My friend Sarah is an unabashed foodie. A former colleague, she used to write a fabulous blog about food, restaurants, and entertaining and I loved, loved, loved reading it. (Hint, hint, Sarah!)
I left our mutual place of employment when my first child was born but thanks to social media, Sarah has remained in my life and I have been privy to gorgeous photos of her meals and parties over the past few years. Sarah has a gift for not only preparing delicious food, but infusing the whole dining experience with joy and beauty.
So, I was really excited when she announced on Facebook that she and her boyfriend had decided to do a Whole 30 challenge. Here’s why – Paleo / Primal / Whole 30, etc. … they all get a pretty bad rap in certain quarters for being “restrictive” diets. The implication of these criticisms is that to follow them, you have to make sacrifices and these sacrifices are difficult and negative.
I haven’t found this to be the case. In fact, I feel so fantastic eating Paleo and food tastes so good to me right now, that I enjoy eating today more than ever before. Paleo-ish eating has been very affirming, joyful and exciting for me.
But, I wondered, what would it be like for a real foodie? Someone who delights in the gourmet and in fine restaurants? Someone who entertains frequently? Enter Sarah.
As it turns out, Sarah is still churning out gorgeous photos of mouth-watering dishes on Facebook. She has sent me some highlights to share with you all, and I will – tomorrow. But first, I wanted to share Sarah’s words about her experience on the Whole 30 challenge.
(Note: For some reason, WordPress is not letting me caption the pics. The first is Sarah at what she calls her “heaviest.” Second is from the day before she began her Whole 30 challenge and the third is Sarah with her new fiancé, Zac, just after the end of the 30 days.)
Sarah’s Story – A Guest Post from Sarah Pearse
My story. I am a cook, an entertainer, an eater and a restaurant-lover. In 2008, after three years of full-time work, part-time graduate school, and a consulting job that kept me on the road constantly (and eating the crap that comes with that), I woke up to find that I had gained over 60 pounds since college. I was 5’8 and 236 lbs. I was tired, miserable, sluggish, and not living the life I wanted to live. With exercise and what I will call a “traditional” diet of grilled fish, rice and steamed vegetables, I was able to lose about 30 lbs. I was the queen of the 100 calorie snack, the Vitamuffin top, the packet of Splenda and the like. Counting calories was my game.
Fast forward 3 years later, and even with an active lifestyle of sports, countless miles of running and a vigilance about my diet, I had not been able to budge past the 200 pound mark. More than that, I could not shake the feeling that there must be a better way. I felt like I was in constant deprivation mode. More than that, I had developed an addiction to the scale, often weighing myself 7-8 times a day to see what certain foods would make the scale say. Working with a nutritionist (and a therapist!) at Emory, I lost 10 more pounds and started to break my scale-addiction. Still, in the process of that I developed a new fixation on the “My fitness pal” app on my phone. I was on a roller coaster – the constant feedback loop of the app or the scale was my only approval, and eating fewer calories was the only way to get that feedback.
Fast forward to today. I’m still constantly thinking that there must be a better way, and I start to read more and more about the Paleo lifestyle, the Whole Foods movement, and things like the Whole 30
. My boyfriend and I start to dabble in the one meat, two vegetables dinner combination. One day, I see a friend’s Facebook posts about the Whole 30
and I look it up and casually email it to my boyfriend with a “Do you think we could do this?” Before long, we had blocked out 30 days on our calendar, eaten a last-ditch-effort cheeseburger and started down the path.
I read [amazon_link id=”1936608898″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]It Starts With Food[/amazon_link], bought [amazon_link id=”061557226X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Well Fed [/amazon_link](the best cookbook ever) and we embarked on a wild, revealing 30 days.
During those 30 days, we eat more vegetables than both of us have probably eaten in the year before. We eat things we’ve never heard of. We experiment wildly. I approach cooking with the same gusto as before. Our meals are varied, spicy, delicious and I never once worry about a portion, or a calorie, or a pound on the scale. In the beginning, I am very irritable – I have been robbed of my granola bar/peanut-butter english muffin/cereal comfort blanket. I am missing my fro-yo, my wine and my pastry dough. My boyfriend Zac cannot believe he is allowed to eat this much meat. We start to buy all of our meat from local farmers. We’re playing tennis on Friday nights. We’re ballroom dancing twice a weekend.
I feel like we’re in some sort of commercial for a magic pill.
In the end, we lose 30 pounds as a couple (20 for him, 10 for me). Although we both strongly crave a bottle of wine, I don’t crave any grains or really any sugar. When people ask what I want as my first meal I can’t even name anything because I am so satisfied.
It has now been 30 days since those 30 days ended. In that interim, we got engaged, shared way too many bottles of champagne, and didn’t always eat the best, but for the most part, for the past 30 days, we have avoided all grains, most sugar, most soy, most corn, and we have continued to eat the highest quality proteins we can find. We are down 7 more pounds in the past 30 days, and feeling better than we ever have. My workouts are better, my recovery is better, my body has redefined itself, I never feel bloated or gassy.
I don’t always eat perfectly, but when I eat cleanly I feel so much better.
So, my story is still ongoing – life is life, but I can say that the “is there a better way” question has been answered for me, and although the proof is on the scale – it is not where I am looking for proof these days.
* * * * * * *
Thanks so much to Sarah for sharing her thoughts with us. And, tomorrow, you get the food porn. I will serve up a whole post of gorgeous photos from the meals Sarah has prepped since she embarked on this journey. You won’t want to miss it!