To preface my Whole30 experience, there are some things you should know. My relationship with food has been strong AF over the past few months, but it wasn't always that way. Health problems in high school and the early months of college sent me through periods where I couldn't even eat a bowl of rice. Then I would suddenly slingshot back to eating a doughnut every day for two weeks.

After some new medications and dietary adjustments, I've been on the road to food relationship bliss for quite some time. I can't eat gluten, I stay away from sugars to avoid tummy troubles, and I limit my dairy consumption. 

The foods I love to eat are ones that most people consider "healthy." Because of this, I usually don't see a problem in upping my meds and letting loose on my dietary restrictions every so often, especially around the holidays.

beer, alcohol, oil, liquor
Jocelyn Hsu

Fast forward to the new year and I had binged my way through all the not-so-healthy food and drinks that usually get me down. I was bloated and constantly taking meds, but more importantly, the way I looked at food changed. A solid month of never saying no to sugary treats, alcohol, and carb-filled snacks wrecked my eating habits.

After realizing I couldn't go two hours without grabbing a box of crackers (shoutout to my mom's well-stocked pantry), I decided that it was finally time to try this Whole30 thing people were talking about to see if it could "jump start" my new year.

If you want to read more about the program, you can do that here. I won't bore you with the details, but it's basically paleo with a few modifications. So for 30 days, you abstain from eating grains, legumes, sugars, dairy, and certain additives. Oh, and no SWYPO

It's Never Easy

egg yolk, egg, fried egg, bread, milk, cream, dairy product, coffee, butter
Helena Lin

Day one of Whole30 is like living a sweet lie. You meal prep your crock-pot chicken dinner while frying your eggs in coconut oil for breakfast all while singing a happy tune and thinking about how #goals you are right now. Then day two comes.

I believe it was about this time that I almost broke down in tears because I felt so hungry and couldn't seem to eat anything that would satisfy me. I needed some late night chocolate or a handful of corn chips. Then I learned that's called a craving, folks. Withdrawal symptoms, here I come. 

Then all of your friends want to go out to dinner, and you get super stressed about what, if anything, you can eat. So your options are to say no, spend time making and packing your own food, or spend an equal amount of time on the restaurant's Yelp page to figure out if you can make anything work.

coffee, tea, espresso, kettle
Amy Cho

And then you realize you can't celebrate the start of the semester by going to the bars and getting sylla-booze week wasted. Note: this is especially sad when you've just recently turned 21. Why was I doing this again?

Here's Why I Love It

vegetable, egg, parsley, tomato, chili, meat, huevos rancheros, pepper, onion
Hana Brannigan

I just painted you a terrifying yet fairly accurate picture of the bad experiences that come with the Whole30 plan. But this is not to say that eating this way doesn't come with its benefits. I wouldn't stick with it if I didn't see its worth, and I certainly do.

Whole30 has gotten me back into the habits that helped me repair my poor relationship with food once before. I love meal planning, trying new recipes, and using foods in ways I never thought possible. Whole30 has forced me to do all these things once again.

I've also gone back to carefully reading labels, yet simultaneously realizing that I should be eating foods with labels less often. It's not that I think that those middle aisles are inherently unhealthy. I just know that I feel so much better physically and mentally when I focus on my veggies first and snack foods second. 

I've also noticed some awesome changes going on with my body. I'm less bloated, I have increased energy during my workouts, and I even think I'm sleeping a little better. My mental health has been on the rise, too. Whole30 is a challenge, so every week, day, and meal that I can get myself through feels like a little win in my book.

What I've Tried to Learn

tea, beer
Caty Schnack

The real reason why I think Whole30 was the right choice for me is because of the attitudes towards food that the program teaches. Their website is full of information, forums, and downloads that can explain it all to you, but here's what was really important to me.

Whole30 is not a weight loss plan. You are not permitted to weigh or measure your body in any way. I never intended to set out on a quick fix new year's diet, and this is not what that is. What you weigh isn't the point. Your relationship with food is.

One way your relationship with food changes (especially in my case) is that your meals suddenly become portioned very differently than you're used to. They encourage filling most of your plate with protein, the rest vegetables, a good serving of fat, and the occasional fruit or nut.

You eat three meals a day, eat until you're satisfied, and try to stay away from snacks. I realized how much I rely on snacks after a few days of trying to avoid them. I'm experimenting with my portion sizes until I figure out exactly how much I need, but for the meantime, I'm happy that their meal planning template allows for pre- and post-workout meals.

rosemary, balsamic
Mackenzie Barth

Not allowing SWYPOs was another thing I really loved about the way Whole30 is laid out. I'll let you find out exactly what it means for yourself, but basically, the creators of this program really believe that you shouldn't try to recreate your typical junk food by making Whole30 swaps. 

So, no paleo pizzas, pancakes, or cookies. You're not supposed to bake or duplicate the dishes that are forbidden. Again, figuring out how to have pizza made with almond flour isn't the point. I needed to refocus on wholesome meals and food choices, which is exactly what this policy enforces. 

The program quickly teaches tough love. Think you're gonna cheat, slip, or give up? Think again. As their website states, "Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard."

coffee, espresso, cappuccino, black coffee, mocha, decaffeinated coffee
Asia Coladner

This really hit home for me. I thought giving up my chocolate and peanut butter and chips would literally kill me. There was simply no way I could do it. I was being way too dramatic when facing the reality that I needed to kick my poor eating habits to the curb.

So I toughened up, put in the effort, and now I'm taking the time to do this right. I would never say that it's hard. It's certainly not easy, but it's not hard to do right when you know that it's something good that you're doing for yourself. 

Moving Forward

vegetable, cheese, salad
Hunter Siegrist

I won't say that I've fallen in love with "real" food again, because I've always loved making zoodles and roasting broccoli. But, I do love the way I feel and think about food now more than I did a few short weeks ago. Putting the right foods in your body isn't always the fun or easy choice, but it's the best choice that I can make for myself.

I'm looking forward to transitioning out of Whole30, as this sort of diet is not meant to be long term. I'll slowly begin to add the food groups I cut out back into my meals to discover how much and how often I really need to eat my once beloved oatmeal and peanut butter.

For now, I'm grateful for the new blogs I'm reading every day for recipe inspirations and for the amazing Instagram accounts I've begun to follow that motivate me. I'll continue to keep these resources in my meal prep arsenal. 

broccoli, garlic, salad
Tiare Brown

I certainly won't be eating like this forever, but I feel like I've seen the benefits of refocusing your diet on the foods that matter most to your body.

My hopes for the rest of the year include continuing to reap the most beneficial parts of this program. Eat consciously, don't cut corners when it comes to prepping satisfying food, and realize that choosing to stop eating crap, whether for a month, week, or even the rest of the day, is not hard.