Saturday, January 31, 2015

Why I Quit My Whole30


I quit my Whole30 a little early. Technically, it turned out to be a Whole27. Since I eased into it, I decided to ease out of it, too. By that I mean, except cream in my coffee on December 31st, I started every other aspect on the 30th. And then on January 27th, Juno happened. I didn't have any almond milk made, so I put a splash of cow's milk in my tea. And made a baked chicken recipe with butter. So there you go.

Hardcore Whole30ers would tell me I should have started over on the 27th. Any drop of milk would render my Whole30 invalid. (Which, in fairness, is why I'm calling it a Whole27.) But I didn't just slip up. I made a decision to end it early, and this is why:

The collective zeal--it was freaking me out.

There is some serious zeal associated with this program. I followed a Facebook feed about starting over after a transgression, and wow....

"I accidentally licked peanut butter off a knife! I ran over to the sink and rinsed out my mouth!"

"A drop of my son's yogurt fell on my finger and I mindlessly licked it off. Do I have to start over?!?"

Oh good grief.

I've mentioned before that the Whole30 is strict. You must painstakingly avoid the no-nos: grains, dairy, legumes, sugar (in all it's forms) and alcohol. That includes foods with those ingredients in even the most minuscule amounts. There are no "slips," no "cheats." You have to commit to the program 100%.

Honestly, I respect that. The psychological slippery slope is a very real thing. If you allow yourself a little bit here, a little bit there, before you know it, you're not really doing program as it's designed.

The Whole30 is an elimination diet.

They like to say 'it's not a diet!' but come on.... it's a way of eating, and that, by definition, is a diet. It's designed to help you identify potential food sensitivities. Day 31 is not meant to be a free-for-all. If you do it 'right,' you reintroduce the previously verboten foods in a careful, systematic manner. This way you can see how those foods affect you.

If you do eat a forbidden food, you're ideally supposed to start over. I get that for people with serious allergies/food sensitivities, even a tiny bit can affect them, But for me, I just couldn't go that far with it. If I had licked the peanut butter knife, it would not have even occurred to me to run to the sink and wash out my mouth. And really? If you have a serious peanut allergy, no amount of rinsing is going to help you. You need an Epipen.

In fairness to the Hartwigs (Dallas and Melissa, founders of the Whole30), they seem to do their best to get people down off the ledge. They explain why it's important to follow it to the letter, yet they remind you that you're an adult. You can make your own decision as to whether or not to start over. It's always your choice whether or not to proceed, but the strictness really seems to hamstring a lot of people. Many like to be told what to do. In a way, it's easier. Adulthood, man.... it bites.

Even still, I was planning to see it through to the end, then I went out to eat. My policy in the past has been to maintain a really healthy eating plan at home, then relax a bit in restaurants. For us, eating out is a treat. I cook the vast majority of our meals at home, and I pack lunches for the Darlings, so those meals out are fun! I ate out three times over the 27 days. The first time I found something satisfactory, but the second was miserable. It's just hard to limit yourself that much at a restaurant. The third experience, which was an unplanned dinner out, I found myself feeling anxious. Would I be able to find something Whole30-compliant?! I did, but it was boring and disappointing.

I don't want to live that way. I don't want eating to provoke anxiety. Even for 30 days. I don't need to. Mercifully, I don't have any serious health conditions that require me to be uber-strict about my eating. A friend of mine does, and it's rough and I feel for her.

I, however, am mercifully FREE.

Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. So I'll continue on a similar diet for the sake of my slightly-better-but-still-inflamed shoulder. But I can't bring myself to follow the law to the letter. I can't get that worked up about it. It's just food. It was that level of obsessiness that drove me a little batty.

Interestingly, I found plans like the Whole30 referred to as 'challenges,' and that honestly struck me as bizarre. I don't believe the eating of food, or the not eating of it, should ever be thought of as a 'challenge.' I find pie-eating contests and the like revolting. And the thought of sticking it out just so I could say I finished did not resonate with me in the least. And so, on day 27, I made a choice to end it.

I'm a quitter! And I'm totally fine with it.

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