Friday, April 28, 2017

Five Lessons and Learnings from My Whole 30

I completed the Whole 30 in January, and since then have fielded many questions from friends who were shocked that my normally food-loving self would restrict myself for an entire month. Was it hard? What was the worst part? Did you lose weight? Would you do it again?

All in all, it was a really interesting experience that taught me a lot about food and how the body responds to it. Here are my top five takeaways and tips:

  1. Treat it as an education experience, rather than a restriction diet. During my Whole 30, I learned so much about different foods and why we eat them. I highly suggest reading up on the Whole 30 methodology through one of Melissa Hartwig’s books or doing research online. If you understand why you can’t have that chocolate chip cookie or piece of avocado toast, it makes it easier not to want it. After my Whole 30, my biggest takeaway was learning what foods make my body feel good and why we need to eat a mix of different types of foods.
  2. Find a way for support and accountability. My foodie friends wouldn’t join me on my Whole 30, so I joined a Facebook group and it made a world of difference. It was helpful to have people to share recipes and struggles with, and we were always there to answer each other’s questions and provide tips. I had a horrible headache from the sugar withdrawals the first week and wanted to quit, but the women in my group got me through it. When I was hot all the time, they helped me figure out it was because I had increased my protein intake so much.
  3. Make a meal plan and embrace meal prep Sunday. You will not finish your Whole 30 if you don’t make a meal plan, shop using a strict grocery list and prep your meals for the week. If I didn’t have all my lunches for the week ready to go in Tupperware, I can guarantee I would’ve caved and ordered take-out or inhaled a bag of chips. You’ll also save money this way and avoid buying too much on your grocery runs.
  4. This isn’t a weight loss diet. Sure, some people come away from Whole 30 looking like a new person, but this requires even more discipline than following the basic program. On Whole 30, I still ate lots of starchy foods like potatoes and fruits and enjoyed plenty of healthy fats. So, while I felt a lot better and my skin was glowing, I didn’t drop 20 pounds overnight because I didn’t count calories and ate whenever I was hungry. If you’re trying to get in shape quickly, I would recommend 21 Day Fix or good old-fashioned calorie counting.
  5. The “tough love” was too tough. Yes, of course, if you inhale half a dozen donuts or cave and scarf down a grilled cheese in an extreme moment of weakness, you should probably start over. But if you break a rule without realizing it (I didn’t realize peanut butter was a no-go and put some in a smoothie), or accidentally consume a sauce with small amounts of dairy or sugar in it while eating out, I think you should be kind to yourself. The truth is that this program isn’t sustainable for people who like to dine out and be adventurous eaters. To be honest, I’ll probably never do it again because it made me a truly obnoxious orderer at restaurants and made it hard for me to flex my chef skills in the kitchen at home.

All in all, it was an interesting experience and I’m glad I gave it a whirl, but the truth is: I probably wouldn’t recommend it to you. You can learn about food and eat healthier without following a strict elimination diet – that cuts out things I feel are good for me like legumes and whole grains – and if you’ve had disordered eating issues, I can see this being problematic for you and even leading to binges.

However, don’t take my word for it. There is so much research out there and so many options for you! 

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