Embarking on Whole 30 was a journey that infultrated my life with new knowledge and experiences. And I do hope that what I share adds value to you and the effectiveness of my ethos.
Like many, come January I wanted to shift the way I had been eating but my reasons for choosing the start off the new year was not part of a resolution to lose weight or because I over did it on pie. Deciding to cross off every vice and preferred comfort food seems daunting but I had genuine curiosity of the impact. Would my skin clear up, bloating disappear, anxiety decrease, crave less sugar, sleep better, have more energy?
Complying with Whole 30 meant obstaining from foods that I loved and ate on a daily basis. The obvious ones like alcohol, bread, and sugar are all off limits. And even the things we are all told are healthy like chickpeas and quinoa. The jury is out though. Other off limit items include soy, artificial ingredients and dairy.
Monitoring everything I eat is nothing new. I had an eating disorder and an obsessive relationship with food for 10 years. While that is no longer my reality, adhereing to the program rules did require me to really pay attention to everything I was putting in my mouth again.
For an entire month I focused on eating protein, fat, carbs and fiber in the most pure forms available. I consumed lots of zoodles, wild salmon, omlettes loaded with veggies and sweet potato avocado toast. It meant spending a lot of time shopping, prepping and cooking food as eating out became less of an enjoyable experience and more of a tedious act. No waiter likes the the customer that wants a full list of every ingredient used because they are on a "cleanse."
I felt so LA.
The first week was in some ways a breeze because my boyfriend and I entered into it together, stayed home and cooked. It was sort of a bonding experience. It wasn't until the second weekend when we had birthday parties to attend that my cravings and emotional cruth of needing to drink alcohol to have fun and socialize was brought to the forefront.
I wanted a glass of wine, dammit! We showed up to the parties armed with soda water and fruit to mix our own mocktails in classic solo red cups. To my surprise everyone was supportive because they had either done Whole 30 or were well aware of it.
Phew. Atleast I wouldn't have to fight off peer pressure, too.
During the first week and a half I felt good, but not very different from how I was used to feeling. I entered into this already eating a very healthful, clean diet. One rich in organic vegetables, pasture raised eggs and vibrant colorful fruit. But as a 7 year vegetarian my grain and legume intake was very high.
Removing those staples made my satisfaction level from food nearly impossible to reach. I never felt full and emotionally I always wanted more food. After day 5 of nothing but vegetables, fruit, eggs and nuts I added in meat. Physically adding back in animal protien made me instantly feel more satisfied, but mentally and emotionally was a different story. I had to spend time processing the shift.
Connecting myself to my reasons for wanting to do Whole 30 was a crucial element in wrapping my head around this huge change in my diet. I am well aware of the enviornmental impact of consuming mass produced factory farmed animals and of their inhumane treatment, its why I had eaten the way I had for so long. My health and that of the planet and its inhabitants is important to me.
That said, I really wanted to see how my body felt by eating this way for 30 days. There is so much conflicting nutrtional information available at our finger tips so the best way to determine what is right for our body is to experiment. After reading about the potentially harmful effects of eating grains and plants that contain lectins, including beans and legumes I was genuinely curious. Through education in school and on my own, I have numuerous resouces that speak to the benefits of these foods. And yet, leading doctors in the feild have a catalog of reasearch speaking to the contrary.
This is often why so many feel lost and confused when trying to heal themselves naturally. Every health related claim can be debated, so it all boils down to us as individuals.
This was an experiement in understand my unique biology and how food can be my medicine. It was an opportunity to more deeply connect myself to how my body feels after eating certain foods. I wanted to strengthen what I refer to as my Body Wisdom. So I started to have some chicken, steak and salmon so I could complete the experiment with integrity. Making sure to reach for the highest quality organic, wild and pasture raised.
While it did help me feel more full and obsess less about food I still felt very similarly to how I felt prior on a plant based diet. My energy was good, I slept well, and I did still have some low level anxiety but nothing extreme since changing my diet and encorportaing exercise regularly over the past few years.
On day 14 though, something shifted.
It was MLK day and I was driving my boyfriend home. While on the 405 N and 101 S interchange it hit me. I realized just how eveything in my body felt amazing. No aches or pains, no sluggishness, no brain fog, no anxiety. WTF was going on.
I kinda always had a little bit of anxiety- or well I was always worrying about something. A client I am working with, a deadline that's coming up, was that caption offensive on that last picture I posted... Just normal stuff I suppose.
But it was gone. I felt insanely positive and happy. My spirits were high. My energy vibration was through the roof.
Damn. I had never felt this good.
I was for all extensive purposes feeling like an new human. Naturally, I took to Instagram Stories to share my experience and thats when the DM's came rolling in.
"Tigers blood! You've hit Tigers Blood."
I had no idea what they were talking about so I googled. Turns out this type of euphoria is sort of a normal thing around day 16 if you enter into Whole 30 already eating clean.
This blissed out state stayed with me for the remaining two weeks. I became convinced that most people have no idea how good their bodies are mean't to feel. I surely didn't. There was another level of feeling good that I hadn't hit prior to this experience. What it taught me was that my good was in fact just ok.
What this taught me was how easy it is to assume we do not have the power to change how we feel but that our lives can drastically alter by switching up the foods we eat. Experiencing it for myself was exponentially more powerful then just reading it in a book. Feeling it in my body was mind altering.
Dare I say it was some kind of magic.
To be completely transparent I did have days that were more challeneing than others. My desire for chocolate would hit or my need for something extra cozy at night would pop up. I did start to eat way more roasted potatoes than usual and consumed dried mango in an argulably excessive amount. They were often my life line on the program.
Whole 30 warns about not over doing it on these foods, nuts included, so I did my best to remain mindful of my consumption. Another element of Whole 30 that worked for me was still allowing coffee. Many elimination diets rule out caffiene and I am just not sure I would be able to, or well willing to not have my ritualistic morning cup of joe.
Its not that I wont survive without caffiene and its not that I don't have enough "willpower" to obstain (hopefully my quotes illustrate my disdain for the idea of willpower). I just do not have an emotionally moving enough reason to stop drinking it entirely for any extended period of time.
Sure a day or two with matcha is fine but eventually my desire for coffee kicks in. But this brings me to an increasingly important point about Whole 30 or any type of transition to eating healthier, more life force giving foods.
It has nothing to do with willpower or self control.
To believe that willpower is what makes someone eat a certain way for 30 days is, for a lack of a better word, naive. I've talked about this before but it bares repeating because of the sheer number of comments I get from others expressing their doubt in their ability to have enough self control to do this.
Everything is a choice. I was not handcuffed and forced to not eat bread. I powerfully chose to obstain from certain foods for 30 days for my body and my health. Every day I knew that if I wanted to throw in the towel and have some wine and chocolate I could. I chose not to because of my "why," not some macho amount of willpower.
When you genuinely want to improve your quality of life, not just have a body that looks a certain way, eating well becomes increasingly easy. What I mean is, your reason for wanting to try an elimination diet or for eating better is the only thing that will carry you through the more challenging days when you want to give up. Not willpower.
As Simon Sinek constantly expresses, its why we do what we do that matters.
And I have learned that feeling really good, like no bloating, restful sleep, no anxiety, no joint pain. That's addiciting. Once we start eating well for long enough that we start to feel better, the enjoyment of eating unhealthy foods starts to diminish. Once the impact of consuming the bad stuff becomes overwhemingly clear we think twice before eating it. While the unhealthy stuff might cost less money, it costs us something.
My ability to complete Whole 30 with sanity and ease came from my reason why. It came from a deep desire to eat foods that nourish my body and make me feel good. Not self control. Not the desire to lose weight for vanity o to fit into society's ideal of beauty.
So that's my word of advice to anyone who wants to try Whole 30 or make some big changes in their way of eating.
Get connected to your why. Find a reason that emotionally moves you and inspires you. Not one that feels restrictive or is largely influenced by the desire to manipulate the way your body looks. That is just a recipe for a binge-cleanse cycle.
This is about feeling good. Honoring your beautiful body machine and feeding it premium fuel so it rolls through life like the luxury vehical it is. And Whole 30 is an epically powerful tool to use to figure out exactly what the fuel is. It's unique to each of us.
As the 30 days came to an end I entered into the reintroduction phase. At the time of writing this I am in the midst of it. Every three days I will be adding in foods from one eliminated group and observing the impact on how I feel.
That is an entirely different blog post, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, I hope this was informative and if you have questions reach out. AND if you've done Whole 30
I'd love to hear about your experience. Please share in the comments below!