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Life After Whole30: Navigating Your Food Freedom

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A yo-yo dieter since age 16, Lisa spent years losing and gaining the same 10 pounds, stuck in a seemingly unending diet cycle. After learning about the Whole30 in 2014 and completing her first round, her journey to Food Freedom began. She learned the "science-y things" behind the program and pursued educating herself about the ins and outs of Whole30 during and between rounds, getting closer to her own Food Freedom each time. As a Whole30 Certified Coach, Lisa has helped countless Whole30-ers find success and define their own Food Freedom through her experience, coaching, and tried and true strategies for living a life where food is neither a punishment nor reward. Read on to find out how her journey helped her break the diet cycle and find her calling with Whole30.

Share with us your background, what got you interested in Whole30, and why you decided to become a Whole30 Certified Coach.

I had been yo-yo dieting on and off since I was 16 years old, trying all the quick-fix solutions the diet industry gets people to fall for that never really work. Most of my life was spent gaining and losing the same 10 pounds over and over again and putting my worth into the number I saw reflected back to me on the scale.  When that number fluctuated, so did my happiness and positive feelings about myself and my body. Growing up being a little overweight, I could never “see” myself as being a thin, healthy person. No matter how much weight I lost, or how my body would change for the better, I would always focus on the areas that I felt still needed improvement.  I kept looking to the models in the media as a woman’s standard for body shape, and of course, no matter what, I consistently fell short of that unattainable goal. Then, in September of 2014, a friend of mine started the Whole30 and posted pictures of all these plates full of delicious, nutrient-dense food she was eating. It piqued my interest and I decided to try it out. Whole30 changed my life by teaching me the WHY behind changing the way I eat.  I read "It Starts With Food" during my first Whole30 and the scientific facts behind the 4 Good Food Standards really spoke to my logic. After a holiday of relaxing a little too much on my newfound habits, I did another Whole30 in January 2015. I had experienced such success from the meal plan that I had created for myself and wanted to share it, so I hosted a Whole30 Facebook group for 50 of my friends & family who decided to join me. I used what I learned to continue eating the foods that were best for my body. When I attended a book signing for the Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook in January 2018, where I met Melissa Hartwig and heard about the new coaching program, I knew right away that this was a path I was meant to pursue.  I waited until life slowed down a bit during the summer and dug my heels into doing all I needed to do to become a Whole30 Certified Coach. I completed a third round of Whole30 in June 2018, and with the introduction of “Food Freedom Forever” (which didn’t exist during my last two rounds), for the first time in my life I feel like I have the resources to finally have control over my food and not the other way around. I’ve learned how to calm my ‘Sugar Dragon,’ curb my cravings and to not use food as punishment or reward. It brings me joy to help others experience the same benefits and lifelong change that I have found in the Whole30 so they can lead healthier lives.


I think that so many of us can relate to that quick-fix mentality and wanting a fast solution. How is Whole30 different in this way?

When I did Whole30 the first time, I knew I was dealing with more than just a run-of-the-mill ‘diet’ when I read that one of the rules was to NOT step on the scale for 30 days.  This was really hard for me! I put so much clout in that number and how was I going to measure my progress? For the first time in my life, I paid attention to the INSIDE health of my body and my physiological, psychological and emotional connection to food.  While the scale did show I had lost weight at the end of those 30 days, Whole30 taught me that my overall health and how the foods I eat affect my body was way more important than just a number. Because I couldn’t weigh myself, I was forced to look at and celebrate what we call “non-scale victories”:  stuff like less bloating, consistent energy, clearer skin, better digestion, and more restful sleep. I also love that the 3-step Food Freedom Plan (which you follow after the Whole30 is over) acknowledges that we’re human, are bound to fall off track at some point and then gives us the tools to get back on.  You come to realize that the reset itself is just a phase of your progress, not a destination. You do a Whole30, reintroduce the foods, and then live in your Food Freedom until you notice that you aren’t making mindful choices and then return to the reset, rinse and repeat. It is a complete lifestyle change!

Lisa, before finding Whole30

You mentioned that you read It Starts With Food and Food Freedom Forever. How did taking an active approach to educating yourself about Whole30 help you be successful?

Reading the books helped the program to make sense.  It was so much easier to follow the rules because I understood why they were beneficial.   It Starts With Food opened my eyes as to how some of the foods I was consuming could have a harmful effect on my hormones and gut health.  It also provided additional strategies to help with getting my hormones back in balance and what other steps I could take to improve my health that people may not know unless they read the book or work with a Whole30 Coach.   Food Freedom Forever exposed my emotional connection to food and gave me the tools to create a sense of awareness and mindfulness when making “worth it” choices regarding what I ate. It provided short and long-term strategies with concrete actions I could implement into my life to make the new changes stick.  In my own experience, I truly believe that reading the books enhances the internalization of what you learn from the program and increases your chances for long-term success.


So many “diets” fail; we know that. What can you share about Whole30 that has helped this lifestyle be sustainable for you?

While most diets focus purely on weight loss, Whole30 focuses on the bigger picture of your health while also addressing your habits and relationship with food.  In the past, when I would take on a ‘diet’, I would just grin and bear it. I usually had a particular goal in mind, like a certain number of pounds I wanted to lose, and followed the rules of the diet as a means to an end.  When that goal was over, and the rules weren’t in place anymore, there was nothing stopping me from going back to my old habits. Whole30 actually altered my physiology by resetting my hormones and my health. This gave me the ability to change my food-seeking behavior and alleviate my cravings. The reintroduction process taught me which foods were the cause of undesirable reactions in my body (like gas, bloating, acne, etc.), and that knowledge allowed me to craft the perfect diet for me that could help me feel my absolute best.  I actually had a reason to avoid foods that caused my body distress because now I knew how great I could feel when I removed those foods from my diet. With each round of Whole30 that I do, I am constantly making new connections about how my body reacts to certain foods and implementing changes that improve my overall health. This continual process of improvement never ends because my goal isn’t tied to a number, but to the greater health of my body.

Finding her own Food Freedom through Whole30 helped Lisa realize her passions

Sometimes we can slip back into old, destructive food behaviors after our “diet” is over, or once we reach that dress size/special event/vacation, etc. What coaching advice can you share that can help with sticking to Whole30 habits?  

The best advice I can share is that after the Whole30, accept that slipping is going to be part of the process and give yourself some grace.  That being said, you also have to give yourself permission to go back to the reset when you need to. A lot of times I see clients have a difficult time returning to the reset because they feel like they ‘failed’ and should be able to live in their Food Freedom longer without needing the black and white rules of the Whole30 to keep them on track.  They aren’t taking the time to acknowledge that those habits they had before the Whole30 have been in place for decades and are extremely hard to break. One round of Whole30 isn’t going to be able to erase that in one month. It takes subsequent rounds and continual practice to be successful. Food Freedom is a journey that doesn’t always look perfect and sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back.  It is a constant battle to stay present and mindful of what we eat, but it is a fight worth fighting that leads us to have a much healthier relationship with food in the long run if we keep at it.


Let’s talk Food Freedom. What is it to you and how do you describe it to someone who has never heard that term before?  

Melissa Hartwig summed up Food Freedom in a few sentences and it is my favorite definition.  I actually have it as the cover picture of my FindingFoodFreedom group on Facebook. In it, she says that “Food Freedom is feeling in control of your food, instead of food controlling you.  It is about indulging when it’s worth it, passing when it isn’t and never feeling guilt or shame for doing either. “There is so much truth in this because how often do we bring morality into our food choices?  Look at even the language we use: We ate ____ and so we were “good” today, or we indulged in ____, so we were “bad”. We shouldn’t be judging ourselves based on what we put on our plate, but we tend to because when we mindlessly hoover food into our mouth without thinking about it, we feel guilty and out of control.  Doing a Whole30 and proper reintroduction gives us the knowledge we need to make informed decisions about what we choose to eat and when we feel it’s worth it to indulge. It unlocks the power of mindfulness and brings awareness into our eating habits. If we know how food affects us, we make choices fully knowing and accepting the consequences that come with them.  How you can you feel guilt, shame or otherwise for a choice you made with intention? The answer is, you can’t. This is food freedom.


Lisa finds that regularly prepping meals makes eating healthier easy

What have you or your coaching clients found to be the best tools to help find Food Freedom after a Whole30 round?  

Food Freedom is a habit that requires practice to make it stick.  Before my clients finish working with me, I like to give them the “Guide to Off-Roading” found in the Whole30 downloads, which is basically a flow chart that helps you through the thought process of deciding whether or not a food is “worth it.” It may seem tedious at first, but it gets you in the mindset of asking those questions and staying in the moment with your food choices.  Eventually, you begin to do this automatically and it becomes a part of what you do when confronted with food without you even having to think about it. Also, accountability is key, either to yourself or someone else, so you can recognize when you are starting to slip back into your old bad habits or aren’t being mindful. I’ll often contact my clients long after their Whole30 is over and ask them how their Food Freedom is going, and if they feel they are at a point that doing another reset is necessary.  For someone who doesn’t have a coach or other person in their life that can ask those important questions, it helps to be connected to the Whole30 community. When you follow the community on Instagram or Facebook or Whole30 Certified Coaches, you get those reminders about what living in Food Freedom looks like popping up in your feed constantly. You may then feel inspired to join in when the Whole30 does a community-wide reset in January or September. I actually find it extremely helpful for my own Food Freedom to just commit to doing a reset a few times a year.  It gets me in the right frame of mind and I’m able to nip some bad habits that may have creeped in without me noticing. The goal is that over time, you will eventually have to return to the Whole30 less and less and to live in your Food Freedom longer in between.


Is there anything else that you’d like to share with the Model Meals/Whole30 community?  

I just want to say that I am grateful to be doing what I’m doing as a coach, by giving people the tools to achieve greater health through the Whole30.  Model Meals is such an excellent service for people who need the convenience of pre-prepared meals, and it is fantastic that there are such ways to make the Whole30 easier out there for my clients.  Thank you for letting me share my story on your blog today.


Lastly, please tell us where we can find you online and on social media!

Visit my website, www.totalbodyback.com,  for my blog, recipes and more.


Check out my YouTube channel, Finding Food Freedom, for hints on how to use the weekend to prepare for Whole30 success during the week.


Join my FindingFoodFreedom page on Facebook to learn how to implement Food Freedom strategies into your own life.


Follow me on Instagram @finding_food_freedom

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