About exactly one year ago I embarked on my first Whole30 challenge; overwhelmed, intimidated, curious, and weirdly excited. What initially began as a way to hopefully get some answers to some gastrointestinal issues, turned into a much more insightful experience. I learned a lot about myself and my eating habits, specifically that I had a full-blown granola addiction and that I was consuming more sugar than I liked to admit. As outlined in the piece I wrote for Mindbodygreen, I learned that meal prep is an absolute must, you may not need alcohol as much as you think you do, you must listen to your body, and some other important lessons. Fast forward to a year later and I was ready to tackle the Whole30 challenge for the second time around, expecting it to be not too different than the first run. However, now after completing this second go, I am surprised to look back and assess how different these two sets of thirty days were for me. What was so drastically different?
- I wasn’t nearly as overwhelmed. As aforementioned, the first time I did Whole30 I was extremely overwhelmed. I spent a lot of my day worrying about what my next meal was going to be and, if I was going anywhere, how I was going to find a compliant meal. I was stressed about the fact that I had to cook every single meal and got too concerned with the black and white territory of the challenge. Also, as someone who does not welcome defeat or giving up, I was truly scared that I would not be able to complete the 30 days and couldn’t fathom the idea of starting something without finishing it. This time around, most likely because I knew I had already accomplished this once so it was an achievable goal, I went in to it with a much more laissez-faire attitude. “Whole30? Sure, why not, let’s do it again. Why not start this Monday?” I told myself. My start date wasn’t some pent-up stress ridden dooms day marked on my calendar for weeks beforehand where I tried to fit in as much ice cream as possible before it began. Instead, one weekend I decided I could use the reset, and did it. This changed my entire mentality leading into the experience. Instead of being overwhelmed by these large life changes I was making, I viewed it more as thirty days to experiment with some new habits. What is so hard about not eating a few ingredients? When you change your mindset, and focus on the newfound opportunities versus the restrictions, surprisingly, not much.
- I still eat more sugar than I thought or care to admit. There is absolutely no getting around the fact that I have a sweet tooth. Ice cream is, and will always be, my favorite food, and after most dinners I am craving something sweet. However, that something sweet is usually a healthified homemade recipe, such as my coconut cashew tahini bars or dark chocolate banana peanut butter cups, which actually do not contain much, if any, sugar. I also am someone who readily pays attention to labels and chooses ones without added sugars. As you can tell, I am by no means that person eating a bag of gummy bears or chugging a soda, so, why in God’s name did I have such bad sugar detox headaches!? It is truly astounding. These headaches, that lasted for the first few days, prove how reliant and addicted we are as a population to sugar. It is in everything. If you are a sugar fiend, be prepared for some severe hangover like headaches. This takeaway has me extremely attentive going forward on really paying attention to how much sugar I am mindlessly putting into my body.
- I dined out at restaurants way more often and realized it is in fact possible to eat Whole30 compliant meals outside of your own kitchen. Turns out, you actually don’t have to be responsible for cooking every single meal over the next thirty days. Yes, it is 100% easier to do so than to find a compliant meal at a restaurant, but it is definitely possible to go out to eat. My first time around I only ate two meals that I did not cook on my own. This time around, honestly, it was about half. Yes, it wasn’t ideal, but I made it work. All it takes is some extra time on the phone with the restaurant beforehand discussing the ingredients and menu items they have to offer. Plus, I put together this awesome guide for the rest of you outlining some of my favorite Whole30 approved meals at NYC restaurants.
- I traveled – a lot – and learned how to maintain Whole30 eating habits. When I decided to do Whole30 in February I didn’t realize how often I would be traveling, but that is never something I am going to complain about! It definitely made it challenging, but I am not someone to back away from a challenge. With some extra preparation, visiting a handful of Whole Foods in different states, and lots of yelp and google searches for restaurants, I made it work. I can proudly say that I even survived a Super Bowl weekend with 6 guys that included 6 hours on a flight, 15 hours in a car, and 4 nights away from my apartment all while eating Whole30 compliant foods. Thanks to a lot of fruits and chopped vegetables, beef jerky, approved bars, burgers without the bun on a salad, and a smoked turkey leg (my game day stadium meal of choice), I made due.
- I actually broke Whole30 and drank alcohol (arrest me!!). One of the reasons I was overwhelmed and a bit stressed the first time around was because I told myself there was absolutely no way I would break the rules over the next thirty days. As someone who doesn’t understand why anyone would half-ass anything, I didn’t understand the point of doing Whole30 if I was only going to break it half way through the challenge. (Intense much? Yea, I know. Luckily I’ve matured over the past year.) This time around, however, I didn’t care as much. Seriously, who the fuck actually cares if I go thirty days without eating or drinking something? Honestly, no one. Turns out this whole thing is actually for yourself and no one else, so you make up the rules. And you know what, life happens! No, ideally I wouldn’t have picked to do Whole30 while I was going to the Super Bowl, but then again I didn’t know that the Philadelphia Eagles would make all my dreams come true and that Saint Nick would be my new hero and inspiration. There I found myself, in Minneapolis, at the freaking SUPER BOWL, experiencing a once in a lifetime weekend with my fiancé and friends. So, yes, I wanted to have a freaking drink. And that’s exactly what I did. And you know what, nothing happened! The Whole30 police didn’t come arrest me and I lived to see another day. Life is way more important than some thirty-day challenge, let’s not forget about that.
- I continued to realize that I actually don’t need to drink as often as I do and it really bothers people when you are sober. With all of that talk above about how I decided to break Whole30 for the (second) best day of my life, I should note that I did not drink nearly as much as I would have had it been a month prior. Everyone always thinks that going thirty days sober is going to be the hardest part of Whole30, hell, I was one of those people. But after a few days you begin to realize, “damn, I drink way more than I actually need to.” Who said you constantly need alcohol to have fun or socialize? Not I. I felt so great being sober and hangover-less, and extremely comfortable in my own skin with this decision, that even though I went into this SB weekend thinking “if I want to have a drink, I’ll have it,” I actually decided not to drink Friday or Saturday night out. I still went out and had fun with all of our friends, but I honestly just wasn’t in the mood for a drink. Turns out, that next day, I was, so I did, and THAT’S OKAY! You should have a drink because you want one, not because of social norms. You will also come to realize that not drinking seems to bother other people more than it will ever bother you. Something I will never understand, but people just love to give you a hard time when you tell them you are choosing not to drink. What gives people!? Don’t let it get to you – keep doing you!
- I got creative. Of course, there are foods I missed, or ones I was unable to find compliant versions of. Instead of pouting and wishing I could have them, I made Whole30 approved versions of them. Voila, it’s that easy. Quit feeling sorry for yourself!
- I feel flipping amazing. Turns out, eating Whole30 approved meals makes you feel really fucking good. Not just, oh I feel a bit less bloated this morning. I mean, wake up with tiger blood energy, ready to take on the day, bloat-free, working digestive system, clear skin, disappeared puffiness, and flipping strutting the runway amazing.
- It is a nice change to put yourself first. Living in NYC, life can get busy. Being “stressed” is something people weirdly pride themselves on here. Everyone is always rushing to fit in as much as possible into one day: working out, actually going to your job, seeing friends, grabbing drinks, going out to dinner, etc. I’m not judging, I am the epitome of this. I often find myself with a to-do list that lasts for weeks on end before every actually checking anything off. This was the nicest part about Whole30: I decided to put myself first. I said no to plans, I stayed in instead of going out on nights I didn’t feel up for it, and I actually got a full night’s sleep and felt well rested. It is a very nice change to make yourself the priority and is something I definitely plan to continue even after Whole30.