If you missed part 1, click here to catch up and then read on, my friend.
I began my Whole30 experiment the Monday after I completed the Joplin Memorial Half Marathon. Since a lot of people experience flu-like symptoms for the first week, I chose a 30-day period when I wasn’t training for any major races. Let me tell you, the first ten days were a little rough.
Whole30, Day 3
At one point, I was shopping at Lowe’s and somewhere within the walls of that store, a.k.a, den of temptation, someone opened a fresh bag of peanut M & M’s. The intoxicating scent wafted toward the garden hose section, which you might consider a safe place to hang out during a Whole30. But no. I had to force myself not to track this person down and ask if I could smell their breath. It’s a little disturbing in retrospect. I wouldn’t have considered myself a sugar or junk food addict, but once you determine not to indulge a craving, it becomes surprisingly strong. Basically, I have the brain of a toddler and if something is off limits, I want it RIGHT NOW.
After the first ten days, things got better. I was in a routine, my cravings calmed down, and I was exploring new recipes with glee. And ghee. Here are some of the Whole30-approved dishes I enjoyed this month (and remembered to Instagram)…
The only disappointment I had was that running was difficult for most of the month. I think this was partly due to the onset of summer temperatures, to which I do not easily adjust. Some people report being able to exercise like Olympic athletes during their Whole30. I found that while my energy levels were consistent throughout the day, I had decreased stamina for exercise. Toward the end of the month, I felt stronger and ended up achieving a new 5K PR on the last day of my Whole30!
Here I am, owning the finish line at the Walgreens 5K!
I kept a list of the benefits and positive changes I noticed over the course of my Whole30, which I’ve typed up below:
- It’s easy to fall asleep, and I am getting 8 hours or more of sleep most nights (unless I stay up too late reading)
- I’m not tired in the afternoons at work
- Little to no indigestion or tummy bloating
- I’m realizing that a cup of herbal tea or decaf coffee after a meal satisfies my dessert cravings 9 times out of 10
- Bread and dairy are not a big deal to me – but chocolate and wine are a different story
- I’m eating 5, 6, or 7 different vegetables every DAY
- I feel like my brain is in control of my nutrition, not my stomach, which is kind of empowering
- My nails are getting stronger (less flaky) and my hair is shiny
- Patches of dry skin on my face are gone
- Belts are loose…actually, most are too loose even on the tightest notch
- Fruit tastes very sweet and veggies have more flavor than I previously thought. Peppers are like whoa.
- More aware of how snacking relates to boredom and stress. Since I don’t have snack foods around, I can’t reach for them to deal with either of those things, so I have to consider whether I am hungry or not. Usually, I’m not.
- Looked in the mirror and thought, “Nice job on the bronzer today, Lynn.” Then, I realized I wasn’t wearing any bronzer. Natural glow for the win!
- My brother says I look taller – I don’t think I am, but I really want to be!
- Realized today that the foods I am missing are associated with comfort rituals: a glass of wine after a long day, a bowl of popcorn on the weekend, chocolate chips, etc. They aren’t associated with nutritional needs, which I think means I’m getting all my macronutrients. I just miss those routines.
- I’ve been feeling full but not “heavy” after meals, which is cool
- Tried on pants that have been too snug for at least 5 years and they are now too loose – don’t know why I’ve held onto ill-fitting pants for five years, but oh well!
The Whole30 was a positive, helpful experiment for me. The way I’ve learned to think about health (and separate it from weight, body fat %, or pant size) was the best part. I also learned a lot about my cravings and food habits, took time to examine them, and am going forward with increased knowledge and new habits that will be beneficial. To me, that’s a lot to gain from a month of skipping out on a few foods! I didn’t measure inches or take before/after pictures, and I am staying away from that ol’ bathroom scale for a little while, but my loose belts and baggy pants tell me there were physical benefits, too. I’m in a frame of mind right now where I value what I learned over what I lost, though.
Would I recommend it? NO WAY! (And Yes)
Food is a touchy subject. You may have noticed this. When I told my friends about starting a Whole30, most responded with, “Oh, I can’t do that because I would miss ______.” This surprised me because, in talking about the program, I had not meant to suggest that they should do it, too. I think women feel a pressure to always be doing something about our weight/health/fitness. Like we have to justify the fact that we don’t look like fitness models, and if anyone appears to be taking a tiny step in that direction, we have to explain why we’re lagging behind. I hate that pressure. I hate the tones of “not enough” that it carries. I stopped talking about Whole30 as much unless someone asked about it, because I didn’t want to add a milligram to the pressure women feel to get as close to perfection as possible.
So no, I would not recommend the Whole30 to anyone. I wouldn’t start a conversation with, “You should totally try the Whole30…” because I think offering unsolicited diet or excise advice is kinda rude. It implies that there is something wrong with the other person, and that the problem is so obvious or severe, you’re not even going to wait until they ask for help.
If someone was interested in doing a Whole30 and asked about my experience, I would tell them it takes a lot of time to plan, prep, and cook. I would point out that it’s more expensive than a diet that includes grain and legume staples. (I averaged a 20% increase in the cost of groceries each week, and I didn’t even buy organic stuff unless it was on sale.) If you go to restaurants, you will feel kind of freakish for bringing your own salad dressing and asking a million questions about the chicken marinade. I would also acknowledge that it just doesn’t sound like fun to everyone. For people with picky eaters in their families, limited time, or very tight budgets, it would be a hard month. On the other hand, if this fits in with a person’s health goals, could possibly alleviate health problems he or she is experiencing, or just piques their curiousity, I would say – sure, go for it! And I might point folks to the following helpful websites:
- Melissa Joulwan wrote two incredible Paleo cookbooks with several Whole30-compliant recipes, and she blogs over here. She has a lot of Whole30 tips and recipes, and even offers meals plans and food prep guides to simplify things. Start here for Whole30 help and click around to your heart’s content.
- Michelle Tam blogs at Nom Nom Paleo and is also very Whole30 friendly. She’s got a round-up of Whole30 recipes here and shares about her Whole30 experiences on the blog. Plus she knows how to make tasty meat dishes in the crockpot.
- Holly has completed a few Whole30s and eats paleo most of the time. She has compiled a great list of her recipes here.
- And lastly, although this wasn’t a concern for my Whole30, people with little ones might appreciate the recipes and tips at Paleo Parents and The Paleo Mom.
So now that I’ve completed my Whole30, what’s next? Do I feel as free as a rambunctious young nun in the Austrian countryside? Not quite, but it is a relief to have the Whole30 restrictions lifted and to start reintroducing foods and observing their effects. After Whole30, you’re encouraged to evaluate which foods are helpful, which ones may not be helpful but are worth whatever drawbacks are incurred, and which you might be better off avoiding. Every person makes these decisions for themselves. I like these criteria because they acknowledge that food is both beneficial and enjoyable (and that the enjoyment factor should be considered).
I don’t have any reactions to legumes, gluten, or dairy that would lead me to cut them out permanently. I have noticed that when I don’t eat much dairy, I have fewer sore throat/runny nose issues and my lymph nodes don’t swell up. (But ice cream, you are worth it, for the record.) Legumes are all good with me except soy sauce makes me look like I swallowed a beach ball. (Still dousing my sushi in that stuff, no one try to stop me.) And gluten is delicious but also makes me want to take a very long nap at my desk. (Which is not a bad idea after you eat a giant burrito at a Mexican restaurant with your co-workers.) Also, there is a reason that chocolate and wine are the first things you see when you walk into Aldi. Those items are regaining their rightful place in my shopping cart.
All that to say, I’m not adopting a set of hard and fast food rules. I don’t want to live that way or have to think about food that much. I’ve learned more about what is beneficial to me and what will help fuel my body to accomplish some of the big goals I have this year. I’ve adopted a broader view of health (that doesn’t rely on the scale) and have a more positive view of the health goals I’ve already accomplished, along with confidence that I’m ready for the challenges ahead. Bass Pro Marathon, I’m talking to you.