Why I Failed the Whole30 Challenge

Yep, I admit it. I didn’t survive 30 days on the Whole30 diet. I only lasted 10 before I gave up… The culprit? A Costco-sized jar of jellybeans my sister brought home.

However, all was not lost! I learned a lot about what works for me and what doesn’t in terms of eating/food. Here’s a brief recap of what I learned about myself while on the Whole30:

1. I’m not into diets. Why did I even bother with the Whole30 in the first place? To be honest I was looking more for a lifestyle change than a diet. And I think the wheels are starting to turn for me on that front thanks to my experience doing the Whole30. Even though I cheated on the diet and ultimately gave it up, I’ve continued to eat the same meals I prepared for this week. I’ve just added a little fun into the mix. I think eating should still be fun and enjoyable and the Whole30 was starting to turn me into a crazy person…

2. My mood was all over the place. According to the Whole30 authors, I was “coming down from my sugar addiction,” but I’m not so sure. I lasted 10 days without craving any sugar unless it was being blatantly eaten right in front of me. But by day 10 my sister brought home a Costco-sized bin of jellybeans. HOW COULD I RESIST?? I managed to survive an early Easter celebration with chocolate galore but the jellybeans got me. By that point I realized I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. The novelty of it had worn off and for the last 2 days or so I continually questioned why I was doing it anymore. Meanwhile, I noticed that I was getting angry a lot easier and was feeling extremely sensitive. I didn’t get angry at my friends or family but at strangers–my road rage increased and at a concert this girl pushed her way in front of me and I have never felt so much anger towards someone in my life. I definitely started to feel the emotional shift during week 2. Again it could always have been due to outside influence but I am going to blame this partly on the diet change. I read several forums during this time where other people complained of similar experiences.

3. Meal prep is awesome. I will forever be grateful for the Whole30 for introducing me to meal prep. I’d always wanted to try it but never found the motivation to do it until I started this diet. It’s just so much more enjoyable and convenient for me. I only cook when I feel up to it/have the energy to, and for the times that I don’t there is wonderful homemade food waiting for me in my fridge. It’s a win-win situation.

4. I will continue eating non-processed foods and vigilantly reading labels. This was what originally drew me into trying the Whole30. By non-processed, I don’t mean raw or totally unpackaged foods. I just mean foods that are cooked/made with simple ingredients, no sugar added, and no weird chemicals/gums that have no business being in my body. It is an adjustment and can come as a shock to someone who has never done it before, but I had started reading labels about a year ago out of curiosity. I didn’t always do it but after doing the Whole30 my awareness has not only expanded but I feel that it’s completely worth it to take the time to look at the labels on food. After all, it is going into your body.

5. I won’t give into every craving anymore. I saved a lot of money from not going out to eat/not buying junk food, and also saved myself from consuming a lot of unnecessary sugar, chemicals, etc. Of course I will still treat myself and this step is still a HUGE work in progress for me, but seeing that I was able to do it was one of the most important things I got out of trying the Whole30. However, this was also the step that caused me to fail the Whole30, so now I know my weak spots and I’ll definitely continue working on it.

6. I have a lot more empathy for dieters as well as people struggling with addiction. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never really struggled with my weight. I have some body image issues that I think are pretty normal, for example, having days where I “feel fat,” especially when I’m bloated/about to start my period, but other than that I never understood the struggle of dieting. I was always one of those people who was just like, “all you need to do is eat healthy…” blah blah blah. After trying the Whole30, I realized that DIETING SUCKS. The Whole30 is a pretty extreme diet but I think that depriving yourself from anything just makes you want it more. Again, similar to addiction, I don’t have the experience of being a chemical substance addict, but if I was truly coming off of sugar and was never allowed to have it again in my life, it would be sooooo difficult. I don’t think I could do it. Again, I don’t understand the exact experience of an addict and I don’t want to minimize that experience at all, but I think I can have a bit more empathy for those struggling with addiction.


Overall thoughts about the Whole30 Diet: I don’t have all the answers for how to eat healthy but I’m a fan of the moderation approach. I think restricting is unhealthy unless you have a food allergy/disease where it’s necessary, or if you are trying to go vegetarian/vegan for ethical purposes. But maybe there are other ways to meet that goal, like replacing a SUPER unhealthy option like a chocolate milkshake with a chocolate bar every now and then. Or slowly lowering your intake of a certain food over time.

Overall, I don’t think the Whole30 is a very healthy option, especially for those prone to eating disorders. I took a class at UCSD about eating disorders, and we learned a fact that the National Eating Disorder Association confirms: 35% of dieters develop pathological dieting habits, and of that 35%, 20-25% will develop a full-fledged eating disorder. Dieting is often the predecessor to the development of an eating disorder, so I can’t say I think the Whole30 is healthy. I generally don’t think these intense types of diets are healthy but I admit I got sucked into the hype. However, I do think I got a lot out of the experience. Maybe some people would feel like a failure or regret getting 10 days in and then stopping. However, I was no longer enjoying the experience, and isn’t that what life’s all about? So that’s why I’m gonna continue drinking that glass (or two) of wine every week, eat that custard when I’m in Milwaukee, and not stop my life for some trendy diet. Maybe I could’ve predicted it ending this way, but I had no idea how difficult it would be. Kudos to those of you who can do it, but I am here to shamelessly admit that I epically failed.

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