In my whole 30 years, I’ve never gone on a diet. Actually, come to think of it, there was that one time, back in college, when I challenged myself to eat nothing but raw fruits and vegetables for three whole days. SO.MANY.GRAPES. I also had a brief stint as an uncompromising calorie counter, and while that helped me limit the amount of food I consumed, it was more about calorie give-and-take, like having a sensible lunch so I could calorically finagle a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch for dessert.
Diet is a dirty word. It makes me think of limitations, restrictions, sacrifices and, ultimately, unhappiness. And thus, I’ve avoided all of them. Because food is my THING. My everything, really. Without it, I don’t know who I am. And I mean that literally, in the least dramatic way. Without food, I don’t know how I’d spend my time or my thoughts. I’d feel empty, physically and mentally.
Over the Christmas holiday, my mom asked my thoughts on the Whole30. I’d never heard of it, but a little bit of research told me it was basically an extreme 30-day version of the Paleo diet meant to help participants nutritionally reset–to find the mix of food and nutrients that made their bodies feel and operate optimally. This “nutritional reset” idea resonated with me because I’ve been on downward spiral since my big 30th birthday in July. Lots of travel, lots of fun, and lots of eating with reckless abandon have accumulated in a 7-pound gain I’m not planning to keep.
And so this self-declared carbohydrate connoisseur said yes to the Whole30, and gave up grains, sugar, beans, soy, dairy, and booze for thirty whole darn days. I was scared at first, mostly because it had taken me a lot of time and effort to find a mix of foods that kept my low-blood sugar in line throughout the day, and I was hesitant to mess with that “magic” formula. But I went forth and swapped my normal egg and Ezekiel toast for a veggie frittata and roasted sweet potatoes. Oatmeal got the axe in favor of coconut milk chia seed pudding. My lunches weren’t all that different–a salad with protein, just no cheese or quinoa as I’d normally use. Buh bye mid-afternoon protein bar, H-E-L-L-O roasted broccoli and cauliflower rice (OBSESSED). Dinners weren’t much different either. Meatballs and marinara over zucchini noodles, mixed greens topped with carnitas or baracoa plus guacamole, stir-fry with ALL THE VEGGIES, burger-salad-what-have-yous.
It wasn’t all that hard, honestly. Except for the whole no wine thing, but even that got easier as the month went by. Thirty whole days of clean eating coupled with daily exercise, and I lost a whopping 1.4 lbs.
One surprising thing I learned this past month is that I don’t respond well to making foods completely off limits. I should have seen this coming. When I’m told I can’t do something, it makes me want to do it even more. Like when the orthopedic doctor told me some knees just aren’t made for running and I subsequently made running a half marathon my ultimate goal. I’m a sexy rebel in that way, and I believe having all these food restrictions around me made me gorge on the things that were OK. JUST BECAUSE I COULD, DANGIT.
The funny thing is, now that this whole thirty days is over, I don’t have any weird cravings or desires to binge. I just want my oatmeal back. And maybe a glass of wine with dinner tonight. But otherwise, I think the Whole30 “diet” isn’t so bad or extreme after all–it’s just clean eating (in the cleanest sense of the word). It wasn’t a quick weight-loss fix (for me, anyway), but I feel good. I feel strong. My body feels fueled. And I have never, in my whole darn life, eaten so many vegetables.
So where do I go from here? My focus is on mindfulness and awareness– eating when I’m hungry, not when I’m bored or stressed or scared or happy or lonely or whatever million other emotions lead me to binge eat banana chips. I will keep on cooking like a crazy woman and eating more vegetables than a vegetarian all the while minimizing the amount of processed goods I consume. And hopefully, in the process, I’ll drop a few of those post-30th birthday lbs while still maintaining the mental and physical fullness I found during Whole30.