I’m not sure if you’re aware or not, but there is this huge phenomenon going on in the world of the #fitfam. It’s called The Whole 30. Written by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, and seemingly popular with Crossfitters, it’s a comprehensive program that breaks down every last particle of food and gives scientific explanations for what those foods do to our bodies. (*Seriously, it’s a fascinating read. Check out both their books; It Starts With Food, and The Whole 30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom).
After seeing a series of Whole 30 hashtags on social media, I became intrigued. I came up with this great idea a few weeks ago that I was going to submerge myself into learning what this Whole 30 fuss was really about. I put on my cutest workout outfit and favorite Nikes, along with new baseball cap (I totally looked the part of mom/fitness obsessed – I love a good theme), hopped in the Jeep, and drove myself to the bookstore. I walked out with my very first Hartwig saga; The Whole 30. I came home and got to about page four and decided I needed to start with the prequel; It Starts With Food. Back to B.A.M I went (good thing I’m a member). I ended up finishing both books in one week (I’m a really fast– no, really- fast reader). I was hooked. I felt empowered by what I had learned. No wonder I have so many problems! I have an unhealthy relationship with food! (Well duh, have you learned nothing so far by reading my last 7 posts?) No wonder I’m tired sometimes! Never mind the fact that I get up before 5 am most days, that I’m no longer in my 20’s, that I work full time, and have an active son. It’s not my lifestyle, it’s the sugar and the grains that are making me tired! Seriously, this was big. Revolutionary. I could see my future abs and they were showing me the light.
Without getting scientific and without giving away either books’ endings; The Whole 30 basically explains why we’re sabotaging our health by eating unnatural, highly processed foods. They follow a paleo-like thought-process, and stress that meals should be made up of protein, healthy fat, and lots of vegetables. Everything should be as natural as possible; cage-free, antibiotic-free, organic, etc. This program is supposed to reverse the brain’s tendency to overeat, overindulge, and repair our unhealthy/emotional relationships with food. Fruit is allowed, but no more than twice per day, and should not be used to substitute other forms of sugars or sweets. All of this should be followed for 30 days. The rule is, if you mess up, you start back over at day one. No pressure. At the end of 30 days, you’re allowed to start reintroducing certain foods back into your diet. This will then tell you which foods you might have less than desirable reactions to. All of this will lead to improved health, improved physique, physical performance, better hair, and world domination. Oh – I should mention clarified butter, potatoes, and added salt are also encouraged. Oh again – you also can’t weigh yourself for 30 days. Or count calories. Or enjoy life. All are illegal on the plan.
So I did the next logical thing: plan of attack. I downloaded every printable from their website (check them out here ), researched my current labels of spices and seasonings, and made a bunch of Instagram posts letting my social media friends know that I was going in full force. Then I enjoyed a few last days of “bad foods;” aka sugars, alcohol, soy, additives, grains, legumes, dairy, processed, fun… I packed up my lists and went to the grocery store. Let me stop for a minute and let you know that it was the longest, most stressful grocery shopping experience of my life; and I went grocery shopping when I was in labor before heading to the hospital. This was worse. I’m no stranger to paying attention to my food labels, but this was ridiculous. Did you know that everything contains sugar and chemicals? Did you know that it’s also very confusing to buy grass-fed beef? I hadn’t eaten red meat in almost 7 years (except for a drunken 3 am decision after my husband and I threw our big wedding party – damn those meatballs, and a mishap at a Christmas party two years ago when I mistook ground hamburger for Italian Sausage). Thankfully, I made it out of there alive. I was ready. This is what I had been training for.
Day One was scary. I was terrified that at any given moment, an illegal substance would find its way into my mouth. This never happened on day one, but on Day Two, out of habit, I licked a small drop of ketchup off my finger while fixing lunch for my son. I immediately screamed, shoved my husband out of my way, and ran to the sink to rinse my mouth out with water. No way was I starting over a day. Screw that nonsense. Other than that, I was doing alright. My meals were Whole 30 compliant, I had a bunch of new paleo Instagram followers, and my stomach didn’t turn on me for eating beef. I was a new woman. All except for the fact that the thought of my old meals brought me close to tears. Point proven that I have an unhealthy relationship with food. But I’ve never denied that. This just confirmed what I already knew. My body likes sugar and this was a detox process. I guess those Hartwigs knew what they were talking about. Damn them.
Day Three hit me with a bad headache (which was predicted in the book), but otherwise unremarkable. My meals were perfectly paleo, and I had already consumed almost a dozen eggs. The mirror was showing me that I already looked less bloated, and I could tell a difference in my upper abs. Maybe this was working, even though another 27 days of this seemed a bit far-off. Everyone was asking me why I was doing this. “But you eat so healthy 99% of the time anyway!” they all exclaimed. “No!” I shouted. “That’s what they want you to think!”
*Real excerpt from my fitness journal:
Whole30 Day 4
I miss protein bars, and coconut-milk ice cream so bad it hurts inside (drawn-in sad face).
By Day Five I felt I had it down. The astonishing part was that I really wasn’t hungry during the day. Or ever. I had to make myself eat. Before this program I was constantly hungry. They said this would happen, so I must have been doing something right. But I was also a little miserable. I started hearing a voice inside that was questioning why I was doing what I was doing. It might have been the addict inside trying to make excuses to quit something that was hard. I am okay with admitting that. I can even see the Hartwigs nodding in agreement and stating that it couldn’t be anything else. But this voice was really striking a nerve. Why was I having heart palpitations again that typically only come out during times of extreme stress, but more often when I’m eating more sodium-rich foods? Why was my heart rate also higher? Weren’t these changes supposed to be making me ultimately healthier? I worked hard to get my resting heart rate down to a fitness range of upper 50s – lower 60s. Why was it jumping up to the 70s and 80s at rest? (I’m a nurse. I pay attention to these things). Why was I limiting my food intake to only three meals per day? Four if I had worked out. It took me six years to learn that I could eat five + meals each day and increase my calories and STILL be thin and STILL be healthy. It took me six years to learn what the words “moderation” and “balance” truly meant. Why was I adding salt to everything just because I read a book that said I could, when the old cardiac nurse in me has been screaming in horror with every shake of the salt-shaker? WHY HAD I STOPPED TAKING A PRESCRIBED MEDICATION FROM MY PHYSICIAN FOR SOMETHING THAT I REALLY, REALLY NEED JUST BECAUSE ONE OF THE INGREDIENTS IN THE CAPSULE WAS SOY?! Cut to dinner on day six. Chad asked me why I looked so sad. I wasn’t sad, I told him, and I meant it. “But this is how you’ve looked all week.” Hm. Maybe in trying to fix my self-diagnosed unhealthy relationship with food, I somehow backslid a little.
At approximately 9:00 pm on Friday, September 18, 2015, I bought myself a pint of my favorite dairy-free ice cream and fed my emotional craving.
Part of me felt guilty that I had given up so quickly. What will my insta-followers say?! In all honesty, this plan was not for me. I have always known that I cannot eat before I work out first thing in the morning. But because this book told me I had to, I did. I have thanked God each day this week that I did not puke all over my trainer, Katie – because I really, really felt like I might. I am not okay with eating more than a dozen eggs per week. I am not okay with only eating three meals per day. I know I’m not a certified nutritionist but I do know my body, and I know that’s not okay for me to feel my best.
I want to make sure I’m being clear on something: I am absolutely, not (intentionally) dogging the Whole 30 plan. I truly learned a LOT about food and nutrition from reading the books, and that knowledge will follow me as I continue on my path of pursuing optimal personal health. I learned that it’s okay to add more healthy fats into my meals, especially first thing in the morning (after, not before a workout). These will probably be a staple of my breakfasts moving forward, and substitute some of the fruits that I would normally choose in the mornings instead. As a result, I’ll feel fuller longer, which will be good all around. I’ve learned that maybe it’s okay to eat red meat sometimes. If I start to feel funky again, I can always cut it out, but it’s a nice alternative and will allow my body to build on that fat and protein for a change. I’ve learned that maybe there is some truth to grains causing gastrointestinal upset. My stomach felt pretty darn good for a change during these past few days. I see more sweet potatoes in my future and less brown rice. I learned that I don’t always need sugar in my coffee, and I learned that lately, I had started to let more processed foods find their way back into my kitchen. I need to be more conscious of that moving forward. I think this plan is a great one and has some great tips. I did jump on the scale this morning and was surprised to see I was down three pounds from my initial weigh-in last Sunday. Just think what the number would have been if I had lasted three more weeks! Overall, I think if you’re someone who does not follow a healthy regimen, or if you’re stuck in a rut of fat-free everything – then maybe this would be a good jump start into a healthier lifestyle for you. Thank you, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig: for teaching me so much about food and reassuring me that maybe what I was doing before was the right choice for me. I won’t doubt that again, at least until I see the next big craze.
**I announced this morning to a few of my coworkers as we were volunteering at an event that I had ended my Whole 30. One immediately exclaimed, “Thank God! Day two was absolutely horrible!” She’s never tried the plan. I would like to apologize to anyone I might have attacked or offended this last week. It was the lack of sugar. I’ll try not to let it happen again.
Natasha Funderburk is a wife, #boymom, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Consultant, and ACE-Behavior Change Specialist. When not watching her son play baseball, she can be found on various writing platforms, coaching her clients to live their best lives, drinking all the coffee, and conducting living-room dance parties.