The Whole30: Where It All Begins

In 6 days I will begin my first Whole30.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Whole30, it’s a “nutritional program designed to change your life in 30 days“.  It’s a way to hit the ‘reset button’ on your body to help restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive track, and balance your immune system as well as put an end to unhealthy cravings.  At least that’s the hope.

I decided to do it because my CrossFit box strongly encourages us to try it out and it seemed like a good way to finally confront my candy addiction.  Although I’m excited to try something new, I fear that this will be quite the challenge because for 30 days you can’t have:

  • Sugar (minus the natural sugar from fruit – fruit is cool)
  • Grains (good-bye bagel Fridays)
  • Legumes (so long peanut butter, my old friend)
  • Dairy (don’t even wanna talk about it…)
  • Booze (by far the hardest to part with)

By this point you must be asking yourself, “Why would any sane person willingly give up cheese AND alcohol? What life is that?!” To which I respond with this – it’s only 30 days.  Will it be difficult?  Absolutely.  I have to completely restructure the way I eat and learn to incorporate vegetables for breakfast (ew).  But I’m not giving up cheese or wine forever because that is not a world I want to live in.  I’m doing this for three reasons:

1) I want to see if I can.

As someone who quit smoking cold turkey, I’d like to believe that I can give up dairy, sugar, and booze with minimal effort.  In reality, I know this will be incredibly difficult.  I use food (and occasionally wine) to comfort myself.  Not to excess, but it’s a still a go-to cheer me up. Bad day?  I’ll be swinging by the wine store on my way home.  Frustrated at work?  My office is full of candy, rice crispy treats, and granola bars (and whiskey).  I also use food and alcohol to celebrate.  After I took the GRE and got a significantly higher score than I anticipated, I went straight to Duane Reade and bought a bag of my favorite jelly beans.  I rewarded myself with candy, like a small child.  These are the habits I want to break.  After the Whole30 I’ll still bring wine to a friend’s house and have my ‘meeting whiskey’ with my boss every other Friday, but I want to stop keeping bottles of wine at home ‘just in case’.  It’s packing on unneeded and unwanted calories, as I suppose the sweets are too.

2) I want to see the physical effects.

I’ve been doing CrossFit for about 3 1/2 months which is the “golden time” for CrossFitters.  Since you’re new to the program, you typically see vast improvement relatively quickly before you hit your peak and have to really earn every single gain.  I want to see if eliminating foods that make you sluggish will help me be better, faster, and stronger.  Although I eat fairly healthy for the most part, I’m curious to see if the elimination of my evening glass(es) of wine and weekend carb binges help my performance.  I could also stand to lose the pounds I added over the holiday season.  Damn my love of carbs and lack of self-control.

3) I want to see the mental effects.

This is the most important one for me (saved the best for the last).  I’ve been using exercise, diet, and various versions of talk therapy (ranging from seeing psychologists to talking to my LCSW mom for three hours) for the past five years to manage, what doctor’s have called, bipolar disorder.  After being on medication for over seven years, I decided to take myself off all meds.  The good part was that I felt better than I ever had on the meds…most of the time.  The bad part was once I stopped taking care of myself (i.e., exercising regularly, sleeping and eating well, managing stress, and drinking in moderation), my symptoms came back almost immediately.  They don’t always come back in full force, but I feel the difference.  I not only pay for a weekend of eating poorly and binge drinking with a hangover and bloating, I cycle between feeling depressed and feeling manic.  Depending on how irresponsible I was, it can take weeks before I feel ‘normal’ again.  Although it’s very difficult to manage these times, I still feel better doing it without meds.  But that’s just me.  Other people who have mental health issues have stated that doing the Whole30 helped their symptoms improve drastically.  I want to know if it will be the same for me.  A few months ago I considered going back on meds because my symptoms (depression, anxiety, and mania) were becoming harder to manage.  I decided not to because I realized that during that time I was not taking care of myself the way I know I need to in order to be med-free.  While my psychiatrist told me that I may need to go on meds again some day, I know it isn’t time.  I want to see if the Whole30 can help change my eating habits and, as a result, help my mental health struggles.

According to the founders of the Whole 30, “More than 95% of participants lose weight and improve their body composition, without counting or restricting calories. Also commonly reported: consistently high energy levels, improved athletic performance, better sleep, improved focus and mental clarity, and a sunnier disposition (learn more here).”  I want all of those things, so I’m willing to try changing the way I eat to get them.

I’ll be posting my day-to-day progress along with recipes and workouts.  I plan to document my triumphs as well as my struggles dealing with candy withdrawal.  If you’ve ever done a Whole 30, are in the midst of one, or plan to do one in the future please leave a comment, I’d love to hear your stories!

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