What The Health?
Updated: May 18
Making a change is always a little hard. We get so accustomed to how things have been that any shift from the norm is an assault to our reality.
Hello social distancing!
My current challenge, aside from the #quarantinelife we're all living, is finding a new normal that consists of healthier eating and physical activity, all while working and raising a family.
I think a lot of women struggle to find a balance, so at the very least I don't feel alone in this battle. But while we're not metaphorically alone, we alone have to make that decision ourselves. We have to make that choice to change.
When it comes to change, I'm someone who usually needs inspiration from an external source. About six years ago, I was going through a really dark period. I had some personal demons I was battling which manifested in several months of insomnia and almost daily panic attacks.
During that time, I was on antidepressants and sleep meds and I was completely reliant on them both. I remember driving to work one morning and I was about halfway there when I realized I'd forgotten to take my antidepressant before leaving my apartment. I almost had a panic attack right there, while driving on the freeway.
This was not how I wanted to live my life.
I've always been someone who likes to have control of my surroundings. This mentality was a big reason for the insomnia and anxiety I was experiencing, but it was also the reason I was able to make my way out of it. Shortly after this situation, I took a much needed vacation and picked up a book that would ultimately change the way I navigated through life.
It Starts With Food, by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig, completely changed the way I think about food. It made me realize that there could potentially be a link between what I was consuming (carbs, sugar, dairy, processed foods, alcohol, etc.) and how I was feeling emotionally, mentally and of course physically. It could even impact how I was sleeping!
In short, the Whole30 is a challenge that guides you through 30 days of no sugar, dairy, grains, seed oils, legumes, or alcohol. Essentially, you're detoxing your body of all these food categories for 30 days. After which, you systematically reintroduce these food items into your diet, so you're able to determine what impact (if any) they have on your body, your emotions, your mental state, etc.
I read this book, cover to cover within a couple of days. It was like the clouds had parted and the sun was lighting a direct path. I knew exactly what I needed to do to make a change. Food was definitely a factor in my life that I could control and I was eager to start.
As soon as I got home from vacation my journey started. I purged all of the food and beverages in my pantry & refrigerator that did not fit the guidelines. There was something cathartic about this process. It was a way for me to start with a clean slate. Goodbye cereal, goodbye chips, goodbye cookies...goodbye alcohol? Ugh, giving up wine was going to be a hard task, but the challenge was for 30-days so reluctantly I said goodbye to wine.
Until we meet again old friend.
I immediately started to meal plan. Thank-you Pinterest! I started my Whole30 Pinterest board, planned my meals for the week (breakfast, lunch & dinner), made my grocery list and headed for the store.
From that point on, I took control of my diet and focused 100% on clean eating. It was a struggle at first while my body detoxed from carbohydrates. The first three days felt like a never ending hangover. I'd never realized just how addicted to sugar I really was. It was a harsh realization.
However, once day five rolled around I started to feel better and become more comfortable with my new reality. I was having fun with recipes, making my own salad dressings and always on the hunt for compliant snacks.
While I was getting in my groove, there were also moments of frustration where recipes didn't turn out as appetizing as I'd hoped. I had to take these moments in stride and learn to adjust while still keeping within Whole30 guidelines. Because of this, I always had several servings of leftovers in my fridge. This allowed me to always have something I could grab in a pinch.
Before I knew it, I was in a new routine. I'd started to incorporate exercise into my weekly schedule; up to 5-days a week! Mostly I was focusing on yoga, and my body never looked better. My energy was through the roof, and my sleeping was back on track. Hallelujah!
Towards the end of the third week I was driving to work and I had this sudden realization. I hadn't taken my meds. I waited for that imminent moment of panic to set it, but it never came. Then I started thinking: when was the last time I took my antidepressant? I couldn't remember.
In all of my focus on what I was eating and my dedication to my yoga practice, I'd stopped taking my antidepressants. It wasn't even a conscious decision I made. It just happened, because I no longer needed them.
I had set the foundation for a healthy lifestyle that no longer required me to supplement with medication. I felt good. I felt balanced.
Looking back now, the decision I made to do the Whole30, set me up with the tools I needed to make the right health conscious decisions for myself. While after this initial challenge I never completed another full 30 days, I still go back to these guidelines when I need to get myself back on track.
Over the years I've tried other diet plans (keto, vegan, paleo) and nothing has quite worked for me the way the Whole30 does. However, I've learned something new from each one.
My husband and I decided to try veganism after watching this documentary on Netflix, The Game Changers, which talked about several athletes in the sports world who were moving towards a more plant-based diet. It went in depth comparing how animal-based diets affect the human body versus how plant-based diets affect it and we were sucked into this rabbit hole of veganism.
Without getting into too much detail, we ended up dipping our toes into the pool of veganism, for a very short period. Ultimately, it wasn't something that really worked for me. I had a hard time reconciling my aversion to processed foods and the cascading amount of "vegan" food products with ingredient labels that turned my stomach. I became lost and overwhelmed pretty quickly so this new plant-based venture came to an end within two weeks.
That being said, I came out of the experience with a new appreciation for clean plant-based proteins, such as quinoa and hemp hearts. And while this goes against my tendency to restrict grains from my diet, it actually fits in well with the concept of "clean eating", which is my current focus.
I'm currently a year postpartum and still 20 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. A fact that weighs heavily on my mental state. Time and focus are so elusive, but I'm really trying to make a concerted effort to change the bad eating habits I've allowed myself to create over the past two years.
Through this blog I hope to get myself back on track. I hope that sharing my journey will help hold me accountable and maybe even inspire someone else to make a change.
We are not alone in the struggle, but we alone must make that choice to change. Make that choice with me.
Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.