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I love salads, quinoa, and kale. I'm in yoga teacher training, I'm a triathlete, and I enjoy sweating every day. But I also love the sweeter things in life: cookies, booze, cheese, French fries-you name it.
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In fact, #treatyoself had become my motto about food more often than was healthy. And it wasn't doing my body (or mind) any good.
After all, I know a thing or two about health. I work at a website where our mission is to help the world think about health differently. We want everyone to find what's good for them-and we embody that mission at the office. We have fresh groceries delivered twice a week, unlimited snacks, and countless articles on healthy breakfasts, easy dinners, and protein-packed snack ideas.
But despite the endless knowledge and resources at my fingertips, I pushed it all aside and kept up habits I knew weren't the healthiest, like never saying no to dessert and always having a margarita (or two) at happy hours.
Going All In
Every New Year, I make the same resolution: “Be more mindful of what goes into my body.” This year was no exception. But I also thought about one of my favorite mottos: “Go big or go home.” Why, after years of being passionate about health and wellness and with all the perks of working at Greatist, was I not going “big” when it came to choosing what to eat?
That's why I decided to go all in. I'd attempt something I never thought I could (or would want to) do in a million years: the Whole30 program.
If you've never heard of it, it's no joke. Think of it as a stricter form of Paleo where you focus on eating whole foods-no sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, or alcohol-for 30 days.
I'd heard about it from my 33-year-old sister, who had done it twice (once while pregnant!). And while it was challenging, she only had positive things to say about her experiences.
As I prepared to start the program, I thought back on the times when I felt uncomfortable in a pair of jeans. I thought about all my hungover days after overindulgent nights out and remembered my wonderful weekend mornings after a sober evening with friends.
I knew I needed to actually do something about my health-not just know what I should be doing.
I knew I needed to actually do something about my health-not just know what I should be doing. I wasn't feeling my most confident, and I realized maybe I wasn't living my best life. With a few coworkers embarking on the Whole30 program with me and my sister serving as my sounding board and “coach,” off I went.
I'm not going to say it changed my life, but I learned so much more than I ever expected to. Here are the top seven lessons I took away from a month of no cheese, wine, sandwiches, or dessert.
The 7 Biggest SurprisesShare on Pinterest
1. I took my cooking skills to a whole new level.
I never thought I'd whip up a Paleo shrimp curry on a Tuesday night. Or know from memory that you can roast veggies at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes and they'll be delicious. Sure, it took me a few times to perfect spicy plantain chips, but once I did, they were 10 times better than regular chips. And if you've never used veggies in place of pasta before, the Veggetti (and spaghetti squash) will become your BFFs.
2. I learned sugar is lurking in everything.
Did you know there was sugar in Sriracha? And marinara sauce? I used to just grab any pasta sauce at the store, but once I started reading labels, I realized some have added sugars while others don't-and both taste delicious. I will now always choose the no-added-sugar option.
3. Eating at restaurants wasn't that hard.
I'm the type of person who eats pretty much anything, so when I found myself at dinner with a few friends and I was that person who had to ask if there was any dairy or sugar, I was a little hesitant. But once I asked, I realized it's really not that awkward. Every server was more than happy to check with the chef.
4. I didn't miss wine (or really anything for that matter!).
I honestly didn't crave a drink-even when I was stuck indoors during a blizzard. And I was surprised to find I was totally fine eating my Whole30-approved lunch or dinner without craving chocolate chips after. The only thing I craved? My social life, since many of my friends were doing Dry January as well. Still, giving up alcohol (even in a drinking-centric city like New York) wasn't that big of a deal.
5. OK, I missed cheese.
Cheese makes everything better. I also missed sandwiches, any food I could hold, and flat whites on Saturday mornings. To make up for it, I went a little crazy eating nuts all day long (cashews are the bomb) and realized maybe I need to take it easy on them next time.
6. I felt more confident.
Not that I wasn't before. I feel so lucky to have grown up with a mom who always told me I was beautiful. When I complained about not feeling my best or eating too many chocolate croissants, she would remind me that tomorrow is a new day! But I'm human, and when I eat and drink too much for too many days in a row, I feel terrible and get down on myself.
My clothes fit, I never felt overly full, and I really felt like my best self-which was my goal.
Over the 30 days, I lost a lot of weight, and my abs decided to show up. This side effect wasn't the reason I hopped on the Whole30 journey, but I felt great. My clothes fit, I never felt overly full, and I really felt like my best self-which was my goal.
7. I couldn't have done it without support.
Thanks to my coworkers, my sister, and the weekly emails and Instagram posts from the Whole30 team, I felt like part of a community that was actually excited about conquering this challenge. For me, having a supportive group around me-whether we're changing eating habits, going to the gym, or grabbing fro-yo (post Whole30!) to talk about life-is incredibly important. I wouldn't be the person I am and definitely wouldn't have done the Whole30 without my support group, my friends.
The TakeawayShare on Pinterest
Transitioning into life after Whole30 was a little tougher than I expected. Finishing the program wasn't a big hurrah, because I had felt so great during the 30 days. And right after, I felt guilty eating foods that I hadn't been allowed. Still, there were plenty of foods that I'd missed (like the turkey sandwiches that I lovingly craft for lunch), and I was happy to have those back.
In the end, I don't think there is a magic formula to figure out how to balance my #treatyoself attitude with treating my body the way it deserves. I'm not one of those “everything in moderation” types and likely never will be. Go big or go home-always.
What Whole30 gave me is a tool kit-a tool kit to make healthier choices, to know that it's not that hard to feel like my best self, and to have the confidence to tackle any challenge, even those I thought I'd never attempt.