some time in March, i learned about the whole30 diet. i follow a lot of online content on nutrition and wellness, so i don’t remember where exactly i first read about it but i remember being immediately drawn to the core idea behind whole30. a quick overview of the diet before i dive into my attempt at completing the challenge:
- if you do not cook for yourself, whole30 will feel like an extremely strict diet. effectively, you are not allowed to have anything processed. more specifically, you are not allowed to consume any grain, beans, any foods with *added* sugar or preservatives (some exceptions on the preservatives). this does not mean that whole30 is by definition strict, it just means that the commercial ways through which we acquire food are very similar to each other and rely on the same processes to source, cook,and preserve their food. you’re actually allowed to eat just about everything that is whole food.
- paleo-style desserts are forbidden. this is where the diet gets interesting. why are paleo-style dessert forbidden even if the ingredients in a paleo dessert are otherwise whole30 nutrition compliant? because: a dessert is a dessert is a dessert and i believe one of the goals of completing the whole30 challenge is eating to live and not living to eat.
my attempt at completing the diet:
- one of the results of living whole30 is being forced to confront your relationship with food and your motivations behind your behaviors. why do you eat dessert? why do you consume anything that is more than what you need? these are not rhetorical questions that are meant to shame your food choices. in contrast, they are literal questions that you are supposed to be able to answer for yourself.
- i believe whole30 is an exercise in mindfulness. our minds are such that when you restrict yourself from something, initially you tend to think more about it. your mind will wander and in the process create an image of a feta, spinach, whole wheat scone that you pick apart with your fingers while sipping a smooth almond milk latte. you don’t even actively want that for breakfast but you are used to it and your mind goes to it. when forced to not have something, you become more deliberate with your decisions and confront your mindless routines so that you can become more purpose-driven.
- whole30 made me realize how much time we spend thinking about the empty half of the glass. even as a self-identifying optimist, doing whole30 made me realize how much time i spend thinking about what the negatives. i can’t have grain, dairy, alcohol- boohoo, but what about all the food that i *can* have? another rendition of this mindset is: i’m having difficulty achieving an outcome at work, i’m so far from where i want to be professionally, this sucks. what about all of the growth that i achieve everyday as i work towards my goal? all of that counts. we get closer to the goals that we set for ourselves (so long as we make the effort to do so) but the story that we tell ourselves often focuses on the negatives, the absence of what we don’t have. why? focusing on the absence is not inherently a bad thing, but what is inherently a bad thing is telling ourselves this absence-focused story without realizing that we are.
i didn’t finish the whole30 (i completed 18 days) because tasting the food in South Africa towards the end of my time there was more important to me than the challenge. i will take it up again, probably after i settle into work. i experienced so much growth during 18 days that i cannot wait to see what will happen after 30 days of adherence.