Utterly sober Saturdays and consecutive nights of relying on canned tuna for sustenance seem like a far and distant memory… almost like Whole30 never even happened. Except that my stomach and complexion continue to violently rebel after I eat certain things, kindly reminding me that it absolutely did. Roughly two weeks have passed since my support group and I have allowed Whole30–forbidden food groups back onto our plates… and despite our best intentions, keeping pizza at arms length and gently easing back into an unlimited diet was never going to happen. Sorry.

We embraced formerly illegal carbs and dairy like nobody’s business.

That said, we have to slap a big fat success stamp on the Whole30 experience. Yes, at the end of the month, some pounds were shed and energy was boosted—but more and most importantly, we grew in overall awareness. Even though we may have treated the past couple of weeks like a mass revolt against our broken Whole30 shackles, each of us has been far more conscious of what and how much we’re indulging in.

Like last night, I unapologetically consumed beer and ice cream, and feel totally A-OK about it. Pre-Whole30, I would have downed 3-4 beers while out with coworkers--last night, I was done after 1. And later, instead of avoiding reading the nutrition label because I’d rather not know what it says, I was vaguely attentive of the recommended serving size while eating ice cream directly from the carton. #growth

As a budding young adult trying to find my way in this world, I'd say that I'm persistently striving towards heightened mental self-awareness, and Whole30 has been a great illustration of how physical self-awareness is equally as powerful and liberating. For example, through the experience of cutting out and letting back in, one of our group members found that wheat products straight up do not sit well with her digestive tract, and she's now well equipped to limit the amounts she consumes to levels her body can handle happily. I have no inclination whatsoever to trim any foods/food groups out of my life; however, I have a much better gauge on how much of any given food -- healthy or less so -- I need to be satisfied (which typically demands smaller portions than what I was going for prior to Whole30). Even better, I’ve stopped eating foods that just happen to be in front of my face, or that sound good at the moment, or that I may have eaten out of habit before. I eat foods because I genuinely want them in my mouth. And that, my friends, tastes like freedom.

In short—Whole30 is intense. It’s strict, it’s frustrating, it’s borderline extreme, and it’s not for everyone. But if you’re seeking a major kick-start for prolonged health goals, as well as the necessary tools to get you there, Whole30 is most certainly worth a try. If nothing else…deprivation will make you appreciate your favorite garbage foods (Taco Bell) more than you could ever imagine.