For all of the preparatory work that one might do prior to starting the Whole30, perhaps the most important is the work that’s done in your head. I’m not talking about thinking about your meal plan or reviewing what pantry items you need to order from Thrive or Amazon. I’m talking about the messy work of confronting WHY you’re doing this.

And the answer of, “I want to lose 10 pounds.” should not be the answer.

For me, so much of the hard work of the Whole30 opened up when I completed my last one in September. Every other Whole30 I had done or attempted was under the guise of wanting to lose weight. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great side effect. But, if you look at the Whole30 in that way, you’re treating a symptom of what’s happening with your relationship with food, and not the root cause.

My refrigerator shrine of Whole30 commitments.

So, back to my September Whole30. I entered it with the complete intention to lose 10 pounds. Which I did. What I didn’t expect was that I learned so much about my relationship with food.

I don’t have a bad history with food or any eating habits that I would consider truly disordered. However, while being mindful during my September Whole30 I realized how much I had used food to meet an unmet emotional need and numb feelings. For example, stressful day at work? You bet I needed dinner out and a couple glasses of wine. Burning the midnight oil? I’d totally burn through half a bag of chips as a reward. Driving across the state for work? What a great excuse to hit up Wendy’s! Why wouldn’t you for a reward for taking the time away from your family to work so hard?

While this sounds like a rather rudimentary discovery, I wasn’t eating because I was hungry. I was eating to fulfill some sort of unnamed need.

Enter a crazy thing called Non-Violent Communication. It’s actually a book by Marshall B. Rosenberg that I was reading at work and it doesn’t really have anything to do with violence so the name is a little confusing. Essentially, it’s a communication model that helps you express how you are feeling, express your needs and then empathetically receive how another person is feeling. I know…I’m going off of the deep end a little here, but hear me out.

As I practiced non-violent communication- making an observation, naming my feeling, expressing my need and then making a request – I learned that I often get stuck in my feeling and then could not adequately express a need from it. Instead of being able to name what I was feeling: stressed, lonely, bored, etc., I would just acknowledge that it didn’t feel good and that maybe some food or a glass of wine would make me feel better.

However, maybe instead of feeling “bad” I could really name the feeling as “stressed out” and ask for help on a work project. Or maybe I was “tired” and I could just go to bed. To this day, I literally keep a feelings inventory at my desk to help me name my feelings and needs. Again, I know this sounds pretty basic, but how often do we just attribute how we feel to “good” or “bad” and not dive deeper into that feeling to resolve it?

So, for me, the important work of the January Whole30 mindset started today as I spent some time reflecting on what I want out of this journey and what I will commit to.

Up-close and personal: here’s the hard stuff.

Interested in learning more about NVC? Seriously, it’s incredibly helpful not just fluffy stuff. Check out this video, it’s one of my favorite applications.

Mental hygiene- so important!