Moving on from the Whole30 + Thoughts on Clean Eating
I'm going to make a dangerously-large generalization here and assume we can all agree on the purpose of eating well being to improve our health and quality of life. I feel like that's a safe bet, but I give you permission to publicly scold me if I've labeled your reasons for eating well inappropriately.
So, in "eating well" we have a spectrum of possibilities. On one extreme, we can indulge in only the most glutinous of meals and suffer the consequences of a diet that our taste buds guide to a not-so-fun list of heath issues, not limited to obesity and diabetes. On the other, we can scrutinize the quality and quantity of our meals to the degree that we completely miss the point of improving our health and begin to develop an unhealthy relationship with the foods we eat.
The Whole30 doesn't take it to the extreme described above, but there is a lot of tough picking and choosing that goes into following the challenge guidelines for a month. So now that our 30 days are over, where do we go from here?
If we're keeping good health as the goal, we need to find a happy middle-ground between the extremes. What this looks like will vary, but here are some lessons that I'm putting to use instead of viewing this as just a cleanse with an end date:
1. If eating really strictly for an entire month is possible, eating a clean (but not perfect) diet on a regular basis is really not that hard. This past month might not have been easy, but was it really that tough?
The truth of the matter is – just like working out – you don't need to be perfect to be healthy. The 80/20 "rule" is a good place to begin. If we're eating 3 meals per day, try keeping it clean for 80% of them and letting the others (20% is roughly 4 meals per week) be something to look forward to! I find that knowing when I'm going to indulge helps me stay motivated to eat well when I plan to. Some people will feel better with a more strict ratio, but the idea is that you don't need to examine your food with such scrutiny on a regular basis in order to be a healthy person. The short version: eat well for the majority of your meals so you're not stressin' when it's CHEESEBURGER TIME.
2. Stay away from the foods that you feel better without. Gluten makes you break out? Be gone, bread. Dairy gives you the bubble guts? No cheese, please. Sugar leaves you going up and down on the buzz/crash rollercoaster of a young child?! Get rid of it! Again, this will be different from person to person, but knowing what works (and what doesn't) for you is a valuable takeaway from this month. Listen to what your body's telling you!
3. Chill out a little bit. 30 days of strict eating can make us all feel kookoo sometimes (or was that just me?!). We have enough crap to worry about in our lives; don't let perfection in the kitchen become another item on the list. Eat well, but also let yourself live. We've now discovered that we get feedback from our bodies when we eat something that doesn't agree with us, so use that information to eat what works for you, then be at ease knowing that you have the power to work around what doesn't!
Health is our goal. Our workouts should make us stronger and the foods we eat should make us feel good. Be honest with yourself about whether what you're doing is working, and don't be afraid to take on the uncomfortable if it ultimately leads you in the direction you want to go.
Congrats to everyone who participated this past month. 30 days is no joke, but you stuck it out and did the damn thing. Now get back to normal life and put to use what you learned!