I first heard about Whole 30 a little over a year ago, and my first thought was, “That is completely crazy.” Followed closely by, “I could never do that.”
In case you’re not familiar with it, Whole 30 is a 30-day digestive “reset” for your body that eliminates inflammatory foods – such as grains, legumes, soy, and dairy – and encourages you to reassess your relationship with food.
I’m actually very anti-diet. The feminist in me rebels at the idea of a single body type we’re all supposed to strive for, and health is my top priority over looks when it comes to food choices. I mentioned previously that I had a health scare last year – I had a scan due to appendicitis, and they found a spot on my liver which required follow-up testing – and it really put body issues into perspective for me. When I was going through ultrasounds and MRIs to try and determine whether or not I had liver cancer, I wasn’t worried about how defined my arms were. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be around to raise my sons. (Luckily they determined it was benign – a hemangioma or birthmark that is actually pretty common.)
That said, I’ve had a few nagging health issues that have crept up since I had Silas two years ago. My back is chronically achy, and I’ve had increasingly bad carpal tunnel. I have a few issues that seem hormone related, like acne, brain fog, and mild migraines. I also have a lifelong history of allergies. From the time I was three months old to when I got pregnant with Jonah, I took allergy medication 365 days a years for sinus issues, and my allergies are sometimes accompanied by eczema on my hands. None of this is debilitating, but it’s also stopping me from feeling like I’m functioning optimally.
More than the little things though – because to a certain extent, I feel like most people have health annoyances like that – as I get older I worry more about my family history and how that will affect my quality of life as I age. We’ve thankfully had very little cancer in my family, but we make up for it with heart disease and autoimmune issues up the whazoo: type 1 diabetes, MS, rheumatoid arthritis. I’m intimidated at the thought of totally revamping my relationship with food – seriously, yikes! – but if making some adjustments to my diet could help me avoid or minimize these health issues, don’t I owe it to myself and my kids to at least try?
I probably would have been too intimidated to take the leap, but like so many things in life, my older sister did it first and set such an amazing example that it gave me the courage to try. Today is the last day of her Whole 30, and I observed her and her husband closely as they worked through it. I watched in awe as she skipped desserts without complaint, never acting sad or sorry for herself. I felt more panicked at the thought of completing a Whole 30 than she ever openly appeared actually doing it.
So given her example, I was 95% committed to doing it. Then I mentioned to some friends that I was going to do it, and the next thing I knew I had a group of women from my sister circle who were going to do it as a group starting on August 1. Just like that, I had a whole community of supportive women surrounding me. Even my mother-in-law joined in!
I only started it Monday, so I’m on day three right now. I’ve felt better – my body is definitely rebelling against the carbohydrate deprivation – but I have never felt more grateful for the support of the women in my life. I get tough love from my sister. When I felt the first twinge of a sugar withdrawal headache and texted her in a panic, she promptly informed me to get a grip. And I get camaraderie and empathy from my Whole 30 group, which has a private Facebook page where we share our meal plans, vent when we feel crappy, and reflect on our relationship with food. I also get daily text updates from my mother-in-law.
However, despite all of my solid reasons for doing a Whole 30 and the extensive community I have to support me, I don’t think I’d have the grit to follow through with it all if it didn’t feel like such a loving thing to do for myself. Because at the heart of it, regardless of how hard and oftentimes unpleasant it is, it feels like profound self-care to spend time and effort making mindful choices about how I nourish my body. After years of trying to plan meals around my husband’s food sensitivities and my toddlers’ picky eating habits, it feels good to make food choices that could help me feel healthy and strong. I believe that viewing this experience from the perspective of self-care – in addition to having the strong support community I have – will ultimately be what gets me through.
If you are interested in looking into the Whole 30 for yourself, I highly recommend checking out their website and Facebook page, both of which provide a ton of information. One of the things that I love about this program is that the people who started it believe in it so passionately that they want to provide enough information online that anyone can access it and successfully complete the program for free. That said, for people who want additional information, they also have two books available, It Starts with Food and The Whole 30. If you’re on Pinterest, there are a ton of Whole 30 recipes available, but be sure to double check the ingredients to make sure they’re compliant. There are occasional posts that are label Whole 30 but actually contain non-compliant ingredients. Here is my personal Whole 30 board.