Health + Fitness: Attempting the Whole30

So some of my goals for the year include being more healthy. I want to be more active, exercise more regularly, eat healthily, lose weight, and ultimately just feel better. Also, fitting into some of the clothes in my closet that don’t quite fit currently would be nice.

There are several things that I’ve done to start off 2018 in the right direction. First, my monthly focus for January was for Health and Fitness. So, I started going on the treadmill everyday and attempted (along with my mother, who also wanted to try it) to do the Whole30.

If you don’t know what the Whole30 is, I suggest doing a Google search about it for the full low down. It’s a very popular…diet? I don’t know if I would call it a diet. It’s more of a…reset. Essentially, there’s a long list of foods that you can’t eat or drink for 30 days straight, no cheats. The foods basically include: all grains, gluten, soy, dairy, legumes, alcohol, and sugar. There’s some more and the details of each category are specific (not only can you not have sugar, you can’t have any sweet substitutes, including honey or agave nectar.) The purpose, from what I’ve gathered, is once the 30 days are over, you’re to start reintroducing these foods slowly to see how they effect you.

So, we decided to start it on January 2nd and do it for the 30 days until January was over. It’s incredibly hard and unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish it the first time we tried. Our dog died on the 9th of January and it was a Rough Time and we cheated—wine and chocolate, obvs.

It was necessary.

After, we decided to keep going pretty much with it—I definitely cheated more than my mother did—and decided to start over after the Super Bowl (our biggest day for food of the year other than Thanksgiving, so I was NOT going to skip it.) So on February 6th, we started over and only made it 10 days.

I decided to quit because on Day 16 (the day I actually quit) I’d realized that for six days, I’d been drinking almond milk that had sugar in it. I hadn’t been before, but I accidentally bought the wrong kind and didn’t notice—no wonder that iced coffee I made tasted so good! I’ll be honest, the thought of doing starting over that day when I was at the halfway point made me want to die. I actually started to cry.

The thing is, the Whole30 is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The first time we attempted in January, I had a headache for the first three days because of the lack of sugar—yikes, obviously I was addicted and didn’t realize. And I love the idea of the benefits from doing the Whole30. Energy! Weight loss! No inflammation! It seemed like a miracle!

And for those days that I was doing it…I felt none of those things. Which is normal! You’re not supposed to until like after Day 15. But for me, it’s not worth it. It may be amazing for people! I’ve heard and read and watched people on Instagram who love it. And that’s great for them. But for me, not being able to have things that I enjoy—whether good or bad; I mean obviously I love Coke which is terrible for me, but I also love peanuts and beans and things that are good for me!

30 days is too damn long not to have something joyful in my life. Life is too short.

Because those 16 days that I’d done (six not technically counting because of the almond milk, but for me they felt like they were still counting) felt like an eternity.

There was another drawback for me: my mental health. I have a troubled relationship with food and the Whole30 wasn’t good for me. My whole life, with my struggles with anxiety and depression, food was my go-to for healing myself and feeling better. It caused me to gain a lot of weight at a young age and I’ve been dealing with my weight and over-eating for 15 years. While doing the Whole30, I wasn’t able to have any of the food that gave me comfort. And even though I’ve overcome depression, for the most part, I haven’t with my anxiety. And my anxiety was through the roof during those days on the Whole30. I was irritable and miserable and overall unhappy. It certainly didn’t help the first month with my dog dying, but even the second time around when I was doing better with grieving, my anxiety was worse than ever.

There were some positives, though! I lost ten pounds in the first ten days and I lost a total of 17 pounds since the beginning of the year. That’s partly because I’ve been going on the treadmill almost every day (walking, not running—it burns off more fat and doesn’t hurt your joints). But that has a lot to do with me eating (mostly) compliant to the Whole30 since January 2nd. I mean, it’s mostly vegetables and meat. Super healthy. And, because I did the Whole30, I realized how intricately entwined my eating habits and my mental health are—something that I now know I have to closely watch and be more aware of.

Overall, the Whole30 life just isn’t for me. I know of people who do it often, taking a few days or a few weeks off and then doing it all over again, and that’s great! I just can’t be one of those people.

I do have a plan moving forward, however. My next monthly focus for Health and Fitness is in June, but until then, I want to start doing mini-Whole30s. My mother and I agreed that we overall like the concept of the types of food you can eat on the Whole30, but aren’t too keen on the timeframe and certain restrictions.

We’ve decided to modify it to include legumes, corn, rice, and beans, but leave everything else the same. I’m also considering a few sugar substitutes or some things with sugar, because I’ve missed coffee—I can’t drink it black. And we’ve decided that instead of 30 days, we’d do it for 10 days and have a “cheat” day or two, then do 10 more days. I think a lot of it for me was the length—and I know that’s the purpose of it! But the idea of only 10 days is definitely going to help me stick to it without going crazy. We’re not even calling this the Whole30, we’re just committed to eating healthier more often.

Hopefully, with our new program that we made up with the Whole30 as a base, we’ll be able to become healthier, lose weight, and maybe even feel better overall.

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Dietary Changes + Weight Loss

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to eat vegetarian, or at least partially. And recently, I’ve been wanting to go vegan (or at least try to get to like 90% of the food and meals I consume to be vegan). However, still living with my parents, who buy most-to-all of the food, made it more difficult—even having the items in the house made it easier to just say “forget it” and eat meat again.

Then, about two months ago, my parents wanted to start eating more healthy (as a family, we never really ate terribly, just not very well) and together, we decided to start eating more plant-based foods, bringing in more vegetables and fruits into our diet, and less meat and dairy. I took it as an opportunity to start transitioning slowly to pescatarian, with the goal of trying out being vegan afterward, and so I have taken over all the meal planning and cooking for the last two months.

So far, it’s been going really well. We’ve cut out beef and pork almost completely from our diet (we have free days, where we care less about what we eat, and sometimes whatever we have left in the freezer, from before our change, is eaten) and we have chicken occasionally. We have eaten fish the most out of all the meats. I know that cutting out beef is the best for helping the environment, so that’s what I want to really focus on cutting out completely. But as someone who still likes meat, who still occasionally craves it, I’m not willing to never ever eat it again. Even while trying out being vegan, I’m probably going to end up having at least one burger, even if it’s just once a year on my birthday—I don’t think I’d be capable of going 100%. But I think that’s okay. For now, I’m just going to be putting in the effort to reduce the amount of meat I consume. Maybe I’ll get to a point where 100% vegan fits with me, maybe I’ll find it just won’t work. Giving it a chance is something I think is best.

During the change, we have eaten eggs a lot during the last two months. I still love cheese but we’ve eaten very little dairy, and I don’t miss it or crave it like I used to—and regular dairy milk just grosses me out now. The other vegan thing I think I would struggle with is honey. It’s easily substituted, I know, so I want to work on it, but it’s often the cheapest option at the store (agave is almost twice as expensive and real maple syrup is way way way too expensive, and I don’t want to buy the artificial stuff.) A few obstacles, but I think the transition will be easy as long as I go slow and not worry so much about not following the “rules” exactly, just be more mindful of what I’m consuming.

Because of these changes—along with going for a one to two mile walk everyday—of eating more vegetables, less meat, and almost no dairy, I’ve lost twenty pounds in just a few months (some of that loss was before the dietary changes, but most was after). So, for now, I don’t think I can call myself anything yet. I’m not vegetarian, definitely not (yet) vegan, and only occasionally pescatarian. But it’s a start. And I’m really happy with that for now, especially because I can now wear shirts and pants I haven’t been able to in a while. I’m really excited to start living a more healthy, active life—one that will hopefully, one day, no longer do harm to animals.