Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Remarkable Monkey Does the Whole30

Yes,  yes... I've been super lax about posting. And yes, totally blew another New Year's Resolution to post at least once a month. Here it is March 1st already. Yikes!

Anyway, I did a Whole30 in August/September last year, and since lots of folks have asked me about it, I've been meaning to write about how it went for a while. Right now, I'm smack in the middle of doing a second Whole30, so figured I'd stop procrastinating and do it now.

If you're not familiar with the Whole30, it's sort of a nutritional reset program, meant to break some bad food habits, create some good ones, clear a lot of junk out of your system and figure out if any of the foods you regularly eat may be causing any issues. You can learn all about it from the official website, whole30.com.  In short, it's basically no sugar or other sweeteners, no dairy, no grains, no legumes and no alcohol for 30 days.

"Oh my God!", my mom and Mr. Remarkable Monkey both said. "What CAN you eat??" Well that's simple... lots and lots of vegetables, some lean protein, a little fruit, a little nuts, healthy plant-based oils. What else do ya need?

So, why did I decide to do the Whole30, and what did I get out of it? For me, although I was eating pretty well and getting regular exercise, I was really struggling to lose weight. I was not outrageously heavy, but could definitely stand to drop 15 or 20 pounds. It used to be fairly easy for me to drop a few pounds by watching what I ate and making sure I exercised a few times a week. But suddenly, nothing was making much difference. Even though my calories were within the healthy range (1200-1500 per day) that used to precipitate fairly steady weight loss, it just wasn't coming off. I guess that's what "middle age" will do for ya. So I thought maybe I should look more closely at WHAT I was eating instead of just the calories... that maybe some combination of foods was affecting my metabolism or whatever. 

That's when a friend recommended the book "It Starts With Food". I had already heard of the Whole30 but hadn't realized the book was connected.

Dallas and Melissa Hartwig created the Whole30 program, and they wrote the book "It Starts With Food". It's chock full of info about why and how this "nutritional cleanse" works. You don't have to read it to do a Whole30, but I found it useful, helpful and motivating.  

So how did it go, you ask? It went just fine. A lot of people find it hard to do the Whole30, but aside from all the kitchen prep and cooking, and label reading, I didn't find it all that difficult. I never felt deprived and the few occasional cravings I had really weren't that strong. But my eating habits weren't that bad to start with (not much fast food, not tons of sugar), and I eased into it by leaning toward compliance for a while before my start date. Lots of people binge on non-compliant foods before starting, but I would think that would make it harder once you do start. Your mileage may vary.

For me, the most difficult part really was just all the meal prep and reading every single label to make sure any products were compliant. It really helped that I'm self employed and work at home... I had time to make breakfast and lunch in addition to dinner. Breakfast was usually a couple soft-boiled eggs over sauteed spinach with a little fruit on the side, and some flavored herbal tea. (I've found that it keeps me satisfied all the way to lunch, so that's actually STILL my usual breakfast!) Lunch was usually a big salad with leftover turkey or chicken, or maybe I'd sautee some shrimp to put on it. And dinner was often sauteed vegetables (onions and peppers with various combos of squash, zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes... whatever we had fresh in the fridge), along with some form of sweet or white potato (oven fries, hashbrowns, roasted) and some kind of protein... sauteed or roasted chicken breast, turkey tenderloins, maybe a hamburger patty, or maybe zucchini spaghetti with Coleman organic chicken florentine sausage (my favorite discovery during my Whole30). Most days I kept it pretty simple, but even so, on really busy days it would have been SO much easier to just slap a sandwich together. THAT was the difficulty for me, and it wasn't that hard... just kind of a drudge some days, having to spend so much time in the kitchen.

And what did I get out the experience? I DID lose a few pounds... only about four, but that was still more than I'd been able to lose in a month for a while. And really, the point of the Whole30 isn't to lose weight, although most people apparently do lose some. I also learned that I don't really have any issues with any of the individual food groups, but sugar makes me feel like crap when consumed in anything more than very moderate amounts. Not a big surprise in and of itself, but enlightening regarding just how much impact it has. And kids, if you start reading labels like you have to on the Whole30, you'll find out just how much sugar is lurking in so many foods! It's in things you'd never expect it to be in, and in greater amounts than you might think. 

And that's kinda what led me to embark on this current second Whole30. I haven't been eating too poorly, but I did enjoy the holidays and all the food and drink that come with it. I gained back most of the four pounds previously lost, and was feeling a bit sluggish. I have a birthday coming up later this month, and it's the last one before I hit a milestone with a zero on the end next year (yikes!). After struggling with a persistent shoulder issue that required physical therapy last year (and still isn't 100%), I've decided that I want to be in the best shape possible when I hit that milestone birthday next year. It's a big one, and I want to head into it strong and lean. What better way to kickstart that effort than with a Whole30? Get the junk out of my system, further instill those healthy food habits, and start working on more complete fitness.

If you're thinking of trying a Whole30 yourself, you should really read as much as you can on the site about the program before you start. It will help you prepare and plan, and know what to expect. Go through the whole "What is the Whole 30" section step by step. This is a good place to start:

There is a ton of info available there, and some helpful links to other sites with great info. You don't have to sign up or anything, although if you do sign up, I believe they'll send you email news and a pdf booklet or something. I did not sign up... I'm more of a lurker and not a joiner. But you might feel differently.

This timeline is interesting, and a lot of people feel it's pretty accurate as far as what to expect....  http://whole30.com/2013/08/revised-timeline/

For me, not so much... I didn't really have the "hangover" or the "kill all the things", and I never really found it very difficult to stick to it (aside from all the cooking and food prep and label reading). They talk about feeling the "tiger blood"... I never really felt boundless energy, but one day when I was on the treadmill after having not been on it in a couple weeks, I WAS able to jog a whole 5k without stopping, which surprised me since I hadn't done that in a few weeks. Tiger blood? Maybe. Regardless, I DID feel better overall on the Whole30... slept better like a lot of participants do, and had a bit less of the intermittent joint pain I sometimes have. Woohoo!

There's lots to explore on the Whole30 site. Here are a few links I found helpful:

Shopping lists, approved products, meal templates, etc., all in handy pdf format...

They have a recipe section,
http://whole30.com/category/recipes/, but I also found a lot of recipes just by Googling "whole30 compliant recipe"

Googling also turned up some good lists of Whole30 compliant stuff available at Costco, Trader Joe's and WholeFoods:

You can find more in the forums on the Whole30 site. Just go to the sourcing good food section and search Trader Joe's or Costco or wherever you want to shop:

Seriously... if you want to dig deep or are just looking for other Whole30 tips, recipes, etc., just Googling "Whole30" or "Whole30 compliant" will turn up gobs and gobs of sites.

Also, there are tons of recipes out there for homemade mayo. They're all pretty similar, so find one you like. The one I made used extra light olive oil, a bit of water, a bit of mustard powder along with the eggs. (Yes, if you want mayo, you'll have to make it yourself.... good luck finding any at the store that doesn't have soybean oil in it.) 
Oh... and everyone on the Whole30 message boards raves about TessaMae's ranch dressing, which is Whole30 compliant... I made a special trip to WholeFoods to get some, but I did not like that dressing! If you like dill a LOT, you might... it was very very VERY dilly, and tasted a bit harsh to me. To each his own. I'll stick with homemade vinaigrette. But the trip to WholeFoods wasn't a waste... I did get some
Pederson's sugar free bacon which is compliant and delicious!

So if you're taking the plunge and doing the Whole30 yourself, good luck, and feel free to let me know it goes for you! Me? I'll be done with my second in time to enjoy some birthday cake and a cocktail! (And then I'll probably feel like crap from all the sugar. Ha!)

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