In two days, I will finish my first-ever attempt at doing Whole30. I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about it, so I thought I’d make it easy on myself everyone and put all my thoughts in one place! Or technically two places, since I’m splitting it into two parts.
First of all, what is Whole30?
It’s easiest to describe as a diet or a cleanse, but I think both words carry a lot of baggage that don’t apply here. Let me start by saying (acknowledging that it’s described better and in wayyyy more detail at Whole30’s website – all the info for the program is free o):
- You don’t count calories
- You don’t weigh yourself or workout
- There are no “points” or other tracking systems
- You JUST eat foods that are good for you – meat, fish, veggies, fruit, etc.
But there are rules here, and this is where people run away screaming:
- No grains (flour, rice, corn, etc.)
- No sugar (I mean, duh, we all knew that was coming) – but this includes sneaky sugar in foods you wouldn’t expect, like bacon and chicken broth and salad dressings. You’ve got to get comfortable reading labels.
- No dairy (cow’s milk, cheese, ice cream, etc.)
- No legumes (beans, soy products, etc.)
It sounds incredibly restrictive, I know. But here’s the thing – IT’S NOT. I swear, I have never eaten so healthily and so satisfactorily at home. Stay with me…
Why did you choose to do Whole30?
Ohhhhh, there were several reasons. Here are a handful of them, in no order:
- Several bloggers I really respect did it and RAVED about how wonderful it was in (unsponsored!) posts, Jessica Quirk’s “What I Wore” blog (now Stars and Field) and my friend Brittin’s Crunch of the Mom blog, among others, so it had been floating around in my head for years.
- I wanted to lose weight, in general as well as in preparation for my cabaret debut show, but I know myself really, really well, and I just cannot work out in the cold winter months (I have tried!!!), so I knew it would have to be all about my diet.
- I also wanted to let go of the emotional dependency I’d developed from food during and after the divorce. My relationship was unhealthy and I knew it. Cravings ruled me, and I found myself bingeing frequently, always with copious amounts of regrets.
- I had set it as my February New Year’s resolution, inspired by something my roommate does, where she sets one resolution for each month, rather than yearlong resolutions. So I knew it would only be a month long and would be in service of a bigger project for the year. I wanted to start the year (in a new apartment, with a brand-new show on the horizon) off strong.
How did you decide when to start?
I know some people just start cold-turkey, but since I made the decision to do Whole30 in February on January 15thish, right around the time I moved to a new apartment, I decided to spend those remaining two weeks of January transitioning into Whole30. I also knew that I had a couple of events coming up the last weekend of January – or technically the first few days of February, since I started on Sunday Feb 4th, but you get what I mean – at which I didn’t want to be a party-pooper. And ooooh, I was right – I wouldn’t have been able to eat anything at either of them!
This meant finishing off things in my pantry that would be temptations or that would go bad in the meantime, like cereal, normal 2% milk (my lifeblood at the time), leftovers, etc. I began researchingWhole30 recipe ideas and trying some of them out, just to see how I liked them. I started to notice where I reached for foods out of craving or boredom and started seeing the trouble spots in my schedule where I would need to take preventive action (when making dinner for the kids while babysitting). I read through the website’s rules and guidelines several times, reinforcing the concepts and getting a better feel for what was “compliant” and what wasn’t.
I should note that I transitioned more quickly than I expected! So much so, that when I went to that weekend of eating events before officially starting Whole30, my body had a massive shock trying to absorb a whole bunch of rich/problematic foods that I had almost completely cleared out of my system. Ooops. 😊
Sooo….how was it?! (the good)
So much to say about it. First and foremost, let me repeat – I have never felt so satisfied with/by my diet before. Sweet potatoes, compliant bacon, berries, and lemon zest (among many other things) were so flavorful and filling! Hard-boiled eggs, almond butter, beets, chia, unsweetened coconut…oh, I ate so many delicious things! (Favorite recipes in Part II!)
I’ve also never felt so cared for by myself before. I grew up in a set of relationships that were all about putting the other person first to the point of never taking care of myself. I kept believing the other person would do some emotional labor and return the favor, but sadly, that’s not how codependency works. The point being, after my marriage ended and I found myself on my own for the first time in my life, a small seed of an idea began to grow in my head: what if I cared for myself the way I had cared for my husband (and others before him)? Planning meals that made me look forward to the week, buying foods I usually dismissed as “too-expensive” ($5 for a couple of steaks is NOT expensive, btw), and spending the time cooking for myself.
Cooking has been relaxing, inspiring, creative, and calming. I hate the term “self-care” and the problematic commercial feminism that it conjures up, but this kind of activity is the very essence of self-care – taking care of yourself the way we women are so often socialized to take care of everyone else around us. I have enjoyed my time with podcasts, a table-full of vegetables to be chopped, and a simmering skillet, even though I acknowledge that it took a LOT of work to carve out sufficient time in my schedule to be home and do all that. BUT THAT’S PRECISELY THE POINT. I usually pack my schedule too full of other people to take time for myself, my health, and/or my peace of mind.
I should note that two things prepared me for this much cooking: 1) doing BlueAprons for several years, which essentially taught me HOW to cook just about anything, from the mise en place to the plating and the knowledge of the incredible power of lemon zest; and 2.) doing a CSA with my roommate last summer, during which I learned how to correctly store veggies in the fridge so they last a while (paper towels + Ziploc or plastic bags), discovered a taste for many foods I never would have tried, and realized how easy it is to ask the internet for ideas for how to use *random food I’d never head of before*.
In summary, this month, I slept better, my stomach was far less upset, and oh yes, I lost weight. No idea how much I’ve lost (no scales + I hadn’t weighed myself when it started), but my clothes fit significantly better, and I can feel and see the difference. Everything’s just more proportional. And I FEEL cleaner. I have such bad associations with the word “cleanse” from my mother’s pineapple juice diets of my high school years (omg), but it’s just the only word that comes to mind to describe how my body feels these days. (Real talk, though – I didn’t see the health or skincare benefits many others have described. No clue why. Maybe it happened and I don’t know, maybe it had no effect on me.)
I have loved the freshness of the whole experience – trying new recipes, getting excited about food, eating amazing-tasting food, and knowing that I am cared for and prepared for all my meals. It’s been a spring zephyr in these nasty dog days of February.
Come back tomorrow for Part II, including the struggles, five tips for doing Whole30 yourself, and my favorite recipes!