The Whole30. Thirty days and thirty nights: no added sugar, no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no sulfites, no soy, no alcohol, no sauces or dips. The first question you may be asking is, Okay then what can you eat on this diet? The Whole30 was designed to reset your eating habits and make dieters be more mindful of what they’re putting in their body, therefore eating only whole foods. The approved list includes nuts, meat, vegetables, fruit, potatoes, healthy fats (such as olive oil and avocado), seafood, and eggs. One important aspect about the diet is the fact that it takes a LOT of time to prepare meals. Not only do you have to think ahead and pack snacks you know you are allowed to have. Overall , it’s also really expensive and does not come without side effects. BUT they say that once you get over the hump of cravings, headaches, and b*tchiness, you have a ton of energy, your skin becomes clearer, and you lose a lot of weight.
I, however, did not make it that far. I tried the Whole30. I really did. I was doing SO well (or so I thought) until day nine. On day nine, I had to make a decision about my health. I don’t just mean my physical health, but my mental health too. We live in a world that revolves around image. To be honest, I think it’s common that people care a lot more about how a diet will make their body look better rather than the health’s sake of it.
I know this because I am one of those people. I am someone who typically eats pretty healthy, but I am not restrictive. If I really want chicken nuggets, I will get them. And if ice cream sounds dang good, you bet I’m going to get some. BUT, at the end of the day, and I mean every day, there comes that time when you are looking at yourself in the mirror naked. There’s the picking, prodding, pointing out, sucking in, and squeezing—but most of all the hating.
I could say that I went on this diet to better fuel my body, have more energy, and figure out what was making my stomach upset. To a certain extent all that is true, but the main reason I did it? I wanted to slim down. For four years now, I have been mindful of eating healthy and going to the gym pretty regularly (although both of those have fluctuated a bit). Even though I have been working hard on those things, I have seen zero change. I haven’t really noticed a positive difference in my image, per say, but I have noticed a tremendous change in my mental attitude toward food and my body.
Starting my junior year of high school, I began to hate my body. I became very restrictive with my eating, both portion- and content-wise. If I even looked at a sweet treat, I felt guilt. Sometimes I would break and just indulge, only to find myself shoving my fingers down my throat ten minutes later. I would feel proud of myself for skipping meals or for being able to throw up (it usually didn’t work).
Some things I’ve said over and over in my head for years were:
“I can’t eat that.”
“I can’t have that.”
“I can’t miss working out one day.”
“I. Can’t. Eat. That.”
Since I was 16, I have made a lot of improvement that I’m extremely proud of. I’ve learned to let myself have things I enjoy (like ice cream) because it makes me smile. I’ve learned it’s okay not to have a salad for every meal because feeling full is NOT a bad thing.
So, back to the Whole30…
By day nine, I was full-fledged 16-year-old me. Every day when I woke up, looked in the mirror, and saw no change, I hated myself more and more. Food was the only thing I thought about.
“You shouldn’t have had that bite of banana bread, that completely set everything off.” I thought to myself.
“I can’t have that.”
“I must lose weight.”
“Why am I still chubby?”
“I can’t have this, I can’t have that, I can’t have those, but this, that, and those are ALL THAT I WANT.”
Another thing I noticed was that the diet was making me so, so sad and stressed out. I am always incredibly busy and I didn’t have time to spend two hours at the grocery store reading food labels, only to be disappointed by each one. I had exams to prepare for and meetings to go to, and I just wasn’t willing to find that time to prepare all my food.
I thought, If I give this up, I will ruin all this hard work I’ve put in for the past eight days; but then I realized, If I keep this up, I am throwing away all this progress I’ve made in the past three years.
That’s when I threw in the towel. I went to Olive Garden with my boyfriend on Valentine’s Day and I ate all the carbs. And allllll the dairy. I even ate that little Andes mint they give you at the end. And you know what? I was more proud of myself for that than I was for what I had done the past eight days. That’s something I never would have been able to do when I was 16 without feeling so much hatred and guilt lingering for days.
So, yes, I would say that quitting my diet was the healthiest thing for me. Maybe not physically, but mentally it was so, so good. I learned what I needed to in those nine days. I learned how to say no to things I only ate because they were in front of me. I learned to make vegetables a bigger part of my meals than carbs, and I learned how to use spices rather than high sugar sauces. (Also, I was more aware of reading food labels, and I’m just going to let you know that everything has sugar in it.) I have preached to others to love themselves and not to be so hard on their bodies, but I was being such a hypocrite! I’m a freakin’ woman, so I have freakin’ curves. They’re subtle, but they’re there, and no matter how healthy I eat and how many sweat sesh’s I get in—they will always be there.
Disclaimer: I don’t mean to discredit the Whole30! I have two friends doing the diet right now who absolutely love it. It just wasn’t for me and that’s okay. I have a lot of respect for them for being able to stick with it and advocate for it so hard. But here’s the thing: if this type of thing works for you, that’s awesome! However, you really need to research diets before you start them. You need to make sure you know what to expect as your body goes through changes and make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need! It’s also important to consider what kind of changes you are going to stick with once this diet is over. I knew I was going to introduce most of the things I had cut out during those 30 days back after I was done, so whatever changes I made were going to revert anyway. You know you; don’t dig yourself into a hole.
I’m continually working on my relationship with food and my body image, but by no means am I all the way there yet. I had an unexpected outcome from my diet, but there’s never a bad opportunity to work on improving your mental health!
Love always, Alexa Jo