Whole30: Lessons Learned

Oh, come on! It's not that bad.

These last 30 days, curious folk would often ask me, “Why?” From their perspective, I was already so “restricted” in my way of eating, that it was hard to fathom what I could possibly gain by going even stricter.

As I mentioned in my Oh-crap-the-Whole30-is-starting-soon post, there were four things I was thinking as I went into this: 1) Curious about going dairy-free; 2) Trying to kick sugar cravings; 3) Curious about going alcohol-free; and 4) The challenge of it all. Those are all valid goals, and the good news is, I think I learned a lot about each of those.

But the best thing I learned from this is that there is so much of which we’re unconscious in regards to food. I’ve had conversations with people who say they don’t eat much sugar, but when I spy the box of cereal in their pantry that they eat every morning, there are about 7 ingredients on the list and 4 of them are sugar. One of the gifts of following a Paleo template is that it makes us consider our food in so many ways: the source, the effect, the nutrient-worthiness, the pleasure factor. We take little for granted. But that doesn’t mean we get to rest on our laurels. There is always more room to evaluate, inspect, question. And without a strict framework, you will not succeed. The human brain just can’t measure “moderation.” It doesn’t know the meaning of the word unless you tell it where the parameters are.

Oy.

For example. My first day off the Whole30 and what do I do? Go. Off. The. Rails. Totally. Dairy at every meal, some sugar, and some alcohol. And how do I feel about it? Awful. The dairy made me phlegmy and gross. The sugar was fine, but made me feel bloated on top of the wine I had. And that’s the big lesson right there, folks. You can’t know what bugs you until you wean yourself off of it, think you miss it, and then it slaps you in the face.

I’ve seen a certain sentiment floating around in regards to the Whole30. Before I launch into revealing it, please know that I am myself guilty of this. But we have to stop treating our Whole30 as a 30-day prison sentence. As something to be endured. We will not be getting a martyr badge at the end of this.

What we will get is a more accurate picture of our health needs. Of what our body needs our help in accomplishing. That task is not up to Nabisco or Chipotle or your Aunt Ruthie. It’s up to us. I will admit that it can be kinda depressing out there in that wilderness, all alone. The last day of my Whole30, with my 2-year-old daughter clinging to my leg and screaming hysterically while I was trying to just bake some freaking chicken for dinner, I wholeheartedly wished for a Paleo pizza delivery.

But lemme tell ya, that pizza will never come.

Instead, we have to take strength in the fact that we are the captains of our own destiny here. We should be glad we have that ability. That honor and privilege. And take heart knowing that we’re all in this alone together, traveling parallel roads within shouting distance of each other.

So don’t spend 30 days hating the best nutritional path for your body. Stay open to the lessons it has for you. Whatever the world tempts you with, it will always be there should you decide to taste it.

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7 Responses to “Whole30: Lessons Learned”

  1. Very interesting post ! i also think that we have to take charge for our own health and that the whole30 is a positive challenge, not something to endure.

  2. jen annan house Reply 11/02/2011 at 8:01 am

    Well said, Karen, well said. We are all indeed walking parallel lives, within shouting distance of each other. Onward!

  3. I followed you every day, out of curiosity, envy, even jealosy maybe? And I so appreciate you writing from your heart. While I am not 100% Paleo I have chosen not to punish myself so harshly by doing a Whole 30; instead I am slowly eliminating all the items you mention in your ‘splurge’ because as I eat/drink less of each of them I feel the difference when I do consume them. Thank you again.

    • I agree that if you’re feeling good about where you are with your diet, then a Whole30 may not be necessary. I didn’t think it was for me, but I did learn a lot. It just remains to be seen what I’ll take and what I’ll leave behind.

      Thank you for stopping by and tagging along on my Whole30. All of you kept me honest this past 30 days. I was thinking to myself yesterday, “Thank goodness I don’t have to write this stuff down!” ;)

  4. jen annan house Reply 11/02/2011 at 8:46 am

    @ Karen – I do miss those posts. It was good for me to compare what you were eating and what I was eating. Dialed back my fruit intake accordingly. @ Mamie – I entered into the Whole30 with the idea if I started to feel poorly, I would quit. Truth be told, I felt better every single day. In the beginning, it did feel a little bit harsh, but after about 4 days, it felt like I was doing the best thing I could do for both my mind and my body. I don’t regret a single day of the Whole30 (and thanks to Karen who kept me, and I’m sure the rest of us, entertained daily!).

  5. Oh come on now….I was anxiously waiting to see your post for your meals on day 1 off the Whole 30!!!! ;)
    So, today is my day one and I spent last night falling asleep thinking of the pumpkin pancakes I was going to enjoy for breakfast this morning…woke up, not freakin’ hungry! I’ll save that menu item for tomorrow I guess (or breakfast for dinner maybe?).
    I totally didn’t think that the Whole 30 was for me…I got the same responses from friends and family…”good Lord, how many more food groups can you cut out?”…but I agree with you that there is always room for fine tuning and we absolutely have to follow a strict regime to do that. I love your comment “The human brain just can’t measure “moderation.” It doesn’t know the meaning of the word unless you tell it where the parameters are.” This is SO true! Thanks for posting and your transparency during your Whole 30…it was great to feel like I wasn’t in it alone!

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  1. Whole30: Lessons Learned | Paleo Digest - 11/02/2011

    […] and sites on the web!Whole30: Lessons Learned The Paleo Periodical / Posted on: November 02, 2011The Paleo Periodical – These last 30 days, curious folk would often ask me, “Why?” From their […]

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