My disclaimer to this story is that I have never been a fad diet person. I have never done a juice cleanse or gone vegan or eschewed gluten (one glance through the blog archive of recipes makes that pretty clear).
I write this from day 30 of this experience. I have learned quite a bit and it has helped me in some different ways. I thought I would share a few notes for those of you considering a whole 30 challenge or for those of you just curious:
So, how did I arrive at the decision to do whole 30?
- My eating habits had been declining. Whereas once I tried to make reasonably healthy choices and not overdo it too often, that was no longer the case. I found that when I paused to review what I had eaten that day, veggies were not showing up in those reflections. I was eating a lot of sugar and all my clothes were feeling too snug. In July, I developed both a terrible ear infection and a bizarre skin condition that turned out to be an autoimmune disorder (don't worry it wasn't serious or contagious). But it all made me pause. Sitting in the doctors office I realized that I was ready to do something different because clearly the way things were going was not working. A theory I often ascribe to is that people do not change until they are ready to change. So, I had just hit that point where I was ready to change.
What have I learned through this experience?
- Sincerely love fruits and veggies again
- I found that I fallen into that trap of relying on fats and grains to make me feel satisfied. It took a few days to shake this off and re-discover that I genuinely love a good chopped salad and few things are as satisfying as a great piece of fruit.
- I still hate bananas though.
- My body works for me, I don't work for my body
- At the end of week two, my husband and I went for a very long hike up a local mountain peak. It was amazing to realize that two weeks prior, I don't think I could've done this. For me, the whole point of exercise and eating well this past month is to learn that I want to be able to do things and not be limited because I am out of breath or on a sugar crash. I want to be able to say "okay body- let's go do this" and not hear back "uh, yeah, you've been feeding me nothing but garbage, so no, we can't make it up that ridge to see the beautiful view."
- That I really love to cook
- I was concerned that because I wasn't creating these indulgent delicious dishes, that I would just get bored and the kitchen wouldn't be as fun. It was nice to see that wasn't the case. Not all dinners were home-runs, but within my own self-imposed restrictions of whole 30 I found the creativity to put together some dishes we loved.
- Eating out/ food culture in general is not catered towards helping people make good food choices
- There were times that I would have working lunches and there would literally be just one item on the menu that I could order (and I'd still have to ask them to hold back a bunch of stuff). Granted, the whole 30 restrictions make things tricky, but I was genuinely surprised at how few times there were good food options. (And I live in southern California!) That said, I never had to skip a meal or "force" myself to break a meal because there weren't good choices. Most often, it just came down to planning ahead and reminding myself "You're choosing to do this and it's not like you've never had a french fry before or never will again."
- Sometimes, I can be part of that food culture problem.
- Until I was on this side of things, I didn't realize that me bringing in a big cake or a plate of cookies and sending out an email blast to all my co-workers about it could be an insensitive thing. Now I get that and feel badly about the times when I was not sensitive to the needs of those around me.
- Don't worry, I still plan on bringing in the occasional treat but will try not to put it where someone would have to walk by it 35 times a day. I don't want to be a "sugar pusher".
- Also, the occasional treat may mean a mint lime watermelon salad. Who said that isn't a treat?
What helped keep whole 30 going?
- Partnering with my husband in this challenge and splitting grocery/cooking responsibilities.
- It felt like a team effort and the whole "team" mentality is very motivating. When one of us was weak and ready to given in, the other person would step up. Plus it was fun to joke with each other about just how hard it was to walk past the cheese display at trader joes.
- We stopped watching TV/Movies for the month too.
- Yeah, August was like a whole detox month for me. I think changing multiple behaviors (eating/tv/exercise) all at the same time was very helpful. Sometimes changing one thing is more disruptive (does that make sense?) Plus, no tv meant more motivation to get out of the house and less commercials reminding me of all the food I wasn't eating.
- I got a fitbit a few months ago.
- I really loved keeping track of my steps. During August, I had the goal to hit 10k steps daily (about 5 miles). I think during a time when it sometimes feels like restricting oneself, I think it's helpful to have a distraction in another (albeit complimentary) direction.
- One night a week we would get salads to-go, and take the dogs to the park.
- It completely helped to have a break on a weeknight and have someone else (ie a restaurant) do the dishes.
- Planned fun events for the weekend.
- Nothing would be sadder than sitting at home on Saturday morning watching other people's brunch on my instagram feed. We went on hikes, to the beach, to a concert, etc. Often times we needed to bring snacks for ourselves and, I am not going to lie, eating bananas and nuts while everyone around you has a Dodger dog was a little rough. Another low point? At an outdoor concert watching people with icy cool bottles of rose wine. That one nearly broke me.
Did I lose weight?
- Yes, but the amount is not as important as gaining new eating habits. Also, weight loss is not necessarily the best indicator of a healthy diet (remember when people were eating only cream cheese and bacon for breakfast in those crazy zone diets?). Long-term, I feel like I now have the tools to make better eating choices.
So, if I am not going to talk about weight are there any positive physical effects I will share?
- I did not realize how truly crummy I was sleeping before. But around day 10, I started sleeping like a rock. I now fall asleep and stay asleep much better than I think I ever have. I attribute this to less sugar and more exercise. It has helped my daytime outlook quite a bit.
- More even energy- I used to really crash in the afternoons and evenings, but I am feeling more even keeled.
Now what? Am I only going to share recipes for hempseed cookies and broccoli spinach wraps on the blog?
- Heavens no. If you're looking for a specific whole 30 meal guide and recipes there are lots of great blogs out there already doing that. I love baked goods and yummy things and have no plans to change that. What will change is how often I eat them and, most importantly, the portion of them I have.
- However, I also do not want to contribute to a food culture that says only fattening things are delicious and worth celebrating, so on the blog I am going to make a conscious effort to share some dishes and foods that I love that, if we had to label it, skew more towards healthy.
What are you going to eat tomorrow (day after the whole 30 challenge is over)?
- For sure I will be putting some milk in my coffee. Also, have a piece of chocolate. I really miss chocolate.
Do I think everyone should do a whole 30 challenge?
- No, I haven't joined a cult. I will say that challenging myself to change my behavior and learn new things is very energizing and I am glad that I did it.