Courtesy Megan Zander

I Gave Up On The Whole 30, & I Couldn't Be Happier

Ad failed to load

I was 10 years old when I went on my first diet. Puberty had hit me hard: seemingly overnight, I developed these C-cups that were the object of envy/ fascination for my classmates, as well as rolls in my stomach that were never there before. Still, for the most part, I was happy with my body, until one day at the water fountain, I was talking with my frenemy about the girls in our class and their best features — who had the longest hair, who had a pretty smile.

"You've got a pretty face, Megan, even if you are a little chubby," my frenemy said. I think she was trying to pay me a compliment, but with her you never could tell.

I was taken aback. It was the first time anyone had ever said anything that made me think my body was something to be ashamed of, a problem that needed fixing. And despite my best efforts to love myself exactly as I am, I've been trying to shrink myself ever since.

Ad failed to load

In the four years since my twins were born, I've worked hard to shift my focus from reducing the size of my waistline to eating well and exercising to improve my health, so that I can be around for my kids as long as I can. I'm in better cardiovascular now than I was before I became a mom, even if the skin on my stomach will never be as tight as it once was. Still, as proud as I am of my health, I'm always looking to lose a few more pounds. I know that I'm at a size considered "acceptable" by most parts of society, but that still doesn't change the voice in my head that thinks I'd be happier if I were thinner. That's one of the reasons why I decided to try the Whole 30.

Last month, I slipped into some bad eating habits. I've struggled with binge eating in the past, and I had what you could call a mini-relapse. Stress over my kids' education, worrying about my career as a writer, and obsessively watching CNN produced disastrous results. I spent three weeks making myself ill by eating anything I could find: a bag of popcorn, 8 cookies, three candy bars and 3 cups of grapes. My intestines reacted pretty much the way you'd expect. My digestive system backed up, and I was constantly bloated and crabby. But instead of acknowledging that I needed to focus on foods that made my body feel better, I decided the only solution was to punish myself for the junk food I'd recently eaten by radically altering my eating habits for a limited period of time by going on a diet.

Ad failed to load

When it comes to diets, I've tried them all: low-fat, low-carb, no-carb, eating only raw foods. I once went four days surviving on nothing but cottage cheese and cucumber. If there's a supplement out there that claims it can help you lose weight, I've got a half empty box of it stuffed in the back of my closet.

I wanted to punish myself for what I'd been eating for the past few weeks.

This time, I decided to try The Whole 30. To be clear, the Whole 30 does not market itself as a weight loss diet. It's a strict elimination diet designed to help people figure out if they have any food intolerance. The Whole 30 requires you to stay away from wheat, grains, dairy, legumes and sugar — including honey and artificial sweeteners — for 30 days in order to reset your digestive system. I know people who have completed the program and said it made them realize there are certain foods that upset their body. It's a great dietary diagnostic tool.

Ad failed to load

But honestly, there were two reasons why I decided I had to do The Whole 30: because most of the people who try it say they lost weight; and because I wanted to punish myself for what I'd been eating for the past few weeks. Telling myself I couldn't have honey with my tea or my usual bowl of morning oatmeal with peanut butter seemed like an effective way to make myself miserable.

For 13 days, I drove myself to distraction obsessing over food labels and wondering if I was eating too much fruit to lose weight (the whole 30 restricts your fruit consumption; when an apple is the enemy, you know something's not right). I even followed The Whole 30 on Easter, refusing to eat ham (brown sugar in the glaze makes it verboten) or take even one bite of the amazing cannoli pie that I only make once a year. My mom was kind enough to make me special food for the weekend, but instead of being proud of myself for exercising such self-control, I was unhappy. I missed eating a balanced diet that made room for dessert, even if the scale was a little bit lower than it was when I started the diet.

Ad failed to load
"Why are you doing this exactly?" he asked me. "Do you think you have a food intolerance, or are you just trying to lose weight?"

My partner was supportive, but stayed silent while I was doing the Whole 30. He stopped adding cream to my morning coffee at my request and swallowed the zucchini noodles I kept making for dinner without a word of complaint. But finally he decided he had to say something.

Courtesy of Meg Zander
Ad failed to load

As we drove home from my aunt't house on Easter I started looking up recipes for dinner for the next week, using Pinterest in a quest to find things I could eat without violating the rules of The Whole 30. I was rambling on about how chia pudding was a Whole 30 no-no when he interrupted me. "Why are you doing this exactly?" he asked me. "Do you think you have a food intolerance, or are you just trying to lose weight?" I answered him honestly, and told him that it was the latter.

He asked me if my weight was impacting my health. I admitted that it wasn't. Then he asked me the question that changed everything. "I've seen you diet before. If you do this, if you lose the weight you want to lose, are you honestly going to be happy?," he asked. "Or are you just going to move your 'goal weight' to a lower number?"

I was furious at him for going at me so directly, but I was also angry because his words rang true. No matter how much I weigh, I've always been trying to lose weight. My current weight is my "goal" weight from a year ago, and yet here I am, convinced I need to lose another few pounds before I'm "really" at my goal. And for what?

Ad failed to load
Courtesy Megan Zander

I decided that I'm through with letting the scale dictate my happiness. My body has done incredible things. I've carried and gave birth to twins. I've run a half marathon. I've danced on stages to packed audiences and climbed mountains. I did all of these things at various weights, but that doesn't make the accomplishments any less valid. I'm through with always looking for imperfections and never celebrating the body I have.

Am I saying that I'm forever immune to diet culture and that I'll never feel guilty about eating frosting straight from the tub? Of course not. I'm a flawed human. I know my self-image and self-esteem are issues I'll be dealing with my entire life. But I really am going to try and remember that the number on the scale has no bearing on how smart I am, how much my friends and family love me and the joy I can find in a day. I'm a diet dropout, and proud of it.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills