At the Aspen Clinic, one of the main things that we pride ourselves on is that we work extremely hard to teach our patients how to eat to be healthy, not just how to eat to lose weight. If you come in to one of our offices to watch the Grocery Store Tour or looked at the foods on the shelves in our classroom you would notice that most of the foods that we promote are completely natural, whole foods. We do our best to teach patients the importance of reading ingredient lists just as they do the food label. We believe in the power of the digestive system and eating foods that can be used for nutrients and energy, not just eating something because it says “zero, zero, zero” down the food label. Even though these “zero everything” foods don’t affect the numbers in your food journal, they can still have negative effects on your weight loss by causing inflammation, digestive issues, damage to organs, etc.
All of these reasons are why we encourage our patients to eat real foods that provide your body with the nutrients and energy you need to function in your day-to-day life. If you always feel sluggish, tired, bloated, have headaches, etc. the fix could be as simple as changing your diet to REAL food and the benefit is that you will likely lose weight at the same time!
One “diet” that is similar to the diet that we teach in our offices is The Whole30. This diet, for the most part, promotes high protein, low carb, and moderate fat.
The 5 main rules are to avoid dairy, grains, legumes, sweeteners (even the natural kind), and alcohol.
You have to read the ingredients on EV-ERY-THING to make sure you aren’t consuming anything artificial. This diet requires a bit more effort than the one that we teach, however the basic rules are the same: have lean protein at each meal and fill the rest of your plate with veggies, eat fruit occasionally, and only consume healthy fats.
You’ve probably heard the quote by Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Turns out, research is proving that food is/can be more effective to treating illness and disease than medicine.
One person’s Whole30 journey recently caught our attention. Amelia Gerken, 29 from Metairie, is currently completing her 3rd strict round of the Whole30 diet (but aside from a few cheats during the holidays, she lives like this all of the time) and has had amazing results managing an illness that she has spent almost 15 years trying to cope with. In 2004 Amelia had her first seizure. Since then, she has spent copious amounts of time and money trying to find out not only why she has seizures, but also how to manage them. After many trials, errors, and failures she made the decision to try something completely new: eat clean, 100% of the time.
Here’s what she had to say:
Q: How long have you had seizures and what treatments have you tried?
A: I started having seizures when I was 15 – I was a sophomore in high school – but my pediatric neurologist at the time wasn’t initially convinced that I really, truly had epilepsy. I didn’t get officially diagnosed with epilepsy until I switched to a different doctor, an epileptologist, following hurricane Katrina. I have tried just about EVERYTHING to remedy my seizures – I’ve been on at least 10 antiepileptic medications (probably more), I’ve seen about 5 different neurologists, I’ve seen homeopathic doctors and a chiropractor, my mom and I even traveled to New York to see a neuro-endocrinologist, I have seen healers – you name it, I have done it.
Q: What was your diet like before you started Whole30?
A: My diet was the standard American diet – total crap. I think I didn’t realize until I did Whole30 how terribly I ate. My breakfast was a croissant and a grande vanilla latte from Starbucks – so zero protein to start my day. I snacked on junk like flavor blasted gold fish pretzels ALL DAY. My lunch was a lean cuisine pizza, chips, and coke usually – again, totally lacking in vegetables and protein. My dinners weren’t terrible, but they were always served with a side of macaroni and cheese, and usually missing vegetables. I think whole30 just really opened my eyes to all the things that I was missing in my diet. Mainly the delicious vegetables and that I actually AM a pretty good cook when I put forth the time and effort!
Q: How long did it take you to adjust to the Whole30 requirements?
A: I usually tell people that you have to give yourself a solid two weeks to adjust. It’s not easy going from a super sweet vanilla latte to a coffee with no sugar in it – but your body really, truly does adjust to it!
Q: Were you able to identify potential trigger foods that may have caused seizures in the past? Or any food allergies/intolerances?
A: I think I realized that I am definitely sensitive to dairy. I have tried to reintroduce it into my diet a few times and it just doesn’t sit well with me unfortunately.
Q: Aside from not having seizures, did you notice any other physical or mental changes since you started the program?
A: Well, I did lose some weight, of course. I mean, that isn’t why I started my whole30 journey, but it was a perk! Also, one of my favorite things about doing whole30 is that my eczema cleared up – I think because I am not eating dairy and gluten which I have read can really exacerbate it. My skin is much clearer overall, but anyone who knows me knows that I usually have random patches of eczema hanging out – but when I do whole30, it always clears up!
Q: Did anyone close to you do the Whole30 with you and can you briefly talk about their results?
A: My husband, Kevin, did whole30 with me and he was a total Rockstar! He tried all my new recipes, even when they were a little strange, and he really kept me on track with everything. He has lost 35 pounds so far, but I think my favorite NSV (non-scale victory) for him is that his snoring cleared up!
Q: Favorite Whole30 recipes?
A: Right now, I am really loving the shrimp & grits recipe from the Whole30 Fast and Easy Cookbook. It takes about 10 minutes and it is fabulous. I also love anything that I can throw in the crock pot or the instant pot. The Zuppa Tosccana soup is so easy and delicious in the instant pot, and there is a crock pot recipe, too. Easy meals are your best friend on Whole30. Whole30 chicken tenders are a weekly staple at our house – we tend to recreate our traditional favorite foods, just in a whole30 version. It is possible to do, I promise! And no whole30 is complete without homemade ranch – whole sisters’ recipe is the best and easiest and it is amazing.
Q: What would you tell someone who is hesitant to start the Whole30?
A: I think I would say, what do you have to lose? It’s only 30 days – and honestly, it really isn’t that hard. I know it seems daunting and like, ‘oh my gosh how could I ever give up all of these things,’ but if you plan your meals, I promise you can do it! Especially if you are struggling with a medical condition or you just want to lose weight! You can do it!
For the first time in 5 years Amelia has been seizure-free for 6 months (and counting)!
She contributes most of her success to Melissa Hartwig, the creator of the Whole30 program. Click here to read the thank you letter that Amelia wrote to Melissa.
Congratulations on your success, Amelia! Your friends at the Aspen Clinic couldn’t be more proud. Thank you for sharing your story with us!