DISCLAIMER: This post is not to convince you to try Whole30, but to find something that you can realistically do to make better choices with how you eat, and how you take care of your body. Now, I have to tell you that I have tried multiple meal plans, diets, calorie counting, meal replacements, etc. and none of them proved to be sustainable given what I know about myself. This is what I found that worked for me, and I encourage you to find what works for you.
A few days before I was to head home to Atlanta/Spartanburg for the holidays, I got really anxious about the trip. Whereas I’m normally very excited to see friends and family, this year, I was dreading being seen because of my weight gain. I strongly considered not going at all, because the thought of being judged or ridiculed for how big I’d gotten was horrifying.
I flashed back to a couple Christmases prior when I walked up to an older cousin I hadn’t seen in years, and instead of embracing me, she stepped back and said, “You done got fat ain’t you?” She said it with that tone that is unique to country Black people who have no concept of tact, or just not saying some shit that doesn’t really need to be said. At the time I was about ten pounds less than I am now, so I couldn’t imagine what she’d say this year.
This lead to a very dramatic crying session on the phone with my mom telling her how much I didn’t want to come home. Think Lifetime movie circa 1992. I felt so embarrassed about my size, and how my clothes no longer fit, and how I once had this banging ass body, and now it was like flubber. I felt disappointed in myself for letting myself go, but more than anything, I felt horribly uncomfortable. I felt trapped inside a body that wasn’t supposed to be mine. I would love to tell you that I’m one of those girls who loves their body at any size, but I’m not. I can acknowledge the blessing and the privilege that is having a healthy, functioning body, but I just felt uncomfortable inside mine. I wanted to change, but just didn’t feel capable of doing what it would take.
“Jessica, I understand how you feel, but you’re such a beautiful girl, and your waist is still so small,” my mom said. (Am I the only one who finds that hilarious? I’m having an emotional breakdown, and to reassure me, my mom emphasizes that I have a great waist regardless.) “When you are good and ready, you’ll lose the weight, but until then, you know how to pull it together.”
She assured me that the people closest to me just wanted to spend time with me, and no one would be focused on my weight if I came home. I reluctantly carried out my travel plans, equipped with a few new pieces to wear in bigger sizes. Lo and behold, my mom was right, as per yooj. All anyone could talk about was how great my pictures were on the site, and how proud they are of me. Don’t get me wrong, this felt great, compared to being asked when I’m gonna find a man. However, how other people feel about how I look doesn’t carry much weight with me (see what I did there?). This is a me thing. I have to feel good about me.
As an aside, if you’ve gained weight, the best thing to do is buy clothes that fit. Wearing your actual size will make you look and feel so much better. Shoving ten pounds of sugar in a five pound bag is surefire way to make you feel worse. First of all it’s uncomfortable as hell. Second of all, you aren’t honoring the body you have by forcing it into things that don’t fit.
Once I made it back to New York, I had a day or so before it was time to get back into the swing of things at work, so I had some time to think and decompress.
The two struggles that have lingered over my head for the longest time have been weight and money. My therapist helped me to realize the mental and emotional relationship I have between comfort and food. The more money I have, the less I actually want to eat. It isn’t until I need to feel comforted that I want to eat everything in sight, and that discomfort comes from being broke. It’s pretty counterproductive to spend money you don’t really have on food you don’t need when you’re broke. This is why my weight gain started in college (much like everyone else’s).
College was the best/worst time of my life emotionally, and I hadn’t realized I’d formed a habit of eating to feel better or to feel the comforts of home, where there weren’t a gaggle of people projecting their insecurities onto me. (That’s another story for another day.) I grew up in a house wherein my mother cooked a full southern meal every day, and she never made things we didn’t like to eat. As a result, I’ve never been one for leftovers, or for eating things I didn’t want to. Not exactly a good mental setup for someone who needs to lose weight.
Once back at work, I explained all of this to my coworker turned friend, and he admonished me to read the literature on Whole30, because he was going to start. (Find it in its entirety for free here.) Maybe it was the thrill of a fresh start with the new year, maybe I finally got good and tired of being uncomfortable in my body, maybe it was the wording, but Whole30 actually felt doable.
Whole30 encourages you to eat only whole foods (the concept, not the store) for 30 days. That means no grains, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no legumes, and no soy for 30 days. That sounds crazy right? How am I supposed to get through a day of work without my afternoon sweet? How am I supposed to wind down after a day of doing the bare minimum without ordering Thai?
Here’s what sold me on Whole30:
- First, the freedom of choice. There’s a lot you can’t eat, but there’s still a lot you can, like potatoes!
- Second, you can’t weigh or measure yourself for 30 days. Y’all, I intentionally let the batteries on my scale die, because I found it so depressing to weigh myself. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to know that not only do I not have to do that, I can’t do that.
- Third, the wealth of recipes and resources for Whole30. A good test of whether or not a “diet” is realistically achievable for me is the Pinterest recipes. If a good number of them look appealing, then I can do it.
- Lastly, the tough love portion of the Whole30 site. The first bullet point says: This is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. 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.
At me though Whole30 writers!!! It felt like a much needed read from a close friend who is smarter than you are.
I am on day 7, and I have to tell you, I feel so good about my ability to complete the remaining days without falling off. Here are my pro’s thus far:
- It’s surprisingly empowering to take care of yourself. I love that I am more knowledgeable, and intentional about what I’m eating.
- My eyes have been opened to just how much trash I was eating without really knowing it, or caring.
- The challenge of learning to be a better cook. You have to learn how to flavor your food without the use of chemicals and preservatives, which opens up a whole new world of flavors and seasonings.
- Money. I haven’t used my card to order food in 7 days, and it feels amazing to feel that I’m in control, and not my cravings.
- Motivation to think of other ways to eliminate toxins and chemicals from my life. I’ve started looking into organically made body products like soaps and lotions from independent Black retailers (I’ll review these once I receive them). I maintain that it is impossible to eliminate all toxins from your life completely, because even the air we breathe is “bad,” but we can all do a little better to take better care of ourselves in this regard.
Tips for success on whatever method of weight loss, better eating, lifestyle, etc. you choose:
- PLAN!! You have to be intentional about making better choices, which means planning your meals. If you leave things to chance, you will fail, and often. A lifestyle change will not come from passively hoping for the best, or eating something off script and saying you’ll work it off in the gym. Look at your week, and know what you need to do to eat better. Is someone’s birthday dinner coming up? Look at the menu for the restaurant in advance to decide what you can eat. Keep approved snacks with you at all times!
- Patience. Do not kick your own ass. Change takes time.
- Think ahead. If you do Whole30, what are you planning to do after your 30 days are up? I plan to do Paleo 80/20, which means 80 percent of my meals will be Paleo compliant, and 20 percent won’t. This is what will be realistically sustainable for me.
- Set intermittent goals. It can get overwhelming to think about what you want to look like once you lose all of the weight you want to lose. For me, I know it will likely take me the whole year to get my ideal body again. So, I have goal dresses that I want to fit into by month 3, by month 6, and so on.
- Reward yourself. The money I don’t spend eating out for the week, I spend on a new item of clothing or an accessory. In case you don’t know, my rule for sustainably shopping for clothes is that for every piece I buy, I have to find something in my closet to give away.
- Read. Choose a lifestyle that is sustainable to YOU! Intermittent fasting was not for me, maybe it’ll work for you. Keto was not for me, maybe it’ll work for you. There’s a wealth of options and information out there, so do your research, and find something you feel good about implementing.
- Get a buddy. We all know someone who wants to lose weight and eat better just as much as we do, so partner with someone, and hold each other accountable. It helps if this is a coworker as you spend most of your time at work.
- The tasty indulgences you love aren’t going anywhere. You’re not giving up your favorite foods forever (oh how I miss pho and pad thai). They will be there for you after your detox period, on your cheat day, and you won’t feel bad about yourself afterwards.
I’ll check back in with you guys at the end of my 30 day journey, and we can talk struggles and results. In the interim, be kind to yourself and patient with yourself with whatever your goals are for the new year. Also, listen to the episode of the Podcast featuring Dr. Ashlee Pickett on effective ways to actually be a better you this year.