In December, we published a call for Whole30 success stories –  people who had completed the Whole30 program in 2010, and had amazing, life-changing results with the program.  We received HUNDREDS of entries – all which embodied the spirit and intention of the Whole30 program.  It was difficult to choose just one winner (and we’ll be featuring some of our other success stories on the site throughout the year), but there was one woman whose story stood out – not just for her remarkable success and transformation, but for her spirit and sass.  We are proud to announce Jennifer H. of Houston, TX as the winner of our 2010 Whole30 Success Story Contest.

Jennifer’s Story:  Ms. PCOS

Once upon a time I submitted an entry to the “Ms. Chronic Disease of America Pageant” hosted by The Meanest Mom. As one of seven finalists, I was featured on the site as Ms. PCOS.    I highlighted my infertility, the excess body hair that comes with increased levels of testosterone, the acne, the fatigue, the allergies, the insulin resistance, the daily nausea, the “working out for 2+ hours per day and eating zero sugar” regimen just so I would only gain a little weight instead of an exorbitant amount, the 40 pounds (and 7 dress sizes) I put on in less than a year, and the elevated risk of diabetes/ovarian cancer/breast cancer/stroke/hypertension/heart disease. In the spirit of making fun of myself, I laid my health woes and insecurities out on the table, all for that coveted crown.

I did not win.

However, the experience was incredibly therapeutic. Satirizing the ultimate un-sexiness of an autoimmune disease proved to be a release from the usual anxiety, depression, and grieving of a life not lived to its fullest. Following the contest however, I became even more frustrated. Not because I didn’t win; I suppose being awarded worst daily suffering is a backhanded compliment. It was the inherent hopelessness of going from doctor to doctor who can tell you nothing but “Try not to get too fat because you’ll never lose it. Go on this diabetes medication even though you don’t have diabetes and try in-vitro if you want kids.”

Well I went on that diabetes medicine and felt like dying, so I spent the next 4 years trying to alleviate my symptoms through lifestyle management. But my heart still hurt. How long could I realistically exercise for 2 hours per day? When would I finally get tired of making my bread crumbs and yogurt and dinner rolls from scratch just to avoid the added high-fructose corn syrup? How long would I faithfully follow my food guide pyramid checklist before I got tired of making sure I consumed 6-11 servings of grains and 5 servings of fruits/veggies per day? And could I really forgive myself if I birthed a daughter and passed on PCOS to her, knowing the despair it caused me?

I did Weight Watchers (twice), became a vegetarian, went on South Beach, had an eating disorder…and I went to bed crying several times a month.

After the birth of my second miracle baby, I was even more depressed. By the end of my 6-week postpartum period, I was 185 pounds. The year before getting pregnant, I was extremely strict with my diet, following all conventional wisdom. I lost 1 pound. A full year of 12 hours of exercise and 30 hours of kitchen work per week, just to net a 1-pound loss. And according to my nutritionist, I am one of the few women who gain weight while nursing (which I planned to do for a minimum of one year, hopefully longer). I wanted to disappear, but obviously at 76 pounds heavier than I was in college, disappearing was the last thing my body was doing.

My husband and I ran informal CrossFit-style workout groups out of our garage and I stumbled upon a local CrossFit that had just hosted a Whole30 workshop. I read Whole9’s mission, their 30 day program, their manifestos. And then being a woman of faith, took this up with God. I knew before even asking that it was right and made my game plan that day. I set a starting date, but was too excited to wait so I started a week early. I was nervous–meat tastes gross–but I ultimately decided out of desperation that I would rather live a longer life for my kids than avoid steak forever.

Five months later, I’ve completed two Whole30 programs. Like anything worth doing, this change requires significant effort. My resolve is weak at times, but the rapidly growing list of “Splurges that Were Not Worth It” is an invaluable resource when I want a handful of Chex Mix (not worth it) or Swedish Fish (worth it).

My PCOS symptoms have completely vanished. Acne–clear. Extra body/facial hair–gone. Hair loss–ceased. Allergies–haven’t used a single Zyrtec. After spending the last 12 years feeling like I’d been kicked in the stomach, I’m not quite sure what to do with my newfound energy. Because I went off dairy and then reintroduced it, I learned my nursing baby has a dairy intolerance. Her “silent reflux” doesn’t require Prevacid–it requires I lay off the ice cream. I got my first push-up, which is significantly easier after losing 45 pounds. My husband supports me, particularly because he now has defined abs and better digestion, my 7-month-old baby no longer cries in pain for hours at a time, my 2-year-old finally eats meat, my Dad realized halfway into his first Whole30 that he was addicted to Diet Coke, and my Mom with Type 2 diabetes has eliminated her Metformin and lowered her insulin dosage by 10 units.

I suppose it’s a good thing I didn’t become “Ms. Chronic Disease of America.”  Thanks to the Whole30, I’d have to relinquish my crown. And I’m really too busy eating steak to go through that hassle.  Thank you for what you and Dallas are doing.  It has saved my family’s life.

UPDATE from Jennifer, in January 2012: “My PCOS is completely reversed. I have a regular cycle, no signs of PCOS, and actually had my diagnosis removed in April. “

Jennifer, before her Whole30 programs (and feeling sad)
Jennifer, after the birth of her second child
Jennifer and family, post-Whole30, Christmas 2010

Inspired?

How could you not be inspired, after Jennifer’s testimonial?  Congratulations to Jennifer, and to the rest of our Whole30 Success Stories.  We’ll be featuring more of their testimonials here on the blog in the coming months, so stay tuned.  For those of you interested in learning more about PCOS – the symptoms, the diagnosis, and most importantly, how to help yourself heal – please visit Jennifer’s amazing blog, Vibrant, Sexy, Strong. And if, after reading Jennifer’s story, you are ready to change your life in just 30 days, please visit our Whole30 page.