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I should probably say from the very outset that I am 36 years old and I do not currently struggle with maintaining my weight. I am one of those genetic freaks who was given a free pass to largely eat whatever I want for most of my life, and remain relatively skinny.
I apologize about that in advance.
That said, I do not just eat whatever I want.
Food trends intrigue me.
The popularity of Whole30 caught my attention more than a year ago, when several friends and bloggers I follow began talking about it, posting food pictures, joining support groups, and generally blowing it up.
So I read about it. Extensively. I toyed with the idea of how difficult the transition would be from the way we currently eat.
I talked to several friends who enthusiastically started a Whole30. I can only think of one who actually finished it. She said she was mostly miserable for the first two weeks. She confirmed it was terribly expensive and time consuming throughout the month. Also, she said she got really burnt out on trying to come up with new things to eat because she was sick of most foods by about day 10. On the plus side, she did lose a little weight, noticeably improved her running performance, and reported noticeably diminished PMS symptoms for that month.
She also says she will probably do it again.
But I’m not sure I’m going to even try. And here’s why:
2. I do not love to cook.
3. I do not love to meal-plan.
4. I’m cheap.
5. The “h” in ghee.
6. Making grocery lists that force me to use the word “compliant.”
7. Separate meals for the normal eaters in my house.
8. Sweet potatoes more than once a week.
9. Finding a 30-day span in the year that is mostly free of life.
10. Kombucha as dessert.
11. Hanger. (For days, apparently.)
Hanger: A lethal combination of hunger and anger, the result of waiting so long to eat that your blood sugar drops to dangerously low levels, impairing both your mood and your judgment. Particularly manifests itself when you are with a significant other and trying to make decisions about where to eat now that you’re both starving.
Here’s the thing. I am an above-average healthy eater. And while I could definitely find areas for improvement, I’ve never found drastic transitions in major life habits to be sustainable.I've never found drastic transitions in major life habits to be sustainable. Click To Tweet
Neither have my friends who tried Whole30 and failed.
Basically, I already have my thing and it seems to be working. The thing about my thing is that it isn’t all that complicated.
What I Don’t Do
– Eat Out because it is Convenient –
Like, ever. Fast food is an absolute last resort, reserved most often for traveling.
– Stock My Pantry with Snack Foods –
I only buy one kind of chip and that is tortilla chips. I rarely buy sugary cereals and honestly, only buy cereal when it is an especially good deal. Holidays are the only times we have candy in the house and most of it comes in the form of gifts. The thing is, when it isn’t available, it is impossible to cave. Meanwhile, if I was into buying Cheetos, I promise you I’d be going through at least two bags a week all by myself.
– Stock My Freezer with Store-Bought Ready-Made Meals –
Same concept as eating out.
What We Do
– Eat Together as a Family Most Nights of the Week –
At a table. Without interruptions, devices, or the TV on.
– Plan for Busy Nights –
My kids are still relatively young and extra-curriculars don’t have us in the car most evenings. But during the school year, we do have dinner-time interruptions 2-3 days a week. I plan for them. Sometimes I pack a picnic dinner and take a blanket to the soccer field. Other times (most times) I make something in the crock pot that will be ready for us when we get home.
Eating out is expensive, everyone knows that. But I would submit that even when we can afford to pay for it, we can’t afford to pay for what it does to our health.
– Eat Meals High in Protein and Low in Starchy Sides –
We frequently eat grilled chicken, steak, or pork chops on top of a large salad. Even my kids eat and love this dinner. I’ve also replaced a lot of the pasta, potato, and bread sides with things like beans, squash, sweet potatoes, and rice. Dinner prep is especially easy in summer time when produce is fresh, abundant, and much of it pretty delicious uncooked. I should add that I’m not above adding fruit to my table at every single meal if I can help it.
– Portion Control –
A large part of eating well includes getting out of the habit of over-eating, which I didn’t really figure out until I was about 25. This is the very reason I didn’t lose a single pound when I trained for and ran my first marathon at the age of 21. (I was also 20 pounds heavier that year than I am right now, after having 4 kids, if you can believe it.)
Portion control is something I’ve learned as an adult, and while I’m trying to teach my children the basic concept, I’m also aware that the very act of growing is enough to cause them to out-eat me at a rate of about 3:1. It’s not something I necessarily harp on, but when my kids say they are “still hungry” for more salty dark meat chicken and BBQ sauce, I almost always make them eat something like more carrots first to see if they really are hungry.
– Kid-Friendly Sides –
I’m going to admit right now that I cook and eat healthy predominantly for my husband and myself. But we’ve never been the kind of parents who cater in any capacity to our children. For the record, I would absolutely say that “my children are picky eaters” because I believe if we let them, ALL children would be picky eaters. But it turns out we have mastered the art of getting our kids to eat just about anything, and eat all of it. It is amazing what kids will do when they are hungry enough.
This means they eat what we eat, and they aren’t given a lot of alternative options. I’m not a short order cook and my kitchen is not a Luby’s Cafeteria. Also, no one-bite rule in this house. If you can’t finish your dinner you do not get dessert. Period end of story. And some nights, even though everyone ate everything and then some, dessert is not on the menu.
But I don’t have to explain to any parents my age how hard it is to maintain healthy eating habits with children. We are all busy. We are all also wired to love sugar and salt. This is a dangerous combination. If I fed my kids hot dogs and apple juice for lunch every day, it would be very difficult for me to get them to eat grilled chicken breasts and salad for dinner.
There has to be a balance.
My kids are not deprived of hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, pizza, or fish sticks. And this mama is not above at least one quick-and-easy dinner a week. But you must understand that this is not the go-to in our house. It is the exception rather than the rule. And as such, my kids treat it like a treat.
– Drink Water with Every Meal –
No soda. No juice. No sweet tea. No milk. No dairy-free milk substitute.
– Freeze My Own Leftovers –
Cooking once but eating twice? Yes, please. This is kind of the extent of my “long-range” meal planning and it might be the smartest habit change I’ve made in the last year.
Healthy Habits Beat Diets and Fads
Overall, I am sure the reason so many people fail at their attempt to stick with Whole30 for the entire 30 days, is due to the fact that it is such a drastic change from their norm. (Nearly everyone reports that eating out on the Whole30 Diet is virtually impossible, and I believe it.)
Everyone knows how hard it is to implement a new routine. I am a huge fan of setting small achievable goals. Believe it or not, success begets more success.
Maybe this means swapping one meal out for one meal in each week, and gradually increasing that number. Maybe it means refusing to purchase one or two junk food vices at the grocery store, until you’ve successfully rid your pantry of all of them. Maybe it means preparing double portions of dinner so you don’t need to run to Jimmy Johns the next day for lunch.
Whatever it is, I’m simply saying that it doesn’t have to be huge to make a huge difference.
And that’s why I don’t really have a desire to do Whole 30.