I told you I would write some updates here and there on whole30, so I thought I would check in now that I’m over 1/3 of the way through. (In case you missed it, I shared my struggles with food and yo-yo dieting in THIS POST.) If you’re not familiar with whole30, it’s an elimination diet that you commit to for 30 days. No dairy. No sugar. No grains. No alcohol. No legumes. No cheating. No excuses.
While I think this diet can benefit just about anyone, I wouldn’t say it’s for everyone. You have to really be ready to submit to their strict, black and white, no flexibility rules and you’ll learn quickly that it isn’t easy. I chose this plan, because I really need strict boundaries. I need to experience freedom within those boundaries before I can allow myself to make judgement calls about food. It’s judgement calls that get me into trouble. It’s the I’ve-been-amazing-this-week-so-I-can-take-the-weekends-off’s and the I’m-just-going-to-select-ONE-treat-for-myself-at-the-grocery-store’s and the it’s-just-a-small-handful-and-if-I-eat-it-quickly-when-no-one’s-looking-than-it-doesn’t-count’s and the don’t-the-weekends-start-on-Friday’s that derail my good intentions and best efforts. Whole30 gives those clear boundaries without any grace for moments of indulgence and that often turn to diet-wrecking splurges. That’s what I needed.
With all of the no-no foods on the list, I was left with fruit, veggies, meat, nuts and seeds. That’s pretty much it. Now, I have been a vegetarian for 2 1/2 years, so I had to give a lot of thought to this eating plan and if I could do it as a vegetarian or if I would start eating certain meats. (They do have a vegetarian version, but I didn’t think adding some legumes and kefir/whole yogurt would really work for me.) I decided to start eating meat.
I was not enthusiastic about the first piece of meat I ate the day before Jan 1, my start date. I didn’t like the taste or the texture and I was ready to start making alterations to the diet before I even started! I decided I needed to give it a real try, so I pressed into day one with some trepidation about eating meat and sacrificing almost all of my go-to food favorites.
The processed food and no-nos were removed from our pantry and fridge (except for the stuff for the kids) and replaced with compliant, whole foods. It really is amazing how much different things look behind closed doors in our kitchen! The “snack shelf” in the pantry, which is right at eye level, is pretty much empty. The fruits and veggies are too great in number to fit in little drawers at the bottom of the fridge. They are tucked on every shelf and make for a colorful, appetizing site whenever the door is open and the light is cast on them. All of the bottles of dressings and condiments are replaced with bell jars of homemade mayo and dressings. Mixed in are a few packages of farm fresh meat and eggs. I looked over my fridge, thinking it must be very similar to how my great-grandma’s fridge looked…only with more variety of out-of-season veggies and exotic fruits. No turning back now.
Day one was hard. I had impulses at least every half hour to go to the pantry to get a snack. I munched on sunflower seeds and pomegranate arils just to keep my mouth busy. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of food prep involved and disappointed at my homemade mayo that had way to much lemon juice in it. Dinner was a victory, though. Burger sliders on sweet potato “buns”, topped with mayo, avocado and lettuce. They were delicious and I enjoyed the meat. I was fighting off a headache, crankiness, shakes and cravings, but that yummy dinner gave me enough of a lift to go into day two with some optimism.
Day two and three were surprisingly okay. My headaches, cravings and shakiness were slowly going away and I was encouraged that I had made it through three whole days! I was feeling really conflicted those days, though, because day 31 seemed like an eternity away. Could I really keep this up for that long?!
Day four was my low. I was actually crying over a salad on day four. I had been eating a lot of meat over the first three days and, while I enjoyed some of it, I wasn’t excited at all about the beef stew I had made for dinner. I wasn’t used to eating so much meat and I really just wanted a salad. But, I don’t really like oil/vinegar based dressings and I hadn’t found a compliant dressing that I liked. I found a recipe for a “paleo ranch” that is egg based. I mixed it up and it was tasty. Yay! Victory! I felt like a door had been opened and I could have salads with ranch dressing as an easy, quick meal. I sat down to my salad and started to eat. It tasted fine, but it wasn’t ranch. Real ranch. It had an oil texture that was unappetizing to me on a salad. I’m used to my Bolthouse yogurt ranch that tastes flavorful, but light. I don’t want an oily salad! That brought on the tears, the strong desire to quit or to at least find a way to bargain Bolthouse ranch into the whole30 rules. As I said, there is no wiggle room. At all. You have Bolthouse ranch and you’re no longer on whole30.
Not only was I crying over the dressing, but I was crying over the loss of my favorite foods that, in that moment, felt like friends. I felt a real sense of loss over chocolate chips and kettle chips, cheddar cheese and crackers and ranch. I wasn’t expecting that feeling of sadness and loss over food and I wanted to quit. 99% of me wanted to quit. And I would have…
BUT, after I wrote my post about whole30 and Made to Crave, I started a Facebook group for people who wanted to join me in this journey. A Facebook group that I thought would have 30-40 people in it has grown to over 700! Jeff pointedly said, with a touch of humor, “You can always quit. Then, you can go on Facebook and tell 700 people, who you inspired to join you, that you quit.” My heart sank. There is no way I could do that. Jeff could see the discouragement in my face and he offered to get the boys in bed, giving me time to take a hot bath, pray and read more of Made to Crave.
I did exactly that. The first chapter I read talked about emotional eating. Now, I’ve never been one who would cry over a gallon of ice cream (just salad dressing, apparently), but I was forced to see how much I turned to food for emotional comfort. Hard day? Chocolate chips. Stressed? Potato chips. I didn’t even realize I did it, but as I was mourning the loss of those “friends” that night, that fact smacked me in the face and stiffened my resolve to do this all the way.
This is a part of developing a healthy relationship with food.
I’m happy to say that I haven’t cried over food since day four. There are times that have been hard, though. I was so excited to find a 100% cacao bar and carried it with victory up to the checkout. I knew it would be so bitter, but it’s chocolate!! I turned the wrapper over to double-check the ingredients and it had soy lecithin in it. Soy isn’t allowed. I was ticked at the strict rules and sulked over the fact I had to put it back on the shelf. There are times when I’ve been sick of the dishes and food prep and the boundaries. I’ve enjoyed some meals, but had to work on getting others down. Me and my body are still getting used to all of the changes, but I can say that it’s gotten easier with each passing day. And I’ve made it through a belated staff Christmas party, a birthday party, doughnuts at church, and making pizza and pancakes for the boys.
I am already noticing my skin is clearing, my clothes are looser and my body is slimming. I’m getting used to the whole30 way of eating, my cravings have subsided (most of the time) and I’m finding my groove. I’m finding a better balance for me when it comes to eating meat. I’m starting to feel like I might want to go longer than 30 days…maybe.
It’s only been 11 days, but they’ve been rich and full. I’m learning so much about myself along the way. I’ve also gained an amazing group of encouragers. That Facebook group has been like gold to me and I can honestly say that I would’ve quit on day four if they weren’t there. People from all ages, walks of life, parts of the globe and reasons for joining have been praying for one another, swapping recipes, sharing advice, admitting failures and offering perspective when I’m acting like a baby over salad dressing. We have expert whole30-ers, previous whole30 dropouts, newbies like me and even a professional nutrition counselor who is supporting the group with her expertise! It’s a special collection of people. (Click HERE if you want to join.)
This is all probably more detail than some of you want to know, but based on the response on my first post, I figured I’d give a detailed update. I’ll check in again once I’m further into the 30 days…