I tried and failed to complete the Whole30 challenge — but it's OK, because the experience has set me up to succeed on my next try. When I received the Whole30 cookbook ($18) in the mail, I was intrigued and inspired to turn my health around with this diet plan of no grains, legumes, sugar, or alcohol. "Paleo on crack," is what some people even call it. And I stuck to it fervently until day 18. That's the day I effed it all up and had a glass of Champagne . . . followed by a loaf of bread. And just as the book predicted, once a cheater, always a cheater. The next day I put cream in my coffee. So what did I learn, and why will I try this crazy diet again? Take a look so you can avoid the same mistakes.
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Your cravings are temporary. Your pride is forever.
The book claims that your food cravings only last a matter of minutes — which I found to be true. They even warn you that after several weeks of not consuming alcohol and sugar, you'll start to see it everywhere, also true. By day 18, I acted like a partially rabid animal around the sight of sugar and Champagne (my favorite beverage of choice). But as soon as I took a sip of the good stuff, it didn't make me feel good! Why? Because I had broken the agreement I had made to myself of sticking to this diet for 30 days. The thrill of "sinning" didn't outweigh the shame. OK, I get it now — submitting to my cravings doesn't taste as good as "tiger blood" (how you supposedly feel the second half of the program).
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Sugar and alcohol are the worst things ever.
Part of the Whole30's purpose is to discover which foods send your health in a downward spiral (make you bloated, exhausted, break out, etc). Even though I only got through day 18, I discovered alcohol and sugar are my worst enemies. One beer or one chocolate chip cookie is enough to give me a raging headache. As much as I hate to admit it, I have to limit myself on these beloved treats, and I'm appreciative that this diet helped me see that dairy/gluten/legumes aren't the big dietary issues for me.
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If you didn't make it yourself, chances are it has sugar (or alcohol) (or gluten) (or everything noncompliant).
The book tries to set you up for success when dining out. The problem is, this diet is complicated. I tried to explain to waiters, "It's gluten-free, sugar-free, alcohol-free — ghee, but no dairy." Their eyes glazed after I told them, "No, this isn't an allergy-related diet." And you know what? After the exhausting back-and-forth, I'd still end up with a burger with [sugared] pickles or a salad with [sugared] dressing. There's no avoiding it unless you buy from sources that are Paleo. But even Paleo has different rules, and you may end up with something coated in coconut sugar. It's exhausting. So, I'm determined to cook 100 percent of my meals next time during a month in which I can commit to eating at home.
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Get the support of your friends and family.
I tried to do this thing solo — bad mistake, as most of my family members and friends were enablers, taunting me to cheat on my plan. Even though the Whole30 talks about its supportive forum, nothing beats having a friend, significant other, or family member on board with you. So the next time I try this thing out, I'm enlisting the support of a buddy!
But enough about the fact I only made it to Whole17 1/2. I'm going to try this challenge again and complete it, because I learned so much already from this experience. I did drop a jeans size and five pounds (in addition to sticking to a workout regime), so the diet does help shed excess weight. I got a glimmer of "tiger blood" as my workouts were way, way stronger, my hips and back pain miraculously stopped, and my menstrual cramps became nonexistent. I also felt like I was much more productive and focused at work, especially since midmeal hunger didn't send me scrounging around for snacks. There's too much good stuff to deny that the Whole30 does make a difference. Therefore, I'm telling you all now, world. I'm trying the Whole30 again in Februrary, and I'm sticking to it.