Please skip this post if you’re sick of hearing about Whole30 details. I promise this isn’t going to turn into a diet & fitness blog. Back to our regularly scheduled Molly-fest next time.
Here I am 30 days later – still alive and kickin’! I survived the Whole30 challenge, and my one huge takeaway, which I hope you’ll find inspiring, is simply this: it’s not as hard as you think it’s going to be. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. A few times I had to stop and think about whether or not I was doing it correctly – that’s how easy it became after I got into the habit. And I think that’s why they insist upon 30 entire days… it really sets you up so that eating Whole30 foods becomes a routine, rather than a novelty. (That said – I only did 27 days. Eric and I went out to dinner on Saturday night and I ordered what I wanted. There may have been a cheese plate and some pretzel bread involved… plus, wine).
Many people have asked me what the point of the Whole30 is, and until I completed one, my answer was always vague. To feel better, yes. To lose weight, yes. To detox and “start over.” But it was only after finishing and adding non-Whole30 food back in to my diet that I really understood the point.
The following is not an exaggeration; this is exactly what happened.
I decided to start my transition “back to reality” in a small way, with the thing I found myself yearning for the most over the past 30 days: coffee with creamer. (This happened Saturday morning, since I knew I’d be breaking the Whole30 that night at dinner). I knew that it would probably taste sweeter than I remembered. But I also figured that my SoDelicious coconut milk creamer (dairy free! Purchased in the pricey health food section of the grocery store!) wasn’t going to cause too much of a reaction.
First, I used to use this creamer in my coffee and then add TWO SPLENDAS, despite the fact that it already has sugar. I knew that was excessive. So for my first run, I opted to use it alone for my first cup of coffee in the morning.
Guys – no lie. One sip and I instantly tasted the chemicals. And they tasted gross! The creamer coated my whole throat and made me cough as I swallowed. As predicted, it was plenty sweet (almost too sweet) – and it only has 4g of sugar per serving, which is much less than other comparable creamers, and wayyyy less than I had been drinking every morning pre-Whole30.
Then, within 5 minutes, I got a mega-headache. It lasted the entire morning, and put me in a foul, grumpy mood. I don’t know if it was the creamer itself causing the pissy mood, or if it was caused by the headache, or the realization that I wasted good money on creamer that clearly had to be thrown in the trash.
This is how Whole30 changes your life. Not the weight loss – no. It wakes you up to the fact that the chemicals you’re eating SHOULD be giving you reactions like the one I experienced with my “healthy” creamer, but your body is so numbed to them that you don’t notice. Frankly, that’s more than a little frightening. All those weeks and months I drank that creamer no problem… what kinds of reactions was I having without even knowing? Now I can pinpoint the culprit easily. And poof! I can get rid of it.
That’s Whole30 in a nutshell. A wake-up call. Because for all the, “But won’t you miss…?” and “Won’t you want…?” I can say, NO. I don’t miss tricking myself into being able to eat disgusting chemicals masked as food because my palate is so clouded that I can’t tell the difference. I like knowing exactly what I’m putting into my body, and subsequently, into my daughter’s body.
Plus, it’s not all bad. I discovered an unrequited love for almond butter. I started to really think about what I was eating. I lost some weight. I was happier in general.
I’m going to break down more Whole30 observations in a (sort of) organized fashion below. I know some people get all crazy with daily recipe breakdowns, but rather than doing that, I’m just going to highlight a few main points, and also make a few food recommendations that worked well for me.
Fail to plan, plan to fail.
This is what I told myself every night as I begrudgingly packed lunches and prepped for the morning at 9 p.m. when all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch and watch Shark Tank. One reason I was able to resist the vending machine like a pro is because I always had a bag stocked with approved snacks. So if I hit a hunger wall at 3 p.m., I always had grapes or sugar snap peas to enjoy. A batch of pumpkin coconut soup cooked on Sunday and divided out into containers meant that I’d have nice little lunch accompaniments all week long. The prep was annoying, but giving healthy foods that grab-n-go convenience was invaluable.
Do a little recipe research.
My first few days were pretty bland, food-wise. I hadn’t gone grocery shopping, so I was just thinking creatively and using the food I already had in the house. Then I found the mother lode of Whole30-approved recipes online (there are literally hundreds on Pinterest) and made my shopping list appropriately. All I can say is, WHOA. Going from just plain ol’ hardboiled eggs for breakfast to this orgasmic Paleo Breakfast Casserole really changes the game.
That said – I’m sorta lazy in the kitchen (especially now with a full-time job and a 5-month-old). So while one day I’d be experimenting with inventive recipes, the next I’d just be throwing diced tomatoes on top of ground beef and calling it dinner. You really have to decide how important it is for you to have a lively culinary experience. I guess what I’m getting at is that the recipes exist, and you can make this diet exciting and adventurous, OR you can go simple and just have a few go-to food items that are easy to prepare. I did a combination of both. My biggest success was with things that I made in large batches and dished out all week for various meals. In those cases, at least the time spent in the kitchen was worth it.
Breastfeeding? Yeah, good luck with that.
There have been numerous debates and there is plenty of conflicting data on the subject, but all I can really speak to with 100% confidence is my own experience: doing the Whole30 decreased my milk supply. Noticeably. There are some who claim it goes down and then goes back up, but yeah, for me that never happened. It went down… down… down, and no amount of fenugreek and blessed thistle was going to save it. Since I have dabbled in gluten-free living before starting this thing, I can tell you that my body wants grain to produce milk. I am of the firm belief that human beings as a whole do not need grains to have a healthful diet. BUT, apparently, nursing mamas do need them to make the milk. I notice a huge difference in milk production when I’m eating oats/grains as opposed to when I’m not. That’s just a fact.
However, I knew that we’d have to start supplementing with formula eventually anyway, and frankly I’m surprised we lasted 5 whole months without doing it. Whole30 is a big culprit when it comes to robbing me of my milk, but obviously the biggest hit came from going back to work. The pump is not as efficient as the baby. I’m emptying less often. I cut out the grains in my diet. All of these things coupled together have led to supplementation. It made me a little sad… but, again, I knew it was inevitable. I will still continue to breastfeed for the next 7 months as much as I’m able, and hopefully will be able to supplement very little. Since I’ve been eating bread these past couple days, the milk runneth over.
Every day gets easier.
Like I said, those first few days were the hardest, and mostly because of caffeine withdrawal. Did I want to mindlessly snack on a few fun-sized Snickers during Trick-or-Treat? Well, yeah, of course I did. But I didn’t go to bed that night feeling deprived. Actually, I rarely felt deprived. The food I was eating was so good that I didn’t miss the crap. I went to a birthday party and skipped the cake no problem (even though it smelled amazing). I am the sort of person who likes vegetables, yes. But I also love chocolate, and somehow, I was just OK without it.
Find your own (Whole30 approved) everyday indulgences.
I’ll tell you mine: Twinings Cold Brewed Iced Tea in Mixed Berry and Ambrosia apples with almond butter. Eating/drinking these things made me so happy, and they’re both approved! I knew the things I would miss most in my diet were flavored water and dessert after a meal. The cold-brewed iced tea was easy to make at work because it required no boiling water or ice cubes, and the understated (natural) berry taste is downright decadent. I seriously checked the label 100 times to confirm it didn’t secretly have sugar. It’s THAT GOOD.
Next – I’m the type of person who likes to have a little something sweet after lunch and dinner. While pregnant, that meant huge bowls of ice cream… hence the 60 lb. weight gain. Now it means Ambrosia apples, my current obsession. I am a super apple snob and only like certain varieties. I HATE when they’re all tart and mealy inside. I like sweet, crisp, juicy – hello, Ambrosia. Plus…almond butter… my expensive and delectable mistress.
Foods to live on
The following are the things I kept buying over and over again throughout the duration:
Twinings Cold Brewed Iced Tea
It’s not easy to find (I’ve checked 4 local grocery stores, no dice. They only sell it at Shop Rite, and the closest one to me is in NJ, so I just stock up when I go).
It’s hilarious the reactions I got on this one. Most mornings I would have a sweet potato and hard-boiled egg for breakfast. Upon seeing my potato come out of the microwave, any coworker standing nearby would exclaim, “Ooh! Sweet potato!” People tend to only think about these for Thanksgiving, but they are actually really good for you and should be eaten way more frequently than that. Baked in the oven, diced and roasted with ghee and cinnamon, chopped and added to your egg casserole, sliced and wrapped in bacon… the options are endless. I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with the noble sweet potato.
Justin’s Almond Butter
Sigh, the curse of good taste. I tried almond butter a long time ago because it seems like one of those health foods that I “should” like. I didn’t like it. Fast-forward to now and I decided to give it another go. Well… I don’t know what was wrong with me before, but now I am obsessed with almond butter. I have a friend who says she goes through two jars a week, and at one time I would have called that crazy… now I can relate to her struggle. It’s not cheap. But it’s sooooooo gooooooooood. On apples… on faux-banana ice cream… or eaten by the spoonful. Yum, yum, yum.
Sounds weird, tastes great. I can’t speak to any other brand besides the one they sell at Sam’s Club, but it’s moist and delicious. It has the consistency of tuna (but not the mercury) and goes great with mixed veggies, or can be just eaten alone mixed with Paleo mayonnaise. I’m sure I could cook and shred chicken breasts myself… but I’m lazy, remember? This stuff is just so simple. And if you’re feeling really super lazy and you don’t even feel like making the Paleo mayo, you could just mix it with mustard and top with salt and pepper.
Steam-in-the-bag mixed vegetables
Again – lazy, lazy, lazy. I have a beautiful vegetable steamer from Pampered Chef but sometimes I don’t even feel like dirtying and washing that. Steam in the bag vegetables? Problem solved. Plus, the mix that I buy (also from Sam’s Club) has yellow carrots. I’ve never seen a yellow carrot. But they are damn good. Mix this with canned chicken and you have a filling, delicious lunch.
Seriously, stop weighing yourself…
After my initial rapid 6 lb. drop, I hit a wall. So I was kind of beating myself up over it, and I had to regroup and refocus. That scale was not accurately representing how I felt physically. I felt lighter, less bloated, and more in control in general. Daily weigh-ins do not necessarily reflect the changes going on in your body. There’s a reason that “no weighing yourself” is part of the rules. I just had to learn it for myself.
In the end, I lost 11 lbs. total over 27 days. So I’m down 39 lbs from the day Miss Molly was born. Sounds like a lot… but I still have a long way to go. At least now I have a plan.
…but also, don’t eat like a pig.
And in a similar vein, don’t overeat just because you’re eating good foods. Unless you’re training for a triathlon, you don’t need 3,000 calories per day, even if it’s all “good food.” The founders of the program like to say, “Count chemicals, not calories,” and to some extent I agree with that. But at the same time, if you want to lose weight, it starts in the kitchen. The beauty of this diet is that you’re able to distinguish actual hunger from comfort eating/plain old cravings so much more easily than you can when you’re stuck on the sugar rollercoaster.
My biggest problem is “habit eating” – I always have breakfast right when I get to work, 10 am snack, lunch at 12:30, and then another snack later in the afternoon, followed by dinner at 7. I find myself reaching for the morning snack even on days when breakfast was enough to satisfy me until lunchtime.
That’s why I always eat less on the weekends – I’m not stuck in that routine. So I think the major opportunity here is to figure out the “WHY” of eating – are you snacking because you’re hungry, because it tastes good, because it’s there, or because of a schedule? Once you can cut out everything besides the, “I’m really hungry and need food to fuel my body,” you’ll be on a path to success. (Easier said than done, obviously, but I promise this eating plan really does help).
I didn’t cheat…well, not really.
Remember how I mentioned that Paleo baked goods containing approved ingredients aren’t allowed because they still gave your brain a sugar rush? Well, about halfway through the challenge I read about this miracle invention of frozen bananas + berries + spin, spin, spin in the blender, and magically it spits out a substance that tastes identical to soft serve ice cream. Reading that… I had to try it, right?! No other ingredients. Just two. And let me tell you, the recipe did not disappoint! I knew that this was a classic case of SWYPO (that’s sex with your pants on), so I didn’t eat it often. But I did eat it sometimes. And it was worth it.
Worth it because yum, and worth it because I saw a correlation between the bananas at night and more milk in the morning. Every night I had my ‘nana faux soft serve, I woke up the next morning nice and engorged. I don’t know if it was the carbs or what, but I do know that more milk = happy mama and baby.
You may surprise yourself.
When I started this, I did it because it had a distinct end date. I figured I could just look forward to going back to a (slightly) modified version of how I’d been eating before once I was done. Well, now I’m singing a different tune. I want to keep going! Especially after that drama with the creamer.
Hopefully these observations are helpful. Some of you mentioned after my last post on the subject that you were considering doing the Whole30. If you’re on the fence…I urge you to just do it! Overall, the experience was definitely beneficial, and I am planning to continue eating this way (for the most part) for the foreseeable future. I can definitely see myself doing another Whole30 before springtime, and maybe some Whole9 refreshers even before then.
Also – if you ever need encouragement, tips, or advice, I’m just an email away. As you can see, I love talking about it. Probably too much. But now, I swear, I’ll finally shut up about the wonders of Whole30.