A few weeks ago, I decided to embark on my second round of Whole30. I did my first round in February (I wrote about it here) and had great results. I felt energetic, healthy and I lost seven pounds and several inches. More than anything, I was amazed at the change in my mental health. With depression and anxiety, there are plenty of good days—days where I wake up feeling energized and motivated, ready to go to work and do good work that I can be proud of. Then there are the other days—there's a cloud over me and an elephant sitting on my chest; I can't focus and my mind and heart are racing. I had fewer of those days during February. It felt amazing, and I wanted to chase that feeling. I wanted to stop feeling like I was fighting the monsters in my head and start feeling like a normal person. A healthy person.
After my February Whole30 ended, South by Southwest started. I was working almost constantly, and when I wasn't working, I was trying to have some semblance of a social life. It led to me being exhausted, hungover and generally unhealthy. It totally derailed my progress, but then I started training for my first 10K. I was running between seven and 15 miles a week and dropping weight like crazy, so why would I stop? I was still getting the results I wanted. The other dangerous part about this line of thinking was that if I couldn't find something "healthy" to eat, I'd skip the meal completely (I'm embarrassed to even write that here because of how terrible that is). I was working out harder than I ever had before and not giving myself good calories or carbs to burn when I did. Yeah. Not good. I was starting to become obsessed with the number on the scale—I was getting so close to my goal weight, and I wanted to drop the weight even more quickly.
I decided I was going to do another round of Whole30 in April, after my best friend's wedding was over and before the next wedding I'm going to in May (so many weddings, I KNOW). I needed to get back on track, I told myself (though in the back of my mind, all I could think about was losing weight). My friend Alex decided to join me—she just got back from backpacking around Asia for a few months, and she was feeling a little unhealthy (I think her exact words were "I am made of noodles"). So we started together in mid-April, and I instantly noticed how much more difficult it was than my first time around. I felt frustrated, because I knew that my body could handle some of the things I wasn't allowed to have. My reintroduction proved I didn't have a negative reaction to legumes, so why couldn't I have soy milk in my coffee or a peanut butter protein shake after a workout? I was frustrated and unhappy. Once again, I started skipping meals. I wasn't excited about the food I was eating. I was bored and everything sounded gross, so I just didn't eat. That was when I knew I had to make a change, because I wasn't healthy. All I was concerned about was losing weight, which is not the point of the Whole30. I knew deep down that I was developing unhealthy habits for the sake of dropping pounds.
So I made the executive decision to stop my Whole30 early. Seventeen days in, to be exact, so I was tantalizingly close to the end. I decided to shift to my own custom version of the Whole30. I added legumes back into my diet on day 17, and I felt fine. I felt great, actually, because I had given myself something my body wanted but I didn't sacrifice my health for it. On day 18, two of my friends got engaged. I had two beers with them to celebrate, and I hadn't eaten anything due to a stressful morning, so I splurged two slices of pizza. I spent the rest of the day feeling a little bloated and gross, but happy I'd been able to have a "normal" experience with my friends. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to be having beer and pizza all the time—in fact, I'd say that'll happen rarely—but I'm excited to go forward in this journey on my own terms, eating things that make my body and mind feel good without that guilt and shame that are associated with eating "bad" foods. I've always been an "everything in moderation" kind of girl, and I'm going to go forward with that in my mind, while remembering that things like grains, dairy and added sugars don't make my mind and body feel great. I think that's what "food freedom" is, right? That's what Whole30 promises: Food freedom. To me, that means being able to eat these things occasionally without feeling bad or guilty, as long as everything else I'm doing is healthy.
I'm trying to figure out a way to keep track of my diet, though. I had the idea to make a calendar, or some pages in my bullet journal, to track my eating. Do you have any ideas for how to track your eating habits? Let me know!