Here's the deal: We all know how 2020 has been kind of a shit show. We're all going through some heavy things, and I am no exception. This year has been extremely tough and could be the most difficult year I've experienced to date.
If you're anything like me, when you're emotionally spent, all you want to do is crack open a beer or dig into a pint of Ben & Jerry's. And in the long run, that doesn't make us feel any better. Alas, that's where I was. Chad and I were ordering out a lot. I had no energy to cook. And physically, I felt tired, bloated, and unhappy with my body. It was a vicious cycle and I saw no way out.
A few ladies I follow had done the Whole30 recently and it was like a light bulb popped up over my head. Is this what I need?
For those of you that don't know, Whole30 is an elimination diet. For 30 days straight, you are not to consume soy, dairy, grains, alcohol, legumes, and added sugars. The idea is that after the 30 days, you reintroduce things back into your diet with a clean slate to better understand how certain foods affect you physically and mentally.
This wasn't my first Whole30.
Chad and I started Whole30 about 3 years ago. From what I remember, it was extremely hard. We struggled a lot, and we didn't finish. We got to something like day 24 and ended up eating cake for Chad's birthday (poor planning on our part). I lost about 6 lbs in those 24 days, and I gained it back shortly after.
So why now? Why would I do it again after that experience?
Because I needed it. Plain and simple. I was losing myself. I was angry with my body. I felt empty. And I was willing to give anything a go.
Here's what I learned:
1. Planning is key
What's that phrase people say? Failure to plan is planning to fail. This couldn't be more true for the Whole30. Simply put, you have to put in the work upfront to make it as EASY as possible for you to make good choices throughout the week. The moment you are hungry but have nothing readily available, you're going to want to order take-out. (which if you get into a rut, you can technically order Chipotle - but that's not the point)
Plan your meals ahead of time. Pre-cut your fruits and veggies. Boil your eggs. Whatever you can do to make Whole30 compliant choices an "easy" choice, do it.
Also - someone recommended I order my condiments through Thrive Market at the beginning of Whole30, which really saved me.
2. Follow the KISS method (Keep it Simple, Silly)
I think part of the reason Chad and I failed the first round was because we tried complicated, weird recipes. It was overwhelming, and it didn't last.
There are a lot of great whole30 recipes out there that look and taste amazing. But sometimes they do require a great amount of ingredients, time, and effort. When you're going through sugar withdrawals, you really don't need that in your life.
Keep it simple with the basics. Meat, potatoes (yes you can have them), and veggies. One of my most favorite meals was taco salad (lettuce, turkey, fajita peppers, salsa, guacamole). Nothing fancy, tasted great, and got the job done.
3. Cravings are hard. But they don't rule you.
Whole30 is hard. It's as simple as that. It takes a great amount of self-control. You'll feel like crap at first from lack of sugar. You'll want to have a glass of wine. You'll have a bad day and want chocolate. And I don't have any profound words of wisdom of how I got through it.
I guess my desire to succeed was greater than my desire for short-term fulfillment.
I baked cupcakes and did not taste the frosting. We had a BBQ and I avoided the chips and dip. I went out to dinner with friends who ordered bread and drinks and margaritas. I had a seltzer with lime. I kept myself from eating the chips that they put on the table at Mexican restaurants.
I've spent so much of my life giving into food. I knew that I was stronger than that. Food did not have control over me. Once I realized that I had the upper hand - saying no was rewarding. And every time I accomplished telling myself "no", I felt a little bit stronger for it.
4. It's not for everyone. Consider what you want to accomplish.
Whole30 isn't for everyone, so definitely do your research. I've never been a fan of any diet and I still feel strongly about that. It's really about developing a plan that you can carry out long-term.
Consider the reason why you want to do Whole30. If it's to find out how certain foods make you feel, break cravings, and conquer your food habits - I think it's great. Whole30 has also been known to help with certain things like infertility, cholesterol, tiredness, aches, pains, bloating...the list goes on. There are a TON of benefits.
If it's simply to lose weight or have a sustainable diet you won't grow tired of, I'm not sure it's the right thing.
5. I lost 9 lbs. But that's not what it was about.
I lost weight during the Whole30 but that's not really what it was about for me.
I got up in the morning and I worked out without pre workout, which I used to think I absolutely needed to get moving. I taught myself self-control with cravings and emotional eating. I found self-worth and a strength within myself that I had not believed was there. I learned healthy alternatives that I can take with me now as I begin to reintroduce foods back into my diet.
This was about returning to myself - physically and mentally. As I sit here and write this, I am so incredibly proud of myself. I can do hard things. And that in itself is what I feel was the most valuable takeaway.