Day 31 of the Whole 30: Coming out the other side

So I did it. I'm on Day 31 of my Whole 30, a quest to eat whole, nutrient-dense foods and nothing else for 30 days. I could go right back to eating and drinking the way I was before, but I don't think that's going to happen.

I learned about the Whole 30 totally by chance, from Instagram of all places. I'd been looking for some way to cleanse my body, but I was apprehensive about doing a shorter juice cleanse or something like it. The Whole 30 seemed more holistic in its approach, and I liked that just reading about it had taught me some things.

I had been feeling bloated for months, experiencing on and off abdominal cramping, and struggling with a general tiredness all the time. My sleeping patterns were erratic, and my mood was generally not great. I also sensed that I'd lost some control of what I was putting into my body. At the end of a long academic year, I realized that I was coming home every night and mixing myself a cocktail. One cocktail, but a cocktail nonetheless. Not a big deal, but I wasn't happy with the habit.

The last 30 days have taught me a lot about my food and drink choices. First off, I was and probably still am addicted to carbohydrates. As a runner, I've been using carbohydrates as my primary source of fueling for runs with just a little bit of protein and fat. That has changed over the past four weeks. It took a bit of effort to figure out the fueling, but I think I've finally got it down, at least for shorter runs. Protein and some fat are key for me, and I've been adding some complex carbs, like roasted or sautéed sweet potatoes to give me a little boost.

When I first committed to the Whole 30, the list of things I couldn't eat felt totally overwhelming:

No dairy
No alcohol
No sugar
No processed foods
No grains
No legumes

I can eat vegetables, fruits, meat, most nuts, eggs. I have to read labels carefully because there's sugar in everything. Like most beef broths at Whole Foods. What? Yes. Added sugar is everywhere. Same with grains. Filler in so many things.

I've been having regular dreams about messing up. I dream that I start eating a slice of pizza and then spit it out because I realize that I shouldn't be eating it. In one dream I was eating greens with white crumbles, realized those were feta, and promptly freaked out.

At first I thought the dreams were kind of funny, but as they've continued and I've continued with the Whole 30, I realize that the dreams reveal something very important. The carbohydrate addiction runs deep. The pizza dream is recurring. Those simple carbs represent a whole lot more than calories for me, and I am continuing to work to understand why. I've missed the social aspect of alcohol, but not really the alcohol itself. I've not missed dairy very much at all, although I have an occasional overwhelming urge for soft-serv.  But it's the grains: the bread, the pasta, the pretzels. Oy, the pretzels. I can't believe how powerful they are for me. It's going to be a continual process to maintain some semblance of order.

And I'm going to continue. The benefits of eating this way have been significant enough over 30 days for me to want to continue to the best of my ability. The recurring random puffiness around my eyes is gone. They would essentially blister on my bottom eye lids, and no doctor could explain why. Gone. My moods have leveled off significantly. I'm not skipping down the street singing "The hills are alive...," but I definitely feel less low, less erratic. My acid reflux is not entirely gone, but it's significantly better. I think it's connected to coffee. I kind of knew that already, but it's becoming more and more apparent. I'm also sleeping much better, other than the panicked pizza dreams. And finally, I think my general body temperature is down. I've barely run my AC so far this year, and usually I'm hot and bothered and can't sleep in the heat.

This next phase is about learning what all the foods on the "no" list actually do to my body and mind if I eat them. So I'm a little bit of a walking science experiment for a few weeks. I'm curious about what might happen, while also trying to control my anxiety about what might happen. All I know is that feeling lighter and knowing that my midsection is 2.5" smaller than it was when I started, along with all of the other feelings I'm experiencing offers me plenty of encouragement to keep going. I did not do this to lose weight, and I haven't weighed myself. I don't have a scale, and I won't have access to one until Tuesday. Good riddance.  It's not such an accurate measure anyway.

Food is really powerful. I knew this, but I needed a reminder. The Whole 30 has been and continues to be a great experience for me and a useful way of understanding my relationship with food.