Twenty days ago, I hit my breaking point. I woke up on a Friday, and for the fourth time in three months, I had to call out sick. The culprit this time? A sinus infection, the second since December. In addition to those two bad boys, I had a bout of shingles and some sort of 103-degree-fever illness that was either an extra rough case of bronchitis or the flu. Depends on which doctor you ask.
Now, I am in my first(ish) year of teaching middle schoolers, and there are, of course, germs that I haven’t built up an immunity to yet, but there was obviously something else going on. I didn’t need a doctor to tell me that my immune system was shot. I could feel it in the ongoing sneezing and coughing, the exhaustion I was feeling every day, and – of course – the four illnesses in such a short period of time.
Something had to give.
I had been toying with the idea with starting the Whole30 for a while. My coach, Kali, had suggested it as a way to take control of my eating again, and my other coach, Sean, has long been trying to get me to eat whole foods. While I’ve already identified that gluten and I don’t get along, there was an attraction in being able to find out what other foods might be compromising my immune system’s ability to do its job properly.
That, and I have a wedding coming up. The whole, let’s casually eat a jar of Nutella and a can of Pringles and call it a snack thing wasn’t working out for me. While I do have to admit those first few bites of each were exactly what I was looking for, constantly eating these things (and things like them) were making me gain weight, sluggish, sick, and feeling totally and completely out of control.
And so, when I woke up that Friday, that was it. I started the Whole30 that day, and haven’t looked back since.
I think starting while sick was an excellent idea. Not only did I have very real (and unpleasant) motivation to make a change and stick to the plan, but I completely missed the sugar hangover stage. It’s not that I didn’t have it – because, trust me, I was EATING that sugar – it was that the headache and exhaustion blended in well with the sinus infection I was already experiencing.
The Whole30 is simple – no dairy, no gluten, no (added) sugar, no alcohol, no grains, no legumes for 30 days, followed by a reintroduction phase to help you identify which of the foods you cut out might not necessarily be the healthiest food for your body. It’s an elimination diet, meant to be followed for a short period time to help identify possible triggers.
While it may sound contradictory – given all of the “nos” – what I’ve loved most about the Whole30 so far is that I have found an immense sense of freedom in my food choices that I’ve never really experienced before. No counting calories. No “diet” foods. No constantly weighing myself or my portions. Instead, I’m eating honest to goodness real FOOD when I am hungry, and I don’t crave the processed, sugar and salt laden “food” that previously controlled me with cravings.
I’ve found that fruits are sweeter than I thought they were, that half (or a whole) an avocado a day makes me really happy, and that it’s really, really difficult to overeat veggies.
Most importantly, I can honestly see myself eating like this for the rest of my life (with the exception of “Worth It” treats, like cake on my birthday). I feel amazing, my skin is clearing up, I’m tired at 10pm and up-and-at-em at 6am like clockwork, and my moods are balanced. I enjoy a cup of black coffee in the morning, and feel clear headed throughout my day.
Oh, and my pants are fitting better, too. But for the first time in a long time, that’s a nice bonus, not the end goal.