Lessons from a Whole30 Survivor
Well, survivor may be a little dramatic. We are at our last day of January Whole30 and honestly, it wasn't that bad. There are so many of these Whole30 diaries and while I don't expect mine to differ greatly from any of them, I've been surprised and delighted by how many friends were curious of our progress. So, here is what I learned during a month of not eating a lot of things I loved most.IT'S ALL YOU TALK ABOUTThis is for real. People will ask you questions about how it is going or what you can eat on it. That's the biggest one: So what can you eat on this diet? I found I listed what I couldn't eat more often than I talk about my cats.I felt the need to tell everyone I was doing this which, doing my research, the program encourages you to do. My improv team has a show every Wednesday at the comedy club and they generously let us have a free beverage before the show. I felt the need to explain to the two lovely bartenders that work there I was doing this so they weren't at the ready to point at me and say "Fiddlehead?" to me with glass in hand, ready to go as usual. It was very sad to ask for a club soda with lime every week without the side of beer.Most conversations we had out and about or at home were what was compliant and what wasn't. I swear I will never use the word compliant the same way again. Any time I heard that word in Trader Joe's or Healthy Living, I knew I had found a comrade struggling to locate the ranch dressing we can have listed in the forums.It is something that consumes you so it is no wonder it is all you can think and speak about for 30 days.THE COMMUNITYThe community for Whole30 is fucking amazing. Let me just say that for starters. People who have done it or are doing it for the first time are all together, following on social media, making jokes, sharing stories, tips, recipes. You can Google a brand and find out if it is compliant or not (see, that word is everywhere). It also is intense. A lot of the community is very strict and I decided not to share everything about the process as I would see a lot of people being judged for fudging things here and there. Look, I can't spend $20 on compliant bacon every week because the pack of it is so small, we bust through it in a few days. Sometimes you have to get the pack with more bacon and the teeniest amount of sugar. I'm going to be tarred and feathered, aren't I?The only part I wasn't entirely into was the movement vibe. That is just me personally though. This is a great program and I am very supportive of it and happy I did it, but I don't think we need to treat it like the Holy Grail of food discovery. Others might and that is wonderful. But that's not for me. They also have their own language for everything which I now speak in because it is hard not to. I apologize if I use the term Sugar Dragon or Tiger Blood in the next few weeks coming down off this. NO ONE IS KIDDING ABOUT THE FIRST WEEKThe Whole30 community has this great calendar that suggests how you may feel during the month. It isn't accurate for everyone but I found it to be pretty close to what I was feeling. The first week, I had the worst panic attack of my life. It lasted longer than any I had had and I couldn't shake it with any of my usual tactics. I don't use food or anything so that wasn't a factor. This one came wave after wave and I was truly scared. It was one of those attacks where it lasts so long you stop believing it is just a panic attack and start thinking something is really wrong. As I sat on the floor, repeating to myself I was going to be okay, I found a trick I hadn't seen before on YouTube and tried it. It worked slowly and I eventually calmed down enough to go and perform my improv show. Not the first time I performed having an attack but definitely one of the worst. My husband and I fought over everything the first week. We were insanely bitchy and mean. It was like living with myself as a teenager. I didn't think I ate a ton of sugar but any detox usually features some kind of rage mode and the first week is it. We would usually end up cracking up about whatever silly thing had trigger us but that whole hangover Sugar Dragon situation exists and it is coming for you. See, using the terminology. Can't help it.I couldn't fall asleep this whole month but especially that first week. I am not sure what it is, maybe a glass of wine in the evening, but I have been struggling getting cozy and turning off my brain more so than usual. But I do wake up feeling rested and clear headed which counts for something. SWEET DREAMSI had dreams about cupcakes. I don't even eat cupcakes that often! It was almost comical the cravings that come after you during the first two weeks. I found it fascinating. The first week, whenever a McDonald's commercial played on Hulu, I would crave it like I was addicted to it. Any commercial for any food that I could not have. It was so bizarre considering I haven't had McDonald's in years and never really crave anything as intensely as I was craving every item I could not eat. And, as I mentioned it's accuracy, the program explains this happens and it's important to take note of how your brain works when it is deprived of something that it technically could reach into the fridge and have. I usually live by the life is short, have cake motto but for these 30 days, I only dreamed of the cake and let me tell you, dream cake is fucking delicious. I LIVE IN THE KITCHEN NOWGuys, I learned to meal prep. I have been meaning to for...well...I guess since I left home for college and I never have done it. I've attempted a few times and failed miserably. Whole30 makes it a necessity which was excellent for me since I am very good at finding excuses. We cut, chopped, cooked and put everything in containers in the fridge for recipes. We made egg bakes and sheet pan recipes. The second week, we relaxed a bit and that was a big downfall. I had a few nights where I scrambled and had to run to the store because we hadn't picked enough recipes and didn't have much to make. By the third and fourth week, we were masters at selecting recipes and having materials on hand for smaller meals or dinners for just me if Lincoln was working.I also learned to make do with what I had in the kitchen. I've never done that before. Last night, we had leftover salsa from a steak recipe I had made, Brussels sprouts, remaining potatoes in a bag from another dinner and pork chops. The salsa was excellent on the pork chops and we roasted the sprouts and potatoes together and made a full meal. Lincoln had a dinner of just leftovers one night which was actually impressive. I felt like I was eating like a five year old sometimes but in the best way. I'd have a plate of grapes, prosciutto, cashews, and apple slices with a scoop compliant nut butter and arugula with olive oil and that would be lunch. It was kind of fun to shove together and see what you can come up with. We didn't waste any vegetables as we usually do. We will find a bushel of asparagus in the crisper drawer, forgetting we meant to make it two weeks ago. On Whole30, we had hardly any waste at all. Everything was used. I did it. I'm finally an adult. Give me my membership card.I have never cooked so much in my life. And I really enjoyed it most days. The recipes we found were simple and easy to put together. Lincoln always picked ones that were far more complicated than I would but still, none were difficult. We did cook almost every day though. If I currently was working, this would have been different but since I'm not, I had time to make dinner and I looked forward to it. To be honest, many of recipes we found either in an official cookbook or online, weren't amazing. Almost all of them, we just wanted to add cheese to. Many lacked flavor and I could never put my finger on what was missing (besides cheese). I usually added in more salt and pepper or another seasoning and that helped. While I wouldn't say I am experiencing food fatigue, I could do without peppers, onions, eggs and bacon for a minute. EVERYTHING HAS SUGARI thought we were eating healthy. I mean, we totally were. But Whole30 has taught us we can eat even healthier. Filling our plates with more vegetables and better proteins. Eating more of a variety of whole foods than just a few standards as we had been. And reading labels. This will be my biggest takeaway. Everything has sugar in it, kids. Even chicken broth. We went through a few items we had to see if we could use them during January and most of our condiments and other ingredients we couldn't because they had sugar in them. We picked up a lot of compliant condiments and other items one might cook with often and decided we will continue with these brands moving forward. We actually liked them and they are about the same price as the other brands we buy. I plan to be that person in the store reading labels from now on.TRADER JOE'S IS A LIFESAVERSeriously though. I have always loved Trader Joe's but for this diet, it is a damn sanctuary. As is Healthy Living and Whole Foods, or City Market as we have here. But Trader Joe's kept our weekly grocery bill down. It is actually less to shop there and to shop on this diet. I thought for certain we would be spending way more but without buying wine and just a ton of produce, we actually spent less weekly than we do eating normally. It may even out in the runs we had to make to the store when we realized we forget something or ran out of bacon or eggs but I was shocked at how affordable it was. The only pricey items were the specialty ingredients some recipes called for like coconut aminos or sesame oil. We did not make many of those for that purpose but here's a hint: we never used coconut aminos in any of the recipes that called for it because wtf are they and what do they do BUT they do sell them at Trader Joe's. Also, ghee...not that bad. Butter obviously adds more flavor in many ways but I could never tell the difference with the ghee aside from its scent when cooking.RESULTSSince technically today is our last day, I haven't weighed myself yet. I have lost weight though. I can feel and see it in my torso and face. My wedding rings fit better and so do my pants. I feel less bloated and more at home in my body as I used to when I weighed less. I write about my body issues often and I feel happier right now than I have in years. It isn't even a numbers game right now, just feeling comfortable and normal like my body has purged a bunch of crap which I guess it probably has. My skin has always been great (#blessed) so I honestly didn't see much of a difference. It is clear, bright, and looks and feels healthy so I'll take it. I did break out a bit the first two weeks which I hardly ever do but that went away quickly. I do have more energy. I didn't notice it at first but about the third week, I wasn't experiencing exhaustion in the late afternoon as I normally do. I currently have a stable energy throughout the day.WHAT DID I MISSI feel good that we lasted the 30 days on the Whole30. I am not sure I will ever do it again but I feel prepped that I could. Being a self proclaimed foodie, I missed drinking wine with a meal I knew it would pair well with. I missed cheese because it is the love of my life and it completes so many dishes, even a teeny bit of feta would have been nice. I found social situations were difficult. Lincoln and I like to go and a grab a drink sometimes before going home to make dinner at the local pub or somewhere downtown. It was hard for us not to do this and we felt trapped inside because of it. I am not a person to go and sit at a bar drinking water unless the person I am with is paying for food or drink. I, of course, always tip if I am doing that but since no one leaves their homes in January, I didn't need to explain myself too often. However, watching This Is Us without wine is not something I'd like to continue doing. I missed flexibility. I missed quick meals on nights I just did not want to cook. That being said, I didn't have too many of those nights because I have been feeling good and we prepped and planned enough I didn't have many nights I stood in front of the fridge, wondering what to make.THE TAKEAWAYObviously, you aren't supposed to eat like this forever. I feel I have learned valuable tools to move forward in a healthier way. More vegetables, less sugar, reading labels, meal prepping for the week, making actual grocery lists to stay within a budget. I will continue to cut back on alcohol though not cutting it out entirely. I am curious about my reintroduction of everything. I have been wondering what I cut out that allowed me to loose inches and feel so much better. Most likely it is dairy and alcohol, the items I consumed most often. I learned how to make better meals that are filling and to cook with different ingredients than I normally do. I'm excited to find the balance and see how long I can keep it going. I am not going to deprive myself of anything I love but I have a healthier relationship to it. I also am very thankful to not hear my husband talk about how much he misses milk anymore.
I would recommend trying the Whole30. Here are a few other tips I learned:
-Don't buy the books. Everything is online (many people told me this and I still bought a book...any one want to buy it from me?)
-Use the forums and talk to people who have done it. It is so helpful and you can snag some good recipes and things to buy such as compliant snacks you may not have thought of
-Meal prep 100%
-Don't forget about meals you normally eat. We were surprised how many typical meals we make were compliant. You can eat burgers, hot dogs (compliant ones), fajitas without cheese, stir fry, steak and potatoes. It's not as limiting as it seems!
-Remember that it is just 30 days. I know I sound like one of the cult members now. But I do feel I achieved something and I am very surprised and happy with the results my body is showing me. This is something I can control and that makes me hopeful to get my confidence back.
-Winter is probably the best time. At least for me. January was good because of the whole New Year New Me thing we all do but also no one is socializing, everyone is trying to eat better from holiday binges, and there isn't any big events or situations unless you attend the Golden Globes. Summer I think would be harder with rose and picnics.
-Don't follow all the coaches on Instagram. They are great but they are a lot and I unfollowed most of the programs official accounts except for the main one. Again, this is just me, but I needed some distance from hearing about it everyday since I was talking about it so much in my own life. Their recipes are great but you can find those without the follow.
We took pictures but they aren't really for sharing as we aren't dressed in a way we wish to share BUT I am excited to compare the shots we took on day 1, the halfway point in week 2, and the final day. I'm glad I did it. I hope cheese missed me.