Well, I did it.  Almost.

Thirty days ago, I started the Whole30 eating plan. I cut out dairy, sugar, grains, gluten, legumes, and all processed foods from my diet.  I learned to eat whole foods – grass-fed meats, free range eggs and poultry, seafood, healthy fats and oils like coconut oil and bacon grease, fruits, nuts and vegetables.  Tons. Of. Vegetables.

I learned to read the labels on the backs of foods in the store more carefully.

I learned that there is added sugar and/or corn in nearly everything I was eating.  And that was making me feel tired and bloated and uncomfortable when I did not have to feel that way.

I cooked daily at home and made smarter choices on the road.  I used my Cuisinart more in the last 30 days than in my whole tenure of ownership, which spans 10 years.  I now can make some really good sweet potato chips.

I learned to eat some new things.  I tried scallops, jicama, taro and cauliflower – and I liked all of them except the cauliflower.  I made my own mayonnaise and chicken stock….and they were both really good.   I used up whole bottles of cumin, paprika, basil and cinnamon.  I learned how to cut a mango and pit an avocado. I bought locally-dried beef jerky and road-side Georgia peaches that blew away the imported stuff. I lived without Diet Coke, chai lattes and wine – and I am only looking forward to the wine coming back.

I slept better, stood taller and I even got back into some clothes that were too snug just a few weeks ago, thanks in part to the 5 1/2 pounds I lost.

I learned the difference between craving something because it is available – like the beer, seven-layer dip and cookies on the 4th of July or a Chipwich in the snack cooler at a company meeting  – and craving something because it is special, and rare and a real treat.

And that is why I did not make it to the 30th dinner in my Whole30.

Tonight, on the eve of my dad’s memorial service, I had Skyline chili with my family.  In the company of my mom, my sisters, my brothers-in-law, my uncles and aunt and my children, I enjoyed a small bowl of my favorite food on the planet, a food that my parents used to have packed on dry ice and shipped in styrofoam coolers from Cincinnati to Florida before you could buy it in the frozen foods section of Publix.

Skyline chili is a part of me and my family.  It is part of my dad.

And I enjoyed relished this meal more than words can express….though I did pass on the pasta and the enriched hotdog bun that normally accompany a Three-way and Cheese Coney.   (I guess I did learn something on my Whole30!)

Above all, what I have learned over these last several weeks is that 99 times out of 100, taking care of myself, eating better food and being more aware of where my food comes from, makes me feel better.

And for that 1 in 100, the feel-good comes from someplace greater than the taste of the food itself.

Cheers to anyone who goes on this Whole30 adventure.  May it change you for the better.

It certainly did for me.

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