My Whole30 challenged ended on Monday. Although I wasn’t 100% percent compliant for all of my Whole30 (I mentioned those rogue cookies), I was gluten-, dairy-, grain-, legume- and alcohol-free for 30 days.
I feel lighter, clearer and more in touch with both how I react to food and what triggers my cravings. I’ve lost a couple inches around my waist and feel more capable in the gym and on the trails. My sleep has been excellent, my skin is clearing up, and I no longer feel attachment to the treats I was dreaming about ten days ago. My mood has been more stable and PMS symptoms haven’t been so severe. I’ve had more energy and more of a positive outlook.
It wasn’t easy. There were a few times when I thought that I should just quit in the middle — what’s the point of this silly challenge? — but in the end I’m glad I stuck it out and made the full 30 days. Now I can see the other side of the coin, that in reality it also wasn’t that hard. Again, although I wasn’t “paleo perfect,” I feel an immense sense of accomplishment for sticking with something for an entire month. Doing a Whole30 is certainly about your health and the food you put in your mouth, but more than that I think it’s an exercise in discipline and self-control. Much like a spiritual fast, it represents the denial of momentary pleasure for a long-term payoff.
That being said, I find myself in more of a relaxed mental state now that the 30 days are over. I started to feel a little crazy, trapped with in the confines of the “rules,” and it made me greedy and grabby. I’m hoping I can transition back into normalcy without the mental restrictions yet while still maintaining the good habits I learned in the month.
I learned that I am addicted to sugar. I crave something sweet in the afternoons, in the evenings, or I reach for a treat whenever things get tough. I did not slay the sugar dragon during this Whole30; in fact, it may have gotten worse while doing this challenge as I wasn’t “allowed” sugar and therefore sought out more natural alternatives at every turn.
I learned that I am a stress-muncher and a mindless eater, and it is far too easy for me to disappear a bag of plantain chips without even realizing it while watching an episode of Parks & Rec. When I’m worried or anxious or busy or on a deadline, I grab handful after handful of whatever is lying around, and in devouring it I pay no attention to satiety or taste. The action of snacking is soothing, for some reason, and that quieting is all I pursue.
I don’t snack because I’m hungry, usually. I snack because I’m bored, lonely, sad, anxious, annoyed, or have too much to do and don’t know where to start. I’m using physical inputs to try and satisfy a larger emotional need, and that, my friends, is where disordered eating comes into play. Challenges like the Whole30 are a great litmus test, removing us from our comfort zone and applying pressure and sting to see what kind of person comes out on the other end.
I found that I stopped missing breakfast treats like pancakes and waffles, and I feel my best eating a ton of veggies. Out of all of my sugary demons, dark chocolate was still what I missed the most. I think that’s okay. But, the cherry on top was how much I lamented my lost cocktails and glasses of wine.
Making a new cocktail every week or so was a fun ritual that Andrew and I would enjoy together — that, or picking out a bottle of wine and having a glass with dinner. Across the month we had several social occasions in which we’d meet friends at a bar or have drinks with food at a cookout or a movie night. It was surprisingly easy to navigate these situations, as I declared myself the designated driver and made sure to bring a bottle of kombucha with me for sipping. The fizz and the gentle sweetness helped me feel like I wasn’t missing out on the drinking. Now, I can tell that I run lighter without alcohol in my system, and I certainly sleep better without it. I don’t miss beer and would prefer not to drink it anymore. But all that to say: I’m looking forward to my next Maker’s Mark on the rocks, a gin & tonic, or a dirty martini sometime this weekend.
My post-Whole30 plan is this: keep going. Continue to avoid grains, gluten, dairy, legumes and sugar. Seek moderation in my dark chocolate indulgences. Have a cocktail once in a while. Celebrate Andrew’s upcoming birthday with homemade brownies. Relax. Settle into a rhythm. Congratulate myself on a job well done.
And then have a handful of my favorite snack, completely guilt-free. Yum.