Moving to a new city is a whole hell of a lot of good, bad, and ugly. The good is that you get to expand your horizons. The bad is that you constantly have no idea where you are. And the ugly is that your habits completely change based on your surroundings.
When I moved, I ate my way through my new city. I accepted invitations to every dinner I was offered, I sought out new restaurants as a way to familiarize myself with the city’s neighborhoods and landscapes, and I adopted the local cuisine. Unfortunately, that local cuisine wasn’t fresh fish or locally harvested vegetables – it was stacks of tortillas and waterfalls of queso.
After a year and a half of binging (both food and drink), I knew it was time to go back to square one. I had to get trim again. I had to get back to fighting weight. My plan? Completely flip my diet on its head. Change my ways. Change my thinking. Change my body. And the best way to do that was by adopting a diet that was recommended to me by my girlfriend who had done it before – Whole 30. Because I’ve attempted to explain exactly what this diet was a million times over the past thirty days (and failed), I’ll default to an extremely baseline explanation for it from the Whole 30 website:
The Whole30 Program Rules. Eat meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re totally natural and unprocessed.
But there’s a ton more information surrounding this diet than just the above, so knowing exactly what you’re getting into before doing it is essential. Before I get into what it actually took to endure a month of #eatingclean and being #sober, I’ll answer these questions right off the bat.
– Yes, I know I should work out.
– Yes, I know I’ll gain some back now that it’s over.
– No, I didn’t cheat.
– No, not even to drink.
But now that we have that out of the way, here are my takeaways of enduring possibly the healthiest month of my life.
The worst part wasn’t not being able to drink.
Was going sober for a month of summer the most fun thing in the world? No, absolutely not. You forget how often you actually drink when you can’t drink anymore. Casual glass of wine with dinner? Nope. Afternoon beer on a Sunday when your responsibilities are done? Nah. Meeting at a bar to catch up with someone? Bad idea. Not being able to drink when you enjoy drinking sucks. But when I viewed drinking as cheating, I also considered it a gateway drug to just cheating with the eating portion as well.
The actual worst part? Preparing meals. Because the diet is so strict, it’s nearly impossible to eat out unless the specific restaurant caters itself to the diet. And if you go to a restaurant that you think will work, the chances are that they’ll fuck up your order at least half the time, so you’re up shit creek without a paddle.
Planning your meals. Going to the store. Buying the ingredients. Prepping your meals. It’s the arduous process that you can’t shy away from because, frankly, you don’t have any choices. Luckily, my girlfriend was doing it at the same time as I was and she took the workload off of me. So with that being said…
Doing it with another person makes all the difference.
There’s a period of the diet that they call “Tiger Blood.” It’s the period where you think you can do the diet forever. It occurs about three weeks in and you suddenly believe that you can be a full-time #fitfam member for the rest of time. I experienced it, and it was awesome. But, every other fucking day? I either wanted a sandwich, a beer, a piece of pizza, or even just a cup of canned soup. But when someone is going through it with you, you gain a sense of obligation. They’re not cheating, so you’re not cheating. They’re supporting you, so you’re supporting them. They’re fucking miserable some days, and you’re fucking miserable the rest of the days. Without accountability, there’s pretty much no way I would’ve made it 30 days of eating like we did, or four weekends of us not meeting up with people for a few drinks.
Proper planning prevents poor performance.
“Oh, I want to do that,” everyone keeps saying. And yeah, I encourage you to if you’re looking to mix-up your routine, lose a little weight, and learn a bit about what you’re putting in your body. It’s a lot more difficult than just eating chicken breasts and salads. Because as someone who ate just that for the first three days, it gets old. Real fast.
If you don’t plan a variety of meals, you’re going to crave things. If you don’t have those meals readily available when you become feverish with hunger, you’re going to be more apt to cheat out of sheer convenience. Variety is the spice of life, and in a diet where spices are the only things that give your meals flavor, you have to cherish that shit.
But planning doesn’t just apply to foods – it applies to the timing as well. With it being August, I knew the following: I had no weddings to attend, I had no football games to go to until September, and it was too fucking hot in Texas to drink outside anyway. Combining all of those into one, it made for the perfect month to give it a shot. Had I been in a more northern location, I would’ve done February or March simply because those are the boring months where you’re just cold and miserable anyway. So you might as well be skinny too.
Everyone will ask you about it, so be prepared.
I’m not well-versed in diets or health, nor do I ever want to be. The person who comments on the state of your health without your solicitation is an asshole, and that’s not a person I want to be. Even by weighing in through this medium, I kind of feel like a preachy asshole. But whatever, I did it so I’m allowed to discuss it.
Leading up to this point, though? Everyone asked me why I wasn’t drinking or why I wasn’t going out to lunch with the #squad like I normally do. Your absence is noted in your friend group, and they’ll try to get you to break. I mean, fuck, one of them even told me, “You’ll break, we all break.” But outside of your friends, fringe people will also ask you about it. “How’s it going? Is it hard? How do you not drink? Do you think I could do it? What do you miss most?” And if there’s one thing that makes torturing yourself more difficult, it’s discussing with others the way you’re torturing yourself.
It was super fulfilling.
I’m not going to act like this was some life-changing experience, because it wasn’t. If eating well and not drinking for a month makes you a changed person, your life is lame. But I will say that it was fulfilling to complete the goal of going 30 days without cheating. In a world that constantly distracts and it’s easy to do things without anyone noticing, sticking to something that’s physically and mentally difficult for that long does feel good, especially with all the temptations I encountered along the way.
Much like you hear fraternity men describe pledging as “the best experience I never want to do again,” that’s kind of how this felt when it was all said and done.
But, I’ll probably do it again next year after I go back to my old ways. Sure, I can shave 19 pounds off in 30 days, but teaching an old dog new tricks will probably be more difficult than one anticipates. At least I know I can do it, though. .
If you’re interested in this particular diet or other ways of improving your health without compromising your sanity, listen to Episode 35 of our Touching Base podcast on iTunes where we talk to Onnit’s Nutrition and Food Manager, Liv Langdon. Or, listen below.