(these thighs brought to you by equal parts coconut oil/sweet potatos/theo bars/beans)
I was talking last night to a few friends who are also on the whole foods/paleo/what makes your body tick lifestyle with me, and the word “failure” kept coming up. And we realized… how we define failure really needs to shift, and I noticed that along with that, how we treat failure needs a full on overhaul.
First I wanted to point out a few things that helped me to have successful and fully compliant (meaning, no “cheats, slips, treats”) during my past whole30’s, and success living a healthier lifestyle after.
- only doing 30 days, not setting out to go for an unknown number or “forever” (this isn’t a forever diet!)
- deciding what you want your lifestyle to, realistically, look like after a whole30 is done
- following the reintroduction period, to the letter, once (at least).
Now that I am living a Whole(30)foods lifestyle my days don’t always look like a whole30, and that isn’t a failure. I have days, weeks, in a row where I eat only fully compliant food. Mainly because I am used to preparing it, have it on hand, and feel my very best when I am both dairy/gluten free. But I have added back in beans, occasional gluten free grains, and some honey and maple syrup. That’s the model I follow at home and for my packed meals (breakfast and often lunch three times a week). I also prep only whole30 foods on my Meal Prep day (weekend!) each week and that makes it easiest to grab whole foods for the rest of the week. It boils down to: I eat whole30 + beans at home, and if I am out socially with friends/party/playdate I choose wisely but without restriction.
After you finish a whole30 you will feel your best. You will notice how food effects your body. After a reintroduction period you will find out completely ridiculous things about food! For example, gluten makes me moody (what?), dairy makes me look pregnant, nearly instantly. Sugar is the trigger for my husbands decade long battle with migraines, and seasonal allergy is actually code for dairy in his body. The reintroduction period is SO important. If day 31 comes and you dive into the best donut ever, you will (likely) experience a host of symptoms and have no idea if they are caused by the dairy/gluten/soy/or sugar in it. Taking the time to determine exactly what makes you itch/cough/bloat/ache/cry/hurt will be so incredibly worth it in the long run.
But once you know? It’s IS NOT a failure to choose to eat it anyway. It might not be the best choice (if it causes you pain). But it doesn’t mark you as a failure. It may be an indicator that you are tired, over worked, need a break, underprepared, or lacking accountability. But it can stand alone as that. Say you are waking up early with your baby, and going to bed late with your toddler, you are trying to pull together a resume and start to research going back to work, and late one evening after drinking your water all day and eating whole foods… you eat a chocolate chip cookie. Maybe it isn’t the most worth it cookie you have ever had. Maybe it wasn’t even great. But you aren’t a failure because you ate it. You are tired. Probably hungry. And likely in need of a massage and break.
One choice doesn’t determine the next choice. That is the number one reason I think that redefining “failure” is important in this arena. A failure is this jacket, that, for me, easily gets picked up and put on. I wear it and never shake it off to feel the sun around me. It’s a little bubble I’ve lived in where I ate the cookie… so I might as well skip the workout, eat the candy bar, order the pizza, talk terribly about my body, and then shame myself for the whole thing and wake up feeling so defeated that I start the same thing over again.
Instead I am challenging that. It’s only a failure if I name it that. Instead, it’s a choice. And I made it, and it’s just fine. My next choice is mine too. And more than likely I’ll make that one water or something green if I don’t feel awful about myself. Its choosing self love, care, and health to choose to not make a cookie such a big deal.
Also, I wanted to add. Whole30 is not for everyone. I would argue that whole foods, water, and thinking more thoughtfully about our food and where is comes from, is. And however people choose to engage that, is amazing. It isn’t more “clean” or more “healthy”( a very hard to define term) to do this for 30 days. It isn’t a badge. It is a way that worked well for me to find a better diet for my own body and I don’t doubt that there are as many ways to find out what makes you feel best as there are people out there searching for it.
But I do challenge you that if what you eat makes you feel like a failure, look less to the food to determine that worth and more at your heart. Because you aren’t failure. No matter what you eat.