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Why I Did a Whole30 (and Why I Don’t Need to Do Another One Ever Again)

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As a fitness professional with 30 years of experience and more initials after my name than anyone needs, I’ve always wanted to show my clients that I had it together. I’ve never talked about my own challenges because I thought my clients would think less of me. Now, I’ve decided to share some of my struggles because I think many of you can relate to what I’ve been through. So bear with me, here…

Over the course of my 50+ years, I’ve never really had a weight problem—I was petite, athletic, and rarely had to watch what I ate. I relied solely on exercise to keep in shape, and as a former competitive gymnast and professional dancer, that was never a problem. So when my weight started to creep up a bit in my late 30s, I just figured I needed to exercise more. I did lots of cardio classes with little to no results.  Next I started running, and eventually ran a couple of half marathons. The more I exercised, the hungrier I was. With a degree in Exercise Physiology and years of experience as a fitness trainer, I should have known better, except at the time the industry didn’t know better. “Eat less and exercise more” was the mantra. If I was gaining weight, it was just because I was lazy and had no willpower. Sound familiar?

Honestly, I was a pretty bad-ass fitness machine. I could easily run a 5K in under 30 minutes. I could hold a plank for 5 minutes. I could squat to the ground on one leg and come back up (seriously, who even needs to do that?).  But I was still carrying that extra 10-15 pounds of fat on my body. I joined yet another boutique fitness studio that focused on HITT workouts and training “in the zone.” Still nothing. Every time I went to the doctor he commented on how my weight was going up, and finally I hit my own personal “oh shit” moment on the scale.

Of course, I know that the number on the scale is not the be-all measurement for health. In fact, I always weighed a lot more than most people thought because I had so much lean muscle mass. So it’s not just that I was bigger than I wanted to be, it was because so many other things were going haywire. My sweet tooth was insatiable, cravings were out of control, my energy level was down, my blood pressure AND blood sugar was up, I couldn’t sleep, and I was hurting all over. At this point it wasn’t about weight or size, it was about HEALTH and how I was feeling. As a health coach, I felt like a fraud because I couldn’t figure out my own shit. I knew I needed to make a change. It wasn’t about losing weight anymore, it was about not wanting to feel like crap anymore. 

Obviously more exercise wasn’t the answer, so I began to look at my food. A friend of mine told me about Whole30—a strategy for assessing the effects of different types of food on the body.  The program eliminated specific foods groups known to cause a variety of ailments for 30 days and then slowly re-integrated those foods to observe possible negative effects. If you ate one of the “banned” foods during the 30 days, you had to start over. This strategy was not about losing weight, it was about how food made you feel—in fact, it was against the rules to step on a scale or take measurements during the 30 days.

I decided to give it a try. For 30 days, I gave up all dairy, beans and legumes, all grains, alcohol, sugar and sugar substitutes. I also did not eat foods with MSG, carrageenan, or added sulfites. So what did I eat? For 30 days, I ate meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. 

Eliminating dairy, beans and legumes, sugar, alcohol, and grains forced me to read the labels on items like salad dressing, thus revealing crappy ingredients in the foods I had been eating daily. I kicked my sugar addiction so that naturally sweet foods like strawberries actually tasted sweet! I realized what I had been eating to feel satiated, what I ate when I was stressed, what I ate when I was upset. I cooked and prepared almost all my meals and learned how to compose meals that have the right balance of protein, carbs, and fat to keep me feeling satiated, keep my energy up for several hours, and keep my cravings in check.

At the end of the 30 days when I stepped on the scale I saw that I lost 7 ½ pounds. But that wasn’t the most important thing. My blood pressure dropped from being 135/82 to 114/70. My blood sugar was now out of the danger zone. The numbness I felt in my hands disappeared. My skin looked fabulous, I was sleeping better, and my energy levels were consistent throughout the day. 

I felt amazing and wanted more, but I also didn’t want to live this life of restriction all the time. Because quite frankly, it sucked never to be “allowed” to enjoy a slice of artisan bread with butter or some home-baked cookies with a glass of milk.  I wanted to figure out how I could continue to feel great but also enjoy those “forbidden” foods in moderation.

As many of you know, my father died in January 2019 and my naturally introverted nature wanted to retreat. Instead of putting myself “out there” by offering new classes and programs, I spent 2019 taking a variety of nutritional courses, exploring and experimenting. Unlike Whole30, I wanted to develop an eating style in which nothing was off limits and I didn’t feel deprived. I didn’t want to have to count calories, macros, or points. By drinking lots of water and eating template meals that concentrated on protein and fiber with smaller amounts of fat and starchy carbs, I found my stride, regained my swag, and never felt deprived. Starchy carbs like pasta and bread and treats like ice cream and chocolate were enjoyed in moderation. And I lost an additional 6 pounds.

I am so over beating my body up with endless, mindless exercise. While I DO love being active, I want to exercise strategically and efficiently because I’ve got better things to do than spend 2 hours in the gym every day. Finally, I love food and I don’t want to live my life never enjoying a glass of wine and a plate of cheese with a friend on a warm summer night.

I’m not alone in my story. In fact, I’m sharing this with you because I know many of you struggle with the same things I did. Perhaps you even have more pressing health issues like Type 2 Diabetes or full-blown hypertension. All the time I hear my clients talk about their frustration with wanting be healthier and feel better, but many people express concerns about how to implement real change at their age. During a recent Power Talk a client said, “Sometimes, Candace, I really question if I am able to do this, to get healthier, fitter. I’m 63 and have led a pretty inactive life.”  

Although I’m in my 50s, I will not accept that I just have to deal with crap like high blood pressure, inflammation, irritable bowels, insomnia, skin rashes, and countless other ailments just because I am of a “certain age.”  No matter what age you are, it’s never too late to improve your health, and the best way to start is with nutrition. 

 

(Source: google.com)

 

While my Whole30 was the jump-start for my journey, I never need, or quite frankly want, to ever do that again.  It took me two years and a lot of hard work to figure it out, but it doesn’t have to take you that long, and you don’t have to do a Whole 30, Keto, juice cleanse, intermittent fasting, gluten-free, sugar-free, or whatever trendy diet is in your social media feed right now.  Everything I’ve learned, experienced, and tested became the basis for Fit for Life Foodies, my 4-week online nutrition course for women 40 and up.  I did the work, and it’s my hope that other women, particularly those who’ve struggled with all the health issues that we are told are just a part of aging, can benefit from my experience.

HI, I'M CANDACE!

I am a science-based wellness coach with over 30 years of experience specializing in helping people 40+ reduce pain using corrective exercise therapy, get stronger through smart fitness programs, and increase energy and vitality through sustainable nutrition.

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You’ll receive exclusive, high-quality insights and tools about nutrition, exercise therapy, fitness, and mindset from me delivered to your Inbox. Plus, you’ll be the first to know about my classes and programs. It’s completely free, and of course you can opt-out at any time.

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