One night in January 2016, I was talking on the phone with my dad and stepmom and learned they were in the middle of doing the Whole30, which I had never heard of at the time. I learned that the basic rules were to go 30 days eating meat, seafood, eggs, fruits and veggies, natural fats AND NOTHING ELSE. I was extremely impressed that they made it through 30 days without grains, dairy and sugar.
I am NOT a dieter. I don’t need to lose weight. I believe in eating healthy and generally enjoy it, mostly because I feel better mentally and physically that way. Nine times out of 10, I will choose a bed of spinach topped with grilled shrimp, goat cheese, walnuts and asparagus over a cheeseburger and fries. (After a marathon is a different story.)
However, I also have a sweet tooth. I was in the habit of consistently saying yes to a treat just because I could – a handful of dark chocolate chips after dinner, a big piece of cake at a wedding, ice cream at community group. And I’m not saying these treats are bad or wrong when balanced with a nourishing breakfast, lunch and dinner. But for me, it was not good to feel like I “needed” a sweet after dinner every night. I also totally saw myself finding comfort in food – especially sweets. Enter the Whole30.
The Whole30 is a challenge to give up certain foods for 30 days that could be negatively impacting you – a health “reset” of sorts – that is also aimed at changing the way you think about food. It is not a diet. Everything you eat is real food. And it is legit.
What I Learned and Loved
When January 2017 rolled around, Dad and Dana told me they had hopped on board the Whole30 again. I decided to buy The Whole30 Book to figure out if what seemed like a crazy challenge last year might be the way to kick my sweets habit. And after completing Day 30 on Monday, I think it did that and a whole lot more. Here are 5 things I loved about the Whole30:
1. Saying no made me feel stronger. I forwent things like a Margarita and chips and salsa on National Margarita Day and pizza and several pieces of celebratory cake, but I saw that sugar habit – what the Whole30 calls “feeding your Sugar Dragon” – diminish. And it was empowering!
2. I became much more intentional about what I ate. Never before did I know how many items have often added sugar in them (sausage!) and therefore are Whole30 no-nos. During those 30 days, I thought more about what I put in my mouth than ever before. Planning all 3 meals each day and scouring labels at the grocery store was totally enlightening.
3. I learned I don’t need grains. As a runner, I thought whole grains were necessary. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get enough carbs during the Whole30. But potatoes and squash were my good friend, and I even ran a personal best in the 10K on Day 28.
4. My body image improved. There is definitely a connection between what I eat and how I feel about my body. So, 30 days of putting only good whole foods into my body made me feel really good about it. And while I wasn’t trying to lose weight, a flatter tummy was a welcome benefit.
5. I learned I can drink black coffee! One cool morning on the way to church, I took a sip of my hot, black coffee and actually thought, “This is soooo good.” That’s something my milk and honey loving self would not have said before the Whole 30.
Ultimately, the Whole30 is not hard. As Whole30 founder Melissa Hartwig says, “Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.” But for us latte lovers, it seems kinda hard. Can I get an amen??
If you’re interested in reading more about the Whole30, I’d love to lend you my book or send you some of the recipes I used during the 30 days. Would I do it again? Yep. Let’s see if I can get Alex on board . . .