So I fell into a fad diet.
For the last 30 days, I ate according to Whole 30. After having knee surgery in October, and my team going all the way to a Super Bowl win, I wasn’t eating well. I was immobile for two months and while I tried to eat as healthy as possible, it meant a lot of canned soup and pasta. My metabolism was gone because I couldn’t do anything so I was never hungry. I’d eat maybe once a day then snack on all the sweets and easy to grab carbs.
With the Super Bowl, I spent Sundays at a bar where I’d grab a Philly Cheesesteak and a few beers. While I’m someone who loves to cook, and never cooks unhealthy food, I had a hard time with eating out and grabbing takeout. When I started walking again, I started working and going through physical therapy, both of which were incredibly exhausting, and never had the energy to cook. Living in a major city grants me unlimited access to takeout, so I would typically grab some Thai food across the street because the thought of cooking was exhausting.
I decided that once the Super Bowl was over, I’d get back to clean eating and chose Whole 30 because I have a handful of friends who enjoyed it. It was a much easier plan than others I’ve tried. There weren’t rules assigned to days or times, and there were zero to no bans on specific fruits or vegetables (except corn, which I eat maybe twice a year, and lima beans/peas, which I never eat). The rules were pretty easy – no sugar, alcohol, grains, gluten, soy, dairy, beans, etc. etc. It was easier to focus on the things I could eat: meat, fruits, veggies, most nuts and seeds. There wasn’t any measuring of olive oil, or banana ban, so it actually ended up being much easier than I anticipated.
There’s a few things that helped lead to my success. First, I love to cook. On normal days before my surgery, I usually cooked all of my meals. I prefer my own food to eating out. The oils used in takeout tend to make my skin feel hot and I just like what I like. So having to cook every single meal for thirty days wasn’t a huge challenge. It just meant that I had to take the extra time. Instead of being too lazy and sleepy to pack my lunch for the next day, I forced myself to take the fifteen minutes before bed to do it.
I also really love the taste of healthy food. Even when I’m not eating well, I still love the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables. I was never a carbs person. Growing up, I never really ate pasta or bread. So aside from revising my snacks, cutting gluten out wasn’t much different than my normal diet. I spent a third of my life allergic to dairy, another third lactose intolerant and the last third trying to convince my body to build up a tolerance, so cutting dairy wasn’t a big issue either. I never drank milk and only started liking cheese in college. I always kept greek yogurt in my fridge for a quick snack or breakfast, but never craved it. So dairy was easy to let go. The only things I really missed were hummus, brown rice, ketchup, Diet Coke and peanut butter. While I definitely wasn’t making healthy choices before Whole 30, I still enjoyed healthy food, so it wasn’t like I had to train myself to like new food.
I also never had to count days. I started right after the Super Bowl and my 30 day marker was my mom coming out to visit tomorrow. I was actually pretty surprised when I realized today was my last day. It’s helpful to not have to mark each passing day or have a countdown. Additionally, there wasn’t much going on. February is a boring month full of nights in and snowy days so I didn’t have to worry about the social aspect of it. Over all thirty days, I only had five alcoholic drinks and ate two tiny things that I wasn’t supposed to. I never felt like I was missing out.
The biggest advantage I had was my financial security. As someone who spent most of my life trying to find the cheapest groceries possible, it was a privilege to have a good enough job that I can spend $2.50 on an avocado when I don’t want to go all the way to Whole Foods where they’re half the price (surprising, yet true… their avocados are practically free). I could afford to buy almond butter, ghee and organic beef jerky. While I’d rather not pay $2.50 per Rx bar when I could get a whole box of Kashi bars for the same price, I was able to for a month. I wanted to set myself up for success, so I allowed myself to buy the pricier groceries if it meant I wouldn’t cheat on the program. If I tried doing this even a year ago, it would be much more difficult because I would have to settle for whatever produce I could afford that week.
I tried not to talk about it. I only brought it up if I had to explain why I wasn’t eating or drinking. In the past, I was that person always writing posts about what I was eating and this time around I didn’t have the desire. I didn’t even weigh myself before it. It was less about weight loss than it was about reclaiming my body after having no control over it. For two years I’ve had to bend to its every demand and I was finally able to tell it what to do. It was a bit of a cleanse. Riding myself of the long and boring recovery days and celebrating the fact I could grocery shop and cook again. I posted my food on Instagram, but that was about it.
I found that by not talking about it, I normalized the way I ate. When I was filming, I brought my own snacks in case craft services didn’t have anything for me to eat instead of sending my “dietary restriction” over. Luckily there is almost always a bunch of healthy snacks at craft services and I didn’t have to worry about it. When I was at a friend’s party, I found the things I could eat and avoided the rest. When I went out, I drank the least amount of calories possible but didn’t explain why I wasn’t grabbing my usual beer. When a friend wanted to do dinner, I offered to cook so I could make something I could easily eat. Treating it as no big deal preventing it from feeling like one.
Honestly, I feel great. I have more energy and am much happier. My 5:40am alarm clock is less menacing because I don’t feel like a sloth anymore. While the diet is meant to be just a 30 day thing, I know I’ll adapt a lot of it into my day to day routine. I’ll take back the beans, brown rice and occasional gluten but I’m more or less done with dairy. I decided to eat at least one yogurt a week so I will be able to tolerate dairy when I want to indulge in the occasional cheese platter or slice but there’s no reason to keep a container of goat cheese in my fridge. I decided to limit my sugar intake to twice a week, in whatever form I want, so I can continue to reach for an all fruit smoothie or clementine instead of tootsie rolls. Plantain chips are my new pretzels and I’ll keep a bag of frozen turkey meatballs for nights when I don’t want to cook. Dates are the new sweet and I’m only allowing myself one Diet Coke a week. When drinking, I’ll opt for a good vodka soda, or dirty martini, and try to limit my beer and wine intake.
The largest habit I wanted to break is getting takeout. I decided to create a “take out tracker” in my bullet journal. If I don’t eat out for ten days in a row, I get a free meal where I can pick up dinner or bank it for another day. If I break my streak with anything but a reward, I have to start new.
It’s nice to try a diet when your goal isn’t weight loss. Honestly I have no idea how much I weighed before this and have no clue what I weigh now. I’m trying to go for something a little more sustainable than what was popular in the past. But I can’t lie – it does feel nice to fit a little better in my jeans.