I was an athlete for more than half of my life. I started swimming competitively when I was 5 and kept swimming well into college. I wouldn’t say I ever “struggled” with my weight, but I’ve always been curvy. I went through periods of inactivity, eventually developed a regular yoga practice, and became a yoga teacher. Still, it seemed no matter how many salads I ate, how many days as week I sweated it out on my mat, or how many miles I rode my bike, I have long been what the BMI index considered obese.
Mind you, I never felt like a “fat girl;” I’m thick for sure, but pretty damn solid. And no matter how I tried to reject the pervasive media-enforced standard of beauty, I’ve always wished to be thinner. Not just thin. I wanted to FEEL healthy and see it reflected in the way I looked.
After my first Lupus flare, my energy took a nose dive. Some days I found it hard to get out of bed. It was hard to focus. And even as things improved, I got used to a baseline level of always feeling fatigued; always feeling a little run down. I’d pour my energy into guiding people through yoga classes, then go home and crash; physically and mentally unable to do anything else for the day.
I had heard about Whole30 through friends and social media, but I thought the idea of an elimination diet was crazy. What do you eat when you eliminate everything?! Still, I was curious so I started reading more about it and considered the possibility that maybe this could be what I’ve been missing. Not an I’ll try to eat better “diet” but a nutritional reset designed to help me discover how what I eat can be both harmful and helpful to my health.
So a couple weeks ago, I made the commitment: 30 days of fresh nutrient rich fruits, veggies, proteins, and healthy fats. Of course, the elimination part was important: No dairy; no refined or added sugar; no soy; no legumes; no alcohol; no grains. Complete elimination of foods known to cause inflammation, hormone imbalances, gastrointestinal disruption, and other negative health effects.
I woke on the first day excited and stressed out. I had dreams about being hungry and I was very conscious of the mental effort required to change how I thought about food and nutrition over the next 30 days. By mid-week I was already feeling more energetic. Because I did live such an active lifestyle as a yoga teacher, I even found myself needing to eat more, to sustain and fuel what seemed to be an increasing metabolism. By the end of the week, I noticed that my skin was smoother and more even.
I was excited to go into my second week until DH made toast and I wanted to bite his hand off. 4th of July came and all I wanted was to drink beer and chow down on tortilla chips. The next day DH made banana bread muffins for his co-workers and I could feel my body calling out to shove all of the muffins in my face. And on day 12, I woke up angry and aware of all of the things I was not eating.
Just think about how great you feel, I say to myself. Look at all the delicious new recipes you’ve learned! There’s another not-so-quiet voice in the background going, FUCK THE WORLD I WANT SUGAR!!!! It’s seriously distracting when I’m working from home and my lizard brain is trying to convince me to bake cookies or scarf down a handful of dried cranberries. And sure, technically, the cranberries are on program, but I don’t really want the handful of cranberries. It’s the boredom snacking, the mid-day sweet treat craving, the sugar dragon roaring to the surface.
And the only thing keeping me from raiding the pantry is the realization that something I was eating was making me sick. I want to complete the elimination part of the Whole30 experiment so that I can move into the reintroduction phase with integrity, and the intention of figuring out which foods I can eat, and which just aren’t good for me. This represents an entirely new way of thinking for me: truly being mindful about what I eat and the impact of food on my overall health.
But today, I’m less than halfway through my Whole30 and I’m trying hard not to think about doughnuts.