by Debbie Monterrey,

I love junk food. And the more junk food I eat, the more I want. That’s because bad food is actually addictive.

This past year-and-a-half, I lost control. The awful presidential campaign season and drumbeat of negative news whittled down my willpower until I was just stress eating and drinking all the wrong things. I gained about 25 pounds, which led me to turn all the negativity toward myself.

Every time I vowed I would regain control, I failed. Then I’d feel terrible, beat myself up and reach for more junk food and a cocktail. I was praying, hoping, waiting for some inspiration.

It came.

the exercise coach logo with tagline You ARE What You Eat: My 30 Day Experiment To Change My Life

Courtesy of The Exercise Coach

I was asked to check out The Exercise Coach. (And if I liked them, would I be willing to do commercials for them). Huzzah! Could this be the kick-start I was praying for?

On my first visit, I was asked what my goals were. Certainly, to get strong again. To start working out again. And, to lose weight.

Lose weight? Why, you must take the 30 Day Challenge, our Metabolic Comeback, they encouraged. I got the “Nutrition Playbook” and I embarked upon my new journey (bravely?) right after Thanksgiving.

at the exercise coach in webster groves selfie by debbie You ARE What You Eat: My 30 Day Experiment To Change My Life

At The Exercise Coach in Webster Groves (Selfie by Debbie)

I say “bravely” because during the peak of the eating season, I was going to give up all the things that would inevitably be in my face through the holidays. I needed to do it, not just to avoid gaining even more weight, but to restore my faith in myself.

I read my Playbook with interest and read more about Whole 30, which friends of mine had recommended previously. The point of the Whole 30 diet is to eat only healthy, whole foods which can break the junk food addiction and hopefully put you on the path to healthy eating in the future.

My friends at the Exercise Coach explained that after 30 days, I would slowly add things back into my diet, making it much easier to figure out which foods don’t agree with me, what causes my skin to flare up, what makes me tired or bloated or irritable (food has a HUGE impact on us that we tend to ignore).

Here’s what I couldn’t consume for 30 days:

  • NO ALCOHOL (a tough one for me)
  • No sugar (or artificial sweetener)
  • No grains (meaning no breads, pastas, etc.)
  • No legumes (including soy)
  • No dairy (bye-bye morning yogurt)
  • No processed foods (including bottled salad dressings, ketchup, etc.)

Seems daunting. Seems impossible! What can I eat, I thought? NOTHING!

But nothing could be further from the truth. Thanks to a plethora of recipes on Pinterest and the Internet, I ate very well. I even made some dishes my family would eat and make again. (Downside: I’m not an enthusiastic cook, and this plan requires A LOT of cooking).

The first week was the most difficult. There were sweets all around me. Shake Shack was opening. Pizzas showed up at the station. The potluck dinner. Holiday parties in bars. Listeners sending me  treats. That box of Bissinger’s in my cabinet! On and on.

Read Aisha Sultan’s hilarious journal of her Whole 30 journey.

whole30 newsletter logo You ARE What You Eat: My 30 Day Experiment To Change My Life

Photo courtesy of

But each time I resisted temptation, I felt stronger. It got easier to walk past all the plates of Christmas cookies and fudge and bags of bagels and schmear. Despite my husband, who was going to be my partner in this, dropping out after two days–and continually drinking beer and eating chips in front of me–I stayed strong.

Thirty days later: I’m down 10 pounds! My skin looks great! I have renewed willpower and pride in myself! SUCCESS!

I allowed myself to eat some cookies at Christmas and drink a few cocktails. But I’m back to healthy eating and working out at The Exercise Coach.

Now I’m looking at 2018 not with trepidation, but with hope.

I must thank the folks at The Exercise Coach for all of their encouragement, tips and suggestions. I would never have believed I could do this eating plan (or go without booze) for a month! When friends told me they were doing Whole 30, I remember silently thinking, Nope! Never.

Not only did I succeed with the 30 Day Challenge, I am getting stronger and more fit with every visit. And best of all, I know I didn’t lose that strength inside me. I just needed a little support.

Happy New Year!



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