Every year on my birthday, I wake up feeling refreshed and determined to take on this next year with a purpose. I love the feeling of being able to say that this is a fresh start and it fills me with confidence to face the challenges and tribulations the coming year will bring. Now, I’m not huge on having a big birthday bash or extended celebration but there is one thing I insist upon doing. I have started a tradition for myself on my birthday of trying, doing or experiencing something completely new. One year it was to try White Castle for the first time. Sometimes my new thing is silly and sometimes its more meaningful, but this year I struggled to find the one thing I wanted to do for the first time. I asked coworkers, friends and drove my husband crazy with questions of what my thing should be. For some reason, this birthday seemed more important to me, the year full of upcoming changes and challenges, and therefore I wanted to do something harder or bigger than usual.
Then I remembered something I had seen on a blog recently about the Whole30 Challenge, a 30-day diet elimination process to help reset your body and identify changes that resulted from those eliminations. Basically Whole30 eliminates all dairy, grains, legumes and sugars completely from your diet leaving fruits, (most) veggies and protein. The intent is to be able to cleanse your body and then slowly introduce food groups again so that you can see how the foods actually impact your overall health. As someone who’s body struggles to handle the big G word [gluten] I thought it would be good for me to see the actual effect these foods were having on me. Being the overly competitive person that I am, I decided it was perfect. I determined that I would rope my husband into doing it too so I would have a companion in the struggles and we would dominate the challenge.
I mean come on, I could do anything for 30 days, right?
I decided to start the journey on a Sunday. This gave me a few days to enjoy a football tailgate with friends, my last glass of wine and a delicious load of sugar before kissing it all goodbye for 30 days, which was a perfect way to start. So Sunday rolled around and we got off to a good start. Breakfast was scrambled eggs and veggies with a side of potatoes. For lunch I made some tortilla soup minus the cheese, sour cream, corn, tortillas and beans so basically we had a chicken, tomato, and green chili soup, which was still yummy in my book. Dinner was a dish that we had from our Blue Apron box which consisted of thick pork chops, mashed potatoes that I made with chicken broth instead of milk or butter, and some roasted tomatoes. It was fine! We weren’t starving, had eaten all meals, and hadn’t experienced any crazy withdrawals like I had read about on some blogs.
But then the week started… And I realized what my hardest challenge would be. COFFEE. I drink coffee like crazy at work so it’s safe to say that I love it. However, I also love my creamer, lattes with flavoring and mochas galore. None of which I could have. There’s one line in the Whole30 book that preaches some tough love and I felt like it was directed right at me. Every time I looked at my cup of black coffee, I thought about it to steel my resolve.
“It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.“
As the 30 days started slowly crawling by, we settled into a good routine and let me tell you, I learned A LOT about myself, the power of resistance, and how I will never go back to my old ways.
Below are some of my favorite insights from the challenge:
- I clearly consume way too much sugar because once I had eliminated it, every fruit I ate tasted like straight up candy. I rediscovered the taste of strawberries, a personal favorite, and realized that I have been missing out on the sweet, tangy flavor that the fruit has to offer. Added sugar or high sugar foods will be extremely limited moving forward after the Challenge.
- Removing grains completely was hard. I’m fine with being gluten free but not being able to have rice was a killer. I can’t wait to have some yummy chicken curry with rice. I’m pretty set that it will be my first meal post-Challenge.
- Larabars were my saving grace. Made up of only a few ingredients such as almonds, cherries and dates, I stocked up on these every week. My husband and I are frequently running in opposite directions during the week due to our schedules so having a quick Larabar in my bag for times when we couldn’t get home for lunch or to have as a snack before an evening meeting was a life saver.
- Drinking black coffee just isn’t my cup of tea. I have learned the art of gulping it down but will never be able to stop my face from scrunching up on that first bitter sip.
- Eating out is basically impossible. And listing all the places my husband can’t eat food at just turns him into a hangry grizzly bear so it’s best for us to be creative at home.
- My energy levels haven’t skyrocketed, but I overall feel lighter and better. After eating, even though I don’t restrict portions or amounts, I have yet to feel that too full or weighed down feeling that other foods gave me.
- [Dirty little secret] – I cheated during the 30 days. Once for our first wedding anniversary. [I had to eat a bite of our wedding cake!!] And then again when my best friends were in town. And let me tell you, it was so not worth it. With my friends, we did a wine tasting at Hubers Orchard and Winery and about thirty minutes after our tasting of some good but super sweet wines, I felt like vomiting all over my friend’s car. It was awful.
All in all, while there were ups and downs, I would absolutely do another Whole30 Challenge. It truly has changed how I view food and more importantly, my ability to resist food that I know leaves me feeling sluggish and gross. While I wish I hadn’t cheated because again, I’m very competitive, I am also glad that I did because I learned how much better I like feeling good based on my food choices. I realize that even when everyone else is enjoying that donut at the office or fried pickles at dinner, I felt fine saying no without waging an internal war. And that ability to make my own choices about what I eat has been the biggest accomplishment to me. That being said I will make the choice to eat my Grandma’s famous rolls at Thanksgiving and many delicious things in the future but the key is that while I can make concessions, I know how to identify when those concessions are worth it.
So…. who will be joining me for another Whole30 in January?! 🙂