Whole30: It Gets Hard

I’ve said a lot of 10-word phrases in my life I’ve lived to regret.

  • I’m hungry. Maybe I’ll try this Yankee Stadium ballpark sushi.
  • I’ll wait and see Mitch Hedberg next time he visits.
  • I don’t think wedding planning’s going to be that hard.

Here’s a new one to add to my list:
The Whole30 diet? I could do that in my sleep.

Ok, so I probably didn’t mutter those exact words, mostly because my sleep is too precious to even make jokes about, but you get the gist: I honestly didn’t think giving up all dairy, sugar, grains and alcohol for 30 days would be that hard.

Why, you ask, did I think something so restrictive wouldn’t be that hard? Well, because I already eat a heck of a lot of vegetables. And because I like to cook. And because I’m a planner, organizer, and — let’s be honest — I’m stubborn as a mule. I knew Whole30 wouldn’t be easy peasy, but I really didn’t think it would be that hard.

And the truth is, it wasn’t — at first. Instead of starting my restrictions on a workday, I began during a weekend visit to my sister instead, and I don’t think it hampered our lifestyle one bit (though the local ice cream salesman may think differently). I hit up the farmers market, cooked us delicious meals — meatballs, roasted sweet potatoes, breakfast sausage, a whole chicken — and even enjoyed a steak out at a restaurant without asking SO many questions on preparation that I sounded like Meg Ryan ordering pie a la mode. My meals were filling and delicious, and I didn’t get any of the pounding headaches other eaters leaving their carbs behind tend to report. Life was good.

And it stayed good — through Monday, through Tuesday, through Wednesday. I fried eggs before work. I worked new produce into my diet. I survived a Mets game without beer and a pretzel.  

But then I woke up today and everything suddenly sucked. Maybe because I had watched The Great British Baking Show the night before and saw all the cakes. Maybe because I had read a delicious recipe in Cooking Light that included Whole30-excluded-but-otherwise healthy items like chickpeas and corn. Maybe because I haven’t had time to work out given all the extra time I’m spending on food prep (oh right, and a new job) these days. Whatever it was, I didn’t go into today particularly enthused about this voluntary challenge I’ve taken on.

I had prepared a healthy breakfast and lunch (which, obviously, I still ate — at 6:55 a.m. and 10:43 a.m., respectively), but I still found myself wandering through Whole Foods at 2:30 p.m. looking for something satisfying to eat. But everything I picked up — jerky, soup, protein bars — had some kind of sugar it in. I ultimately bought $8 of grilled eggplant from the salad bar (delicious but exorbitant) and a container of lemon olives, but as I checked out, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself: There was so much bread inside, and I wasn’t eating any of it.  

A part of me simply wants to throw in the towel — I’m going to another baseball game this weekend! Oh, the humanity! — but part of me also knows far too many people start this food plan and give up before they’re even half way through, just in time to suffer all the unhappy side effects of changing your diet (bloating, exhaustion, depression) and before any of the good side effects (weight loss, boosted energy, better sleep) supposedly kick in. The people at Whole30 say most of the quitting happens around Day 10/11, but I’m not going to lie: This body is tempted to pull the plug on Day 7.

But I’m not going to. Even though I for sure haven’t seen any good side effects yet, I know I’d be selling myself short if I don’t at least TRY to see it through to the end. And if I’m honest, I actually have seen at least one good side effect: I’m not tempted to dive into the peanut MMs every afternoon in the office anymore. Knowing it’s unnegotiably off limits has somehow removed the temptation, and if that’s a habit I can break once and for all, all this suffering will have been worth it.

Also worth it: tonight’s steak dinner, even if replacing the truffle fries with broccoli rabe was an insult to my soul. 

Anyone who’s done this, please send all motivational thoughts (and satisfying food tips) my way! One week down.

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