The last I left you, I had deferred my The Woodlands Marathon entry due to some serious IT band problems.
The injury didn’t happen overnight. My body was giving me warning signs for months. I ignored it, of course. It wasn’t until it went from ache to pain that I admitted that I was injured.
I think, as runners, we all can relate to that feeling of panic when we realize we’re hurt and can’t run. Desperation sets in quickly and we’re willing to do anything to get us back to running faster. That’s where I found myself in January. I knew the acute knee injury was inflammation in the knee and I also knew that some foods contribute to inflammation. I figured that by eliminating the inflammatory foods in my diet I would speed up the healing of the inflammatory response in my knee. Seems logical, right?
I’d known several people who did Whole 30 and wouldn’t stop talking about how life changing it was so I did a little research and realized that Whole 30 eliminated all the inflammatory foods I wanted to avoid. I started January 2 and ended January 31. It actually was life changing.
What is Whole 30?
Simply put Whole 30 is a restrictive food program that lasts 30 days. It’s not about loosing weight (though that’s often a pleasant side effect), it’s about retraining your body, your metabolism, your taste buds and changing your eating habits.
The rules are simple. Eat meat, eggs, nuts, fruits and vegetables; don’t eat dairy, legumes, refined sugar, grains, and alcohol or try to make traditional foods out of approved ingredients (a pancake is still a pancake!). You can eat as much of the approved foods as you want.
It was hard, especially in the beginning. The first few days were easy because it was a novelty but the entire second week seemed to drag by. I dreaded the first sip of black coffee every morning – I could barely choke it down.
I started feeling different after about three days. I had more energy. I no longer needed that after lunch cup of coffee to make it past the kids’ bedtime. I immediately noticed that I thinned out around my waist and my muscles felt a lot stronger. That foggy headed feeling disappeared and I was thinking clearly.
After a week the achiness in my knees disappeared completely.
One morning during week three I sat down on the couch with my coffee and all of a sudden it was no longer bitter. I could actually taste the coffee instead of the creamer. I felt like I’d been freed.
The hardest part about Whole 30 was re-learning how to cook and confronting the idea that foods you thought we’re “good for you” aren’t necessarily as good as you thought. When you don’t eat dairy, wheat, beans or sugar that leaves a lot of calories to be filled by fruits and vegetables – then you realize that though foods like whole grains and dairy look good for you on paper they’re never as good for you as their caloric equivalent of fruits and veggies.
My body responded. By the time our 30 days were up I felt like a different person. I had more energy, more…spunk. I no longer felt like I was being dragged through life – I don’t know how to describe it other than to say it just felt right. Added bonus, I lost the last 10 pounds of baby weight. We were so pleased with the results that we did an extra 30 days.
Re-intoducing myself to normal food was hard because I felt so good both mentally and physically! I didn’t want to go back to my old way of eating because I didn’t want to go back to my old way of feeling. I know how different types of foods affect my body. I’ve also figured out how much of the offending foods I can eat before the adverse reaction begins. For example, I know that wheat makes me bloated but rice doesn’t and I can eat about 3 servings of wheat a week before I notice a change in the way my body feels. I can handle dairy in small amounts but the days of eating cheese a half a block at a time are gone.
A year later the lessons we learned doing Whole 30 still govern our life. Though we no longer follow it exclusively we do use it as a general guideline for our eating habits. To keep us from going crazy and to allow for dining out we make exceptions during the weekend. It’s an arrangement that keeps us honest, and works for our lifestyle.
Though I did Whole 30 to help my knee heal faster I noticed a marked difference in my athletic performance. Now that I’ve changed my eating habits and my body is getting the proper amount of nutrition I recover faster after hard workouts; I have more energy which makes completing my workouts easier. My joints feel strong and muscle soreness which used to linger for days now goes away after 24 hours.
The correlation between the food that goes in and the performance that comes out is real. If you’re going to ask your body to push itself beyond it’s known limits you have to give it good fuel. That’s the biggest takeaway from Whole 30, food is fuel for your body. That’s what Whole 30 taught me. It’s a lesson that I will keep with me forever.