My experience with the Whole30 program and how my relationship with food has improved.
I did my first Whole30 less than a year ago and it was all new to me. I spent my 30 days learning how my body reacts to food, what whole foods I should be eating, and how to read labels on packaged products. My second Whole30 was a few months later and this time I felt like a professional. I knew the rules and what to expect, had a much easier time making decisions, and even experimented more with different foods and recipes.
Once January came around this year, I was feeling crappy from the holidays. Low energy, always craving sweets, bloated all the time. I decided my first two Whole30s went great, why not get back on track by doing a third? I was excited to get started and stocked up on great products and real foods. I was about halfway through the program and felt amazing. I was super motivated to do more around the house and exercise, my stomach bloat disappeared, and I felt much more awake all the time.
At work (I work at our local chamber of commerce) I was in charge of creating a new initiative and we had an event planned to launch the program, which happened to be scheduled during my Whole30. A local restaurant owner and chef (and friend of the chamber) was catering the event with awesome hors d’oeuvres. Baked brie, tomato soup shots with mini grilled cheeses, lamb kebabs, asiago cheese stuffed pastry cups, tiramisu shots. You get the idea–lots of dairy, bread, and deliciousness.
I was feeling bummed I wouldn’t be able to eat anything at the event. I had worked my butt off planning the launch event and I specifically asked him for unique food, and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it at all. That’s when I realized how restrictive I was being and how unhealthy I was treating myself mentally. The purpose of the Whole30 is to create a healthy lifestyle and a good relationship with food and by restricting myself, I was doing just the opposite.
So, what did I do? I ate the food. And man, was it good.
And guess what… I didn’t even feel like crap that night or the next day. I expected to have a stomach ache instantly and be exhausted and sick the next day, but I wasn’t. I didn’t eat my weight in food–I enjoyed small portions of each hors d’oeuvre and stopped eating when I felt satisfied.
I’ve gotten to the point where I can listen to my body and eat what I want. At the same time, I now have the ability to go right back to eating good, whole foods again, after indulging a night.
So, basically I’m saying the Whole30 works. It gets you to think about food differently and have a healthy relationship with it. You’re eating to fuel your body, but food comes with so many effects on your mental health, too.
Now of course I have days when I binge. Stress, boredom, or that time of the month may mean I end up craving foods my body doesn’t agree with and I eat waaay more chocolate than I should have. But that’s part of being a human and that will never go away, although it will get easier to manage.
My first two Whole30s taught me to have a good relationship with food and I thought I’d feel embarrassed for quitting my third. I had shared with many people that I was doing another, posted about it on social media and my blog, and even got my mom to do the program with me again.
At the end of the day, though, my relationship with food is all about ME. I learned the importance of focusing on myself and what I need, rather than letting others’ opinions affect me. And through all of this, I learned I don’t need Whole30 anymore. I realized I now have the ability to make good food decisions and I don’t need to do another Whole30 to get back on track.
I may have quit my third Whole30, but that’s because I knew it wasn’t for me anymore. That being said, I highly suggest those who haven’t done it before to check it out and give it a try. It may not be for everyone, though. The program is pretty restrictive and life changing–you spend 30 days completely cutting out many of the foods you probably eat daily (dairy, grains, legumes, sugar). It’s possible to do and by working hard, someday you may get to the point where I am, where you can listen to your body and have a healthier relationship with food.
Whole30 made me a little crazy about ingredients. Reading labels and avoiding added sugars and unrecognizable ingredients is important, but I was at the point where I was traveling to multiple grocery stores just for kielbasa without added sugar. While it’s important to find foods with great ingredients, is that 1 gram of sugar in a pound of meat going to end the world? Yeah, probably not.
I live by this: figure out what makes your body feel good and eat those foods, but don’t drive yourself crazy or be afraid to indulge. I’ll continue to eat healthy foods, like fruits, vegetables, and good fats, but if I want a bowl of ice cream, I’m going to eat it. Eat healthy most of the time and enjoy the special food at the event or gathering, but know your body and its limits.
Looking to start a Whole30? I recommend getting the program’s book:
And don’t hesitate to contact me in the comments below, by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or on social media for any advice!
Have you completed a Whole30? What did you learn?
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