Ten days ago I abruptly cut all sugar, alcohol, grains, processed foods, legumes, and dairy from my diet. As in simply stopped eating them. I decided I’d do this for the duration of 30 days, during which time I would also not weigh myself or do any other surreptitious measurements to monitor how this eating change would impact my body.
I’m not doing this alone. I’m following a prescription that’s known as Whole30, an elimination-paleo-detox-reset-whatever-you-want-to-call-it eating program.
My friends have asked me some questions. Here I attempt to answer them:
Why Am I Doing This?
Put simply, I was feeling puffy. After losing all my baby weight (and then some) after my second/last kid a year and a half ago, I’d gradually watched the numbers on the scale creep up. Even though I’m addicted to exercise, and even though I *think* I eat healthfully, and even though I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, I suspected my weight gain was related directly to what I was putting in my mouth.
Besides, I love a challenge. I’m an impulsive person, and the all-or-nothing approach of Whole30 spoke to me.
What, Exactly, is Whole30?
It’s an eating regimen created by some nutritionists and sports physiology experts who live in Salt Lake City. There’s more to it than that. Dallas and Melissa Hartwig are the founders of Whole9 (oooooohhhh! So now it makes sense…not). As far as I can tell from the Interweb, they live and die by all things “paleo” and cross-fit.
What’s the Appeal?
I’ll be honest: I am the person who ridicules people who worship certain ways of eating and exercising. I eschew the cults of yoga and cross-fit, and when I (used to) meet someone who self-identifies as “paleo,” I immediately look for the loincloth and prehistoric club. That said, this has been a humbling year for my smartass self. Yoga helped heal a stressed Achilles, a deep hematoma on my shoulder (mountain bike crash), and wicked tight hamstrings. I believe in the power of food. Given that my current diet left me sucking in my stomach and fighting the mid-day blahs, I decided I’d give it a try.
What’s it Like?
Awful and awesome. Fortunately the Hartwigs have managed to capitalize on the Whole30 fervor and have created a realm of resources for newbies like me. I signed up for the Whole30 daily digest (set me back $15, but worth it), and I go to their website where there’s a depressing realistic timeline of what to expect.
Not going to lie. Non-comformist that I am (or fancy myself to be), I expected to sail through the early days with nary a side effect.
Days one and two plagued me with a splitting headache, probably the withdrawal effects of no sugar. Days three and four were as though I was walking uphill through mud backward. Horrible. Days five and six I was ready to kill anyone who pissed me off.
And then something happened….
Toward the end of day six, I experienced a calm relaxation I haven’t had since, um, ever. My head was lucid and my thoughts were kind. My mind, normally churning and busy and overthinking and, worst of all, worrying about everything found an equilibrium I can only describe as “aquamarine.” (And no, this diet does not include pot edibles.)
Meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.
The good folks at Whole30 have no end of downloads about “meal templates” and “shopping lists.” I’m following them like a coach’s instruction. Fortunately, they’re easy: a palm-sized serving of protein with every meal; tons of veggies; fewer fruits; occasional nuts or nut butters.
For breakfast today I ate a serving of roasted pork sautéed with spinach and spaghetti squash topped with a fried egg (fried in coconut oil) and avocado.
Lunch will be a spinach salad with bell peppers, carrots, roasted chicken, and strawberries.
Dinner is a curry soup with ground turkey breast, kale, squash, homemade broth, garlic, and carrots.
What’s the Hardest Part?
I’m not a planner, and on this diet, I need to be. I need to make sure the fridge is stocked with veggies (preferably in quick-edible form…so I want Tupperware filled with roasted beets and sweet potato and so on). I need to make sure the meat is defrosted and that I know how to cook it (hello, grill and slow cooker!), and I need to have a general idea of what I’m going to eat.
Whole30 gurus insist that you need to ALWAYS know what you’re going to eat. I’m less strict. I’m a good enough cook and I’m surrounding myself with good food (we already buy flash-frozen salmon directly from the Alaskan fisherman and organic, free-range chickens, beef, and lamb directly from the farmer).
What’s the Best Part?
I feel really good.
I’m nicer and more empathetic and—and this is HUGE—significantly less anxious. I used to be a glass-half-empty when it came to things I’m insecure about (mainly: the quality of my writing and the trajectory of my career). Ten days in and I’m balanced and trusting. It’s not all puppy dogs and rainbows, but it is as if a huge, ugly, wart has been removed from my consciousness.
Also: I feel better in my body. I can tell I’m slimming down, even if I haven’t checked the scale.
Also: there’s a daily sense of accomplishment. Because the Whole30 is so restrictive, it is not meant to be used on a daily basis year after year. It’s designed to raise awareness of your body and your eating and empower you to choose food that is (simply, beautifully) food. Getting through an ascetic day of Whole30 eating makes me feel good about myself.
You Cheat a Little Bit, Right?
Nope. The Whole30 folks are adamant that if you cheat you start over. It is black and white. There is no equivocating. This fits my personality perfectly.
What Happens When It’s Over?
We’ll see! Hopefully the experience will result in some changes to my eating habits and I’ll continue to eat in a way that nourishes me.