Come Sunday, I will close the book on my first ever whole30. Over the past month, I've gotten all sorts of comments from people. People who are proud. People who scratch their head because they don't understand, people who swear that they could never do this.
Let me be the first to say that I have been all of those people at one point or another in the past, so I totally get it. I'll also tell you that as someone who is going through it, it's a little frustrating to hear "oh I could never...." from someone, or the ever infuriating "but you're so thin."
I could never have done it either, had it not been for me realizing that if my diet didn't change, I was facing the very real possibility of being on steroids and other medication continually. I wasn't wanting that to happen, especially at my age. And let's just set the record straight: just because I'm thin does not equate to me being healthy. I was starting to stare at some health issues that may not seem like much, but looked to me like a gateway of medicines to cover up what my body was yelling at me: I wasn't feeding it correctly and I needed a do-over.
These past 30 days (28 right now if we're going to get strict with the counting) have been hard. And yet, they haven't been near as hard as I thought they would be. Overall I feel great, I took myself off of all my medications for acne and psoriasis at the beginning of this and have yet to have to use them again. My clothes fit better and I don't have the general lethargy that was typically following me around, despite the fact that I cut my habit of a daily intake of nearly 50 ounces of coffee and 32 ounces of soda.
Here are a few things I have learned:
I have the time to cook.
One of the biggest things I was worried about was having the time to cook meals for myself and my family. Mornings are a bit chaotic, but I have found a system that works well for all involved and it probably only takes an additional 10 minutes of my time in the mornings. I've always been a creature of habit and bought the store bought ready made seasoning packets. I'm not sure why, as they are just as easy to make on your own, and it leaves out some of the added junk that they add to preserve and "keep from clumping." I finally made my own marinara sauce. Not only is it easy to make, it's WAY better than the store bought stuff (so good that I now have 3 of my friends making it too!)
I have the will power to give up certain foods/drinks.
If you are a soda drinker and think you can't do this, please don't say you can't. Please say that you choose not to try. Because honestly, that was my excuse for a long time. And it is just that: an excuse. I was an avid coffee AND soda drinker. I kept Sonic in business most days. After not drinking a single soda for a month, and only drinking an 8oz cup of coffee every morning, I am convinced I CAN live without all of it, and in fact, I feel better when my diet lacks it.
What you eat really does affect your health.
The old cliche "you are what you eat" really is true. I knew this, but I didn't really LIVE by it. Life with littles is crazy and sometimes you just need to get a pizza. But we have made it an entire month with only 1 pizza box entering our home (I did not partake, as I was not home) and I'm here to say that I think we're all the better for it. If you say "well I have a picky eater" then please let me sit in that boat with you for a second. I do too. It was so bad, in fact, that I had to bring it up to the pediatrician at the well check because dinner time had become a battle that was wearing us all thin. So I braced myself for battles of unknown escalation, thinking that a whole diet would mean an even smaller selection to chose from, which would mean nights of stress and fighting at the table. But here's the funny thing: the moment I changed the diet and cut out some of the crap snacks that my kids were used to eating, the complaints were less and less. There were meals that I served during this month that all three of them asked for seconds and thirds. I truly believe that feeding them BETTER food made them WANT the food more. I was just as shocked as anyone when I realized that staying within strict boundaries created a better eater out of all of us.
I really like cereal.
Before whole30, I was a creature of habit at breakfast. A small bowl of granola, with a large iced latte and possibly a piece of fruit. If there is one thing I missed more than anything during this month it was my cereal. I have since been pinning homemade granola recipes, and hope that I can incorporate them in our new diet (praying that I don't have a reaction to gluten when I start reincorporation next week). This also leads me to my next learning point...
There's a lot of crap even in the "healthiest" of foods.
I have had to read labels for everything to make sure I am compliant in what I cook. Because of this I've stuck with mostly homemade things. But when I have had to get canned goods I have learned that even if you are buying tuna, you're really buying tuna in soy (soy is in EVERYTHING we eat. If you don't believe me, start reading your ingredient labels. It's INSANE). Think you're buying coconut milk or almond milk? Think again if it has that carageenan in it (some studies show it is linked to an increased risk of cancer).
I've had to think a lot this week about where I will go from here. Honestly I think that's been the hardest part of this entire journey for me... it's made me become so much more aware of what I'm putting not only in my body, but in my kids. I really think we will try to stick to a mostly paleo-type diet moving forward. A friend of mine asked me earlier this week if I still feed my kids processed foods. My answer was yes, and will likely remain yes. Look, I'm a busy mom just like most all other moms. Soccer starts up soon, and Lord knows we'll eat pizza come soccer season because life just gets crazy. I also think that it's important to allow some grace with food because I have seen too many children NOT allowed processed food and then gorge themselves on it later on because they felt like they hadn't had a chance to experience that. So here's my guidelines for our family (because some have asked): As a general rule, we will only eat all whole grain breads/pastas, etc. I have tried VERY hard to eliminate all foods that have high fructose corn syrup and food dyes (for us, both of those things lead to negative behavior that mirror ADHD. Boys in general are already crazy, and I don't need their diets making that crazy worse and then someone telling me that my kids needs medicine to overcome what I think can be eliminated through their diets). My kids get either granola (which is about to be homemade) or plain cheerios during the week, but more often than not they will eat eggs, a form of complex carb and a fruit for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and what we eat for dinner. The weekends are "special days" and they get to eat what we call "special cereal;" Right now their selection is Count Chocula. Yes, I cringe when they eat it. But they look forward to those days with a passion. And Drew is home on those days to curb the crazies should they get out of hand ;).
My plan isn't perfect, I'm the first to admit that. But I think that doing whole30 not only made me restart my metabolism, but also my way of thinking about things. If you haven't tried it, I really encourage you to. It's not the easiest thing you'll do, but it's definitely not the hardest, and the results will be well worth it.
(I'm trying to put together a post with some of my most favorite things that I've cooked over the past 30 days. Hopefully I will have that up next week sometime!)
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