I COMPLETED @WHOLE30. And I’m not finished. (Hi Day 35!) The past month has been nothing short of enlightening and all I want to do is keep going. I know this won’t last forever and that’s cool. I can’t wait to enter into the phase of reintroduction to further build awareness around how my mind/body/spirit functions best. But till then, I’m going to revel in this thing called bliss.
If you know me, you know I played competitive tennis for 15 years and grew up in a family of beast-mode athletes. My mom is from Santa Barbara and harped on nutrition (she makes the best *real food* in the world). I have had the privilege of education, resources and worldliness. I know what macros are and I know what good fat looks like. I’m in a relationship with a nurse who treats his body like the temple that it is. Even still, I haven’t always had a healthy relationship with food. I’ve ebbed and flowed. I’ve fallen into pits of regret, guilt and dependence. I have a raging sugar dragon (you’ll learn this word if you read any of the Whole30 books). I like to have a good time, travel and experience new cultures - all things that typically don’t involve Whole30 friendly food and drink. I’m also a free spirit so I certainly don’t like restrictions, rules or orders.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why I embarked on this journey. It might seem dangerous and even counter intuitive to a healthy diet (diet: noun; the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats…not the weight loss kind.) I know because I was sitting in your shoes 40 days ago wondering if this was right for me. It seemed so…limiting. But in reality, Whole30 constitutes eating whole foods whether from the earth or sea. In 2010, I read the beginning of an encyclopedia called Healing with Foods. It covers Asian traditions and modern nutrition and it harps on something called the Integrative Nutrition Pyramid.
The pyramid ‘provides a general pattern for healthful food selections and proportions based on the latest population studies an nutrition research. The reader who endeavors to discover greater health and awareness needs to know not only the quality issues but also the properties of food.’ Furthermore, and this is where it gets deep: ‘Consider your right hand. It has a front and a back that function together. The back of your hand is like knowing about food. The front, your palm, is like knowing more about yourself in terms of bodily type and function. The integration of the front and back of the hand symbolizes the close connection between the successful use of food and self-knowledge. The Integrative Nutrition Pyramid features a vital ingredient in our journey towards habitual good nutrition: awareness. Common food charts and their implied diets are all but destined to failure when applied in the lives of people who need emotional and spiritual transformation for self respect and clarity of mind before long-term dietary progress can be made.’
I had heard about Whole30 years ago but my mind was not ready. This time around, it was. I started addressing my well being in a whole new way. I added meditation to my routine. I explored herbal teas, morning and night time routines. I did things to calm my nervous system. I quit caffeine and didn’t go near over the counter drugs. If you let it, Whole30 can drive a positive lifestyle change. It's a reset, a program, a fresh take on life. It is not a diet (meaning, not the kind that induces short term weight loss). It is not a fad. They say it’s easy in comparison to other difficult life happenings and that may be true, in relativity. But, I’m gonna be real. It’s hard. It requires all of you.
Some Expectations (Maybe):
*This is my experience. Yours might be similar in some ways, different in others.
I love sugar. LOVE. IT. I think its genetic. The week before Whole30, my dad left a cupcake on my doorstep. He called and said, “I left a gift on your mat.” It made my whole week. That’s how much I love sugar. It should be classified as a drug. I mean, they say the brain lights up like crazy when one consumes the damn thing so…wtf FDA?! Sometimes, when I start, I can’t stop and then there goes that pint of ice cream, chocolate bar, whatever. You get it. Did you know that alcohol is essentially liquid sugar? Yep. Anyway, this brings me to culprit 1 of migraines. By Day 4, it felt like someone was hammering away on the inside of my temples. Nothing alleviated my pain and I refused to take Advil because I am strong and I can do anything! Ha. As noted above, I quite caffeine which brings me to culprit 2 of migraines. I don’t normally drink a lot of coffee or tea - maybe a cup a day. But add up all of those cups over the course of a few years and you’ve got a little thing called dependence. I felt like if I was going to eliminate the depressant (alcohol) then why wouldn’t I eliminate the stimulant (caffeine)? Made sense to me.
Foggy, Airy, Heavy:
I felt lightheaded, even just on a walk with the dogs. My head felt like it was filled with helium yet I was bloated and weighed down. This was not Whole30’s fault. This was the week before’s fault (see: cupcake delivered by my dad). I went ALL OUT the week before. I’m not even gonna go into detail because it’s kind of embarrassing. I was on a mission to fulfill every tastebud known to my mouth. So I chalk up that fatigue and bloating to my week before. It was definitely the BBQ, tex mex, pizza, popcorn, beer, cupcake…..
Eczema Flare Ups:
I have severe eczema. I’ve lived with it ever since I was a little girl. It’s fluctuated and improved drastically. But certain things set it off and I’m convinced food/drink is one of them. The first week of my Whole30 my neck was splotchy, itchy, fiery and extremely uncomfortable.
If you don’t live alone, please warn your partner/children/roommate that you will not be warm and fuzzy for Day 1-7. In fact, you might be mean, stomp around and blame them for every single horrible thing you’re feeling. I urge you to practice self control but we all have our moments. My mood fluctuated a lot, especially Day 3-6. I was frustrated, sad, delirious, happy, determined and concerned. I had a lot of hope and I certainly wasn’t going to give up (not my style). But I absolutely hated the way I felt. As someone with a high level of body awareness, the above symptoms were a serious bummer.
This one is easy. You will want sugar, bread, alcohol, chips, hummus, beans, french fries, sweet pickles, beer, wine, tequila yahdee yahdee yah. Especially at night.
At this point you might be wondering…is this even worth it??? Yes, it is. I’ll tell you why, but first let me tell you how.
Go to bed earlier. Cravings hit hardest at night; you can avoid them (almost) completely by turning in a couple hours early. Don’t worry, it doesn’t make you un-cool.
Clean out your pantry. If it’s going to expire or has already, toss it. If it’s going to tempt you and torture you, toss it. I like to bake so I hid all of that stuff in the very back, out of sight.
Organize. Make sure you have tupperware and make sure it’s orderly. You don’t want to be frustrated rummaging through lids.
Buy cooking tools, if necessary. Measuring cups, measuring spoons, pots, pans - aka basics will be mandatory. But I also recommend a couple of ‘fancier’ products that will make your life so much easier: a food processor/blender/vitamix and a spiralizer. I use our vitamix almost daily for new recipes, snack ingredients and dressings/sauces. And there’s nothing like vegetable pasta. You can spiral anything: sweet potato, squash, zucchini, carrot, you name it.
Have emergency snacks. I can’t stress this enough. Dried fruit, bars (RXbar, Lara bar and Epic are my favorites), avocado and almonds/cashews make great, no refrigeration needed options. If you’re working a long shift bring some homemade tuna or chicken salad, bake a sweet potato in advance, throw in some steamed veggies, pack extra, nutritious snacks and voila, no hunger issues.
Be patient. This is a 30 day program. Take your time. Enjoy the ups and downs. Be nice to yourself. Be proud of yourself.
Have friends, cheerleaders, coaches. You don’t have to do Whole30 with someone by your side (I didn’t) but it’s extremely important to have love, support and encouragement. Tell your friends and family you’re embarking on this program. Get involved in the Whole30 community. Stay connected with your core people - those who inspire you. If you know someone who has done Whole30 before, ask them to be your coach (hint, hint). :)
Be social. Go out! Have a blast! Enjoy your tea or le croix. Who cares? We are social beings. We don’t need alcohol and food to connect us. And if you find other people are uncomfortable with your newfound life choices (popular response), ask your bartender to put soda water in a rocks glass. No one will know.
Master restaurants. If you know where you’re going to eat, consider calling ahead to ask about food items and their contents. Don’t apologize. Don’t feel bad. This is your body. You decide what nourishes it. Consider taking your own dressing/sauce to restaurants (if you don’t feel like making your own, Primal Kitchen has great Whole30 compliant dressings). Theirs are usually packed with sugar.
Diversify your identity. This comes straight from Tim Ferriss, who is currently one of my favorite go-tos for motivation, inspiration and general life tips. “Have a consistent physical practice that is goal based.” This allows you. This allows you to have multiple independent silos in which you can win. That way, if one of them fails, it’s self-contained. Do not wait until your single silo fails, to try to build the other two. Be around other people – this is undervalued
I’ll give you three: morning, night and Sunday. You can control two times in your day: morning and night, the time period right after you wake up and the time period right before you go to sleep. These time frames are yours, and there is nothing more precious and valuable than your time. Utilize them, take advantage of them, give them to yourself.
Sunday is for grocery shopping and meal prep. If you prepare on this day, you have no excuses throughout your week. The food is there, ready and waiting. If you need help with meal prep, contact me!
The kind you listen to or read:
The kind you eat:
If you live in Austin, Central Market, Trader Joe’s and Farmers Market are your bffs.
If you have no budget, Whole Foods is pretty much all you need
Japanese Yams are life. Saute them on the stove for 5 minutes (or until each side has been briefly cooked), then throw them in the oven on 400 for roughly 20 minutes. Yum.
Primal Kitchen - I like making my own dressings but if you are super short on time or just plain don’t feel like it, this is your source for Whole30 compliant goodness
Coconut water - great post workout or if you’re feeling a little dehydrated; be careful not to overdo it here. And don’t use these for cravings. They’re packed with sugar.
Emergency snacks: RX bars, Lara bars, Epic bars
TEA! Look at the Art of Tea and/or check out your local herb shop for loose leaf. I love mixing tulsi (holy basil) and lemon balm for a pre sleep blend.
Waterloo & Le Croix: fantastic sparkling water options, the former is my favorite
Boiled eggs; have these on hand always
These will undoubtedly be different for everyone. This is one of the most important aspects of your Whole30: why. Why the heck do you want to do Whole30? Think about this one deeply and if you bring body image, body composition or weight into the equation, save them for the bottom of your priority list.
Here are some of my intentions/goals which I set before Day 1:
Improve sleep quality. Get to the root of nightmares. Why are they occurring? Where are them coming from? How can I manage them?
Reduce eczema flare ups
Balance mood state
Wake up less tired
Go to sleep earlier
Instill better routines
Improve over all wellbeing
Strengthen relationship with food
Eliminate dependency on caffeine
Decrease sugar cravings
Now for the good stuff!
Here are JUST A FEW benefits I’m enjoying: I’ve cooked new, delicious recipes. I've discovered herbal and holistic remedies beneficial to my physical and emotional makeup. I had a blast at happy hours, parties and events, dancing around with topo chico in hand. I started meditating every morning. I was able to calm my nervous system in times of stress. I’ve experienced (noticeably) less: anxiety/low spirits, digestive discomfort, aches and pains. I’ve had fewer to none: eczema flareups, blemishes, migraines. I drank more water, read more books, had more epiphanies (and followed through). I’ve woken up earlier without an alarm clock and my usual groggy, irritable mood. I might actually be a morning person now. I’ve had less interest in societal temptations. I’ve kicked my ass (harder) at the gym, on the mat and around the lake. My body composition shifted immensely - in the right direction. I still have nightmares but they don’t rule my day. I’m not taking things (as) personally. I have less road rage and more gratitude.
I could keep going but…you get the point. I might have joined a cult but at least I’m drinking tulsi tea instead of kool-aide. By following a reset program that provides a clean, nutritious lifestyle, I have FELT better and therefore been better, acted better, done better. One of my biggest desires in life is to be the best me that I can be; to leave this world with a footprint I can be proud of; to make people feel happy, liberated and loved. I believe Whole30 has aided in getting me one step (or 10) closer. Grateful is an understatement. *sips tulsi tea*
And finally, if you want a friend/cheerleader/coach all in one - I’m your girl. Reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to help you along your Whole30 journey.
FURTHER, if you want to photograph your results, because let me tell you, the way you feel will reflect in your appearance - look no further than Woke Beauty. I photograph women through a therapeutic process that cultivates celebration and healing. Check it out: www.wokebeauty.co
Love, light and all that good stuff,