september whole30 reflections

It’s only day 12 and I can already say that the September Whole30 has proven to be a surprisingly challenging month for my third round of the program.

With my brother’s birthday, Rosh Hashana, and the upcoming eve and culmination of Yom Kippur, I’ve had and will continue to have my work cut out for me. I’ve already said, “no thank you” to more bread, pastries, pizza, pasta, rice, sugar, alcohol, ice cream, chips, and everything in between, than I did throughout all of August.

My brother had to change restaurant reservations so that I could eat at this party (we went to an Italian restaurant. I ordered steak and veggies). I love him for doing that for me, but I couldn’t help but feel guilty.

The usual suspects crept up at each gathering.

Friends and family said, “Just have a taste, it’s not a big deal.”

“It’s your brother’s birthday! You’re not even going to have a slice of cake? That’s rude!”

Or, “It’s Rosh Hashana! Not eating chala bread and matzo ball soup would be a sin! You’re offending your ancestors”

My favourite one yet, “don’t worry, we won’t tell your Instagram followers. It will be our little secret.” As if I was doing this to entertain others.

Before long, I was even trying to convince myself! “They’re right! Just enjoy today and start again tomorrow!”

Had I truly considered these things in advance, maybe I wouldn’t have gone through with the program. There are just too many obstacles! Too many holidays and events! The challenges would just be too great! I wouldn’t enjoy myself! It would be easier to schedule it for October!

Unlike many in the community, I didn’t wait until September 3rd, the ‘official’ start date of the September Whole30. Instead, I started on the first, Labour Day, and there’s a reason for that.

Truth is, there’s no such thing as a perfect time for anything, Whole30 included. There will always be a reason, condition, event, wedding, circumstance, job, or trip. Before you know it, it’s December and the holidays are coming. You’ll tell yourself, I’ll wait until January to change my life. But I’ll probably be nursing a hangover on January 1st so best to wait until the 2nd!

To this day, I credit my personal rehabilitation to the decision to act immediately. Some of you may have read a bit about my health journey here. For those who haven’t, let me paraphrase. On December 23, 2012, the night of my birthday, probably still drunk, I wrote a list of intentions and committed to changing my life the very next day. I did not wait until New Year’s. I was tired of waiting. I always let myself down. That year would be no different from the others so why expect anything else?

I learned that intentions are one thing. Actions are another. I love the saying, “The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately.” Dreaming has come natural to me for as long as I can remember. What I had to teach myself was hustle. Hard work trumps talent every day of the week.

September has reminded me that I, perhaps like some of you, need to continue to work at my relationship with food. Over the years, I’ve gotten much better at learning to identify triggers and foods that don’t sit well with me. But I’m far from perfect. I am an ‘at-risk’ eater. I am, and likely always will be, at risk of falling off the wagon. When it comes to food, I have a very, very hard time having ‘just one’ of anything. Be it potato chips, a slice of pizza, beer, or shot of whiskey. What can I say? I love it all and am very generous with my love!

So, how did I get back to a place where I found myself in need of more structure? So much so that another round of Whole30 was in order? After all, as the “Primal Gourmet”, I’m supposed to be a walking example of the Paleo lifestyle. At least, that’s what people have told me I’m supposed to be.

Well, I indulged this summer. Perhaps a bit too much. Catalina and I went on a three-week trip to Romania with our family. It was full of amazing local eats, wine and beer! Lots of beer! I came back feeling more than sluggish so doing a September Whole30 made sense for me. Not as a way to repent for my sins. But as a way to recalibrate my compass.

I veered off of true-north and want to get back on track. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

There’s been a recent trend amongst members of the Whole30 team and its community warning people of abusing the program. Many are using Whole30 to the same effects as a yo-yo diet. You binge for months at a time (the summer months and December, for example) with the expectation of leaning heavily on the program for a month to atone for your guilty pleasures. You shed a few pounds, feel a bit better about yourself and then it all goes south the day after the program when you reward your hard-earned rewards with a plate of pasta and bottle of Chianti. That’s right, I said bottle!

Even a blind man on a galloping horse can see that this is a dangerous and debilitating cycle. It defeats all of the hard work you’ve put into rehabilitating yourself and your relationship with food.

I’m not a certified Whole30 coach, so take this with a grain of salt, but the above warning should not be confused with postponing the program when you need it most. If you’ve fallen off the wagon and find value in the structure that Whole30 offers, I say use it to your advantage. Especially during the hardest times of the year.

The same thing goes for those mid-program who slip, be it accidentally or mindfully. All hope is not lost and you should not throw the baby out with the bath water!

Whole30 works best when it challenges you. When it pushes you so far outside your comfort zone that you question it day in, day out. This is where the magic happens. This is where you realize things about yourself you never even stopped to consider. At least, that’s what’s happened to me.

And when you smash through these obstacles, you are rewarded with the greatest sense of accomplishment that no one can deny you of.

You can triumph. You can succeed. And when you do, you will realize that no one else is doing the work for you.

YOU are in control.