How I Improved My Diet Without Going on a Diet

Forgive the stereotype, but men and diets generally don’t mix well.

I have spent my entire life subscribing to the theory that I’ll eat what I want and deal with it later. Through college and my early 20s, this was no problem. I was active enough to balance most of the junk I was putting in my body.

Then last month my wife challenged me to spend thirty days thinking through every single bite of food I ingest. Together, we embarked on the Whole30 challenge, a well-known program that eliminates many of the most enjoyable food groups from our diet entirely.

Let me be clear: I am not endorsing the Whole30 challenge—how could I, after just 14 days on the program as I sit down to write this? I do, however, endorse the goals outlined in the program and the mindset it aims to impart.

I have no weight loss goal for this month. I do not intend to lose weight, and I truly do not want to lose weight.

Instead, I hope to better understand some of the cravings I face (and often succumb to) on a daily basis. Over the course of these 30 days, I hope to also develop the habit of using food as a tool to fuel my body and not a source of comfort or entertainment.

That’s not to say I don’t fully intend to celebrate the end of this program with a bowl of ice cream or a cookie cake. I will forever see the value of food as the framework for an occasion—a wedding or birthday, for example. But I hope to limit those occasions moving forward.

Most of my family will tell you that a sweet tooth is woven well into the fabric of our DNA. We all have it, and we all enjoy it. My cravings for something sweet creeps into mind at night, though. Probably the worst time for it.

It’s not uncommon for me to eat dinner at 7 and later snack on something just before getting into bed. That has been the single hardest thing for me to overcome during Whole30.

I simply can’t turn to dessert during this challenge and most nights it drives me crazy. Occasionally a piece of fruit will take off the edge, but I can only eat so many nighttime bananas before the thought of a full-on banana split takes over my mind.

I have spent so many years eating impulsively without giving thought to what benefit, if any, that meal has for my body. If one thing sticks with me at the end of day 30, I hope it is the will power to avoid late-night snacking when sweets find their way back into our cabinets.

The Whole30 program sets out a number of stages your body will go through during its 30-day “reset.” I’m not sure I buy into most of them, as we are all different and will react differently to all foods and eating schedules. But I can say I feel better in overall terms and have enjoyed 14 great nights of sleep so far.

They say everything in moderation, including moderation itself. I can’t wait to sit down to my next slice of pizza, but I can guarantee it won’t be “just because.”

Food should have a purpose—even if that purpose is helping you celebrate your Friday.