“I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond.” – Mae West
Good nutrition requires two things: Sustainability and delicious food. If I don’t enjoy what I’m eating or how, then it’s not sustainable and not for me. That’s why diets have never really been my thing. The food is bland and there are too many rules. Oddly enough I decided to take a stab at my first ‘diet’ this summer by following the Whole30 program.
No diary. No legumes. No sugar. No grains. No wine. No beer. No whining allowed. For 30 days.
It seemed like a good idea at the time because a) I did it on a whim b) other people were doing it c) I had a ridiculous sugar craving I just couldn’t shake. The rules didn’t feel intimidating. I figured “I already eat Paleo-ish, this won’t be that hard.”
But it was hard. Fermented grapes apparently don’t count as fruit so my beloved glass of Merlot was out. Oh, and chocolate.
Like, who gives up on chocolate? On purpose?
Crazy Whole30 people that’s who! And I had volunteered myself as tribute for 30 days!
My rude awakening
The Whole30 program heightened my awareness around food to uncomfortable, and sometimes annoying, levels. Suddenly, I was hyper aware of every food choice, every ingredient and every minute detail on my plate. I could smell and crave a donut from a mile away despite never liking donuts. I stared at the jar of Kit Kats in my office with longing in my eyes. I cried inside whenever I was invited to a social occasion involving food and wine because I could not have the food and wine! But 2 weeks in, the fog lifted. My head was clearer, I had more energy and I slept more soundly. I realized I didn’t mind drinking water at happy hour because it was the conversation that made things interesting, not the cocktails. While everyone has a different experience on Whole30 there were three significant ‘a ha’ moments that benefitted me most:
1. ) Sugar is in everything even the stuff you think is healthy. Looking at food labels and dissecting the ingredients made me realize that we are a nation of sugar addicts. It’s almost unavoidable and I got a better understanding of why my sugar cravings were happening in the first place. Even my occasional protein bars were loaded with sugar! I had to make a conscious effort to prepare Whole30 approved snacks that I could grab on the go.
2.) We are a food and drink-obsessed culture Every office meeting, party, or girls night involved booze and food. Ordering water at a bar usually meant I’d never get one (at one point my waiter told me to just grab one myself because he was busy with drink orders!). My heightened awareness around food meant I needed to invest more time in preparation such as eating something beforehand, reviewing the menu in advance, or bringing a snack. Initially, I thought this behavior would be annoying to people but to my relief, no one cared. I found I didn’t need alcohol to enjoy girl’s night and I didn’t need to pick on a plate of fries just because it was sitting in front of me. I could still enjoy my evening without these things while saving money and getting a good night’s sleep.
Maybe this Whole30 was on to something….
Eliminating food groups isn’t 100% necessary, but it helps Following 30 days of restriction, Whole30 has this thing called the reintroduction period where you slowly ease your way into the food groups you once eliminated to understand how it actually affects your body. While I don’t have many food sensitivities, I found that I didn’t need to eliminate entire food groups if I didn’t want to. However, some types of foods made me feel like crap. For example, during the reintroduction of diary products I discovered that Greek yogurt didn’t affect me at all, but ice cream and frozen yogurt did. Alcohol ruins my sleep cycle and makes me feel sluggish no matter how little I’ve had, which makes me want to never drink. Each individual will have a unique experience during this phase but it demonstrates that the majority of popular diets are part BS. How we react or experience food is such an individual thing but trendy diets make certain food groups the ‘villian’ and focuses entirely too much on how you look as opposed to what works best for your body, your lifestyle and your priorities. While I don’t consume a lot of grains, there’s no need to make it the ‘bad’ guy and cut it out of my life forever. That’s a choice. And sometimes I choose to eat a damn piece of toast!
Despite enjoying my Whole30 adventure, I’m still not a fan of diets. I refuse to partake in anything unsustainable, un-enjoyable and restrictive. Whole30 aligned closely with how I was already eating but I also don’t want to think about food 24/7, review dinner menus in advance or turn down social events because there’s no ‘approved’ foods available.
Granted, we’ll tweak our nutrition plans as our goals change over time and that’s okay. How we eat should evolve with time, but it doesn’t mean giving up sustainability and enjoyment. With my newfound awareness, I’m taking on a different approach to eating – a protest, if you will, of restrictive, unsustainable and un-enjoyable diets everywhere. This #DietRiot approach focuses on sustainability and enjoyment rather than the food on my plate. After all, I’m the one living with my body and I’m the only person that can understand how food affects my physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. I won’t let a diet guru tell me I shouldn’t eat bread because he doesn’t know how bread affects me! I have to go through that learning process myself.
Take charge my fellow fitness junkies! Take charge of every bite and select the nutrition protocol that brings you joy and makes you feel amazing in and out of your skin. The #DietRiot is all about loving how you feel before and after every bite. And if something makes you feel like crap, be honest with yourself and let it go because you don’t have time to feel like shit. You deserve to feel radiant, vibrant and happy. Not even a piece of cheese is worth taking that away.