In short, I am a...
- Wife/mother to my 5 favorite people
- Whole30 fanatic and certified coach
- Avid walker
- Melissa Hartwig groupie
- Chai tea/LaCroix drinker
- Wannabe yogi
- Occasional binge eater
- Truth teller
- Meditation newbie
- Lover of "good enough"
- Food freedom seeker
- Amateur home chef
- Doer of the next right thing
- Beloved Child of God
And because this is so fun that I don't want to stop...
- Enormously kind
- Sunday School teacher
- Cherished daughter
- Sister to 3 sisters
- Introvert who is terrified of small talk
- Soft rock listener
- Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter mega fan
- Stretchy pants wearer
- Believer in the power of a smile
- Home decor enthusiast
I had a very happy and normal childhood. I was active and healthy and ate junk food with the best of them, but only because it tasted good. It wasn’t until high school that I started eating for comfort and feeling shame about it, though of course I was nowhere near self-aware enough to know what was going on. I remember very distinctly heading home from a night out with friends and driving through Burger King to get a Whopper meal; this became a pretty regular occurrence. I hoped no one saw me in the drive through, and I hoped no one came downstairs to see me eating it at home. It felt shameful and different, and now I know that was because I was eating not because I was hungry or just because it tasted good, but because I was sad. I was making some poor teenaged choices and using food to try to get lost for a moment.
During college I put on the requisite 15 pounds, but I don’t recall any really bingey or dysfunctional behavior with food. I slimmed down a couple times by doing Weight Watchers, but it was always because I was going to be in a wedding or something...nothing long term. Then I got a teaching job and got married and had a pretty good healthy-ish eating/exercise routine going on. My 25 year old self was doing ok:-)
After I had my first son at 27 I became a stay at home mom, and with that came loneliness and boredom and a loss of self and purpose and routine, though of course I didn’t realize any of that at the time, either. 2 more children came, and with a lasting weight gain of 15 pounds per child, I was suddenly 45 pounds heavier than I had been before children. I was not experiencing any health problems aside from the eczema that I’d had since high school, but I was pretty uncomfortable and increasingly relying on bingeyness as an “escape.”
When my third child was almost 2 years old, I came across the Whole30 for the first time. I read the rules, and I knew immediately that it was what I needed. I dove right in to the program that very day and started reading It Starts With Food. I distinctly remember driving by QuikTrip on Day 11 and not feeling the pull for a long-john; it was a wonder. It wasn’t even very hard, which I now know was because my brain was so occupied with the rules that it didn’t have enough energy for a revolt. I had great results, and my sister, parents, and friends jumped on board too. I Whole30ed for about 45 days before I decided to eat some Oreos, and there went the chance for a reintroduction. For about 6 months after that I kept up with most of my new healthy habits, but I could never go longer than a week without a little binge, and I was doing no mental/emotional work at all. I ended up losing about 30 pounds, and then…
We moved, Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas came along, and I got pregnant with my 4th child. I haven’t yet mentioned that I get Hyperemesis Gravidarum with each of my pregnancies, which for me means that I’m hooked up to a permanent anti-nausea IV, barely leave bed for 10 weeks, and can only eat bagels. Good times. Once I got to feeling better I tried to get back on the Whole30 train, but when I would inevitably eat the chips on Day 5, I’d go ahead and binge for 2 weeks, only to do it all over again the next time. This cycle went on for 3 years, and I thought I was CRAZY.
Besides feeling like a whack job for not being able to control myself with food, I was also once again 50 pounds heavier than I was before children. Throughout these 3 years I experienced borderline high blood pressure, debilitating foot pain, gouty toe, chronic yeast infections, and painfully inflamed joints. The yo-yo of Whole30 for a week, binge for a week, and on and on did a number on my body, and it didn’t feel great emotionally either. I was always 100% certain that I was loved, supported, and worthy of being healthy; I just couldn’t make it happen. This was very frustrating as I continued to be deeply connected to the Whole30 community through social media and the awesome books that Melissa kept writing and recommending. I knew what to do, so what was going on?!?!
On March 1st of 2017 I made a decision that would blow up my life in an unexpected and awesome way. I had read Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better Than Before, and learned that I am an Obliger and Abstainer. As an Obliger I readily meet the expectations of others but have a hard time meeting expectations that I place on myself. As an Abstainer it is exponentially easier for me to just not eat the cookie at all than it is to stop after I’ve eaten one. Armed with this information, I committed to a Lenten Whole46. I announced my plan on Facebook and began posting all of my meals for accountability. I also instituted a strict no snacking rule, which would turn out to be the key to it all for me.
I was finally successful in meeting my goals, felt great, and enjoyed sharing my meals and experiences so much that I decided to open a public Facebook page, The Purse Whisperer. I was not magically “cured,” and I’m still not, but I found a formula that works for me when I’m willing to implement it: accountability + no snacking. I also had a lightbulb moment, which was probably a result of all the wonderful work of others that I had been reading, that it had been my brain, not “me,” that was sabotaging me all those years. I had been unaware that I had the ability to recognize a craving as something that my brain wanted, the rush of feel-good hormones, instead of thinking of it as something “I” wanted. “I” wanted to reset my health, habits, and relationship with food, and when I realized that my brain and I were at odds, I was able to start working on that mindfulness.
Throughout the rest of the year I did a couple more Whole30s, finally did reintroductions, and encouraged my friends online. When the Whole30 Certified Coaching Program opened up for the first time, I applied, was accepted, and ultimately became a Certified Coach, though I wasn’t sure what that would mean for me at the time. I needed to do a special project for the Whole30 community as part of the certification process, and I decided to make a new Facebook page dedicated to recipes using ingredients from only Aldi and Walmart. I occasionally felt less-than because I wasn’t able to shop at Whole Foods or afford all of the special Whole30 Approved products, and I wanted to be a voice for people like me. True Story…
The morning that I found out I could move on to the special project track, I freaked out. ALDI? REALLY? This was what I had to offer the community? I felt small and pathetic and silly. And then, I kid you not, THAT DAY, Melissa Hartwig wrote on her Instagram feed about how she wanted the Whole30 community to become more inclusive. About how it’s not enough to just invite people to the party; we need to ask them to DANCE. And I thought, yes, that’s it. A Whole Foods budget and special products are not pre-requisites for a delicious, kick a$$ Whole30, and I wanted people to know it. So I DM’d Melissa and told her my plan, and she was genuinely so excited about it. I ended up making that FB recipe page, as well as starting Purse Whisperer and Aldi/Walmart recipes feeds on Instagram. Through a combination of fortunate timing, good luck, steady work, and the support of Melissa and the Whole30 team, I now have thousands of new online friends to go through it all with.
Today, exactly one year after beginning that Lenten Whole46, I have coached my first group of women through a Whole30, which was a joy. I am planning for my next group. I am exploring Food Freedom with my community in a way that I didn’t realize was possible...turns out there actually is middle ground between Whole30ing and bingeing. I am practicing mindfulness and meditation, which is neither weird nor scary; it’s just being present in the moment and noticing cravings, thoughts, feelings, and emotions as they arise in me, and creating some space to respond to them instead of instinctively react. I am very active instead of sedentary. My health problems have resolved and I’ve lost 40 pounds. I know that no matter how many times I jump in the binge hole, I’ll climb out and keep doing the work. I’m hopeful and happy and looking forward to a lifetime of continuing to learn about myself.
At the Whole30 Coaches Summit in Utah this summer, I was named the first ever Whole30 Certified Coach of the Year. I heard my hero, Melissa Hartwig, say that I'm valuable, that my voice matters, and that I'm enough just the way I am. I never dreamed of any of this, so I can't even say it was a dream come true. What it is is validation that what I have to say and contribute to this community is meaningful, and that gives me so much motivation for going forward. I'm so incredibly honored.
Ironically, or maybe not ironically at all because I'm just like everyone else, I have my first ever appointment with a counselor this week. My work with the Whole30 and Food Freedom has gotten me a good way down the road, but I've come to the point where I've gotten as far as I can on my own. It's time to work with a professional who can ask the questions that I just won't ask myself and who will help me dig for the answers underneath it all. I'm looking forward to the work and hope and healing to come.