If you want to check out my thoughts leading up to this blog post, click here to read. If you don’t that’s cool! tl;dr version: you do you when it comes to health. There are tons of ways you can be more well – choose what’s right for you in any given moment.
Long story short, I started the Whole30 a few days ago. I wanted to write this blog post to get my thoughts out. To explain my “why” to myself, and help explain it to others as well. I suddenly started the program one morning without telling anyone I was officially doing it… so I have been getting a lot of questions and comments about it, like:
“Why do you need a diet?”
“Isn’t it super strict?”
“Don’t you eat healthy enough already?”
“What can you even eat anyways?”
“I could never do Whole30!”
“I would never give up *insert food here*”
Because bad habits
For more than a year, I’ve been living what I’ve been preaching. “Eat what you want when you want it.” My version of food freedom. And yes, I praised my no-diet lifestyle leading up to my wedding and loved every second of it.
But you know how they say you don’t have time to eat at your wedding? I said “that’d never be me!” But it was. And I think that was day one of a rapid downward spiral of my nutritional balance being off. I was ravenous the next morning.
We ate breakfast and were off to New Orleans. During our honeymoon, I decided to push my food freedom limits. I ate and drank amazing southern comfort food in New Orleans with ZERO regrets. But coming home, I couldn’t wait to eat clean again!
Welp, that was not as easy as I thought. I forgot that sugar makes you crave more sugar. That processed foods and alcohol make your brain do funny things, like binge on all the pretzels and cookies. So… I ate all the junk-y processed things. And my body kept craving them, and giving in to those cravings, despite what I truly wanted (healthy foods that make me feel good). So to me, eating this way is not food freedom. In fact, it’s the opposite.
People think that by not tracking their food or being on a diet, that leads to eating #allthefoods and gaining #alltheweight. That’s not necessarily true. If you eat real, nutrient-dense foods, your body sends the correct hunger signals. You eat meals that fulfill you. You can wait until the next meal without feeling like you need 73 snacks.
And so, my food freedom was compromised. I felt like I was in a prison. I was a slave to sugar, and I hated it. It depressed me, made me crave foods that prolonged the feeling. My skin had been breaking out and my inflammation was terrible. Being kind to myself in this state was not easy. My hormones were beyond unbalanced. I’ll say it again – eating “junk foods” is not food freedom.
I have no regrets about the foods I ate on vacation and had an amazing time. But I knew this would happen. Because it actually started months ago.
I had been trusting my cravings and what my body needed for more than a year. It had been a total game-changer for me and my health. I created some amazing new healthy habits and learned so much about nutrition, health, and my body. But I trusted that too freely for too long. I started to choose foods that weren’t right for me more and more often. I’d reel it back in, but it kept getting further away from me. As a person with binge eating tendencies, I wanted to find a way to help me break this negative cycle.
It’s no secret that I like to educate myself on nutrition and fitness constantly. I had read (well, listened to) It Starts with Food several months ago and questioned if I’d ever do a Whole30. I wasn’t ready at that time, I didn’t need it when I read the book. I was in the right mindset and my habits were feeling positive and under control.
Then, I read Food Freedom Forever more recently and thought a nutritional reset might be worth a shot. I had food freedom, for sure! But I started to look at my tendencies a little closer, and realized it might time for a change. I noticed that my afternoon chocolate fix went from 3 squares to 6. I would tell myself in the morning I wouldn’t have any because I didn’t need it…then I’d have 9 squares that day instead. And this was not an isolated incident. I’d rationalize that it was good for me, that I was healthier than others…but I still felt shame for going against one part of my brain and giving in to another. It was psychologically exhausting.
I knew it was time for a reset. I needed to rid my body of sugar and nasty seed oils and toxins. I had to make sure the products I’m using on my skin are clean. I wanted to workout and sweat it all out. Do the work to balance my hormones. Get back to normal.
Yup, I was finally ready for the Whole30.
It Starts With Food explains perfectly how it’s not a typical “diet”. It is a biology and psychology book more than it is a list of what you need to throw away in your pantry. While there is an obvious nutritional component, the book shows you it’s all about your relationship with food and with yourself. Since so many people use food as a way to control their lives, or lose control, this brings back the balance for a lot of people. It’s a commitment to yourself. It’s about adding healthful foods to your plate.
Nutritionally, it eliminates foods that can be unhealthful for most people so that after 30 days, YOU can decide how to reintroduce them. The program’s goal is not to deprive you, it’s to nourish you. On the Whole30 the goal is to seek out the healthiest choices (nutritionally, mentally, physically, emotionally) for 30 days. And only 30 days – not forever.
After the program, many people report that it completely changes their relationship with food. Less cravings, more energy, and a total nutritional reset. Many people don’t feel the need to dive right in to their unhealthful habits (that they were trying to get rid of when they started the program.)
The goal is to reintroduce foods, see how they make you feel, and assess how worth it those foods are for you. It’s widely known by Whole30-ers that you will probably swing the pendulum back to some unhealthful habits. And that can be okay – as long as you learned from Whole30 that you have total control of your next meal, and your body, and your life. Because you’ve done the hard thing for 30 days and you could do it again if you wanted to. Or not. Your choice. Your food freedom!
Protein, veggies, and healthy fats are the base of this program. Add in some fruits, nuts, and seeds and you’ve pretty much covered all of what you can eat on Whole30. All real, whole, healthful foods.
And 30 days of healthful foods can only be a good thing for my body, right? I can get all the nutrients I need from whole foods, and bash cravings in the process. Win win! Thus far, my digestion has been so much better, and I’m only a few days in. Also, my hunger signals seem to be under control (and it’s been a while since that’s been the case for me).
I cannot wait to see what other #nonscalevictories come my way in the next few weeks. I also can’t wait to reintroduce foods – I hope to find some culprits in my diet that might be causing some of my digestive issues.
Because it’s NOT HARD
If you think choosing only healthful foods is hard for you, maybe ask yourself why that is. Why can’t you give up dessert, bread, beer, or hummus? Do you REALLY need it? Or do you have a psychological attachment to that food? Is it a healthy relationship if you feel like you need a food?
Because it IS hard
Yeah, people do have attachments to food! I know I do. And that’s okay. The Whole30 is meant to help you work on that relationship with food. Realizing my tendencies and breaking bad habits so that I can improve my life is important to me, so this program was a perfect way to make a positive change.
Not to mention, working towards goals that I once thought were unattainable (like giving up alcohol, grains, sugar, and hummus for 30 days) is empowering. A little struggle in life can be good for you. I’m up for whatever challenges this next month will bring.
I don’t think the Whole30 is for everyone at every stage of their lives. I think anyone could get to a point where they could try the program. I believe anyone could stand to do something for 30 days that can make them more healthy. But you do have to be prepared for it in a couple of ways.
It takes a lot of time to prepare three fresh meals a day! Even with bulk-cooking, it’s time-consuming. Luckily, I have the time, but if that’s a concern for you, Whole30 might be a big challenge.
Sure you could probably live off of compliant snacks and packaged goods, but that’s not really in the spirit of the program.
Not to mention, timing. If you have a big life event planned in the next month, maybe a 30-days program isn’t quite right right now. Now, there’s never a PERFECT time to start the Whole30, but make sure it’s a reasonable time for you to start, or change some other plans around to make the Whole30 work for you.
If your goal is weight loss
I can’t imagine doing this with deprivation in mind. I eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, and eat what I feel my body needs. If I was in a diet mindset, I’d be trying to go low-carb, or reducing fat, and that seems like a recipe for disaster. This program is meant to nourish you, not deprive you.
Weight loss is a side effect of health, so if you have done Whole30 and lost weight, that’s great! But not everyone does and that’s okay.
If you haven’t read It Starts With Food
I would HIGHLY recommend reading It Starts With Food before ever attempting a Whole30. If you go in to it without the solid foundation of the program, I can imagine it being a huge struggle. As I said, biology and psychology gold is in that book and you probably need it for your program.
If you’re 100% happy with your nutrition
Whole30 is meant to help create healthy habits around food. If you think you’re okay in that category, maybe don’t bother! But if you’re wondering if you can use nutrition to help improve your life and habits even more, it might be worth a 30 day experiment.