My Whole30 Story: Part 2

My first Whole30 experience in 2015 led to profound changes in my health & a whole new lifestyle. I was living the healthier life I created. I thought my remarkable Whole30 story ended there with . . . she changed her relationship with food & lived happily ever after.

I was so naïve & so wrong.

I began to plan my second round of Whole30 for January, 2016. I was pumped. I had learned so much since my first round & it felt great going into another round with knowledge and experience. It felt so very different than my first round!

On a whim, I decided to share about it on my Facebook page. Maaaaybe I could get one or two people to do a round with me & support them along the way. I doubted it. I mean, really, how likely is it that a Facebook post could convince a random friend to give up ‘all the things’ for a month? Not very. Still, I put it out there.

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Much to my surprise, several friends were instantly interested. So I started a Facebook group, & over 30 people joined.  A variety of family & friends were in. And so began my chance to share Whole30. Just like that.

Then my family committed to do it, too! My husband, my twenty-year-old son & my three-year-old, by default. I was overjoyed to share this experience with them & support them, feed them & witness their results.

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The experience was incredible all around. For me as an individual, for each of us, for us as a couple, for us as a family, for us as a group. We bonded & achieved all kinds of amazing non-scale victories.

My husband glowed. He never felt better. He started to sound like me, singing the praises of Whole30 to everyone he encountered. He encouraged them to call me to talk about the program.

This time was filled with such uplifting energy & excitement.  It reached all aspects of our lives. We enjoyed our time together with more presence and awareness. We decided to become more active at church. We worked on our new business idea. I did more yoga. I researched habits. We prioritized meals together & had a blast cooking in the kitchen. It felt like a beautiful new beginning.

My husband died in an accident three weeks later.

Since I had decided to extend my January round to 60 days, I was still doing my Whole30. The group I had just coached, my family & friends all showed up for us. They started a meal calendar & dropped off compliant meals at our house. Their love & support kept my Whole30 going. I kept eating. It kept me from drinking alcohol to numb out. I’m positive this saved me.

I had learned how food affected me during the previous year, and I knew continuing to eat well was now more crucial than ever. Day by day, I kept going. My days were still dark & overwhelming & horrific & brutal, but my new lifestyle made an incredible difference in my grieving process. Food was something I could control in a life I no longer recognized or wanted. It was a choice I still had. I could eat to feel better or make things worse. It was a way for me to show myself love & compassion.

It has been three years since Kenny’s sudden death & I have completed a total of nine Whole30s. I continue to do rounds for many reasons, most of them are emotional. When another difficult date looms, like the date of my husband’s death, I know a Whole30 will help me face the day. My head is clearer and my emotions are easier to face when I am on a round. I have more energy & focus. I sleep a little better. I remember to eat breakfast. I move more.

I thought my initial Whole30 was remarkable, & it definitely was. But I never imagined the countless ways Whole30 would help me in the years to come as I suffered with trauma & grief.

This is why I became a Certified Whole30 Coach. If I can support you, I hope you’ll reach out.

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Our last family photo taken at our January 2016 Whole30 potluck celebration.

 

Grief Meditation

 

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I picture my grief as waves.

In the early stages of grief, the waves pummeled me in rapid succession. One forceful blow after another. The crushing waves drug me under & stole my breath. I bawled & wailed. There was little to no reprieve. Everything was a trigger. I thought I wouldn’t survive these breakdowns.

I had to learn to expect and accept the waves. Expect their return, because they are surely coming again. Accept their timing, because it is not under my control.

I knew I couldn’t escape the pain. There was no healthy way to outrun it, numb it or avoid it. I had to be present for it. I slowly began healing by feeling my feelings.

It’s been three years since my husband died. It feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago. Grief no longer demands all of my attention. The waves still come, but the space between the waves has lengthened. The intensity of the waves has diminished. The water has calmed. Enduring the waves has made me stronger. I now know I can and will survive them. I began to rebuild and live my life between the waves.

If you think you aren’t strong enough to bear the weight of your loss, I hope this encourages you to take another deep breath, one at a time, and keep going. If you feel compelled, please reach out to me.

Below is a meditation visual I use to face my feelings and breathe my way through them:

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My Happiness Project Story

It has become my year to meet my favorite authors! Last night, I had the honor of adding Gretchen Rubin to my list. She had a profound impact on my life & it was pure joy to hear her speak & express my gratitude to her.

In 2015, I heard Gretchen interviewed on a podcast. (I wish I could remember which one). She discussed her book, The Happiness Project, and explained she never wanted to look back on her life and think, that was the happiest time of my life and I didn’t even realize it then. This one sentence changed my life.

Her words resonated in a powerful way I did not understand, but I kept hearing them in my head. She opened my eyes to all of the blessings in my life. I thought, I AM going to look back on this time as the happiest of my life. The days when our family of four still shared a home, before our oldest moves out on his own. I’ll never get to live this time again with all of us home together, I realized. Because of this, I soaked it all in & found the most beautiful appreciation for our family, our health, our home, our lives & our love. I had everything I ever wanted & because of Gretchen, I stepped back and felt immense gratitude while I was living it. This shift in perspective truly increased my happiness.

I started to read The Happiness Project with my friend. It was shortly after I read It Starts With Food and completed my first Whole30. These two books were the perfect complement to each other. I started my own happiness project in early 2016, combining gratitude, faith, church, yoga & Whole30 to create new habits.

On February 17, 2016, Gretchen & Elizabeth interviewed Melissa Hartwig on their podcast, Happier. Their conversation made everything click. I was lit up with excitement about my habits, my life & my future. It felt like a fresh beginning, like I finally figured out the ways to live my healthiest, happiest life.

Kenny died one week later.

The life I loved ended in an instant. I was convinced I would never feel happiness again.

Because I had already learned these lessons, in time, I was compelled to return to my habits to rebuild my life. I have found my happiness again. It doesn’t erase my sorrow, but exists with it. I have an appreciation for my life that I believe only loss & faith could have taught me. I live in awe over the beauty & love that surrounds me. I am creating happy memories full of laughter & love & feel gratitude as I am living them.

I lived my final months with Kenny focused on all of our blessings instead of stressing about all of the stuff that does not matter. I was meant to hear Gretchen speak those words & I’m eternally grateful that I did.

This is why I open up & share. We can inspire each other with just a few words. If any of this resonates with you, I hope you’ll look her up & start your own happiness project.

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Starting a New Life

I can imagine if you didn’t know me before I found Whole30, then you might assume some things about me. Especially scrolling through my Instagram feed. Like:

  • I’ve always been a yogi & mindful eater & meditator
  • I never drank alcohol
  • I always ate meat & drank brone broth
  • Cooking real food has always been my passion
  • I was never a Pepsi addict
  • I am just someone who has always had willpower & healthy habits

Nope & nope & nope. Nope. Nope & nope. Nope. Nope. Nope & nope.

Yesterday I reflected back on my first Whole30 to remember all the feelings I felt when I started. I recalled posting to my friends on day 1, so I searched & found it.

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I wrote the above post & comments four years ago in a private group to six of my closest friends. Back then, we were doing yoga at each other’s houses once a week, but I really showed up for the girls’ night & the drinks & food after the yoga. Other than my fam, I only told my yoga girls at first because I was pretty sure I’d never make it 30 days. Like truly felt it was 99% impossible to even think I could. I was an ill, beer-drinking, bread-loving, cheese-adoring, sugar-addicted, tofu-eating pescetarian. I hadn’t eaten meat in over 20 years. I really thought I was not the “kind of person” who could complete such a difficult challenge. But I was so desperate for relief, I committed to give it my best possible try & take it day by day.

Looking back now, I did change in many ways. I became someone focused on living well. I learned how to be kinder & more loving to myself. I developed some sweet kitchen skills & a passion for real food. I had energy like I’d never felt before. I prioritized my well-being & made choices from this new place of empowerment & understanding.

It’s also reassuring to be reminded that I am still the same person. I didn’t have to become a different person to create a new lifestyle & habits. When I sent this yesterday to my friend from the group, she replied, “And somehow you managed to stay your awesome self!” I could do it all along, I just had to believe in myself enough to take the first step & the support of my awesome friends really helped.

If you would’ve told me 4 years ago that I’d now be a Certified Whole30 Coach & yoga teacher, I would’ve found the idea 100% impossible to imagine. Whole30 & yoga have become a lifestyle for me, so sometimes I forget how far I had to come, how much work I had to do, to change my life.

This old post was a great reminder for me, so I wanted to share it in case it helps you. If there’s a change you want to make in your life, then commit to go for it. Declare it to your closest support system & ask them to be there for you (maybe with cleaner words than I did hahaha) & take the first step towards your goal. If you fall, be kind to yourself, focus on the lessons you can learn, and get back up to keep going. For real, if I can change my life, so can you.

I love sharing music so here’s a song to inspire you along the way: Van Morrison – Starting a New Life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH8Oj2W7yeA

Thrive Market + Whole30

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I am thrilled to announce my partnership with Thrive Market!

I discovered Thrive Market while I was doing my first Whole30 & it was a major game changer for my family! Thrive Market is an online store that sells all organic, non-GMO products at 25%-50% off retail price. These savings really add up! Plus, you also save valuable time ordering online.

Their products are sorted by hundreds of values, everything from Whole30, paleo, and gluten-free to BPA free, sustainably farmed, and zero waste.

What’s even better? With every member who joins Thrive Market, they sponsor a free membership to a low income family, public school teacher, military veteran, or first responder — which truly epitomizes their mission to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone.

Use my link, thrivemarket.com/foodmindlife, to get an EXTRA 25% off your first purchase and a free 30-day trial!

My fave Whole30 products are listed here to make it extra easy for you stock up, save & rock your Whole30 and Food Freedom Forever!

 

 

My Whole30 Story: Part 1

My health issues began when I was a teenager, over two decades ago. I suffered from an autoimmune disease, Endometriosis, with symptoms that ranged from painful to debilitating. This was my normal. I thought most everyone had unbearable cramps & felt weak because I seemed to not be able to handle them as well as everyone else. I eventually sought help from several doctors & I thought I had done everything I could do to improve my situation. Suffering in pain was life as I knew it, so I just did the best I could. I lost days of my life, tethered to my heating pad in misery.

In January, 2015, I began to experience new, seemingly unrelated symptoms. I developed a wicked rash between all of my fingers. I focused on treating the rash from the outside & nothing worked. The itchiness & pain continued to worsen. I was incredibly desperate & worried.

At this time, I had the chance to meet up with an old college friend. He & his wife were nearing the end of their first Whole30 & happily told me all about the program. He had already experienced some improvement with skin issues. That was all I needed to hear. When my family left the gathering, we went straight to the bookstore, purchased (the only published Whole30 book at the time), It Starts With Food. I read it late into the night and started my first Whole30 the next day.

Let me pause to stress what starting Whole30 would change for me:

*I hadn’t eaten red meat or pork in over 20 years. I thought bacon was disgusting. I’d given up poultry in college to become a vegetarian. Years later, I began to eat fish & seafood & lived as a pescatarian ever since then.

*I was obsessed with cheese. All the cheese, all the time, all the days. I really, really, really loved cheese. A LOT.

*Same goes for bread. All the bread, all the time, all the days. Not cheap sandwich bread. The good stuff. Baguettes, fresh Italian loaves, whole wheat. And I had perfected a delicious, homemade bread that I was super proud to eat & share.

*I was a fan of beer. The fancy stuff. Nut browns were my fave. And wine. And vodka. I didn’t drink every day, but I hadn’t ever intentionally gone a month without alcohol & I really didn’t want to try. At all.

*I ate plenty of soy & legumes. Edamame, tofu, hummus & high-quality peanut butter were staples for me.

*Pasta was my go-to cheap, quick dinner & we ate it at least once a week. And we all really enjoyed it. With mounds of fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

*Oh and sugar. I DRANK SO MUCH SUGAR. And ate it, too. I paid ZERO attention to the amount of sugar I consumed. I was a “healthy” pescatarian, after all. I started every day with the sugariest coffee you can imagine. I became a Pepsi addict when I was a kid. I drank it every day, all day, for so many years. It never occurred to me that it was a problem. I had finally stopped drinking it when I was pregnant with my daughter. I continued to abstain while nursing her. But I still really wanted it. Especially at restaurants & gas stations. Fountain Pepsi was my jam. Even without Pepsi, all of my drinks were sugar-fests. I drank sweetened tea & juice. I was a total sugar addict & I didn’t even realize it.

*My habit was to start each day drinking sugar-laden coffees for hours & not eat breakfast. (And feel like crap).

*I was feeding my family of 4, who were very accustomed to how we ate.

*My husband loved to cook, & had been making meals since he was 11. All of his go-to meals included also non-compliant foods. Remember, I decided to start Whole30 just 12 hours after I heard about it. I was all – Guess what, Babe? I’m changing the whole way I eat…tomorrow. – That’s a lot for even the most supportive spouse to adjust to.

*So yeah, every meal we cooked & ate consisted of something I would have to give up to complete Whole30. Every. Single. Meal.

Following the advice in the book, I told a few friends that I was taking on the Whole30 challenge to set up some support & accountability. I remember explaining the rules to them & then jokingly saying: So basically, I just have to become a different person. That’s all.

THIS IS HOW DESPERATE I WAS FOR RELIEF. If not for the brutal, raging rash on my hands, I never, ever would’ve thought that I could complete a Whole30. Because, cheese.

But, lucky for me, desperation can lead you try some seemingly impossible things.

No one in my life had heard of Whole30. I was totally in it alone. I devoured the book, studied the website, started an Instagram to find people & recipes & found answers to all of my questions (#questioner). I chose to follow the AIP version of Whole30, which requires removing even more foods, because I was not playing around. If I was doing this, I was DOING THIS. If changing my food would heal my rash, then I was all in it to win it.

I followed the rules & didn’t cheat. I started to eat meat. (My husband was thrilled!) I tried new recipes & created delicious meals for my family. I got more comfortable with the rules & in my kitchen.

It felt like magic. I changed my food & my body, my mind and my life changed with it! My rash DISAPPEARED. GONE! My energy & sleep improved tremendously. My skin glowed. My faced beamed. My Endo symptoms even improved! Whaaaat??!! I ate meat & I understood all the hype about bacon haha. I lost 25 pounds I wasn’t even trying to lose. All just by eating platefuls of delicious, nutritious food.

Whole30 changed & improved my whole life.

Pretty incredible, right? And this is just the beginning of my story. Part 2 of  my story…coming soon.

hand before & after

If I would’ve had any idea how amazing my results would be, I would’ve taken a much better “before” pic. And moved my hand away from the toilet haha. That rash was Bad. News. Bears. Hopefully you still get the idea. That vicious rash DIS-A-PPEARED!