Picture this: New Year’s Eve, Northern Virginia 2016. My husband, D, and I were plowing through a plate of homemade sliders, potato skins, and hot chips and dips in anticipation of the next big thing. We were
preparing for the impending start of our New Year’s diet, the infamous Whole30. bingeing out
But, wait a minute. Back up about a year or so. I had a lovely friend up that way who’d introduced me to Whole30 and I cyber watched, in absolute astonishment, as she lived life without such necessities as bread, sugar, chocolate, and wine. At this point, I’d already had my youngest daughter and although I’d dropped a significant amount of weight, I still wasn’t feeling good with where I was. I was heavier than my ideal when she was conceived, additionally, I really needed some help in terms of healthy habits and my notorious “cheating” behaviors.
Back up several more years: Florida, 2008. I met my knight in shining armor, or dress blues, if you’re into specifics. My husband came along and swept me off my feet. It was love at second date. Yes, second date. I’ll be happy to tell you more about that at a later date. Anyhow, our relationship was as intense as it was fun. We spent every possible moment together until our lives merged so much so that I didn’t know where his ended and mind began. Falling in love is so lovely.
We shared late nights, rich and exquisite dinners, cocktails and chitchat and lots and lots of…cheesecake. We actually traveled for it a few times. Really. I’m not kidding.
Back then, I was much more… weight conscious? I believe that’s the term I’m fishing around for. I have always struggled with my weight. I was an obese child, teenager, and young adult. I’ve done plenty of yo-yo dieting over the years and I’d been as small as a size 2 and as large as a size 22. In 2007, I did Weight Watchers. I lost well over 50 pounds and I was thinner than I’d ever been. I remember going to my first meeting and an older gentleman said, “The system works!” And, you know what? He was absolutely right. I worked that system so much so that I became a point-counting Nazi. I looked good, or so I thought. I could wear clothing that I never dreamed possible, and I could go into any store and buy things without being limited to the measly plus-sized sections.
On the flip side of my weight-loss bliss, I had also created a bit of a hell for myself. I became so obsessed with counting points, calories, and fat that I just couldn’t function well in real life. In situations where counting didn’t work I was an anxiety-stricken beast. I was hungry. I felt guilty all the time. And last, but certainly not least, I got to the point where I’d vacillate between binge eating and rigid restriction. It was a nasty cycle and eventually I just gave it up. I was miserable. I was thin but absolutely miserable.
Please note, this is NOT an anti-Weight Watchers rant. I certainly believe WW has a lot to offer someone who’s trying to get to a more health-conscious place. For example, I learned the value of planning meals, reading labels, healthier snack options, and portion control. It’s just that a system requiring that amount of accountability does not work well with my personality. I’m entirely too Type A to use it as a guide as opposed to a bible. If you’ve found lasting success and food freedom with WW, then good for you. Keep doing what works.
Anyhow, weight-consciousness is what motivated me then as I hadn’t yet gotten to the point where my health mattered more than what the scale read. Whatever the particulars of that period in life, I knew we needed to reign things in. We were happily over-indulgent, but my pants were getting tight. To counter the habits we were creating, I became much more experimental in the kitchen. Prior to, I was never much of a cook. It was a passively defiant buck against the super traditional and sexist system in which I’d been raised. Cooking was “women’s” work and, as a strong and modern woman, I wasn’t doing it. Take that! Interesting response, I know, but c’est la vie.
Despite my prior position, I found that I really enjoyed cooking. I’d try out new dishes and we’d sit late at night at our little high-top table and marvel at how simple it was to create deliciousness in the comforts of our own home. I let up a bit on my fixation with calorie counting, and he gave up eating out numerous times each week. We met in the middle and it worked really well, until it didn’t.
My cooking became more decadent. I found lots of joy in baking and my sweet tooth relished in it. Cakes, pies, brownies, biscuits, homemade sandwich bread, and anything else that involved flour and copious amounts of butter became household staples. Needlessly to say, it became much harder to maintain a comfortable weight. In addition, I was experiencing a lot of dissonance with the things I was putting in my body and my ideas of what it meant to be “healthy”. Then, fast-forward through the marriage, and two baby carriages where I gained well over 70lbs for each perfectly normal sized baby, I was completely out of control. I couldn’t seem to get things right. I’d plan out perfectly reasonable and healthy meals throughout the week and Saturday and Sunday would roll around and shoot it all to smithereens. Balance was lacking. I was frustrated, disappointed, and very unhappy. I needed a change and I was willing to do something drastic to get there. I longed to listen to my body and care for it and, heck, even love it. D was happy but, good man that he is, he was willing to go along for whatever ride I was ready to take him on.
Enter the Whole30. No diary, no grains, no alcohol, no added sugar, no legumes, no nothing. Or at least that’s how it seemed at the time. The over-arching goal is to remove all potentially inflammatory agents from the diet and slowly re-introduce them and monitor the effects. After about a year of contemplating the idea, we were committed to what seemed like the craziest thing ever and up for whatever challenges came with it. I’d love to tell you that it was easy, breezy and we flew through it with flying colors, but that wasn’t the case. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it WAS a challenge. It’s designed to be and, really, anything that modifies what we’ve been doing for years will be. Remember, we CAN do hard things.
I was completely overwhelmed by the hands-on cooking time and mind you, I was totally accustomed to a from-scratch method of cooking. Things get tough when you can’t throw together a sandwich for lunch or nibble a slice of toast on your way out the front door in a harried attempt to make preschool drop off before needing to stop for your nursling. And, yes, I was still nursing. Planning was key and meal prep was a must. Anything less and failure was the only option.
A little later, I’ll happily share a more detailed account of our individual experiences and perhaps, if you’re interested, we can run a round together. But for now I’m so eager to get to the good parts that I’m going to scoot ahead a bit. We felt amazing!!!! Ta-Daaaaaa!!!! I know. It’s exactly what most other accounts sound like. But, we felt…AHHHMAZing!!! Even more importantly, I learned so much. The most eye-opening revelations for me were:
1. Eat Whole Foods: They do a body good.
2. There is no sleep like sugar-free sleep.
3. If you’re an athlete, you will perform better after cleaning up your diet.
4. Anything, even around the clock cooking, can be as easy as pie with a plan and some practice.
Listen, I’m not suggesting you do Whole30. I’m not even suggesting you modify your diet at all. But I had to share this with you because it has been such an instrumental part of my success. No, I do not eat Whole30 approved foods all the time. My diet, for the most part (90ish%), is built around the premise of eating whole foods, and the rest is basically whatever in world I feel like adding to the menu. I don’t feel at all compelled to strictly put myself in a box as it relates to my nutrition. But one thing I know to be true; I wouldn’t be able to properly fuel my body and function as I normally do without first getting down to the basics and exploring what my body really needed and wanted. This, for me was the missing link and Whole30 allowed me to do that. I am grateful for the experience and I recommend it to anyone who’s willing to listen.
What about you? Have you every tried Whole30? What nutrition plans have had success with? How do you nurture your body from the inside out?