Five Things I Learned On Whole30

Today is our last day of the Whole30 cleanse. On Day 2, I accidentally licked peanut butter off my finger while making Bea’s lunch and midway through, I had a bite of corn before realizing my breakfast side was “noncompliant.” But otherwise? We stuck to it and didn’t veer off course.

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Image source: Whole30.com

I feel pretty proud of us. There were challenging parts – especially with extra meal prep falling right when the neighborhood kids came outside to bike. But, I learned how to anticipate and prep ahead. We weren’t the most unhealthy eaters before this month, but sticking to the routine and following the guidelines definitely made us more cognizant of what we were buying and why we were choosing to eat certain things.

Tomorrow we enter the reintroduction phase, slowly adding in “sensitive” foods to see how we feel. But for now, I thought I’d share 5 Things We Learned while doing this Whole30 plan.

1) Meal Planning is Worth It
We were loose meal planners before – targeting Monday-Thursday. This meant Fridays were often hasty, pizza driven meals. The first two weeks of Whole30, we planned every single meal, every single day. As the days went by, we slowed down to dinners (breakfasts were an egg dish and lunches were either leftovers or my uniform meal of salad.) Last week, we planned Monday-Friday but left the weekend open for leftovers or simple grilling. I see that as a sustainable plan: Weekday planning; Weekend spontaneity.

I also kept track of every single meal I ate during the month. I certainly won’t keep that up, but as I highlighted the snacks I added, looking through my days made me more aware of patterns and choices I was making. This was especially helpful as I distinguished between hunger-snacking and boredom-snacking.

2) So Much Meat
We weren’t vegetarians before this month but we didn’t eat meat every day. I am so, so tired of animal products. Eggs for breakfast. Shredded chicken in my salad at lunch. Some sort of meat (and I count chicken and fish as meat) for dinner. So much.

It probably didn’t help that I’ve been reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer during this month. Or maybe it was perfect timing. In any case, going along with meal planning, we’ve decided to be more thoughtful about what we plan. Our schedule after this will be: 1 day Vegan, 3 days Vegetarian, 3 days Meat. Hopefully this makes us think more about our eating choices.

3) Emotional Eating Isn’t Always Bad
There’s never a good time to start a diet or cleanse – Frank has been working late hours on the tax extension deadlines; I went on a retreat in the midst of this – so we knew there would be some tough moments when we wished for a glass of wine or a nibble of a lemon poppyseed cookie. For the most part, it was fine not snacking or drinking. Would a glass of wine been nice on my weekend away? Yes. Did it change the restfulness of the weekend itself? No.

We were chatting with friends about how, at the end of a long week, a beer sounds awfully good. And that’s not a bad thing. We are holistic beings – of course food is linked to emotions and memories. I guess the balance is recognizing why we choose to eat or drink certain things before doing it mindlessly.

4) Dinner Parties are Still Fun
Our supper group met twice while we were on Whole30 and we still had a wonderful time. We found food to eat and were able to converse and laugh with our friends without any adult beverages or tasty desserts. At our last meeting, two couples were doing Whole30 and one couple was doing Weight Watchers and it sparked a great conversation about food restrictions and hospitality. Eating in community. The fact that many people have restrictions that aren’t voluntary but a real allergy. It gave me a bit of empathy for people who must eat outside the mainstream.

5) Thirty Days Isn’t That Long
A couple days seemed to last an eternity, but I’m amazed that we’re already finished. All in all, this month passed quickly. It took that time to take our habits from a quick reset to (hopefully) sustainable changes. I don’t miss sugar or bread like I thought I would. I dream about plain Greek yogurt, not the creamy sugary ones we had been in the habit of getting. (Because they were local so we were being conscientious!)

We’ve already talked about other Thirty Day habits we’d like to form. Next month, I’ll be writing every day for 31 days. We want to spend the next month going to bed by 9:00 since Elle has decided to form the habit of getting up at 5:30 each morning. I like the idea of taking time to be intentional, to add good habits to our life, and to remember that if it doesn’t work out, 30 days isn’t really that long.

I’m glad we did this particular challenge. I know there are better ones for weight loss or blood pressure or environmental health, but Whole30 was what we needed in this moment. It helped us recalibrate and really look at our food choices in ways we just weren’t before. It kept us accountable and gave us an end date, which is nice.

Even though it extends the challenge by 15 days, I’m looking forward to the next two weeks of reintroduction. I’m hoping I don’t have any sensitivities but am interested to see what comes up and how we’ll readjust our eating habits in response.

Mostly, I’m glad we took the time to be intentional. It was a lifestyle reminder that it’s so easy to just go day-to-day without thinking too much about the whys behind our choices. As we move forward, whatever we keep or readjust or lose altogether from this past month, I hope the intentionality is the most sustaining part.

Have you ever done Whole30? What was your experience? What’s your favorite food recalibration? How do you best form habits?

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