I finished my Whole30 on Saturday. By "finish," I mean I lasted 28 days. And I'm calling it a success. Will I do it again? Most likely not. After two rounds with it (I talked about our first attempt here) I've concluded that it's a really good idea, it probably is life-changing for a lot of people, but it isn't earth-shattering enough for me to make it worth it. Here's what I mean...
I did the Whole30 for a number of reasons this time around.
- I have food allergies (most significantly: gluten, dairy, soy) and when I avoid the things I'm allergic to, I feel better. I figured the Whole30 would help jumpstart some good habits of avoiding these things (which it did!)
- I have endometriosis, which is incredibly painful and frustrating. At the risk of sharing too much, here is how the Mayo Clinic defines endometriosis: "Endometriosis is a female health disorder that occurs when cells from the lining of the womb (uterus) grow in other areas of the body. This can lead to pain, irregular bleeding, and problems getting pregnant (infertility)." Every month, I have 2-3 days of excruciating pain, nausea, fatigue, feeling like I'm going to faint, digestion issues, etc. etc. I haven't been officially diagnosed because they only way to do that is through laparoscopic surgery. They go in, see whether or not you actually have it, and then can do treatment from there. A few doctors have suggested I get this surgery since my symptoms are pretty severe and getting worse, but I did a lot of research on my own and discovered that there is a strong case that eating a non-inflammatory diet (aka, Paleo/Whole30/clean eating) significantly helps ease the symptoms of endometriosis. It worked out that right around the time I'd experience my usual symptoms would be around day 27-30 of the Whole30, so I figured it would be really easy to see if it helped and wanted to try that route before going under the knife (also, $500 in groceries sounds better than $5,000 in surgery)
- People have always assumed that because I'm small, I'm healthy. I have never had to worry about the food I eat manifesting itself as weight gain because I cannot gain weight to save my life. Sure, you probably think that means I was exempt from middle school bullying and always had it easy in high school...except for my family doctor constantly asking me if I had an eating disorder at every single sports physical, and girls being like "gawd, I wish you'd eat a freaking cheeseburger" with as much contempt as possible, and someone once telling me --they seriously said this-- that I looked like I was just released from a "concentration camp, you're soooo bony." People are mean, no matter what you weigh. But because I haven't had to think about those donuts going straight to my stomach, I have no self-control. McDonald's french fries! Starbucks every day! Who cares that I drink Bud diesels! I think there is a fine line of embracing the fact that we are alive and good food is good and it's okay to indulge yourself, but also honoring the fact that you only get one body and you need to take care of it so it lasts you awhile. I had never found that balance before Whole30.
The first week of Whole30 was hard. I was craving everything, I was mad at everything. I was hungry all the time, I just felt tired and grumpy and overwhelmed. Everyone told me to power through the first two weeks and then there's a significant change. I didn't really believe any of those people, but I stuck with it anyway and it turns out, they were right! Suddenly at the two-week mark, it was like a switch flipped on in my brain. I was sleeping tons better, my skin was clearer, I could focus much better for longer periods of time. I didn't have any caffeine for days, I didn't need it! I would eat my eggs and sausage at 8:00 and not be hungry for lunch until 1 or 2. I never got the hunger shakes. I didn't get hangry. It was pretty awesome. So for all those reasons, I'm a big believer in eating this way and the benefits of it.
But...it didn't help my endometriosis symptoms. I can't decide if the pain was slightly less than normal, or if I was so desperate to believe it would help that I'm just saying it was less. Who knows. The same old symptoms started on Day 27 of the Whole30 and didn't go away so I decided that 2 more days weren't going to be a miracle cure I was looking for, and our friends were coming out on the boat with us, and dang it I was going to drink a beer.
I did take away some much better habits from the whole thing and some pretty major wins...like realizing I really like plain black unsweetened iced coffee and there's no need for a daily carmel macchiato (not to mention how much money I'm saving!) In the past three days since ending the Whole30, I catch myself making better choices. Like, "we're having berry cobbler with sugar in it for desert, so let's find a different marinade for the salmon instead of the brown sugar one." Or consciously deciding that a Panera bagel after church means I can't have any beer all day, because that will be too much wheat in my system at once. It's that connection--mind/body--that I finally realized, which feels like a huge victory. Really thinking things through. And not calling it a "cheat" when I eat something outside my normal plan, but rather, a choice. Because life is life and things come up and cupcakes are delicious and calling it a "cheat" incurs guilt and I'm not about guilt.
This blog post is so very rambly so I'll go ahead and stop now, haha. Bottom line: I think the Whole30 has its merits and I definitely noticed some positive benefits, but I think I can stick with a more varied and looser eating plan and still be 100% fine. I'm staying very strictly gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free, and avoiding chemicals (especially MSG, nitrates and carageenan) and limiting sugar. But I'm not stressing too much about quinoa and rice, or oats and corn and potatoes. I just don't think it makes enough of a difference for me. However, I am curious to see if staying GF and DF will continue to help ease my endometriosis symptoms. Gluten and dairy are two of the most inflammatory foods on the planet so I'm curious if 30 days just wasn't enough time to really feel the effects of not having them in my system. Maybe the longer I go without them, the more I will heal and feel better. We shall see!
If you're suffering from a ton of issues and/or want to lose weight and sustain it, I'd encourage you to look into the Whole30 and definitely read the book It Starts With Food. I read it while on the Whole30 and it really helped me connect to the WHY which definitely helped me stick out the 28 days.
Happy to answer any questions if you want to know more specific things...and of course, share recipes, tips and tricks. I'm learning that health and wellness is a journey and you never really "arrive"...you just get better and better as time goes on!