Today I finished Whole30. Whoop! It was 30 days of eating whole foods and cutting out all added sugars, alcohol, grains, dairy, and legumes. Before starting, the program intimidated me and I didn’t know if I would be able to be successful. My dad has said several times that he thinks I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to, which I always remember in times like this & think to be mostly true, and yet I didn’t know how much of my mind I would need to be setting toward this! It seemed daunting.
I enjoy healthy eating and the way it makes me feel, but I’ve never gone this extreme. The reason I did it was because of digestive issues that lasted for some months and I knew I had to find a way to make that stop. I read online about people with those issues trying this food challenge. I’m happy to say those issues stopped after about week 1 or 2 of starting the Whole30. To me, that says that it was definitely something I was eating causing the problem. And that alone was worth the 30 days!
Tomorrow is my first official free day from the program, and yet I’m not sure I want to deviate much from it, because of how good I feel. I no longer need caffeine to prop me up in the mornings and I don’t feel my usual utter-tiredness-until-10am syndrome. I always chocked that up to the fact that I’m a night owl, but after sleeping better this month and feeling better in mornings, regardless of what time I awoke, I think I can also attribute these results to diet.
It was essentially a very strict form of the Paleo diet, and I am considering adopting a Paleo diet 90% of the time. I still want to enjoy treats on special occasions like cake at weddings, and eat Daddy’s mashed potatoes when I go home to Texas, and other very important things like that. 😉 I’ve been aware for awhile of the hidden sugars in many food products (bread, milk, sauces, smoothies, packaged foods, etc) thanks to a book I read a couple years ago by Jorge Cruise called The Belly Fat Cure. I also read in his book that about 15g of sugar per day is ideal. That 15g goes fast, especially when I have fruit or yogurt! But more than just added sugars to those things, I have a sweet tooth in general and make too many concessions for indulging said sweet tooth. “Oh, I’m at Starbucks working for a few hours, that pastry would complement my coffee well.” Not really a special occasion in that instance, and I’m not going to totally eliminate that option from ever coming up, but I’m trying to find a happy medium for what to do with sweets from here on out. I know this about myself: the more sugar I eat, the more I crave. The less I eat, the less I crave. Thankfully after having no sugar for this month, I can see that I do just fine without it and enjoy things like better sleep and more stable energy levels.
Now, for the tangible results of Whole30. Because I do still have some weight to lose that I gained during nursing school, I was glad to see I’d lost 6-7lbs. But I really appreciated all the “Non-scale victories” and health benefits that Whole30 focused on — it wasn’t created just about weight loss. The scale doesn’t actually say anything about health, and there are many other ways to gauge health. My before & after measurements also showed that I was down between one and 3.5 inches everywhere I measured (bust, hips, abdomen, waist, upper arm, & thigh). I took before and after pictures on May 27 and again today (June 30), and it’s apparent that the biggest area of improvement was the abdomen. I lost a LOT of bloat. Losing 6-7 lbs I won’t complain about, but after not eating grains, I think that made it look more like losing 10-15lbs simply because of the bloating. I fit comfortably in pants that used to be tight on my waist, and I’m comfortable wearing certain shirts that were tighter where I didn’t want them to be tight. 🙂 Now they fit more loosely.
That was with minimal to no exercise this month (I think I went to the gym once or twice in June). I was so busy cooking every meal for myself, who has time for the gym?! Seriously it was an adjustment! My biggest realization is just how much I adore convenience when it comes to food. For breakfast before Whole30 I would usually eat Greek yogurt and a protein bar, supplemented with a helping of Diet Dr. Pepper to jumpstart the waking process, followed shortly after by more DDP! On Whole 30, I could have none of those food items, so it was challenging to cook breakfast for myself every.single.day. That’s my only gripe but that’s a total first world problem so I need to get over that in 2 seconds!
Speaking of first world problems, I realized again with my Whole Foods store wanderings how expensive it can get to eat organic/local/grass fed meats/cage free eggs, etc… but tried to prioritize what to buy organic and what ideals to let go of, and just be thankful I have stores close by that carry those things, and the ability to cook for myself! Perspective! Along with the realization of my undue adoration of convenience, came the revelation that I am worth preparing a meal for. I enjoy cooking for others, but cooking for one throughout my single years has always been a challenge & struggle. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth the hassle to get out the pots and pans at every meal, cut up the produce, cook whatever it is, wash the dishes and put them away EVERY SINGLE TIME. I seem to think others are worth that hassle, but when it’s just me, I haven’t valued that process. But alongside the Whole30 I’ve been doing a Bible study on food (for the 3rd time) called The Lord’s Table, which teaches biblical mindsets for food and health, and somewhere in between the lines there came the revelation that I am worth the “hassle” too. God has created my body to need nourishment, and nourishment takes time. It often doesn’t come in the “quick” foods.
The next step after Whole30 is reintroduction of certain foods, since that was the purpose of this — to see what my body doesn’t agree with and what was causing my digestive tract to be so mad at me. Tomorrow my boyfriend is treating me to a nice dinner to celebrate finishing Whole30 (love how supportive he has been), and I think I will order a dessert. Hopefully it will settle well! Beyond that, I think my approach will be to do Whole30 one or maybe even two more times. I read from some people who have done it that it really takes 45-60 days to see better results. I think I’ll give my system a good long reset and then carefully decide what comes back and what stays out!
For round 2, whenever I decide to start that (probably will do it back to back, with one day or one week for relaxing a tad bit), I intend to incorporate more exercise, switch my vitamins to ones that are not gummies (because they have a bit of sugar), focus more on food prep (week 4 was glorious and easier because I had a food prep day), finish the book It Starts With Food, and focus on getting 75 ounces of water daily (need more since I live in high altitude). Round 1 was challenging with all the adjustments (cold turkey on 4 food groups right away), that all those extra things were hard to focus on, but after week one I got the hang of it more. At the end of the first week, we traveled 6 hours away and I really had to plan for what to bring to eat. I also learned the skill of specifically telling the waiter/waitress at restaurants how exactly to adapt a menu item for me. No beans in that salad, bring that burger without the bun or mayo, and put the mashed potatoes on a separate plate (for my bf to eat)! It was just easier to cook for myself most times! I did find solace in Chipotle and their amazing guacamole, as well as Smashburger and their bunless chicken avocado burger. I found I could still travel and eat out, I just needed to plan ahead for traveling, and be SUPER specific when eating out!
Days 14-15 were the hardest for me, when I was walking through the grocery store with my boyfriend pointing out every food I wish I could have… Milano mint chocolate cookies, Pringles (I don’t even normally eat them but was salivating looking at the tall, slender can…), and BLUE BELL ICE CREAM for crying out loud! Thankfully I got past that hump. But then came dreams of massive Kit Kat bars. Again, I don’t even normally go for a Kit Kat, but I was dreaming of huge bars that would break and drop into my mouth. I read about people’s dreams who did Whole30 and thought they were funny, and now I have experienced it myself!!
Most of all, I gained confidence that I can do this. It’s not impossible and not intimidating anymore. Giving it a trial run was helpful for me, as I tend to be of the “all-or-nothing” mindset in many ways, and set such high goals that I get discouraged when I don’t attain. This was a high goal, but it was for a short time. It wasn’t for forever, and it helped having an end in sight. And yet, as I mentioned, I actually like the way I feel better now than before, and I intend to carry on at some level. Funny how that works!!