As the title suggests, I have some news for you. I quit Whole30.
On the 26th day. As in, there were four more days, and I was like, “See ya.” Last Thursday, I noticed that it was becoming less healthy to keep going than it was to quit. My mindset was not in a good place, I was constantly unsatisfied, despite my balanced, satisfying Whole30 meals, and I was kinda crabby. Not outwardly, but I was being way less kind to myself than I want to be. This was supposed to be an exercise in self-care. No bueno.
I contemplated breaking into some chocolate before I went to bed on Thursday night, but decided to sleep on it and see how I felt in the morning. When I woke up, there was a small “problem”, though. See, I pretty much only have Whole30 food right now and I somehow didn’t want chocolate first thing in the morning. Whole30 changed me after all. However, I knew that if I didn’t do it quickly, I would spend way too much energy grappling with the idea: “Should I? Shouldn’t I?”
So, at about 9:15am on Friday morning, I cracked open my first Diet Coke in 26 days.
What Changed in My Diet
You know that I feel best when I eat pretty-much-Paleo. I decide what totally non-Paleo foods are “worth” not feeling so fabulous on a case by case basis. Did that go away a bit over Christmas? Yeah. Cookies galore, no discrimination. Additionally, I’ve found in the past that dairy (particularly low- and non-fat dairy) isn’t too irritating to my system, so I tended to eat Greek yogurt and some cheese. Dark chocolate was also
probably a daily occurrence.
Honestly, as long as I eat about 80-90% Paleo, whatever else I eat doesn’t make me feel much worse unless my system is already out of whack. The biggest factor is how much super-sugary stuff I’m eating.
So, on Whole30, I cut out the dairy, and all the “worth it” foods. Also, I stopped drinking Diet Coke and started reading every single label to find the sugar and additives that weren’t Whole30-approved.
Why I Did It
I went over this in more detail here, but I’ll recap. I wanted a challenge. I wanted to get back to feeling normal quickly, since I ended winter break on a sugar high with a messed up stomach. And ultimately, I wanted see how much better I could feel. I feel okay enough on my standard diet, but if I could feel better, maybe it’d be worth it.
How I Felt
You know how Whole30 is a miracle for everyone who does it? Their pain goes away, their digestion is perfect, and they have boundless energy.
Well, that is not how it went for me.
Ugh. I don’t want to have to say this, but it’s true. I slept well at the beginning and my anxiety went down. I was killing it, but the issues that really bug me (digestive ones) weren’t getting any better. Starting around Day 18 of my Whole30, I was like, “Why am I even doing this?” My joint pain and inflammation didn’t go down. I still had to take all my usual IBS meds, occasionally even more than usual. I had more anxiety attacks. I couldn’t sleep. As I’ve said, I definitely snacked less during Whole30. Still, there were quite a few days where I had a gnawing feeling I wasn’t eating enough, so I had to supplement with more snacks than Whole30 recommends.
I am well aware that the snacking is possibly part of why it wasn’t magical for me. However, if you ask me to choose between not eating enough and following Whole30 rules, even this rule-follower is going to eat plenty. And if you say I wasn’t eating the right meals… maybe you’re right. Whole30 both emphasizes eating 3-4 meals and eating to satisfaction. I’d have to eat to stuffed for that to work properly, and I don’t think that’s the healthiest, either.
I can see this working if you’re not a person who needs to eat as much as I do to gain/maintain your weight, but since I am, I was pretty vigilant about eating (more than) enough.
Why I Quit
Diminishing Marginal Utility
I’m #sorrynotsorry to sound like such an econ major right now. The concept of diminishing marginal utility basically says that as you consume more of a good, you get less utility (essentially Economics for “happiness”) from it. Food is a pretty good example. Until you’re full, say, you get more and more happiness from consuming more and more food. That’s increasing marginal utility. But once you’re full, you stop getting happier by eating more. That’s diminishing marginal utility.
Until Day 14 or 15, I felt like I was getting more and more out of doing Whole30. I slept more, I was less anxious, I was better able to separate my emotions from physical hunger. But around that point, it all started to turn around. My stomach issues, sleep, anxiety, and irritability got worse. All I was learning was that I was good at following rules, and I already knew that.
And by Day 22 or so, I was starting rebel within the rules. When I knew I’d be satisfied with a piece of chocolate, it took approximately 2349 pistachios and dates to make me feel truly full, so I snacked on too many pistachios and dates and still didn’t feel satisfied. And then I beat myself up about it, because if it doesn’t make you sick, a piece of chocolate should be no big deal.
I gained less and less by doing more and more. So, I stopped.
If you’re normal, you’re probably thinking, “Why did you quit with FOUR DAYS LEFT? You already put so much time into Whole30.” And you would be right. I did. I did plenty of meal prep and planning. I have a few Whole30 recipes hanging out to share with you.
I grocery shopped. I skipped out on sweet treats people offered me. I told people I was doing a Whole30. My grandparents even sent me a mostly-Whole30 care package.
But that’s where the economic concept of sunk costs comes in. All that time has already been spent. I can’t get it back. It’s irrelevant to how I’m going to move forward. If I’m not going to derive utility from continuing Whole30, I’m not going to continue. If you’re wondering why it took me almost 10 days to actually quit, it’s because I wanted to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons and not based on a craving. And also because even econ majors sometimes have difficulty accepting sunk costs.
Much of my Whole30 was good. It taught me things, but I stopped feeling like I was learning and started feeling miserable, so I stopped.
I can confirm after having my first non-Whole30 “food” be Diet Coke that I still love it. Not changing. However, after going 26 days without it, I realize I don’t need to depend on it. I can see myself having days where I have too much, but I can also see plenty of days having none at all. That’s a huge change from before.
I became super cognizant of my emotional eating and made a significant effort to avoid it. I don’t strictly limit myself from eating things in general, and that has made it easy to fall into the trap of emotional eating in the past few months and years. However, Whole30 made me rethink whether I wanted a snack because I was hungry or because I was sad/lonely/tired/anxious. Usually, it was enough to make me do something other than eat. A couple times, it wasn’t. As long as I resort to other coping mechanisms most of the time, I’m okay with this.
There are some days where snacking is where it’s at. I love snacks, and some days I just want small bursts of foodie energy all the time. However, that definitely used to be my everyday. Whole30 showed me the use for bigger, satisfying meals. On busy days where I have to run from a workout to class to lunch to class to a study group, being snacky is not conducive to getting sh*t done. A big, satisfying lunch can sometimes magically get me through until a late dinner, which allows for maximum uninterrupted productivity all afternoon.
On the flip side, if I’m just hanging out and writing three papers in a day, I would really rather have a mix of sweet fruit, satiating nuts, and crunchy veggies by my side to help keep me going and give me little mental breaks.
I really don’t feel different physically from my Whole30 time. So, guess what? I’m going back to my normal. That means, yes, lots of fruits and veggies and meat and healthy fats. But it also means ice cream, Greek yogurt, cereal, and more processed snack foods when I want them and don’t think they’ll upset my stomach.
If it makes me feel icky, I can always go back to a Whole30 style of eating to calm my system down for a few days. And if it doesn’t, that’s more proof that this wasn’t magic for me.
Taking Care of All of Me
I have multiple chronic conditions. Those influence how I feel every freaking day. That’s not a “feel sorry for Ellen” statement; it’s just a fact. I live a great life and do lots of hard and remarkable things, despite those issues.
I can even occasionally feel pretty damn good in spite of them. However, a lot of the time, I don’t, and I do the hard stuff anyway. Trying Whole30 was perhaps naively optimistic: “Maybe if I just eat exactly the right things, I’ll feel perfect.” Hahaha. No. I do the best I can to take care of myself, and usually that means eating very healthy foods (see: 80-90% Paleo). Sometimes, though, it means not-so-healthy foods.
Did I Fail?
LOL that sounds so dramatic. I’m going to say no, and that’s not just because I don’t really like failing. On my first day off, I definitely had more chocolate than strictly necessary, but I slept well enough, was less bloated than I’ve been in weeks the next morning, and my 10-mile run was pretty great. And I got to have cereal, chocolate, and popcorn as part of my extensive refuel, which felt fabulous. I also had plenty of chicken, avocado, veggies, and water. I’ve always said I’m bad at balance, but I think I’m learning.
Ultimately, I really think I gained from Whole30 what I needed to, even if it wasn’t a perfectly functioning digestive system or completion of the program. I’m going to give myself a low B. I’m good with that.Check out what @EllenSlater learned from Whole30... and why she quit on Day 26. #FitFluential #fituniversity Click To Tweet
Are you good at quitting things that aren’t working for you?
Tell me something good about your weekend!