The thing about changing one thing in your life is that it’s always going to have a domino effect on the rest of it all.

Last week (after I finally came out the other side of a rather twitchy ‘kill all the things and give me the carbs’ junky spaz out) I realized that there was something just…missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I wondered if I had another round of cravings to get through. I searched the crevices of my mind for something important that I may have forgotten. I just felt different. I wasn’t exactly rushing with the Whole30 breakthrough of excited and focused enthusiasm and ease known as ‘Tiger Blood’. But I felt ok.

The weather was muggy but held a strange chill and I instinctively went to massage my wrist and hand to ease the throbbing, except there was none. There was none in my ankles either. There was none in my shoulders.

Wait. Where was my pain? My brain darted around like a tongue searching out a missing tooth.

It was gone.

My first thought was simple and succinct. “HOLY SH!T THIS REALLY WORKS?!..”

I had heard from lots of friends that had experienced a decrease in inflammation and symptoms while on the Whole30 or while eating Paleo, but in order to manage my expectations I sort of just catalogued their words at the back of my mind. I basically just went ahead and ate clean for the sake of eating clean and anything else that happened as a side effect would be more than welcome and oh wow is ‘welcome’ an understatement.

But it’s another unexpected result that I’m really enjoying— the Domino Effect.

I finally realized (after 37 years) that I use food as a comfort. And that’s not a shock, but it does mean that instead of dealing with my actual problems and eliminating the discomforts, I was just hiding in the arms of a meatball sub and the rich cajolery of a chocolate shake.

There’s nothing wrong with occasionally really enjoying a sub, or a shake, or the ultimate Jughead Jones burger or Scooby and Shaggy deluxe mile-high sandwich. There is, however, something wrong with letting problems continue because you’ve found a method of comforting yourself that temporarily distracts.

On the Whole30, all my comforts have been taken away— all my food rituals. And I have been actively forced to identify what’s really bothering me, and then motivated to change it for good.

I think it’s because once you commit to what initially feels like an insane 30 day venture, you discover that to cross the finish line you cultivate a constant reaffirmation of self-respect, values, and staying within the boundaries of what will be good for you. And that combination makes your life explode in the best way ever.

All of a sudden it becomes crystal clear where healthy boundaries have to be drawn in all areas of life – not just in the kitchen or on a plate. All of a sudden it’s easy to say no, or ‘I deserve more’ or ‘I love this, but it’s not good for me’ or even ‘I don’t actually want to do that anymore’, because you’re constantly pepping yourself to stay on course for the month.

All of a sudden your body starts ‘applying the program’ to everything else in your life. Everything.

Over the last few days I also realized that I have been saying things to myself several times a day that I ordinarily never stop to pump myself full of: encouragement, positive self-talk, and belief that I can achieve anything I set my mind to. Crazy, I know.

“I know it’s hard, but you can do this.”

“You know better than to give up. You got this.”

“Look how well you’re doing! Go Kat!”

“How amazing is it to feel all the good decisions your making?”

I’ve actually stopped to celebrate every little win. In fact I acknowledge things as wins that I would have never seen as wins. I’ve stopped to appreciate my body and its processes in a way that I never did before.

There is no room for pity parties, self-flagellation, or finger pointing when you know that you’re taking responsibility for your choices.

I’m feeling happier and more present with my friends and family. I feel more calm and rational. I have realized that pain and fatigue (whether the result of food, autoimmune health, or any other condition) really do give a lackluster patina to life and let us see the world through somewhat of a hopeless filter — and this can be changed.

I was thinking back to 2 years ago to the worst flare of my life. I couldn’t walk up stairs. The parameters of my physical world were bound and restricted by an illness I felt I couldn’t control, and that meant my emotional world was always teetering on the brink of Kryptonian collapse.

Today I’m running errands. I’m multitasking again. I’m working with clients and playing with my kids… I don’t have to pick just one of those things because that would be the only thing I’d have energy to do…and it’s only Day 20.

This is all still very new. There are times that I keep looking for the place my energy would ordinarily dip because over the years it’s become a marker for my daily limits. I know that I will still have good days and bad days—I’m not expecting a complete miracle.

But I am starting to feel limitless… There are no ‘Why’s’, only ‘Why Nots’.

And when I feel the quiet cloak of exertion creep over me at the end of the day it’s not oppressive or the terrifying signal that I’ve done too much. It’s just a restful way my body says ‘Thank You’ and ‘Good Night’.

Sweet Dreams.

Ten days to go! Read about the decision that got Kat on the Whole30 here, and her first weeks here.