That Time I Had a Panic Attack During Whole30

And what I'm doing differently this time around.

In this rear view, an unrecognizable woman stands with a shopping cart in front of a shelf full of food in the bread aisle of a grocery store.

In this rear view, an unrecognizable woman stands with a shopping cart in front of a shelf full of food in the bread aisle of a grocery store.

Photo by: asiseeit


If you've ever done Whole30 before, you'll know that it's an eye-opening experience. Finding out that sugar lurks pretty much everywhere (chicken stock?! WHY?!) led me down the path of believing that the only things that were safe to eat (during the 30 days of clean eating) were homemade. My main strategy was simple:

1- Meal plan and prep ALL. OF. THE. THINGS.

2- Avoid human interaction at all costs because it always involves food/beverages that I can't consume. Hazard of the job, I guess.

It was all going well, until friends decided to make an impromptu stop in Philly as part of a road trip. They were going to be staying with us for a few days and wanted to see the sights. Sigh. I mean, Yay!, I'm so excited.

I quickly adjusted my strategy: Eat as many meals as possible at my home, so I can be sure I’m eating Whole30-compliant food. Breakfast and dinner were easy, but lunch was proving a bit difficult since we'd right in the middle of touring around the city.

There is so much good food in Philly, but I didn't want to make it too hard on myself (I would have done some pretty terrible things for a taste of Federal Donuts). Reading Terminal Market, a food hall with 20+ restaurants, was a sensible choice – I figured there had to be at least one restaurant that could work. I scouted out the menus ahead of time and found a salad that I'd ask for without cheese.

After hours of walking around the city, we got to the market and I found that the salad I originally planned on was premade with cheese. Cool.

I walked from stall to stall, looking for something that could work. There was nothing I could eat. Well, nothing that I considered to be Whole30-compliant. I HAD COME SO FAR, THERE'S NO WAY I CAN LET ANYTHING BUT THE PUREST OF FOODS TOUCH MY LIPS.

For a solid 10 minutes I just walked up and down the aisles of this food hall feeling sorry for myself, quietly panicking that I was probably never going to eat again. At which point I realized that I had blown this way out of proportion.

Sometimes OK is good enough. Even if it's not 100% perfect.

I found a burger place that served bare-bones salads, so I dropped a burger patty over the lettuce and called it a day. It amounted to a very OK meal and guess what? Everything was fine. The heavens didn't come crashing down and I didn't start binge-eating tortilla chips (one of the main reasons I started this journey in the first place).

Lesson Learned? This is a self-imposed challenge. It is not life or death.

You can plan all you want but, inevitably, life will throw you a few social interactions throughout the month of January. And – repeat after me – everything will be OK.

I went into this year's Whole30 with the learnings from last year. I still prepped all of the things. And when it came time for social interactions involving food? I picked something that's – in theory – compliant to the rules. If it's still in the spirit of Whole30, then that'll have to be good enough for the meal.

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