I just turned 30 so I thought it would be the perfect time to complete my first Whole30. Thirty years old….Whole30. It just makes sense. This will not be my first attempt, but hopefully it will be my first time completing the 30 day protocol.
So what is Whole30? Whole30 is a 30 day food elimination challenge in which one eliminates the most common gut irritants (sugars, grains, dairy, legumes) that are having a negative impact on overall health and fitness. It’s a self-experiment. And supposedly it is going to change my life.
First I should give you a “brief” background on my health.
I have always appeared “healthy”. I never had a weight problem (thank you, fast metabolism and genetics) and I was relatively active as a child. But something was always just a little “off”. I was sick a lot. I got frequent ear infections and I was super irritable well before becoming a teenager. There were also some red-flag diagnoses in my health history.
1996 – My first (but definitely not my last) experience with arthritis/tendonitis/mysterious joint pain. It changed names depending on which doctor I was talking to. I was 13 the first time my left ankle swelled up. I couldn’t walk for 3 days. Eventually the pain moved into my wrists and became almost permanent. I had pain more days than not but I refused to take western medicine. But over time (mostly thanks to my minimum wage jobs) the pain got worse. I finally let a doctor talk me into taking an anti-inflammatory drug (but later discovered it was a muscle relaxer).
2002 – I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia at the end of my freshman year of college. I was 19 and looked like I was in top shape. But I wasn’t. I was sick, depressed, fatigued, and hangry on most days. I was told to “eat less meat and more cereal” by the idiot student doctors and nurses on campus. So I traded in my morning dorm cafeteria plate of eggs and bacon for a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and non-fat milk. This is when I became a vegetarian in order to “save my life”.
2005 – I was diagnosed with anxiety and mild depression. I blamed it on my new high-stress job and not my diet. In fact, it never even occurred to me that what I was putting in my stomach could be connected to my mental health. I refused Western medicine once again. Instead I left the high-stress, post-college job and went to go work at Trader Joe’s (those people always look so stress-free!).
2006 – I was diagnosed with PCOS. I was told that I would have to start taking birth control. In fact, one doctor told me that I was irresponsible and risking my life being 23 and never having taken birth control. Really? This stuff is supposed to prevent cancer? I took Yaz for 3 rounds before I decided to never take that crap again. It gave me migraines and made my skin feel like it was crawling. I felt like I was doing more harm than good. I didn’t like the idea of putting synthetic hormones into my body.
2008 – I was diagnosed with a severe B12 deficiency (also referred to as B12 anemia or hypocobalaminemia). A routine lipid panel also revealed that my cholesterol was 206, which I was told was just slightly elevated. <200 is ideal. I stocked up on B12 supplements and decided I was going to be vegan “to save my life”. This may have been the worst decision I ever made.
Something else happened in 2008. Trader Joe’s started putting little labels on most of their generic items. How cool! Now a little V label told me that I could eat certain items. All of the labels made sense to me except for the gluten label. I had never even heard of gluten prior to these little square labels. But I was intrigued nonetheless. So I did some internet research and decided to experiment.
Through experimentation I diagnosed myself with gluten sensitivity (or perhaps celiac…I will never know). Instantly my joint pain started to diminish. If I ate gluten, it reappeared (sometimes with a vengeance). At this time I was seeing an orthopedic specialist who I was assigned to through a workers compensation claim (I had to take a leave of absence from Trader Joe’s because my wrist pain was so bad). I mentioned to the
dinosaur doctor that I thought maybe gluten could be responsible for my joint pain. He said that was impossible and I was worrying for no reason. He told me that eliminating wheat and diminishing joint pain was just a coincidence and that I would be doing a lot of harm to my health if I eliminated whole grains. So I went to Noah’s and bought a whole grain bagel with strawberry cream cheese (I was a selective vegan at this point).
I was also selectively gluten-free. I knew it made me feel like crap but I ate it anyway. Just like how an alcoholic drinks even though they shouldn’t. I was a gluten-holic. And it was making me sick.
By 2011 I had had enough. The summer of 2011 was terrible. My anxiety was through the roof (along with my cholesterol, which was now pushing 300), and my depression wasn’t getting any better. I saw a new doctor in August of 2011. She ran some blood tests and told me that I was still B12 deficient. How was this possible? I was taking my nasty, chalky micro-lingual B12 supplements every single morning. I mentioned to her that I suspected I had a gluten sensitivity and she was the first doctor that didn’t think I was crazy. She told me that sometimes gluten can block the absorption of key vitamins and minerals. Bingo. There was my answer.
I was shocked and a little bit angry that the medical community had let me suffer for so long. All of their conventional wisdom had failed me. Skinny Bitch and Quantum Wellness were not my answer. I’m sure those plans work for some people, but not for me. This left me wondering what worked. That’s when I discovered the primal community. Every single thing about primal living made sense to me. And I was pissed that not a single one of my doctors had mentioned anything about it.
By September 2011 I was nearly 100% primal. I dropped 10lbs. almost overnight. I went from being 127lbs. to 118lbs. in 3 weeks (without exercise!) and I had never felt better. I thought I was finally cured so I indulged around the holidays. Big mistake. All my problems reappeared. I remained about 80% primal through April 0f 2012. This is when I went to Hawaii for 3 weeks to look for teaching jobs. It’s hard to remain primal while on vacation. What was even harder was getting back on track after coming back from Hawaii. My diet wasn’t the same. I had moved back in with my parents and was eating all the junk food my mom buys (she’s skinny and can eat whatever she wants).
Even though I was not eating a paleo diet 100% of the time (not even 80% at this point), I continued to research it and trust that it was the perfect way for me to eat. I read It Starts With Food when it was released and attempted to join the August Whole30 group. I lasted 2 days. My parents were going out of their way to make me fail (this is common for them as they do this to me a lot – they are very unhappy, unsupportive, close-minded individuals). I again decided to attempt Whole30 right before Halloween. I actually survived Halloween. I didn’t fail until a few days later when some of the teachers I work with brought their children’s unwanted Halloween candy into the teacher’s lounge. That’s when I decided to wait until after the holidays and my birthday to start again.
So now here I am. The holidays and my birthday have finally passed. I just survived day 1 of Whole30 and am on day 2 going strong.
My day 1 was no ordinary day 1. It was spent hanging out with a bunch of smart people at a Whole30 seminar, including Dallas and Melissa Hartwig (the authors of It Starts With Food and the creators of the Whole30 plan).
I almost didn’t go to this seminar since I had already planned to attend the Practical Paleo seminar next weekend. I thought it was silly to attend both seminars. But the Whole9 team announced on Wednesday that they had 10 seats left. I thought what better way to kick off my Whole30 than to spend day 1 with the creators of the plan.
I’m so glad I decided to snatch up one of the 10 final seats. If you ever have the chance to attend a Whole30 seminar, I highly suggest you go. You’ll learn so much more than the book could ever teach you, and you won’t regret it.
I also encourage you to try Whole30 out for yourselves. You never know what you will learn about the foods that you are eating. It may just change your life.