Grace, grit, and the Whole30

See you never, ice cream.

In my most cliché move yet, I’m now on the Whole30.

If you aren’t familiar, the Whole30 is a 30-day elimination diet that cuts out everything that makes me who I am: sugar, dairy, grains, and alcohol (also legumes and soy, although those mean less to me). It’s popular with girls on Instagram and your boss’s wife.

The Whole30 is reserved for the wealthy, since my first week’s grocery run ran me nearly five times my normal food budget. Granted, I have been known to subsist on Wheat Thins, popcorn, and cheese, which means that I typically budget $30/week for food (don’t judge, I hate myself enough for this already), but still. Look at me — I’m so rich, I can cut out entire food groups!

See you never, ice cream.

Here is what one can eat while on the Whole30: vegetables, meat, seafood, fruit, eggs, and healthy fats. The only processed food allowed is, say, a sweet potato that’s been shredded through the food processor. If it’s convenient or comes in a package, chances are very good that it’s very bad. Thou shalt make thine own condiments. And don’t even glance at that perfectly chilled glass of summer rosé — eyes up here, buddy.

Does it sound awful? It sort of does to me, which is why it’s taken me so long to try it. But I finally decided it was time. Here’s why.

Twelve days before I ran the Fargo Marathon, I landed myself in the ER.

During my training, I had basically become a human garbage dumpster, eating anything and everything in sight. It wasn’t really a problem from a caloric standpoint since I was burning it off, but it led to me feeling free to do things like order the pizza AND the tacos AND the potstickers — a United-Junk-Food-Nations. Nutrition mattered not; I was a human Hoover.

Until one night in May when I was hit with the worst crippling abdominal pain of my entire life. The pain was so severe that the adrenaline was causing my limbs to convulse; I honestly thought I was having a seizure. My next-door neighbor rushed me to the hospital, where I was given fluids for dehydration and a lecture for being bottomed out on nutrients.

Dumb? Avoidable? Probably. I would start a GoFundMe for the yet-to-be-received bill, except knowing me I would just ask for payment in wine. Which brings me to my next point.

Here are the occasions in which I have been known to justify a glass of wine:

  • When I’m happy (hooray!)
  • When I’m sad (wallow wallow)
  • When I’m with friends (celebrate fun times!)
  • When I’m alone (I call this “vice-olation”)
  • When I have a great meal (wouldn’t be complete without it)
  • When I have a lame meal (you know what would make this sad popcorn taste better…?)
  • When I cook at all (Cabernet while I chop)
  • When I’m bored (a nice way to pass an evening)
  • When I’m stressed (gotta relax and unwiiiind)
  • When I go on a trip (special occasion)
  • When I get back from a trip (good to be home!)
  • When life just feels like a little too much (take that edge off, then sleep like crap and wake up thirsty)

Now, don’t fret — this has not been happening on a daily basis. But I was just starting to find that it was happening more often than it should. I have allowed alcohol to play a stronger role than it needs to in my life, and the collective effect has been me waking up with low-level shame. Gross.

Alcohol has often been the path of least resistance for me, but it doesn’t need to be. I don’t need to numb out, because life has already shown me that I can do hard things. Which leads me to…

In my 20s, I was a real hard-ass, especially when it came to myself. I set huge goals and accomplished them. I got the jobs I applied for, and even ones that I didn’t. I restricted calories to be skinny. I boldly moved across the country multiple times. I manipulated to make myself look good on the Internet. I did impressive things so I could impress people and therefore be an impressive person.

But in my 30s, there was a shift. I got tired and my heart broke in two and I couldn’t keep up so I just decided to give myself grace.

I slowed down. I stopped striving. I bought clothes a size bigger. I sought contentment with the way things are instead of struggling toward the way I wished they would be. I stopped caring so much about what other people think, and decided instead to just be happy.

This all sounds great — and a lot of it is — but there’s been a shadow side.

All of those big goals I used to have? I started letting them slide. I would commit to something and then, in the name of grace, drop out. I would dream up something major, then abandon it before even starting because “You should go easy on yourself, Annie.” I let myself off the hook, over and over again — and before I knew it, it had been years since I’d accomplished much of anything.

And for a girl who at a very core level loves to knock it out of the park, that started to feel like a bummer.

So I ran a marathon. And now I’m doing the Whole30. Because grace and grit are not mutually exclusive, and I’m due for some good old-fashioned Annie-in-her-20s EMOTIONAL VICTORY.


Don’t worry, I will not ceaselessly post my meals to Instagram. But if I see you and you’re eating Cheetos, you’re dead to me.



  1. Patty on June 12, 2017 at 8:58 PM

    I have always been pretty disciplined when it came to diet & exercise ever since my 20’s . . . .(that’s 40 yrs of discipline)! If a new food was deemed the ‘new’ super food, even if it made me gag, I would incorporate it into my meals! With exercise, I pushed myself like a brave martyr!!! I’m not saying that to boast but rather to make this next point. Of ALL the fad diets I have tried, I could not finish the Whole30 diet! (I lasted about 3 days!) SO, kudos to you, Annie!!!
    (However. . .IF you decide it, too, is not for you, I have found a WONDERFUL diet that is healthy, gives me LOTS more energy, simple to follow & prepare AND promotes healthy weight loss, let me know. I’ll share it with you!

  2. Rebs on June 12, 2017 at 10:32 PM

    I’m sending you an email ???? Solidarity ????????????????????❤️❤️❤️

  3. Sarah on June 13, 2017 at 7:43 AM

    Good job Annie… although it seems like you could have a “third Saturday of the month glass of wine” if you wanted… I’m all about wine in moderation ;).

  4. Dani E. on June 13, 2017 at 8:39 AM

    Annie, I did the whole30 in January. I’m glad I did. It didn’t reveal any major allergies or anything like that – BUT finishing did change my life. confidence, pride(in a good way) and satisfaction are powerful and I have seen the effects in my life since January.
    My sister-in-law did the whole30 with me and it was so helpful to have someone join me on the couch while everyone else ate cake. You got this.

  5. Kristy on June 13, 2017 at 9:18 AM

    I was *just* (during my hour-long commute this morning) musing on the grace I’ve been able to extend myself as I’ve gotten older (“This is who I am! And I’m ok with me!”) And how that’s a good thing: self-acceptance, grace, all that. But also musing on how I don’t want to just get complacent. I don’t want to stop growing, maturing, trying. It’s a fine line – grace and complacency. Worth wondering how to walk that tightrope.

  6. Greta on June 13, 2017 at 11:04 AM

    Jeff and I are not yet at the Whole30 cliche, but we HAVE had conversations in the past week about dramatically changing our diet. I mean… what a bummer to miss out on ice cream though, right??

    In any case, I will cheer you on, and of course, want to hear how it’s going.

  7. Miranda on June 13, 2017 at 1:13 PM

    Aidells chicken and apple sausages and LaCroix were big life savers for me. And thank goodness potatoes are still on the ok list. You got this!

  8. Steve on June 13, 2017 at 6:32 PM

    You are such a good writer!!!!!!!!!!! Come on now!!!!!!

  9. Allison on June 15, 2017 at 10:08 PM

    I loved the whole30 that I did in May! I slept SO good. I love sleeping more than anything, so that was my favorite part. It also helped a ton with my never-ending anxious thoughts. I became a slightly more positive version of my cranky self. I was drawn to it because it’s non-inflammatory (alzheimers/diabetes, which run in my family – are linked to inflammation). I’m off it now, but it was so unexpectedly positive that i’m still trying to have 2 whole30 meals a day. And nachos for breakfast. If anyone tells you that apples will taste like candy when you’re done, they lie. Candy tastes like candy.

  10. Kim on June 19, 2017 at 9:22 AM

    good for you! A little restart to the system can’t hurt! if you need recipe ideas, this blogger has really yummy ones. I’m not on whole30 but I’ve made a few of her whole30 recipes and they are delicious.

  11. Joey on August 7, 2017 at 8:20 PM

    Thank you for sharing your whole self with us in this Whole30 post. How did it go for you?

    It sounds like you are finding a healthy balance of good work and grace. I used to overpush myself and someone asked me, “Are you doing well because of overworking yourself or IN SPITE of it?” That always stuck with me.

    Go Annie!

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