What a week it has been! On Friday, I agreed to do a Whole30 challenge with two of my girlfriends and on Sunday, we began. I didn’t have a lot of time to plan or prepare since they had already chosen a start date when I jumped on board, so I did a quick internet search and relied a LOT on their help. After a week of doing this eating challenge, I have a few thoughts to share.
First of all, I feel pretty good! I definitely have more energy and have completely lost any feeling of bloating. Part of the challenge is agreeing not to weigh yourself at all for the month, so I have no idea about weight loss, but I do know that I feel differently (and better!) All in all, I’m excited about the challenge now, rather than terrified. The biggest reason for that is that I changed the way I framed the experience. This week, I realized that this challenge is truly a gift to myself. Rather than being a restrictive “diet”, it’s actually a gift of health for myself and my family. In doing it, I’m learning more about healthful eating, giving myself the time to cook for my family and giving myself the gift of healthy food. That mindset made all the difference. And here’s what I’ve learned from doing it so far. . .
1. I matter. It sounds ridiculous, but I really didn’t eat very much before starting this. It seemed that I was always running out the door to a school dropoff, an after-school activity or a work thing and I never took the time to stop and eat. Instead, I would grab a handful of something that I knew would fill me up quickly or a Kind bar or a latte, and run out the door, eating as I went. I knew this wasn’t healthy, but I rationalized that it was just my season of life as a mother of tiny ones and the way it had to be. In doing the Whole30, however, I literally cannot press on without eating. My body simply shuts down if I’m not eating. I’ve realized that I was feeding it with quick-fixes and not healthy fueling foods. If I’m going to care for my family, I’m going to have to care for myself first. As is somewhat typical with American moms, that’s honestly a new concept to me, but one that I’m looking forward to embracing more.
2. I’m setting an example for my kids. They are seeing my husband and I eat this way and surely this will have a positive influence on their eating. Our middle son loves to eat anything that we do, so that’s been the biggest change, but our oldest has been considering trying new foods a bit more, which is a huge leap for him. I’ve also found that when I’m eating like this, I’m far more strict with them when they beg me to splurge. Somehow, my resolve is strengthened because if I’m having zero sugar, they had better be okay with just having a little bit – they’re lucky they get any!
3. Planning is crucial. I read the tips on the Whole30 website before starting and one of the things they suggested is planning. I laughed inwardly and thought about how little time I have for planning and I might not be able to handle this challenge. Since I only found out about it 36 hours before starting (and the day before Valentine’s Day!) I honestly didn’t have time to plan. So, I went in and figured I would wing it. How hard could it be, after all? The fact that I hadn’t considered is that my body was going through detox. Hard. Detox from sugar and from carbs is no joke for some people. Some complain of having symptoms like the flu (they call it the carb flu!) and some are exhausted and grouchy. I got horrible migraines. I have battled migraines since I was a child, so this is no surprise, but they hit me so hard that I was stuck in bed for a day and felt miserable for the first four days. Because of the migraines, I couldn’t drag myself to the grocery store or do any elaborate cooking. I was able to stick to the plan, but definitely would have been better if I had planned ahead a little. Planning also ensures that you aren’t relying on willpower during the tough times. That is absolutely crucial. You don’t want to be making the decision about what to eat while you’re ravenously hungry. It’s far better to have decided in advance. That, in and of itself, removes a lot of temptation. I’m also now better convinced that time spent planning isn’t wasted, it just saves you time later on. Of course, this principle is applicable to most areas of life. Like an former employer of mine used to say, “Plan the work and then work the plan.” It’s a truth that I’ve lived by in many areas of my life, but now I’m applying it to food as well.
4. Trying new things is key. I’ve found so far that my cravings and general feelings of deprivation are far worse when I’m not eating yummy things. Another bland chicken breast and steamed veggies? Ugh. I’d rather not even eat dinner. But, when I’m eating something incredibly delicious – especially something new – I’m excited and not at all feeling like I’m being deprived. Thankfully, there are a ton of websites out there with great recipes. I’ll be sharing those soon! This is a rule that applies to the rest of life as well. We’ve really got to keep trying new things to stay young.
5. You really do crave what you eat. A few of the things on the “acceptable” foods list are things that I rather dislike. Coconut, for example. (I know. Weird,right?) But, I’ve found that if I push through and eat them a few times, I dislike them less and less. Maybe I’ll eventually love them – who knows?! I’m becoming convinced, however, that your body craves what you feed it, so we really are capable of changing our body’s tastes in the long run. That’s good news for a carbs and chocolate lover like me!