13 December 2016

I Survived the Whole 30

Could you give up sugar, dairy, grains, legumes and alcohol for 30 days? It took two years for me to come round to the idea. It sounds easy. It's only a month.
I was sick of doctors appointments, of being told the same thing, of being told I was just suffering from a very normal symptom of IBS. I don't have IBS.

My skin was breaking out. Last year I finished a 5-month course of Roaccutane. I'm not sure I'd recommend it. Smooth, flawless skin was mine for all of 9 months, and then the spots were back, along with Crohns complications. They had warned me.

Sugar was the problem. And dairy, and gluten. That awful thing, gluten. Maybe I will get better if I cut it all out. Maybe my skin will renew itself completely. Maybe my life will change.

I read the book, I read their website, I read the transformation stories. I pored over Instagram before and after photos. True happiness.

The Whole30 had been done by people like me – their symptoms had disappeared, inflammation gone – Crohn's cured. I could see a miracle just 30 days within my reach.

"Cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days."

I was prepared. I planned and prepped and shopped and cooked and documented every detail. From the day I began it consumed me.

Day one was easy. I could do this. What was all the fuss about? Then day two hit me like the hardest hangover, the fuggiest jet lag. Anxiety in my stomach, my head heavy and thick with a tension I couldn't shake. I was assured all of this was normal. I dragged myself into work.

After a week I was feeling okay again, but I didn't feel good. Here is a list of the things I suffered from as the month went on – all things I had never had a problem with previously:

  • Tendonitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Jaw muscle stress
  • Irritability
  • Social isolation

Along with feeling exhausted – which I was promised would disappear with the elimination of all the foods I had given up – I was miserable.

But I wanted to complete the 30 days. I had seen firsthand how it had helped my sister and my dad. Why wasn't it working for me?

"We cannot possibly put enough emphasis on this simple fact—the next 30 days will change your life. It will change the way you think about food, it will change your tastes, it will change your habits and your cravings. This will change your life."

Day 30 arrived, finally, like Christmas eve. I woke up at 6am, so excited to start my final day. I had completed 30 days without slipping up, but what had I achieved? All I could think about was the Nutella I was going to eat in the morning.

Weight loss was never a goal of mine, but I lost half a stone. Of course this made me happy, but not as much as being able to eat and drink whatever I want does. Two weeks post-Whole 30 and I eat chocolate, cheese, bread, milk – the lot. I eat it all and I know that none of it has a negative effect on my body. The key is moderation.

If I learnt anything from the Whole 30 it's that my relationship with food is a selfish one. First and foremost we eat what we want. What we need comes second. It's ingrained in our culture. Our generation has decided we will do whatever we want. Who dares to tell us anything? But the Whole 30 got me thinking. While I was clutching my hot water bottle, crippled with stomach cramps, catching the bus to and from work because it hurt too much to walk, my mind went back to what I've always believed: my body is a temple, and I will treat it like one.

What are your thoughts on the Whole 30 diet? If you're considering giving it a go I recommend getting involved in the community on Instagram. The support I received was incredible and it was so much fun documenting all my favourite Whole 30 meals and snacks. Click here if you want to find out more.


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