Some thoughts on Whole30

Monday, October 13, 2014

Since we're entering our third week of Whole30 now, I figured it was about time to jot down some thoughts on this crazy challenge Mark and I are doing: no sugar, no dairy, and no grains for 30 days. Ooof. 

That face you're doing right now, the one where your head jerks back and your brow creases in a "Are you CRAZY?!" kind-of-way, that's the same face that I made when I heard about Whole30. Deprive myself of all the good-tasting things in life? No thanks. If you know me at all, you know that I am a HUGE fan of bread of any kind -- pastries, cinnamon buns, rolls, buttered toast, TEXAS TOAST, donuts, etc. The thought of nixing those things from my diet was just ludicrous. 

But that ludicrous thought stayed in the back of my mind for a few weeks. I mentioned it to Mark in a "This might be good for us, but we could never do it" kind of way and he responded with a "Why not?"

Well okay then.

I read about Anna's experience doing Whole30 and was almost convinced. I clicked over to the Whole30 website and spent days reading up on the do's/don'ts. Before I knew it, October 1st had arrived and we were grocery shopping for our first week of Whole30 meals (with a caramel apple spice in my hand, if I'm being completely honest). For me, the final tipping point was that I simply didn't feel good. I mostly attributed that to grabbing fast food on busy days when I needed something quick and easy for lunch. Eventually, it got to the point where no matter what I ate, my stomach was not happy. Surely cutting out processed, sugary foods for 30 days would help with this? I was ready to give it a shot. 

You can find all the details about Whole30 on their website, but for a quick summary: Whole30 is a program that challenges people to eat real food with pronounceable ingredients for 30 days, while omitting certain options like sugar, grains, alcohol, and dairy. From their website: "Your only job during the Whole30 is to focus on making good food choices. You don't need to weigh or measure, you don't need to count calories, you don't need to stress about organic, grass-fed, pastured or free range. Just figure out how to stick to the Whole30 in any setting, around every special circumstance, under any amount of stress...for 30 straight days. Your only job? Eat. Good. Food."

Here are a few things I've learned since we started:

You need more food than you think you do. Cutting out a large portion of snacking during the day makes a big difference in how much food you need at regular meals. Before Whole30, I would fix something for dinner and take the leftovers for work. When we started Whole30, I quickly realized that there was going to be no leftovers! We were much more hungry at meal times than before. That first week, I was in the grocery store almost every other day. It took a little while to figure out what we needed on hand and how much of it we needed.

Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan. It's almost impossible to wing Whole30, just ask Ed Stark. Without an idea of what to cook for dinner, I would immediately enter the dark abyss of "This is too hard. There's nothing to eat. I'm starving. Why the heck are we doing this?!" 

Switch it up. There is actually a wide variety of food you can eat while doing Whole30. It definitely surprised me, but that being said it's still very easy to fall into a cooking rut. This past week, we had some form of chicken and sweet potatoes for almost every meal. It got to the point where I didn't even want to eat because I was so sick of eating chicken. Then one night we made a version of Cuban Picadillo (following this recipe) with lots of seasoning and spices. It was such a detour from what we had been eating and we were both saying "Omigosh, this tastes awesome!" between every bite. (Okay, I was the one saying that. Mark would die before "omigosh" came out of his mouth.) My point is there is a lot of food (and good food) that you can eat on Whole30, so don't limit yourself.

Don't be afraid of long recipes. Before Whole30, if a recipe had more than 10 ingredients, I was out. Or I would just skip over certain ingredients that I didn't think were that important. Since starting Whole30, I have tackled some of the longest recipes and have made food that I've never tried cooking before. Mostly because I want to eat food that tastes good and not just skimp by for 30 days. If anything, I've got more comfortable in our kitchen. I'm hoping this change sticks around for awhile once we finish.

As far as results, I haven't seen a huge shift in energy. Maybe that will come later or maybe it won't. The big thing for me is that I feel good after I eat. Mark and I have also dropped a few pounds in the past two weeks, which seems inevitable once you completely rid all forms of sugar from your diet. Whole30 makes a big point of stating that the program is not a diet and if you follow the rules strictly, you are not allowed to step on a scale for the duration of the 30 days. We have cheated with that part a little bit and I would probably go as far to encourage people to use this as a form of diet, if that is your goal. Hopefully the Whole30 police won't come after me for saying that. I like that you are encouraged to eat until you are full, though, and not starve yourself. 

Overall, it has been a good experience, but in case I've given the impression of ease and bliss, let me just say, it is not easy. This timeline has pretty much summed up my thought process throughout the program thus far. You can go into it with the best of intentions and the strongest determination, but chewing on your sad little apple while the rest of the office dives into a box of fresh Krispy Kreme is never easy. Or when a coworker brings in homemade peach cobbler on Day 10. Or when every picture on Pinterest seems to be of pumpkin pie and apple cinnamon donuts. But if I (probably one of the most unhealthy eaters ever) can do this crazy challenge, then you can. 

I know a lot of people have turned the program into a lifestyle and taken it way past the 30 days. We are not that ambitious. I need some dairy and bread back in my life, but I am glad for the learning experience. My only hope is that November 1st doesn't turn into a donut/cookies/bagel binge.

If you're interested in Whole30, I'd recommend checking out these few links:

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