On Friday we had our Whole30 Challenge/DIY Nutrition Challenge information meeting at CrossFit Fringe. As a total food dork (is that a thing?) I love the lead-up and prep for the Challenge each year. I’ve done it enough times that I now have a game plan and it’s always fun to prep meals ahead and begin thinking about the potlucks. Again, total dork here.
But as we went through the challenge details on Friday, I could tell that the people who were considering the Challenge for the first time were apprehensive, even skeptical of the challenge. And I went home thinking, “I should totally write something to let them know why it’s a cool thing to do.” Because I’ve been there, and I know the prospect of evaluating convenient habits and the foods we love seems like a surefire recipe for heartbreak. So let me attempt to tell you why it’s worth doing.
To begin. My journey started seven years ago, when I used to eat nearly a full bag of Doritos every Friday.
My husband I love to play computer games, and Friday was our gaming night. He would get Cheez-its, I would get Doritos, and they’d both almost be gone by the end of the night. But that’s not the worst of it.
I drank soda every morning for breakfast. I couldn’t make it until 9am before cracking my first soda of the day, typically one of three. And I ate Totinos and Chinese take-out at least twice a week. I was nearly 150 lbs, I couldn’t run more than 250m and I was so inflamed. I couldn’t figure out why my calves and ankles would swell to the point of near invisibility when it was warm out. I was miserable and sluggish.
Blackened Shrimp Alfredo I remember our first stab at improving our diet including shrimp pasta in cream sauce and wheat bread. Then it was all things vegetarian. I bought things that said “low-fat” and “reduced sugar.”I cut back to two sodas a day and ate Yoplait yogurt like it was my job. I thought I was doing a bang-up job. Then we started working out in the apartment complex gym (2008), and then scaled up to our first gym membership in 2010. As my confidence incrementally rose, I started group body pump and yoga classes. I ran a whole mile, then a 5k, and then found CrossFit in 2011 around the time I read Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Body. The idea of removing all processed food seemed insane to me at the time.
One of our first Paleo recipes, Paleo Chicken Fried “Rice.”
“Because changing your diet is about much more than excluding one arbitrary villain: it is about all the other compensatory changes you make.”
Now it’s my 80/20 lifestyle. I can barely stomach soda, and I haven’t had more than a few handfuls of Doritos in years. No Yoplait either. I’m also in the best shape of my life.
I don’t tell you all this to hate on foods I don’t eat or advocate for one way of eating. Instead, my goal is to hopefully lower the anxiety and pressure you might feel to perfect your diet and lifestyle in a mere 30 days. Because not only do I feel Neil and I are still a work in progress, but I have absolutely no regrets about how we’ve gotten here, because we’ve learned so much along the way.
- We are far more adventurous eaters, and there is far less redundancy in our diet, even with a toddler now in tow.
- Our habits (both food and lifestyle) and routines have changed and we prioritize sleep, good food, and exercise.
- We are very much informed about what and why we eat the things we do and what our bodies need to thrive. Additionally, we are constantly seeking new information and ways to continue improving.
- We’ve learned a lot about the history of food and the evolution of how it’s been hunted, gathered, grown, and prepared. This has truly changed our outlook on the quality of foods we choose to buy.
- You learn about what your body needs to thrive. Each of us is different. An awareness of what your body needs leads to greater self-reverence and respect.
So give the Whole30 Challenge a chance
I think far too often when we think of diets, we’re almost pre-programmed to hone in on the restrictions and potential for failure. Instead, approach this challenge with the resolve to be curious, mindful, and an abundance mindset. Try new habits, new ways of doing things. Most of all, embrace the greatest gift of my own journey and this challenge:
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