A Month Later: Thoughts on Completing Whole30
30 days and a whole lot of Larabars later...
There have been a few things stalling out my attempt to write down my thoughts on Whole30 now that I've completed it. In some pretty crucial ways, Whole30 flies in the face of several communities/movements that I am involved in or drawn to, mainly the radical social justice and body positivity crowds. As I write about how great I feel eating hormone-free meat and fresh produce every day, I'm hyper aware that not everyone has access to those food choices. As I write about how awesome it is to cut out sugar and grains, I'm hyper aware that for some people restricting entire food categories leads to unhealthy and disordered attitudes towards eating. As I write about how happy I am to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes again, I'm hyper aware that for lots of folks weight loss isn't a goal or interest. I'm also aware of the Whole30 community itself and it's die-hard, no-excuses-soldier attitude that attracts people like me but repels others.
When you blog about wellness, the things you say can often come off as prescriptive when they're meant to be personal. Yes, there are some things I write about that I think are universally beneficial, but this isn't one of them. Whole30 is a highly specific program meant to do highly specific things to your body and mind, and it's far from a one-size-fits-all (see what I did there??) endeavor. Only you will be able to decide if it's healthy for you, mentally and physically. For me, though...
...I am SO happy I did this, you guys.
You can read my (and Jamie's) thoughts on Week 1 and Week 2 of the program, but after that the days started really blurring together as I got past the adjustment symptoms and hit the affectionately-called "tiger blood" stage. During the last week things got particularly busy at work and pretty much everyone in my household got sick, so I got really simple and unimaginative with my cooking which lead to some food boredom and "oh my gosh I can't wait till this is over," but when day 31 came, I was in no huge rush to re-introduce all the foods I had abstained from for the past month. So far I've started eating dairy again in small amounts and one stout or porter post-dinner, a favorite evening ritual of mine. Soon I'll add back legumes, corn, and meats and sauces that have trace amounts of added sugar. I have no current plans to start eating grains, pastries, bread, or desserts again at all, except for maybe holidays.
Even just typing that feels insane. I never in a million years thought that I would get to a place where I felt fine about ditching sugar and grains, and doing so has been my most significant takeaway from Whole30. I've been addicted--emotionally and chemically--to sugar for as long as I can remember, and daily cycles of cravings and crashes ruled my life until a month ago. For years I've known deep down that the healthiest thing I could do for myself was cut these foods out of my life. I had tried and failed at "moderation" over and over again. If I'm eating one Oreo, I'm eating twenty. There's no looking back, no slowing down, and by the end of it there isn't even any enjoyment left, just autopilot. It's addiction at its most universal, the worn grooves of our lizard brain that Jamie so eloquently wrote about a few months ago.
Here's a few of the other changes I've experienced as a result of Whole30:
- - Increased energy
- - Brighter complexion / less breakouts
- - More sensitive taste buds
- - Weight loss and reduced bloating/inflammation
- - Food boredom (occasionally)
- - Decreased appetite
- - Decreased sugar cravings
- - Decreased anxiety, particularly around food
Some of these changes are good (decreased anxiety!), some are not so good (bleh food boredom), and some could be good or bad depending on your goals (weight loss, decreased appetite). For me, personally, I was delighted to find myself losing weight at a healthy rate without counting calories, as the only way I've ever been able to accomplish that in the past was through obsessive, intense calorie restrictions that sucked time and mental energy out of my day. On Whole30 my body finally figured out what intuitive eating really is. I ate when I was hungry, stopped when I was full, and reached for the foods that provided what my body needed at the time. It's the relationship with food I've always wanted, and damn it feels good to achieve it.
The intuition extends beyond food, too. Without sugar and comfort foods to numb, reward, or entertain me, I've had to feel ALL my feelings this month. Every up, down, twist, and turn. I noticed that I get extra hungry and a little sad during the first few days of my period. THIS IS NEW INFORMATION TO ME, despite having menstruated for seventeen years. I also noticed that I tend to get anxious at night, and that lighting some incense and listening to mellow music on my record player is a perfectly good substitute for inhaling a pint of ice cream to deal with that.
So that's my Whole30 story, y'all. I went into this hoping to jump start some healthy changes in my life, and I feel like I came out of it with that plus a whole bunch of extra cool shit I wasn't even expecting. It was hard, especially at first, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
What are your thoughts or questions on Whole30? Leave us a comment!
Also, check out these resources if you're considering taking the plunge:
*This article is written from a Christian faith-based perspective
* This article is from the official Whole30 website
* Contains valid and important critiques of Whole30 from a nutritionist