The past 30 days I have been on a food adventure and mission. It’s called Whole 30. I committed to eating whole, real foods for 30 days. Absolutely NO cheats, ZERO exceptions. And carry on with living a normal life of working out, socializing, and traveling. What is the Whole 30 eating plan? It’s simple…but it requires discipline, a little bit of creativity, and simply paying attention.
How you do it…Each meal you eat your normal portion of any protein of choice. Eggs, turkey, chicken, beef, steak, etc. Then you fill the rest of your plate with veggies, some healthy fat, and occasionally some fruit. What are you NOT allowed to eat? Simple answer: ~ 85% of what’s sold in America’s grocery stores. More specifically: No gluten, no dairy, no added sugars or sweeteners (not even stevia! Gasp!), no beans/legumes, no processed foods, no making things out of “compliant ingredients” into treats… It’s an extensive list of NO’s. But it opens wide the door for all the YES’s of what you SHOULD be putting on your plate and eating on a daily basis. Real, whole, nutritious foods.
Sidebar: You’ll notice, there are no before and after pictures. Why? Because that doesn’t necessarily prove overall health or healthy change. It can’t show how you’ve changed your relationship with food or your nutrition, necessarily. Before and after pictures don’t show the whole picture. It can show very short-term results via (usually) short-lived, un-maintainable eating habits. As long as there are people still dieting via means of starving themselves of proper nutrition, (and those people may always have better abs, thighs, glutes, biceps, you name it, whole-body-better-looking than me) I will stand firm on this. Bottom line: this is about nutrition and healing your body. Mindful eating. Lifelong habits. This kind of stuff doesn’t truly happen in just 30 days. Yes, there are physical results, yes that is awesome and should be celebrated. But that shouldn’t be the sole focus. (Okay, rant over. Also, disclaimer — I hold nothing against anyone who does post progress pics. You all look FAB and I appreciate your motivation for hard work and healthy habits.) From me, you just get graced with food pictures slidin’ into your insta feed. Sorry for those hoping to see me in a sports bra and booty shorts: you could stop reading now if those were your hopes and dreams.
The starting line
On Sunday, March 27th, Lindsay Guentzel posted on Facebook that she was starting the Whole 30 the next day. I was like, hey. I should do this too. Lindsay would be great for accountability and I would love this challenge in discipline and to just see what happens with this. So without any preparation, or too much thinking ahead, (SEE! There already goes your excuse to start TOMORROW) I jumped right in. Now would I recommend not planning ahead? Depends. I find if I think too much about things, I find excuses to delay. I also am a single lady with no kids/family/spouse/boyfriend to have to plan meals for. I only have to provide for myself. Miss Independent. Say it. Sing it.
Why did I do this?
Mostly as a tool to refine and rein in my eating habits. A practice of discpline, mostly. Like most people, I have a sweet tooth. It bothers me that on any given occasion I would always (not sometimes or never, but always) give in to sweets and treats. I simply wanted to do what I could to practice more discipline in this area. Will I eat a cookie ever again? Yeah, I’m sure I will. Actually, I hope I will just so I can prove to myself I can do it on occasion. But I’m a very black and white person. Grey area is such a slippery slope for me. I found myself always treating myself. And that’s exactly what I wanted to stop doing. And start being more mindful.
Admittedly, Whole 30 wasn’t as huge of a change in eating habits for me. I already didn’t have a diet that regularly consisted of eating bread, pasta, or processed carbs. But I was still really bad about eating enough of the right carbs — vegetables. (More on my nutrition background below…) So, some of the “withdrawl” side effects they talk about, I don’t think were as severe for me.
What did I learn from this?
Honestly, everything that I had never expected to learn from this. I learned how to meal plan and plan trips to the grocery store better. I also ended up wasting less food. I learned how to say no to foods without feeling like I had to give an explanation why. (And felt strong enough to just decline or stay away.) I learned how to travel and stick to the discipline. I learned how to kick and scream and not eat desserts on said vacation. I also learned how to reluctantly give away really good looking pancakes on my plate to my friends when brunching. Oh man, it was painful. But you know what? I’m still here, and I believe, more disciplined because of it. Oh, also I learned that Mexican food is truly your best friend. GUAC AND SALSA VERDE ON EVERYTHING.
I learned there are many others out there venturing this same street of Clean Eating. There are so many great recipes and resources out there. Many recipes you can even easily modify to be compliant. I think I enjoyed the part of finding new things to make. And hand to God: there was never a recipe that I made that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. But there are lots of bloggers who have already paved the way and done a lot of the dirty work for us. Leverage their tips and findings.
A little before midway through, me and broccoli had to break up. I was so. sick. to. death. of. broccoli. But you know how many other vegetables there are besides broccoli? Yeah. Lots. But are me and broccoli back on speaking terms now? You betcha. But I learned to try new vegetables. (And now I eat onions with almost everything. Mom was right. One day I may change my mind.)
I learned it’s not just about 30 days. (or 21 days, or 60 days, or 365 days.) No, I don’t believe 30 days will “fix” your weight or your health issues. You may lose lots of weight doing this depending on your previous diet (and a whole lot of other factors). But that isn’t the goal. Lifestyle changes don’t completely happen in 30 days. Lifestyle changes happen through the course of your LIFE. Continual decisions, daily. Is a lifetime without any added sugar feasible without making yourself crazy or miserable in the process? Probably not. Is 30 days? yes. (You guys: sugar is in E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. — read your labels. Not just the grams, but the ingredients. And don’t even get me started on artificial sweeteners.) Do I think this 30 days will completely provide me the discipline I need to say no to sweets and treats for the rest of my life? No. I do know it will continue to take constant discipline for me to continue down this path. I do think it’s gotten easier, and I believe it will continue to get easier if I continue to stay disciplined and declare my own personal parameters.
- My clothes do fit better. I honestly don’t know that I’ll even weigh myself after this. Numbers don’t matter. During the 30 days you’re not supposed to weigh or measure yourself. Previously, I’d start off my day weighing myself like some sort of wrestler weighing in for precision weight before a match. I don’t think I realized how that affected me. And why was that even necessary? I feel more confident about my body now. Is it perfect? Heck no. But do I treat it well? Do I feel great? Does it function well and allow me to be active and run the miles I want to run and lift the weights I want to lift? Heck yes. All of that matters more than a number on the scale. This is probably one of the most important revelations I had. I don’t think I fully understood what this daily habit was doing to me. Fearfully and wonderfully made, remember that.
- I sleep like a BABY. Previously a night owl, up until midnight or later, I now am ready for bed at 10pm. Sometimes earlier.
- I wake up feeling fully rested. (Oh, I
am was the chronic snooze button hitter.) Most of the time waking up right before my alarm even goes off. Hello, circadian rhythm.
- Digestion. Will not go into detail on that. You are welcome.
- I didn’t drink any coffee for 27 of the 30 days. Say what? Yeah. I don’t like black coffee. And heavy cream is not an option. Coconut milk and coconut cream were, but I just found I didn’t enjoy the taste as much. (Read: coffee was a vessel for heavy cream for me. Bad? Nah, not really. Nothing wrong with heavy cream if your body can tolerate it. But I don’t need it. Hence: I saved money, daily.)
- Afternoon crashes minimized.
- Fruits tasted almost too sweet for me not long into the 30 days.
- Hunger. This is not an effort or experiment of restricting food. If you’re hungry, you need to eat. I need to eat more when I workout. You guys, food is fuel. I don’t think I gave myself enough credit for how intense some of my workouts can be. Midway through I made a connection that on days that I workout: Eat a little something before. Then do the same after, if not a whole meal. Even if you don’t “feel hungry” then… later on your body will turn into a hungered monster. Feed it. Good grief, Angie.
- I had dreams about food. Dreams that I was eating food I wasn’t supposed to eat, like cupcakes, but just did it without thinking. That showed me just how habitual mindless eating was in my life. Treats were treated as a reward for me. Which, in a sense, there’s nothing wrong with that on occasion.Again, mine was just everything deserved a treat, and that’s immediately what I turned to. That cycle is something that I didn’t realize so much that needed to be broken.
- I just feel good. I think it’s all the things listed above culminating into an overall “good” feeling. I’m rested. I’m well fueled. I’m energized. I’m motivated.
If you decide to jump on board and do this, here’s my advice. (Take it with a grain of salt, because salt is whole 30 compliant. See what I did there?)
- Don’t cut corners. Don’t cheat yourself. Because you’re only cheating yourself. One thing I constantly told myself is: “at the end of 30 days, do I still want to wonder ‘what if I hadn’t eaten that… or what if I did stay 100% disciplined?’ I wanted a true, un-tampered result. I know some people do “cheat” on whole 30 and still get good results and learnings. But I’m an all or nothing person. Black, meet White.
- Rally. Be excited and motivated to do it. Go into it ready to give 110% or wait until you’re really ready to commit. Don’t go into it with the back door unlocked. Lock that puppy up tight, and don’t even look at it. Day 1 of my challenge someone brought donuts into the office. But the option wasn’t even on the table to have a bite.
- Meal prep is key. Plan ahead. Set aside one or two nights a week to prepare the meals. And then eat them. I’m busy (if not busier) just as anyone else, and I set aside Sunday afternoons and evenings solely to do food for the week. Yes, I may still have a night in the middle of the week where I cook something. But I’m not constantly reacting, trying to scrounge up something. There’s a plan in place.
- Accountability. I always roll my eyes at this one. Because I think I’m pretty disciplined on my own. (Yeah, except read that paragraph about sweets and treats and how I can’t be…) But honestly, do this with someone. There’s something about the mind set of “if I mess, up, they’ll be likely to slip too, and I don’t want him/her to fail either” that really keeps you from cheating. But also — vent, mourn, whine, complain, cry real tears to them. There really is something to be said about strength in numbers for this one. Because YOU WILL MOURN FOODS sometimes and grieving is just easier with others.
- Be up front about it. Tell people you’re doing it and what it entails. My friends that I traveled to Boston with were 120% so supportive of me. They were not doing the challenge, but you know what? They encouraged me to keep going and remind me how close I was to reaching my goal. (And may have helped talk me off that chimicheesecake ledge… but again, that has to go back to me, too.) If you don’t follow me on instagram, I also posted pretty regularly my meals. Not to be that obnoxious person who has to show off what they’re eating (BUT I DID BECOME A SELF-PROCLAIMED AMAZING COOK!) but more so for that extra herd accountability. Not that social media can see what you do behind the instagram feed, but knowing that I’d have to admit I quit or gave up or cheated to all my 800 followers, or the 35 people that actually engage regularly with my posts.
- Read up on Whole 30’s website about the foods you can and can’t eat beforehand. There are printable lists that you can take to the grocery store with you to help figure out what’s compliant. There is also a page dedicated to “what to expect”. It’s kinda crazy how everything happens like clockwork on there.
- Pinterest/blogs/nutrition sites. Use your internets. Some of my favorite resources were just searching any food/recipe + whole 30 on pinterest. (Just always cross check ingredients for yourself.) Simply Nourished has a bunch of whole 30-specific recipes on their blog. Eat. Them. All. Healthy Simple Life (run by my good friend: Dietitian Cassie) also has a host of paleo/real food recipes that already comply with Whole 30 or can be easily modified. Mostly the ingredient I’d have to leave out is cheese. Pretty easy.
- Take small steps first if you’re not ready to dive in. Up until about 4 years ago, I hardly touched vegetables. I knew that was probably not a good thing for my health. But I don’t think I fully understood how detrimental it was either. I started taking it upon myself to get educated on nutrition about 4 years ago. I noticed with all the running/working out I was doing, and what I thought was healthy eating, my weight was doing crazy things. The calories in, calories out theory just wasn’t adding up for me. I ended up finding Dietitian Cassie on Twitter and following her, reading her blogs, taking her advice, reading scientific articles about nutrition, and learning the foundations of nutrition and how your body processes food as fuel. Over time, made little changes. Then, eventually became a client of hers to get more personalized help with other things going on within my body. So, truly, to say I didn’t just start this all 30 days ago, is no lie. It’s been a good 4 years. And don’t worry, I never have been, nor will I claim to be perfect at this. Nor will I pass judgement upon anyone else who eats differently. Hey, it’s your body and this is mine. (I may respectfully argue false nutrition claims that you’ve also been tricked with and try to tell me…but that’s because I want truth to be known.)
All in all. I’ve been a little anxious for this ending. Mostly because I’m a freebird now, which will be the real test. Carrying on without the parameters of 30 days. Re-introducing foods that I wasn’t allowed to eat, and paying attention to how my body reacts when I eat them. But I’ve moved on from feeling scared, to feeling really empowered. Now I get to figure out what “treating myself” looks like. Once a week? Once a month? Once in a blue moon? I don’t know. I guess, it kinda depends how my body feels when I feed it that food. My assumption (and hope) is: it will not be well, with my gut.
I once read that everything you put in your mouth is either going to heal or harm your body. It’s your choice. And, you may not always make the right decisions each time, but you have the power to make a better decision the next time. Always a work in progress. As Lysa TerKeurst calls it in her book, Unglued (which I recently read through with my small group) — Imperfect Progress.
“It dawned on me what kept me from change was the feeling I wouldn’t do it perfectly. I knew I’d mess up. Sometimes we think only instant progress is acceptable. But there’s this beautiful thing called imperfect progress. The day I realized this is the day I dared to believe things could be different. I told myself, “It’s okay to have setbacks, Lysa. Just keep moving the line forward. Change will come. And it will be good.” — Lysa TerKeurst, Unglued
The Finish Line
Truth be told, there really is no finish line for me. Early on in the 30 days, I joked about the things that would be awaiting me at the “finish line of Whole 30” and now I see how silly that mindset was. Don’t do Whole 30 if you look at it as a temporary, short-term fix hoping for lifelong change. But more so, think of it as a great way to kick start new nutrition habits. Because as we all know: it all starts with proper nutrition and we live in a very brainwashed society of what proper nutrition truly is.
Also: I still kinda can’t believe I actually did this. I’m pretty proud. Keep me posted if you ever try it. I know your results and experiences will be different. I’d love to hear them. It’s kinda fascinating.