Tuesday, September 4, 2018

My Husband's Whole30 Journey

I'm so blessed that my husband and I are team members in everything we do.  When we decided to give Whole30 a try back in 2015, we did it together.  His health was more in trouble than mine and it completely changed both of our lives in profound ways that we didn't see coming.  He was so nice to write his story to share with you.  Here's Dustin's story:

It all began on September 22, 2015.  That was the turning point in my life with regard to my health and fitness.  Leading up to this date, I had been suffering from a snowballing reaction of negative health and life events that stemmed from being put on shift work in 2009.  For about two and a half years I was forced to work rotating shifts, usually 2 weeks on nights, 1 week on afternoons, and 1 week on days, and this rotation continued monthly for about 2.5 years.  During this period from 2009-2012 I developed severe insomnia, and in an attempt to fight the insomnia used every sleep aid/prescription possible.  As a side effect to using these prescription sleep aids, I developed depression and hopelessness.  They only helped me fall asleep, but never left me rested.  I would wake up after 4-5 hours and never fall back asleep and it was impossible for me to ever take a nap.  I eventually swore off any prescription or over the counter sleep aids due to their effect on my mental health, but instead turned to alcohol to help me sleep.  This led to further health deterioration.  I was gaining weight, irritable all the time, all of my joints hurt, my blood pressure was increasing, and I was not enjoying life or my children.  

In 2012 I was able to move back to 1st shift permanently, but my insomnia was so bad that I could not adapt.  I started trying to run and workout again to reset my mind and body, but I had built up such sleep debt and bad sleep habits that I could not overcome them by myself.  I turned to hypnosis and acupuncture to try to reprogram my brain.  Finally the acupuncture gave me some results and I was able begin to shut my brain off and rest for a few days after acupuncture.  I continued getting acupuncture for a year or so along with working out, but I still was relying on alcohol to help relax me more nights than not.  From 2012-2015 my sleep habits improved very slowly, but never fully recovered.  I was still in a dead end job and was not able to lose weight or get rid of my joint pains even though I thought I was eating healthy and I was working out. 
The last straw for me to take action was in the summer of 2015.  I had finally joined a gym, started lifting and running on a fairly regular basis, but was not fast and not improving.  Then, I tweaked my back doing yard work and was in excruciating pain.  I dealt with increasing pain for 2 months or so.  I first went to a chiropractor, which only made the issue worse.  Then I went to Ortho Indy, and X-rays showed a bulging disc that was pressing on a nerve root.  Their advice: do not run and do not lift weights standing up.  As it turns out, this bulging disk happened due to a pre-existing injury from when I was 11 years old when I fractured my back(a “pars fracture”).  It left me with a condition called spondylolisthesis.   The spark that ignited the fire in me was the doctor’s orders: “do not run and do not lift weights standing up”. 
Here I was at 34 years old and 200 lbs., I drank alcohol nearly every day to help me sleep, my joints hurt all of the time, I could not lose weight or improve on my fitness even when working out, my back was in excruciating pain, and the doctor basically told me I’m screwed and don’t work out.  That was NOT an option!
After consulting with my brother who had completed several rounds of Whole30, Emily and I decided to give it a try in hopes of reducing some of the inflammation in my back to reduce some of the pain and to lose a little weight.  We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and what a dramatic change it would bring to our lives.  So, with a print out of the Whole30 program rules and a guide of what to eat and what not to eat, we started our first round of Whole30 on September 22, 2015. 
The first round was very difficult.  Basically all of the comfort foods that we relied on were ripped out from under us.  I was no longer able to rely on my crutch, alcohol, to help me sleep.  I had headaches when working out for nearly 3 weeks during that first round.  We both went through sugar detox from the insane amount of sugar that our previous diet consisted of in processed foods.  Initially, we had no idea how or what to eat and how to eat out.  After the first 20 days or so, things finally began to click.  We figured out how to meal prep, what foods would leave us satisfied, and by the end of the 30 days we felt amazing.  During that first round I lost 14 lbs.  I finally was sleeping unaided and feeling rested.  My joints were no longer hurting and my back pain was finally bearable, but probably the most important effect was that I had broken my habit with alcohol and had a positive mindset and felt more mentally alert and clear than I had in years!
With the weight falling off and my joints no longer hurting, running and lifting became easier.  I started getting faster and didn’t want to stop.  I enjoyed the way I was eating and kept following the Whole30 guidelines pretty much all of the time.  As the weeks and months went by, the weight kept falling off and I kept feeling better and better.   Around 6 months after our first round, I was down an astounding 40 lbs. and was starting to have a re-awakening of my competitive side.  I registered for my first 5k race in 8 year, which I ran a 19:15 at the Finish Line 5K!  That just made me hungry for more and I started setting goals to see how fast and how hard I could push myself.  

Also during this time, with a refreshed outlook on life and a positive mindset, I was able ditch my dead end job and move into a much better position at my company that is extremely rewarding and provides room for growth.  I no longer experience the stress that my old position put on me and I am in a position that I never would have dreamed possible before. 
Fast-forward to now, it’s been nearly 3 years since my first round of Whole30 and my life has been completely revitalized.  I still stick to the Whole30 guidelines for the vast majority of the time, making small exceptions here and there for treats.  I ended up having spine fusion surgery at the end of 2017 which permanently fixed my back issues and I was able to recovery very quickly.  I am down 50+ lbs. from where I started and am in the absolute best shape of my life.  I started running Spartan races in 2016, but got very competitive this year, qualifying for the Spartan World Championships this September.  I sleep very well every night.  I have a great job that I look forward to going to every day.  My joints no longer hurt and I rarely get sick.  I have not had a drop of alcohol in 21 months!  I love life, my kids, and am always positive.  These are just the highlights of what has happened, but the list of positive things that have transpired in my life due to Whole30 could go on and on!

Thanks to Whole30, I was able to completely break all of the old bad habits I had with food and alcohol, which allowed my mind and body to heal and me to become the person I am today.  As a way to pass on our success and show just how much a simple change in diet can do, we have introduced numerous family, friends, and co-workers to Whole30 over the past 3 years.  Just recently, Emily has worked very hard to become a Whole30 certified coach in hopes of reaching a larger audience in order to help people break bad habits and learn to live their life to the fullest starting with a healthy diet!

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