We've been really encouraged by the comments we've received through this journey, especially on Facebook and Instagram. (Whole30 on Instagram has featured several of our photos, which was awesome!) It's especially encouraging to see people decide to make the changes in their own lives after seeing the impact our diet change has had in ours! Still, there are plenty others who desperately want to make the change but feel overwhelmed. Give up sugar? Bread? Rice and beans? I don't know...
Maybe you're thinking "people like us" just have an extra dose of willpower that you don't have. Maybe you believe it just comes easier to us, or that we don't love food as much as you do. Those are lies.
At some point, we all have to make a decision. Do I want to continue feeling sluggish, bloated, sick, grumpy, and fat? Do I enjoy the extreme highs and lows that come with eating the way I do? Do I want food to run my life? Do I want my sugar cravings to control me?
As we mentioned in one of our other posts, we realized that we were often turning to food (way more than we would have ever guessed!) in frustrating moments, on tough days, and in stressful situations as well as in all the happy, celebratory times. Did the kids do well on their school work? Froyo for all! Was work full of maddening anxiety? Cheese burger deluxe, french fries, and a sweet tea, and SUPER SIZE IT! It's no wonder that all of our family get togethers have always centered around food.
Food always seemed to be the answer to all life's ups and downs. Cutting out snacking made me (Mandy) realize this. When I limited myself to three meals a day (and eventually, one snack between lunch and supper if I knew supper was going to run late), I began to see just how often I wanted to turn to food. Bored? Eat. Tired? Eat (or have a Coke!) Angry? Eat. Worried? Eat. Excited? Eat. But we did not see this pattern before going on the Whole30. We never thought we had a big problem with food. God was so gracious to show us that our obsession with food was affecting our spiritual life. We were turning to food, and not to Him. We were trusting in hamburgers, macaroni, and chocolate cake to give us peace rather than trusting in and leaning upon the grace of Jesus Christ.
|I often found comfort at Sonic.|
We had to face reality. We are not getting any younger, and our bodies are certainly not going to get any healthier eating the way we were. We made excuses for ourselves ("I'm not morbidly obese! That doctor doesn't know what she's talking about! I'm just big boned."), and we find reasons not to change, but eventually, we have to make a decision to continue down this path. We will reap what we sow. Infertility? Heart problems? Joint paint? Cancer? Do we think those things can't happen to us? We were already seeing the "fruit" of our choices, and it wasn't pretty. We were trying to eat healthy while abiding by the American mantra of "all things in moderation" (only, the definition of moderation seems to be up to each person). It wasn't working.
Several years ago, we rid our diets of sugar and radically changed our diet. Mandy and the kids became vegans, and Brandon ate healthy, mostly vegan food at home and tried to make healthy choices on his lunch outings at work. I, Mandy, saw that our bodies would be so much better without the processed, sugary junk, but I received so many comments on how radical, fanatical, and crazy this decision was. It seemed everyone around me kept preaching a message of moderation. They told me I was depriving my children. Eventually I began to believe them, and it all came crashing down. At the time, our children attended AWANA and other gatherings. Sunday mornings, donuts were always handed out to the children. Awana snacks included Goldfish crackers and gummy treats. It was very hard to battle that, and people would tell me, "You don't want your kids to feel left out, do you? You shouldn't deprive them and make them feel different." Be moderate, they all said. Everything in moderation!
If you decide to go down this path, you might find your ears filled with the same sort of comments. People will say you are being RADICAL. You might think we are being radical in our diet change.
But let's inspect that.
What is so radical about eating healthy, whole food? Why is it considered crazy to cut out processed, chemical-laden, sugar-stuffed food-like substances? Why is it considered extreme to change your diet so that your body functions properly? Why are parents who feed their children this way deemed "overbearing"? What is so bad about our children being healthy, alert, strong, and energetic, not having to struggle through sickness after sickness, diabetes, cancer, hormonal issues, neurological problems, ADHD/ADD, diarrhea/gut issues, etc?
I don't say this lightly, because we know first hand that what we put into our children's bodies can have such a major, life-altering impact. We have sat in the hospital waiting room while our daughter underwent brain surgery. We know. We have faced the decision to medicate our son for ADHD or change his diet.
We also know how hard it is to find the TRUTH out there. One person says meat is great for you, another says it causes heart disease. One health practitioner says to count calories and weigh your food, another says it's a waste of time. One pediatrician strictly promotes vaccinations and another says to steer clear! Some things you can test out to see how they impact your family's health (say, remove gluten or dairy for a month or two), and other things, well, you'd better be pretty sure you're doing the right thing because there may be no going back.
Fortunately, changing the food you eat is a relatively easy thing to do. There is no day like today. What is so great about the Whole30 (and I promise, I'm not being paid to write this!) is that it is just thirty days.
No one is suggesting that you make a commitment similar to marital vows in changing your diet. You can do thirty days. Why thirty days? Well, the first few days, you might be pretty pumped. You'll be excited about the changes ahead. You'll go grocery shopping and have a fridge full of great foods. Then, several days in, the cravings hit or you'll have a stressful day, and you will really, really want to console yourself with some sort of treat. And if you fight through it, then you'll want to treat yourself for not giving in to a treat! During the first two weeks, you will be working out your relationship with food and it will be hard. If you think of this as something you are doing forever, you might throw in the towel by day six. Buuuut, if you tell yourself, "I'm trying this for thirty days. It's only thirty days," then you know there is a finish line in sight. During those tough times of fighting off cravings or suffering through detox (some people experience major detox symptoms, others hardly notice them at all), it helps to think of it as a cleanse or a jump start, which is basically what the Whole30 is. The Whole30 is not a fad diet. You don't have to do this the rest of your life. You are resetting your body. You are breaking your sugar and comfort food addictions. We have often reminded ourselves during this journey that we do not want to be slaves to sugar and junk any longer.
In the middle of the Whole30 challenge, you may feel like this is totally impossible, but by the end of it, many people, including us, feel that this is totally do-able long term. As our thirty days comes to a close, we find ourselves ready to take on another. Why? Because our bodies feel so much better! Maybe you will feel this way too, or maybe you will decide to add back some of the foods that were off limits during the Whole30, but with a new approach, and a healthier attitude. Maybe you will learn to read product labels better. Maybe you will use the Whole30 to lead you into the Paleo way of eating (like we are).
In the beginning, you aren't sure if the Whole30 is going to produce any results. You may be skeptical, especially when, instead of feeling clearheaded and energetic, you feel worn down and sickly (detox!). Then something amazing happens- toward the end of the Whole30, you actually start feeling like you have a new body. That encouragement has driven me (Brandon) forward. It's what's made me want to continue on this path. It's not just the physical changes. It's the way I feel.
In the tough times, your only encouragement to keep going may simply be that you've made a 30-day commitment, and you don't want to give up. Maybe you start feeling the changes in the last week of your challenge, and so you commit to two more weeks. The main thing is that you commit yourself to at least 30 days. Whether you decide to go further is up to you, but give your body a chance to heal, and know that sometimes this will mean feeling worse before you feel better.
We highly recommend reading the book, It Starts With Food, by the Hartwigs. You will learn so much about your body. They present the information in way that is clear and understandable, even for those who aren't "Science-y" people. Learn how your body works. Learn why it's so hard to change!
The truth is, we all have areas of life where we struggle. For Americans, food seems to be one most of us have in common. It is our prayer that the Lord would break this chain in your life, as He is in ours. We aren't writing this because we want you to jump on some bandwagon or fad. This is not a fad. This is not a bandwagon.
We took the Whole30 challenge because we wanted to see change, and we knew change wasn't going to happen all by itself. We also knew that it wasn't going to get any easier, and there was never going to be a perfect time to start.
This is not about looking down on people who choose to eat differently than we do. We don't pass by McDonald's and frown upon all those cars lined up at the drive-through.We don't scoff at the person in front of us in the cashier's line at the grocery store when she stacks up all that processed food on the conveyor belt. We have all been there. We realize most Americans are not informed on what real food is. We have been lied to. We often think that if something reads NATURAL or ORGANIC that it is healthy. Our grocery stores are filled to the brim with food-like substances, and, like we said, there are so many conflicting opinions, studies, and reports out there. Most of all, even if know the truth, it is so, so hard to break the cycle of a poor diet because these foods are engineered to be as addictive as drugs.
We also know there are seasons of life when you may just need to buy a frozen pizza or tell the kids to have a bowl of cereal and not beat yourself up over it. This is not about guilt. This is about deciding that today is the day, and tomorrow you will be one step closer to a healthier you. It's one step at a time, no condemnation.
And remember, it's takes time. You've been tough on your body. Give it time to heal. It's not going to happen in a day. Heck, it's not all going to happen in one month, but you will see significant changes. Don't give up!