There are always snacks at my women’s Bible study group, and even though I’ve always eaten dinner before I come, I always eat the snacks. Sometimes, I try to plan my dinner accordingly, knowing that I will nibble on something. But at our last meeting, there was a bowl of caramel popcorn that I could not. Stop. Eating. If you asked me objectively if I liked caramel popcorn, I would say no. If you handed me a menu of desserts and caramel popcorn was one of the options, it’s never the one I would pick. Yet I couldn’t keep my hand out of that bowl. I even told myself at one point, “Okay, you’re done. You can stop now.” And then I went back for more. I’m sure there are worse things than caramel popcorn, but I felt low. I felt like I ought to be able to control when I stopped eating. I felt like I ought to be able to say no.

Enter the Whole 30.

I’ve heard about this plan for awhile. I like that it doesn’t bill itself as a “diet.” Instead, its creators really want to help you change your mindset about food, and I think I’m ready for that. The caramel popcorn incident sent me over the edge.

The gist of the Whole 30 is that you eat whole foods for 30 days. It cuts out some elements that I’ve always thought were “healthy,” like all legumes and dairy, but it also cuts out the usual suspects: all added sugar and “sugar,” alcohol, grains, white potatoes. The authors say, “Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re totally natural and unprocessed.”

I eat pretty healthy, and I am pretty active, but I think it’s easy to use moderation as a crutch. You know, a lot of times magazines and whatnot give the advice to “just take the stairs” and it’ll make a difference, but Jillian Michaels, fitness guru extraordinaire, says “That is a false method of lethargy that isn’t doing you any favors. You ARE capable of working out. You’re capable of working out HARD.” I’m sort of feeling that about my diet lately.

I also listened to a podcast recently featuring Stanford professor BJ Fogg and his premise that in order to enact personal change, you need to make the change so small that it doesn’t take any willpower. For example, he started doing one pushup every time he went to the bathroom. And eventually, he started doing more. And then pushups weren’t hard anymore, so he started doing them other times as well. He’s currently working on putting his socks on inside out, just as a means of being in control of his behaviors. And something about that appealed to me: being so conscious of yourself that you’re trying to change a random behavior just because you can.

So given all of that, it’s a perfect storm that’s making me want to try to Whole 30. I want to see what I feel like if I’m eating that way, and I want to change my behaviors just as an experiment.

I’m sort of dithering, which is exactly what the authors say not to do, but I’m planning to start at the beginning of a month, because for my obsessive compulsive self that just seems right. (Plus, I want to read the book ahead of time and really give the psychological side its due weight.) However, I realized there was no reason I couldn’t start making some of the suggested changes in the meantime! Two areas where I’m trying to break my patterns of thinking are in what constitutes a “meal” and in what a snack looks like. Somehow I’ve gotten it in my head that a meal includes a meat, a starch, and a veggie. (I also cook a fair amount of casseroles, but that’s a whole other post…) But who’s to say you can’t have 2 veggies instead of the starch?! And as far as snacks go, I often envision pretzels or a granola bar. But why can’t my snack be a hard-boiled egg?! So I’m playing with these mental shifts even though I haven’t fully dived into the Whole 30.

I’m trying in the build up to put more “whole food” recipe blogs in my line of vision. I don’t keep potato chips in the house and I mostly don’t miss them, so I’m applying a similar principle to what I consume on the internet. I’ll probably be excited about whatever is in front of me, so I can let it be caramel popcorn or I can try and let it be healthier fare. Most of the recipes I’ve looked at so far have looked delicious and honestly no more difficult than what I currently cook, and the array of snacks I can think about having on hand is exciting! I think that cheese will be the hardest for me to give up, because I’ve always thought of it as a pretty healthy, proteinatious snack option.

I’ve never done any sort of diet in my life EVER, so this feels like a really big deal to me. But I’m trying to be really careful not to think of it as a weight-loss strategy. I really want to change how I think about food. I get a little panicky thinking that I might love it and I might never eat a chocolate bar again, but I will just have to cross that bridge if I come to it. I’ll keep you posted once I get started as I find recipes I like, and I’ll report back about how I’m feeling.

Do you have a favorite diet plan or approach to food? Have you ever tackled a big behavorial change like this?

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman