For those of us looking to meet our health and fitness goals, there are many eating plans from which to choose. Take your pick! Paleo, Vegan, Mediterranean, Whole30, DASH, Raw, Keto . . . to name just a few. Each plan comes with its own set of promises of what you will accomplish through it . . . and plenty of limitations and restrictions.
One factor that everyone can agree on, however, is that it is beneficial to eat more fruits and vegetables. (However, the quantity and type of fruit and vegetable is still up for much debate depending on the diet.) With our busy lives, it is far too easy to de-prioritize produce. Chopping and prepping fruits and vegetables is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Even with more widely available prepared fresh and frozen options, other food types are more convenient to obtain and consume.
I was raised as a vegetarian and grew up eating fresh fruits and vegetables every single day. Yet in times in my life, and especially the last few years, I found myself minimizing my produce intake in favor of more convenient food choices such as dairy, grains, protein– and bread. Bring on the bread! Interestingly enough, it required a stint on one of the most restrictive eating plans to remind me of the importance of fresh produce — and lots of it — as part of my daily nutritional intake.
I participated in the Whole30 program for 30 days plus a 10-day food reintroduction period, and it was an eye-opening experience!
Whole30 strictly prohibits sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes (including soy and peanut butter) or dairy. That leaves you eating meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables fruit and natural fats. But within the Whole30 framework I was even more restricted since I don’t eat meat or poultry. This left me with few options: seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit and natural fats. Literally, that was it, for 30 days. Believe me, I know it sounds ridiculous! But not only did I achieve a successful 30 days, I thrived, without feeling hungry or deprived.
A simple online search will yield multiple glowing testimonials about the results of Whole30. Sure, I experienced some positive results like I lost a few pounds and that sort of thing, but what Whole30 really did for me was bring me back to the basics:
– Prioritizing whole unprocessed foods (fruits and vegetables) in my diet.
– Cooking as a crucial form of caring for myself.
– Prioritizing my health and well-being. (I had compelling reasons to try this type of diet at this time.)
– Setting goals and seeing them through even though it wasn’t always easy.
Those results are not just a short-term consequence of depriving myself for 30 days, they are, for me, how I want to live and eat in the long-term. I didn’t discover any of this on Whole30. I got a welcome reminder!
If you are thinking of doing something like Whole30, know that it requires a significant commitment and a certain degree of discipline and endurance. It might be the right decision for you at some point depending on your goals. Or, right now, you could make a conscious choice to make small improvements in your eating every day to support your health and well-being:
– Add vegetables and fruit to every meal.
– Choose less-processed foods.
– Carve out some time to prep produce — a little effort goes a long way.
– If you think a certain food type doesn’t agree with you, don’t eat it.
Use available tools to make cooking and prepping faster and easier or invest in something new — food processor, blender, knife or chopping board, for example.
– Unless you love to cook, keep it simple (I enjoyed making the Whole30 recipes because they call for minimal ingredients).
– Pay more attention to the signals your body is sending and choose accordingly.
– Be kinder and more forgiving to yourself.
In my work as a fitness professional, I feel there is a place for short-term restriction to jumpstart long-term goals. But as a strong believer in moderation and long-term lifestyle change vs. extreme deprivation and unsustainable nutritional restrictions, it is highly unlikely I will restrict myself to that extent ever again. No way am I giving up half and half in my coffee again! Defaulting to protein, vegetables and fruit as the foundation of a well-balanced diet? I can do that. And I heartily recommend it!
Coach Pritam Potts is a writer and strength coach. After 16+ years of training athletes and clients of all ages as co-owner of Edmonds-based Advanced Athlete LLC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. She writes about health & fitness, grief & loss, love & life at www.advancedathlete.com.