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  • Jocelyn Cohenour

Finding Food Freedom

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Melissa Hartwig, co-author of the NY Times Bestselling book "It Starts With Food", the book behind the Whole30 challenge. To say I was excited is an understatement!

"It Starts With Food" outlines a way to once and for all find freedom from food...and that is exactly what it did for me. For 30 days you are expected to refrain from alcohol, sugar, legumes, grains, and dairy. One final rule, which was the BEST part of the program for me, was I could not step on a scale or take body measurements for 30 days. It was liberating.

In my previous life I was a professional dancer and that included regular weigh-ins. I started getting "graded" on my weight at the age of 18, my freshman year of college. As a dance major my weight (and my technique) were determining factors for my Ballet grade. After college I spent 10 years dancing professionally - in Las Vegas where I was weighed every month, and for a cruise line where I was weighed weekly. WEEKLY. If I gained any weight from one week to the next I was in jeopardy of being taken out of performances due to weight gain...this only further developed my unhealthy obsession with weight and food.

The scale was the root of my anxiety, body obsession, and my enemy from the age of 18. Forget the pressure of society or friends! My weight determined if I would get a job or if I would get cast in a dancing track on a ship. It literally ruled my life and it was awful. After retiring from dancing I tried to find a healthy relationship with food but it was a struggle.

Fast forward to my late 30's where my body started to change and I felt out of control of everything - my weight, emotions, and mental health - it's a vicious cycle that many of us find ourselves living day to day. I didn't know how to handle my changing body and once again my body became the enemy. A friend posted on Facebook about the Whole30 and I was intrigued - I purchased the book and read it but became overwhelmed by the rules. I was not mentally prepared to start - it took me 3 months of looking at that damn book before I could commit.

Once on the program, the 30 days without processed food, a scale, or comfort food forced me to evaluate my relationship with food and dig deep into my "emotional eating". The program helped me learn to ask the "why" behind my scarfing processed foods or mindlessly eating when home, at work, or with friends. As I sat there listening to Melissa discuss her goal in finding freedom from food I was reminded of what I learned after my Whole30 - I DO have a choice.

When I eat whole foods I feel AMAZING. My skin glows, I sleep better, I have less stress, less anxiety, and food is only my fuel. The fact that my clothes fit better is simply a by-product. Now? I can eat crap and splurge on occasion but I can wake up the next day (probably feeling a little sluggish) and get my nutrition back on track. I've discovered I love vegetables - who loves beets, kale, and mashed cauliflower? I DO!

Hearing Melissa speak only further acknowledged that this program truly works. She is unapologetic with the rules of the Whole30 and for good reason - you deserve to have the power to say no to emotional eating. You deserve to splurge now and then without being racked with guilt. You deserve to be able to feel good, sleep better, have glowing skin, and eat whole food. You deserve to not feel trapped by your scale. You deserve to be WHOLE.

I encourage anyone who feels trapped in their food relationship to take on the Whole30 challenge. It's only 30 days. You CAN live without bread, butter, cheese, and alcohol. I promise. 30 days is not that long if it gives you power over food. For more information on the Whole 30 program and guide, click here.

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