(and it's OK)
To start, I was miserable.
Sick with a cold: a fever, terrible congestion, aches and pains - I had scoured the internet, knowing that many can experience some symptoms of discomfort while on the Whole30. But I knew in my bones this wasn’t related to my body not eating sugar or processed foods for days. This was the work of the adorable little virus infested petri dish of a 2 year old I had spent all of a few days prior hanging out with. And I resisted any orange juice or saltine crackers for two whole days, sipping only on bone broth and forcing a meaty, vegetable-full meal when I was hungry enough for food, even if I wasn’t quite hungry enough for a full meal.
I had been ROCKING this Whole30 thing. Planning and scheduling and making lists are among my favorite activities, and I was in spreadsheet heaven. I had made a menu layout for the whole week, every morsel of food that would pass my lips listed and accounted for. I had made a grocery list of everything I needed to cook that delicious, healthy food that my body needed to work its best. I had scheduled out every meal including cook time and made plans for any trips out so that I would be Whole30 compliant (and not a nuisance to the group). I was rocking this.
I was also hanging by a thread.
Something you should know for the sake of this story: I am obsessive-compulsive. In many ways, as our culture has glorified being “busy” to unhealthy heights, it’s become cute and trendy to say “oh I’m so OCD about that!” and brush it off. I assure you, this is neither cute nor something I can brush off. And I won’t go into all my compulsions to “prove” that what I struggle with is real or “enough.” But I mention it to say that as someone who is typically teetering on the line of healthy scheduling vs obsessive planning, the Whole30 gave me a shove into the obsessive.
So there I was, on a Saturday afternoon, crying because I wouldn’t let myself drink some juice. The thing is, juice isn’t even necessarily prohibited on the Whole30, rather it’s the mindless consumption of such. But that’s not where my mind went - drinking juice would be giving in. Drinking juice would fail my Whole30. And I was NOT going to give in. I don’t quit. MEGAN DOWD DOESN’T GIVE UP.
I simultaneously want to laugh at Past-Megan and give her a big hug and tell her it’s ok. I was sick and all I wanted was a cracker and a glass of juice.
After about three hours of this nonsense (and a few tears), it all came to a head. My dearest husband, having been an incredible support through the start of the Whole30, made it clear that he wanted me to appreciate the work I was doing and the why of it all. He also wanted to point out the near mental hell I was putting myself through and that it was ok to not live a binary. Life isn’t binary, he exclaimed, and there was no reason to complete the Whole30, a program for the health and wealth of my body, at the expense of my mental health. It was totally up to me to move forward however I liked, of course, and he would support me no matter what, he was only worried for the sake of my mental health.
Well that was a welcome blast of fresh perspective, slapping me across the face.
I already struggle with living a strictly binary perspective. There was no need to make that a focus - it’s something I already do.
So I ate a cracker. And I drank some juice. And I noted that though I had wondered for months if I was a “Moderator” or an “Abstainer” as noted in Gretchen Rubin’s podcast “Happier”, this pretty definitively my answer that moderation is key for me.
Since then I’ve ignored the Whole30 (sorta). I’m still making vegetables the base of my meals. I’m still using a minimum of food that comes with a label (condiments mainly - I love condiments and now I’m using them to accent the food I love rather than bury it). I’m still taking my coffee black or with a splash of coconut cream (guys - coconut cream in coffee. HOW had I never tried this before?!). I’m still drinking a ton of water and eating mindfully and with joy.
But I’m not letting myself obsess over every little detail. I no longer have every ingredient memorized from the Califia Almond Milk nutrition label. I don’t have every food that will pass my lips listed out (though I’ll still meal plan and budget out the week - that’s just good sense). And maybe I’ll have a Digestive cookie every now and then because they remind me of when I lived in London (and they’re just so damn delicious).
I totally embrace the spirit of the Whole30. In practice, it’s not quite for me. But I’ll keep chasing a “wholistic” year (my word for the year).