I’ve attempted Whole30 several times. By attempt I mean, I never really started. I couldn’t cut out all the “noncompliant” ingredients because I didn’t want to spend money on soy sauce-esque bottles of coconut aminos. And by several times, I mean I “committed” 4 different times to a “Whole30 lite” which technically didn’t count because I was more worried about saving money than buying new, compliant ingredients. Growing up, I was the girl who could eat anything and didn’t gain an ounce (thank you high school soccer team). However, as my life slowly got more sedentary, the pounds were sticking to me more easily. (Notice the trend of obsessing about my physical appearance?) In denial of my changing body, I would eat heaping piles of mac and cheese, biscuits filled with fried chicken smothered in gravy, plates of enchiladas. Being as unaware as I was all of 28 days ago and being as deep and insightful as I am now, I realize food was an escape for me. A way for me to disconnect from the present moment and to entirely dismiss change as the only constant in life. To go back to a time in which I could eat anything and still look the same. There’s no logic here, I know. But I was eating like I was still training for triathlons and running half marathons. I was soon turning to food to alleviate work stresses, family stresses, financial stresses, all the stresses. I created and, quite literally, fed the habit of coming home from work and immediately cutting several thick slices of cheese to be devoured in minutes. Then came alcohol. Not that alcohol had just appeared in my life, but if food was my escape from the present moment, alcohol was my means of escape via time travel. I deserved a double whiskey with my cheese board as a reward for getting through the day, a way to acknowledge myself when I felt depleted, unappreciated, and empty on more than just a physical level. Alcohol let me be the fun/witty/sexy/don’t-give-no-fucks person I thought I always wanted to be and to forget the person I saw myself as: boring/greedy/serious. It’s no surprise that the alcohol I was drinking to fill the voids only reinforced those feelings of worthlessness. It was like jet fuel to a fire. Warm and exhilarating at first, then explosions of guilt, shame, headaches, vomit, lethargy, more guilt, more shame, more vomit. After having to apologize to others for things I didn’t remember and piece parts of my night back together, I would reach for the foods that made me feel “better” (cheesy, greasy, fatty foods, with a side of whiskey, mind you), redeeming my one way ticket on the first stop to downward spiraling self-loathing. It was a vicious, never-ending cycle.
That was until a group of friends started a Whole30 accountability group for the January Whole30, and I was all in; it coupled the goals work I love so much with food/program coaching. I had a month to prepare and the more I thought about it, the more my body said “YES. PLEASE DO THIS! IF NOT FOR YOU, THEN FOR ME!” At the same time, I was SO nervous and was allowing all the self limiting thoughts to get in the way of possibility. “You can’t do this; you’ve failed 4 times before. You couldn’t even give up peanut butter” “No cheese?! You can’t go a day without cheese.” “You can’t say no to a boozy work lunch.” You know the kind…
My best friend was in town for New Years so we chose to start on January 2nd. The day came, and I was prepared. I had meals prepped. I had a support system. I had cases of La Croix and Waterloo on hand. I felt hopeful. “If I just keep meal prepping and slamming bubbly water, I’ll be able to finish.” I was so focused on just staying compliant, I didn’t even notice the other transformations happening at first. Soon, I was craving fresh foods (I ate TWO POUNDS of apples in ONE WEEK; I haven’t ate two pounds of apples in the last two years!) and I found it easier to focus on what I COULD eat rather than what I couldn’t. Shifting from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset can be hard y’all, REALLY HARD, but it makes such a huge difference when it happens. I started playing a “game” with myself: see how many different kinds of veggies I can eat in a week. I wasn’t craving cheese or chips or sugar in my coffee anymore. Instead of going to work happy hours and drinking til I was blacked out, I was at home spending time with Davis, learning to watercolor, working out, reading, SLEEPING!
I thought this program was “just about food.” That it was a means to an end, the end being: I lose 10 pounds (because, you know, weight is all that determines self-worth……..) I skimmed through the Whole30 book and I clearly was only focused on what I couldn’t eat that I didn’t realize the whole point of Whole30: to not only question but also to restructure my relationship with food. Food is not a means of reward or punishment. Food has no moral value. Food is for nourishment. And how I nourish myself is almost directly correlated with how I’m showing up in the world. Am I lethargic and trying to purposely hide? Am I well rested? Am I able to engage with others? Am I digesting and eliminating well? (And that question applies to more than just food. Am I able to digest the situations happening in and around me and am I able to let go of that which doesn’t serve me anymore?) Food does not make me a good or bad person. No matter how much or little I eat, it does not influence my worth and value. There will be no judgment day that takes food into account to determine if I’m going to heaven or hell. Food is just food.
Day 28 is here, and I am feeling better than I’ve felt in years. Literally. That may be entirely due to the fact that I’m actually sleeping, which I was beginning to think was intentionally reserved for other people like my husband, who can fall asleep 3 minutes after his head hits a pillow—any pillow, couch pillow, airplane neck pillow, inflatable camping pillow…. Turns out, eating well and not drinking has a huge impact on my well-being. And for maybe the first time, I’m not so focused on how I look as how I FEEL. I am ready to take on this new health journey with more confidence, enthusiasm, and sustainability. A phrase that keeps popping up when I reflect on the past 4 weeks and what my future looks like after this Whole30 reset is: No more playing small. And I imagine what’s possible for me, my family, my community, when I feel GOOD, and when I’m not wallowing in a drunken stupor of denial and escape. To have the energy and, more importantly, the WILL to fully participate in the creation of my own life instead of allowing life to happen to me is not something I expected to have shifted by the end of these 30 days. However, I can finally say, I am ready now.