a shift in my routine & the completion of whole30

I've never had any real reason to do, or been a proponent of crash diets, week-long juice cleanses (which I did once while working at Martha Stewart's Whole Living and wanted to cry just 8 hours in). After the holidays this year I felt like my metabolism was not bouncing back to where it usually is. There are a number of things probably affecting this. I was being lazier than usual about actually trying to get back to my normal routine, but this time it really did feel different.  I had toyed with various cleanse ideas and diet changes. The idea of a detox was stuck in my head, on repeat. 

I kept coming back to the Whole30, without knowing all that much about it except from what I heard from people mentioning it casually. I looked up the restrictions, guidelines and grocery list, and was sold. It didn't take much thought after that. I was sitting on the couch and turned to Robert and said hey, I think I'm gonna do this. Robert joined me for most of the guidelines in the name of solidarity, and we made a meal plan immediately. What we realized after we planned dinners and breakfast for the week, is that it was pretty much how we were already cooking, we just had to adapt it to the new restrictions. My very first thought was "wow this really is not going to be that difficult" and for the most part, it really wasn't.

My stomach has been on and off problematic for the last few years, so around my birthday last March I got an upper endoscopy that told me exactly what I already knew. I had GERD and there were foods to avoid, etc., but it still felt difficult on some level to cut out the things that have grown routine. I did make big strides to cut back on certain things. Rather than masking my symptoms with an antacid I wanted to avoid the symptoms all together. Again, really great idea in theory but I was never 100% committed. I had all the tools, information I needed, and not much of an excuse. My self described "pooch" that I've had for years seemed like it was here to stay and it was really driving me nuts. Gluten sensitivity crossed my mind, but my love of bread was always there to fend it off. 

I didn't grow up on processed food, and I didn't even develop the terrible college habits I certainly could have once I left home. The thing that I have done though, on and off, consistently and inconsistently, is not listen to my body as well as I should. Even though I was eating relatively healthy, with Robert cooking healthy meals for us at home 5-6 nights a week, I still wasn't always listening to my body the rest of the time. 

Before we even got to the meal planning, and before I even got to the okay, maybe I should adjust some things and start fresh... I think coming to terms with the fact that I am not the, I can eat anything and everything I want girl was the first step. Basically, the opposite of Rory and Lorelei Gilmore (this article is great if you have no idea what I'm talking about). It felt like that made me a terrible foodie. Which, resulted in me sometimes deciding not to pass on things that upset my stomach, even though I knew I should. I knew that I felt awful after even one bite of a doughnut, and I knew that most french fries if I ate more than a few made my stomach feel off for an entire day. 

It ended up being a challenge to myself. I was interested to see if my willpower was strong enough to remove the toast, from my absolute favorite avocado toast that I was so used to. Could I actually not reach for a chocolate chip cookie? Was I going to have the most major FOMO when I saw what everyone else was having for lunch? I thought I was going to, but it kind of never happened. I mean yeah, pizza smells extra delicious when you're eating a salad, but the flip-side of that is the gratification of sticking to your plan wholeheartedly, knowing that pizza is not disappearing from your life completely, and also... it's just not that big of a deal. Full disclosure: I did not cut out alcohol, so I guess more accurately I should call this the "Jill 30". I did however cut back, and had around 3 drinks per week.

things that were easy for me
-black coffee
-vegetable heavy meals
-cooking and eating mostly at home

things that were tough (at first)
-no dessert
-no bread or grains
-no greek yogurt

I didn't weigh myself before, mainly because my weight fluctuates easily and I didn't want that to be in my mind during the process. I didn't take a before-photo, because at the very beginning I honestly had no idea how long I would be able to stick with it, and I wasn't sure the results would be worthy of documentation. Ultimately, I think they were and I'm kind of kicking myself for not doing the before-photo. But even though I didn't, what matters most to me is that I feel different, and I've learned a lot about my body during this stint. I learned what I probably already knew, that a lot of the time I don't always wait until I'm hungry to eat, meaning I definitely snack a lot more than I need to, and I do not physically, mentally or emotionally NEED the chocolate chip cookie. Eating out proved to be the trickiest, but not impossible. Even at a restaurant with what appeared to be only fried food on the menu, I made it work. 

The results have been hard to argue with. My body feels so healthy, my skin looks better than ever (I had ZERO blemishes during the 30 days) and my stomach issues weren't issues any more. I felt happy after every meal, without the fear of missing out. I needed a reminder that certain foods are more indulgent for a reason, more of a treat, not something anyone needs to have all the time. Mindful eating is such a buzzphrase right now, but I get it. It's something that's easy to say but difficult to practice, for me at least. The experience let me look at my habits in a new way, with a fresh perspective, and has had only positive results. It did what I needed it to do, help me regain my balance and give me the structure I was craving. But was there a grand epiphany? Am I never going to eat a cheeseburger again? No. Will I continue to eat this strictly, for the most part? I honestly probably will, with smaller indulgences and more thoughtful "cheat days".  I'm at a bit of a crossroads now, as I've finished the 30 days and lean towards heavily reducing gluten and most dairy from my diet going forward. Feeling motivated and in complete control of my food choices wasn't something I expected to take away from this. But I have, and it feels really great.  

So now that I've waxed poetic on all of that, I've become more thoughtful about what we do here. For us, Better Happier has always been a balance of indulgent and light, sweet and savory. Never too far in one direction, focusing on seasonal and homemade. It feels even more appropriate to reiterate that now. Not much will be changing here in terms of recipes for now, (although I am definitely going to start down the road of experimenting with gluten-free baking).  To myself, and anyone listening, remember the importance of balance, the importance of listening to your body and of being your own cheerleader, because as cheesy as that may sound, sometimes you really just need to hear it.