It’s late May, and that means lots of things are coming to an end. School years. NBA finals. Allergy season. My patience in hearing “No Anne, let’s wait a little longer before we get a dog.”
Today marks the end of something else, too: my Whole30 adventure. (Though, to be fair, I now enter a 10-day reintroduction period that’s essentially another week and a half of the same, but I guess Whole40 didn’t have the same marketing ring to it.)
I know there’s nothing worse than hearing someone else talk about their diet, but indulge me just a little longer here: this diet was amazing. I’ve been following the rules and not weighing myself until day 31, so I don’t yet know if I lost any weight, but that wasn’t the point: the point was to reset my relationship with food, be more mindful in my choices, focus on whole products and learn that passing up free food isn’t the be-all-end-all I’d once thought it to be.
Of course, just because it was amazing doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard. Some days were more challenging than others, but with enough planning and my token unwavering stubbornness, I was able to pull through. And here’s what I learned when I did:
- There is a real difference between belly hunger and head hunger, and you can teach yourself to tell them apart. If you ask yourself “am I hungry enough to eat this steamed fish and spinach?” and you aren’t, then you aren’t hungry. You’re bored.
- Once you cut added sugars from your diet, you realize some things you take for granted are amazingly sweet. I’m not just talking apples and pineapples, though those certainly are. I’m talking carrots and parsnips and even some cuts of meat. Before starting Whole30, I added honey to my Greek yogurt daily without question. I’m excited to see whether the plain stuff by itself is enough for me now.
- It’s OK to turn food down, it’s OK to go out with friends and not get a drink, and it’s OK to leave some food on your plate. I’m known around my apartment as “Depression Era Annie” who can’t help but consume everything she’s offered, but I learned this month that I’ll feel much better for much longer if I can muster the strength for one second to say no. No real friend is ever going to get angry that you got a sparkling water to toast their wine, or that you declined their homemade cookies.
- Preparation is key to any healthy routine. Roll into work without breakfast in tow and you’ll end up sugar loading on cereals and snacks. Plan ahead, and you can dine on roasted butternut squash, avocado and homemade breakfast sausage, keeping you full ’til lunch. Seriously, some days I wasn’t hungry for lunch until 2 p.m. eating these big, protein and veggie-laden breakfasts. That has literally never happened to me before in my entire life.
- I realized also that preparation time is a luxury, and one that the chronically over-worked and parents of small children in particular don’t necessarily have. I appreciate the extravagance of free time more than ever before after this process.
- Speaking of breakfast sausage, it is extremely easy to make. Sauté some diced onions/garlic in olive oil, mix them into a pound of ground meat (I tried it with both pork and dark meat turkey), add a diced apple, a teaspoon of sage and salt/pepper. Form small patties and cook in olive oil or coconut oil until browned and cooked through. Cool on a paper-towel-covered plate. Easy peasy, and no weird additives.
- Watch for weird additives. Most canned tuna contains soy. Most cured bacon contains sugar. Most conventional almond milk has an ingredient section longer than the list of minorities Donald Trump has offended.
I have two more meals to get through today — including a lunch with some of my oldest friends that sadly can’t include a glass of rosé because goddamnit I’m finishing this thing to the end! — and then I begin the reintroduction phase, where I try one banned food every three days to find out what effect it has on me. I’m thinking of starting with dairy, because my black coffee is getting very old indeed, but I’m also considering starting with wine. Because, you know, these girls are in town. (At least a solid quorum of them.)