It’s January so talk of cleanses and detoxes is everywhere. We all have personal reasons for embarking on a health tune up, and today I will share my reasons for doing the evermore popular, Whole 30 Program.
For me, Whole 30 means the elimination of sugar, honey and maple syrup, dairy, grains, legumes, and alcohol. It also means no going out to eat! It’s 30 days of whole, organic foods, made in my kitchen only. It is the second time I have done this particular program, but I’m not new to elimination diets. I embarked on a food sensitivity journey about 5 years ago during which time I discovered I am gluten intolerant. That was challenging at first, but is now a forever lifestyle.
Exploring purpose behind action is important to reinforce values and rewards…Here are my top 3 reasons for doing Whole 30 this January.
1) To connect with my husband (He is on Whole 30 with me! YAY)
My husband is the hardest working person I know. His work is his priority to the detriment of intentional food planning. Because he doesn’t suffer any obvious food related issues, he can (and does) eat whatever he wants. While he is young and healthy, this seems fine. If, however, for the next 20 years we continue to eat out, grabbing pizza and pad Thai whenever we want, I am not sure we are giving ourselves the best chance at preventing the chronic diseases so common in our sit all day, then grab a quick bite, type of society.
My hope in asking him to join me this month was in part to reconnect over food in a new way. Sharing a meal with someone releases oxytocin (the love hormone) so missing meals with my love is missing a chance to share chemistry. Since the Whole 30 began we have also connected over meal planning, shopping, preparation, and clean up. We have an extra 3 shared experiences a day to build conversation around, as well as sharing the ups and downs of the experience itself.
2) To explore my emotional relationship with food
How much does food affect my attitude? I wanted to give myself the experience of being more present in the face of cravings. What exactly is a sugar, carb or alcohol craving? Was it in my mind, in my body, or both? Is there a feeling of physical, emotional or social deprivation involved? How much power does temptation hold over me? What would my coping strategies be if I felt stressed by wanting something I had decided not to have for a certain period of time? To what extent was food serving as an immediate reward verses nourishing my health?
Here is what I found: If I have a craving, it is most likely because I am hungry or thirsty. Preparation is critical for success. Before, it would not have been uncommon to find the fridge bare of food due to poor planning or laziness. Going out to eat was always an option when I was too tired to cook. I would open a bottle of wine out of boredom. I would grab chocolate out of habit. Packaged foods never really made me feel great, but the ease of their preparation was reinforcing. I have found that social drinking is a time killer and the more I network, socialize and weekend without booze, the more confidant I feel. Now I know that if I wake up with a headache it’s not becasue of the wine I had the night before. I am more present and more intentional with everything in life since exploring my emotional relationship with food.
3) To jump start my creative energy
I am easily distracted. I loose my focus. It is especially fun to become distracted by the holidays. The decorations, the cookies, the parties, the presents and the extra time friends and family set aside to spend together can be magical. After the holidays I usually fall into a depression, not knowing how to refocus myself on work as everyone else returns to the office. The sugar hangover and diversion from a self care routine can last throughout the month of January. This year, I wanted to get back on track ASAP, and the Whole 30 seemed like a good way to regain focus.
The more I experiment with food, the more I feel the impacts of it on my mood, energy level, focus, and perspective. When my diet is balanced and nourishing it is easier to maintain a positive outlook and rebound from stress. I have more clarity on what is important and I am experiencing new, non-food rewards.
Whether you choose to refocus your health behaviors on food, exercise, relationships, work, recreation, or something else, I encourage you to embark on a 30 day challenge that fits your vision and values. The impacts will trickle through every aspect of your life, multiplying the rewards and perpetuating personal growth.