I was aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, probably reaching my left hand into a bag of chips, when I read about a Christian writer who decided to try the Whole30 program. She made it sound funny (because she’s good at funny), but needed in her life. On a whim, I decided to take on the Whole30 challenge myself.
No sugar. No dairy. No grains. No alcohol. No legumes. 30 days.
My husband said he’d join me, and I posted our intentions on Facebook; you know, to make it official. Friends weighed in on our decision, and the responses fell into one of three categories:
1) I’ve done it. The first week is the hardest, but overall it was a positive thing.
2) Good for you, but I could never give up (fill in the blank).
3) Please post updates about your journey, because I need to eat healthier.
From everything I read, a key element to Whole30 success is planning out your meals in advance (for example, having things on hand for my husband to pack a lunch when he usually eats at his work’s cafeteria). Pinterest to the rescue! I also found a few Facebook groups promoting the Whole30 plan. I filled up a blank page of paper with three meals a day for a week, and included snack ideas. We were on our way!
That first trip to the grocery store, it occurred to me I had a full cart already, after going through the fresh produce aisle. I had no idea what aisle would have coconut milk, and didn’t know if there was a difference to the types and brands of coconut milk available. That was a bit overwhelming. I walked right past the dairy aisle, silently apologizing for not picking up the obligatory gallon of milk I usually put in my cart each week. I hope the cows don’t take it personally. 30 days. A few people mentioned eating Whole30 would be expensive. However, we grow our own pigs and buy beef locally, so I already had the majority of our meat at home in the freezer. My grocery bill didn’t really change much, but I did find I had to go twice a week to keep stocked in fresh fruits and vegetables.
We started our cleanse on a Sunday. I had a hard-boiled egg for breakfast, topped off with a plain latte and steamed coconut milk. Coffee sans creamer was going to be one of my greatest challenges. By the end of church, my stomach was growling. We usually eat lunch out with my husband’s parents on Sunday, but we declined this particular week, until we figured out what the heck we could eat at a restaurant. Instead, we ate a Whole30 staple at home, deli meat on a leaf of Romaine lettuce, with a side of raw vegetables and ranch. Who knew you could make your own ranch dressing, ketchup and mayonnaise? I did have to determine if our deli meat was compliant. Compliant is a big thing on this plan, because apparently a lot of our store-bought food is filled with chemicals and additives. Remember that Tom Cruise movie, The Firm… “The firm approves of this, the firm approves of that?” I felt like I’d entered its sequel. 30 days. It became my mantra.
You can read online about the side effects of this program. We experienced headaches, fatigue and lightheadedness. Your body will take issue with letting go of some of its favorite things. I craved salty things, which is my biggest weakness - popcorn and tortilla chips. I had a dream where I was in a buffet line, and I decided to quit doing this ridiculous program. I put my hamburger on a bun and placed a handful of chips on my paper plate. By the end of the line, I’d thought better of my hasty decision and threw the bun and chips in the trash can. What a dream! 30 days.
The main reason I did the Whole30 cleanse was to do just that - cleanse my body of the unnecessary stuff I delight in feeding it. I’ll be honest, the weight loss was an added bonus. I also suspected I would learn a thing or two about healthy substitutes, cutting down on snacks and portion control. We form bad eating habits and they’re hard to break. Whole30 helped me examine all of that. My biggest takeaway was a better awareness of the role food plays in our lives. It takes discipline for me to reach a point where I feel like I’m controlling food rather than it controlling me. My first few days back to eating “normal,” I find I’m nervous about my food choices. Whole30 eating made me feel good about my diet, and I don’t want to lose the positive effects. We’ve decided to do the Whole30 program once a year as a tool to keep our bodies healthy and right our focus. After all, it’s just 30 days.