The first of August was my mom’s 70th birthday. Fortunately, her three kids, our spouses and her 12 grand-kids were able to spend a few days together.
On our drive to that trip, Brooke had the, what I thought was insane at the time, idea to do a “cleanse” as she called it. “Come on, it will be good for us” is how her sales pitch went.
30 days, no big deal, we can do it. She is so convincing.
I didn’t know much about this cleanse she was talking about and frankly, I didn’t think I needed it. I had already been eating fairly clean for over a year. Six days on my plan, one day off each week.
But especially this summer, I let that one off day bleed into another. And maybe another. After dinner beer here. Ice cream run there. Nachos before bed here. Some coffee creamer there. A pound or two here. An excuse there.
The more we talked, the more I bought in to her plan. Well, not her plan. Whole30’s plan.
We spent the weekend being with our family but also prepping for what was coming Monday.
No wheat. No sugar. No dairy. No grains. No alcohol. No beans. No corn. No processed foods. For 30 days.
Doesn’t leave a lot left. Whole, clean foods. High quality meats, seafood, veggies, some fruit, some fats, some nuts.
Today was day 31. We made it. And at the risk of over-hyping the plan, it changed us in significant ways.
Here are 10 of them.
1. Food as Fuel – for far too long, I have treated food as comfort instead of fuel and nutrition. Certainly not saying food shouldn’t be enjoyed, savored, delighted in, but that shouldn’t be the prime motivator. And it for sure shouldn’t be something I run to for a quick band-aid approach to comfort.
2. My Cravings Embarrassed Me – it was a joke for a few days early in the challenge, but I was dying for some chips and salsa or something sweet. I actually wasn’t dying, I was detoxing. Over the course of the first 10 days, the cravings came strong but eventually subsided and cleared space for nutrition. It was embarrassing to realize that I was a slave to sugar and other non-beneficial ingredients.
3. We Fail Without Community – If I did this challenge on my own, I would have quit on day two. If it were only Brooke and me, we would have quit by day 8-10. It was important for us to go public early on so people knew when we needed a kick in the butt or an encouraging push to keep going. Social media and down the street friends asked us how we were doing and reminded us it was worth it.
4. Our Minds are Sharper – I didn’t say smarter, although I wish it helped me there. But this month without question made us sharper, more alert, more engaged, more on point. Smarter people than me have written about the reasons why, but it’s pretty simple. Removing the inefficient junk created more space for our bodies to operate.
5. Physically We are Different – I lost 12 pounds in a month. Probably could stand to lose a few more. Our before and after pictures are insane. The actual composition of our bodies is different. Leaner, more muscle, more energy, more flexible.
6. Mundane can be Beautiful and Beneficial – for 12-15 days, I was annoyed almost every meal. Chicken and veggies again for dinner. Salad with lame dressing again for lunch. Starving at bedtime again tonight. Eggs and bacon for breakfast again tomorrow. But my perspective flipped halfway through. I saw real benefit and real beauty in how I didn’t have to make decisions on food and drinks any more. It freed up my mind to think through other more important stuff. I didn’t have to look at menus for long, didn’t have to waffle on my drink order at the cocktail party, didn’t have to stare at the pantry for what to eat.
7. It’s OK to be Awkward – this plan was a great conversation starter. Drinking water at a dinner party, ordering oil & vinegar as your salad dressing, turning down the rice and beans at Chipotle. It’s a little awkward sure, but people are awesome and wanted to hear about the progress.
8. People are Awesome – deserved it’s own point instead of being buried in #7. Seriously people are awesome. The more people knew about what we were doing, the more they encouraged us. Especially those who did this plan already. And you know who you are, several of you crazies are now on your own #whole30 challenge. Keep going.
9. We’re Whiners – you might not be, but Brooke and I were for the first 10 days or so. I miss coffee creamer, I want a glass of whiskey, where’s that full feeling. I’m a wimp. In the grand scheme, this wasn’t hard. Having cancer is hard, losing a good friend is hard. Putting healthy stuff in your body for 30 days and actually getting healthier isn’t hard.
10. Don’t Underestimate Yourself – physically for sure you’ll change on this plan. But more than that, it was fun to understand food in a new light and re-pour the foundation of how we think about food. On day one, 30 days felt like an eternity. Now, we’re thinking of when we’ll start our second 30 day stretch. A lot can happen in 30 days, don’t believe the lie that you’re stuck.
So what’s next for us? Good question, thanks for asking.
We did eat ice cream tonight. And I had some chips and salsa. Both were amazing and I enjoyed each bite. But honestly, it was good – not great. I was able to enjoy it but also keep it in its proper context.
Moving forward, we’re going to experiment with my original six on, one off plan but have the six days be more Whole30 focused. The main difference is the no corn, no beans addition. Then we’ll continue to have a free day, likely Saturday, where we eat and drink whatever we want.
We won’t be overly intense, and I’m sure there will be some great reasons to cheat, but consider us sold on the why behind the plan.