Tag Archives: whole 30

Whole 30: Entering the Home Stretch (And Some Struggles)

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Hi, friends! So I’m on Day 25 on my first Whole 30, and I have a bunch of random updates to share. Apologies in advance for this being all over the place.

Thing #1: A fantastic, Whole 30-compliant 24 hours in Atlanta.

I flew in to Atlanta on Saturday, Nov. 9, for a work trip, arriving a day early to visit my college roommate Hannah and her boyfriend, Kyle. (Check out their awesome movie, TV, game and comic book review site called Geekrex here.) Hannah and Kyle have done low-carb challenges before and generally eat a Paleo diet during the workweek (allowing themselves some leeway on the weekend), so it was no surprise I had zero trouble staying on track while visiting them. When I arrived, Hannah had made me a snack of sauteed bacon and Brussels sprouts with a drizzle of balsamic reduction (YUM). She had even purchased a kombucha for my enjoyment later that night! And to top it all off, they took me to an amazing paleo restaurant for dinner, Urban Pl8. It was liberating being able to order basically whatever I wanted off the menu. We started with a delicious Asian beef lettuce wrap appetizer and kale chips with a rosemary aioli, then for my main course I ordered this AMAZING chicken tagine dish with sweet potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms. The broth was so flavorful and delicious. I ate the entire thing.

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The next morning, our brunch locale (R. Thomas) featured exotic birds to entertain guests during the wait.

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The menu was huge and impressive, with tons of healthy options. I got some coconut kefir and freshly-pressed apple/carrot/ginger juice in addition to my eggs and greens. Weekend in Atlanta = Amazing.

Thing #2: Digging out a box of skinny jeans.This past Friday, I dug out a box full of jeans that haven’t fit me in about two years. It felt pretty awesome. I wore a pair on a double date with our friends Carrie and Brad on Saturday and felt like I looked like a legitimate 29-year-old for the first time in a awhile.
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Thing #3: Tips on how to build meals for a spouse or partner not doing Whole 30.

I know some people struggle with accommodating spouses on Whole 30, but this has not been a challenge for me. My husband would eat just Whole 30 meals if that’s all I made, however he likes a LOT of food, so I have been adding a serving of grains to most of his meals. For example, I made Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Chicken Burgers topped with guac and bacon for dinner one night, and Jeff got cheese on his burger and a bun to round out his meal. Other times I have thrown some garlic bread or roasted fingerling potatoes onto his plate, in addition to the protein and veggies.

Image(Buy these burgers. Now.)

Thing #4: Homemade sweet potato chips.

One large sweet potato sliced on the 1/16 setting of a mandolin, 2T coconut oil, salt and pepper, and 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Watch them carefully, as my first batch burned to a crisp while I got sucked into Scandal in the other room. But oh dear lord do these help on days where I would punch a baby for some tortilla chips.

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Thing #5 (and it’s a big one): Some serious struggles with staying on plan.

In the spirit of full disclosure, the third week of Whole 30 ended up being extremely difficult for me and I ate off plan several times. The biggest reason was travel. I didn’t do a very good job planning my travel meals while visiting Alabama and Connecticut the last couple weeks. One downside of this plan is that if you are in a fairly remote area with very few restaurants and grocery stores and no kitchen, it can be pretty difficult to find Whole 30-compliant options.

Now, I travel for work quite a bit, and one of the first rules I set for myself is “no eating like you are on vacation.” It can be very tempting to sample all the delicious local specialties everywhere I go, but that’s a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, sometimes I break my own rule.

The first slip-up (that, in retrospect, ultimately led to all the others) happened during a business dinner in Alabama. I was dining at a local Italian restaurant with a wonderfully sweet older woman who volunteers for my organization. I ordered a salad to start and sausage and peppers over a bed of steamed squash for my dinner. Then they brought out their signature garlic knots. My dining companion proudly told me the garlic knots were considered a “must-try” for anyone visiting Auburn when the waiter set them down on the table. Now, I probably should have just told her I was gluten intolerant or something like that. It seemed too difficult to try to explain this caveman-style way of eating to an older Southern woman. So I gave in and had one (about the size of a golf ball). Within about five minutes of ingesting it, I felt dizzy and nauseous. I couldn’t focus my eyes and had a hard time listening to her. I honestly felt like someone had slipped me a neurotoxin. The feeling passed after I ate my meal. After dinner, I went back to my hotel and did a hard workout on the arc trainer and drank a ton of water.

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The next day, I did pretty well (omelet for breakfast, spinach salad for lunch) but did end up consuming a couple definitely non-compliant items starting with a smoothie that most likely contained dairy during a fit of hunger and a tight schedule, which led to me thinking “well, screw it, I’ve already had dairy today” and getting a small tart Pinkberry from the campus food court that afternoon.

I got back on track when I got home from the trip thanks to this amazing spaghetti squash marinara dish. A pound of Italian sausage, a pound of lean ground beef, a no-sugar-added organic marinara over the innards of a huge spaghetti squash made AMAZING leftovers for lunch that week.

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Unfortunately, virtually the same thing happened during my business trip the very next week, except even worse. The system broke down in Connecticut. With very few restaurant options and literally no grocery stores within a 30-minute radius of my hotel, the cards were somewhat stacked against me, and frankly I just didn’t try to make it work. Something came over me and I just could not stay on plan. I didn’t WANT to. This really caught me by surprise, because for the first couple weeks my willpower was ironclad, but for some reason I lost complete control and ended up consuming all kinds of terrible things (cookies, pizza, beer and chips, to be exact). I have never had an issue with binge eating, and this was the first time I’ve honestly felt completely out of control like that.

I got back on track the next day with an hour-long workout and 60 oz of water to flush out my system, and I felt immensely better almost immediately. I admitted what happened to Jeff when I got home, and I have recommitted to the plan. I’ve been struggling to understand why this happened, and I think it just comes down to being on such a restrictive plan. It felt like there was no end in sight, I didn’t plan well, and I wasn’t eating enough due to limited options. Hungry Lauren does not usually make good decisions. (Amazing how I have to learn this lesson again and again.)

So it happened, but I’m not going to let it get me down. I am back on track and feeling great, so I’m committed to finishing strong! I am still loving my “snack plate” breakfasts to start the day on the right note. This breakfast satisfies me without any type of blood sugar crash, the hallmark of a good Whole 30 meal. Trader Joe’s plain steamed beets have been an enjoyable addition lately.

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And as for what comes after the challenge, I’m going to mainly continue this style of eating, however I’m adding back in:

  1. Dairy. I have not seen the improvements I hoped to get from eliminating dairy (namely, clearer skin). I find a little cream in my coffee and a little cheese to be extremely satisfying, so this addition will help make the plan tolerable long-term.
  2. Alcohol. I have learned so much from eliminating alcohol; specifically, that I do just fine in social situations without it most of the time. But I do want to enjoy some drinks over the holiday season, so I’m just going to be more mindful of my consumption moving forward.
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My First Whole 30 Challenge

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In the last few years, my ideas about healthy eating have shifted dramatically. I no longer believe whole grains are healthy. I no longer believe low-fat diets are good for people.  (This pretty much sums up my nutrition views.)

It all started with reading “Refuse to Regain” by Dr. Barbara Berkeley a few years ago. After years of wondering what was wrong with my body, I finally started understanding that carbs, sugar and our bodies’ subsequent insulin responses explain why people store fat. Reading Dr. Berkeley’s book chanaged everything for me. She attests that overweight people’s bodies function in fundamentally different ways than the bodies of people who have never been overweight.

A brief synopsis of her theory: Carbs, even “whole grain” carbs, turn immediately to sugar upon digestion. The body can only handle about one teaspoon of sugar in the bloodstream at a time and must send insulin to clear it away immediately. (For perspective, a can of coke contains approximately ten teaspoons of sugar.) Excess sugar is either stored as fat or sent to the muscles to burn off. In people who have never been overweight and are not prone to weight gain, the body does a good job of regulating how much sugar is stored as fat and how much is sent to burn. Their body weight remains stable without a ton of thought about calories in vs. calories out. But people whose bodies are prone to weight gain seem to have a problem Dr. Berkeley calls “stuck on fill.” Basically, their bodies don’t send much sugar to the muscles and just default to filling fat cells. So by avoiding the foods that produce the most insulin, your body can start to unlock those fat cells and correct the imbalance. This is a drastically oversimplified explanation, but see her blog posts “The Faulty Metabolism Myth” and “Stuck on Fill” for more info.

Her theories comforted me immensely; for years I had felt that my body composition did not accurately reflect my lifestyle. It frustrated me to compare myself to thinner friends and wonder why I was so much heavier despite cooking healthy meals and working out.

And then the Paleo movement came along, dovetailing with what I learned from Dr. Berkeley in its assertion that humans were never meant to consume processed carbs like we do today, and that meats, healthy fats, vegetables and fruit work perfectly to meet our energy needs and keep us healthy.

I wholeheartedly believe in these theories. This idea–that our modern diet fights our genetics and that overweight people’s bodies are systemically different–makes more sense to me than anything else I’ve ever read about weight management, and I have read a lot. But, of course, actually putting these theories into practice is not as easy as enthusiastically nodding my head in agreement. Our food culture is not exactly conducive to this lifestyle. For the last couple years, I have cooked and eaten lower carb in general, but have struggled to stay consistent with it, especially on the weekends. It’s so easy to fall into the “everyone else gets to eat that so I will too” mentality. And carbs are delicious and extremely addictive. I’ve been in a rut.

Recently I’ve been looking for a program to re-energize my weight loss efforts, knowing several things about myself:

  1. I despise counting things–calories, Points, grams of carbs. I will not stick with a program that requires counting. I just won’t. I am type B–no point in fighting it.
  2. I get decision fatigue pretty easily. I am already naturally inclined to overanalyze everything and play out every possible situation in my mind. On an “everything in moderation” plan, I have to make dozens of decisions all day long about what to eat and what not to eat. My internal dialogue goes something like this: “Do I get that bagel at Starbucks? Do I grab a cookie from the kitchen counter at work? Do I stop for a McDonald’s ice cream cone on the way home from work? It’s only 160 calories, right? Maybe I get that and then I run an extra mile to burn it off.” Imagine this ALL DAY LONG. It’s exhausting. And unfortunately I don’t have the willpower to keep myself from burning out. Eventually, I get so sick of focusing all my energy on food decisions that I just give up. (Gretchen Rubin has written some great pieces on moderators vs. abstainers. I’m an abstainer all the way.)
  3. The extra calories of alcohol–my beloved craft beer, especially–have likely been stalling progress toward my weight loss goals.

So when I heard about the Whole 30 challenge, I quickly realized it was the perfect next step for me: A month of avoiding grains, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, dairy and alcohol. All of these things have been shown to increase inflammation in the body and possibly trigger various undesired reactions. Creators Dallas and Melissa Hartwig challenge people to thirty days of eating pure, minimally processed food in order to pinpoint problem foods and restore metabolism. This is not a starvation diet; the plan instructs basing each meal around plenty of protein, vegetables, healthy fat and some fruit. Eat until you are full at each meal. Avoid snacking.

My goals for the program are:

  • Reset my tastebuds after a few months of sugar and processed carbs sneaking into my diet
  • Sleep more soundly
  • Reduce inflammation in my body
  • Clear up my skin (I’m wondering if eliminating dairy will help with this)
  • Lower my blood pressure (currently 121/86, which is not terrible but could be a little lower)
  • Hopefully kickstart some weight loss

I will be finished with my first Whole 30 the day before Thanksgiving. If I like it, I plan to start another one after Thanksgiving weekend. I plan to document my results here on the blog.

I’m on day three today, and I feel great! I had a headache last night and went to bed early, which I’ve heard is normal for the first few days. Evidently days 1-6 are rough, and then the incredible energy kicks in.

I will be back soon with some Whole 30 meals I’ve been enjoying thus far!