The Whole30 That Wasn't

On December 31, pretty close to midnight, I decided that January of 2016 would be my first ever Whole30. 

You might know that I've been Paleo since 2011, and you might also know that in 2015 I kind of fell off the wagon. (I posted a bit more about this back in November, if you want to read it.) My parents split up, my mom got cancer, and I've never felt more stressed out in my life. Before I knew it I was eating whatever made me feel better (mostly Thai food and mochas). Fifteen pounds, some new bald spots, a lot of anxiety, and a few body image issues later (fueled by the inspiration that is New Year's Eve), I finished my glass of champagne and the French onion dip I had been working on all night and declared 2016 to be The Year I Return to Paleo.

And that's still true--I know I feel more like myself when I stay away from grains, dairy, and sugar. I totally identify with the Paleo diet and I kind of love it. But I've always been skeptical of the Whole30 for two reasons, first because it's so restrictive; and also because it ends.

Here's something that's kind of scary and a little embarrassing: a few months ago I came across a piece online that was one of those lists of things that happy and successful people do regularly, and one of them was fasting. A 24-hour fast is supposed to have all kinds of emotional and physical benefits, so I jumped on the bandwagon and pretended it would be this meditative thing that would make a profound difference in my week; but the truth was that I figured not eating once a week would make it really easy to lose some weight pretty fast.

Over the last few years of my life, I've learned that I can get a little obsessive about my food. When I was in college I used to write everything I ate down in a little notebook. I wasn't even counting calories or anything, I just liked seeing a whole day on one page. It comforted me in a really strange way. Those were the days I could eat an entire jar of cheese dip with one of my roommates and not gain a ounce...but then again they were also the days I used to run 5 or 6 miles for fun.

So while I think that Whole30 is an amazing way for people to get to know Paleo and take a really intense look at their usual food choices, I don't think it's for me. I went Paleo all at once and found a way to sustain that for almost four years. I would still occasionally eat sugar or sushi or even a piece of cheesecake or something--but only if I really wanted it, and if I was out with friends, doing something fun. Over the past year I've just taken myself out for treats because I felt bad, which only made me feel worse. I believe deeply that you can make yourself feel better with the right food--but stuffing your face with carbs when you're sad isn't the way that works (even if it feels really really good in the moment). You have to find a way to actually take care of yourself, in a sustainable way.

So on January 12, when one of my good friends invited me to have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants with a few other food writers, I met her at the bar and she said "You're going to have a drink, right?" and I did. And I ate a delicious meal (and laughed to myself that I thought maybe I'd just come and sit and talk without eating) and had an amazing time and went back to Paleo the next day.

It wasn't always a work in progress for me, but now it is. And that's okay.

Photo by Sarah Gatrell for Freckled Italian.