So, I decided to willingly extract all of the fun from my culinary life and gave up butter (and all other dairy), sugar, alcohol, grains, and a few other things for 30 days. That’s right, I hitched my wagon to the Whole30 and have survived for ten days now.
Why would you want to do that to yourself?
The Whole30 program is “a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.”
But, listen, my motives are semi-superficial. I’m still working to get rid of the baby weight (um, baby is 8-months-old now) and I’m just plain tired of it. So that’s reason one. The other (less vain?) reasons:
- I married the snack monster, and he sucked me in to his snack-laden lair. Aaron is the king of snacks. He can eat a sleeve of Ritz Crackers quicker than I can go from the living room to Wilder’s nursery and back (it’s happened, folks). In the five years we’ve been married, I’ve probably spent just as much on snacks in our grocery budget as I have whole, nutritious, meals (That’s embarrassing but true). What’s this you say about willpower and self control? Oh, right… he wasn’t forcing me to eat the crackers, too…
- Nursing makes me hangry. Unfortunately, after Wilder was born, I transformed in to the snack monster. Never in my life have I craved cokes—but all of a sudden, I wanted to drink Dr. Pepper every night. Most nights, once Shepherd was asleep and Wilder was feigning rest, Aaron and I would watch an episode or two of the West Wing and we’d have a coke, popcorn (or crackers, or ice cream, etc.). I kind of hate writing that out, but it was our reality for a solid four-and-a-half months until we gave up cokes. My nursing cravings grew as our hefty little guy did, until I felt like I was snacking around the clock.
- I want to make sure I’m setting a good example for the boys at meal times. We generally eat nutritious meals, so what I wanted to change here isn’t specifically what we eat, but how we eat it. I want to learn how to enjoy different foods, and a big part of that is eating real, good food. That’s one big part of Whole30 that appealed to me—there’s no processed stuff allowed. I have to make it all (with few exceptions) and eating out is pretty tough.
- We’d gotten lax. Specifically, I have gotten lax. Since Wilder’s been born, I’ve felt stressed out frequently, and I’d find myself frenzied and without focus. I felt like I couldn’t get any one thing done, much less multiple things. I know that a large part of this is driven by non-food related things, but I think another part of it is due to what I was eating.
Here’s What I Have Done So Far:
A big part of the program is just taking the leap. Saying you’re going to do it and committing to 30 days of suckage. So that’s exactly what I’ve done. I read up on the whys, the whats, and the hows, and drew a line in the sand. I dreaded how hard it would be, but this section from the program rules stuck out to me:
Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. (…) You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.
It’s true. Choosing to eat real, good food isn’t hard. It’s annoying when I want to eat pizza snacks Sour Patch Kids cereal the stuff I shouldn’t but it’s not hard. So, I embarked.
What I liked on the first week:
- The rules. I liked knowing exactly what I could and couldn’t eat. There’s no gray area. That doesn’t mean I liked what I ate—I just liked knowing the boundaries.
- Being full. I liked that I could eat as much as I wanted (with minimal snacking). Part of the program that appeals to me as a nursing mom is that you eat as much as you need to feel full. Since the focus is on proteins, fats, and lots of veggies and fruit, it makes feeling satiated easier. I haven’t felt hungry at all, but I also have to make sure I am eating enough to keep up supply. Sometimes that’s difficult when nothing sounds good.
- The progress. I’ve seen results in the first ten days. That’s exciting, riiiiight?! I’m eager to see what happens in the next 20 days.
What I hated in the first week:
- The sugar cravings. I was addicted. I still get mid-afternoon cravings that make me want to open the pantry door and eat my son’s green veggie puffs just because they’re sweet and snack-like.
- Feeling scattered and tired. The Whole30 timeline gives a day-by-day rundown of how you’ll probably feel, and this was spot-on for me. It didn’t help that we had major issues with Aaron’s car insurance following his wreck and Wilder refused to sleep longer than two hours at a time for a few nights. I was stabby. I was exhausted. I just wanted to eat some dang popcorn and a cookie.
- The preparation. Lots of researching recipes, shopping, prep work, etc., is involved. Even if you do it lazy style, the food gets boring.
- Going at it alone. It’s tough to be the only one following the Whole30 in our family, especially when Aaron and the boys are eating breads, sweets, etc. What has helped is making the main meals Whole30-compliant and then having Aaron add to his (and the boys) with other things as needed.
- I like butter, y’all. And bread. And sweets after dinner (thanks, Dad, for that trait). And not having any of those things does seem like a punishment until I realize I’m doing this TO and FOR myself, so I have to get over it. Fruit doesn’t taste as good as a cookie, but it’s sweet, at least.
What has helped me get through the first week:
- Accountability. I started an Instagram account (how typical) that I use to post pictures of what I eat (how annoying), but, guess what? It helps! The community keeps me driven toward my goal of 30 days. Because I’m going at this alone at home, it helps to see other people who may be feeling the same way I am. It also gives me ideas for new recipes and other things to do shake up my meals. If you’re weird and stalkerish like me, you can follow the account at @emily_eats_whole. I know, so not clever. I blame it on the lack of butter.
- Almond butter. Seriously, this little treat “quells” my need for a dessert and is really good with sliced apples. Snacking is frowned upon in the program, but I feel OK having a spoonful with apples as a dessert.
- Making a calendar. 30 days is a lot more doable when it’s 30 squares on a piece of paper that I only have to get through one day at a time. And what joy when I can “X” through the box at the end of the night!
- The timeline. As I mentioned before, the timeline has been really helpful for me. I need to know that what I’m feeling is normal, that it will pass, and that it gets better. Hearing others’ successes helps me a lot, too.
- La Croix. La Croix has been my fave for a long time, and I’m so glad it’s compliant.
What I’ve learned:
So much of what I think my body needs is a mental game—a want from habit or routine. Afternoon and nighttime snacking, sweets, and boredom eating were a big part of my life, and not allowing myself to have those things has shown me that.
- I feel better when I eat whole. I’m on Day 10, and I’m feeling the effects of eating well, even if they are all mental. I feel proud when I choose sautéed spinach over chips. I like how quickly we’re going through veggies. I am happy learning new ways to cook new-to-me foods.
- We’re doing a lot more dishes. More prep requires more utensils, which means more cleanup.
- It’s not cheap. Eating real food (and program compliant foods) has been expensive because we go through it more quickly or it’s more expensive (dressings, coconut milk, aminos, organic foods, for instance). We’ll see at the end if it’s just a spike due to the start of the program, or if it actually is more expensive to eat like this. We’re also making more frequent trips to the grocery store.
- It’s not for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be. Two big parts of why I chose the Whole30 program was because I wanted to get rid of a snacking habit and wanted to increase the good foods (specifically veggies) we eat. Whole30 fit that bill for me in the way other programs work for other people. For me, having clear and specific goals for my 30 days at the beginning helps me stay on track.
I’m excited to report back on week two in a few days. I’m currently on day 11, and it has been much, much easier these last few days. Any comments or questions you have? If you’ve done the Whole30, what advice do you have for me?