What the heck is a legume? ;)
You’re probably also wondering why I would do something like that to myself (OR maybe you’re cheering in your healthy Paleo cave-gym while doing Crossfit… there are two types of people). Well, anything that crazy was of course, all in the name of health! My friend Caitlin and I met for coffee on a Tuesday and she was getting ready to start the Whole30 healthy eating challenge the following Monday. It’s basically following a very strict Paleo diet for 30 days in order to boost your health, reset your metabolism and create healthy eating habits while breaking bad ones. She was a little concerned about doing it alone though… without accountability, it’s easier to “cheat”. For some inexplicable reason, the sentence, “I’ll do it with you” came bursting out of my mouth before I could zip it shut, and in the next 20 minutes we had hatched a plan to keep each other on the straight and narrow by texting pictures of each meal and snack before we ate.
My Mom joined in too, once she heard what we were doing, and we all started the journey together. The Whole30 website has all the resources you’ll need- a list of the dos and don’ts, FAQs, testimonials and even a support group you can post in for a morale boost when everyone around you at that meeting is shoveling in doughnuts at a rapid pace. The testimonials had all sorts of miracle stories about what people experienced on the Whole30. Acne clearing, weight loss, clearer thinking, more energy, eczema clearing, finally gaining the ability to fly and read minds etc., etc. So, naturally I was excited to see what positive life changes I would experience.
First of all, if you’re going to try this, you must be warned- don’t expect an understanding smile and head nod when you try to explain to people why you’re not eating the pizza dip. Expect them to act a little bit more like you have offended the gods of their forefathers and so they must ridicule and berate until you give up this ridiculous charade. Expect no one to understand that it is NOT a fad diet (it’s a healthy eating challenge, a lifestyle change, a metabolism reset, blah blah), and expect most everyone to ask you what in the world you CAN eat on the Whole30.
Which is, by the way: meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, berries and nuts. Ya know, actual food. And potatoes. I wasn’t going to be doing this without potatoes.
Also- unless you live somewhere much more progressive than RVA (sorry friends, it’s reality) don’t expect to find more than one or two restaurants that you can actually eat at (and afford) while doing this challenge.
But on to my story…
For 30 days, I stuck to the plan. I gritted my teeth at parties where everything was coated with cheese, packed lunch and snacks when I was out all day, and said “no, thank you” just about one million times to offers of food that was pretty much perfectly healthy but had at least one Whole30 no-no in it. I was determined, I was strict, I was brave and bold.
But my body wasn’t.
A lot of people told me that the first two weeks were really hard, but by the second half, you start to feel like you have super powers. You’re supposed to feel lean, energetic, clean, well rested and full of vitality.
I felt a little more like I was struggling with some sort of mysterious disease.
For the first week, (no joke) I had recurring dreams of pizza, cake, bread, ice cream, big old blocks of cheese and glasses of wine (which is really weird, because I don’t drink). I got tired easily, my stomach started to feel weird, I had a lot of acid reflux, and I was constantly craving biting into a huge block of cheddar cheese. Big time.
Second week was much the same, but my fatigue worsened. I had gotten a cold in the first week, and I was having a really hard time shaking it. The reality of what I had signed up for was hitting me, and my stomach problems were just getting worse.
Week three… well… I remember sitting on the edge of my bed one morning, slumped over with my hair all twisted up in a towel. I was a runner at the time and it was one of my usual run days, but a few attempts at my regular route had left me gasping and limping home, so I hadn’t even tried that day. I was so confused. Where the heck was all that extra energy I was promised?
Week four- things just got worse. I had lost a few pounds, but it didn’t feel like a positive weight loss, if that makes sense. My hair was falling out in a couple of spots on my scalp. My stomach felt like it was swimming in acid, and… lets just say the Whole30 had intruded upon potty time as well… :(
But before you think I’m just hating on the Whole30 and the Paleo lifestyle, here’s the kicker:
My friend Caitlin, who did the challenge with me had FANTASTIC results! She felt great, she felt cleaner inside and out, and had lots of new energy. She was so pleased with her results that she started talking halfway through about doing another round when she was through with the first 30 days. It totally worked for her. All those miracle stories didn’t seem so far fetched in the light of how her body responded.
So what’s the takeaway on this? I’ll tell you one thing. It’s not that the Whole30 is good or that the Whole30 is evil. It’s that every body is different. Some people have a greater need for protein, some have a greater need for complex carbs, and so on. Some people do well on the Paleo diet, and some people’s hair falls out (that latter one would be me).
So if you want to try the Whole30, I would say- first of all- you’re a brave soul. And second of all,
Even though I learned that Paleo is not a healthy way for me to eat, I gained a lot of fantastic things from my experience. First of all, I learned that I actually love the taste of healthy food. Sure, a Mc Donald’s burger and fries have a certain attraction, but I can honestly say after the Whole30 that I will never, ever eat one again. For me, a big plate of good meat and roasted vegetables will always have a greater draw. There’s something about the natural, earthy flavors and textures of a plate of real food that has forever impacted my senses since I tried the Whole30 lifestyle.
Also, because I went a whole month without processed food, it created somewhat of a habit for me to reach for unpackaged, real food. When I pack my lunch for work now, almost nothing has a barcode. It’s whole fruits and vegetables, eggs, plain yogurt and leftovers of home cooked whole foods. And I feel SO satisfied by those things!
If I had never tried the Whole30, my tongue would have never had a break from the constant bath of flavorings, preservatives, processed ingredients and fake things that American food is made up of. And I would have never discovered that real, whole food- just as it was designed by God- is the most delicious thing on planet Earth.
On the Whole30, each meal and snack was eaten with thankfulness and relish. No… not like, pickle relish. That’s got Yellow #5 and HFCS in it. I mean, like… with gusto.
As far as the whole Paleo thing goes, I know some people who are on it for life and really thrive on it. So if it’s for you, I am SO glad you found a way to nourish your body that works for you. And if not…
I’m making beans and rice for dinner tonight. Come on over and we can top it with sour cream and cheese. I won’t tell the Paleo Police if you don’t. ;)