This post may be a bit overdue, but I’ve had a lot to reflect on.
In early September, after completing the Ironman 70.3 triathlon in Muskoka, I decided to take my fitness to a new level. First, there were a few days of celebration which included all of my favorite foods and beverages (this is allowed and encouraged after a race spanning more than 70 miles that takes an entire summer to train for). Then, when I returned home, I got my act together and started a Whole 30 program.
The Whole 30 is a program that allows your body to heal and recover from the unnatural foods that make up so much of today’s diet. Sugars, grains, dairy, and legumes were not originally part of the human diet, but we have all become so accustomed to them that they seem natural. In the US, we eat so much fast food, fried food, alcoholic beverages, sugary drinks, sweets, and artificial food, that I truly believe that most people have absolutely no idea how good their body is designed to feel. Although I have always considered myself to be a healthy eater, I have known for a while that somewhere out there, another level existed that I had yet to experience. I made the decision to commit to the 30 days of clean eating, not entirely sure what the outcome would be. My main goal was to have more energy throughout the day and eventually see an increase in my athletic performance. I’ve consistently weighed in at around 140 pounds for the last few years and I consider myself to be trim, so I wasn’t looking for any type of weight loss benefit.
So I rid my cupboards of illegal food items and dove in head first. My breakfast routine was the most drastic of all the changes I had to make. For years, I have started my mornings with a cup of coffee with cream. Since I was avoiding all things dairy, the cream had to go and I wasn’t feeling very sure about drinking the coffee black. I suffered through the first week sans caffeine, as my body questioned this decision. A transition to a healthier lifestyle is still a transition and your body can be confused by things that it is not used to. I was sure that during these first few mornings I was still acting calm and in control, but my colleagues later let me know that I wasn’t fooling anyone. Luckily, after a week I realized that my french press + good quality coffee beans = a delicious cup of black coffee. My breakfasts on the other hand, were a welcome change. I could never understand why after eating a huge bowl of “healthy” oatmeal or cereal grains, I found myself hungry again in an hour or two. I was even given the nickname 3BK (Three Breakfast Karen) after I ate three breakfasts while traveling to watch one of my friends compete in a triathlon. My new breakfasts generally consisted of a half plate of vegetables like broccoli or sauteed greens, two eggs, and maybe half of an avocado or a slice or two of organic grass fed bacon. As it turns out, eating foods that are nutrient dense really do keep you full longer as opposed to simple grains that are already processed and leave your body searching for missing nutrients.
After the first week of transition, my body started feeling really good! You can ask my parents or my husband and they will tell you that I have never been a morning person. But I soon found myself waking up without hitting the snooze button several times on my alarm clock. I also found people to be slightly more tolerable during the early morning hours. My body was feeling great; slightly more toned and much more alert. About 20 days in, I decided to step on the scale at the gym just for fun. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the numbers read 133! Seven pound less than my “normal” weight.
Eating clean really does require careful planning as most of the easily available options are not healthy. Every day when I made dinner, I would make an extra portion to set aside for lunch the next day. This went into my lunch box along with some snacks like fruit and a simple trail mix that I made out of raw nuts and unsweetened coconut flakes. Without this planning, I could not have seen the Whole 30 through until the end.
Of course, there were many challenges along the way. Happy hours without drinks, birthdays without a slice of cake. Strange looks from co-workers when you snack on hard boiled eggs and avocados instead of donuts. People will try to bring you down. If they are eating unhealthy and you refuse to join them, they may questions your intentions or say things to bring you down. But you need to stay strong and remember that they are probably just jealous of your extreme will power.
So what’s next for me? Since I’ve ended my Whole 30, I’ve kept many of these good habits. Sure, I’ve given in for a pumpkin latte. I even had some pizza the other day (but after my body’s reaction, I promptly regretted the decision and vowed to never do this again). I know that I cannot eat 100% clean for every meal of my life, but I do want to be dedicated to a healthier way of living. I like feeling good, I like having more energy, and I don’t like experiencing a midday crash. I want my body to perform at the highest level that it can. As I prepare for next year’s Ironman Lake Placid, I’m working on finding my limits. As I figure out what works best for me, I will let you know!