My Whole30: why I'm now a believer.
I am 12 days removed from my first completed Whole30 and I have to tell you... I have never been more thankful for a 30-day reset than right now. I feel energized. I feel happy. I feel strong. I've been excited to write this post for you all month long and it's finally, finally here!
I hope these notes + comments encourage and empower you! Thanks for allowing me to be vulnerable and messy in this space!
A little backstory
I attempted my second Whole30 in January of this year. I made it two solid weeks before I was laid out flat by a sinus infection in the third week and was forced to throw in the towel. Antibiotics and lots of Greek yogurt is what the doctor prescribed.
Lane and I are the types to set goals. Really, I'm the goal-setter of our little family but he comes along for the ride. When we set our 2017 goals, I had this on the list: complete a Whole30.
I want to do it. Like, really do it. No cutting corners. No "cheats." In the past, I was half-hearted about the process. I thought, "I will do everything except kick cream out of my coffee" or "I can totally have beans. I NEED BEANS." I wanted to do the thing at 100% this time around.
Whole30 is talked about on nearly every food and health blog. Some would say it's a massive trend, a franchise, that will eventually die out.
Last summer, I decided I wanted to shed some pounds for my wedding. Sweating for the wedding is what I called it. I feel no shame in that. We all want to look and feel our best on the day we wear white. But my results were pretty flimsy. I saw no change in my body. I adore my wedding dress and pictures but I remember being confused as to why I couldn't lose any weight. My friends said it was likely because of the antidepressant I was taking. It's common for antidepressants to keep you from losing weight.
In January of this year, I started again. I set the goals to lose some pounds and get that "summer body." Again. No progress. The scale never budged. The extra pounds never came off.
I went to a doctor in May to have my blood drawn and to make sure there wasn't anything wrong with me. Thyroid issues are common in my family and I wondered, "Maybe this is why I can't lose weight. Maybe this is why I get fatigued so easily."
My bloodwork came back normal. My doctor shrugged and said, "maybe try a Whole30."
I really hated her resolve. I huffed and puffed to myself leaving that doctor's office. I didn't believe that a diet like the Whole30 could actually change anything. I was working out 5 days a week for 45 minutes. I was eating fairly clean. Why was it that I couldn't just get to the place where I felt happy and content?
I realize this place of contentment does rest in numbers on a scale. However, I told myself I would be honest with this post and dishonesty would like claiming I never feel insecure about my body, I am consistently happy with the skin I am in, and weight is a not an issue for me. You might look at me and think I shouldn't struggle with these issues but I think we all do. Maybe we could talk about it with a little less shame? Maybe less shame, and more conversation would drive us all into healthier spaces.
Surprisingly, when I walked into my Whole30 this past September it wasn't about losing weight. I'd be lying if I told you 2017 has been a cakewalk. There's been cake but no cakewalk. I've been challenged physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It was just one of those long desert seasons where it feels like nothing is moving and you just don't know who you are anymore. I call these times "cocooning" because it feels very quiet, very closed off, and very internal. Marriage has been this sliver of joy in the mess but I otherwise found myself feeling drained and looking at God like, "Really? Can't I control at least one thing?"
So I remembered how two years ago, in the midst of heartbreak right before I met Lane, I did a Whole30 as an effort to take something into my own hands. God is gracious and he met me there. I remember that month being one of the complete. Something healing happened when I let go of the control food had on me through the 30-day challenge. Truth told I made it 26 days that time.
I decided to repeat my efforts this September. I walked in cautiously optimistic, knowing I have yet to prove myself by actually putting the Whole or the 30 in the Whole30. I think I believed what a lot of people might believe: it's just 30 days. It cannot change that much. There's nothing magical about this thing.
The 30 days
No cutting corners this time. I did the challenge by the book. I recommend the book because it's a really good resource and it feels like a companion throughout the 30 days. It gave me some solid recipes, a strong timeline of how I should be feeling, and motivation to keep getting over the hurdles.
Admittedly, I bombed the challenge that first day. I didn't fail or cheat but I definitely cooked WAY too much bacon & paid the price of a big stomachache and a long nap. But after that one hiccup, we did okay!
My cravings curbed after 10 days. I no longer wanted cheese or bread. I found the feelings of energy building up to be way more addicting than empty carbs. I would say the biggest victory of my Whole30 was realizing just how many emotions we tie to the consumption of food.
Lane and I took a trip to the Blue Ridge mountains during Weekend #2 of my Whole30. We enjoyed a nice dinner out with no wine, no bread (for me), no sugar and no dessert. It might sound like a nightmare to you but I was forced to be present and in the moment. I had to squash the desire to cheat. I realized throughout that time that on trips we take I am normally consumed by the idea of food and end up feeling sluggish the whole time. This time, I was awake, alert and really happy to just be with Lane. Major win.
Another huge win: realizing how much I am prone to eat or drink something because I feel like I "deserve" it. That's a messed up idea that I didn't fully process until I was in the middle of the challenge and post-challenge. I don't want to consume things just because I "deserve" them. I want to feel freedom with my choices and I want those choices to not be so self-centered and self-gratifying.
Overall, the Whole30 wasn't too hard for me this time. I think there are a few reasons for this:
- I've begun meal-prepping in the last few years. This makes all the difference. Make several servings of a meal when you are cooking so you can easily grab something out of the fridge or freezer to fuel you.
- I know how to measure things now. It seems silly but I used to hate measuring ingredients and I wondered why all my food tasted so crappy. This time around, I was up for the challenge of trying new recipes and going to the grocery store to invest in some new ingredients.
- I realized not every meal had to be premium or deluxe. There was one morning where I sat and ate hardboiled eggs and pineapple with no remorse. You want food that is going to fool you but you don't need to be Martha Stewart to complete this challenge.
Notes & tips
- I did very little working out during my Whole30. This was actually really freeing and restful for me. It also showed me that as much as I love fitness, losing weight has everything to do with food. There is a reason so many gyms obnoxiously post fliers around that say, "Abs are made in the kitchen." I had rewrites for my book the first half of the Whole30 so my mind was very much: Wake up. Eat what you have to eat. Write. Nap. Exist. I didn't feel the pressure to fit much else in.
- It helps to have buddies to push you along. I joined a support group on Facebook with a bunch of strangers! I posted my meals on social media as a form of accountability. I had a girlfriend join me 11 days in and another one started her challenge on my day 25. It was fun to have people to share recipes with. Things like this are so much easier when there's someone beside you to say, "me too."
- It is truly amazing but never once did I get sick of eggs. I could legitimately eat eggs for every meal of the day and not grow tired. Eggs, ghee, fat balls, and kombucha were my saving graces. I didn't even feel strange pouring some buch into a wine glass to clink with my friends. I felt happy and complete.
Guys... I am a believer now. Hardcore. No denying it. I can't say the Whole30 works for every single person but it definitely changed me in so many ways.
I shelved the idea that Whole30 was going to change the number on the scale and actually had Lane hide the scale battery so I couldn't focus on that.
In terms of non-scale victories, there were plenty:
- Tons of new energy and no more "afternoon slump" after day 7.
- Reduced amount of hair shedding.
- Clearer skin and all issues with psoriasis gone by day 14.
- Happier, more social, and feeling more comfortable in my own skin.
- Easier time waking up in the morning.
- Less anxiety.
- Clearer thoughts- that "brain fog" they talk about from grain is real, guys.
- More food-savoring instead of just eating whatever is available to me for no reason at all.
- Improvement in overall body image.
This is just the start of a list of benefits from the Whole30. Lane didn't do the complete challenge with me but he definitely cooked a bunch and kept me alive at certain points when I wanted to give up. I loved how it brought us closer together as we shared recipes, bought food together, and tried new dishes. Our "going out to eat" expenses plummeted in the month of September. I only went out to eat about 3 times in the whole 30 days.
Weight loss did happen. I went from being unable to lose a single pound for an entire year to dropping 8 pounds in 30 days. It's a definite victory to have your clothes fit better and loser but I think I love being able to shelf the dumb lie that my antidepressant was standing in my way. There are some people who find it difficult to lose weight because of medication but it seems this is no longer an issue for me.
As I made this list I realized I want to go back and make everything all over again. There is no lack of savory goodness on the Whole30 if you take your time and really challenge yourself to try newer, greener things.
Fantastic soup recipe- especially if you have to share a meal with people.
These nuggs are life.
Made these twice and they are a great party appetizer.
This slow cooker applesauce got me through the 30 days.
Lane and I had a Big Brother Finale Party and made these poppers.
My favorite meal on the Whole30.
We honestly thought we were eating "grits." That good.
I messed up the recipe a little but these were still yum.
My last Whole30 meal. And dang was it good.
No, wait... maybe this was my favorite meal.
I highly recommend these red potatoes as a side dish.
Favorite slow cooker recipe on the Whole30.
I wanted to tackle some Q&A in this post but it's already getting long so I'll save that for my next post! If you have any questions you want me to answer (I'll try my best), then leave them in the comment section below. I would love to hear about your experiences with the Whole30 and how it changed things in your life! I'll be reading!