February 27, 2015

The Whole30 and Transverse Myelitis: Olivia’s Story

Whole30 Tailgating recipes

We read success stories from Whole30 participants every day. Each one of them moves us, and makes us thankful for the opportunity to help so many people change their lives.  But the story from Olivia W. in the United Kingdom left us awestruck. We teared up, then got goose bumps, then teared up again, this time with joy. This story reminded us of the power each and every person has to change their life by change their life just by changing the food on their plate. Read, share, and be inspired.

Olivia’s Story

Olivia-1 In February 2007, life was good! My soon-to-be husband and I had just bought our first house together, we were both working, we had nice holidays, and loved spending time with our friends and family.  That all changed so quickly!  One day when at work I noticed the feeling in my legs was disappearing. I was a bit of a party animal at the time and put it down to too many nights out and too much dancing. The following week I was in hospital numb from the neck down. I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, a neurological condition that affects the myelin covering the spinal cord. TM I was in agony with painful pins and needles and had this horrible fatigue that I just couldn’t shift. After ten days in the hospital, I was sent home with a wheelchair and a very heavy heart.  I could see the worry and sadness in other people’s eyes as I tried to grab things or use a fork to no avail.  I had physiotherapy to help me walk, which was great, but none of the other symptoms seemed to ease. Over the past 8 years, I have spent the majority of my days putting on a brave face as I struggle to get day-to-day things done. You cannot imagine how hard it is just to put washing in a machine when you are crying with sheer exhaustion, or getting dressed when you can’t feel your fingers. I couldn’t swim with the children because it meant a whole day in bed. I would dread family holidays, as I was always left behind in the hotel needing to sleep. My children would want me to play and I’d have to make excuses. Over the years, this made me more and more depressed. I was forever having to tell myself not to end my life, thinking my family would have been better off without me slowing them all down. In September 2014, I noticed I was getting worse; struggling to get words out, falling asleep at the drop of a hat, forgetting things, and finding it really hard to get one foot in front of the other. I was referred back to my neurologist. He diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) in early October. I knew this diagnosis meant more medication, more weight gain, more depression. He gave me the impression that this would be my story for the rest of my life. Olivia-2

Enter the Whole30

As if by magic, a few days later a school friend emailed me from the States to tell me about the Whole30 program. I spent that evening looking it all up, and decided straightaway I was going to get on it. After years of all sorts of horrid drugs and therapies, I just had to try this! On October 28, 2014, my family started the plan. I cleared out my cupboards, went shopping, and then set to work. The first two weeks were pretty hard; I was exhausted and I craved sugar like an addict! But I knew I had to get over this. As soon as we had got halfway through, I knew there was no going back! Within just a few days of starting the Whole30, my chest felt a lot clearer. This was the first sign that I was feeling different.  I never thought I had a tight chest, but I was definitely finding it lighter and easier to breathe! I was thinking more clearly, I was able to walk further, and hold on….. I was feeling awake! By about Day 16 I remember waking up with a really positive feeling, I wanted to get out of bed—I felt great! I have spent about 9 years struggling to get out of bed (to the extreme), so this was a huge change. I hadn’t felt “awake” for the past 10 years. The fog had cleared! From then on I noticed all the other really significant changes to my well-being. I wasn’t fatigued, I had a clear and happy mind, I could stay awake all day, and I was enjoying days out with my family. Nearing the end of the Whole30, I went shopping in the city with Tim. We parked in a multi-story car park, and the lift was broken. Pre-Whole30 this would have been a disaster, as I just couldn’t manage stairs. I jumped for joy as I jogged back up 3 flights at the end of the day! This was only due to the Whole30. Olivia-3 Since then, I have run (yes I said “run”) 10 miles and used the weights in the gym. This is Olivia, the girl that struggled to hold a book up in bed and had to be helped up the stairs 3 months ago! I have mainly just stuck to the Whole30 way of eating since I started. I haven’t reintroduced anything. I have had a few meals out, and the odd treat, but to be honest with you, I always feel sluggish afterwards. On a few occasions, I have felt some of my old symptoms creeping back. Through the Whole30, I have learned that sugar is the enemy for me, as that is what has shown the biggest side effects. I get the dreaded painful pins and needles all over, I have terrible burning sensations on my skin, my body feels weak, and I definitely cannot train as easily in the gym. I can honestly say I feel better in both body and mind since starting the Whole30. There is no going back now! I have gone from a fatigued, sad person who suffered from constant pain to a genuinely happy, lively, healthy mum with barely any pain in my body. Thank you for showing me a way out, thank you for making me happy when I wake up, thank you for lifting the fog that was holding me back, and thank you for giving me my life back.”

We invite you to share your Whole30 success stories, big and small, with us. Email your story and photos to [email protected].