I’ll admit, the title of this blog is a bit link-baity. But I really wasn’t trying to lose weight, I was trying to eat healthier. But toward the end of 2016, I did lose a decent amount of weight. In the time since then, I’ve had people ask what I did, so I thought I would share my story.
Before the diet
Back in 2012, I went on a different diet with the goal of losing weight. I was successful, dropping down from 185 to 155 over the course of seven months or so. Let’s just say the diet has the same initials as Wonder Woman, and involves a lot of tracking of what you eat. My friends started hearing things like, “Let me figure out how many points that is,” and, “Let me see how many points I have left.”
For me, that meant I was changing two habits at once, tracking and eating, in order to achieve my goal. In the end, that meant that although I lost the weight, I gained it all back over the next few years.
Back in early 2016, I got to know Dr Dave Tran. Dave is a chiropractor here in the OKC area, and was in the process of opening his clinic when I met him. One thing that stuck out to me about Dave was that he was interested in your overall health, not just chiropractic health.
Once, when Dave and I were chatting, I shared in passing some of my minor health issues, including life-long high blood pressure and a troublesome shoulder. He suggested I try a diet called the Whole30. At first, I dismissed the idea as a fad diet, but soon decided I would try it out. Not to lose weight, but just to see if it made me feel healthier.
Why did I change my mind? I tend to be naturally wired for projects. I’ve had to work over the years to get better at sustaining good habits consistently over time—more on that later—but when I hear about something new, projects appeal more to me.
For me, projects usually mean a specific set of guidelines over a specified amount of time to achieve some goal, then I’m done. Whole30 fit that bill.
Starting the diet
In my own words, are the guidelines I followed in September 2016:
- No real or artificial sweeteners. Sugar in fruit is okay, but I couldn’t make smoothies because your brain starts craving the harder stuff.
- No alcohol. Not an issue for me, as I’ve never had any outside of it being cooked into food.
- No grains.
- No legumes. For me, that meant no peanuts, beans, or soy.
- No dairy other than clarified butter, aka ghee.
- No foods with ingredients that sounded overly scientific or I couldn’t pronounce.
- Eat plenty of the healthy foods, so I wouldn’t be hungry for the unhealthy ones.
As you might suspect, all those guidelines meant I started reading labels to find out what was actually in the food I was eating. Fun fact: Nearly everything contains sugar. Good grief!
Full disclosure: there were a couple guidelines I didn’t follow:
- Don’t weigh yourself during the 30 days.
- The diet is over after 30 days.
Also, while eating out, I allowed for slight deviations. Leann and I went to barbecue once during the initial 30 days. I didn’t have the brown sugar ham, I didn’t put any sauce on my food, and I obviously didn’t have a roll. But I also didn’t overly stress about exactly how the turkey and green beans had been prepared.
Other than that, I was pretty strict for the first 30 days. Again, my goal was not to lose weight, but I discovered at the end of 30 days that I had dropped 20 pounds, putting me at 165 pounds.
That was only 10 pounds away from getting back to my ideal weight! So I decided to make some changes and keep going.
My changes were:
- Controlled, smaller portion sizes. This was easier to do after 30 days, because my palate had changed.
- French fries were okay from time to time when eating out.
- Fruit smoothies were definitely okay, as long as I made them and the ingredients were approved.
With those changes, it ended up taking an additional 27 days in October to hit my goal weight. Thankfully, I finished the diet just in time to eat some candy corn during the Halloween holidays. Yum!
My psychology and adjustments
The key with changes like these are to keep them going. But understanding my own psychology played a big part in both the initial 30 days, as well as the ongoing plan.
Through my ongoing involvement in Sandler Training of Oklahoma, I’d discovered that the way for me to change my attitude was to change my behaviors. In order to want to eat healthier, I had to first start eating healthier.
This may sound weird, but I decided that the goal of food was NOT to taste good. It’s great if that happens, but the real goal is to get the appropriate nutrition into my body. For me, finding nutritious food that ALSO tasted good was going to take time, and I didn’t want to wait that long to start eating healthy.
So I assumed that during the 30 days, I would have to eat food I didn’t like. Sometimes entire meals! And sure enough, there were about 6 – 10 meals during that time where that was the case. But I also decided it was time to put my big boy pants on and eat what I needed to eat. I told myself it was just 30 days, and I should suck it up.
Thankfully, over time I was able to identify the foods I liked that fit the diet, or were pretty close to it. I also identified the foods that were pretty easy for me to eliminate on an ongoing basis that didn’t fit the diet. But all that took time.
In the short term, I ate stuff I didn’t like because I wanted to make a change. The change in behavior came first, then the change in mindset, attitude, and palate.
After all, it seemed dumb to rely on my past unhealthy cravings to guide me in a new healthy diet. I’d done that multiple times, and it had never worked out long term.
My system for keeping it going
After losing the 30 pounds, I asked myself, “Self, how can you keep this going forever, when there’s no way in the world you want to be on this strict of a diet for the rest of your life?”
I ended up coming up with a system for myself that has worked out pretty well so far. While I’ve been on it for less than a year, I still thought I would share.
First, I identified my ideal weight range. Based on my ideal body weight research and how I feel when I’m in this range, I decided on 150 – 155 pounds.
Second, I weigh myself ever morning. Not to obsess over the results, which is silly if you’re weighing yourself daily, but to guide my eating decisions for that day.
- If I’m over my weight range, I stick strictly to the Whole30 guidelines.
- If I’m at the top end of my weight range, I can be a little less strict.
- If I’m at the bottom end of my weight range, I don’t worry about it as much, but if it’s easy to be compliant, I am.
- If I’m under my weight range, I eat whatever I want, but still plenty of compliant food.
- If I’m unable to weigh myself for a few days, I do what I think is appropriate, but start weighing myself again ASAP.
Am I 100% successful in sticking to that? Of course not, but that’s where the next part comes in.
Third, every January and July I will be doing the Whole30 for the recommended 30 days. One of the things I found the diet did for me was a healthy reset of my cravings. January makes sense for that every year, as a reset after the holiday eating. And July was the halfway point in the year, with no major eating-related holidays or events, at least for me.
Fourth, and this isn’t diet related, but I walk on a consistent basis. I had formed this habit before I got on the diet. At the very beginning, I decided I wasn’t going to let the habit slip, regardless of how I felt.
I usually walk six mornings a week. Half of those are 2 – 3 miles, and half are 5 – 6 miles. Sometimes I walk a bit longer and all seven days, but I have to be pretty sick to walk less.
As a result of my initial diet and this sustaining, I’ve successfully lowered my blood pressure to what I jokingly call “a normal person’s blood pressure,” and my shoulder rarely bothers me any more.
Would this work for you? Hey, I’m not a doctor. And I also know that everyone’s wired different psychologically, which has a huge impact on what works for you.
Definitely consult your doctor (which I did), but in my mind, eating healthier for 30 days can’t hurt, right?