Around this time last year, Jon and I decided to give Whole 30* a whirl. We had visited with friends over Thanksgiving who had shared their experience with us. Personally, I was feeling a bit soft and blamed it on my then 41-year-old metabolism. I was fearful that age had won and that, despite my 41 years of counting, judging and fretting, I was never going to shed a certain number of pounds. So, I wanted to see what this “reset” had to offer both of us.
So we read and we planned and we shopped. We had 30 days planned out with precision. There were rules to follow (my favorite) and we were going to win. And we did. Jon, being the chef that he is, took on a lot of cooking responsibilities. It’s true what they say, you always feel like you’re doing dishes, it’s a bit isolating and it’s a lot consuming. But we did it. We followed the rules. We liked it. What did we like? For me, I had a few aches that were nagging me (that my physical therapy brain couldn’t identify) that just POOF – went away. My sugar cravings (ongoing problem) were totally within my control – that was empowering. Sure I had shed a few lbs, but overall I just felt organized and calm and like the rules were good for me.
We liked it so much that we kept going after 30 days. We both committed to another 30. I had read stories about people conquering chronic health issues by a longer commitment to the “reset”. I have a chronic skin condition (technically a very rare form of T-cell lymphoma – it’s not gonna kill me) that basically has never been within my control. I was very curious about what a longer-term low inflammatory diet could do. Somewhere close to the end of the second month, Jon loosened the reigns on himself. We agreed that our house would be Whole 30 compliant (all condiments + spices would be sugar, gluten + dairy-free as a start – you’d be shocked where sugar sneaks in). We agreed to live the Whole 30 guidelines as much as we could at home. I continued to live it 24/7/365 and Jon was more relaxed outside the house.
In June of last year, I went to my dermatologist for my yearly check-up. Unbeknownst to me, the physical appearance of my “itchy disease” was less. I didn’t believe him but he proved it with photos taken the previous year. He asked me what I had done differently. I told him that I had adopted Whole 30 as my guidelines for diet and that I had started a daily CBD (iKOR Labs). While neither one of us could confirm nor deny the anti-inflammatory effects of both of those choices, we agreed that I should keep going. Bottom line, over the past year my skin has been more within my control. This is physically and emotionally comforting. I know that when my diet is off, my skin is off, which means it itches and I’m irritable. Summary: not worth it.
Here I am 365+ days of living Whole 30 as my lifestyle and I have one word to describe it: Freeing. As I mentioned, for 41 years I judged, tracked, counted, reviewed and obsessed about what I had eaten every day as I drifted off to sleep. For 41 years I had guilt about every piece of food I consumed. For 41 years I obsessed over my weight. For 41 years I spent a lot of energy every day on self-loathing, negative self-talk and judgment. And in my 41st year… I was set free. I do not do any of the things I just mentioned. I never do those things now. Read that again, I NEVER do those things now. Do you know how freeing that is?
My skin is happier, my mood is more stable, my anxiety is remarkably more controlled, my sleep is superb and I have let go of self-imposed guilt. I’m off the hook! Did I lose weight? Yes. Does it show? Yes. Does this negate all of that self-sacrificing behavior because I look and feel smaller? I’m going with “no” on that one. I’ve been here before. I’ve lost weight before. But, clearly, it’s come back. This is the most realistic and maintainable way of life that I have ever experienced. I don’t feel deprived, I feel revived! There are no cheat days or reward foods because those behaviors make me feel bad, not just about the emotional state but my physical body doesn’t feel well. The greatest reward I can give myself it to keep feeling good. Nothing else is worth it. I deserve to feel good and be proud of myself.
I recently went to a delicious family dinner prepared by my mother. It was so warm and comforting to be with my family. The meal was a beautifully prepared lunch serving up all the things that Whole 30 is not: grains, dairy, gluten, sugar. I indulged because I’m not rude + it looked and smelled delicious. Many times I fend for myself and make choices when out in public that support my lifestyle. Once in a while, I don’t have that luxury and I succumb to the food being prepared for me with love. I’m ok with this. I live in reality. My body, on the other hand, reminded me quite quickly of the shift I have made. I did not go to bed feeling guilty, itchy yes, guilty no. I didn’t follow that lunch with dinner and dessert of cookies and tubs of frosting. I got back on track at dinner with a salad and a vegetable smoothie. That lunch was a reminder of the control I have over my physical and emotional well-being. Thanks for the reminder! (and yes it was totally decadent and I enjoyed it tremendously at that moment)
Whole 30 as a way of life is not for everyone. The creator preaches that loud and clear. But for me, it is my life because I deserve to feel this good and finally, at age 42, be let off the food guilt hook. I have freedom from food, finally.