I just finished my second Whole30® — the program that helps you reset or restart your health goals in the form of a 30-day elimination diet.
I did it because it was time for a health reset after the free-for-all coping mechanisms ushered in by the pandemic. Coping mechanisms that kept my kids relatively happy and healthy, but left me feeling awful. I was chronically tired with little patience, much less any energy to be an engaged, fun mom. My seven-year-old became triggered anytime she saw me doom-scrolling on my phone, which was often. I didn’t want to be that mom. I wanted to play more, go places, feel motivated to do things spontaneously. So I dug back into the toolbox that had helped me feel like myself again after my cancer treatments — completing a Whole30. In all honesty, I didn’t do it to lose weight, even though I was at my heaviest ever. I didn’t even weigh or measure myself on Day 1. I jumped into it with the sole goal of feeling better — physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The results were just what I asked for. I feel so much better. It doesn’t take the physical and mental strength of a Navy S.E.A.L to peel myself off the sofa in the afternoon or out of bed in the morning. I have the energy to consistently exercise, which gives me more energy to build and keep the momentum going for me and my family. Yes, there was struggle along the way, but none that was too hard to overcome.
The benefits far outweighed the challenges. Along the way, I discovered these four added benefits. Things that were not on my radar when I decided to commit. I believe sticking with these new habits will truly help maintain a healthy quality of life in the long run.
No more food waste or throwing out leftovers
While doing a Whole30, you very quickly get burned out thinking about and planning for EVERY. SINGLE. MEAL. It almost becomes obsessive thinking. But, it also forces you to get creative. What can you do with those leftovers? What ingredients are in the pantry that will add something new? Those weird ingredients that were purchased for one particular dish — can they be used for something else?
The program wants you to think about the food you eat differently, but it also tacks on a new significance to what you are adding to your fridge and pantry. Food becomes intentional, purposeful, and meticulously inspected; it’s no longer impulsive or extraneous. The time and mental effort put into selecting these ingredients, combined with the physical and mental energy to transform it into a nourishing meal, makes the whole activity more precious.
Therefore, throwing out leftovers that no one ate or tossing a spoiled cauliflower head feels more wasteful than ever before. So you make every effort to avoid it, and in the process become a more creative cook AND save yourself the mental struggle of starting ANOTHER new meal from scratch.
No more lazy or crazy expensive lunches
An important note to start with: you don’t necessarily save money with a Whole30 diet. You swap frequent trips to restaurants with frequent trips to the grocery store. But, with your endlessly stocked fridge and creative cooking prowess, you avoid two things: 1) The monotony of eating the same boring lunch over and over (for me — a turkey sandwich), and 2) The irresistible urge to break that monotony by dining out for lunch where the possibilities are endless.
Before Whole30, this was the trap we were caught in. When meal planning, we only thought about dinner, grabbed the regular sandwich essentials for lunches, and proceeded to spend more money eating out multiple times a week. Now that our Whole30 journey has entered the next phase, we have not defaulted back to sandwiches and restaurants, thankfully. We plan better for lunches, even if that means making sure to leave leftovers for the next day. Which, bonus benefit, means we are learning to eat smaller portions or fewer helpings at dinner.
No more impulse grocery purchases
Because everything you bring home from the grocery store is carefully scrutinized for 30 days, the habit starts to stick with you. You might be spending more time in the aisles studying ingredient lists, but soon you become quick to judge what items in the store best serve your food freedom goals and which can be left on the shelf. The allure of shopping promotions and buy-one-get-ones become less attractive, and soon you stop paying attention to them. There’s a lot less “buying to try” and a lot more “buying to optimize.”
However, as more “Whole30 Approved” logos appear on packaged food brands, it becomes much easier, borderline impulsive, to just toss it in the cart with little thought. Just know that these are often more premium items, so any savings from skipping over impulse items are easily offset with the sometimes more expensive “Whole 30 Approved” items. The brands are paying to license the logo and trademark, so it can only be assumed that they are passing on that cost to the consumer.
For our Whole30, we relied heavily on our Shipt membership to save us from being in the grocery store every other day. Continuing this trend is also helpful in cutting down on impulse buys — if you aren’t in the aisle to see something, you can’t buy it!
No more eating after my kids
This is likely the biggest difference in my eating habits and the biggest benefit. I can’t tell you how compulsive eating after my kids became. Chicken nugget left on the dinner plate — I ate it. Macaroni & Cheese left in the pot — I shoveled it into my mouth. Kids didn’t finish their meal — it became my second, or third, helping.
Whole30 essentially banned me from this habit for 30 days, but it was completely broken in the end. This is something I struggled with since becoming a parent and resolved to stop multiple times to no avail. One day, we will all eat the same version of the same meal (read: picky eaters), but until then I can serve them something I don’t choose for myself that day — pasta, baked goods, pizza — and not be tempted to sneak a bite. I’m sure I’ll cave a few times along the way, but if my willpower holds I believe I can see the biggest gains from this long term.
And, while this next phase of feeling better is relatively new, it’s enough of an improvement to motivate me not to fall back into bad habits.