The Diet that Changed My Life… and Why You Should Try It

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I know there’s a lot of people out there that struggle with weight loss and obesity.  I’ve never been obese, but I’ve definitely been overweight.  And the most frustrating part was that no matter what I tried, nothing seemed to work.  I’m writing this because recently I lost 25 lbs in the span of about 3 months after years of frustration from not being able to lose weight.

Before I get into the details of how I lost the weight, I want to just tell you up front that I’m not selling anything, I’m not suggesting there’s a magic cure all, and I’m not getting any kickbacks from anyone.  The reason I’m writing this is simply because I know how frustrating it is to fail at losing weight.  And I know how amazing it feels to suddenly lose (and keep off) all that weight.  My experience is that I’ve failed so many times, that if I can succeed, so can anyone.  And so if you or someone you know is struggling with weight loss, this might be worth a try.  

Here’s the details…

Before-AfterI’m 5’7.”  In high school, I probably weighed maybe 135.  But I’m now 35, and over the past 7 years or so, I’ve hovered around the 180 lb mark.  This past winter, I was pushing 190+.  I was depressed, low energy, low self-esteem, and I avoided the scale at all costs.

As far as my eating habits, I would say that I’m generally a healthy eater.  We tend to avoid processed foods in my family.  But my achilles heel has been snacking.  I’m a night owl, so at 11pm, I’m ready for some popcorn or cheese and crackers, which certainly didn’t help anything.  I also travel a lot for work, so on the road, it can be difficult to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.  As far as exercise, I have always struggled to have a consistent exercise habit.  I enjoy cycling and walking, but since college, I’ve never had an active lifestyle.  

Last winter, a friend mentioned that he was going back on the Whole30 diet.  He said that in a previous experience, he had lost 30 lbs in a month, had a lot more energy, and felt great.  So I gave the Whole30 a quick glance and impulsively decided to dive in.  

During this time, I was traveling a ton – like 90% of the time.  I was also so busy that I didn’t exercise one little bit.  I did the Whole30 plan for about a month (during February).  I stopped for about a week, and then I did it again.  I decided to stay on the plan until I took a family vacation to Europe in mid Ma.  

I’d encourage you to take a look at the details of the Whole30 plan (I just used the website as a guideline, I didn’t buy their book or anything).  But before you freak out about all of the things you’re supposed to eliminate from your diet and before you say, “I can’t do this,” I want to share with you the modifications I made, the results I had, and the lessons I learned.  

Modifications (i.e. little cheats)…

  1. Don’t add anything you’re not supposed to, but don’t sweat the small stuff. Because I was on the road, there were a lot of things outside of my control.  You’re not supposed to have butter, but butter gets added to most things when cooking.  I didn’t sweat it.  I was still going to order the options within my diet.  If they were prepared with butter, ok no problem.  The same went for sugar.  I eliminated adding sugar to my coffee, drinking soda, and eating desserts, but I wasn’t going to go crazy trying to find something that had absolutely zero sugar in it all the time.  In other words, eliminate things that are full of the stuff you’re not supposed to have, but don’t drive yourself crazy trying to eliminate everything and then beat yourself up for failing to follow the diet perfectly.
  2. Don’t have to give up alcohol.  Alcohol is on the naughty list for Whole30.  For some of you, that translates to no fun for the next 30 days.  What I did was that I significantly reduced beer intake, because that has wheat and added calories.  Instead, I tried to stick to wine or clear liquor (gin is my drink of choice).  I’m sure giving up alcohol entirely would give quicker results, but this worked well for me and my lifestyle.

The Positive Results…Justin-Iceland2

  1. I lost weight.  In the span of about 3 months (most of that time being on the Whole30 program), I went from over 190 lbs to 168.  It had been years since I had seen the 160s.  Keep in mind, that for a lot of that time, I was eating out and not exercising.
  2. I kept the weight off.  The biggest fear with an elimination diet is that the second you start adding the food you’ve been avoiding, you’re going to quickly gain the weight back.  I went off the diet when I went to Europe (because who’s going to refuse French baguettes, Spanish cheese, and Italian pasta?), and when I returned home, I weighed one pound less (167) than when I had left.  This week, I’ve had a plethora of cheese and late night snacks, but I’m still right at 168.
  3. My stomach felt better.  I tended to be someone that had a lot of gas throughout the day (I know, TMI).  After a week on the diet, I felt way less bloated and less gassy.
  4. My metabolism boosted.  I know the phrase “restart your metabolism” is a dieting catchphrase that makes doctors’ eyes roll.  But here’s my experience based on how I felt. Before the diet, when I would eat a large meal, I’d feel like it was painful to move.  It was too uncomfortable to even stand up. However, when I was on this diet, I never felt uncomfortable even after eating a large meal.  In fact, I felt like my metabolism was working much faster.
  5. I had more energy.  I’ve always been someone who needed a nap in the afternoon, and many times I would take that siesta.  That habit totally changed when I was on this diet.
  6. I stopped craving the snacks I regularly ate.  Before the diet, every night I would crave popcorn, chips, cheese and crackers, or something that I regularly snacked on.  At first, it was tough to resist that late night snack.  But after a couple of weeks, I stopped having those cravings for high calorie, unhealthy food.
  7. My skin cleared up.  I have rosacea, so my cheeks can get abnormally red.  However, while on this diet, I noticed a significant improvement in my skin color.

The Side-effects…

  1. My clothes no longer fit.  I packed for Europe without trying on my summer clothes from the previous year.  That turned out to be a mistake.  My waist size dropped 2-3 inches and some of the shorts I had brought looked ridiculous on me.  I just went through my drawers and threw out a bunch of shirts and pants that are entirely too baggy.
  2. I spent more money in groceries.  Giving up breads and pastas meant I was eating more meat.  Instead of popcorn, I switched to almonds.  I also switched from whole milk to almond milk.  All of that meant the grocery bill was higher.
  3. My hair started thinning.  A side effect I was not hoping for was that my hair (which has always been very thick) started thinning.  It’s possible that it’s just because I’m getting older, but I find the sudden timing of it pretty suspicious.  Fortunately, the only time I notice it is after a shower.  I still have plenty of thick hair on my head.

What I learned from this diet…

  1. Eating variety is important.  When I think about eating cheese, bread, or rice, I now stop to think, “How many servings have I had of this particular food this week?”  Just because I may be off the plan, doesn’t mean that I should always eat those foods every day.  When I order a latte from a cafe, I’ll often ask for almond or coconut milk instead of dairy.  When I’m at a restaurant, I’ll avoid eating a piece of bread before the meal.  Avoiding certain foods on the diet has helped me understand that I can choose not to eat them on a regular basis, even when I’m off the diet.
  2. Whole30 is going to be a diet I do on occasions throughout the year.  After being off the diet from mid-May through July, I’ve decided to go back on the diet for the month of August.  My goal is to try to get down to 160 (by day 2, I had already lost a pound).  Part of my reason for going back on the diet was that I was noticing that my stomach was hurting a bit more, I was a little more gassy, and I was starting to get tired in the afternoon.  I’m hoping this next stint is what I need to help give me a boost and to assist my body in preparing for a 100 km bike ride that I’ll be doing in a few weeks.  From there, I’ll probably do the Whole30 again sometime in the winter.
  3. For as frustrating as gaining weight and the inability to lose weight can be, actually losing weight is so empowering and self-esteem building.  I remember the first time I stepped on the scale and seeing that I had lost over 10 lbs.  I was ecstatic.  Now, I’m not afraid of the scale anymore.  In fact, I look forward to stepping on it every morning.  The other day I ran into someone whom I haven’t seen in about a year.  The first things she said was, “Oh my gosh, look at you.  You look fantastic.”  Yeah, that felt awesome.

For anyone reading this who has experienced the frustration of not being able to lose weight, I totally understand your pain.  I hope that what I’ve written here based on my experience is motivation to try this diet.  I’d love to journey with you.  Feel free to post questions, comments, and your personal experience below.  I look forward to hearing from you.  

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