The Whole 30

The Whole 30

Photo Description: A woman lies before an open fridge with her face face-down on the tile and one arm reaching in to grab a beer.  She appears to be sleeping.

Photo Description: A woman lies before an open fridge with her face face-down on the tile and one arm reaching in to grab a beer.  She appears to be sleeping.

Right before Thanksgiving, I had the unusual idea to try a new diet: the Whole30. They can explain their process more eloquently than I (http://whole30.com/), but essentially it’s a diet where you cut out everything that makes life beautiful and you suffer immensely. Wait, no. What I meant to say is that you cut out grains, dairy, sugar, alcohol, and preservatives for 30 days. After that period, you slowly start bringing back certain foods to see how they affect you. Do legumes give you joint pain? Do grains make you crabby? Does cheese give you the poops?

I ate relatively healthy before I started Whole30. I had already cut out a lot of processed foods and sugars (exception: coffee creamer) and lost 22 pounds! I was doing well, but knew I could be treating my body better.

Long story short (tl;dr), here’s what I learned:

  • Without a decent amount of carbohydrates, my moods swing, and my menstrual cycle becomes irregular
  • Thanksgiving on Whole30 is a good way to practice for survival reality shows
  • I don’t drink soda but I could taste Pepsi in my sleep (so strong was my longing for sugar)
  • It’s expensive as hell to buy only fruits, vegetables, and meat
  • If you don’t cook much, prepare to be exhausted spending three hours in the kitchen every day
  • Fruits are fucking amazing sugar machines and rutabaga is a thing that exists and tastes good in potatoes
  • Coffee actually tastes good black
  • And finally, going on diets is the worst because…

Food is such a strong component of our culture that when you drastically remove yourself from “the norm,” you become isolated. More on that in a minute.

The diet was difficult for me because I’m a natural lazybones about cooking. I work a lot and go to school – ain’t nobody got time for standing around a kitchen chopping squash! But my body went into real withdrawals. I didn’t realize how much sugar I consumed. It is everywhere, in everything. Pair that with drastically reduced carbohydrates and I was in real physical pain. My legs ached. Putting my hair in a ponytail took all my morning energy. My shocked body didn’t menstruate on time. I had intensely vivid dreams about food for a week. I had no energy for the gym, or even doing laundry. If I didn’t eat about two sweet potatoes a day, my mood would crash (carbs have a role in serotonin levels – look it up). I left early on Thanksgiving so I didn’t have to watch my family eat pie. And that’s what ultimately made me decide to never go on a diet again, and to end Whole30 early.

I couldn’t go out to eat with my friends – making sure restaurant food was diet-compliant would have been a nightmare. Far easier to stay home and make sweet potatoes (again). I would rather sleep than watch TV with my partner. Television tells me I’m not skinny enough to begin with, and then they throw in a buttery Red Lobster commercial. Big fat NOPE on that.

The Whole30 was so terribly terrible and I am so happy to have tried it. Wait, what? Yes, it was awful. I was in pain, mentally and menstrually mixed up, and forever fatigued. But my relationship with food changed. I see bread and chips as quick fuel that I ought to avoid so that my body can harness energy from the chub hanging around just about every spot on my body. I want to burn my natural fuel! I learned that I can make a mean stuffed spaghetti squash and a decent steak! I still cannot dissect an artichoke but it was fun trying. But none of that matters when I can’t spend time in my Aunt Linda’s kitchen, eating whatever comfort food she can throw at me. Healthy eating is void when your body can’t adapt to a particular version of it and you’re always waiting to go to bed. Whole30 is a great opportunity to cut out foods you didn’t know were causing inflammation, but it’s not a way of life for someone whose lifestyle revolves around getting fancy coffees with friends and sharing a bag of chips.

If you want to learn more about Whole30 – go for it. It’s a real learning experience. But when you’re done, just remember who you are and what your priorities are. I care about my social network and feeling balanced.

So you’ll have to excuse me, but I need some more vanilla in my coffee with a side of vegan-buttered toast

Sarah Carter is a lover of clean water and the Boy Who Lived. She’s a freelancer at www.essietypesetting.com and loves helping people and professionals exceed their goals

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