Saturday, August 6, 2016

My Whole 30 Experience

Now that I'm officially done with my first round of the Whole 30, I figured I'd write about it so the people who are on social media with me can see what it was all about if they were interested. I'll freely admit at this point that I am clearly drinking the Whole 30 Kool-Aid (which, if you want to know tastes just like plain water because that's pretty much all you should be drinking). Actually, I'm kidding...there are a couple more options as beverages, but nothing as sweet and rainbow delicious as Kool-Aid.

I hesitated to announce much about my Whole 30 on Facebook because I am generally pretty weak-willed when it comes to food, and to be honest I didn't want to fail horribly in front of a bunch of people.  So I took to my Instagram account--where copious amounts of food pictures abound as well as hashtags that would draw in like-minded people for Whole 30 support.  Instagram was amazing for that because I found lots of recipe ideas on the people who started following my journey, and really the recipes were the key to my Whole 30 success. If I couldn't have filling and delicious food, none of it would have been worth doing for me.

So what is the Whole 30? It's 30 days of clean eating. Its focus is on whole foods--veggies, fruits, nuts, animal protein, and healthy fats.  It eschews legumes (peanut butter is out), grains, dairy, and processed and refined sugars. I bought the book, read it, and planned my first week out using the recipes in the book and some of the Whole 30 compliant recipes I found on Pinterest. I chose July 5th as my start date because it was right after our July 4th weekend where I knew we'd be cooking out and out of town, and I got my mind right about cutting out dairy...I needed about a week for the mourning process.  The fact that my husband used to eat Paleo and was wanting to get back into that was helpful.  Whole 30 is totally in line with Paleo--it turns out that Paleo is not always in line with Whole 30. One big difference between them is that the Paleo diet lets you cheat without cheating.  It allows you to use things like alternative flours and honey to recreate sweet treats like muffins and pancakes.  While completing a Whole 30 you are not allowed to do that.  The idea behind it is that you are resetting your habits, and substituting a sweet treat for another sweet treat does not help you "slay your sugar dragon."  That was part of why I decided to do it in the first place.  I am a sugar hound, and it's only gotten worse as I've gotten older.

I also decided to give it a go because I deal with inflammatory arthritis.  According to proponents of the Paleo and Whole 30 diets, cutting gluten and dairy can help with arthritis, depression, acne, asthma, as well as a host of other ailments.  I was on Celebrex daily and it was barely taking the edge off.  I figured it wouldn't hurt to do the Whole 30 and then reintroduce things to see which foods might cause flare-ups.  Plus, I was really hoping to be able to get off the Celebrex since it's horrible for my stomach lining.

What about weight loss?  Well, I struggle with losing weight. It took me the last year to lose ten pounds.  But I really didn't go into it looking to lose weight.  I had eaten the Primal Blueprint diet (Paleo plus dairy) with Joe a couple years back and wasn't impressed with my results.  I think I even blogged about that at one point.  I really was just focused on my health from the arthritis pain angle, as well as cutting some of the processed foods that I was eating so much of.

Now, bread and cheese are two of favorite things, but I honestly didn't miss either of them enough to cheat.  The foods I ate were rich and satisfying.  I ate a LOT of sweet potatoes (which I love), guacamole, a lemon oil slaw that was crisp and fresh and crunchy, and chicken sausage.  Those were staples I usually had ready in my fridge to round out any meals I made.  So, sometimes I had salmon cakes with guacamole and slaw.  Sometimes pork sausage patties with carmelized onions and sweet potato mash.  Sometimes I roasted spaghetti squash and ate it with roasted tomatoes, pesto, and chicken sausages.  I had three filling meals and generally only needed an occasional Lara Bar as a snack.  I didn't really even crave fruit the way I thought I would.  I maybe had one to two servings a day.  I was shocked how far each meal would take me and how satisfied I felt.

The downside is you are prepping meals constantly or you have to spend money for the compliant products.  Clarifying butter, making mayonnaise, mashing cauliflower and sweet potatoes, and mixing and cooking double portions of sausage patties, salmon cakes, etc. meant a true time commitment.  I'm off work for the summer right now, but this would probably be a busy Saturday or Sunday every week in the kitchen once I'm back at school.

In the book they give a list of things you can expect as you go through the program.  It was pretty much spot on for me.  I didn't feel the level of drag I expected the first week, but I did feel bloated in the second week.  I then felt very "lean" after eating.  Even after a large meal.  I also never got "hangry."  Even when I was hungry, or a little hollow feeling, I didn't feel the emotional, annoyed feeling I was used to when I'd waited too long to eat.  That was interesting to me.  My emotional connection to feeling hungry pretty much went away.

You are also not supposed to weigh yourself, but I didn't do that.  I had no plans to cheat based on lack of weight loss, so I weighed myself at week two and then every day after.  For a full two weeks I lost absolutely nothing.  Then I pretty much started losing half a pound to a pound each day.  In week three I had surgery and I was seven pounds up as a result of the fluids they pumped into me, but that shook out after a few days.  So, even though I didn't do it for weight loss, a happy by-product was that I lost 9 1/2 pounds in the thirty days.  This is a big deal for me personally because it finally put me below my pre-baby weight.  I also lost two inches from my bust, two inches from my waist, and half an inch from each thigh.  Not bad for a month, especially since I didn't work out for the last week.

My final thoughts on it is that I'm willing to continue eating more Paleo, continuing to cut dairy and grains for now.  If I cheat it will be for something really worth it.  I was very satisfied with the Whole 30.  I might do a second round in another couple of weeks, but for now I plan to have an alcoholic beverage (I really did miss that!) to celebrate completing it!

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