I am in the home stretch of doing a Whole30 eating plan, and I am finally feeling awesome and in control. For those of you that are not familiar with the plan, click on the link to find out more. If you are interested in trying this for yourself but you still have questions, please feel free to contact me. I will be the first to admit that it was difficult, even a little more difficult than I anticipated at times. But, I am left feeling fantastic, very clear on what food choices to make, and strong in my abilities to turn down foods that don’t serve me.
I decided to join two of my friends on a Whole30 journey because although I am a Nutritionist and I eat better than most people most of the time, I was still feeling like I had some bloating, skin issues, and some general lack of control of my food choices. I was in a “good enough” mode far too often. I also feel it is my duty to experience various diets before I go telling any clients that they should do it. Now I can empathize with their experience and help them come up with similar strategies to navigate difficult situations. This is why I specialize in helping families, pregnant women, and children- I have a lot of experience in these areas.
Like I said, it was hard. My experience wasn’t exactly like described in the book. The first week-and-a-half was fairly easy for me because the diet is so close to how I normally eat, I only had to omit a few things. What I didn’t realize is how addicted to those few things I actually was. For example, I always thought “cheese: take it or leave it.” Well, at two weeks in I was more like, “cheese: must have some. Right now. Oh please, oh please, oh please.” Other struggles were: late night chocolate, and the pantry drive-by that almost always included a handful of nuts and some other random items. I had to learn to stop and check in with myself and figure out if I was hungry. And, if I was, figure out how to eat a bigger meal to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Then there were mood swings. Not huge mood swings, but definitely some grumpiness. Half way through I just started feeling a little sorry for myself. And, irritated at all of the things I had to pass up (like several amazing birthday cakes)! But, the more times I passed on the wine and dessert, the stronger I felt. Eventually, I felt great making those choices because I knew I wouldn’t feel bad later. Normally, I would allow myself the slice of flourless chocolate cake, or maple syrup sweetened thing because I eat “good enough most of the time”.
I have to admit, in these final few days I am feeling fantastic. I feel clear-headed, energetic, I have been sleeping like a champion, easily planning ahead by prioritizing taking time to prepare a bunch of vegetables to easily make meals during the week, level-headed, and not to mention my clothes are fitting like they should. Overall, I feel balanced. I am not beating myself up because I ate something I shouldn’t have, I am not struggling with feeling hungry in between meals, and I am not having cravings. It really took me three weeks to get to this point.
Some important adjustments I am making to my own diet are: eating smaller portions of protein and including enough vegetables and healthy fats to make a complete meal that will not leave me feeling hungry two hours later. This requires work and is very important for me. I am very athletic, I love food, and I have a fairly fast metabolism. This was the most profound lesson for me. Homemade ghee, coconut oil, coconut butter, homemade mayo, pesto, Whole30 ranch dressing, olive oil, and nut butters are key for me. For example, this morning I had two poached eggs on a bed of baby arugula, a large serving of basic kraut, some pumpkin seeds, and some of my favorite salsa. After I ate it I thought “that is not enough calories to get me to lunch." I added to that a small apple with plenty of Sunbutter. That should be good.
Also, I need carbs. If I don’t eat carbs I get cravings and make poor choices. Having plenty of sweet potatoes, apples, dried cherries, beets, or roasted squashes on-hand and ready to add to anything is critical to my success. The Whole30 also taught me to use fruit wisely. To think about my fruit before I eat it, am I reaching for fruit to curb a sugar craving or to fuel a workout? I actually used to never eat fruit except for some berries in a smoothie, but I found that a banana with some coconut or nut butter before a big workout is great! I don’t like to eat too much before I exercise, but I need a little something to help me sustain energy levels. I stuck to no more than 2 servings of fruit per day, and never eaten by itself. That works for me. I also found that keeping a little bag of dates or dried (unsweetened) cherries for a longer hike or bike ride is a great fuel.
In summary, I feel proud that I was able to make it all the way through without eating any dairy, sugar, grains, beans, legumes, or processed foods. There were a few close-calls, but with the support of my family and friends I made it through. There are huge psychological benefits to setting a goal and seeing it through. Now I know I can do it whenever I feel I need to clean up my act. I know what will be hard and how to prepare for it.
This will not be my last Whole30. Thank you to Melissa and Dallas Hartwig for putting together a plan that is difficult but clear, and provides real results that will change your habits, not just help you temporarily drop a few pounds.