A major benefit (or pain in the tail, depending on the day) of cutting out the food groups we tend to most heavily lean on is being forced to explore new styles of cooking and new foods all together.

As with most things in life, trying new and unfamiliar foodstuffs is a gamble that can lead one to jubilant victories or crushing defeats. While broadening horizons is, of course, a significant and encouraged facet of personal growth, ultimately, you have to trust yourself and embrace what feels right to you. Whole30 has taught us that if something doesn’t click with your body (or your palate), don’t force a relationship with it. If any given food makes you want to wretch upon contact, maybe revisit a ways down the road instead of traumatizing yourself with choking down an entire serving.

This week, one of my fellow Whole30 warriors and whole-life pals was kind enough to share a glimpse into her own frustrations with seeking meal variety and the pain that ensues when you pair depriving yourself of foods you want with relentlessly swallowing foods you’re sick and tired of. This is a story of both strife and encouragement. Even the strongest among us crumble under pressure sometimes--it’s all good, as long as you pull yourself up off the kitchen floor and keep trucking.

 The Importance of Dietary Variety and Trusting Thy Tastebuds During Your Whole30

When you’re eating Whole30, it feels like every moment is under a bizarre scrutiny. In normal life, you would probably keep snacks in your desk and idly reach in when mid-afternoon hunger/boredom strikes, or you might grab brunch with friends on a sunny Saturday morning without giving it a second thought. However, Whole30 life has you questioning every remotely food-related decision in your day-to-day existence, and honestly, can leave you feeling a little crazy.

I’ve been cooking my meals in bulk to head off any sneaky food-grabbing impulses, and I’ve traded in my sugar-coated desk snacks for plain nuts. Meals out with my boyfriend, Ryan, are now a dance around the menu, trying to swap this and switch that to make a dish that satisfies me and ultimately infuriates the servers (sorry, guys).

Nine days into Whole30, I was hosting a couch surfer who brought red wine and caramel-coated bacon popcorn as a kind and assumedly delicious thank you. Ryan immediately shot me a look filled with both cruel amusement and glee. He knew he’d be eating that popcorn by his lonesome later. The three of us went to my favorite restaurant, Bookhouse Pub in Atlanta, and my eyes began to glisten as I skipped over the burgers and pastas, and settled on a lame veggie plate.

After loving the broccoli and the Brussels sprouts, I enthusiastically honed in on the beets, a delicacy I’d never had before. One bite in, and I hated them—my throat attempted to close to keep out the filth, but I swallowed with a grim smile. I’d paid way too much for that platter of flat steamed veggies, so I forced down the rest of the beets, feeling progressively more nauseated. I’ve never met a food I despised so much—I eat just about anything.

The next day for lunch I couldn’t shake the taste/texture of wretched beets in my mouth. I poked Brussels sprouts around in my tupperware, and felt sick. That night, my dinner consisted of broccoli and cauliflower... I couldn’t. It was too much. I’d been eating the same steamed vegetables for a week solid because I bought them in bulk. Coupled with the leftover nausea of eating beets, I felt a wave of unbearable sadness wash over me.

I sat there with the limp florets in front of me, and I ached. I didn’t want the broccoli. I didn’t want beets. I didn’t want to eat the same damn thing every day. I didn’t want to feel shamed in the restaurant. Whole30 is worth it, I told myself. I’ve lost more weight than I was expecting to already, but at what cost? Is giving up my true love, Pizza, worth it? Shouldn’t I just make enough mac n’ cheese to fill an Olympic-sized pool and go swimming? I could/should eat the bacon popcorn--all the bacon popcorn--and finish that bottle of Malbec. I sunk deeper in my chair. This was miserable. I hated it all.

I stood up so fast my chair toppled over and mad-dashed to the kitchen. Yanking the fridge open and rustling through the drawers, I emerged with a small prize in my hand. Ryan came running in from the other room, yelling NOOOO as I tore through the foil, sank to the ground, and swallowed a piece of dark chocolate the size of a blueberry.

It felt right.