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“Whole 30”; it’s a buzz-word lately. Within the past year, somebody around me is ALWAYS “doing Whole30”; you go out to eat and they have to ask whether the chicken is cooked in vegetable oil or olive oil, they can’t eat chips, they push away anything with sugar in it, they read labels on everything, and they are constantly looking for obscure things in the hidden corners of Kroger (“Excuse me – where is the ghee? Is that how you say it? Do you have coconut oil? Is this coconut milk unsweetened?”)
They’ve surrounded me since last fall, and last week Tony and I joined their ranks.
It’s Day 11 (of 30), and before I tell you what it took to get us here – and why we’ll power through the remaining 19 days – let me explain Whole 30 as I see it.
Essentially, it’s a body detox. The idea is to focus on eating only ‘whole’ foods – stuff that has not been processed or filled with additives. Whole 30 doesn’t mean you’re suddenly eating everything from the organic, cage-free, open-range part of the supermarket; but you will be spending more time in the produce section. Focusing on ‘whole’ foods means that you’re eliminating all dairy, sugar, wheat and corn. There are a few extras on the ‘no’ list – peanuts (but not cashews or almonds) and beans of any kind, snow peas; stuff that falls into the ‘possibly inflammatory’ category. So, yes; there’s a pretty long list of stuff you DON’T eat (and by the way, I’ve learned it’s easier to think, I don’t eat that rather than I can’t eat that, because who likes being that you can’t have something? I don’t.), and most of my go-to mindless munchies are on that list.
But what can you eat? The list is endless. After almost two weeks in, it’s not that outlandish – in fact, it’s pretty awesome. Meat, poultry, pork, seafood; vegetables; potatoes (sweet and regular); fruit. Lots and lots of food! You’re not going to starve on Whole 30, for sure.
But the stuff you DON’T eat are the things that, over time, have come to represent more than nutrition for your body. They’re treats; rewards; compensation; comforts. And that’s the key, I think, to this entire process – you recognize why and when you reach for Oreos or ice cream or Tostitos (because you’re still reaching – I promise!) – and you reconsider, because you’ve made this decision NOT to eat that for 30 days. And that process of awareness has made a HUGE difference in my life – spiritually, mentally and even physically.
Not that I’ve lost 10 pounds in one week or anything; this is NOT a weight loss program. But here’s what I can tell you about the physical impact: I feel better. And I’m not going to put that out there and be all vague about having more energy (though I do) and sleeping better (though I am). Here are the specifics:
- My nose quit bleeding for an entire week. I’ve had chronic nosebleeds for well over a year now, regardless of the humidity or the temperature. Until yesterday, when I sat in front of the fire all day and didn’t run the humidifier, my nose has not bled since I changed my eating habits.
- My ears quit itching. I’ve had chronic eczema INSIDE of my ears (I know – GROSS!) for most of my life. In the past three years, it’s ramped up and been awful, and I have a steroid cream I put inside my ears three times a week to control the itching and flaking. Gone.
- I sleep. I get to sleep, and I stay asleep.
- No more bloating. I feel – and look – like an entire layer of puff has been removed from my body. Not ‘fat’, per se – but it’s as if I was tightly wrapped in Saran Wrap with a layer of thick cream, and it’s gone. My joints move differently; my skin looks more wrinkly (not a good thing, I know…)
- My gut is working – shall we say – ‘regularly’? Enough said.
The realization that something is going on with my body as I eliminate certain things has done something incredible and empowering in my brain. I’ve done this before; several years ago, on the advice of a well-respected chiropractic neurologist. I remember feeling good then, too. But I didn’t follow through on the second, important Whole 30 step. On day 31, you begin to introduce what you eliminated – one by one – and consider the reaction of your body. For example, there is something that I was regularly consuming that caused the irritation in my ears. Was it dairy? Sugar? Gluten? If I manage the reintroduction phase correctly, I’ll figure it out, and I’ll be empowered and equipped to make informed choices about my health.
It’s one of the healthiest spiritual things I’ve ever done. Everything is connected, you know…and the interaction between body, mind and spirit couldn’t be clearer to me these days.
Everything is spiritual.