I mentioned a few weeks back that I was in the middle of doing a Whole30. Basically, that means 30 days of super-strict Paleo.
Well, it’s over now, and I’m here to report back my specific experience on Whole30.
First, let’s talk for a second about WHY I decided to do a Whole30.
Around November, I started feeling really unmotivated to really be careful with my WW plan. I was exercising nonstop and being really strict about my carb cycling, and when you add high-stress situations to that mix (i.e., school and lots of work), it became extremely tedious really fast. I wasn’t getting where I wanted to at the scale, so somewhere that translated to going to Bountiful Bread and getting cake. Like, a lot of cake.
I was exhausted.
I was exhausted of it all.
So I just said screw it. And I did.
Things only got worse over the holidays. I thought that if I committed to a gluten-free diet when home, that would be good enough. I did okay for a bit, but a gluten-free diet in Portland also translated to going and getting a really awesome latte…accompanied by gluten-free brownies or muffins. I mean…really, DK?
Winter turned into trying to maintain after a pretty icky holiday gain.
And then my PDX box decided they were going to have a 30-Day Challenge. I was talked into giving it a shot. But every single day I attempted Paleo, I utterly failed. I refused to give up milk. And I felt sooo guilty every time my friend Shannon asked me about it. It was too much.
And then I returned to Albany. I felt totally lost. I didn’t know what to do. So I decided to re-try the 30-Day Challenge and just start a Whole30 of my own. (I had to go grocery shopping anyway, so why not just get some Paleo foods?)
At first it was fine. I was so good! I asked restaurants if their sauces had sugar in them. I was getting nasty Starbucks Americanos, unadulterated by sugars or creams. I ate eggs for breakfast instead of oatmeal. I lived on avocados, sweet potatoes, and bacon (yessss). I devoutly sent food logs to Dean, and I increased the intensity of my workouts.
After about two weeks, I was seeing clear gains at the gym. Lots of PRs, and I was feeling pretty good. But I wasn’t losing weight…AT ALL. Dean critiqued my logs, suggesting that I work more veggies in, and cut out the sweet potatoes and squash. I did that. And yet, still nothing.
And then came the small cheats. After a while, I just couldn’t do it. Even though I was making strides at the gym and feeling okay. There was just something primal and almost unconscious in the back of my brain, urging me to just stop.
And one day, I was at work, and it was one of those days where you’re just starving ALL. DAY. LONG. And I had already cleared out the food I brought, and what did I do? I mindlessly walked next door, grabbed a frickin’ red velvet whoopie pie AND a double chocolate cookie, and yes, I ate them both, and yes they were delicious. But can I emphasize that I’m not a binge eater? Even when I really want sweets, this sort of behavior is not normal for me.
So of course afterward I (1) felt like shit, and (2) recognized that there was a problem.
I continued on strict Paleo for the next few days, but then ultimately decided to officially quit the Whole30 around day 21.
Before you rag on me for being a quitter or not having the mental fortitude to just “say no,” here are a few thoughts about Paleo:
- Paleo is a good way to eat. It emphasizes whole foods, natural foods, healthy foods. Yay!
- Paleo, on the other hand, is restrictive. It’s very much all-or-nothing (we’re talking about Paleo, as opposed to Primal, okay?). There is NO space for stevia or whole milk or grassfed butter or whatever.
That being said, here is what I learned about MYSELF in doing a Whole30:
- A 100% Paleo diet is not right for me. Before you faint from that, hear me out. As soon as I stopped obsessing over the strictness in my diet, I started feeling better, happier, and actually started losing weight again. While eating Paleo may have helped me improve in the gym, it also took a lot of mental energy. Energy that I didn’t really have to expend on this diet. A restrictive diet is not the right diet for me in the long run.
- A mostly Primal diet is what I gravitate toward naturally. Since officially quitting the Whole30, you may be interested to learn that my days are filled predominantly with Primal-approved foods. I’ve come to prefer the taste of my homemade almondmilk lattes (unsweetened!); I’ve come to prefer peppers and guacamole as a snack over carrots and hummus (in fact, eating them now!); I would rather eat mashed cauliflower than mashed potatoes. A few days, I’ve looked back in shock, realizing that the ONLY non-Paleo thing I’ve eaten was a nonfat latte.
- It’s about being happy with your decisions—making them something you can live with. Like with anything in life, your diet needs to be something you can actually live with. For me, strict Paleo all the time was mostly impractical, and did not settle well with certain cravings. Some people are able to power through cravings, but sometimes it’s just not possible. And I really hate the notion of a “cheat.” It’s food. Stop associating SHAME with food, and you won’t be overridden with guilt as soon as you eat something considered unhealthy. I think the trick, like with many other things, is simply moderation. If you have a sincere craving, have something small and of quality, instead of risking a major binge by ignoring it. Honor the craving. But work it into your day responsibly.
- Grains are still bad…for me. It’s true. Wheat still makes me sick. Dairy, however, does not.
So where does that leave me? I guess I’m back where I started, but down a few pounds. Last week, I sat in a diner with my friend Jennifer, who is back on the tracking train. I think it was watching her laboriously track a grilled cheese sandwich and an order of french fries, with her meager 26 points per day, that made me realize what I need to do. I’m not saying that I was pretending or making things up, but it sort of shook some sense into me. Stop cycling. Stop doing Wendie. Stop the madness. Go back to the basics. Be honest with yourself. Make good choices. Indulge once in a while. But for god’s sake…frickin’ track, lady!
And I am. And I am much happier for that.