Whole 30 Round 3 is complete! I jumped in to this round without a ton of thought, and with only a few goals. First, I wanted to really focus on the spirit of the program which I believe is eating whole, nutrient dense food as often as possible. Practically speaking, this meant no smoothies or juices and less pre-packaged food (which is something that even within the first week I realized was not going to be possible with my current schedule). My second was to do it as “casually” as possible. By that I mean with as little disruption or extra planning and purchasing as possible. I avoided buying extra sauces/dressing/ingredients just because I was on Whole 30 and rather tried to use what I had or was already in the habit of making. This goal proved to be easier than expected.
Within the first week, I realized that this round was going to feel different than the previous two rounds I had completed. My first round (June 2017) was a struggle. I had not fully bought into the spirit of the program and resisted a lot of the suggested guidelines that weren’t hard and fast rules. I refused to ask specific questions at restaurants and just hoped for the best when eating out. I saw a lot of non-scale victories, but when I was done I did very little self-reflection which resulted in me reverting back to the way I was eating before. In that season, I very much categorized days as being “good” and “bad” depending on how successful I was at resisting certain foods. I put pressure on myself to “be good” and punished myself with harsh restrictions or exercise when I was "bad". My second round was this past January and it was amazing! I fully bought in to the spirit of the program and as a result saw a huge shift in my relationship with food. However, coming out of that round I was terrified of “falling off the wagon.” I did a strict reintroduction and learned that me and corn do not get along but that I do well with other gluten free grains. I have been able to build out my food freedom and for the most part feel very successful and in control of my choices around food. Of course I have had moments of diving head first into a chip basket or a bag of check mix or a bowl of granola or a carton of dairy free ice cream….and I could keep going, but those moment have been few and far between and I have not let them lead to guilt or shame or punishment.
This round was no different in presenting its own set of challenges and opportunities to learn. Here are my 5 biggest takeaways!
Life Season and Activity Level Make All the Different
I started this third round at the beginning of the school year in the height of cross country season. My level of activity was something I had not thought about as affecting my round. I knew that I would need to focus on eating plenty of carbs, and that was a bigger problem for me than I anticipated. I tried to up my fruit consumption which resulted in some tummy troubles, and I didn’t want to live off sweet potatoes like I did in January. The first two weeks were a little rocky because of this. I found that date-based bars were going to be my friend. And this is where my goal of not eating prepackaged food started to fail. I decided that finishing strong, being able to continue to do high intensity work outs, and not dealing with stomach pain was better than avoiding these types of convenience foods.
I also learned to pack emergency food no matter where I was going. Things like chomps, hard boiled eggs, and deli meat became staples in my bag. I needed to have access to food, and not let myself get hungry. It only took one run on an empty stomach for me to realize this. I also focused on eating plenty at each meal, and eventually got to the point where I was relying less on snacks which I would consider a huge NSV this round!
Starting in a Season of Food Freedom Made it Harder
I started my first two rounds of Whole 30 seeking to regain control over my relationship with food. I was letting food control me, and I was going back and forth between binging and restricting. This round however was completely different. I went in with a great relationship with food and was totally in control of how I was fueling my body. I knew what foods were worth it to me and was perfectly happy saying no to foods that were not. As an abstainer, this was huge!! I was finally learning to moderate! So going into 30 days of serious restriction was hard. I wanted a bite of the gluten free pancakes and a sip of the margarita and omg I wanted Siete tortilla chips so bad!! All of these foods that I had learned to moderate were now off limits again and it took some purposeful mind shifting to not let the “cannot have” list bog me down.
However, I did finish without any of the fear that I had in January. There is no “wagon” mentality and I’m not thinking about what I choose to eat as determining my morality. I am confident that I can continue to choose foods to fuel my body well, and some of those foods are not Whole30 friendly.
Some Compliant Foods Don’t Work For Me
As I mentioned earlier, fruit was really not working for me at the beginning of this round and once I cut back on it things got way better. An even bigger lesson was that nut butters are not a safe food for me during Whole 30. In the first two weeks I went through SO much Nuttzo, that I decided the rest of my Whole 30 was going to be free of nut butter and big bags of nuts. I LOVE my nut butter, but one or two spoonful’s was turning into three and four and then half of the jar. In the next few weeks, I might try to reevaluate how I want to bring nut butter back into my food freedom but I am in no rush.
I purchased a huge bag of dried mangos at the beginning of the round, and felt a fair amount of concern about whether or not they would turn into a food with no breaks for me. For the most part they were a great snack and I could have one or two handfuls and then stop. But there were two instances in which that was not the case. There were two all out mango binges. First off, both were late at night when I was tired and not wanting to exert self-discipline. The first binge was somewhat purposeful and not without thought. I had not eaten nearly enough, was starving, and could feel my body crying out for carbs. In hindsight, I should have pulled out half of a roasted sweet potato that I almost always have in the fridge. Instead I went for the bag of mangos. I ate until I was full (which took a while) and then stopped. The second time was after I had been at school late, had had zero time to myself all day, and was seeking comfort. Not a moment of food freedom. Next time, maybe I won’t buy such a massive bag of mangos.
Don’t Ask People Why They Aren’t Drinking
For some reason, I was really bothered by people asking me why I wasn’t drinking. I normally just said I didn’t feel like it, and a couple times I got the strangest looks back. First of all, I don’t think I need a reason. All of us should be able to be in social situations without the pressure (perceived or real) to drink alcohol. And while my reason for not drinking during the last 4 weeks has not been deeply personal, it very well could be and for so many it is. Please let people make decisions about what they are consuming. If they want to tell you about their reasoning, they will.
Also, don’t ask me if I’m pregnant. If you are a dear friend that is so fine. But if you are a coworker that I rarely speak to and you happen to see me drinking water at a work happy hour, don’t you dare ask me if I’m pregnant. It’s none of your business. And I can think of about a million reasons why I’m not having a margarita that do not include growing a baby in my belly.
Its Not a Big Deal
The Whole 30 is what you make of it in so many respects. I realized this round that if I didn’t act like it was a big deal those around me would feel the same way. It is also incredibly helpful that more and more people are becoming familiar with the program so less explanation is required.
The first Friday of this round we were invited over to some friends’ house for dinner. I immediately had anxiety about having to explain why I was bringing my own food and my first instinct was to just say no. Brian talked me off the ledge and we decided to go. I shot my friend Emily (who is so gracious and thankfully a Whole 30 alumna) a text to let her know and she assured me it was no big deal. I brought my dinner in a container, she let me use her kitchen (while she prepared dinner for herself and both of our husbands because she’s the best like that) and didn’t mention a word about it. We ate dinner like normal people and I felt so comfortable. Basically, be like Emily.
I spent my last weekend on Whole 30 at the lake with friends. It was tough, I’ll be honest. I was so tempted by the cauliflower pizza they had on Friday night and oh my gracious the gluten free pumpkin pancakes they had on Saturday morning looked amazing. But again, I brought my own meals and snacks and cooked right alongside them and they made it feel totally normal. Oh, and pro tip – bring your own kombucha and sparkling water to make yourself a Whole30 mocktail to throw in a wine glass! It definitely helps to at least feel like you can kind of play along!
Then, to top it all off my in-laws invited us over for dinner. I offered to bring food or a side, but my wonderful mother-in-law assured me she had it taken care of. One of the best things about the Whole 30 is that all of the rules are listed online so anyone can look them up. She and my father in law made us the most delicious meal. We had steak and veggies and potatoes and again, there was almost no mention of my dietary restrictions. We just enjoyed our time together.
As I write this, I’m realizing that so much of my experience is dependent on the people I surround myself with. If you are not part of a loving and supportive community, please reach out to me! I would love to be your cheerleader and teammate on your journey to health and a positive relationship with food even if it is from afar!
The last month has been wonderful. I am excited to hopefully join you in another round in January where I am sure I will have a whole new list of thoughts and reflections! I would love to hear from you if any of this resonates!
I was diagnosed with my first urinary tract infection when I was 9 weeks old. This lead to numerous doctor's appointments, a spinal tap, and a slew of antibiotics. I was put on Septra, an antibiotic that I would end up taking until I was 2 years old. When I was 16 months, my parents took me to a few specialists and I was diagnosed with a congenital birth defect requiring surgery. I had the surgery a month later and thankfully the infections stopped! From age 2 to 14, I was on and off antibiotics as I still battled an occasional UTI.
Growing up I was often told I just had a "weak stomach." I ate TUMS and Rolaids like candy and often felt ill after meals, sometimes even vomiting right after or the next day. As I got older, I realized that this consistent gastrointestinal distress was not normal. On top of all of this, I had eczema on the inside of my arms, my neck and my eyelids. Things got worse in college and after meeting with a nutritionist, I started experimenting with removing different groups of food from my diet. This is where my love of learning about healthy food all began! I was an ovo vegetarian and gluten free for most of the second half of college and saw great improvement in my eczema and gut health. But what changed it all for me was kombucha. At the time I knew little about probiotics, but picked up the fizzy drink at the farmers market because it looked trendy and cool and I genuinely enjoyed the taste of it. I would buy 2 or 3 bottles of it and drink them throughout the week. Almost immediately I saw improvement in my skin. My eczema was GONE! For a 20 year old girl, this was life changing. I distinctly remember telling everyone suffering from eczema that kombucha was a miracle cure! While this isn't necessarily true, it definitely helped and has since been a huge indicator of the link between my gut health and my skin.
Antibiotics are not a bad thing. They were a huge gift to me as a baby as I would not have been able to fight those infections on my own. However, antibiotics do not discriminate between good and bad bugs. My poor, developing gut was totally annihilated during a time when most infants are building up a diverse gut flora that they will take with them into adolescents and adulthood. I see now that I was dealing with the consequences of this while I was eating a standard American diet, and to some extent still am. It makes perfect sense to me that introducing a probiotic would make a huge difference as that is exactly the kind of support my gut had been needing for years! Probiotic and prebiotic foods, collagen, bone broth, and of course kombucha are what I now use to support a healing gut.
You might not have the same symptoms as me or a an obvious skin condition, but the health of our gut manifests itself in almost every area of life. If you struggle with gastrointestinal distress (gas, bloating, loose stools, constipation, etc), acne, head aches, asthma, chronic inflammation, or intense PMS, it is worth it to spend some time focusing on supporting and potentially healing your gut.
Being born with a birth defect and incredibly sick as a very young child was terrifying for my family, however it lead me to discover something I am so passionate about! I truly believe the Lord was working this all together from the beginning to lead me to a purpose and platform to glorify Him.
This is such a broad overview of my journey to eating a real food, primarily Paleo diet and I look forward to sharing more with you all! Thank you for reading! Know that I am not a health care provider - just a curious person passionate about using food as medicine. I've read and listened to a lot on developing guts in infants and the effects of antibiotic usage. If you have any questions, I would be happy to share these resources with you.