First things first, I want to disclaim I didn't do Whole30 perfectly. I don't eat meat, other than a little fish, so I used the Whole30 Vegetarian Shopping List as my guide, but that meant I ate beans and lentils and whole-fat organic yogurt throughout the 30 days. This worked for me because I didn't want to rely too much on fish (I don't eat a lot of it in my everyday life), but this was obviously a slight deviation from the traditional Whole30 plan.
I also slipped a few times. For example, Mike handed me a handful of almonds toward the beginning of the month and I ate them and, lo, they were delicious because they were covered in canola oil and sea salt. I didn't eat them again, sadly (they were so good), but I didn't start over either. I also assume that while I did my very best in restaurants (I want a trophy for how many bread baskets I passed on), I likely slipped here and there. You just can't be completely certain what's happening in the kitchen, and I accepted that.
Oh, I also made birthday plans with a friend at a local restaurant I'd been excited to try (John Tesar's Spoon Bar & Kitchen, for any Top Chef fans out there) and while, again, I did my best, I knew I wouldn't get back to the restaurant anytime soon, so I tried not to beat myself up over any butter that made its way onto my baked fish's plate.
So! With all that said, let's dive in to my (almost) post-program thoughts.
Here's where I want to start and what will be the main takeaway from the last (very hard, very long) 30 days: for the first time in a very long time, oh maybe even ever, I didn't think about how many calories I was eating. I didn't go hungry, but I didn't overeat. I just ate. When I would get hungry, I'd go through all the usual "I want" cravings, but I'd have to choose a Whole30 compliant meal, and after I ate it, all was fine. That was an incredibly enpowering feeling, to just not know or care or think about how many calories I was eating. It's a feeling I'd like to find more of in my daily diet. That means a lot more balance when I introduce delicious things like muffins and pasta and chocolate, for sure, but now I know what I'm aiming for. That was a gift, and I'm thankful for it.
My night cravings all but disappeared. I made a goal to stop eating around 9:30 each night, except in instances when I hadn't eaten dinner yet, and while I've stuck to that, I found myself not even thinking about late-night snacks after a few days. I'd eat dinner and that was it. That was it! That was such a good feeling.
I incorporated some healthier habits over the last month, and I hope to keep them up. I brought a lot of fruit to work for mid-afternoon snacks. I had a grapefruit or apple or pear or blackberries (my new favorite fruit) most afternoons, and that is so much better than the old mid-afternoon snacks I was eating. I also drank a lot of black coffee, and I hope to keep that up, too. I used to pour a bunch of milk or creamer or sugar into my coffee, and now I know I can drink coffee just fine without all that stuff in it. I'm glad for that. Finally, I just became more aware of how addicted to food I had become, how often I would blindly eat without checking ingredient lists. Does my can of tuna really need 16 ingredients in it? Can I spend a few extra minutes making healthier mayonaise at home instead of buying a tub at the store? Just, more aware. That's always good.
All that said, it's a tough program, it really is. It requires a lot of cooking, a lot of prepping, a lot of grocery shopping, and my schedule often fought that. I had to work late a handful of times this month, unfortunately, and while I'd love to be the superhero that gets home at 8pm and makes a delicious meal (only for myself, since the boys had alredy eaten), I could sometimes only muster the energy to scramble some eggs. I was tired a lot of the month, and I don't know if that's because I wasn't eating nearly as many carbs or drinking as much caffeine or what, but I couldn't find the energy to get to the gym but a few times. I just couldn't. I'd get home, scramble those eggs, and collapse.
The Whole30 program is designed very specifically, and I understand that. If you're trying to rid your system of a bunch of stuff, having even very limited amounts seem to defeat the purpose. But, I do have a hard time with an all-or-nothing program because I have a personality that defaults to self-criticism when there's any slip from perfection. I sometimes think it's the Capricorn in me, the desire to be perfect even though I know how ridiculous that desire is, but a program that makes you feel like you have to do something perfectly to do it at all can be overwhelming and, for someone like me, it can also feel like setting yourself up for failure. I saw a lot of benefits from the program by doing my very best (and that best wasn't perfect) and I hope that's a message that is useful to others considering it.
Ultimately, I am glad I did it. I am. For all the positive reasons above, but also because it's one of the hardest things I've done, in terms of diet (not diet as in weight-loss but diet as in the food I eat), and it feels good to tackle something like that and come out better for it. I have a lot of faith in myself at this moment, and that's something I had lost sometime in 2012.
I'm happy to answer any questions, if you have them, but if you're reading this after Tuesday night, I'm likely answering them with a giant Diet Coke in one hand and a bowl of cereal in the other.