26 days ago, I challenged myself to adhere to nearly two months of exclusively Paleo and Whole 30 foods. No grain. No beans. No added sugar. No dairy. My incentive? A rockin’ body, improved energy, the thrill of seeing an intense program all the way through… and a $20 donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound every time I fell off the wagon. Lots of people have been asking me how it’s going, so in the spirit of full disclosure… here it is (get ready, this is a long one).
My energy levels have never been so high. The first few days, I was exhausted and emotionally vacant. I tend to exaggerate quite a bit and am well-known for my dramatic flair, but let me assure you that I am not exaggerating at all when I say that I spent my first few Paleo days floating through life as an exhausted and cranky zombie that wasn’t well-suited to being in public. Then, I woke up three days into the challenge and felt… great. Suddenly, I didn’t need a cup of coffee at all and found myself without cravings that have plagued me for my entire life. As Paleo becomes more of a lifestyle and less of a challenge, I continue to leave behind cravings. I’m starting to recognize when cravings are rooted in need versus desire. Do I need to have ice cream or do I want to have ice cream? As simple as this question is, I have never been able to answer it. Now I can.
Shopping has become incredibly easy – cutting out everything in the middle of the grocery store makes my trips to the market fast and furious. I have gotten into a habit of planning out weekly meals and adhere very strictly to a pre-made list that makes shopping a breeze. As an added bonus, the lack of packaged food I purchase makes me feel like I’m doing a small part to make the world a little greener. I have come to love prep day, when I test out new recipes and whip up old standbys in the kitchen for a few hours (feeding Blaze piles of bacon in the process).
Although I no longer miss bread, milk, cheese, sweetener in my coffee or any kinds of beans, I still miss certain foods. Whole 30 has been a serious challenge for me to follow because it doesn’t allow for extraneous snacking on foods that could trigger emotional response. My emotional response food are (and always have been) booze and chocolate. There have been moments in the past 26 days when I literally did not think I could make it without a beer or a piece of chocolate. At these times, I’ve had to tap into my emotions and ask myself what the heck is at the root of this craving. Where does the urgency from the craving lie and how can I address it without food? Tackling emotional response has been a significant challenge for me. The good news among the bad? I am witnessing results. Decisions to compromise on the Paleo or Whole 30 plan are conscious and planned with full knowledge that I am making a choice that is going to make me rather sick tomorrow.
At this point, packaging meals is habitual. However, taking the meals out of the fridge and onto the road is not. I keep forgetting my beautifully pre-made lunches and dinners at home. This is a major fail in a number of ways: 1) food and time are wasted, 2) eating Paleo on the road is tricky at best and 3) eating Paleo on the road is expensive. I don’t know what else to do aside from purchasing a giant neon sign to stick next to my front door that says “DON’T FORGET YOUR BEAUTIFULLY MADE PALEO FOOD.” Does anyone have one of those?
I have not been perfect. Far from it. I have fallen off my beautifully crafted Paleo and Whole 30 wagon four times in the past month. Once was for a hot date, which necessitated booze (call me a lush, but dating and booze are one and the same for me), and the other times were really beautiful evenings out with some of my oldest friends and family. Each time was pre-planned with full knowledge that the decision to indulge would leave me tired and $20 poorer the next day. The good news here? Aside from BBBS having $80 more dollars to their name, I had more fun each of these nights than I can remember having in a very long time. The better (and totally unexpected) news here? I was absolutely sick the day after each of these really fun times – and it wasn’t because I was hungover. I have woken up four times in the past 26 days feeling like little monsters have crawled into my body and set up camp in my intestines, where they crawl around and wreak havoc for the entire day. It’s a terrible feeling and I really don’t want to experience it ever again. Ever.
So… there it is. The good. The bad. And the ugly. I haven’t been perfect with my Paleo and Whole 30 Challenge, but I’ve become incredibly aware of my diet and how it affects my life and athletic performance. I am thrilled that Paleo eating has had a positive impact on marathon training and am even more thrilled that my body is becoming increasingly rockin’. But I’m most happy that I have learned what works (and doesn’t work) for my body and how to combat cravings that are tied to my many (and widely varied) emotions. It’s all about making a plan based on nourishing your life… and not being too hard on yourself if you slip up every now and again.