In January of 2017, I did the Whole30. This January I opted to again personally inflict this process on myself again. With twenty-four days to go, looking back at the process a year later gave me some interesting perspective.
With six days days down, I find myself in the throngs of “resetting” everything. This morning I started to wonder if it was worth it and I why I ended up loving these thirty days so much last time. As I looked back through what I wrote during the Whole30 last time, I realized I face some of the exact same things as time. Life without cheese and yogurt and rice is not as easy. But I can also already see how I made some strides in a year, but more on that next week.
For this week, here’s what I felt last year as I did the Whole30 for the first time.
As I sit here determined to write something meaningful, I can’t stop thinking about cheese, and bread, and cookie dough. Why? Well, I decided I needed to to do the Whole30.
The Whole30 means for thirty days you cut out added sugar, grains, legumes, alcohol, dairy, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites and steer clear of recreating baked good, junk foods or treats of any kind. Why you ask? Well, the Whole30 website claims by cutting out “the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days” you will “reset” your metabolism, heal “systemic inflammation” and teach you “how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day to day life and your long term health.”
It is day twenty-one, hence the dreams of bread. I started this self-inflicted quest because over the holidays I started to eat a whole bunch of horrible foods and felt awful for it. I consider myself a somewhat healthy eater, with a few vices. I thought the Whole30 would help get me back on track after the months of November and December. Many of my friends had done the Whole30 in the past so I thought, why not? I told myself, “what a great way to start off a year!” Present Elizabeth hates past Elizabeth for this.
This is just a weak moment and, trust me there have been many moments of weakness. The moment I had the York Peppermint Paddy in my hand while home alone. Like Gollum and Smeagol fighting over what to do with the ring, I would pick up the candy and put it down, repeatedly. I finally had to move the candy dish to my roommate’s desk in her room.
Or the time I buried my face in the pillows on the sofa and presented a dramatic monologue comprised of a list of all the things I wanted to eat to my poor yet very kind-to-listen-to-my-saga roommate who was not participating with me at that time.
Or the dinner party I attended for a friend’s birthday where I just kept passing food around the table and ate salad and meat while I detailed the intricacies of the program to people over and over again. I told myself with pride I would not bring it up all the time, but alas, I fear I do.
Those moments detail my roller coaster ride on the Whole30. But in the last twenty-one days of my experience I do notice good things, too. I do feel better. I do notice my cravings subsiding. As a lifelong lover of anything sweet, I now know I can survive without them. My pants fit better. My skin looks fresher. Overall, I can’t complain. Once I found recipes that did not take the time of a full length motion picture to prepare, I started resuming living what looked like a more normal life.
Besides the physical changes, I notice a lot of psychological and emotional differences in my relationship with food. Food always serves me as a comfort, but I had no idea how much so until doing the Whole30. A handful of almonds does not comfort me the same way freshly made cookie dough does. So I have been forced to really look at why I crave something. Turns out I also eat when I get bored. I never knew how bored I got until now. Realizing how often I get bored makes me look at how I spend my time. It pushes me to try new things and opened my eyes to where I invest my time.
But the greatest lesson I am learning, how much I hate following directions completely. On a regular day I can whip up something from scratch in the kitchen with minimal thought or effort, and almost always without referring to a recipe repeatedly. I tend to use recipes as guidelines. But these last twenty-one days I had to follow someone else’s directions with precision. I made brand new things almost every night when I started the Whole30. My everyday adventures became dinner, every single night. The painstaking process of me referring to someone else’s recipe with exactness proved more challenging than that Gollum vs. Smeagol scenario with chocolate. This made me start to think and wonder. Why?
Why does following a recipe make me feel so confined and restrained? Why does trusting someone else’s steps evoke such a visceral reaction from me? Why do I let myself settle for close enough so often? And why are all of these recipes not turning out right? I got pretty close to what they said to do.
As I started to see my pride rising up more and more I made a conscious effort to trust the process of following recipes somewhat foreign to me. The outcome – one meal took me the entire film When Harry Met Sally to prepare. But it was also my first real success at following a brand new recipe. The chicken cacciatore tasted incredible. I began to break through with mild successes.
I know struggling to follow a recipe doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, but for me that struggle goes deeper. Struggling to follow a recipe represents my constant challenging of any directions given by anyone. I do not like being told what to do or how to do it, at all. If I do not know the why of something I will pretty much straight up refuse. At this point in my life, I approach authority with a little more grace and tact than before, at times.
I thought I matured past this issue. But the Whole30 made me go back and check myself in a lot of areas. Do I allow myself to trust others? Do I fully trust God? Am I actually following what God is asking me to do? Or am I just getting close enough? Am I truly listen to Him, or am I just getting by?
God calls us to so much more than close enough and subpar outcomes. He calls us to His abundant full life. And if we just allow ourselves to slip by, we are cheating ourselves and those around us of the richness and beauty we could experience.
So, this week let’s all double check the recipe (even if you don’t want to) and lean into the directions God lays out before us without hesitation. It will take planning, mental and physical effort, and more time than we plan. But I know the effort brings something more beautiful than we could ever plan on our own.