• Jess Kennedy

Why I Do A Whole30 Every January

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

Photo by Jenny Lind at Silvergraph Studio

There’s nothing magical about January 1st that has more importance or sway over the rest of the Universe than any other date. And yet, every year, we talk about “new year, new me,” and “new years’ resolutions,” like there’s some mystical audience we’re trying to convince of our efforts.

I am no different. I relish the crisp newness of a yearly planner, the eager excitement of a list of goals. Ten Things I Will Change In The New Year.

Inevitably, the list is lost and long forgotten, the planner is out of use by August, and by November I’m making another list, a better, a “different this time” list to finally get it right. I won’t. Not in 2020, not in 2025, not ever.

Despite knowing this, despite understanding in my heart that best laid plans rarely pan out, I—like every other optimist and fool—will continue to make these announcements until the day I can no longer fire the synapses that are required to make such announcements. Lists and plans aside, there is one January tradition that I wholeheartedly enjoy and look forward to every year: The Whole30.

If you’ve never heard of Whole30, the short of it is that it’s a dietary reset that can be done, truly, at any point in your life. It doesn’t have to be in January, and really should be done any time you’re starting to slip back into an eating pattern that doesn’t jive with what you’ll learn about yourself during the Whole30. January just happens to be the easiest time to do it, in my opinion, because in general, the World has agreed that January is a time for sober reflection, not merrymaking, and there tend to be fewer social obligations during this month.

Forget obsessive calorie-counting, and weight-checking, and the experience of this reset is altogether unique.

The Whole30 removes the usual suspects of inflammation from your diet, and allows your body to operate under ideal conditions for 30 full days. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but during week three there is often this surge of energy that reminds you of how your body is meant to feel. It’s truly incredible, and if they could bottle it, they’d make a million dollars.

No gluten, dairy, alcohol, or added sugar, the typical belly-wrecking bad boys are outta here. Take away also legumes, soy, MSG, sulfites, and carrageenan. Remove, too, the “treats” that look like the real thing (SWYPO, or “Sex WithYour Pants On,”) and keep you in the deprivation-reward cycle. Forget obsessive calorie-counting, and weight-checking, and the experience of this reset is altogether unique.

Is it hard? It is. It’s a degree of cooking that isn’t really sustainable in my “real life,” or it could be, if only I planned a little better. It also makes things like restaurants and meals at friends’ homes a little awkward. “I’ll be bringing something that fits my very particular dietary restrictions,” while not rude per se, is a boundary I’m still not quiet comfortable setting with any and everyone who extends an invitation.

I’ve found the tricks and recipes that I know work for me, are easy to maintain, and don’t make me feel deprived.

Anything is hard the first few times you do it. Whole30 is a little scary, and just big enough to let the “I could never do that” excuses run wild, and yet I do it, every January, without fail. Here on round—what is it? Four? I’ve found the tricks and recipes that I know work for me, are easy to maintain, and don’t make me feel deprived.

I’ve found the perfect way to make a whole casserole last a week for lunches, my egg bites pass the test of time as an easy morning breakfast, and I’ve located a brand of hot dogs that work in a pinch when I just need to eat something over a sink, damnit.

Can I recommend Whole30? Well, that depends. Are you tired of how you feel? Do you suspect there may be some foods or beverages that are to blame? Do you think “If only I could give up ___,” (insert dairy, or sugar, or pasta here,) “I’d finally start to feel in control of my life.”

Whole30 is a great excuse to finally let go of the excuses. I sort of just give myself over to the rules, no exceptions, and let them rule my life for 30 days.

No cream in my coffee? Okay boss, I’ll just stick to tea.

No sweet treat at the end of the meal? Whatever you say.

There’s a sort of relief in not having to make the choice, or fight the temptation for me. This is just how things are now, this is how I do things. So much freedom in that thought! I’m looking for ways to extend this to the rest of my life, too.

Curious if Whole30 is for you? Check out the literature, of which there is plenty, or send me a DM. I’m not a Whole30 coach, but I do have some thoughts about how you can do one of your own, even a month’s worth of meal planning that I created for my 2019 Whole30.

There’s something so powerful in knowing that I can accomplish 30 full days of very restricted consumption in order to better my connection with my body. If I can do this, what can’t I do? Even in the midst of depression, and grief, and general malaise, I’m sailing through it, one sweet potato at a time.