Three Whole Thoughts on the Whole 30

So it’s day 30 of the Whole 30. The Whole shebang. The Whole black coffee boot camp. Don’t know what the Whole 30 is? It’s not QUITE like Navy Seal training… but… it’s good Lenten prep. (More here.)

It’s basically an elimination diet where you cut out dairy, grains, legumes, alcohol, sugar and other preservatives for (just) 30 days to see how/if any of these things affect you. Then you add them back in, you observe how they make you feel, and ta-da! You know the perfect way to eat for you. Or so they say.

My husband and I thought it would be a fun little.. adventure? to do together, so we did. And now it’s over! Though I would *probably* not do it again (box checked!) — I did find there to be some helpful lessons in the process.

Here are some thoughts:

1. I can live without things I thought I could “never live without.” I went grocery shopping for this first non-Whole-30 week and I forgot everything I used to eat. Except I managed to get some 88% dark chocolate and Half n’ Half, because, priorities. But I realized how quickly human habits can change: my usual grocery store routes have been re-routed in my brain to different aisles now, different products. I found myself reaching for Whole-30 “compliant” snacks even though I can do WHAT I WANT now. Before I started the Whole 30, I thought I could never live without cream in my coffee, but you know what?

I still can’t live without it.

OK, kidding.

Sort of.

But seriously. There are many foods that were so habitual to our lifestyle, my husband and I (mostly me) couldn’t imagine going without them — but after 30 days, there is a bit of a healthier “detachment” to those things. I think this is probably the best aspect of this sort of experiment — a “resetting of habits” as a good friend says.

It’s a common theme in the writings of the saints: in learning to detach ourselves from our favorite pleasures (and seeking our fulfillment first in God), we experience a spiritual freedom that actually enables us to enjoy those things more.

The Whole 30 says they’re all about “food freedom” in teaching people how to eat in a way that best suits them, but I find that the true freedom is in the experience of fasting from habitual pleasures (which is very apropos to Lent, of course.)

2. Intuition is so important. What I actually found most comforting about the Whole 30 was that I didn’t feel all that different during it: “tiger blood” as the creators call it. I mean, I felt fine, my pants are fitting a little better which is appreciated post-holiday. But it wasn’t like cutting out all the usual suspects (dairy, whole grains, peanut butter, etc.) made a drastic difference in my energy levels and overall well-being (if anything, I was more cranky with less energy!)

Now, that said, we ate mostly fresh, whole foods before doing this little experiment, so it wasn’t a super drastic change — but the truth is: there is no *one* best way to eat for everyone. (Or parent your children. Or clean your house. Or do your hair. There is one best way to cut an avocado, though.)

In this age of information, it is so easy to ride the pendulum of pundits who all have contradictory opinions on “HOW TO DO EVERYTHING THE ABSOLUTE BEST WAY” (my next book title?), but there is so much power in simple intuition. In stepping away from The Google. In breathing deeply and listening to what feels right. Not that knowledge isn’t powerful and science isn’t wonderful and so on — but it’s a unique time we live in where with any given decision, there are a gazillion contradictory voices telling us what the best way to do it is.

“Intuition becomes increasingly valuable in the new information society precisely because there is so much data.” – John Naisbitt

3. God loves us. OK, so you’ve probably seen it on a magnet:

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. – Benjamin Franklin”

But it’s so true. Creamy coffee. Rich, creamy dark chocolate. Feasts with family and friends gathered around a shared table. The dark, fertile dirt of a Spring garden. The first peeking of potato plants from the ground. My children’s laughter. These gifts are all reflections of a loving God who gives us so many beautiful things to enjoy, as they are just a tiny glimpse of his immense beauty.

“If through delight in the beauty of these things men assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them.” — Wisdom 13:3