My gym, Eugene Crossfit, started a 30 day challenge on September 12th called "Whole 30." The challenge technically ends tomorrow at midnight so I thought I'd give you a brief overview of what I learned over the past 30 days.
(image borrowed from fellow Whole 30'er Margaret)
Basically the challenge boils down to eating a LOT of meat, veggies, some fruit, nuts, seeds, and NOTHING ELSE. I have done a paleo 30 day challenge before, but the "no preservatives" and "no sweetners" rules bumped this challenge up to a whole new level for me.
Here's what I've learned over the past 30 days, in no particular order.
- There truly is strength in numbers (alternate caption considered, "Misery loves company"). Our gym had almost 60 people all doing Whole 30 together. Our elected leader, Rachel, made a facebook page where everyone shared their successes, failures, and everything in between. She also organized meals every Friday where we got together and ate clean food. Words fail at describing just how nice it was to be with people that "get it." When you're having a rough day or want to quit, there's someone there to help talk you through it - and sometimes that makes all the difference between success and failure. Our gym is starting another round of Whole 30 on October 1 7th, let me know if you're interested in taking the journey with the Eugene Crossfit Crew!
- I eat a lot of my kids' food. I did not make my children follow this crazy diet so I ended up making and handling a lot of food that I couldn't eat myself. Multiple times throughout the day, I catch myself almost eating their snack or almost licking my fingers. I wonder how much weight I'd lose just by changing this one habit.
(from the Primal Blueprint)
- I am a sugar-aholic. Going 30 days without a brownie really shouldn't be this hard. Also, there is hidden sugar in so many products! I know you don't believe me, so go read your labels (start with your lunch meat).
- Failing to plan is planning to .... suffer. My friend Margaret (who did a great job blogging about her Whole 30 journey, you should check her blog out) met with me the first few weeks of the challenge and we wrote out meal plans for the following weeks. I don't think either of us ended up following our plans completely, but just having ideas of what food I needed to buy helped a lot because I didn't have to try and come up with a meal plan on the fly. Not planning didn't equate to failing, it just meant more trips to the grocery store and fighting hunger pains longer.
- Cooking is not my passion. I know some people derive a great deal of joy from planning meals, shopping for groceries, prepping ingredients and serving food. Not me. This challenge pretty much required every meal and snack to have something cooked. There were a few times where I wanted to pull my hair out because it felt like my whole day revolved around my food - something my three children weren't too thrilled about either.
- The definition of the word "food" has become very broad. If our ancestors from just three or four generations back saw a fruit snack, would they know it was edible? When did we start eating stuff processed in a factory more than stuff that grew out of the ground? I walk around the grocery story now and I can't believe how much processed junk we, as a society, eat. Have you put something green in your mouth today?
- There is such a thing as too much coconut. I think I overdid it a little on the coconut milk, shredded coconut, coconut aminos (which I recommend for a great soy sauce substitute if you ever need one), coconut oil, and coconut butter because I reached a point where the smell of coconut almost made me feel sick.
- I eat food for emotional reasons. This is something I was vaguely aware of already, but Whole 30 put it into a whole new light. I won't lie, September turned out to be a rough month for me. My husband celebrated his birthday, and I felt like it wasn't a true celebration because we didn't make a cake (maybe that should have gone under the sugar-aholics section). My grandmother passed away, and what I really wanted to do to honor her memory was make her chocolate sheet cake and eat the whole thing myself. My son's angel-versary came and I wanted to go out to eat every meal so I wouldn't have to cook anything. I found out a dear friend is moving and I was very grumpy I couldn't look for some comfort at the bottom of a large blizzard cup. Those are just the extreme examples, if I tried I'm sure I could come up with something for almost every day of the challenge. For me, it's very easy to justify a treat. I've started to use reading as a coping strategy instead of eating, but I'm worried once the challenge is over that I will slip back into my old habits.
- Whatever you do, DO NOT follow directions on produce stickers. Today, on day 29 of the challenge, I wanted to cook a spaghetti squash. I called my culinarily-talented (yes, I just made that word up) neighbor, Valerie, and had her walk me through my cooking options. When I hung up I started worrying that I didn't have enough time to cook dinner before my daughter's soccer practice, but to my delight, the produce sticker on the spaghetti squash offered microwave cooking directions that only took 15 minutes! As you can see from the picture above, following produce sticker cooking directions is a bad idea. Next time I will follow the culinarily-talented neighbor's advice instead.
- I can do hard things. As adults, I think it's easy for us to construct a world for ourselves where we don't have to go outside of our comfort zone very often or for very long. This challenge helped me realize that setting silly, crazy, unattainable goals for myself helps spice up life and gives me something positive to focus on.
The Whole 30 challenge was hard, and for that reason alone, I'm glad I did it. But should eating healthy really be hard? Shouldn't we all want to eat this way all of the time? Why do we do things that we know aren't the best option for ourselves? I guess I will have to save the philosophical debate for another post, another day. If you have any questions about Whole 30, please leave a comment and I will do my best to answer them.