The week before Ash Wednesday, I still couldn’t think of something good to give up. Well, that’s not exactly true. I could think of lots of things I should give up, but the thought of giving up any of my “crutches” was terrifying. The last few months have felt especially hard. I felt tired all the time, overwhelmed by work, anxious, grumpy with my kids; and, if I’m being honest, I was a slave to sugar and carb cravings.
Around the same time, I stumbled upon a few articles from a mommy blogger who shared about her experience with the Whole30. I read her story and was intrigued; changing her diet – specifically eliminating sugar – significantly impacted her sleep, her mood, and her ability to mother her small children.
I’d heard of the Whole30 before, and though I’d give mad props to the mamas who accomplished it, I was entirely terrified of it – it’s kind of intense. And while I wasn’t really excited about the idea, I’d reached that perfect amount of brokenness where I was just desperate enough to be open to something radical; something I’d never been brave enough to try before.
So, I put it out there. I posted a question on Facebook about other moms’ experiences with the Whole30. I was shocked to learn how many of my friends had tried it and how much they were willing to share with me and encourage me. A sweet mom from my church invited me to join a group of women all doing the Whole30 for Lent, and I discovered a few other dear friends were already a part of the group! I had no excuse now. So I did it; I jumped in (whining and crying and petrified, but all-in nonetheless).
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Here’s what I learned:
What I eat impacts how I parent.
Coming into the Whole30, I knew how food – specifically sugar and grains – impacted my waistline and my complexion, but I’d no idea how significantly those foods also impacted my ability to deal. By the end of the first week I was waking up feeling different. I hate to admit it, but most mornings I woke up groggy and grumpy, and the process of getting everyone fed, ready and out the door turned me from groggy and grumpy to frazzled and angry. But suddenly I woke up clear-headed and feeling well-rested. I was able to greet my children with a smile, and get our day started with relative ease.
Soon I noticed that I was better at handling tantrums, meltdowns and all the demands of small children; I was somehow able to muster more patience and gentleness, and I wasn’t running to the pantry for chocolate or Diet Coke. This is not to say things were perfect; in fact, they were and are still far from perfect, but I feel more capable of handling my vocation. And that is a welcome change.
I learned how to eat for my life.
As you now know, mornings are tough for me. Before, I’d often miss breakfast, or eat so little and so poorly that I’d be starving by 10:00 AM and indulge in whatever treats were sitting out at work. This just started the vicious cycle of cravings and crashes, always at the worst times for moms – morning, nap time, dinner, and bedtime. Through trial and error I learned what to eat and when in order to feel happy and healthy – when I needed more protein, when I needed to make sure I had healthy fats, when to eat fruit and healthy carbs. This is where the support of other women was most helpful; when I needed ideas or tips, they came through, but always with a side of “You’ve got this!” or “You’re doing great!”
I can do hard things.
While my kids and husband have most benefited from that first lesson, this is the one that has had the most impact for me personally. I learned that I have more self-control and grit than I knew (I learned to drink my coffee black!!) and I am proud of myself. That pride and confidence has seeped into other areas of my life, particularly my emotional and spiritual health. I am taking better care of myself with regular exercise, I am spending more time cultivating friendships, and my prayer life has improved.
At the start of the month I looked at these 30 days with fear and trembling, and while it definitely wasn’t easy, from the other side looking back I can say that it truly is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I think my sweet husband and children agree.
Copyright 2017 Megan Swaim
About the Author
Megan Swaim is an Indiana girl on an east coast adventure. A former high school youth minister, she now gets to minister full-time to her three young daughters and her husband Josh. Megan spends her days homeschooling at the kitchen table, drinking iced coffee, and exploring coastal Virginia.