The Whole 30 and Beyond

This morning, I had the first bread I’ve eaten in thirty days.  And yes, it felt like a momentous occasion.  I survived the Whole 30 and it was time to celebrate the accomplishment by burying my head in french toast.

Ok, that opener probably does not  lead you to believe that I really liked the Whole 30.  But I did.  I learned a great deal about day to day healthy eating.  I tried foods I would have never given the chance, and found myself liking some of them.  I gained confidence that I could maintain a healthier lifestyle and not feel deprived.  All in all, it was a very positive experience.

The question everyone wants to know is “Did you lose weight?”  People inquired about this more than anything else about the Whole 30.  So let’s get it out of the way.  Yes, I lost weight.  Quite a bit of weight- 12lbs in 30 days.  I lost 10.5 inches.  Not all of that was due to Whole 30.  I worked out at least three days a week, with a pretty moderate intensity- burning 350-500 calories per session.

As much as I really do not want to post these unflattering photos, I feel I must.  Day 1 and Day 30.

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If losing weight is your goal, I imagine the Whole 30 is very appealing.  But that was not my goal, and statistics tell me I will most likely gain this weight back and then some.  As a proponent of the Body Positivity movement, I did not want to base my success on weight loss. Nor do think it is a good idea to promote only certain sizes and weights  as being healthy or beautiful.  Health and beauty come in many packages.

But, there are aspects where losing weight made me feel good.  Over the course of the month, I dropped 30+ seconds from my time for running a mile.  I found my runs easier.  Whether that was because I weighed less or was fueling my body more efficiently, I don’t know.  I imagine it was a combination of both.  That is not to say you can’t be my size, be larger than me, and be in better shape.  It simply means I have been running a long time, and noticed at the smaller weight, I ran faster.

I am not immune to the allure of physical appearance, in my case wanting to wear specific cloths.  I primarily buy my clothes at thrift shops.  So if I find a cute item, I don’t have the option of buying it in another size if it doesn’t fit- because I have no problem doing that.  At the end of December, several pairs of favorite pants were in the pile to go back to the thrift store because they no longer fit.  Because I am a procrastinator, they never made it there.  I’m not going to lie.  It felt really good to be able to wear those pants again.  There was a brand new pair of pants in that pile that I was never able to fit into, despite them being my normal size 12.  (Isn’t it completely frustrating how much variety there is within sizes?  A 12 should be a twelve- not an 8, not a 16.)  When I cut the tags off of them today and put them on, it made me really happy.

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But all this talk of pants and inches has little to do with what I would want to impart about the Whole 30.  The thing I was most surprised about was that eating healthy food most of the time now feels like something I can do.  As a person who thinks beer is a food group, I never anticipated this change in thinking.

I loved that there was no calorie counting, no measuring.  I ate whenever I wanted, which was often.  I ate food I liked.  I didn’t choke down shakes or force myself to eat salads.  Yes, it required planning, and research and cooking ahead.  But when I did those things, I ate well and was happy.  I never felt deprived.  Well, almost never.  When I watched my kids eat pizza, as I reheated a prepared frozen meal, it was a little tough to take.  But overall, I ate good food and enjoyed it.

I was surprised to learn that spaghetti squash in place of noodles could be an actual thing for me.  That pesto still tastes pretty damn good without the Parmesan cheese.  That mashed potatoes made with broth and ghee are every bit as good as the ones with butter and milk (I am not lying on that).  I learned I’d actually prefer to have cauliflower instead of rice, and that sparkling water is a reasonable substitute for soda.  Yeah, had I not done this program, I wouldn’t believe it either.   Also, cherry pie Lara Bars are a gift from heaven.

I would be an asshole if I didn’t talk about the slip ups.  There was the planned night of decadence, as described in a prior post.  In addition, I had two other missteps.  One of the students in my classroom takes great pride in sharing his snack with his teachers.  Every day, he presents each of us with a single Cheez-It.  Most days, I threw it away.  But on one particular day, curiosity got the best of me.  On another occasion, I visited a mosque with my sons.  Afterward, we went to the market across the street so I could get some new foods for the boys to try- samosas and baklava.  My sons did not care for either, and I REALLY love both.  I couldn’t throw them away practically untouched.  I had three bites of samosa and two bites of baklava.  For Whole 30 purists, yes, I understand that means I did not complete a legitimate Whole 30.

Now, from these cheats, I learned something.  I learned that a simple Cheez-It was not worth the cheat, but the samosa and baklava were.  It made me think about treats- how everything had become a treat for me, and I don’t want it to be the case again.  The samosas and baklava were legitimate treats- they were from a market I don’t frequent, were made fresh, were not something I enjoy often.  The Cheez-It was just a Cheez-It.  I would be ok not eating it. That’s not to say there aren’t common, processed things I really like to eat and will eat again.  It just means I want to keep thinking about what I eat- not just devouring it blindly and without consideration.

Which, wow, do I ever eat a lot without thinking.  Every time I grated cheese for something for my kids, I would think about how I normally eat a few bites.  I cleared their breakfast dishes, and threw away the two bites on the plate instead of eating them and noticed it again.  Putting a spoon in my mouth to “clean it off” after portioning sour cream or peanut butter.  I do a lot of mindless eating.  I think we all do.

The Whole 30 was not without challenges, and I was surprised that most of these were social and psychological.  The full disclaimer is that I also did not take antidepressants this month, wanting to just have an entire 30 days to be clear of everything.  Perhaps that played a role.  But I found myself more sensitive than usual.  I got my feelings hurt more often, acted out as a way to deal with it.  I was uncomfortable in social situations involving new people.  I found myself lying awake at night rerunning conversations in my head.  I think without the buffer or food and drink, I was simply left to dwell within my head and make mountains out of mole hills.  I couldn’t have a beer to take the edge off, a cupcake to make me feel better.  It woke me up to some things I need to work on and the crutches I have been using in place of actually dealing.

Today, I gave myself a free pass.  No workouts, no chores.  I have the freedom to eat and do what I want.  I did my hair and took time with my makeup.  I put on a dress and took a picture.  Yes, I am a complete narcissist to want to take a pretty picture of myself.  But dammit, I’m 42 years old.  I’ve had two kids, and I teach at a preschool.  My opportunities for glamour are limited.  Sometimes, you just have to treat yourself like a jewel even if you feel like an ordinary rock.

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That’s what I take away from the Whole 30.  That in the midst of being a mom and a wife and an employee and all of the demands those things bring, I am worth taking care of.  I can make choices that benefit me and make me happier.  I don’t have to just get by.  I hope to take these lessons with me, to stake my claim for a better life, and not settle for a pretty good month.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have pizza to order. It’s my free day, dammit, and it’s been 30 days!!

 

 

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