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Looking Back On Whole30

Nancy here, again. So, I’m back to tell you that I officially completed my first Whole30 journey! I wanted take a moment to share my overall impressions.

Honestly, I am not sure what I was expecting at the end.  A pin wheeled, main street parade? A gorilla gram? A ring at the doorbell and Ed McMahon holding a check? For those of you who have already completed the Whole30 journey, perhaps you can empathize with these not so far fetched, even for me, expectations.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I wholeheartedly believe that anyone who can start Whole30, and complete it without any slips, is a rock star. (I didn’t.) But going into Whole30, know that you should manage your own expectations; remember that many of the benefits of the program are internal and cannot be measured by outward appearance, or the scale. This is particularly challenging for women to accept; it was for me.  After absolutely NO SUGAR, NO WINE, NO PROCESSED CARBS, is it so wrong to seek a concrete result wrapped up in a little metaphorical box (preferably robin’s egg blue) that can be seen and felt?

So here’s the kick your boots up, ho down, low down, on how it all went down.  In full disclosure, I did NOT complete the entire 30 days 100% compliant. I didn’t. It’s not a secret. My family knows, and any of those that are close to me.  Truth be told, it was mostly a matter of bad math. It happens. Even to good people.

When I started on February 18th, all brew hah hah and posture proud, my goal was to finish up just in time for my 48th birthday. (I know, some of you kinder folks are probably saying “But that would be the Whole 2,130 (days), Nancy?) When my birthday fell on March 18th – not its fault, it does that every year – I thought I would be finished. Well, if you are the fact checker type then you would know that March 18th was only day 28.  Thanks, could have used that mental assist back in February. And just for the record, you can’t go back to normal eating on the 30th day of the method anyway; you actually are supposed to wait until THE DAY AFTER! What?? Didn’t see that coming either.

After all that sacrifice, I wasn’t going to ruin my 38th birthday (28th?). I worked hard. Besides, on your birthday, aren’t you supposed to throw all dietary caution to the wind? And, drink WINE.  And, eat CAKE.  And, drink WINE.

But I’m not going to lie. It was a really uncomfortable feeling to make the choice to give in prematurely. Like cheating on an exam or your taxes. I can’t speak first hand about those choices, but whatever gutteral guilt that I was experiencing, it was a lot. But what could I do? It was my birthday and I had a special, certainly non-compliant, dinner planned. Apparently, I got over that in a hot second, because I ate every last morsel of the same sized slice of crème cheese frosted carrot cake pictured above.

So, how did I end up? Well, there are about 100 different (published) positive changes that one can experience. The list is vast. And although many of them may require a 15, 30, 60 day extension to the program – or more for permanent internal and behavioral changes (like sense of humor?)  – I can proclaim, with certainty that I have experienced the following: less bloat, mental clarity (except the math), more muscle definition (not bragging, but a few have mentioned it), an increased proclivity to the kitchen and cooking, and better sleep. Did I lose weight? Honestly, I don’t really know. Yet. Remember, it is not about weight loss and even now, after the program you are not supposed to weigh yourself. It’s killing me.

So what worked? For me, not having to think about what I was eating was tremendously beneficial. I used to think about food, all the time. But with Whole 30, I trusted the process. The tightrope was there; I knew if I put one foot in front of the other, I would get to the other side. In practical terms, I gave myself the permission to eat. As long as I followed the rules, I ate without guilt, and whenever I was hungry. Which was basically all the time.  I also allowed myself the occasional vodka and water on a weekend, and RX Bars to stave hunger and feed a sugar fix. The latter choice, although compliant is not recommended, the foremost absolutely forbidden. Choose your battles. (Vodka is made from potatoes- healthy, right?)

Ok, so now the ugly.  What didn’t I like? I feel a little brainwashed and without a doubt, I am truly frightened of stopping. The morning after my delicious birthday dinner I woke up with the same old feelings of guilt and remorse. The worst part was, that I had been mindful. I didn’t eat the delish crusty bread from the local bakery, or the homemade butter. I ate steak that I shared– which is compliant and asked for it to be prepared without butter. Besides the cake and the wine, I still held steadfast. But I couldn’t truly enjoy my meal. I am afraid, even now, of slipping.

The book does a wonderful job of preparing you for the end. It’s not supposed to be a big jump back in, one is supposed to gradually re-introduce off limit foods, one at a time. Then wait 2 days, evaluate, and then add something new back in, and evaluate again. This sounds tortuous to me. Like when my infant daughter had colic. Each day, what would I choose? Why would creamer get precedence over Stevia? Or butter beans over a slice of Brie? Perhaps that’s the catch – transitioning out makes staying in that much more appealing.

So, I didn’t quite make it to the finish. I am heart thumping, pulse racing, afraid to go back to my old ways. And slightly underwhelmed by my physical results. What now?

I have decided to keep going, and 3 days after my official completion date, I succeeded. I have realized that the “result” for me is not physical so much, as mental. My prize is mindfulness about my approach to food, and eating. Making this not a month long interlude, but a lifestyle choice. Your results…your prize…may be entirely different. I will choose a date at some point in the near future that I will start hardcore again, and this time I will finish. Until then, I will be mindful of my choices, stick to the larger principles of the program, but be forgiving of myself if I slip.

If you choose to embark, don’t view this as a means to an end. But instead, view this as a journey, a change of lifestyle, and the first steps to permanent, beneficial transformation. Go in with the right mindset and managed expectations. You may not look 10 years younger after 30 days, or even lose weight when you are finished. But you will likely create healthful habits and establish a greater sense of control over your eating, your food, and your life.  If nothing else, you may be just a little bit more mindful of what, and how you eat.  Just imagine what that could do.

Not the right time to start your Whole30 journey? No worries, try this exercise to bring more awareness to your eating now.