Whole 30 in hindsight
I was just sitting here on the couch, thinking about what the internet needs more of, when it dawned on me: unsolicited perspective on the Whole30. (ha)
But actually - I did a Whole30 check-in and then disappeared off the face of the earth and thought it would be worth circling back to share my experience.
“Wellness” is a buzzword I can’t seem to escape, be it on social media or around the city. While I’m all about the increasing focus and conversation on self care and really adapting your lifestyle to be more active with healthier eating habits, the whole “wellness” trend — you know what I mean, the bloggers posting flawless photos after a workout, giving advice despite having no certification in nutrition/physical training, the #ad on different protein powders and ‘magic skinny teas’ — is overwhelming and intimidating. And, honestly, most of the “after” photos floating around out there seem so unachievable for someone like me and just add to the pressure to look good and happy and fit and cool on social media.
Rant aside, I am all about being intentional and disciplined when it comes to treating your body well. This comes after ~6+ years of me *not* treating it too well (aka college / study abroad / turning 21 / trying to be “cool” in New York, etc.)
So here’s where my unsolicited story begins.
It’s January 20. I’m coming off of a string of Christmas, New Years festivities, traveling (and eating poorly on the road), the National Championship playoff and final, and a slew of breakfast sandwiches and meals eaten at my desk. I just felt gross. It was like I’d been on a bender of doing and eating and drinking whatever I wanted without considering a balance or physical activity and all of a sudden, one day, I just snapped.
My sister had done W30 (she’s also had an incredible and motivating fitness/wellness transition in the last year) and had shared feeling better, sleeping better, etc. I figured, it’s worth a try and had such a sense of “now or never.” Especially at 22 (now 23,) I thought - if I don’t establish these habits now, when will I?! Realistically I have more freedom / flexibility now than I ever will in a way - no significant other/spouse, kids, etc., and I have complete control of my time and priorities.
W30 was a good choice for me because … and this comes as no surprise… I’m a rule follower.
I’ve never been good at moderation - it’s either give me all the donuts or don’t let me have any. “Just a bite” wasn’t going to cut it. That made whole30 great because it was super cut and dry — there was a very clear list of what I could and couldn’t eat, with a slew of existing blogs, recipes and forums to look at while trying to plan meals and push through times where all I wanted was my friend’s Shake Shack instead of my broiled salmon. Oh, and the times when I wanted a huge glass of red wine to accompany my snow day movie night.
BUT the fact that I did it - really did it - with no cheating was a confidence boost in and of itself. I didn’t have a scale so I honestly don’t know how much of the weight I’ve lost since graduation (20 pounds!!) was directly from W30, but I know that I did feel better, my skin was better, I slept better, etc., and I was much more aware of how much sugar and manufactured “stuff” was in so much of what we consume without even realizing it. (Honestly I was #shook looking at some of these nutrition labels)
Around day 25, I went to my gym for the first time and thought - if I eat well AND exercise, what’s gonna happen? (like, McFly, why didn’t this move occur sooner?) I somehow was duped into using my corporate discount toward 8 personal training sessions. It was an investment, I’ll definitely say that — an investment, but something I could afford temporarily, especially given my dining out/drinking/Seamless expenses had gone way down. It wasn’t ever a ‘forever’ option, but it was great opportunity for me to be held accountable and learn different exercises so I can now exercise on my own. My trainer Alex also pushed me - I warned him from the beginning that I don’t know what I’m doing and I’ve never really be in shape or athletic and that I’d need some tough love. And boy, I got it. There were several sessions where I thought I might throw up and mornings when my 5:15am alarm went off and I was like, over it. But then I’d leave the gym later feeling accomplished already so early in the day.
There were days where I wondered if it was worth it. There were days when it felt like all I did was ride the Q train, work and cook some sort of ‘compliant’ concoction, do the dishes, sleep, repeat. (There were a few moments of desperation in which I ate half of an avocado with a spoon for breakfast, or just poured mustard on some slices of turkey and called it dinner with a steamer bag of green beans.) At one point I texted my sister “when I die, bury me in spicy brown mustard.” (drama queen, I know.)
That said, I finished my thirty days on February 20 and it was honestly one of my biggest personal accomplishments yet. This sounds so cheesy, but I have never been so challenged and committed to anything the way I was in this. I have terrible discipline and willpower, and often find excuses (I can’t do it right now - too many fun events! Too many brunches! Too much work trying to grocery shop in the city!, etc.) But this time around, I wanted to do it. And I did it!!
I would definitely do it again, but I will say that it's not something I fully agree with. I don't think that legumes - chickpeas, peanuts, etc. are bad for me - and not all dairy or grains are bad for you. It isn't a long-term, sustainable option for me, but was really interesting to see how my skin, mood, etc., changed without each category, and similarly, how it reacted when I re-introduced them. It's a good cleanse, and also good if you've been having digestion problems, skin problems, etc. I found that the less dairy I eat, the clearer my skin is. But... did I really make strides because I didn't eat hummus? IDK.
All in all, I’d like to thank my roommate and friends and colleagues from Burson who deserve an award for going through this whole thing with me - the weird meals they had to watch me eat, the number of times I brought up which day it was, etc. - y’all were the best cheerleaders and helped me steer clear of temptation. Would also like to thank Fairway Market and Trader Joe’s for miraculously having a lot of the obscure sauces/meats I could eat.
If anyone’s reading this and thinking about doing a Whole 30 month, let me know and I can email you a long list of recipes/staples/sites I used regularly. I still cook a lot of my recipes (like these spicy chicken avocado burgers!) and am thinking about doing another round in October, but of course football season is a trying time (how can I not have buffalo chicken dip and a beer on game day?!), so stay tuned. There never really is a ‘ good time ‘ to change up your entire lifestyle, is there?
to summarize: 8/10 would recommend; would repeat