almost 20 pounds + nearly 2 menstruation-free years later, clocking in at a borderline obese body fat of 28% for my 5'2" frame, i've been hopeless and helpless on how to fix this.

so just last month, i walk into the doctor's office, preparing to hear the same ol' "work out more, eat less" lecture. instead, what i got was: "well, no wonder you're gaining weight - your hormones are all outta whack." with cortisol levels as high as someone with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), adrenals fatigued, my progesterone at a mere .2 (it should be around 5.0) and my free-T3 at 1.8 (healthy range is 4-5), she went onto explain that i'd gone through severe shock (understatement of the century), and this was my body's response.

i said, "okay, well that all makes sense - but in all honesty, mom's been gone for three years." yes, i miss her, but i'm not in the depths of grief anymore. i'm happy, so why is my body not recovering? she explained that hormones are like alignment on a car - if you wreck, it may still drive, but until you get an alignment it will stay out of whack. it won't self-correct. and so begins my hormone treatment therapy regimen to try and get this bod back on course. 

most people who do whole30 see dramatic results on the scale. but that’s not the intention, or the goal. however, i can relate to feeling like a failure for not experiencing the same awe-inspiring, scale-shifting, groundbreaking results. because isn’t it true that only the dramatic transformations seem to matter? like the more extreme the before/after, the more inspiring? but what about those who finish like a rockstar and the numbers are just meh, okay? is that not equally phenomenal?

in the end, i’m oh-so-grateful for whole30 because not only did it take my clean eating to the next level, it is precisely what exposed that food + exercise weren’t to blame for my results (or lack thereof). in the process, i've learned to value my health oh-so-much-more, face and overcome a long-held unhealthy relationship with food, and reap some major NSVs in the process.

but let me be really clear: if it weren't for whole30, i would've continued to blame/shame myself for not seeing results. i would've believed the lie that if only i had more willpower, if only i worked out just a little more, if only i just could eat even less - literally the daily struggle that has haunted me for years, and now i have answers. and a solution, in progress.

now you know why i didn’t want to share my “results” at the end of day 30, or even day 60 for that matter. and in all honesty, sharing this even now is an exercise in humility. because trust me, i don't have stellar results to report or progress pics to post. however, i believe that all too many people can relate to my experience, and as ashamed as i've been to share, if exposing my struggles can help just one person, then the whole(30) dang thing was totally + completely worth it.

whole(30)-heartedly yours,
ang



17 Responses

Michelle
Michelle

October 10, 2016

A beautiful and vulnerable post. Best wishes to you in your journey ahead for complete health and happiness!

Carolyn Daigle
Carolyn Daigle

October 10, 2016

Thank you for sharing .I see so much of myself in your story. I love to hear how Whole30 has helped so many people .

Kat Palinski
Kat Palinski

October 09, 2016

I’m pretty sure going off anti-depressants is beyond stellar. Congratulations on that alone. I think it’s amazing and you should be so proud of that!

Danielle
Danielle

October 09, 2016

I crashed about 3 years after my mom passed away….my poor, stressed out body couldn’t take it anymore, resulting in a myriad of physical woes. I blamed turning 40. Nope…..it was the aftermath of dealing with my mother’s illness and passing. So strange how that can be such a delayed response. Thanks so much for sharing…..it’s weirdly comforting to know that I’m not the only one.

Neva
Neva

October 06, 2016

I almost didn’t read your article but something urged me to click on it. I honestly thought it was going to be an “I did Whole30 and it was fantastic and you should, too” sales pitch. Your honesty is refreshing and the article was enlightening. I’ve had the same things said to me by my doctor “Eat healthier and exercise more”. I already do this and the weight keeps going up. 20 pounds up and nothing fits, self esteem plummets and I’m being told to just accept (and you said it!) that I am not young any more. I’ve suspected hormones but my doctor didn’t want to even talk about it. Thanks to your story, it is a reminder to me that I need to take charge and push for answers. I’ve been through personal trauma in the last few years and it was only in the last six months that I started to look into the effects that has on the body. While I may have gotten through emotionally and mentally, it looks like physically, that needs to be re-aligned. So, thank you for your courage and honesty.

Susan
Susan

October 06, 2016

Your post was amazing. Wow, and thank you for sharing.. I had a couple of major life issues hit at once and threw me into stress that I didn’t know what to do with. well 2 years later, many added pounds, a couple of drs. I do know my cortisol levels are through the roof but I’ve yet to figure out how to do a reset. I appreciate your honesty and sharing your story. You’ve given me hope to keep plugging along trying to find an answer to fix this mess.

Kudo’s to your Dad… way to go!!!

Sara
Sara

October 06, 2016

Wow, thanks for sharing. You sound a bit like me. I have a petite frame, 5’ 0". And I feel like I began carrying more weight than usual in the last few years. Although, I don’t consider myself too overweight, it’s not my normal. Others scoff if I mention wanting to loose a little weight/feel better in my clothes. But honestly I’ve gained 15-20 pounds in the last 3 years. I went through a tough time myself then. My mom passed away too. And I had just moved cross country and found myself knowing only 1 person and having no job. Granted in the past few years my exercise and eating habits took a back seat to the stress and change. So, I fully attribute that to my current state now. Although, anymore, I do find it hard to make any significant changes in my body. And of course, I always here the, “you’re not 25 anymore” kind of thing. I feel like a eat decently (although far from whole 30 nutrition), better than most around me. I even completed a half-marathon a couple of weeks ago (before moving, i ran quite a few halves in the previous few years). But my body hasn’t change that much. I have been wondering if my hormones have changed in recent years. Although my menstrual cycle hasn’t changed much, my reaction to birth control has to the point I just stopped taking it (headaches/nausea), which is fine – probably better for me anyway. But, you do have me curious to try whole 30 now. I think it’s definitely something I need. I have been reluctant to try anything like it because I feel like I’ll fail. I know my “willpower” is next to nothing when it comes to food! But perhaps it’s time to change my mindset and give it a try. Again, thanks for sharing your story. It has really resonated with me.

Marcia Donz
Marcia Donz

October 06, 2016

You are amazing, honest, and real. Thanks for sharing your vulnerability with us…I bet you’re helping thousands of people through your writing. Keep it up, and I can’t wait till you publish your first book. Hugs to you….you rock.

Karenoia
Karenoia

October 05, 2016

Read about berberine on line. It’s amazing for so many health issues but blood sugar is a big one. Also take probiotics for gut health.

If you are in Southern California, I would also recommend my doctor. But I will tell you that she recommended a diet called the plan diet. It is a specific illumination diet based on figuring out which foods trigger your particular inflammation and cause weight gain. I am interested in doing it but it’s cumbersome for someone who works full-time. I’m working on trying to get a group together so we Can maybe have my paleo food chef lady cook a cleanse for us in Southern California.

Anyone interested an email me at namastewriter@gmail.com. But read the book cuz it’s one hard program me thinks. Still it is very interesting because it says so many of the foods we think of as diet foods, and the clean foods on the Paleo diet which is supposed to be anti-inflammatory, are actually inflammatory for some people. For example, almost everything I eat: salmon, tuna, eggs, tomatoes, coffee, etc. on the other hand she does allow red wine and bread ! Hard to imagine that. Check out the reviews on amazon.

My paleo chef here is California paleo kitchens and she is wonderful. Give her a plug. Tell Nicole karen sent you !!!!

Karenoia
Karenoia

October 05, 2016

Great post. I am suffering from exact same. I am 55 and in my head 25. Did all the above. Scale moved up. Very frustrated. Just saw internist who did very long complicated blood work. Couple of things she told me to check with your doctor. She told me that the testosterone that is sort of in the bank, in the body but not usable, needs to be freed up. She said to take nettle root for that. Read about it online and check with your doc. Another thing she told me about was my blood sugar and thyroid levels. I didn’t want to go on medication for any of that. But I’ve been taking two supplements. Berberine and thyroid now. Your comments and posts are so on point and so charmingly delivered that I feel like I could be your best friend. Ha ha. I wonder where you live. I’m in Southern California. And you can find me at my blog at Karenoia.com. Love to connect more. Great post. Thanks for sharing all this info. Keep telling us more !!!

Mia
Mia

October 05, 2016

Your courage in posting is appreciated. It was everything I wanted to hear. Thank you. I am too in shock over many things that have happened to me : cancer, husband’s brain injury, 7 friends dying of cancer in 3 years. The dr did tell me my cortisol is off the charts. I am exhausted. Your post reminded me to stop blaming myself and love myself. I am so grateful. We met once at your office with Jessica Pakzad. I thought you were so brilliant and courageous then. But now it is confirmed again. Bravo!

Amelia
Amelia

October 04, 2016

Way to be whole-heartedly honest and real, Angela.

laura
laura

October 04, 2016

I am THRILLED for you! I did a Whole47 and feel so much better. I did lose some weight and still have another 60-80+ still to go. I told my mental health doc that I felt like the program was a month+ long meditation for my body.

I’m hoping to get off the CPAP as well. Shout out to your dad!

Back on program after a weekend with too many options (and I only did a few items, but with horrible results).

Your NSVs are amazeballs and I want to wish you congratulations!

Kate
Kate

October 04, 2016

((Hugs)) Thanks for sharing! Totally relatable! Congrats for getting your Dad on board! That’s awesome!!

Michelle
Michelle

October 04, 2016

Hi! I would love to hear more about your hormone therapy course of action.
Loved your story on your journey through whole30

Mary G
Mary G

October 04, 2016

You’re awesome,girl! It can’t be easy to be that raw and vulnerable but people can relate to honesty. And ps- so glad you found somebody to help you!! I’ve had a similar situation, we’ll have to talk sometime.

Angela
Angela

October 04, 2016

Thank you for always being honest. :) I also had a shocking personal tragedy and suffered the same adrenal/hormonal issues. I gained weight and felt awful and my own eating disorder demons were rearing their heads. I can 100% relate to your situation. Hugs to you.

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