Whole30: A Rule Lover’s Diet

I’ve been a rule follower all my life. I wait in lines. I RSVP. I send thank you notes, use my salad fork, and once called my fifth grade teacher in tears on a Saturday afraid I had used my “get out of one spelling test free card” incorrectly the day before. 

I’m sorry, Mrs. Totzauer, wherever you are. You deserved that Saturday morning free of my fifth grade anxieties. 

Sure, I’ve been known to jay walk from time to time, but use a fake ID? Sneak into a concert? Eat ice cream before finishing my vegetables? I can’t even fathom what such reckless rule breaking would feel like. 

In fact, I’m so good at following rules that when I suddenly don’t have a specific set of guidelines to live by, I can find myself feeling a little overwhelmed. Take, for instance, marathon training. For four months, I wake up every morning to see a workout on my calendar — 8 mile pace, 5 miles with hills, 20 mile tempo — and without fail, I do it. Why? Because I wrote in my calendar I would and I don’t break the rules. When the race is over, though, it’s nearly impossible to get myself out of bed for even a 2-mile jog, because the rules no longer dictate I have to.

The same holds true for food. In recent months, I’ve stopped calorie counting after years of using it as a crutch and told myself everything in moderation is fine. Sounds reasonable, except when there’s no specific rule stopping me from hitting up the bulk chocolate bin at work, it means I throw back two servings at 2 pm daily without fail. When I was recording my calorie count on myfitnesspal, I found I could walk away from wine or dessert, but now that everything’s fair game, I don’t seem to have an off button. The side effects aren’t fun: some minor weight gain but more importantly — headaches, sugar rushes, constantly feeling full or bloated, sometimes to the point I can’t fall asleep, and poor Ben hearing this phrase over and over like a broken record: “I think I ate too much.” It’s not a great feeling, and not just because I have to squeeze into a wedding dress in seven months’ time.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what the solution is here — do I return to calorie counting, meaning I have to pull my phone out at every single meal to record my intake? Do I snap a rubber band around my wrist every time I reach for the bulk bin of chocolate banana chips? Do I forgo food altogether and subside solely on coder-approved Soylent for the rest of my days?

But maybe the solution doesn’t have to be so drastic. Maybe I don’t need a new life-long eating plan: just a temporary reset. With that idea in mind, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on Whole30, the 30-day lifestyle change it seems everyone on the Internet has completed at least once. 


The idea: cut out all processed foods, sugars, grains, dairy, legumes, additives and alcohol and for 30 days straight focus exclusively on vegetables, fruit and protein. The plan itself isn’t sustainable forever (I will sorely miss yogurt and wine) and it’s not supposed to be: it’s supposed to be 30 days of mindful eating intended to retrain your body to crave real, nutritious food, not the sugary stuff with the emotional pull. If you’ve ever said to yourself like I have: “I’m hungry … but not hungry for an apple,” then you know what I’m taking about. 

I read the book cover to cover this past week, while eating a Whole30 compliant meal of cabbage, bacon and tilapia … and white wine. Ok, so not completely complaint. 
As the authors claim: “It will change the way you think about food, it will change your tastes, it will change your habits and your cravings. It could, quite possibly, change the emotional relationship you have with food, and with your body. It has the potential to change the way you eat for the rest of your life.”

Most importantly, this plan comes with a specific set of rules — cans and cannots that make food choices black and white. While I wouldn’t want to restrict my food choices indefinitely, I am open to the idea of doing it for 30 days starting April 25 and seeing where it gets me. Maybe it helps me trim down for my dress fitting. Maybe it introduces me to some new vegetables. Maybe it simply slows down the amount of junk I put in my body without realizing it. I don’t think this meal plan is a cure-all, but I’m looking for some new rules to follow, so why not give it a try?

They say it’s easier with friends. Who’s with me?


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