Me & My Whole30 History
So a little history is in order. I’ve started five or six rounds of Whole30 and completed three of those. I don’t remember where I first heard about the Whole30, but it was at least five years ago. At the time I was taking my turn on the pregnancy-childbirth-breastfeeding merry-go-round, so I put a pin in it and didn’t give it much thought beyond that. With my first baby, I thought “ain’t no way I am adding some crazy elimination diet to baby-rocking all hours of the night and sacrificing my body (not to mention my womanhood) to the cause.” Famous last words.
Enter my son, Tag, a little less than two years later. About four months in he started reacting to anything and everything: gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, peanuts… even POLYESTER. You wanna know what they use to make everything baby related soft and fluffy: polyester. So basically he was allergic to everything we ever registered for and everything I ever ate, or at least it felt that way. The result of his sensitivity painful, itchy eczema that caused him to scratch until he bled… not to mention kept him up all night. It was a heart-breaking, exhausting, frantic season. And since I was the source of all his nutrition – good or bad – my diet was under a microscope. So “eliminating” became second nature. It is amazing what a mama will sacrifice when it causes her baby pain.
It would be easy to throw my arm across my forehead Scarlett O’Hara style, but truth his I’m grateful to my little guy for teaching me what I’m capable of. Up to that point, I hadn’t considered myself all that disciplined – especially when it came to food. But navigating Tag’s issues via my diet showed me I’ve got a lot more self-control than I give myself credit for. But like so many things, self-discipline is use-it-or-lose-it. Like a muscle that atrophies if it goes unchallenged. Thanks to Tag, my will power was in fighting shape when I embarked on my first Whole30.
Why I’m Whole30 loyal
I am a rule follower. Moderation is not my game. I will chat at you all day long about what works for me, but I am a firm believer that everyone is different – even more so on the inside than we are on the outside – and so different strokes for different folks. The number one reason I’m Whole30-loyal: success. Notice I didn’t say “results” (although there have been plenty, which I address a little further down). The Whole30 has become one of my most-used tools in my health and wellness toolbox. I know when I need it, I know I can do it, and I know what to expect on the other side.
You will hear a lot of Whole30 folks say, “it’s not a diet; it’s a reset.” This is exactly how it works for me. I battle over-eating and a sweet tooth that thinks it’s the boss of me. The Whole30 helps me beat these two into submission. But it’s not one-and-done. When I start to feel like I’m not in the driver’s seat, I know it’s time to go back to my old friend.
So about those results. You will hear a lot of Whole30 folks talk “NSVs,” or “Non-Scale Victories.” During the Whole30, its creators will encourage you to abandon your scale because, although most people do lose weight, that’s not really the heart of the matter. Weight loss is usually secondary to NSVs.
Maybe the biggest thing Whole30 has taught me is the role of inflammation. Turns out that pudge around my waistline and the unwelcome fullness in my face have more to do with inflammation than extra pounds. I know this because after a few rounds of Whole30, I see changes in these areas before the scale starts to move. A few more welcome signs of decreasing inflammation: my eyes are less puffy, my rings fit better, and… wait for it… MY HUSBAND SNORES LESS.
Girls, listen up. If you’ve got a snoring husband, you’re going to want to hear this. My husband - a large, bearded, bear-like man, who snores exactly as loud as you’d expect a large, bearded, bear-like man to snore – stopped snoring on DAY THREE of his Whole30. We’d been blaming allergies and sinus issues and extra pounds for years (seven, to be exact… the number of years since we got married and there was a witness to his nightly chainsaw impression) which all contribute, but inflammation was the real game-changer.
Now, convincing my husband to do the Whole30 was a victory in and of itself, so we didn’t do reintroduction by the book and, therefore, I don’t know the exact cause of inflammation (although my money is on gluten and dairy). But he’s doing it again with me in January, and I’m hoping we both nail the reintroduction phase better than we have in the past.
This is a perfect example of the “knowledge is power” element of Whole30 that is the number one reason I remain loyal. I know myself nutritionally so much better than before. Here are a few examples:
- I know my insomnia is food related and not much else.
- I know what I eat can sabotage my victory over depression and anxiety.
- I know an off-the-rails unhealthy meal can make me a really impatient mom and short-tempered wife.
- I know I don’t actually get hungry between meals if those meals don’t include too much sugar or grains.
- I know a little cheese on my salad has no effect, but a bowl of ice cream will turn me into a grumpy, bloated, sleepless mess. (But I also know I don’t care that much about cheese on my salad.)
- I know I have NO BREAKS when it comes to chips and salsa.
- I know over indulging in sweets makes naturally sweet foods lose their appeal (eating strawberries after a couple weeks of Whole30 was like eating CANDY!)
- I know I like brussels sprouts for breakfast.
- I know my kids eat better when I eat better.
- I know my relationship with alcohol is complicated. Stay tuned.
- I know I can do hard things. I know God didn’t skip me when he handed out the gift of self control.
The Beauty of Small Changes over Time
With every round of Whole30 – completed or not – little small changes linger. I eat protein at breakfast pretty religiously. I usually leave the cheese off my salad. I actually prefer hamburgers wrapped in crisp iceberg lettuce over a big ol’ bun. I don’t drink milk… like ever. I would rather have kombucha than any sugar-laden soda. I prefer my fajitas with corn tortillas over flour. I love eating at home. I still have no breaks when it comes to chips and salsa… some things don’t change. Also, #texasforever.
My goals for the January Whole30
I’ve been at this long enough to know that every Whole30 looks a little different. For example, my last one was a “wing-it” Whole30. I did very little prep and just kind of ate whatever compliant food I could find. This looked like a lot of weird little meals made up of boiled eggs and applesauce and meat sticks and RX Bars. Not my favorite. That will be different this time.
Since my 40th birthday slapped me in the face last year, I’ve been pretty darn consistent in the gym doing both boot camp/HIIT-style cardio and weight training. This will no-doubt impact my January Whole30. For starters, I have to eat a little more than past rounds and, second, more protein.
Oh, and one more little detail: I HAVE NO KITCHEN. Like we’re doing dishes in the bathtub. We are remodeling (ourselves) and its likely I will go this whole round without so much as a kitchen sink. So the name of the game will be meal planning and prep (at my mom’s house down the street). I am actually a little excited about this challenge because I think I’ve gotten a little cocky in past rounds and skimped on the prep which has made me less successful.
So here goes, my goals/modifications for the January Whole30:
- Starting on January 8th, when my kids go back to school
- Protein at every meal, aiming for a minimum of 100 grams of protein per day (150 grams would be even better)
- Big-time meal plan and prep on Sundays every week (more on my plan for this in the coming days)
- Smoothies (made with compliant ingredients) allowed. Smoothies are discouraged (not disallowed) on the Whole30 for some REALLY GOOD REASONS, but my kids need to return to their smoothie regimen so we are doing it.
- Lifting the restriction on alcohol for a two-night work trip where abstaining completely would not be well received by people whom I need to receive me well. That’s life. I will, however, steer clear of gluteny drinks and sugary mixers.
- Easy does it on the fruit. In past rounds, I think I’ve propped up my sugar addiction by substituting fruit. I’m going to do my best to keep fruit from taking center stage this time around.
- Minimizing pork and beef as protein sources. This really has nothing to do with the Whole30 – I’ve been at this for a bit. There is probably reason for a whole post about me and my relationship with meat. I spent several years as a vegetarian before marrying my meat-and-potatoes-lovin’ husband and trending toward a paleo lifestyle. I have some serious convictions about factory farming and how our consumption of meat impacts our environment (less about whether eating meat is right or wrong). So if and when I do eat beef or pork, it will be grass fed and humanely sourced (read: expensive), but for the most part I will rely on fish, poultry, and eggs.
- Eating out as little as possible. This is a natural Whole30 effect, but I need to double-down on this effort because of the no-kitchen factor and in order to honor our family’s financial goals AND our wellness goals.
- No scale. This is the one Whole30 rule I’ve always broken. I’m historically a weigh-every-day type. I like data and I like knowing where I stand. Weight-lifting has changed this because #gains. So I’m going to weigh-in day one and not weigh again until day 30. Hold me, Jesus.
There you have it! Bring in, Melissa Hartwig. This is gonna be good. I’ll be talking more about planning and prepping here and on Instagram/Facebook and posting my social-media-worthy meals on Instagram Stories so follow along and please share with your Whole30 friends.