Whole 30 for Dummies: An Introduction
Imagine you are stranded on a deserted island. Your boat has been shredded to pieces by some gnarly rocks and you are forced to inhabit the island until you are rescued. The only sustenance you have with you is a bottle of water and a smashed Lara bar at the bottom of your bag. It is not much to survive off of and, let’s be real, even in the most desperate of situations, a Lara bar is borderline inedible. In order to sustain yourself until help shows up, you must learn how to live off the land. You pick berries, collect non-poisonous plants and even miraculously kill and eat whatever wildlife is indigenous to the area. A month later, you are finally rescued, fully equipped with booming energy levels and a spike in your metabolism. Congratulations, you have successfully completed Whole 30.
In case the hype of Whole 30 has somehow passed you and your Instagram feed by, allow me to introduce you. Whole 30 is agreeing to 30 dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, alcohol-free, legumes-free and MSG-free days. It is agreeing to only consume whole foods for a month while your body heals and resets from the processed and sugar-ridden foods that it is typically fed. As I type I am currently stuffed with the queso I binged at lunch because I am three days post-Whole 30, and I am going to tell you some reasons why I am currently driving the bandwagon on this seemingly crazy endeavor.
Before we go any further, I want you to get something clear about me. I have never been very good at watching what I eat. I am not a super health food guru who only wears yoga pants and shops at Whole Foods and has a “nothing taste as good as skinny feels” print taped on her bathroom mirror. A couple of years ago I lost sixty pounds because I started running and stopped eating a carton of ice cream every night, and I am significantly more conscious of what I put in my body now than I was then, but I was binge eating a bag of Reese’s holiday trees when I meal planned for my first week of Whole 30. I am convinced that if I can do it, anyone can. I beg you to not read this through the lens of me being a health and fitness junky.
I am not going to get into my whole health history, but there has been no shortage of struggle with body image and eating disorders and obesity in my life. I am constantly trying to understand my body and how to treat it well, because for most of my life learning how to be kind to my body was a lot like learning how to speak a foreign language. This is one of the reasons Whole 30 appealed to me when I first heard about it. I loved the idea of getting my body back to the way it was created to process food, and getting my mindset focused on using food to fuel me, instead of using my body like a garbage can. But what really pushed me over the Whole 30 ledge was a recent battle with anxiety.
I am convinced now more than ever that our physical, emotional and spiritual health are not separate, independent entities. They do not act like strangers at a party, unaffected when one of them stumbles in halfway through, drunk and incoherent. No, they are like moving parts of the same machine. The individual parts cannot be expected to function properly when one part breaks down, and if the parts start breaking down the machine will no longer run the way it should. I knew there was a good shot that my anxiety and emotional turmoil were at least partially related to my lack of physical health.
There are plenty of good ways to jumpstart healthy living, but Whole 30 has helped me take it seriously. It has given me some lines to stay within and some rules to keep me accountable. I don’t know about you, but anyone who has ever played ping-pong with me can vouch for the fact that I am far too competitive to not abide by rules when they are presented to me. If you feed off guidelines or structure, Whole 30 could be a really helpful tool to help reset your physical health. It has been a commitment to care for myself well physically, spiritually and mentally.
Now that I am standing on the other side of Whole 30, I can say that the highlights have been losing a jean size, learning that I love foods I didn’t know I loved, and giving myself permission to take up time caring for myself and my body well. Thirty days allows you to build sustainable habits and after you start incorporating dairy, sugar, gluten and alcohol back into your diet, you get an honest look at how those foods make you feel. As someone who has in the very recent past eaten a ton of queso, I can tell you that I am painfully aware of the affects that cheap food is supposed to have on me. My body has seen the light and it is very hesitant to go back into the processed, junk food darkness. Also worth mentioning, La Croix and sugar-free bacon are both legal on Whole 30, so we can all just thank the Good Lord for that. I would love to fill you in on some more meal planning secrets, delicious (I swear!) recipes and what to expect both during and after Whole 30—stay tuned.
[Photo by Julie Bloom.]
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