Over the last four weeks, I’ve been participating in the Whole30 program. Each week I’ve posted a recap here of my wins, challenges & possible recipe ideas. Today’s recap is going to be really honest, really different & hopefully, most of all, helpful.
Around week 3 you could probably tell that my post wasn’t as exciting, it lacked excitement and encouragement. Maybe you didn’t notice but, it’s true. Right around this time, I felt all of that completely. I didn’t want to continue with the program, I had no motivation to cook or research/scroll through Instagram and Pinterest finding new & exciting recipes to make.
I wasn’t enjoying the food I was eating – not that it didn’t actually taste good because it did but, I just wasn’t enjoying the moment. My body was wanting and craving something besides a cheese-less, bun-less burger. I also just wasn’t feeling very great at all. I was feeling very hungry even after eating more food and I could tell my performance while teaching spinning wasn’t as good as it used to be.
Let’s stop here for a minute. Because I want to tell you that this hasn’t been my experience in past Whole30’s. This time around was my 4th round of Whole30. Each time before I had different wins & challenges but it never got to this point. I never felt sluggish during movement and I rarely ever went hungry. So if you’re reading this recap in hopes that I’ll tell you that Whole30 is the worst program ever and that you shouldn’t do it, you won’t find that here.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about why I’m an advocate for Whole30. And I still stand by that post and my words 100%. Whole30 has helped me immensely in recognizing that some part of what I was eating was causing extremely painful inflammation reactions in my gut. Without Whole30 I would still be confused and not sure if it was just me or if it was food related. I also wouldn’t fully understand how sugar affects me when I have a bit too much for my body.
So, what I will continue to discuss here about my Week 4 experience and my plan post Whole30 is not to discourage you at all from trying out the program for yourself. This is just me sharing my experience and giving you some takeaways as to what can happen when you do something without the proper intentions behind it. Let’s get back to it.
Why I Believe This Happened
When I’m sitting here today wondering why this round of Whole30 was so difficult I believe that I didn’t have the proper intentions set up before doing this. I can remember towards the end of December talking about doing this with a few other people. For some of them it was their first round and for others, they’ve done it before. I felt like I couldn’t really back out of it at that point. This was definitely an expectation and standard I put on myself but, when you tell people you’re going to do something, it’s difficult to back out. Especially when so much of succeeding in a program is around having support.
I also had already communicated that I was doing the program on social media. Ugh, this is a tough & annoying one. Listen, I’m not some famous Instagram person with millions of followers. But I have a great little community in my corner of the internet. Again, just as it was difficult with people in real life, it was equally as difficult to back out as I had already announced it to almost 2,000 people on the internet.
But, regardless of any of this, my heart wasn’t in it.
Since my first Whole30 my relationship with food has changed and evolved. I went from food being the absolute center of my life to really wanting a more intuitive approach to food, cooking, eating & nutrition overall. I no longer wanted to spend hours finding the perfect recipes, grocery shopping all day & prepping on a Sunday. While I love reading recipe blogs, grocery shopping & cooking, I wanted to do it when I wanted to and not because I absolutely had to. Does that make sense?
Grocery shopping is truly one of my favorite past times. Especially at Trader Joes. I love looking at all the fruits and vegetables, seeing what new items have arrived in the store and talking to the employees about their favorite items too. A cup of coffee in hand on a Sunday morning, I love it! But, knowing that I’m running out of food and I’m not sure what I’ll eat all week, and I should go soon so that I still have time to prep…that’s not how I want to do it.
Another part of my relationship with food that has evolved is the restriction around what I eat. It’s like being a teenager and your parents telling you that you can’t do or have something. You want it 100 times more, right? That’s how it is with food. Repeating over & over in my head the things I could have and couldn’t have created mental and physical stress for me. Whereas, knowing that I’m fully allowed to eat whatever I want and choosing maybe to not have a certain ingredient creates a strong bond between my mind and my body. It shows that I can learn to trust myself again and that food isn’t bad or good, it’s neutral.
Restriction can be a dangerous game. While I haven’t struggled with an eating disorder or disordered eating I, too, have a difficult time dealing with restriction. It becomes all mental and I’m constantly thinking about food, ingredients, meals, recipes, etc. It then goes in to being all consuming and my day to day life gets worked around what I can and cannot eat.
This isn’t the way I want to live my life. My life does not and should not revolve around food, for me! While I love to cook, as previously mentioned, I want to do it because I enjoy it and want to not because I feel forced to or because I’m not allowed to buy anything out because it has foods that aren't compliant.
So, what’s next?
The question I’ve gotten the most over the past few weeks is “what’s the first thing you’re going to eat post-Whole30?!” And, honestly? I have no idea. There isn’t anything I’m dying to have besides an extra cheese pepperoni, mushroom & onion pizza. And even that isn’t #1 on the list. What I’m most looking forward to is not having to think so hard about food, cooking or ingredients moving forward. Thankfully, I’ve done a few rounds of Whole30 and so I automatically check ingredient lists when I’m at the store. If I can buy an item that has less sugar in it or I can get the one that has ingredients that I can read, why wouldn’t I. And, at this point, I know Trader Joe’s really well so it doesn’t take me nearly as long to grocery shop.
I want to dive back into Intuitive Eating now. I think what I’ve learned the most this round is how much I miss listening to what my body truly wants vs what I think is healthy. I want to hear that voice that says “a salad sounds so good” or “a burger would totally hit the spot right now.” I have the Intuitive Eating book and workbook and I started them a bit before Whole30 but I want to start back from the beginning and really understand what it means to eat intuitively.
And lastly? I don’t plan to ever do another Whole30 or elimination diet again. That’s a bold statement and I’m hesitant to say “never” but in this moment, I don’t see why I need to. Yes, with Candida I may need to look at my sugar intake a little closer but, believe me, my body has been barking in my ear for the last 4 years when I feed it something that it doesn’t like. And again, as I’ve said several times here, I’ve done many rounds of Whole30 before so, at this point, I’m pretty well aware of how certain foods affect me. What I’m unsure of and what I need more lessons on is how to trust that my body has my back.
How will I ever know how much or how little I need or want if I’m constantly putting my body through some type of program or diet. I’m ready to improve my relationship with food by learning to trust what my body is telling me. Sometimes we’re so far removed from our bodies because we’re putting them in the hands of these program creators or diets and we forget that they truly can guide us to optimal health if we just let them do their thing.
I hope that me sharing my experience with this round of Whole30 has been helpful and informative. Remember you’re always welcome to make your own decisions about your body and your relationship with food.
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