It is a very sad realization when you start eating clean for 30 days (e.g. the whole30/paleo/primal) and then when you start eating processed foods again (specifically grains and sugars), your body revolts. It seems almost tragic knowing that even though your brain still thinks your favorite "food group" is a delectable piece of smooth, creamy milk chocolate perfected by a sugar-type peanut butter filling your body knows that is no longer the case. Stomach aches. Poor(er).. ["worse" would be the grammatically correct way to say this] athletic performance. Anxiety. Acne. Poor sleep. Less energy. Etc. It amazes me how the food choices we make dramatically effect so many different areas of our well-being and health... both physical and mental!
As I sit here and mourn over a imminent loss of grains and sugar in my life (due to a [stupid?/crazy?/difficult?/inconvenient!] decision to start up round 2 of Whole30 the best I can do to overcome the "loss" is to reflect on all the positive changes that were occurring during Whole30 round 1.
I should start by saying that I started and quit and started Whole30 3 times before I got through my whole 30 days. To say that I wasn't 100% committed on the third attempt would be an understatement. After about 3 days in, I started the countdown to when I would get to eat that delicious vice of mine (that smooth, creamy peanut butter filled chocolate I referred to above...) and by doing so I potentially missed even greater changes that could have occurred.
The biggest change I didn't see was my relationship with food. I am a stress eater. If I'm sad. I eat (chocolate). If I'm stressed. I eat (chocolate). If I'm mad. I eat (chocolate). If I'm happy. I eat (chocolate). If I just feel like eating. I eat (chocolate). It is a bad relationship and that's all I was waiting to go back to. Little did I know that as my body was cleaning out all the junky, processed foods of the last 23 years, there was no way it would be able to handle the sugar addiction the way it had prior to my clean eating endeavor.
Even though I didn't gain that new relationship with food (the healthy one) during round 1, I did gain a lot. I had increased amounts of energy and I had given up coffee... something that I depended on to sustain me through a work day since I began my adult career last August. Energy without caffeine. Truly amazing. I had better athletic performance. After my marathon in January, I have been super lax on working out/exercising and I could go out and run 3 or 4 miles and feel great. In all honestly, clean eating made my work-outs feel good. My body was sustained by the nutrients it needed and my body worked so much more effectively and efficiently. My skin had started to clear up. My stomach had started to shrink. I NEVER got a stomach ache or felt sick after eating during the whole30. My digestion was starting to work properly. My whole body was changing. My mood was changing. I was changing, and all I could focus on was the piece of chocolate I was going to get to eat in 28 days... 27 days... 26 days... and so on.
So now it is time for round 2. Three weeks post Whole30 and eating clean half the time while defaulting back to the known world of grains and sugars the other half, my body has had enough. The only way I am going to be healthy physically and mentally is if I give my body what it needs to function and to thrive. So I will say good-bye to sugar and grains as I make my way into my new clean eating, crazy, unconventional "meat (protein), veggies, nuts and seeds, fruit, and healthy fats 'diet'". I will strive to be strong and healthy rather than weak and malnourished. I will work to change my relationship with food as something to sustain me rather than as a crutch in a stressful, happy, sad, "feelings" situation. I will eat what sustains me and find better outlets for my "feelings" situations.
I started Crossfit three weeks ago and it is tough. I'm using muscles I have never or rarely used before. I'm lifting weights over my head, doing what seems like endless burpees, squats, and wall-balls, and slowly getting stronger. I have a long way to go before I am physically as strong as I would like to be and I need to fuel my body correctly in order to get there. My goal is to be strong, fit, and healthy. My goal doesn't need to be attached to a number on the scale or the number of kcals on a food label. My health is and needs to be measured by how I feel. The best I have ever felt strictly in regards to health and nutrition is when I eat clean. So good-bye bagels and pizza and Reese's peanut butter cups because my body is not a fan. My brain may be, but that will change (not overnight but overtime) just like my body will slowly get stronger every time I do another push-up. When I started Crossfit three weeks ago, I was doing ring rows. Now I can do banded pull-ups. My first wall balls felt like I was being slammed by a brick wall. The first 10 wall balls I did today felt almost flawless. It's slow progress but slow progress is greater than no progress.
Anything worth doing is going to take time and effort and commitment (I had a discussion with my very intelligent fiance who reminded me of this fact). Do I want to feel good all the time? Do I want to be healthy and strong? Or do I want to countdown until I can eat that piece of chocolate?
If processed foods versus real foods make such a huge impact then the choice is simple. I know there is science out there to support it and I know I don't know it all, but I do know how I feel. I have a career as a mechanical engineer and as an engineer I have to experiment and consider real life applications. I can't depend on the numbers or the theories 100% because real life applications always have a way of throwing a curveball. If I consider my first Whole30 an experiment then I have real life proof of how food effects my health. I have the evidence, the data, and "numbers" as a support. Theories are important, but applied experimentation with data is a much stronger basis. At work, I can say that a component will pass vibration testing because it is designed to do so, but it doesn't account for all the applications of that component in the design. The only way I can guarantee 100% that it will work in its designed application is if it undergoes vibration testing. I can say that Whole30 and Paleo are a great diet because of scientific evidence, but I won't say that. I will say that Paleo/clean eating/Whole30 is great for me because I have proof.
Find what works for you. Find what fuels you. Find what makes you happy, healthy, and strong.
I'm committing to another 30 days of clean, Whole30 eating because like and unlike the little engine that could I not only "think I can", I know I can and that I will be changed for the better because of it.