Welp, I survived Whole30. Actually, I didn’t just survive, I DID IT. Not a single slip-up. WHOA.
When I decided to do Whole30 this month, my rationale was pretty simple: I had gone off the rails over the holidays, allowing treats willy-nilly and drinking regularly and not feeling awesome. I only gained about five pounds, which I recognize was a holiday victory, but moreover, I felt like crap.
Christmas night was especially miserable for me. I indulged that day because it’s FREAKING CHRISTMAS and that’s what one is wont to do, but ugh. I felt physically ill that night and yet ate leftovers alone on my couch because it was Christmas, and I really missed Andrew (who spent the holiday with his family) and felt lonely and sad, despite a FANTASTIC day with my own family. I just wanted My Person and had a lot of feelings about the whole thing. I feel embarrassed even sharing this, but I thought that maybe my old friend Cookies would help fill that void, but it didn’t.
I got to a place I hadn’t been in a long time: a place where I felt guilty and ashamed about what I had eaten, because it seemed like such a weak thing for someone who’d lost 75+ lbs. I felt like I should know better.
Starting some sort of cleanse seemed like the right and rational thing to do. I’d done them before! I knew I could do it! So many people were doing it! It felt obvious.
I learned a lot during this time. Perhaps more than I have during any other cleanse, and I take that as a sign of growth, because normally I’m SO focused on the things I’m not eating that I don’t really have time for the emotional side, but this time, it was all of the emotions and almost nothing about how I should eat, because at this point, I’ve got that in the bag. I realized that this cleanse didn’t feel that hard physically, because Whole30 is not that far off from what I eat 90% of the time in real life.
But here’s what I did learn.
I learned that I do better with a few carbs. A serving of steel cut oats in the morning, or quinoa with my dinner. Whole grains. I did some research into this and it turns out that it’s not uncommon for people with anxiety issues to have a hard time with low carb diets. I think my brain works better with carbs. Obviously that’s not license to dive headfirst into a bread basket (though I WOULD LOVE TO) but like, as a life rule, I’m never getting rid of oatmeal. EVER.
Secondly, I was reminded of just how vehemently I hate having other people all up in my food choices. I know some people probably found the Whole 30 Twitter discussions supportive; I found them stifling and food police-ish and that’s not my jam. When I first started teaching, I worked with a bunch of women who were weight obsessed, and every single day, all of us would trot out our lunches and run the gauntlet of how Weight Watchers acceptable it was (all of us were on the program). I left every conversation feeling crappy about myself and resolved to never feel that way again, be it by my own imagination or thoughts or at the hands of others. No thanks. I find food to be intensely personal. I don’t enjoy being judged and I sure as hell have other things to do rather than worry about what others eat.
Finally, this stirred in me a very real desire to commit to never feel sad about food again, and to get off that whole “specific diet” or “cleanse” mentality. Forever. I’ve run the gamut of ways of eating, from eating less than 1,000 calories per day in college to binging like crazy to vegan eating to this business. I’m exhausted.
I still have weight to lose. Just over 30 pounds. And while that’s still a lot to go, I plan to spend my time carving out a way of eating that’s a lifestyle. Sure, much of my eating will incorporate some of the Whole30 principles of eating real food, as well as some vegan or plant based ideas. My yoga practice is definitely beginning to influence the things I put into my body, and I envision a lot of salads, a lack of processed foods, lean protein, my beloved juices and a ton of vegetables. But I also see the occasional glass of wine at happy hour and trying the cookies I bake and sharing dessert at dinner or eating a burger with a bun.
I’ve said over and over recently that I want a normal relationship with food. I don’t want to continue to beat myself up over a donut or a piece of chocolate. I want to think of food as a choice, not a judgement of my character. I want to stop being that person who is forever adhering to some sort of food rules, and just make good choices a way of life.
I know I’m one of those people who has to work really hard to lose weight. I suspect that I will always have to keep my caloric intake relatively low and exercise daily and will always be more “muscular” than “thin.” But I also know that I’m one of those people who has zero desire to exclude all the fun and camaraderie and legitimate joy food can bring to my life.
The benefits of this month were many. I lost some weight and broke a plateau. I stopped my sugar addiction. I was able to stop thinking so much about food and deal with some Real Feelings I have about eating. I got clear on some exercise goals. I was reminded of just how awesome I feel when I eat well and was challenged to be creative in the kitchen.
One of Whole30′s big things is the idea of “reprogramming” your body to only want healthy foods. I don’t know that it did that completely for me as I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t turn down a brownie right now, but it did reprogram the idea that I’m inherently flawed and that food is some sort of fix for that, and/or a way of accurately judging how “good” I am.
I feel excited to work on moderation and creating a new normal, cleanses and fad diets be damned.