Starting June 1, my husband, my mom, and I will start a Whole30. To see that sentence written so plainly shocks me. I first heard of this diet two summers ago. One of my professors for my summer college class was following this diet, and I scoffed at the rules. No dairy, legumes, or grains? No sugar? Yeah, right, I thought. Since that summer, I’ve heard of many people sticking to this diet for 30 days and coming out with great results. I just never thought I would be one to try it.
Growing up to early college
My relationship with food has never been truly healthy-and I hate to admit that. My family always ate wholesome, traditional meals. I did have issues with portions sometimes, but my greatest battle was with snacking. I love my sweets! I love my chocolate, my ice cream, and any kind of baked good. I also struggled with snacking in secret. Anytime I was left at home or in a situation where I was alone and food was involved, I snacked, eating way more than I should have. Looking back now, I think I liked the picture of snacking, what it looked like and felt like to curl up with a bowl of ice cream and watch a movie.
When I got to college, my weight ballooned. I struggled with anxiety my first two years of college, and I ate my feelings. I remember seeing the scale at 199 lbs and seeing my jean size at a 15/16. I wondered what had happened. I saw a counselor the whole of my sophomore year of college, and she helped me see how to love my body the way it was. Which was good, but it didn’t solve the underlying problem: my unhealthy relationship with food.
As I entered my junior year of college, my mentality became, “I look good regardless of my size,” and I proceeded to eat whatever I wanted. I was good with this mentality, for a while.
The summer after my junior year, I worked for Fuge, a youth camp birthed from LifeWay. I continued to struggle with my weight and eating. One night during camp, another staff member and I were talking about guys and getting married. I was still under the impression that a guy should like me regardless of my size, which is true. Size should not matter, except I was not happy with my size. This fellow staffer told me that it’s okay to want to look good. It’s okay to want to attract a member of the opposite sex. I had never thought of it this way before. (*As a caveat, I don’t always believe this is true. I still believe that a woman’s body is attractive at any size, but for me, I wasn’t happy with how my body looked, and I wasn’t healthy. And I had to figure out how to get happy with my appearance, even though I didn’t realize at this point that being healthy was so much more important than how I looked.)
This changed my mindset. When I returned to college for my senior year, I took up Zumba. Our fitness center had offered Zumba in years prior, but I never knew how FUN it was. I started going, a lot. And the weight soon began to drop. Little by little. And I began to run, well jog, to be exact. But I started moving. I started liking my body more. My relationship with food continued to get better, but I saw what exercise can do for my body and I felt good doing it.
Halfway through my senior year, I began student teaching. The man I would end up marrying was a teacher at this school, and we began dating in April of the spring semester. I never really had a serious boyfriend before Paul, so all the newness of dating hit me hard. And made me really nervous, so nervous I couldn’t eat. So I lost weight from this as well. Not from a healthy reason though.
The following summer I worked camp again at a different location. We had steeper hills to walk, and the food was terrible, so I lost more weight at camp.
When I returned home, Paul and I got engaged, so then, I was getting in shape for the wedding.
(Do you see a pattern here? Losing weight, but not trying to be healthy.)
When Paul and I got married, we did a good job of eating healthy and working out. We were able to work out two to three times a week, and we took a lot of walks. I also tried to prep healthy meals, especially since Paul is a diabetic. I love to bake, though, so I would make brownies, cookies, and other sweets just to have around the house as snacks. From this point on, I thought I was doing good. I kept my weight at a “good” number. Then, we found out we were going to have a baby.
Before I got pregnant, I had always feared the worst about gaining weight during pregnancy. I had fears of gaining so much weight, especially in my legs and butt, and then not being able to lose the weight. So I took this into account when we learned I was pregnant.
About four weeks into my pregnancy, Paul and I decided we would go work out. We got to the gym, and as I began lifting, I felt dizzy and nauseous. I couldn’t do it; I just didn’t have the energy. The problem: I didn’t try to lift again, at all, during my pregnancy. That was it. We went on a lot of walks, but that was the extent of my physical activity, (except for running stairs at 40 weeks and 3 days, trying to get baby to come). Some might say, “Oh, you don’t have to worry about exercise during pregnancy.” Well, I wish I would have spend a little more time worrying about it. I lost what little muscle tone I had and simply got out of the habit of exercising. I will say, though, that I did eat decently healthy during my pregnancy. My mindset was never, “I’m eating for two.” I gained about 19 lbs during my pregnancy, and at least 9 lbs 7 oz of that was my daughter.
Then, we had the baby. Sweet, sweet baby. And I began breastfeeding. A week after we had Sophie I weighed three pounds more than my pre-pregnancy weight, and within a month, I was down below my pre-pregnancy weight, by 10 lbs, smaller than I had been since high school. I couldn’t believe the powers of breastfeeding. I also figured out that I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted since I was either nursing/pumping all day. That brings us to March of this year.
My husband and I decided we would give up sweets for Lent. All sweets. Candy, chocolate, baked goods, ice cream. It was hard. I love my sweets so much, and this was hard. The downfall of this was that I replaced my sweets with a lot of starchy, salty snacks. Still not healthy. At the end of Lent was our daughter’s first birthday party, so of course we had cake and other sweets. We also had a good deal of leftover cake that we kept. And we ate it. Granted, not all in one day, but we ate it over the course of the next week. Since then, I’ve just been eating sweets and snacking, making up for lost time, if you will.
Until about a week ago.
I wandered into the kitchen one night, looking for a snack. It was around 9. No one needs to be eating a snack that late at night, and I knew that, but I wanted one anyway. For some reason, though, I stopped and asked myself if I was really hungry. I wasn’t. This phrase popped into my head, “You can be healthy. You can make the choice to feel good and be healthy.” That resonated so deeply with me. I can make the choice. It’s my choice.
This changed something in me, my mindset about how I view food and my motivation to do something about it. By nature, I wanted to write about it. I had to write down my thoughts about how I was feeling. As I did I came up with these ten “health goals” as I call them.
- I want to move more.
- I want to make healthy eating choices.
- I want to enjoy things I want to eat in moderation (like sweets or other less healthy options).
- I want to take care of my body.
- I want to keep up with Sophie and future kiddos.
- I want to set a healthy example for my family.
- I want to plan healthy meals for my family.
- I want to talk positively about my body for Sophie and future kiddos.
- I want to look and feel good.
- I want to honor God with my body.
I realize now more than ever that I only have one body. This is the body God has given me to be a wife, to be a mom, to be a teacher, and I want to keep it in the best shape I can for as long as I can. I want to play on the floor with my daughter. I want to run around the backyard with her. I want to be able to walk and walk and walk and not get tired. (I will probably never be a runner. I hate running. But I will walk. I will always walk.) I want to get back into the habit of lifting and building muscle tone. I want to have a healthy relationship with food.
I will be honest and say part of this motivation comes from the fact that I’ve been able to maintain my post-pregnancy weight for the past year. But I also know if I continue my current eating habits once I stop breastfeeding, I will probably gain weight. And I don’t want to. I like how I look. So yes, whether that’s a good motivator or not, it is one.
As I began looking for healthier recipes, many of them I found were “Whole30” recipes. I told my husband I probably wouldn’t do the Whole30, but I just wanted to use the recipes because they were healthy. But then I really began reading about Whole30. I read through their website, and I loved what I saw. I love that they claim it’s a way of resetting your body. They also give various resources and recipes to help you through the 30 days. One thing that I most like is when Melissa Hartwig writes, “This is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. . . It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth—the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.”
Yes! This hit home with me. I can do this. I’ve never been so excited to do something. Will it be hard? Yes. Will meal planning be a pain sometimes? Yes. Will family and friends think I’m weird when I explain what I’m doing? Maybe, but who cares. I’m doing this for me. I’m doing this for my husband and our baby. I’m doing this, in hopes, that after 30 days my mindset about food is different. That at the end of 30 days, I have more respect for what I put in my body and how I treat my body.
The other day Paul asked me when we’d get to eat pasta again. I told him after the 30 days. I told him I’d make him zoodles (zucchini noodles) during the Whole30, and he didn’t seem impressed. But maybe it’s changes like this, little changes, that have a bigger impact on our health than we think.
As precursor to this journey, I’ve been trying out some Whole30 recipes and getting my feet wet when it comes to prepping and planning. To be honest, some of the recipes are even easier without all the extra ingredients that aren’t good for us. And all of the recipes I’ve tried so far have been so yummy. It’s amazing how good whole food actually is.
I will use Instagram to document this food journey. To follow along, follow me @jana_parrigon. This once skeptic is taking the plunge. Will you join me?