Hello. My name is Stacy and I (still) have an unhealthy relationship with food.
Let's be honest, do you know anyone who has a totally healthy relationship with food?
Four years ago, this coming July, I discovered something called the Whole30. I was reading the book, It All Starts With Food, which popped up on Amazon, when I searched for "Paleo."
I really liked the title, so I clicked that naughty little "buy with one-click" button and started reading two days later. I couldn't put it down. I was so hungry (pun intended) for sensible information that I could understand and apply. In August 2012, I committed to 30 days without sugar, grains, legumes or dairy. I was pessimistic, but I wasn't without hope. I desperately wanted to feel better and figured I could do anything for 30 days if it meant I might feel like myself again.
Here's the backstory if you're interested. If not, scroll down to the next paragraph:
In 2009, I started to unravel -- to NOT feel like myself. I was tired, irritable, anxious, etc... At first, I blamed this on my busyness and a very stressful situation at work, but after six months, I began to wonder. As 2010 dawned, I had a nagging feeling that something was up. Long, two-year story short, I discovered that my adrenal glands were fatigued and my hormones were all wack-a-doo. But why? Was it really just busy, stress or something more. I was under the care of a pharmacist who created bio-identical hormones for me and talked to me about acupuncture and giving up bread (gluten). Initially, I was like, "There's no way I'm giving up bread!" Then, I thought, "Ok, what do I have to lose?" I decided that I would need to comply in order to get better, so I stopped eating bread, cereal, pancakes, or anything else with gluten for 4, maybe five whole days (ha!) and I bought some gluten-free crackers and cookies to make up for my loss. This didn't seem to make a difference, so I concluded that gluten was clearly not the problem. I would just stick to the hormones, try and get extra sleep and hopefully bounce back in a few months. Fast forward an entire summer and I hadn't made much progress. I LOVED my bread (Dave's Killer Bread to be exact) and brownies (of course) and I never felt "sick" to my stomach when I ate, so I simply couldn't conceive that it was something I was eating. I still felt crumby, but I wasn't about to go see someone with long needles and let them poke me all over—I didn't care how skinny they were, they were still needles! By the following summer, I was making an impressively consistent effort to eat "healthy" which at that point meant lots of brown rice, eggs and chicken, healthy fats (olives and avocados) and more vegetables. I was taking enough supplements that I required a pill box for every day of the week! My pharmacist had retired, so I began seeing a new MD, with a more functional/holistic philosophy. She was the first person to ever talk to me about Leaky Gut (sounds disgusting right?) Anyway, she took some blood and administered some other questionable tests to determine that I had a crazy long list of food sensitivities. She recommended a rotation/elimination diet that was super confusing. I began to do some leaky-gut research online to see what else I could learn. It was about this time that a blog reader mentioned "Paleo" in a comment and I did a Google search. Initially, I thought, "Totally kooky!" As mentioned above, I did the Whole30 in August that year and started feeling significantly better. In fact, I kept on eating primarily paleo after August and through the fall that year, until Thanksgiving. I figured I had eaten so clean for so long, that I could prepare and enjoy my traditional recipes and a big, happy-family feast. I did. After dinner, we all went to the movies, and I WAS SO SICK. It was like every cell in my body was crying and unhappy, I could barely stay awake, I couldn't see clearly and I was so inflamed and bloated it was embarrassing. Since I had enthusiastically consumed homemade rolls, stuffing and pie, it was pretty easy to conclude that I had a gluten sensitivity. I've since learned that outside of a diagnosis of celiac (severe gluten allergy) the only way to determine if you are gluten-sensitive is to remove it completely from your diet (with no gluten-free substitutes) for 30+ days and then reintroduce it. Trust me, if you have a problem, you will know! I have been happily gluten-free since November 2012, and really, most of the time, I eat grain-free, simply because I feel better when I do.
Now, I feel pretty good most of the time, but I know I could use a good, hard "reset" to clean up my system and pin point the foods that I've let back in that are still creating issues (dairy maybe or corn? I'm a pop corn lover.) My sister, Chanda and my mother have both done Whole30 and discovered how good you can feel when you eat nothing but delicious, fresh whole foods -- in fact, I tried to support my Mom and do it with her last October, but I made it only 3 days before introducing what I deemed "approved" treats. Definitely not ok. I decided I would try again this month, and do it 100%, but that I would be fairly quiet about it. My husband and children know and some of my neighbors know—until today. Today I'm going public. It's March 15th and I've made if half way and I'm SUPER PROUD of me. There is now no turning back. I'm in this for the rest of the month and for the 10-day reintroduction period. There have been some very difficult days, like yesterday! But for the most part it's been good and I feel light and clean and clear-headed and I really, really like that.
This book has been a HUGE help. It's new since my first Whole30 and it is full of beautiful and inspiring recipes and detailed instructions for preparing and carrying out a successful experience. Thanks to this book, I've finally mastered home-made mayonnaise. I'm re-learning the importance of eating protein-carbs-healthy fat in combination and I'm remembering that really good feeling of true satiety. I'm sleeping better and my cravings are way down. I'd forgotten how important it is to sit down at the table and eat lunch. I'm a "snacker" and the midday meal is particularly hard for me. I also don't like to eat right when I get up in the morning. I'd much rather munch on cashews or kale chips and drink herbal tea, while reading my scriptures—putting off breakfast for an hour or more. I'm learning this time around that (for me) this is not a good idea. I do better when I eat a good breakfast right away. I can exercise harder and stay full longer.
My plan moving forward is to write a short post everyday through the end of the month and into the reintroduction of foods that I have eliminated, so that I will have a record to look back on. I will write at the end of each day, rating my day on a scale from 1 to 10 and noting any specific challenges or insights.
If you have questions or an experience with Whole30, I'd love to hear from you! I've found it very helpful to follow @melissa_hartwig, @whole30, @whole30recipes and @whole30approved on Instagram. Daily motivation and inspiration is essential.