I survived the Whole30 Challenge.
When the new year dawned, my barre studio hosted a Whole30 Challenge, complete with Facebook support group. When I read the email, I thought, we could do this. It did not seem that difficult or different from my low glycemic diet, and after all, it was only 30 days. It seemed like the perfect way to reset from the holiday season of indulgence. I even convinced my husband to join me.
The rules seemed simple enough…
Seemed simple enough. Except that sugar and soy are in EVERYTHING! I did not consider not being able to have hummus or salad dressing or any of the accoutrement that makes the yes list bearable. I think, mostly, we were unprepared for the sheer amount of food preparation.
Since I HATE (loathe) nuts, if it wasn’t an apple or banana, everything required preparation. We had to either make salad dressing or cook eggs or make a whole meal that had no easy ingredients. It was an adjustment. And a supreme challenge with how completely jam packed and double booked I keep our schedule. Who has time to cook everything?
Then, there was also the withdrawals. Whole30 has a whole little timeline to give you a preview of what you might experience. I, of course, did not follow this timeline really at all.
For example, I started my journey at KILL ALL THE THINGS. Literally in the first couple hours. As if my brain told my body it was in for a shit storm. I went through borderline psychotic withdrawals and hanger. I was hungry and angry and bitchy and irritable and all of it. I struggled to concentrate the first three days, and suddenly, 30 days seemed like a borderline infinity.
So there was the anger (homicidal/suicidal rage) for a couple days. Next, I experienced a strange food apathy. I stopped caring, and I stopped wanting. Since the food I could have was not very enjoyable to me and exhaustive to make at times, I did not really care when or how much of it I ate. I would shove something in when I was hungry, but otherwise, food became more utilitarian. I experienced a lot of tired days, either from the detoxification process or the low calorie count due to my lack of food inspiration.
I would have days where cravings and hunger would rage up. I would want to eat absolutely anything I was not supposed to have. I would try to talk myself into defying the rules, cheating, slipping. Then it would be back to sleepy food apathy. I just stuck with it. I just followed the rules and crossed off days on my calendar.
About halfway through, I was supposed to experience what the program calls “tiger blood.” I was to feel energized, see better workout performance, just feel awesome. Unfortunately for me, I spent two weeks cripplingly sick instead. When I should have been burning clean and bounding with healthy energy, I was feverish and unable to lift my head off the couch.
It was a miserable two weeks. For us all. I was sicker than I usually get, taking sick days when I work from home. Then, of course, my kids were sick, and I was taking care of them. Then my husband. We were a typhoid house, practically under quarantine.
So I did not get to feel great. I also did n0t get to workout while feeling the effects of the diet. That was disappointing, but it did not make me want to bail on the program or regret trying it. I did cheat. I ate condensed soup and ice cream after not eating for two days. I could not bear the thought of preparing anything, nor could I stand long enough to do so. But once my health improved, I returned to the rules immediately.
My husband’s journey diverged from my own quite a bit. Granted, we rarely experience anything the same (or even similarly). Thankfully, our different phases never aligned. I do not know that our children or house would have survived both of us being psychotically hungry at the same time. Instead, when one of us went mad with withdrawals, the other sat comfortably in the program. It was a trip to be able to watch both sides from the other side. Yet it was also helpful to be able to support each other from that position.
He made it too. His sickness slightly behind mine and even more severe, he crossed the finish line unable to eat at all.
For me, the most unexpected part of the experience was how much I learned about my own habits and food itself. I did not notice how much I sampled food while I was cooking for my kids until I could not eat what I was making them. I did not notice how often I ate because food was easy until food was no longer easy at all. I did know how often I ate for emotional reasons, but it became more obvious when that crutch was removed.
And oh how I missed booze! And Monster.
In the end, despite the hurdles and unexpected turns, the Whole30 served the exact purpose I was after. I wanted to reset after holiday overindulgence. I just wanted to detox and get back on track. Though I am only in the first couple bites of freedom, I do feel like that is what it did. I don’t feel the compulsion to eat all the fattening, sugary, unhealthy things I was physically craving after the holidays.
I also dropped 15 pounds in the month. Strangely, once weight loss was not the goal, it actually happened. When I let go and focused on just getting the eating right, it just fell off. I am now not only back at my pre-pregnancy weight but below it.
You would think after all my struggling and obsessing and fixating, I would be ecstatic. Instead, I’m ambivalent. Because I had finally made my peace with my body before this challenge. And I think this is how I would prefer it.