Lindsay – 37 – Mount Laurel, NJ

Here’s your Sunday dose of success! Going from multiple health issues and tragedy striking to having things just take a wonderful turn for her, Lindsay’s story is pretty amazing. We’re so pleased that she shared her story with us.

How many times have you done Whole 30? When was your first round?

I’ve done Whole 30 twice. My first round was September 2017 and I just finished my second in early May 2018. The first round, my fiancé joined me. The second round, I was flying solo. After round 1 – when reintroducing food groups slowly, as recommended – I found that gluten (and possibly dairy) seemed to cause some of my autoimmune symptoms (described below) to flare up, so I eliminated them entirely form my diet. I am planning on continuing to stay off gluten now that I’ve completed round 2, but would like to reintroduce some occasional dairy and see how that goes. When off a round, I also avoid added sugar and convenience snacks and have cut way back on the non-gluten grains and soy.

How did you hear about Whole 30 and what made you decide to it?

Weight management has been a lifelong struggle for me – including disordered eating when I was younger – but by late 2013, I was at my ideal weight after successfully losing pregnancy weight (and pre-pregnancy weight!) with calorie counting and a rigorous gym schedule of spinning and yoga. I felt like I had finally succeeded in being the healthy me I had always wanted to be.

Unfortunately I went through a divorce in 2014, and in August of that year, my best friend passed away suddenly. Food and drink became a comfort to me, and it got out of control. Before I knew it, I was wearing packed-away maternity clothes because I was so uncomfortable and nothing else fit. By 2015 I had gained all the weight back (and then some) and was nearly as heavy as I had been when I was 40 weeks pregnant with my daughter. I was ashamed and embarrassed, but worst of all, I felt like crap.

During summer 2016, I began having a lot of health issues: daily low-grade fevers that wouldn’t quit, horrible night sweats, debilitating pain hand pain, fingernail splinters, terrible rashes with any amount of sun exposure, and head-to-toe hives, to name a few. My doctor suspected several health issues, ranging from endocarditis to vasculitis to an autoimmune disease.

I was sent to an infectious disease specialist, a cardiologist, an allergist, and a rheumatologist. My symptoms and doctor visits continued off-and-on for the better part of nearly two years, and after so much time spent trying to get to the bottom of what was causing my symptoms, the best any of these doctors could tell me was that my lab work consistently indicated very high levels of C-reactive protein in my blood, which translates to non-specific inflammation somewhere in the body.

I was diagnosed with allergies, asthma, and “autoimmune disease, undefined”; prescribed an inhaled steroid to be taken daily, as well as a daily regimen of prescription antihistamine and prednisone; and sent on my way. Not ONE doctor I saw suggested that perhaps my condition could be improved with dietary changes. My primary doctor said I could stand to “lose a little weight”, but that was the extent of discussions about food with any of these healthcare providers. I was in constant pain, heavy, and miserable.

This felt so wrong considering the many blessings in my life at the time. I had a new partner who loved me to pieces, four amazing children between us who are pretty much the best kiddos anyone could ever hope for, we had just moved into a beautiful new home… yet, things had gotten to the point where I was looking in the mirror and had no idea who the person looking back was, or where she came from. Who was this big, unhealthy person? How could I reclaim my health without being sentenced to a life of medication? Why wasn’t I as blissfully happy as I knew I should be?

I convinced myself that there had to be a better way, and started doing research on how diet impacts autoimmune disease symptoms. I was reading a lot about the autoimmune paleo protocol (AIP) diet. My fiancé had also been dealing with a suspected corn allergy and recurrent hives on and off over the course of the previous two years, and I wanted to find a solution that might work for us both. I was just about to jump on the AIP diet train, when I came across Whole 30. I thought, “wait, what? I could have coffee?! And nightshades?! SIGN ME UP!” Whole 30 seemed like a more workable option for us. I decided I would try it – I could do anything for 30 days, right? And I decided that if it didn’t work, I’d try AIP.

What scale and non-scale victories have you had as a result of Whole 30?

I’ve never felt better in my adult life. My autoimmune symptoms have all but vanished. My allergies (both seasonal and indoor) have improved greatly. I sleep soundly and have so much more energy. I no longer have a 3pm crash that makes me feel the need to take a nap at my desk. I’ve lost nearly 40 pounds and 28 inches since September, and have gone down several dress sizes. Case in point: I purchased my wedding gown in September 2017 at the beginning of this journey (I’m getting married in October!) and now I’m headed out dress shopping again this weekend because guess what? The darn thing is HUGE on me, and would be a complete reconstruction to alter! I’ll take it – it’s a good problem to have as far as I’m concerned! The greatest victory of all is that I recognize the woman looking back in the mirror again. She is the healthiest and happiest version of herself yet, with no end in sight! I’m determined to never look back.

What helped you to succeed the most on Whole 30?

My fiancé. I honestly don’t think I could have completely my rounds or made consistently good food choices off-round without him. As the parent who works form home, he graciously does all of the grocery shopping and the cooking during the school and work week. When I’m on a round, he always makes sure there are plenty of delicious, compliant food available and he adjusts his meal prep to make sure I had a hearty enough breakfast and dinner each day. He prepares enough food at dinner time so that I have leftovers to take to work for lunch the next day. This is not an easy feat when you’ve got six hungry mouths to feed!

When I decided to continue to eliminate gluten off round, and would occasionally have the desire to have “just one beer” or thought “a cookie isn’t the end of the world”, he would gently remind me why I was on this path and how good I felt because of it. He is my biggest supporter and best cheerleader. Also, LaCroix. Thank you, LaCroix for existing. Discovering that LaCroix was compliant was a game changer for me as far as social events during a round were concerned. At band practice, out with friends, or at dinner parties… I just pop one of those bad boys open, pour into a glass and garnish with some citrus, and I am ready to cocktail with the best of them, sans booze.

What’s your favorite Whole 30 recipe or go-to meal?

I’m honestly not sure I have a favorite. I’ve eaten so many good things during my rounds! I love the challenge of making the best-tasting food possible within the rules. I love to cook, so coming up with new recipes was honestly really fun for me. I constantly felt like I was on an episode of Chopped, using the compliant food on hand to create something amazing.

The most satisfying meals were oftentimes the simplest, like a nice grilled skirt steak piled with ghee-fried onions and Portobello mushrooms, served with grilled sweet potato wedges, avocado, and a spinach salad. I also became super fond of poke bowls this round and made a couple of really amazing ones, as well as a mango/avocado/salmon stack! Here’s my poke bowl recipe: Bowl: 1/2 c Shredded Savoy cabbage, 1/2 spiralized cucumber, 1/2 of a chopped avocado, 1/3 chopped mango, 4 oz raw & cubed sushi grade salmon (or tuna!). Arrange in bowl. Dressing (approximately, to taste): 1 Tbs coconut aminos, 1/2 tsp sesame oil (for a treat!), 1/2 Tbs apple cider vinegar, dash of crushed red pepper flakes. Garnish with cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Pour dressing over top. Enjoy!

How has your life changed since Whole 30?

Besides the amazing NSV’s mentioned above, since beginning this journey our entire family has improved the way we eat, mostly due to my fiancé being so supportive and being on board with changing our shopping, cooking, and eating habits. While we don’t always eat 100% compliant off-round, we both agree that limiting non-compliant foods as much as possible (especially added sugar, and nasty additives and preservatives) is just plain better for us and for the kids. We consume so many more whole, unprocessed foods. We avoid added sugar and keep carbs in check. We eat healthy fats from ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, fatty fish, and nuts.

I don’t eat out at restaurants very often anymore or have my nightly glass of wine “to unwind” as frequently I used to, and that just makes it so much more of a “treat” when I do! I will admit that certain social situations can be challenging – like dinner parties or work functions. But I usually just offer to bring a compliant side and/or dessert (or just gluten- and dairy-free when off-round). This helps me feel not only like I’m helping out the host by contributing to the meal, but also relieved that I don’t have to worry whether there will be good food options for me. I’m less anxious about food and able to focus on a great visit with people I care about.

Another really incredible change that has occurred as an indirect result of Whole 30 was with my career. Because I felt so much better about myself after the first few months of dietary changes — both due to weight loss and overall improved health and feeling of well-being — I had the confidence to apply for an executive-level position in my field. I had gotten into a rut at my previous job and thought, “I’m making so many positive changes in my life right now, why not go all-out?” Today, dressed in a smart new suit several sizes down from where I was previously, I’m now happily employed in said executive role at my new company. Between my improved heath, my job, and my upcoming marriage, I’m so excited for what the future holds!

In addition to Whole 30, did you make any other healthy lifestyle changes (such as incorporating fitness, smoking cessation, etc) at the same time?

Honestly, these past 8 months have been more about Whole 30 and focusing on healthy eating off-round than anything else. I feel like I’ve done some great work, and I also feel like I still have more to do. The next hurdle for me is to incorporate regular exercise into my routine. This is tough with four kiddos and our crazy schedules, but it’s important and I know I can do it.

What message/inspiration do you have for those just starting the program?

Figure out your “why” and hold on to that throughout your round (and beyond!). Remember that it’s not just about the weight, the inches, or the pant size. This is not a “quick fix” diet. Be committed to the lifestyle changes that come along with embarking on your first round, because that’s when you truly see and feel the real changes. Off-round is when you can honestly say that you’ve taken control of your health back. You will feel lighter not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Not only can you do anything for 30 days; you can do anything you set your mind to, for as long as you need to do it. Because you’re worth it. You deserve this. There’s nothing that can stop you once you promise yourself (and your family!) a healthier future.