Sunday, August 26, 2012

All Wrapped Up - Thoughts and feelings on my Whole30 experience

So, my Whole30 journey is a couple weeks behind me now and I just wanted to talk a bit about my experience - how I felt during the process and how I feel now that I have been free to make my own choices for the past couple of weeks.

Look at all these choices!

First of all, I approached the Whole30 from a bit of a different angle than I have seen a lot of others do. I did not weigh or measure myself beforehand, nor did I take pictures of my pre-Whole30 body. I wasn't doing this to change my body, that has already happened over this past year of eating a Paleo diet. My main drive for taking on a Whole30 was to grow my healthy relationship with food and break some of those cravings and emotional ties that drive us to eat when we aren't even hungry.

I haven't always had the healthiest relationship with food. I won't bore you with the details (maybe some other time), but a lot of my eating had nothing to do with hunger. It had more to do with comfort, avoiding dealing with my emotions, boredom, being unhappy, etc. As I began to make healthy changes in my life (being more active, eating a better diet and being in a relationship with the most caring and supportive man on the planet), my issues with food subsided for the most part. But they were still lurking just below the surface and I will admit that they did come up for air every once in a while and try to sneak back into my life. If anyone ever said you can't overeat on the Paleo diet...they lied.

Like I said, my feelings toward food were much healthier after a year of following a Paleo diet, but I really wanted to find a way to break down those last few barriers. I wanted to have a completely healthy and beneficial relationship with food. The more I read about the Whole30 program the more it appealed to me. I was already following a diet that closely resembled Whole30, with the exception of some wine, chocolate and other various treats here and there so the transition was fairly easy.

Hi friend...I'll miss you!

When I first set out on this journey, I armed myself with a kitchen full of fresh foods. I tried to limit my fruit intake, which meant more vegetable-based snacks such as carrot sticks and guacamole or beef jerky and sliced peppers. I also tried not to rely on fruit-based breakfasts or Paleo-ized treats like almond flour muffins or "oatmeal".

Sorry, Chocolatey Surprise're out!

Because I documented every bite on my blog, it was easy to look back and assess my diet after a couple of weeks. I noticed that I was still relying on my evening snack, even when we didn't eat dinner until 8:00 at night. So I made my own Whole30 rule that I wouldn't snack at night. I knew I wasn't having that snack because I was actually hungry, but because I was just used to having a snack at night. My mind wanted that snack, not my body.

There are at least two or three of these in our house at all times
I also noticed that almond butter just happened to be on my plate in some fashion every single day. I LOVE almond butter, I would eat the entire jar if you let me. Does that mean I should do it? No. It does not. I craved almond butter because I like the taste of it, the creamy, crunchy goodness of it, and the way it complements pretty much any fruit oh so well! Don't get me wrong, there is nothing bad about having a favorite treat. I love food and I think food should be an enjoyable part of our lives. But, like my little nighttime snacks, I was reaching for it because of the emotional comfort it provided, not because my body needed it. I banned almond butter from my Whole30 about two weeks into the process.

I feel like my Whole30 experience evolved as the weeks went on. At first, I was just going through the motions and following the prescribed diet. At some point, something clicked in my head and I realized it wasn't just about restricting my diet to look healthier on the outside - it was about adding nutritious, health supporting foods to make me feel healthier on the inside. Once that switch flipped in my brain it was easy! I never felt that I was depriving myself or missing out on something, I knew that every single thing I ate was supporting my current and future health and improving my performance and recovery from all of the tough tri-training I was doing. I willfully took vegetables or leftovers to work as snacks and focused on packing as many nutrients as possible into each and every meal.

At this point, about three weeks in, I was honestly ready for my Whole30 to be over so I could feel that I was making these choices on my own and not that they were being dictated for me. I wanted to stick it out, though, because it had been such an eye-opening experience up until then. I cruised through my last week pretty easily and was just really excited to put everything I had learned into practice.

Paleo Carrot Cake Muffins for my Book Club ladies!

My Whole30 ended on a Friday...did I go crazy that weekend? Not so much. I did make my Paleo Carrot Cake Muffins because my book club was meeting at my house and I wanted to serve a Paleo treat to my non-Paleo friends. I also had a glass of wine with dinner. Other than that, I stuck to fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins and fats. I thought I would run right out and buy my favorite bar of 90% dark chocolate, but I am currently two weeks post Whole30 and I still haven't bought that chocolate bar. I just feel so differently about the way I approach food than I did before my Whole30.

For example, when I eat dinner at my Mom's once a week she always serves this AWESOME Muffaletta topping that we use on salads or sweet potatoes, but I started to notice my stomach was always a bit rumbly after eating it (probably the soybean and vegetable oil) so last week I just didn't eat it. There was a time when I would eat things that didn't necessarily make me feel so great afterwards (Hello - almond butter every single day!) because they just tasted good. I listen to my body so much more now than I ever have.

Our bodies are smart - they know what they want and they will tell us when we have eaten something they don't like. I truly feel that this experience changed the way I think and feel about food. I look forward to cooking and eating every meal because I feel so good about what I am putting into my body. My relationship with food has improved immensely. Of course, I still plan to have the occasional treat. I think that is completely healthy. I am already looking forward to going to the movies tonight and having my little dark chocolate covered almonds. :)

So I guess that is it in a nutshell! Umm a very large nutshell. This was quite a long post because I had so much to say about this awesome experience. I strongly recommend Whole30 to anyone who needs a little jump start into their Paleo diet and also for those of us who have been following a Paleo diet for a while, but still need a little help developing a healthy relationship with food.

If you are ready to give it a shot, check out the Whole30 website and be sure to pick up a copy of Dallas and Melissa's book, It Starts with Food. And, of course, (shameless plug ahead) be sure to try some of my favorite Whole30 recipe creations while you're at it. There are so many great resources out there, The Foodee Project even has weekly menu plans available for you to follow.