So, today is my last day of my first ever Whole30 challenge and I think it’s pretty safe to say that I rocked it. I mean, I’m not one to brag usually, but I think there’s something to be said for acknowledging your accomplishments and this was definitely a feat of discipline and dedication. For the past 30 days, I abstained from having processed foods and stuck to whole fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed proteins. This meant no dairy, no bread, no sweeteners of any kind, and no alcohol. The goal of the Whole30 is to help people uncover any potential food sensitivities or allergies and to begin the process of healing the digestive tract so the diet also eliminates legumes, grains, and soy in all forms, which means that even hummus and quinoa were off limits! I know, way harsh, Tai!
But what surprised me about my Whole30 experience was that it really wasn’t that hard. Yes, I definitely had moments where I really wanted a chocolate croissant or a glass of wine, but overall, I felt really satisfied and nourished. Most mornings started with some combination of eggs, avocado, and either fruit or sweet potato. Lunches were often organic, naked rotisserie chicken (thanks, Whole Foods!) with salad or roasted veggies (depending on the weather), and dinner was often wildcaught fish or organic grass-fed lamb or beef cooked into some sort of stew. I never felt hungry. I didn’t worry about portion sizes. I snacked on carrots, apples, nut butter, and roasted seaweed when I wanted something in between meals and drank lots of water and herbal teas.
Since it’s my last day with only a matter of hours to go, I thought I’d share a few of the biggest lessons I took away from my Whole30 experience…
Planning is everything. I’m lucky enough to work from home which definitely made the challenge a bit easier, but even so, planning ahead was a very important factor in my successful completion of the 30 days. I am not someone who can typically go for long periods of time in between meals and once my stomach starts growling, I’m usually already bordering on Hangry Mode (ask anyone who’s seen me go without food--it’s not pretty). Once I’m in that state, I tend not to be the best decision maker so I knew that in order to avoid reaching for a non-Whole30-approved food (and most fast foods tend to be on the not-approved list), it was absolutely vital that I always had something on hand that was Whole30-compliant. I generally kept a big bowl of organic gala apples on my counter top and fresh organic carrots, already peeled and cut, in my fridge. I had organic, fresh grind almond and pecan butters in my fridge as well along with whole, raw walnuts in my cupboard. I also tried to keep some roasted chicken in the fridge. There were many times that I would be out and about running errands or at meetings and make it home only to realize that I was starving. Having these foods ready made it easy to avoid the temptation to break my program. I also could have been better about keeping some snacks in my bag when I wasn’t at home and next time (yes, there will definitely be a next time), I’ll be sure to do that.
Emotional eating is real. Several years ago, I was doing a consultation with a personal trainer and she said something about emotional eating. I flippantly told her that I wasn’t an emotional eater because when I tend to be down or stressed, my stomach is usually too upset to want food. She told me that everyone eats emotionally at times, and while I didn’t argue any further, I was sure that she had it wrong. The Whole30 experience helped me illuminate the fact that I actually do have some emotional eating patterns and to find alternate ways of handling those tendencies. Over the past 30 days, I’ve definitely experienced my share of stressors between the current political climate, getting hit with a respiratory infection, some big fears about an upcoming biopsy on a potential skin cancer, and a couple of interpersonal interactions that had me a bit off balance for a hot second. In each of these times, I had very specific foods I wanted to reach for. Wine and chocolate for managing stress. Salty soy- and gluten-packed ramen noodle soups when I was sick. And wine and chocolate again to numb the discomfort of challenging relationships. Oh, and bread, particularly in the form of pastries (bonus points for chocolate croissants--are we sensing a theme here?) were pretty much the fix-all solution any time things were going wrong--or at least that’s what my brain was telling me. When I realized that I simply wasn’t going to be able to use these foods to comfort myself, I was forced to dig more deeply into other practices that allow me to deal with stress and difficult emotions. For me, this included meditation, breath work, hot baths with epsom salts and candlelight, solo dance parties in my living room, pouring my feelings out into a journal, sweat sessions at the gym, and lots of time out in the local hills hiking my favorite trails. Did these things completely eliminate my cravings? Not always. But sometimes they did and they always created dramatically positive shifts in my mental and emotional states without the hangover that comes from binging on sugary and highly processed foods. Will I still sometimes turn to a piece of chocolate when I’m having a rough day? Most definitely. But now I’m more likely to have it after a long run or a solid session on my meditation cushion, which I’m pretty sure will make the experience a little more satisfying and a whole lot more nourishing.
Your “Why” can get you through. Before I started my Whole30, I knew there were going to be moments where I was really going to want to bail out altogether. And there most definitely were. In order to give myself an extra dose of motivation and accountability, I decided to enlist other people and made it a group Whole30. By putting myself in the position of leading a group of people through the experience, I knew that I would be much less likely to fall of the wagon. Every time I would pass by the chocolate section in Whole Foods or someone offered me a glass of wine, I reminded myself that I was setting the tone for an entire group of people who were also trying to stay on track with the program guidelines and that thought kept me committed. For anyone out there who is taking on a challenge of any sort, whether that’s a nutritional or fitness challenge, a break from drinking, a social media cleanse, or knocking out some big goals related to a personal or professional project, I highly recommend getting clear on your why. Knowing what your reason is for wanting to meet your goals can go a long way towards keeping you motivated in moments when you’re struggling.
If you’re thinking about starting a Whole30 journey, I definitely recommend it. It’s such a beautiful opportunity to develop a new relationship, not only with food, but with your body and your mind. Also, if you think you want to start a Whole30 but feel like you might need some support, guidance, or accountability, feel free to set up a free 20-minute consultation with me to determine if you might want to schedule some weekly sessions before or during your program! I’d be happy to support you will recipes, meal ideas, and tips for staying on track!
Now, I’m off to knock out my last day of the Whole30 before enjoying a very well-deserved chocolate croissant! :)