When an overweight, carb-addicted, Taco Bell worshiping, 40-something (43 to be exact) decides to do something as crazy as the Whole30, well, I guess I think it deserves its own post. So many people have asked me why I did the Whole30 and what I hoped to gain from it, and I find those questions so important, yet somewhat difficult to answer. Keep on reading as I get real, and share what I learned from the Whole30.
I did the Whole30 for a few reasons.
Yes, I have recently been diagnosed with insulin resistance (did I mention the overweight, Taco Bell worshipping thing?) and could stand to be a little more intentional about my health. Yes, I could definitely benefit from thinking about what I’m putting in my mouth (so says my doctor). Yes, eating clean, increasing my fruits and vegetables, and eliminating other sugars is a great thing to do for your health (trust me-I’m a doctor). But do you really want to know why I did the Whole30? The whole truth and nothing but the truth: Someone implied I wouldn’t be able to do it. Yep, truth abounds. I did it to prove someone wrong. And if only I could remember who that someone was, I would definitely crow about my success…but did I also mention I’m over 40 now? I can’t for the life of me remember who it was…
So I did it. I completed the Whole30.
All 30 days of the Whole30. 31 days to be exact, because it seemed really weird to end on the 30th when there were 31 days in January (Maybe I’m a little OCD too). 31 days of no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no sugar/honey/maple syrup, no alcohol, and no preservatives. No Taco Bell. And not only did I survive, but I learned a few things.
What I learned from the Whole30:
1. I eat better when I plan my meals. I mean PLAN. Spreadsheets and grocery lists. I enlisted my husband to do the Whole30 with me so I felt responsible for always having a plan for us to eat. I knew we would have some serious setbacks if we got hungry without a plan. I did a meal plan every Sunday and ordered Instacart to deliver what we needed for the week. Staying out of the grocery store helped me immensely. You can’t eat chips if you didn’t buy them. There is a wealth of Whole30 approved meals done by bloggers and the Whole30 Slow Cooker Cookbook was a great resource for meals. I also always tried to make enough so we had leftovers that we would be able to have for lunches the next day.
2. Have a backup plan for your plans. Our lives are chaotic. I knew we would have days when the careful planning fell apart, or an ingredient had gone bad, or I hadn’t started the Slow Cooker/Instant Pot in time. I knew we would have days where life got in the way of our carefully laid plans-SO I PLANNED FOR THAT. My normal plan would be to order a pizza, or run to Jimmy Johns, but unfortunately those weren’t options this month. Or, if I was at home, I would just throw on a pot of spaghetti-also now off limits. So, previous to our Whole30 I made 3 batches of Whole30 compliant beef stew (a recipe my whole family loves) that I froze and knew I could throw in the Instant Pot without freezing. Problem solved. (I also kept zucchini noodles and a jar of Whole30 compliant marinara for desperate times-but this was a much less hearty meal for the Polar Vortex type temperatures we have experienced this month).
3. It is amazing how much “junk” there is in our food. I try to eat organic, I try to avoid packaged foods, but even in seemingly “natural” foods-I found junk. Try to find bacon that does not contain sugar. (spoiler alert-it is difficult, I’ve found one brand at Lakewinds Coop, but they are often sold out). Try to find dried fruit that doesn’t contain sugar. I found I had to read every label on everything we ate in order to avoid the “not approved” substances. And going out to eat was even harder. Everything contains sugar, or grains, or preservatives. There were very few places we could go out to eat, and even in those places we had to ask a million questions. (Read on below for my tips on eating out) I’m not sure why we’ve added so much junk to our naturally delicious food, I can now honestly tell you, it doesn’t necessarily make it taste better, and I’m afraid we’re going to be seeing some harmful effects. I’m not saying sugars are bad, but they sure don’t need to be in everything. We don’t need food coloring or chemical preservatives. Eat fresh food. Read your labels, folks.
4. Clean eating tastes good. I tend to think of vegetables and lean meats as boring. Which they are not. At all. Especially when roasted, or chopped, or added together to make a beautiful bowl. And the key to making everything taste good? If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times-SAUCE! I made jars of chimichurri, homemade mayo, lemon aioli, garlic aioli, Tzatziki sauce and cucumber dill sauce. Having these on hand to pair with grilled chicken breast, pulled pork, roasted sweet potatoes, fried potatoes, you name it, made eating so much more pleasurable! Sauces kept everything interesting! You will need to plan on doing a lot of cooking, but there are also a ton of convenience foods that can make it easier! Costco was a great source of hardboiled eggs, almonds, unsulphured dried apricots, fresh fruits and vegetables. I brought home the big packages, repackaged them in small snack bags or glass containers, and could easily grab them to head to work! Costco was also a great place to stock up on ghee, whole30 compliant canned tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock, salmon, chicken breasts, and eggs.
5. I feel better. Do I have Tiger Blood as the Whole30 suggests I should have? Well, I don’t know about that, Tiger Blood may be pushing it. But I am overall more energetic, more positive, I’m sleeping better, I’m less sluggish in the morning, and I have less aches and pains. I have lost weight, my cholesterol and hemoglobin A1C are down (and were by week 2!) and although this isn’t a weight loss program, it definitely feels good to have more control over my health (and it’s a great secondary reward!). Oh, I’m still over 40, but I do feel like a better version of myself.
A few MYTHS about the Whole30:
1. It’s all about the meat. I won’t lie, it would be hard to do this as a vegetarian since legumes such as lentils and chickpeas are out. Having said that, I found that a small amount of lean protein and then heaps of fruits and vegetables would keep me satisfied. Having a big variety of textures and flavors helps tremendously. You’ve heard of “eat the rainbow?” Never more true than when on the Whole30.
2. You will be hungry all of the time. FALSE. I’ve actually stayed very full. I learned how to keep fresh veggies, almonds, compliant LaraBars and fresh fruit around all of the time. If I was hungry, I ate. And as my body adapted, my hunger decreased dramatically and I didn’t need near as much food to feel full. You will have cravings. You do NOT have to be hungry.
3. You have to buy a lot of expensive things to do the Whole30. Nope, you do not even have to buy the book. All of the information is online at Whole30.com. You can find thousands of compliant recipes online. You can make all of your own sauces -and I for one will never buy mayo again (now that I’ve mastered it at home)! You may spend more on fruits and vegetables then you are used to, but your body will thank you (this is where a Costco membership helps).
4. You can’t eat out. This was my biggest fear. I meet my friends for lunch frequently, and I didn’t want to turn down these opportunities. My husband went out to a restaurant first for a business dinner. When I asked him what he planned on eating, he got frantic and went running for the book. He ended up having a simple steak, steamed broccoli and a baked potato. The restaurant accommodated his no dairy, only simple preparation request. I went out next, and chose a Whole30 friendly restaurant in Minneapolis called Agra-Culture. Chimichurri shrimp, harissa roasted sweet potatoes, and cauliflower couscous made lunch easy, compliant and delicious. Last weekend I went to a bar with my friend after work. Obviously I couldn’t drink alcohol, but the waitress was super accommodating in serving my burger in a lettuce wrap with a side of fruit. Chipotle, who has a Whole30 compliant carnitas bowl, was our go-to fast casual choice. Overall I ate out a whole lot less than usual, but when I did, I was still able to make good, compliant, choices!
5. People will think you are crazy. Well, this one is a maybe. I guess I’m used to people thinking I’m crazy, so it bothers be not even a little bit. I told people I wanted to go to medical school (crazy), did one and half residencies (crazy), have 2 kids 8 and a half years apart (crazy), started a food blog (crazy)…see, long history of crazy! But I was truly floored at how many people were interested in the journey, asked me about what I was eating and how I was doing, and how many people had tried it (or wanted to try it) themselves! Support was everywhere, so I thank all of you who commented, asked questions, encouraged and cheered me on!
Some of my favorite recipes from the Whole30:
Ridiculously Easy Salmon Cakes from Sustainable Cooks
Paleo Whole30 Potato Pancakes by Perchance to Cook
Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Aioli by Tastes Lovely (I did have to leave out the wine, but the artichokes can be steamed in water and lemon alone and still be delicious!)
Whole30 Perfect Mayo from the Whole30 program
Healthy Instant Pot Orange Chicken by Sustainable Cooks
Shakshuka from With Two Spoons
Chimichurri Pork Tenderloin from With Two Spoons
Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup from With Two Spoons
Whole30 Taco Seasoning from The Real Food Dieticians
Deconstructed Pork Gyros from the Whole30 Slow Cooker Cookbook
Poached Salmon with Cucumber Dill Sauce from the Whole30 Total Guide
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Are you thinking about doing the Whole30?
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