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Not sure when I should start (atypical living situation) -- Any advice

Michelle in California

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Hi everyone,

My name is Michelle, I am married with a 16 year old son and I live, teach and work on a college campus. To be specific, I live in a dorm (in an apartment in the dorm) with my family and act as a sort of "dorm parent" for 120 students, freshmen to seniors. This is mine and my family's last year at this job (we've been at it for 6 years, our first 5 years we were responsible for a freshman dorm - very intense). My dilemma is this: because of the nature of where I live and what my responsibilities are, it has been very difficult to control my food. I am expected to eat in the dining hall (which makes it hard to control ingredients), provide both social and educational events in the dorm for my residents and attend events with other "dorm parents" on campus. It often feels that I have no control over my food and environment because of this job and how it often revolves around food/snacks etc. We are moving in June off campus and will, at that point in time, have complete control over our food and environment (so excited about this!).

I should also say that I have, in the past, tried to do a similar sort of cleanse of my food while doing this job on campus and it almost always doesn't work due to the pressures to provide the food and participate in events revolving around food. There is also the issue of the fact that my sleep cycle is often interrupted with emergencies or noise in our dorm. As a result, I have put on quite a bit of weight in the past 5 plus years and I am anxious to get back to a healthier state of being.

In about 40 days, I will be attending my niece's wedding back in my home state. What I'm wondering is if any of you have any advice/experience/support to offer regarding WHEN I should begin The Whole 30. 

My choices seem to be --

1) start right away (as soon as I clear my cabinet) and work really hard to do what I can to control my food environment in preparation for being at a wedding; or

2) wait until we move away from the campus where I won't have to be constantly faced with all of the food I don't want to consume.

I worry that if I choose option 1 and fail (yet again), I will be completely disheartened. But I also worry that if I don't choose option 1, I will always have some reason as to why I can't start eating the way I know is best for my body and my health.

Any suggestions?

Thanks so much and I really look forward to being an active member of this forum!

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What about option 3) eat as close to Whole30 as you can until you move away from campus, and then do a strict Whole30?

So, have eggs for breakfast, not cereal (although veggies for breakfast are weird enough for many people that you may need to bring in your own), don't have bread with your meals, don't have breaded meats or vegetables if there are non-breaded options available, choose plain items over ones with cream or cheese, avoid the chips and snacks, make your meals meet the meal template as closely as you can. I'm guessing that since they have to deal with food allergies and varied dietary requirements, the dining hall offers multiple options for each meal, and if you ask the people in charge, they can probably tell you about the different options that are readily available.

You may need to stock up on some things to bring in for yourself. For instance, you may need to bring in olives or avocado or your own salad dressings for fat choices, or bring in your own ghee or olive oil to go on baked potatoes or steamed vegetables. If sometimes it's hard to find plain protein options, you could keep cans of tuna or salmon or hard boiled eggs in your apartment and bring them in to add to your vegetables, or eat them afterwards if you needed to. Or you could talk to the people in charge of food service and make sure there's always something available for you -- again, they're probably used to dealing with different dietary stuff, so it's probably not a huge deal. If they have any celiac students on campus, they probably make sure to have gluten free options. Peanuts and dairy are common enough allergens that they probably make sure it's easy for people to avoid those if they need to. Soy and sweeteners do show up in lots of places you might not expect them, but this might be a place where you just do your best to avoid the obvious things and don't sweat it too much. So, don't put ketchup on your meat since you know the ketchup has sugar, but if the only plainish meat available is probably marinated in something, don't worry about that.

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I completely second what Shannon said. I wouldn't set yourself up for failure. If you know you are in an environment where you can't control all of the food to do a strict Whole30, start by making healthier choices. This means when you do your Whole30 you'll already have a jump start on minimizing sugar, processed foods, and a lot of the other stuff people miss and crave. 

Also, if you are providing the food, consider looking for group options that are Whole30 compliant. Instead of bringing a plate of cupcakes or cookies, bring fresh fruit. Instead of making enchiladas, make pulled pork (there are some decent compliant recipes out there), and have yours with mayo or a compliant sauce on veggies while everyone else has barbecue sauce and buns. I know in some cases you won't be able to control everything, and healthier options for a group can be more expensive, but you may be able to bring healthier choices and as a result be setting a better example for the students in the dorm. You can show them that college living isn't an excuse for a poor diet! :)


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