It’s now been over a month since I finished my first Whole30 and as I reflect on it I realize that I am extremely lucky to have my wife Alli not only for the constant joy and happiness she brings into my life on a daily basis, but also the way she has changed my food habits since we started our lives together 8 years ago. Prior to living with her, Mac and Cheese and hot dogs was a staple meal. Take out was a 2-3x a week occurrence, fish was for sport, not for eats, and vegetables were optional, not required. When we moved in together, change was gradual but consistent, and I found my tastes and my openness to new foods had expanded rapidly with the help of Alli’s cooking. I began to trust her opinion on trying new foods, eating a certain way, and thinking about food differently. She even helped turn my severe acid reflux problem into a non-issue, which was a pivotal turning point for me.When Alli first mentioned doing the Whole 30 together we were in the middle of an awesome New Years ski day at Ragged Mountain in New Hampshire. Adrenalin was pumping and I was feeling bold and adventurous. After months of her egging me on I finally agreed to commit to trying the Whole 30, and we shook hands and picked a start date of Monday, January 23rd, three weeks away. Having drank and ate my body weight over the Christmas holidays, I was ready to settle down and take a bit of time off from it all.
As the start date approached, I was both excited and nervous to start. Excited for the first real food challenge of my life, embarking on a journey with Alli and completing it together, and noting the positive changes in energy that might occur. I was nervous because for the first time I was stepping outside of my comfort zone of certain foods that I have ate my entire life. I was also nervous because I knew sacrifices would have to be made in both personal and professional life to complete the challenge. Being in sales I am often out with clients or colleagues for dinner and drinks, so making good food decisions is already difficult enough, never mind abstaining from certain foods and alcohol altogether. Hanging out with my friends often means take out and drinking beers, playing cards, pool, darts, or watching a sporting event together. These events would all have to change a bit in their nature in order to stick to the Whole30.
The first few days were both easy and hard, for a number of different ways. Easy was the motivation to start the challenge, to stick to the guidelines, and put your best foot forward. Difficult was remembering all the caveats of the program, and adjusting your habits accordingly. For example, I found myself constantly reminding myself that no cream can go in my coffee, no bread with my eggs/sausage, and no sugar in any unnatural form throughout the day. I noticed that after the first couple of days my mindset was established and I didn’t have to remind myself of the rules of the program, which was nice. In the first couple of days, I did experience a bit of a lull in energy in the latter parts of the workday. I felt a bit tired and sluggish, craving coffee/sugar, but knew that powering through and avoiding the cheap energy (sugar, caffeine) my body craved would be beneficial in the long run. In day 4 or 5, my energy rebounded, and that afternoon lull was less impairing.
The second week was probably my favorite week on the Whole 30. In the second half of the week, I felt high levels of energy that I really didn’t think were possible in myself. I was not getting tired during the day, and I was feeling great. It was super motivating to feel this way, and definitely something that helped inspire the decision I had to make at the end of the second week.
At the end of our second week, I had a massive decision to make. My New England Patriots were playing in the Super Bowl, and like any good lawyer, I had worked into my Whole 30 contract with Alli that if they were to make the Super Bowl (remember we agreed to this on January 1st), then I would be able to have one “splurge” day and enjoy all the food and craft beer during the day with my family. The Superbowl is one of my favorite days of the year, nevermind when the Patriots are playing and I get to watch the game with my whole family. So here was my “crossroads”. Do I follow through with my original clause- drink and enjoy the Superbowl with no restrictions? Or do I want to follow the program to completion? Remember, there are no exceptions or cheat days on the Whole 30, so even one slipup is cause to start over.
As I alluded to previously, what really influenced my decision was the way I was feeling in the second week. At that point you are almost 50% done, and you are feeling freaking awesome. Saying no to alcohol and typical snacks during the Superbowl WAS NOT EASY. I cherish being able to have some beers and good food with my loved ones, and it was definitely tough not to. However, it is important to note that I enjoyed the game just as much, if not more! I still got to watch the greatest comeback in sports history next to my whole family and share the victory with my Alli, my Dad & Mom, and whole extended family. Getting through this day showed me that I didn’t need beer or tasty (but unhealthy) food to have a good time, and definitely left with motivation to complete this challenge.
Weeks three and four were very easy to complete, except for one major mistake I had made (and will caution you against). All my friends and family know that I love a great craft beer or Manhattan. I had recently gotten extremely into the Craft beer world, making the pilgrimage out to Tree House Brewing Co in Monson several times when I wasn’t even able to drink. When you are not drinking and still buying beer, your fridge becomes a sanctuary of amazing hops. Every time I would look in the fridge, it was as if these beers had a halo above them, eye-level and delicious looking. This caused a lot of undue stress and craving, and made it tougher to avoid than if it wasn’t in the house at all. So learn from me! Whatever your dietary vice may be (chocolate, ice cream, etc), DO NOT MAKE IT ACCESSIBLE. Out of sight out of mind is so incredibly true, and I could have saved myself a lot of cravings and mental anguish by not having these delicious beers staring me in the face.
By the end of week four, I was ready for the program to come to a conclusion. I was extremely satisfied with the previous month, and quite honestly I was proud of myself for taking control of my dietary temptations and completing the program with Alli without faltering. My energy levels had increased substantially, my stomach didn’t ache or feel bloated, and I fought my severe sweet tooth to the death. Honestly, I had found out so many things about myself by completing the program that I decided that I would be doing a Whole30 with Alli every year.
In summary I would say that if you are thinking about doing the Whole 30 but are nervous because you have your vices just like I do, just commit yourself and do it. At the end of your 30 days, you will not only feel great and accomplished, but you will have found out so many things about yourself that you previously did not. The changes you will observe in yourself will motivate you to implement some of the Whole30 principles in your life daily.