On Saturday, I “finished” my first Whole30 challenge.
For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the concept is 30 days of no grains, dairy, legumes, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites, sugar, or alcohol. No scales, no measurements, just whole, real food for a month. In the words of the creator, Melissa Hartwig: “I cannot possibly put enough emphasis on this simple fact — the next 30 days will change your life. It will change the way you think about food. It will change your tastes. It will change your habits and your cravings. It will restore a healthy emotional relationship with food, and with your body. It has the potential to change the way you eat for the rest of your life.”
Well, not sure about the life-changing part on a dramatic level, but I have shifted for the better. And as that saying goes:
It’s simple, but it's not easy.
I (embarrassingly) started with the intention of only doing 21 days, indulging in alcohol on a weekend away and doing the challenge mostly to support a girlfriend of mine. Not only did I end up doing the entire 30 days without any alcohol, but I ended up doing this for myself more than to support anyone else. September was a pretty challenging month and, as it turns out, Whole30 gave me a focus. It gave me more regulated energy, fewer headaches, and less bloating. It allowed me to start on the journey of shaping some of my food habits towards more mindful eating.
As a chiropractor, I was pretty aware of my food choices before the challenge. I have been (mostly) gluten-free for the better part of the last 7 years and I regularly eat lots of local fruits and veggies from the Kelowna Farmer's Market…. but I was far from perfect! Since moving to Kelowna, I have been impressed with how social activities here almost always have some form of alcohol to partake in, from softball games to networking events. Now, I am definitely not the girl that needs to have a drink to have a good night, but I also have a hard time saying no when it comes to being involved. It's an intractable case of FOMO and I am working on it. So alcohol was a challenge, and ice cream…that darn ice cream. But what I really wanted to work on was my social attachment to things. I wanted to be more mindful of making conscious choices when presented with a situation, instead of just saying yes to be a part of the group or because I “should” to feel included.
Now, I consider myself a pretty good cook, so I was up for the challenge of creating new meals that fell within the rules of the challenge. I picked up the Whole30 Cookbook and got to planning. I started for September 1st, the Friday of a long weekend. I was immediately challenged with the first of many social activities revolving around food and drinks. My strategy to these situations throughout the challenge was to offer to cook. Yes, it took more time and effort than eating out, but it allowed me to take ownership of my choices instead of complaining about what I couldn’t have. Plus I get to impress friends with my cooking skills. Double win! Don’t get me wrong though, I did my fair share of complaining in my weak moments, but making a habit of taking ownership over the fact that it was a choice to do this for my health and well-being helped set the stage to start on the journey.
Stress setbacks. September was a bit of a tough month.
On the evening of Day 6, I got a call from my grandma’s care home saying she wasn’t doing well. I had planned on going the next morning, but they advised I come as soon as I could. I got on the phone with my mom and she got booked on the next flight from Edmonton into Kelowna. Four hours later, she was gone.
All I wanted to do in this moment was curl up with my mom, share (or not share) a bottle of wine, and wallow. I seriously considered doing this, more than once. But I looked at the opportunity and decided that if I could get through this, then I would really be meeting my challenge of being mindful of how my relationship with food manifests in times of stress.
Social situations. Even though I had a strategy for food, the social drinking was still a strange feeling to say no and answer to why.
Just doing it. Surviving these 30 days and even feeling pretty great in the last week was an accomplishment. I ended up getting far more pats on the back than scoffs from friends, which was not at all what I was expecting.
Feeling better! I was struggling with some bloating and skin issues and this was just the kickstart I needed to figure them out. It is still a work in progress, but as I do the re-introductions, I hope to further my awareness and find out what my body feels the best on. (I also plan on checking in with Dr Stephanie, AltaVie's resident naturopath, to have her expertise streamline my progress.)
New Recipes. I found some awesome new recipes that I will definitely be adding to my arsenal. Like I said, I'm a pretty good cook, so I wasn’t too concerned with this part of things, but I surprised myself with how delicious some of the Whole30 Cookbook recipes were! My personal favourite was roasted sweet potatoes and slow cooker pork with fried eggs for breakfast, mason jar salads for lunch and keeping things simple with roast veggies and meat for dinners. The importance of prep for good eating choices was also a big lesson. One I knew, but the reality sets in when you’re faced with cheating or not eating.
Perspective. Seeing that 30 days is just that: 30 days. It isn’t forever, and yes, it is a challenge. There are always going to be excuses ready to get in the way of committing to anything that helps you grow. So put those aside and step up to what you want to do. No matter what it is, you’ll feel so good when you do. Trust me.
My Tips for You!
Know your why. This is something that I didn’t have going in and I wish I had thought more about. I developed mine over the course of the month, but in retrospect, it was much harder to say no without a reason bigger than, “I said I would do it”.
Food Prep. KEY. Week 1 I did great with this. I made mason jar salads, prepped veggies and snacks and overall was very prepared. This saves your butt big time. I had a trip to Vancouver in the middle of the 30 days (less than ideal) but packed apple chips, nuts, salads, and LeCroix water to get me through the conference without slipping. Week 3 I did very little of this and it was a big mistake. I ended up inadvertently skipping a couple meals a day due to not making the time to manage my prep.
Find a Buddy. This was so helpful! Just to know that someone else is going through it with you, who you can reach out to when you hit a rut and who has to turn things down with you helps you push through. Accountability and support are such big keys to success. Plus you have someone who actually cares and "gets it" to share the small wins with. Celebrate your successes!
Well, I am planning on doing the Reintroduction Phace at a medium pace, fully enjoying a dinner at Raudz tonight (and then taking on the likely consequences). It is less than ideal timing, but hey, when you're offered a free dinner at Raudz that you put off during the challenge, you sometimes have to say yes. We have Thanksgiving coming up next weekend and I am travelling back to Edmonton to see family. I have enjoyed how my body has felt over the past couple weeks, especially since getting back into the yoga studio, so I hope to figure out a modified re-introduction to uncover anything I need to carry forward.
As of right now, I want to focus on my mindful choices. I truly enjoyed the food that I ate this past month. I didn’t feel stuck or bored and there are SO many more things that I want to try out of my new cookbook. I am aiming to attempt limited dairy and grains and no refined sugars while I figure out the root of my personal health issues. I am not going to beat myself up when I want to eat or drink something that isn’t perfect. I will stop when I am satisfied and know that I am in control of what I choose to put into my body - good or “bad”. And that if I make that choice, that I can accept those consequences (or reap the benefits) and that is OKAY. As long as I am making a conscious decision.
I will probably do another Whole30. Not quite sure when, but if you need a buddy, I will be your sounding board!
Remember: It is simple, but it isn’t easy.