I’m doing a Whole30 in February to reset my eating habits — here’s why

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from my colleague Katey Psencik, who — like my reporter friend Andrea Ball — is embarking on a new way of eating right now. She’ll check in with us in the coming weeks on her progress.

I’ve always loved food. I grew up here in Central Texas with my dad, who makes the best burgers, steaks, spaghetti and “homemade Hamburger Helper” (as we called it) I’ve ever eaten. It’s probably no surprise that as a nerdy, quiet girl who wasn’t good at sports and loved her dad’s homemade hearty meals, I was more than a little overweight as a kid – at least up until middle school, when I joined athletics and lost all the baby fat. From that day on, I was able to inhale Whataburger and Chick-Fil-A and Taco Bell to my heart’s content and not gain an ounce.

That all changed last year, when I gained an unexpected 30-plus pounds for reasons I still can’t really put my finger on. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was going through an earth-shattering breakup, during which I was diagnosed with depression and discovered that apparently I take comfort food to a whole other level when I’ve got the blues. It also probably has something to do with the fact that I’m not exactly a teenager anymore and my metabolism chose this time to turn on me. But regardless of reasons, the weight’s still there. And it’s been…weighing on me (weak, I know. Sorry).

Elizabeth Lindemann, who writes the blog, Bowl of Delicious (@bowlofdelicious, bowlofdelicious.com), shared her photo and recipe for a Paleo chicken salad that’s both mayo-free and dairy-free. It was the most popular recipe on her site last year and is a great fit if you’re on the Whole 30, a 30-day Paleo challenge from Melissa and Dallas Hartwig. Contributed by @bowlofdelicious

Elizabeth Lindemann, who writes the blog, Bowl of Delicious (@bowlofdelicious, bowlofdelicious.com), shared her photo and recipe for a Paleo chicken salad that’s both mayo-free and dairy-free. It was the most popular recipe on her site last year and is a great fit if you’re on the Whole 30, a 30-day Paleo challenge from Melissa and Dallas Hartwig. Contributed by @bowlofdelicious

So, when my friend Melanie told me she lost 12 pounds in November doing this fancy “Whole30” thing I’ve heard some people talk about before, I jumped on board. I kept picturing myself at my high school best friend’s wedding coming up this April, the fabric of the size 10 dress I’d ordered engulfing me and all the weight I’d lost. I got kind of obsessed.

Then I started reading more about the Whole30. It’s more than weight loss. It’s a total lifestyle change. According to the creator, Melissa Hartwig, the Whole30 program is all about changing your relationship with food and creating new habits. Since I read that, I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with food. I always considered it a positive relationship: I LOVE FOOD. That’s positive, right?! Maybe not the way I love it, though. Maybe all the food I’d ordered via Amazon or Favor or Postmates when I was too depressed to get to the store or cook my own meals, the food I called “comfort food” because I thought I deserved it when I was feeling down, wasn’t so comforting at all. Maybe it was my enemy. That was when I knew I had to make some changes. I’m undergoing treatment for my depression, so why not undergo treatment for all the negative habits my depression allowed me to form? So, here I am, ready to change the emotionally abusive relationship I have with food (and hopefully lose a few pounds in the process).

So what’s the Whole30 anyway? There are a lot of rules to abide by for 30 straight days. The highlights:

  • No sugar, real or artificial. This is going to mean a lot of label-checking in the aisles of H-E-B and Trader Joe’s.
  • No alcohol. Oh boy.
  • No grains. I love bread like Oprah loves bread, so this one doesn’t sound that fun, either.
  • No legumes, including soy. At first, this one seemed the most doable for me – beans aren’t really a part of my diet anyway – until I read that this includes peanuts, and therefore no peanut butter. I eat about two jars of peanut butter each week. I keep one in my desk drawer. This is so sad.
  • No dairy. This means no coffee creamer. Guess I’ll have to learn to like black coffee.
  • No carrageenan, MSG or sulfites. More label-checking.
  • Don’t recreate these banned foods with “approved” ingredients. These are basically placebos anyway, and are bound to make my cravings worse.
  • Don’t weigh or measure yourself. Somebody take my bathroom scale for the month, please.
  • Eat three meals a day and avoid snacking. This is probably my biggest issue — I’ve never been a breakfast person. I usually have a few cups of coffee and a banana or a granola bar, a small lunch at my desk and a larger dinner at home. Changing that habit is going to require a lot of cooking, planning and meal-prepping. I’ve been wanting to get better about cooking meals at home, so this should help!

Now that we’ve gotten what I can’t eat out of the way, let’s talk about what I can. February is looking like it’s going to be full of meat, vegetables, fruits and good fats. It’s a good thing I love eggs and avocados, because they’re going to be my best friends for the next month.

Another thing the Whole30 encourages: Support. Two of my friends, Melanie and Brittany, have graciously agreed to join me in this strange, harrowing journey. Misery loves company, right?

After talking to my friends about starting the diet together, I turned to Addie Broyles, fearless leader of this blog and the Statesman’s resident cooking guru, for help. She showed up at my desk five minutes later with the official Whole30 cookbook in hand, telling me to blog about my experiences living a dairy-free, sugar-free, bread-free life. I’ll be checking in on here once a week or so to outline my struggles and victories, share recipes and avoid thinking about how much I miss sweet cream in my coffee.

I could use your help, too! If you have any Whole30-friendly recipes you love, advice on how to survive these long 30 days or tips and tricks to finding compliant products at local grocery stores, please send them my way! Comment below or shoot me an email at kpsencik@statesman.com.

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