Whole30 Diaries Part Two: Bet You Thought You'd Seen the Last of Me

I would love to sit down and tell you all how the rest of my Whole30 experience went, but first I think that we, as a group, have some shit to clear up.

Monday, March 19th, 2018 is a day that will live in infamy for two reasons.

  1. I accidentally started a war with the Whole30 community, a sentence that I hope ends up on my tombstone one day.
  2. Against all odds and only serving as further proof that irony is the realest force of nature, it was the day that my Whole30 experience turned around. I’m serious. The day that the rabid Whole30 community came crashing down on me was the day I woke up with the energy and overall healthy feeling I’d been promised all along. God is a messy bitch and She lives for drama.

When part one of my Whole30 diary went up two weeks ago, I didn’t expect much. By now, regular readers of Betches know that any of my fad diet diaries (don’t call Whole30 a diet though. It’s NOT a diet, it’s a PROGRAM) are about 40% background and methodology and 60% me talking about how much I wanted to die during the duration of it. That’s kind of the whole point—I’m not a nutritionist or diet expert, just a person who enjoys subjecting myself to various fad diets and programs and is extremely honest.

So, you could say I was more than a little shocked when I checked out my article midday Monday and found that a full-scale battle had erupted in the comments section. I now know this was due largely in part to Melissa Hartwig, who posted a swipe-up link to the article (thanks for that, loved the traffic) as well as a series of stories in which she discussed why I am just the worst. (In her defense, I am the worst—but this single, initially unsuccessful, venture into her program isn’t the reason why.) However, I would like to state for the record that this short series of stories is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and it will be playing at every one of my major life events until I die.

My husband and I will take our first dance as a married couple to the dulcet tones of this woman talking about my shitty attitude. My children will breathe their first breaths of air as The Great Ivy Whole30 Rant of 2018 plays in the background. If I ever win any kind of major award, I’ll be waltzing up to the stage as “YOUR ATTITUDE BLOWS, IVY” blasts through whatever auditorium is misfortunate enough to be hosting me. The Whole30 program could not have given me a greater gift than this.

Thank You

Now, I know that ignoring the comments section is one of the cardinal rules of writing on the internet, but some of the things that came up were too good not to address. Please bear with me while I take a minute to offer up a few thoughts.

To the people who left supportive advice or general words of encouragement: you’re all sweeties. Your comments were actually very helpful and I like to think that you’re the best of this otherwise ravenous community of nut pod enthusiasts.

To those who questioned the integrity of my degenerate friends and their rampant alcohol consumption: you’re not wrong and also they loved the shout-out.

To the people who called me a lazy, whiny, junk-food-eating monster, and guessed that I look shitty in Rag & Bone jeans (possibly the strangest deep cut of all time): holy shit. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the single most entertaining Monday of my entire life.

To the one person who said that drinking black coffee isn’t as bad as having both of your parents die from cancer: I mean…yeah. You got me there. Seemed like a really unnecessary argument to make, but I don’t disagree with you.

To Dallas Hartwig: I am sincerely sorry for getting your name wrong. I can’t imagine anything more deprecating than being mislabeled a Doug, and I take full responsibility for that mistake. This is the only apology I will be offering throughout the course of this article.

To the people whose lives have been changed by Whole30: I am truly happy for you. It’s great that you found a program that makes you feel good about yourself. However, your experience does not have to be my experience, and vice-versa.

The fact that I didn’t feel great for my first two weeks should not and does not negate whatever life-changing results you’ve accomplished. In fact, if I were you, succeeding where some snarky stranger on the internet is failing would actually fill me with a perverse kind of satisfaction. But, hey, maybe you’re just a better person than I am.

All jokes aside, there is something I’d like to clear up here. I understand people questioning my motives, my incessant complaining, and my general alcohol consumption, but what became clear to me after the publishing of part one is that my dedication to the program was now under fire. In light of that, I’d like to stress that I did, in fact, take this process seriously.

I read blogs. I pored over forums. I made meticulous grocery lists. I sat on the floor of more grocery stores than I’d like to admit, Googling the ingredients of every single item I bought. I spent an obscene amount of money on those groceries. I spent hours upon hours meal prepping. I said pretentious things like, “would you happen to have any Whole30 compliant sugar-free bacon?” to real life waiters. I tried. I tried really hard.

I also did a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t have—like get a little heavy-handed with the almond butter in the beginning there—but I grew from those mistakes and adapted. There’s a learning curve to cutting out half your diet, and I was admittedly slow to adjust to it. Nothing made this more apparent to me than St. Patrick’s Day, potentially one of the lowest points of my entire experience.

Take a moment to picture this, if you will: me, sitting in a raucous bar on March 17th, blandly sipping a sparkling water and wondering if I’ve ever been as drunkenly confident as the people standing in the middle of the room screaming the words to “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”

Too Sober

If I learned anything these last 30 days, it was an understanding of drunk people as an entity. Suddenly I understood why people who don’t drink don’t like going out with their friends that do: not because it’s impossible to have fun sober, but because it’s nearly impossible for drunk people to let you.

Explaining to my friends why I was abstaining from the festivities was one thing. Correcting every bartender who had assumed I’d ordered a vodka soda was expected. But the only time I witnessed any disappointment that even came close to mirroring my own was when I had to fend off a group of drunk girls who had selflessly bought out the bar’s stock of jello shots and insistently handed them to every person they encountered. Some people are truly to good for this world, too pure.

I went home that night tired and annoyed, my only comfort the roasted potatoes I had made in an attempt to restore some kind of festivity to the day. The knowledge that I still had 15 more days of this routine was weighing on me as I fell asleep, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dreading it. But then I woke up a mere two days later, invincible.

As mentioned earlier on, March 19th was the turning point. I felt great throughout all of week three, better than I could have imagined during the darkness that was the first 15 days. I had finally got the hang of meal prepping, was waking up naturally and less groggy than I had in quite some time, and even found the energy to start exercising before work.

That entire week flew by. Work was busier than ever but I was, for once, preternaturally equipped to deal with it. There were no mid-afternoon crashes, no multi-alarm snoozes. I woke up ready for the day and went to bed ready for the next.  I was on top of the world—and then week four hit.

Me halfway through week three: My body is a TEMPLE and I am its GODDESS I am one with NATURE.

Me the first day of week four:

Without any major changes in my routine, any glaring cheats, or any other perceptible differences, I was back to being tired and moody during week four. It was like reliving week two with a new element of irrational anger that I think stemmed from the fact that any and all novelty had completely worn off.

I don’t know what happened here, and I honestly wasn’t pressed enough to find out. This was the last stretch of a marathon, and I was that dog that saw people running and just joined in without knowing what it was getting itself into. My last three days of Whole30 were my lowest, due in large part to the fact that I stopped caring.

So was it all worth it in the end? For me, personally, no. But before the angry mobs arrives outside my apartment, let me explain.

I understand that part of the deal here is to forgo eating out for 30 days. Fine. I didn’t eat out. But I wasn’t ready, or all that willing if we’re being honest, to abandon my social life completely. It sounds trivial to complain about not being able to eat and drink with your friends, but I’m going to complain about it anyway because it’s a very real thing. I’m in my twenties. A large portion of my social life consists of going to dinner, going to happy hour, going out at night, and in general consuming things that I didn’t have to meticulously prepare myself. Whole30 didn’t stop me from joining those events, but it did stop me from really enjoying them. More than an inconvenience, it’s just plain awkward to be the only person at a table not eating, drinking, or having fun.

As for changing my relationship with food, I’ll say this: I liked where that relationship was to start with. It’s taken me 26 years and a lot of trial and error to get there, and I don’t see any reason to alter it.

Is 30 days that long in the grand scheme of things? Of course not. But it’s how long it took me to realize that food should be experienced, not just consumed to ensure that our bodies continue functioning.

Maybe if I were someone who suffered from dietary issues to start, I would be telling you a different story right now. I’m lucky enough to have a digestive system that can process grains and an unholy amount of dairy without causing me any grief, so for the past month I was effectively cutting something out that I enjoyed and that hadn’t ever truly wronged me. I understand why someone with a lurking gluten or lactose intolerance would sing the praises of a program that revealed it to them, but I went in knowing that I didn’t have to worry about any of those kinds of things, and thus couldn’t help second-guessing why I wasn’t allowing myself to have them.

In the end, I lost eight pounds, which is less than I expected but still no small feat. Admittedly, I feel fine now and am generally psyched about the possibility of there being a bone structure hiding beneath my typically rounder face, but it’s not enough to make me consider adapting this program on a long-term or repeated basis. Because on the other side, I’ve felt alone and isolated more times in the past four weeks than I have since the dark days of middle school and I can’t, in good faith, participate in a program that causes that. But, hey, maybe I’m just not cut out for Whole30 after all.

Images: Giphy (4)

Mary Kate Fotch
Mary Kate Fotch
Mary Kate recently moved to Amsterdam, where she spends a good chunk of her time trying to not die on a bike. She was forced to develop a sense of humor at an early age for many reasons, not the least of which being that she grew up with the name Mary Kate during the Olsen twin era. Follow her on Instagram if you're interested almost exclusively in Huji edits or stories about her overweight cat.