This is going to be the first post of many about the Whole 30 so here is the quick and dirty definition: It is a 30-day strict paleo boot camp where you eliminate grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, alcohol, processed foods (you end up reading a lot of food labels). It is meant for you to take a step back and completely re-evaluate your eating, drinking, and snacking habits. How hard could it be? I mean we both felt like we ate pretty well for the most part – I cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients. Yeah, we ate quite a bit of cheese and dairy and loved a good sandwich on artisan bread every now and then, and I did have a popcorn and wine obsession…but we were healthy, right? Right ?!?
Looking back pre-paleo, we did not feel bad or ill necessarily…we just didn’t realize how good our bodies could feel by simply tweaking a few things in our day-to-day eating habits. It was eye-opening in a sense. In a mere thirty days the changes were palpable…We both lost weight. Our hiking speed and endurance increased. We slept better at night. Our overall moods and demeanor became more cheerful. My skin looked great. We felt invincible. Seriously.
When we first started, we were in a bit of a food-rut and so we jumped into the challenge with open minds (and hungry stomachs)…and honestly it was pretty easy to make the change. The food was delicious, fresh, and full of the right nutrients we needed to get through the day without a slump or snacking excessively. With that being said, it is relatively easy to change your eating and drinking habits when you are in the comforts of your own home, but where I think most people fail is when they are put in social situations: Going out to eat at a restaurant, going to a party or wedding, or just casually hanging out with friends on a weekend where temptations are high and that frosty beer is calling your name…
Our first true test was a weekend hanging out with our best friends (R and J). They took our Whole 30 in stride and decided to humor us after asking us the standard “are you crazy/what do you eat/why are you doing this” questions. We barbecued and sipped on sparkling water spiked with pomegranate juice in fancy-pants glasses and had a lovely time, as we always do with our closest friends. As we were cleaning up in the kitchen that evening, Diz and I looked at each other, sheepishly grinned and high-fived each other…first hurdle complete! No problem! What were we worried about in the first place?
The next challenge came about a week later when Diz left for the weekend to play in a beach volleyball tournament in Seaside, Oregon. Not only was I going to be by myself without his support during meals, but he was going to be subjected to peer pressure from his team mates, all of who are big hophead beer drinkers. Afterall, what is volleyball without a nice cold brewski to cool you down between sets? Diz however did marvelously and at meals ordered burgers without the bun, and asked for side salads instead of fries. He drank water instead of beer and stayed hydrated and well rested. I cleaned out our fridge by eating leftovers all weekend. Upon returning home we decided that we could totally handle this challenge hands down no problem.
Pinterest once just an idle pastime, became a coveted treasure-trove of recipes and meal plans (with the occasional funny meme about being paleo thrown in for laughs). Then I discovered the joys of Instagram (about 8 years too late, yeah yeah I know…) and found an immense support network of encouragement and love complete with gourmet recipes and mouthwatering pictures sprinkled in for good measure.
We ate a big breakfast Every. Single. Day. No exceptions. Our date nights (we call them Gorge and gorge…we go hiking in the Columbia River Gorge and then go out to eat afterward and gorge ourselves) didn’t change – we just found paleo restaurants in Portland (thank god for those PDX holistic hipsters!) that were Whole 30 approved. We cleaned out our pantry and purged all the undesirable things we couldn’t (and at this point really didn’t want to) eat. And we felt amazing. We embraced the change in our attitudes regarding food wholeheartedly and without any lingering regrets.
The days ticked by and we were approaching the hardest test of all: Getting through a wedding…gulp! We flew out to Michigan to celebrate the nuptials of our friends A and E. At this point, I had to buy a new dress because of the inches I lost off my waist and stomach. I felt fabulous and it showed because random people were coming up to me and commenting on how good I looked. My self-esteem was high as I soaked up the love of all of our friends and family who, though curious about the change in our lives were overall positive and supportive about what we were doing. We sipped on mineral water spiked with lime wedges and danced the night away. And the next morning as all of our buddies were nursing headaches and hangovers from an amazing party, we woke up early with clear heads and walked the 4ish miles around the lake. We survive a Latvian wedding without drinking!! We must be superheroes or something. We were unstoppable!
The 30 days came and went and on day 31 we stuck with our same paleo routine. We were feeling so marvelous; we did not want to ruin that “Tiger Blood” feeling (No joke, they stole that phrase from Charlie Sheen to describe the glowing feeling of awesome). And wasn’t that the whole point of this challenge? To take that step back and re-evaluate what we put in our bodies and how it makes us feel. Since then we have re-introduced beer and wine in moderation but are sticking with the real-food paleo lifestyle. Sure, sometimes I have a craving for creamy brie cheese smeared on a crostini or a bite of mozzarella with my heirloom tomatoes and basil, but I stay strong. I admit that I will have a moment of weakness and cave for a bowl of salty popcorn but that is now an occasional indulgence and no longer a routine habit.
So. If you stuck through reading this long-winded rambling and I have bored you to death yet, I would recommend looking up the Whole 30 website: http://whole30.com/ for more information. Find recipes on Pinterest and follow Whole30 on Instagram for more support. And seriously consider trying it. It’s only 30 days…what do you have to lose?