People may say that I’m a sucker for punishment when it comes to my health and wellness, but I say I’m a sucker for self-improvement. There is something invigorating about embarking on a new challenge, and almost nothing is as rewarding as doing something good for your body, your mind, and/or your spirit.

A three-day juice cleanse right before our wedding was challenging, and though my body looked amazing my mind didn’t feel that way. If there is one thing I don’t want to feel before or during a time when I’m supposed to be improving is unwanted stress. But in the days leading up to the Whole30 I started on January 1, that’s exactly what I felt: stressed.

I’ve been so worried about simply getting through the holidays and not with my jeans getting tighter. Then scrolling through my Instagram feed two weeks ago, I saw a quote that was so profound but so logical:

“We’re so worried about what we eat during the time between Christmas and New Years that we forget it’s the months between New Years and Christmas with which we should be really more concerned.”

Translation: enjoy the holidays but get back on track thereafter. So that’s what I’m setting out to do with the help of the Whole30.

The Whole30 is exactly what it sounds like – a 30-day nutritional program in which you eat nothing but whole foods. That means enjoying meat, fish and seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts and seeds, and saying no to dairy, grains, processed foods, legumes, sugar and alcohol.

whole30-introIf you don’t eat meat like me (though I eat fish), you’re probably wondering “aren’t legumes whole foods?!” Yes, yes they are. But according to the research outlined in the books, It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways and The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom  by authors and co-founders Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, legumes like the other off-limits food groups cause inflammation in the body; exactly what you’re trying to avoid during this 30 day period. (Note: if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you can kinda sorta do the Whole30, and there’s some detail on that in the books and on the website.)

Jody asked me at our first Whole30 meal together — a chopped salad with a salmon burger, dressed in lemon juice and olive oil — why I not do paleo like him instead of Whole30 since the latter is much more restrictive.

Well, I said, it’s because I need a change. A real change. I already eat paleo-ish much of the time, except when I’m faced with a cheese plate (or when I put my face in a cheese plate, same thing). Plus, you can technically have wine when you’re paleo, and that’s my vice. We’re human, yes, everything in moderation is fine, but I just came out of a season of excess barely alive. I need a reboot.

But most of all, I want to see if I can do it. Can I break my habits and replace them, even temporarily, with the enthusiasm to nourish my body with healthy, clean food? Can I resist coming home from work or going to brunch without “needing” to unwind with a glass of wine? Can I sleep through the night without waking up twice and get through the day without four cups of coffee? Will I feel as amazing as people say you’ll feel? The journo in me wants to investigate and know for herself.

whole30-3The last time I attempted a Whole30 was in the summer of 2013. I only lasted three out of the four weeks because vacation called, but I remember feeling great. My skin looked fantastic (probably thanks to all the avocado I was packing away), and I think I even dropped about five pounds. Yes, I survived, and there was no Whole30 cookbook at the time to help me then, either.

So, beginning January 1, I officially started the Whole30, and so far I’m feeling strong despite day one’s hangover. Dinner on December 31 was more like my Last Supper. After a trip to Whole Foods to pick out “my final meal,” I came home with a baguette, a wedge of fancy cheese, a bottle of Bordeaux, and some chocolate truffles. The books 100% advise you to not do this, so I’m going to go ahead and back that up and advise you not to do it either. Trust me on this one!

Over the next 30 days I’ll be sharing how this whole thing is going down, from what to fill your fridge and pantry with, to tried recipes, to surviving eating out. I’m sure it will be quite the learning experience.

Here’s to day one and taking one day at a time!