Editors’ note: With better eating in mind for the new year, five Washington Post staffers each embark on a month-long effort to change their daily habits. Watch for weekly updates at washingtonpost.com/food.
A couple years ago, I randomly ended up with a book about the Whole30 plan. I wanted to lose a little weight and control my sweet tooth, so I gave it a try.
Haven’t heard of Whole30? It’s a “tough-love” month-long plan — “not a diet,” its creators say — to change your relationship with food. Think Paleo, but take it up a notch: no added sugars, no dairy, no grains, no legumes and no alcohol. It is neither moderate nor sustainable, but fans call it “life-changing.” Some people choose it to deal with digestive, immune-system or metabolism problems, but considering our society’s love affair with sugar, I would guess Whole30’s claim that it will “put your sugar dragon on notice” is probably the most popular goal.
I won’t say it was 30 days of pure culinary bliss, but it definitely had its benefits: I learned a bunch of new recipes, from the Whole30 book but also from the numerous Whole30 and Paleo blogs and websites that have sprung up. I cooked a lot more, ate out less, didn’t drink at all and learned a lot about what was in my food. I spoke to meat sellers at farmers markets about what was in their sausages, and I was introduced to the wonders of chorizo (which I found was less likely to have added sugars than other sausages). Oh, and I lost about five pounds.
But on Day 31, someone made me a birthday cake, and it was over. I had only a little slice, but sugar was back, and all those rules that kept me in check were gone.
A couple years later, I’m mostly back to my old habits: making daily trips to the vending machine (Peppermint Patties and peanut M&Ms are my favorites), gobbling up any free baked goods that are brought into the office and wondering immediately after dinner what’s for dessert.
So why would I try Whole30 now? Beyond just wanting to reset my diet and get out of the vending machine rut, I want to build on some of the lessons I learned the first time around. I want to take more joy in cooking — even if it means spending way more time in the kitchen and in the grocery store. And I want to recapture the mindfulness I found when it came to food.
But most important, I want to fix one big mistake I made before: skipping the reintroduction. Though it’s tempting to go right for all the foods you’ve been missing, a Whole30 doesn’t really end at 30 days. The plan offers a “fast-track” reintroduction and a “slow-roll” reintroduction, but I didn’t do either.
This time, with a more responsible transition back to the real world, I’m hoping my newfound eating habits will stick.
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