May 14, 2015

The Whole30 and Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Sandena’s Story

The Whole30 and Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Sandena’s Story

Meet Sandena Neely: founder of Watch Your Mouth Bahamas, dynamic personality, and incredible Whole30 success story turned Whole30 ambassador in her local community. Through the Whole30, Sandena discovered the foods that triggered her hidradenitis suppurativa (also known as acne inversa; a painful, debilitating, inflammatory skin condition), and reclaimed  her health, self-confidence, and active lifestyle. Now, she’s coaching others through the process of changing their lives through the food on their plates, using the Whole30 as her foundation.

Whole30 co-creator Melissa Urban had the pleasure of meeting Sandena during her Whole30 presentation at the College of the Bahamas in February 2015, and got to hear her incredible story firsthand.

Sandena’s Story

I came to the Whole30 and to the wonderful world of health coaching with the support and encouragement of a community of people, an entire village; a wide and diverse cross-section of people over a number of years.

In the late 1990s I became a gym rat and loved to work out. My trainer, Mr. Wellington ‘Cat’ Sears, made sure that I worked as hard as I could to whip my body into shape. I weighed about 110 pounds,  my stomach was as flat as a washboard, and I had a Coca-Cola bottle shape.  Cat, however, would always admonish me to ‘watch my mouth.’ At first I thought he meant that I should not be so sharp-tongued, but he would explain to me time and time again that I should always watch what I eat, no matter the fact that I was small and seemingly in shape.

In the year 2000, my period of health challenges began. I would undergo 11 surgical procedures before 2013.  In 2005, a surgeon told my then-fiance Jevon that he’d have to be a strong man to be with me because all the surgeon could foresee at that time was a strict regimen of surgeries and procedures due to the aggressive nature of my then-undiagnosed condition.

Fast forward to 2011, and after many more surgical procedures and health problems, I was at my wits end. I had a heart-to-heart conversation with my brother-in-law, Dr. John Neely, about the struggles I had with chronic and recurrent pilonidal abscesses. He finally provided me with a much-needed diagnosis (hidradenitis suppurativa). Armed with that knowledge, I was determined to fight: I sought medical attention and went to all the best dermatologists and surgeons, never once considering that what I was eating might be contributing to my condition. But my husband’s constant still small voice, over the years, always told me that I should change my diet.


Near the end of 2013, I was in my worst state yet. The abcesses had become a part of my life. I was 2 BMP points away from ‘morbidly obese.’ I suffered from chronic fatigue, depression, and a host of uncomfortable, debilitating symptoms.s

This is Where It Gets Good

A blogger I follow had signed up with an online health challenge, a key nutritional aspect of which was to follow the Whole30 program. She posted a blog article in February 2014, which included a picture of her breakfast: scrambled eggs and sweet potatoes with spinach, onions, and green peppers, with half of a grapefruit on the side.  My eyes lit up; I could not believe that something so simple was a ‘diet’ meal.  I did intensive research on the Whole30 program, shortly thereafter I decided to give it a try.

I sat quietly at my desk on the morning of March 18, 2014,  and made the decision to commit to a Whole30.


Since that day my life has been changed in the most amazing ways possible.  I not only lost 43 pounds and 4 dress sizes by the end of July 2014, I also experienced a turnaround in a range of lifelong digestive issues, my skin became clearer, my mood shifted, and I experienced my most restful and restorative sleep in 10 years!

The most amazing part of my transformation though, is that I was no longer plagued with the abscesses. I was able to, through the Whole30, identify the trigger foods that were feeding my condition and wreaking havoc on my body.  So you see, this program is about so much more than weight loss.


After my very first Whole30, a few friends embarked upon their respective Whole30 journeys and I happily guided them along the way. One thing led to another, and by September of 2014 I began a course of study for my Health Coaching Certification with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I chose as my company’s name the very words that my former trainer, Cat, began telling me years ago: Watch Your Mouth. As a health coach, I offer the Whole30 program as a jump start to a healthy lifestyle, and I look forward to spreading the Good Food Word.

Mohandas Ghandi, commonly known as the Mahatma, spoke these profound words:  ‘Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.’

Through the Whole30, I discovered that we put into our mouth is equally as important as what comes out.

Are you a Whole30 success story?  Share your story with us in the comments, on social media, or in an email to [email protected].

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