Whole30 Takeaway Lessons

My high school friend who lives in Sweden now was recently visiting the US, and she spent a whole month traveling from home to home, staying just a night or two in each place.  When she got to my house, I was smack in the middle of my pseudo-Whole30.  As I explained the plan to her, she remarked that every home she’d visited was doing some sort of ‘diet’ or ‘food plan’ or something.  Of course.. how interesting and not at all surprising. The healthy eating concept is a major movement sweeping across the nation, certainly in my demographic and maybe in others as well. ‘Healthy eating’ buzz words abound in restaurants, grocery stores, and casual conversation: no preservatives, no sugar added, whole foods, gluten-free, dairy-free, free-range, organic, grain-fed, no GMOs…

Aside: Has anyone ever watched the documentary ‘Fat Sick and Nearly Dead’ and NOT purchased a juicer afterwards? I am intentionally ignoring that title on my Netflix feed because I have an aversion to countertop appliances. Please comment if you have watched it and not taken up juicing, because I know of at least 4 juicer purchases that were inspired by said documentary. And I kinda want to watch it.

Clearly, this stuff is a HUGE HUGE DEAL right now and I am no exception. Cooking from scratch, getting back to basics, eating and liking more vegetables… I want to know more about all that.  So when I first read about the Whole30 concept and associated benefits, I was a shoo-in (sort of, more on that later.)  A month of whole foods? Better sleep, better energy, better everything? Let’s do this! And well, it was a wild month but here is what I learned.

Perfection is not required for improvement.

Reading the official Whole30 website kind of gives me hives.  I mean, these people are very very serious about healthy eating. A direct quote from their website:

The only way this will work is if you give it the full thirty days, no cheats, slips or “special occasions.”

Well, yes okay.  Perfection is probably better than my pseudo-plan.  Nonetheless, I didn’t even set out to follow ALL the rules, just most of them.  For example, I ate regular store-bought bacon (has sugar added), and also a pack of almonds with MSG in it.  You know what?  I would normally have eaten a candy bar so I considered that pack of MSG toasted almonds a win.  I didn’t eat any bread, or waffles, or paleo pancakes, or rice, or baked potatoes, or dessert.  I did drink two iced black coffees.  In my humble uneducated opinion, that’s a pretty big step and what’s a little bit of MSG really in the grand scheme of things.

So if you decide to try this, I encourage you to go all in but if you opt out of some parts, well, I’m with ya.  Also, due to complicating circumstances, I just plain stopped at about day 23 and that was that.  But, I DID notice improvement, and I did learn a lot.  And I do believe my program had a *positive* impact on my life and my cooking.  So there.

Sugar is addicting.

Our diets are tooooo sugary and here’s the rub: eating sugar just makes you want to eat more sugar.  Just like a drug.

Prior to this 23-day sugar fast, sugar was basically all I ate.  A typical healthy-ish meal for my family always center on a high-carb starch like pasta, and also probably be followed up with a sugary dessert.. or two.  You know.  And a typical non-healthy meal was just carbs+carb with a side of carbs.

After about 10 days of going no-sugar, I noticed was that all those sugar cravings I previously considered normally actually went away.  No 9 pm call from the ice cream in the freezer.  No sneaking cookies at 10am.

Even though I’m back to eating grains here and there, the cravings haven’t fully returned.  This is probably psychological, I don’t know.  But honestly the stuff’s just not as good as it used to be.  I used to wonder how in the world those Paleo people survived without ___ and ___ and ___ but the truth is, I didn’t even want any dessert.  Like really.  Weird huh?

Healthy food makes you feel better.

I guess its true what those health nuts always say.  Eat your vegetables!  Its just that it takes some serious commitment before you notice the improvement.  For me, I saw real improvement in about a week or so.  I needed less sleep and felt truly rested when I woke up.  I had more stable levels of energy, without a single ‘hunger panic’ feeling for the entire time.  In other words, none of that ‘oh I need to eat right now or else I might stab someone’ feeling.  That’s apparently related to blood sugar levels more than anything, so regulating them resulted in major improvements for me.

I also tend to have one or two headaches a week, and I’ve always blamed that on wearing my hair in a ponytail everyday.  Not major, nothing a little advil can’t handle.  But, they completely went away.  I did have a noticeable gluten-withdrawal headache one afternoon about a week in, but after that, no headaches.

Since I stopped the Whole23, the headaches have kinda come back.  And, I’ve resumed feeling like a zombie when the alarm goes off.  To get to the root of the problem, I’m going to go back to whole foods in a week or two (we’re about to go on vacation).  And then I’ll be a little more careful what I add back in, instead of just doing a cannon ball into the deep end of the junk food pool.

Food restrictions are great for broadening horizons.

Restricting my grocery list from X, Y, and Z really did make me more open to trying new foods and new recipes. At some point, carrots and green beans get old and you have to go a different direction.  Turnip greens?  Not bad at all.  Coconut oil?  Works great for saute-ing.  Baked apples don’t even need that extra sugar.  Nor do sweet potatoes.

I’m still on the hunt for more healthy but tasty vegetable recipes because my repertoire is too limited.

Weight loss

And finally, I did lose a little weight but I’m not sure how much because I don’t have a scale.  Maybe 5 lbs?  That’s kind of a lot for me in 3 weeks.  If you kept the plan up, I bet you could actually lose quite a bit and the real kicker is, I was never ever hungry.  So, 5 lbs off with no hunger and better energy level.. its like a win/win/win.

Going forward, I definitely plan to keep up the whole foods cooking at home.  Restaurants and eating out are a bigger challenge, so I think we’ll focus on minimizing restaurants in general for our family.  They’re too expensive anyway.  And, I’ll be sharing the awesomest healthy recipes I come across here of course.

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About Mary-Hall

loyal southerner, exceedingly frugal, compulsive DIYer

5 responses to “Whole30 Takeaway Lessons”

  1. Jennifer Taylor says :

    I bought and sold a juicer before I even watched that movie. 😉 I prefer my blender; tossing the juice pulp just felt like a waste. The movie is good, though! You should watch it sometime. Just stay strong against the temptation.

    I could write a book about my whole food journey in the last couple of years. I first aimed to just eat less sugar to see if it would help a certain condition, and it morphed into a crash course in “healthy eating.” While I don’t like the dogma people often associate with certain diets, I do believe that primarily eating whole foods is very important. I’ve made significant changes in my diet, though I still struggle in some areas.

    My best advice to anyone is to pick one thing in your diet and improve it. Then, when that new habit is as easy as the old one, move on to another thing. Maybe it’s cooking your own beans at home instead of buying canned ones, or whatever is of reasonable scope to tackle. I’ve slowly improved our overall diet that way, but it’s a continuous process (with lots of backtracking! :p) and I try to keep at it.

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