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Autoimmune and Chronic Illness with Whole30

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Motivated by health issues and chronic pain, Whole30 Coach Theresa Newman found healing, freedom from pain, and a renewed sense of energy through Whole30. As a part of our continuing Whole30 Coach blog spotlight, she shares with Model Meals just how much her decision to shift to a Whole30 lifestyle has paid off both physically and mentally. If you’ve ever struggled with chronic illness, pain, or simply not feeling your best, read on to see what helped Theresa overcome these obstacles and transform her relationship with food.


Share a little about your background and what got you interested in Whole30 and then becoming a coach.

I started having health issues in my early 40’s. Vitiligo started popping up on my body, joint pain, muscle aches and an overall feeling of malaise set in. This chronic pain led me to feeling depressed, which led to more pain and the cycle kept repeating itself. Some days I just laid in bed and cried. I felt like my life was over before I was 50.

I went to the best Rheumatologists in the state and all of my bloodwork came back normal. I was tested for Lymes, Lupus, and a host of other diseases but since nothing came back positive I was told I had Fibromyalgia. I always felt like I was crazy because people told me “I looked good” yet I was suffering in silence.

I had tried a gluten free diet but didn’t have any major life changes. Some people at my church were doing the Whole30 and after researching it I thought I would see if it could help my pain levels.

Did you have any reservations about trying Whole30 before you did your first round?

Oh my gosh, I was petrified! I love to bake and it is comforting to me so that was my biggest fear. Letting go of baking for 30 days, and the sweet tooth that goes along with it were my biggest fears. I always loved to cook so I was not especially afraid of meal prep or batch cooking. It was definitely living without any sugar that freaked me out.

What did you notice during/after your first Whole30?

During my first round of Whole30 I discovered that what I thought was a somewhat “healthy” diet was actually not that healthy after I began reading labels. Dextrose and soy are in almost everything= even tea bags! Also, the sugar detox was very difficult- I’m not going to lie. But for me it was a wake up call as to how much sugar I had in my body. Once I got through that part the brain clarity was AMAZING. I’ve never felt like that in my life. It felt like I was on a drug I had so much energy and my brain was firing on all cylinders. There was also a calm and a peace that came over me. It all felt fantastic.

Model Meals Blog | Whole30 Coach - Theresa Newman

You mentioned the physical benefits you experienced with Whole30. Did you notice any other benefits during/after Whole30?

Oh yes! I discovered that I had a very bad habit of having something “sweet” every day with my afternoon tea. I always baked and had a tray of cookies or brownies on the counter at all times. I thought I was being a “good mom”. I did not bake for those 30 days and kept apologizing to my children. They said “Mom, we know you love us and you don’t need to bake to show us that” Because my Mom worked full time when I was growing up the only time we spent together was on the weekends baking. To me, baking equals love. Thankfully this cycle was broken after I went through those 30 days. I no longer associate expressions of love with food.

What are some things you wish you knew about Autoimmune/Chronic Illness before Whole30?

I wish I knew that I could drastically change my pain levels if I changed what I ate. I never wanted to go on medications, though they were always offered to me. I’m so happy that I can control my pain with my diet. I also wish I knew there was a light at the end of the very dark tunnel. People who suffer with Chronic pain are especially dear to me and I don’t think people know how to relate to them. It can be quite lonely.

Did you have any struggle with your doctor/friends/family/loved ones around your decision to try Whole30?

The only struggle was that I did it alone while feeding my husband and three children “regular “ food (pasta, rice, etc) I felt like feeding them a Whole30 diet would be depriving them. Since that first time I do not feel that way at all. There is absolutely no deprivation on Whole30. I have done three more strict rounds and my husband always looks forward to whatever I am making. I no longer feed anyone anything different than what I am eating. There is absolutely no need - the food is delicious!

Model Meals Blog | Theresa Newman and Family

What advice or wisdom would you want to share with someone who may be struggling with similar health issues?

Start with your plate. I have been to so many specialists and have been offered so many drugs. I’m not against them but you never know if changing your meals will change your health. It is the easiest and most cost effective thing to try first. One of my clients recently got off of four pain killers during her Whole30...four! I am still amazed at her story and am so thankful she trusted me and tried. Her life is forever changed and all she did was change her definition of “food”.

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

The number one thing my clients ask me is “will you cook for me?” I do not have the capacity to do this but I LOVE services like Model Meals who help people eat healthy, Whole30 compliant meals. Those who do not like to cook are very intimidated by the meal prep and planning involved with Whole30. Your service blesses so many people and I hope there will be an East Coast Model Meals in the future!

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