Whole30® Success Story: Emily M.

Emily submitted her story to us through email, and we were so moved by her results that we just had to share it with the community. She has graciously allowed us to do just that. So without further ado…

My Whole30® Discovery

Since I was 2 years old, I have suffered from chronic asthma.  This meant hospital admissions, terrifying attacks, slavery to inhalers, antibiotics and steroids. Running a block would result in panicked gasping, red face, burning lungs and a feeling of defeat. Not being able to join in with my friends with strenuous exercise made me feel like a failure and a bit pathetic.

My weight never was really an issue for me, until I moved down to Arizona – from a life of walking everywhere and eating lots of fish, to moving to the desert, where everyone drove and there was all this awesome new Mexican food! I quickly started piling on the pounds and experiencing depression for the first time in my life. Over the next 13 years I’ve gone down, then back up so many times, and each time was a big struggle, threaded with feeling hungry and guilty all the time. Then came the massive sense of failure when the weight crept back on once I started eating “normally” again.

Last August, I saw a documentary about intermittent fasting and tried it out. Eventually I started reading stuff by Gary Taubes and kept coming across sites that talked about the caveman diet. I “Stumbled Upon” Mark’s Daily Apple and through him found the Whole9 and Whole30.

I’m a chef (pastry chef, but shhhh!) and being on my feet all day, running around, beating, whisking, carrying are important! I’d given up grains and sugar after Christmas (thanks to Mark Sisson and Gary Taubes) but was still munching on beans, cheese and PLENTY of wine. In fact, over the past ten years, my relationship with alcohol was definitely NOT under my control any more. I could polish a bottle of Jack off in two nights, a bottle of wine in an evening, no problem. I knew I needed to cut back, but couldn’t seem to.

But the Whole30 kept poking me in the back of my mind….

On the morning of January 11th, I was at work and I just decided. I threw down my apron, grabbed my wallet and went in the office to sign up. I text messaged my Mum and told her “Google the Whole30. We start tomorrow!” She’d been along the ride with everything else so far and had lost a lot of weight, and I think she thought “it’s only a month right?”

I got home and went into my pantry. Filled two big bags with pastas, rices, beans, sweet sauces, vegetable oil and gave them away.  I was fully committed.

The ways in which my health has improved since are so numerous, it’s like I’m discovering new ones improvements day:

  • I’m no longer using ANY asthma medication. AT ALL. That alone is miraculous.
  • I’m off antidepressants after three years.
  • I’m no longer taking the Ditropan for overheating/hyperhidrosis that I was taking for 13 years
  • I no longer rely on sleep aids every night.
  • My joints don’t ache any more, at ALL.
  • I wake up before my alarm every morning and have boundless energy all day.
  • The skin all over my body is soft and dewy. Even on the soles of my feet and I’m on them ALL DAY.
  • I’m hardly ever hungry and when I eat I get a clear “Ok, you’re full now, you can stop” message and don’t feel the need to “clean my plate because it’s just so good!” (Hello Spaghetti Bolognese!)
  • I have totally regular bowels, never constipated any more (as I was sometimes while fasting).
  • I never feel bloated or so full I can’t sleep.
  • I have stopped walking into rooms and forgetting why I was there. I did that at work ALL the time. I’d walk into the pantry, the pot store, the fridge or freezer and just stand there staring blankly.

I just feel in control of my health, my body, and my future.

I thought I’d never have children because I was always so tired and lethargic (and tipsy) but now my husband and I are seriously talking about trying and I’m excited as hell. I run up the five flights of stairs at work every morning, I do body weight exercises and yoga when I feel like it (which is often these days) and my hubs and I start ballroom and latin classes in two weeks. I’ve even signed up for a burlesque dancing class this summer. I’ll be honest. I started all of this because of my weight, but that has lost significance entirely when compared to the extraordinary, miraculous health benefits.

I went to see my doc last week about coming off my meds and she was stunned when she saw me. I told her it’s like I’ve found a magic pill. I’m in control now. You said you would change my life, but I didn’t understand what that meant. There’s no doubt in my mind that this diet is sustainable for me and no longer takes more than a gram of willpower to maintain, as I’m so easily satisfied with the yummy food I get to eat.

A bazillion thank-you’s from the bottom of my heart.

Emily M.


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  1. Shannon says

    My 7yo son was just diagnosed with asthma and I have been toying with this for him. I’m still struggling to make it work for me (second Whole30, half way through) and don’t feel I have all the resources/resolve I need to keep him on course for the long haul. But it needs to happen. Lucky for us he seems to have attacks only in the fall/winter (not exercise induced) so I have some time to change things gradually before next September.

    Did your mom stick with it? It made me get teary to read ‘Google Whole30. We start tomorrow.’ You must be close to your mom. Does your husband eat this way also? My family doesn’t and that makes it quite a bit more of a challenge.

    And the after photo of you is truly beautiful!


  2. Emily Martin says

    Hiya Shannon,

    I would honestly waste not a second getting your son on the Whole 30 and you haven’t read It Starts With Food yet, then DO, because it explains the WHY. I have a friend who has ended her dependence on inhalers just by dropping grains. It seems that my sensitivity to grains runs through my Dad’s side of the family, as he and my brother suffer similarly, but my mother doesn’t. My 17-year-old stepson and husband are one week into their 30 and I am still largely compliant, except now I do eat a little cheese. My Mum lives with me and eats the same as me, except she is now back on bread (she won’t give up toast and Marmite!) and has the odd bit of cake. She’s got hypothyroidism and was pre-diabetic before going paleo, but hasn’t had new bloods done yet. One BIG change for her though is that her hair is growing in thicker and with fewer greys!

    You will almost certainly encounter resistance when you cold-turkey (best way to do it IMHO) your son, but keep insisting that it’s because you love him and hate his asthma! After a couple of weeks, he won’t even be thinking about cereal for breakfast when you’re giving him scrambled eggs.
    Any other adults in the house also need to understand how important their support is. I think that by week three, your son should be experiencing huge results with his asthma and probably in areas that you wouldn’t expect too, like his ability to concentrate at school, his mood, energy, sleep, etc. Hopefully those results will be enough for him to want to keep it up. It might be hard to believe, but you really DO stop craving all those hyperpalatable foods.

    The hardest part I think would be, if you son isn’t sold on the idea, is that you can’t control what he eats when he’s at school or friends’ houses. I think that by communicating to him that you’re doing this FOR him, not TO him might work best. There are some great articles on here about transitioning kids onto the Whole 30 eating plan.

    I think because I am a chef/massive foodie with good access to great food, I had a really easy time of it. Menu planning when you’re crunched for time, sleep and money can be a massive challenge and enough of a reason for many to just give up.
    The advice I gave one friend recently was that rather than just leaving out the starch (potato/rice/pasta etc), make sure you keep variety on the plate. So if with steak, you would usually have baked potato and steamed broccoli or salad, have it with steamed broccoli AND salad. Flavour those side dishes as if they’re the main events. vinagrette dressing on steamed green beans is incredible. Grilling asparagus instead of boiling it, roasting spiced florets of cauliflower, you get the picture….

    Make a list of interchangeable side dishes that you can always go-to when you’re not feeling inspired. Stick it up on your fridge door so it’s there at a glance. Some examples of things we eat with our meat or fish are:

    Broccoli, steamed, squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkled with toasted pinenuts or hazelnuts

    Sweet potato wedges tossed with ghee, sea salt and smoked paprika, baked til crispy

    Cauliflower ‘rice’ stir-fried with caramelized onions and spices (dependent upon the protein we’re eating)

    Celeriac “tabbouleh” (raw celeriac, diced and pulsed in a food processor) steamed briefly, and mixed with parsley, garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and any other chopped veggies you like

    snow or sugar snap peas sauteed with fresh mint and flaked almonds

    Parsnip hash browns (rostis)

    Roasted beets with horseradish

    Mushrooms with spinach and curry spices…..

    I could go on and on. Most of what I’m saying is covered much better in the Whole 30 emails really.

    Plan ahead, make friends with your spice cupboard and herb drawer. citrus juices are a wonderful flavour boost, as are a few cloves of roasted garlic or toasted nuts and seeds. (Chicken breast stuffed with roasted garlic and sliced, sauteed mushrooms is a pretty miraculous thing!)

    Just keep experimenting. It’s only a month. Maybe if you can get your son to agree to not cheat for the whole30, you could promise an activity as a reward? like a trip to a climbing wall or laser tag? guaranteed he’ll be in better shape for it :-)

    Definitely message me if you have any other questions. I’m brimming with menu ideas and excitement for this, so I’m more than happy to share. Mark’s Daily Apple and a few other paleo sites have good recipe ideas too. By the end of your Whole30, it will be second nature to you. I promise.

    Good luck! you’ll never look back!

    And again. It’s only one teeny, tiny little month. And it will change your life.

    And thanks so much for the lovely compliment!


  3. jill says

    This was SO inspiring to read…seriously. I am on day 4 of my first Whole 4 and have felt the struggle, but I’m so desperate to be healthy. When you said “feeling hungry and guilty all the time” I stopped. That hit so close to home for me. That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling for so long..caught in this vicious cycle of starving myself, cheating, feeling guilty, shame, and then it starts all over again. But like you, I did start this because I want to lose weight, but more than that I want to be free of this hold that food has had on my almost my entire life. And now that I have 3 little kids, I want to be free and healthy for them as well. So tired of being tired all the time!!

    Anyways, sorrt to rant. Just know that your story gave me hope today. All the menu planning, feeling frustrated when my kids don’t eat the new meals, prepping, etc has been a little exhausting. Two of them have really bad I’ve been tyring to slowly get them to eat all this new food. Not fun with a picky 2 & 3 year old! But my husband & 1 year old have LOVED all the meals, so that’s huge. Like really huge. I can’t wait until all this becomes second nature. THanks again for sharing.. you are glowing in your after picture!!!

  4. Emily Martin says

    Thanks so much Jill.

    I knew I wasn’t alone in feeling all those negative feelings of failure and guilt. What I had resigned myself to though, was never being “strong enough” or having the willpower to get myself into shape. I hadn’t even considered my health, because my problems were normal for me. how NUTS is that??

    One thing I didn’t mention above to Shannon, but should have and might be a bit early for your younger children is that years back, when I became a stepmother to a seven year old, I really struggled to get him to eat home-cooked from scratch food. He was used to Hamburger Helper, McD’s BK etc (I still give hubs a hard time about that!)
    Anyway, one day, I was making Chinese and I knew he would complain. I decided to ask him to help me make dinner. Just washing veggies, opening bottles, stirring the stuff in the wok to start with.
    And he really enjoyed the meal. The following week, he helped me with making Indian food and enjoyed that for the first time. It became a habit that not only means that he now eats EVERYTHING (except butternut squash), he’s very picky about eating quality food and at 17 regularly makes healthy meals on his own and even won a Masterchef competition at school. He actually asked about doing the Whole30 so that he could improve his concentration at school and help his acne.

    In the meantime, just don’t tell em that there’s anything different on their plate. if they’re used to broccoli or carrots with their chicken and mash, then give em carrots AND broccoli with their chicken and don’t make a big deal about it being special or healthy. My friend who is a mother of a 9, 11 and 14 year old made egg-fried cauliflower rice to go with a beef and veg stir fry and just served it. The kids did notice a difference but she just brushed it off as no biggie, and so did the kids.

    One thing I didn’t really talk much about in my letter was the massive difference in my psychological relationship with food. I do still feel a little pang of guilt or shame when I have a little chocolate or a glass of wine, but I’ve spent nearly twenty years in that cycle, so it’s not going to disappear overnight. Eliminating grains, sugar, potatoes and legumes means that the bulk of my food is veg and meat or fish, which make me so much more satisfied and so much less hungry at meal times. I also still do Intermittent fasting a couple of times a week (Don’t worry about that until after your Whole30) and it’s a million times easier since going low-carb.
    I think not having to think about eating and NOT eating all day is one of the best benefits. I still think about cooking and food relentlessly, because it’s my passion, but I’m no longer a slave to the Sugar (carb) Dragon and THAT is amazing. I’m still losing weight, only slightly more slowly, even though I have the odd treat of glass of vino and I honestly NEVER feel deprived anymore.

    Keep on keeping on. If you’ve made it to day 4, you’re doing really well. It will get easier, and by the end will be second nature, I promise. There’s a great community on here and M&D always answered my questions too. If you want recipe suggestions, let me know. I’m full of them!

    Best of luck. I have complete faith in you. Doing this on your own is one thing, but with a young family? well that makes you super-human, *Queue Rocky theme tune*

  5. says

    I have to be honest. I’m scared. Scared that I don’t care enough about myself long term to make the right choices in the short term. Emily, thank you for sharing your story and letting yourself be vulnerable for the benefit of others. I so badly want to turn my attitude around and take the best care of my body and mind.

    This past October I was taken in ambulance to the ER because I was having chest pains. Turned out my heart was fine but my anxiety and stress levels were through the roof. I felt so overwhelmed working a full-time job, being a parent to a preschooler and the one who cooks for our family, and to add to it I was and still am building a photography business. They put me on lexapro which gives me a drugged calmness and makes it harder than ever to get up in the morning. This is never where I wanted to be. I’m embarrassed and sad and I don’t ever want to be in the ER again. I couldn’t manage my workload because I couldn’t focus. I would reward myself with wine or beer and even took up cigarettes again. I’m slowly destroying my body and the irony is that I KNOW and understand how important whole food is and how evil sugar is. I don’t know how to begin to turn this all around.

  6. Emily Martin says

    Hey Meghan,

    I can’t say I know EXACTLY how you feel, because my circumstances haven’t been identical to yours, but I do know how easy it is to make self-destructive decisions when you’re feeling lower than low and exhausted. The past two years has been my hardest ever for a variety of reasons and I was only able to give up smoking about eight months ago with the help of E cigarettes. I personally wouldn’t recommend you try to give up everything at once. I actually didn’t even go cold turkey with the Whole 30 really, because I’d given up potatoes months earlier and grains and sugar for a few weeks before I decided to go the whole way. FOR SURE for me, cutting out the sugar/carbs made it a million times easier for me to stop drinking (for the 30 days. I do have a glass or two of wine once or twice a week now, but am no longer in thrall to the booze at all.)
    I’ve been on Lexapro before and I remember well how zombie-like I felt and what wonders it did for my libido (not!).
    We all “Know” that we should exercise, eat right, not smoke or drink, volunteer, help old ladies across the road yada yada yada and we’re all brilliant at flogging ourselves when we aren’t the perfect ideal of a person we think we need to be.
    It sounds to me like you are looking after your family brilliantly on top of holding down a very demanding job and dealing with some health issues that will definitely be helped by reconsidering the conventional “healthy” diet we are beaten over the head with.
    Why do we (women especially) never give ourselves a break? When you find that you are berating yourself for one of your perceived failures, stop for a second and imagine that someone is saying it to your best friend. Would it sound reasonable or ok to you? Probably not.

    The first couple of weeks are not going to be easy if you decide to do the Whole 30, but girl, you will not believe what it will do for your energy, mood and vitality.

    I would recommend that you take a week or so to really plan your menus ahead. Fill your fridge, freezer and pantry with meats, fish, fruits and veg you love. Nuts, spices, citrus, garlic and canned coconut milk and tomatoes. Planning ahead will make it so that you don’t end up going “aw fuck it” and stuffing a muffin because you’re starving and there’s nothing Whole30 at the Starbucks you stopped (for black coffee! :-) at for breakfast. Cue more feelings of failure and guilt right?….

    I have been trying lately to figure out why we feel GUILT when we ‘cheat’. I mean in any other circumstance, guilt is usually a result of something we have or haven’t done to someone else right?

    You can do it. But if you don’t feel quite ready, just start when you are. Maybe start with dropping grains and sugar for a while first? That is the hardest socially because they’re EVERYWHERE, but will probably have the biggest impact on your health and mood.

    My husband used to call me his (Liz) Lemon because there was always something going wrong with me. I didn’t realize it was all down to my diet.

    Take a quiet bath tonight and tell yourself how amazing you are at all the things you do every day and that you can turn it around right now. Cold Turkey or baby-steps are both a step in the right direction.

    You’ve got all of us here too.

    Best of luck. xx

  7. says

    Emily, thank you so much for the encouragement and the motivation. Writing it out is a sobering feeling, and each day is another chance to start over. I am so excited to come back here and share my testimony of success. I know that I am worth the care that I am capable of and you reminding me of that even got me a little choked up. It means so much to know that there’s other people out there who understand how I feel and can relate themselves.

    On another note, you and your husband make such a beautiful couple. If ever I meet you in person I would love to take your portraits. Liz Lemon, that’s funny!

    Much love,

  8. Lisa says

    I too resolved my asthma with Whole 30, segueing into paleo eating for 10 months now. Two years ago, just as I was turning 40, I got a sinus infection which turned into a cough which turned into, it was said, bronchitis. The bronchitis (with up to 5 hours straight of coughing every night!) lasted 3 months until an allergist prescribed an asthma controller medicine for me to try. It worked and slowly my lungs healed, but in its place I got a whole host of side effects – back to back colds, extreme sinus inflammation, reflux, leg cramps, bone(!) cramps… Basically the side effects to the asthma medicines (which I switched numerous times in search of one that would be okay) were literally worse than the asthma.

    Subsequently, I was desperate to figure out WHY I’d gotten sick and get to the root cause, though strangely none of my doctors were terribly interested. I’d never had a chronic condition before, so this was my first foray into medicine as more than a quick fix treatment. After a year of being quite sick, despite (and often because of) medication, a few things clicked together over the course of a couple days and I thought to give paleo a try via the Whole 30. Two weeks into the challenge, I ran out of my asthma prescription, so I let it lapse rather than get a refill. (Two weeks!) And I have stayed off them for 10 months. At this point, I still am *prone* to asthma given the wrong conditions (thick forest fire smoke last summer while vacationing did a number on me – needed 2 weeks back on inhalers. And a cold with a really bad cough in January had me using the rescue inhaler a bit) but you should have seen my pulmonologist’s reaction in the Fall when I aced a lung capacity test. The last test I had taken 6 months prior, while off my meds because of the side effects, I registered only 50%. Walking down the street was on par with sprinting. I was useless. But now – I’m back to normal and getting back into running.

    I too didn’t have any overt digestive issues, don’t suffer from seasonal allergies, and had even tested negative for all allergies via skin prick tests, but obviously I have some allergies with food. In fact I had tried no gluten and no dairy for 3 months and didn’t see a difference, so declared it proof that food was not my problem. I just hadn’t gone far enough with the eliminations in my diet, which the Whole 30 did.

    At my the last appointment with my pulmonologist he asked me how long I would do this “diet” – he had never heard of paleo, and couldn’t believe that ‘just food’ could fix me as much as it had (and he had the proof in numbers right in front of him.) I looked at him and said: forever!