Yep, you read it right. Matt and I ended our Whole30 3 weeks early. We made it one full week. I decided it was time to quit yesterday (Sunday), which would have been day 8. Before you write me off as a quitter and click away, let me explain. There's several reasons that led me to quit, and none of them are "I just really wanted a Girl Scout cookie." That statement is 100% true, but I could have gone 30 days without a Girl Scout cookie. It's all the other stuff that's part of the Whole30 that was extremely challenging for me. And not just physically, either. Let me explain...
- The Whole30 caused a LOT of stress. Because of the very strict restrictions of the Whole30 plan, I've spent the last week thinking about food 23 hours a day. What am I going to eat next? When am I going to find time to the grocery store again? Is this orange juice at brunch 100% juice or does it have added sugar? It was also extremely stressful for Matt, who works 44 hours straight on an ambulance an hour and a half away from home. Planning and prepping enough meals for him to take to work was very difficult. And he was pretty stressed too--what if he gets a run and can't finish the eggs he's eating for breakfast? What if he runs out of food while on station and can't get to a store (usually the crews just hit a fast food place.) It's not like I could just run down and bring him extra food. It was hard to know he was stressed. And aside from the stress about food, there was a lot of financial stress, too...
- Whole30 is very expensive. Matt and I are the "Dave Ramsey Budget Plan." We are living on a shoestring (trying, anyway) in order to funnel ALL our extra money towards paying down debt. We are SO close, and are on track to be DEBT-FREE by my birthday at the end of May. Three cheers for that! So, that being said, we have dollar amounts assigned for all the different categories in our life and we HAVE to stick to them. Eating out? $0 in our budget. If we want to eat out, it has to come from one of our spending money envelopes, which is $50 each for the whole month. Yep, $50 for each of us to spend as we please. That means 100% of my purchases that are not bills, doctor visits or groceries have to come out of my $50. Every starbucks visit. A new workout shirt. My random Target purchases. It's tough, but worth it! And our grocery budget? $225 for the month. That includes cleaning supplies, toiletry items, things like paper towels, toilet paper, etc. We make that $225 stretch pretty dang far, too. It's important to me to buy really good meat and eggs, which are expensive, so we trade off by buying things like bread, milk, cheese and other basic items at Aldi, which is super cheap. The fact of the matter is that $225 for 30 days will not cut it for the way we have been eating on Whole30. First of all, I've gone through an entire $9 jar of almond butter in 3 days. That's 10 jars of almond butter over the course of this challenge. That's $90, close to half of our budget, right there. I would guess between stocking up on meat and eggs, all the random ingredients needed to make your own sauces/condiments/dressings that are Whole30 compliant and the nonstop fruits and veggies, we've probably spent $225 in the last week. And looking at my fridge and freezer…that might last us another week, maybe week and a half. So we would essentially double our monthly budget to do the Whole30. Do I think eating well is worth putting your money towards? Absolutely. But we simply aren't in a position to double our monthly grocery budget. It's not in line with our top priorities right now. A quick family meeting probably would have showed us that prior to starting Whole30 but…lesson learned.
- My reasons for doing the challenge were less than awesome. As I lay in bed Sunday morning contemplating whether or not I wanted to quit, I asked myself over and over, "why did you want to do Whole30 to begin with? What was the point?" and honestly, the main answer? It was a challenge and I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. Which is kind of okay, except that for me, it gets to an unhealthy point. I'm stubborn and pretty childish in that if you put me in an empty room with a box and tell me not to look in the box because I'll die….I'm probably going to still look in the box assuming that you're bluffing. I can relate a lot to Adam and Eve that way. So doing a 30 day challenge just to prove to myself I could, so that everyone would be all "wow, look at how healthy and awesome Valerie is," while good in theory because it's all about healthy habits, wasn't necessarily the best thing for me. It was about pride and trying to keep up with the Joneses. Paleo and juicing and gluten-free living and Whole30 seems like the newest, coolest thing. I want to fit in, prove that I'm "with it." The reality is that I don't need to prove anything to myself. What I need is to love myself a little more and cut myself a little more slack.
- We already had pretty great habits before this. Prior to Whole30, here's what a typical day in meals looked like in the Keinsley household. Breakfast: greek yogurt with granola for Matt, oatmeal or eggs and bacon for Val. Lunch: ham or turkey sandwich for Matt (or leftovers), tuna salad in half an avocado for Val. Dinner: usually baked chicken, tilapia, salmon, chicken tacos, gluten-free pasta. Our typical snacks? Carrots and hummus, corn chips and salsa, gluten-free pretzels and peanut butter. You wouldn't have found pop-tarts, cookies, easy mac or pizza rolls in our house prior to the Whole30 and you won't find them now, after, either. Paleo says hummus is a no-no because chickpeas are bad for you (or something.) Well I think hummus is perfectly delicious and in line with my healthy eating goals. Same with corn chips. And white potatoes every now and then. And if I want to get a venti Starbucks frappucino, because it's Sunday and Sunday is my indulgence day (as it should be!), recognizing that it's unhealthy and a rare treat, then I 100% want to be able to do that with no shame. Which brings me to my last point...
- The shame associated with food has to go. It has no place in my life. Spending a half hour worrying about the "less than 2% yeast extract" that was in the chicken broth I used in my soup is STUPID. I can never get those 30 minutes back. What was I so freaked out about? That the Whole30 police were going to come bang my door down and haul me off to non-compliant jail? It's ridiculous. I already struggle with stressing unnecessarily over what people think, over needing everything to be "right" and "perfect" in my life, so this plan only added to it. The rigid structure, with absolutely NO room for slip-ups, had me SO stressed about achieving perfection (which is impossible) and feeling bad for even thinking about cheating. I don't want to be made to feel bad if I have a piece of dove chocolate because my husband has worked 88 hours in the last week and I miss him. I don't want to be made to feel bad if I have zero time in the evening after a 14-hour day to spend two hours prepping, cooking and cleaning up after a Whole30 approved meal so I make a quick bowl of gluten-free penne and store bought sauce.
So, there were definite pros and cons. Some pros? We made some AMAZING Paleo/Whole30 meals that will definitely stay in the rotation. We learned a lot about the crazy crap that gets snuck into our food and I, for one, got very mad about that. We will continue to read labels and nix anything with MSG, high fructose corn syrup, and things of that nature. We also realized, after indulging a bit on Sunday and Monday, that the fakey/sugary foods just don't taste that great, especially after giving your body a break from them. I had a Starbucks white mocha on Sunday and it tasted like 100% fake chemicals (sorry, Starbucks.) Matt had a beloved Mountain Dew and said the same thing. It was eye opening to see just how much our bodies need the good stuff and how after giving it the good stuff for a bit, you crave that more than the crap. But, we need a bit more balance and something we can live with instead of just a list of rules we adhere to.
At the end of the day, your feelings and wants are your own and you need to own them. I want a balance--some paleo, some clean-eating, some good old-fashioned sugar--and I own that. It doesn't make me a bad person. And I don't even consider myself a quitter for ending the Whole30 early. I gave it my absolute very best. 100% of my effort. I cleaned out my pantry and donated 98% of the contents to a food pantry. I cleaned out my fridge and gave all the things I couldn't donate to my mom. I bought the expensive food and super specific weird ingredients (arrow root, coconut aminoes, ghee?!) I made the meal plans. I stuck with it, for 7 days. I learned some lessons and I gave it my all. But in the end it's just one plan, one version of "healthy" eating and I think that definition varies for everyone. Whole30 and strict Paleo just doesn't fit my lifestyle and that's okay. It's a great plan for a lot of people and that's awesome. I encourage you all to find something that 100% works for you--in every area! Financially, mentally, emotionally, physically. Balance is everything.
That's a lesson I learned in and of itself.