Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My January-February 2017 Whole30 Experience

I'm After reading 18 success stories, gaining 15 lb. and trying on 10 pairs of pants that didn't fit, I took the plunge and decided to commit to Whole30.  Just to clarify, I did not turn to Whole30 simply to lose weight.  I know how to do that.  I turned to Whole30 to change my life.  I was exhausted from going back and forth between dieting and extreme exercise.  I needed something that was going to last me a lifetime- something that would help me develop healthy eating habits and improve my relationship with food.  I needed these things and didn't even know it until Whole30 came into my life.  To be honest, I didn't think this type of balance was achievable.  Well, it is.  And I'm going to tell you exactly how I did it.

If you don't know what Whole30 is, I'll give you a brief description.  Their website and the comprehensive book The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom
are both great resources, though. Simply stated, you cannot have any alcohol, added sugar, dairy, legumes, soy or wheat for 30 days.  It is obviously much more complex than that but those are the basics.  To be honest, giving up cheese and wine scared the hell out of me.  You have to step out of your comfort zone if you want change.  I decided this extra cheese on my pizza habit needed to change and I was willing to trust the process.  You need this level of trust to successfully complete the program and make long-term changes.

So after having a pity party and a farewell to food tour, I asked my Mom to get me The Whole30 Cookbook for Channukah.  Looking back, this book is probably the best gift I've ever been given.  These recipes are shared directly from the creator of Whole30 herself, Melissa Hartwig.  There are endless resources online for Whole30 compliant recipes but the book was my absolute favorite source.  You can also read It Starts With Food and Food Freedom Forever.  Since completing my 30 days, I have ordered the latter but neither are required to start the program.

I decided I would begin my program on Monday January 16th.  I spent the weekend before Whole30 in South Carolina running Charleston Half Marathon during Restaurant Week and of course ate all the things.  On Monday, I meant business.  All I actually remember eating on that day was eggs for breakfast and potatoes with dinner.  I didn't keep a food log and in hindsight that was probably a mistake.  If you are new to Whole30, keep a food log.  I can tell you several things I ate during my 30 days, but it's certainly not an all-inclusive list.

So, the first few days of Whole30 are known to give you a massive headache from the sugar withdrawal.  Some people compare this sensation to a hangover.  Fortunately, I cannot tell you from personal experience how this feels because I experienced nothing of the sort.  While I do drink wine and eat bread and pasta, I do not have a sweet tooth.  I don't like sugary, sweet things.  I don't eat ice cream or cookies or donuts.  Occasionally I may indulge in one, but these are not weaknesses of mine.  Take me to a restaurant and I would rather get a cheesy, fried appetizer than splurge on dessert.  This worked in my favor because I never once felt deprived of sugar.  I cruised through the first week preparing lots of chicken and potatoes.

Week 2 presented new challenges because days 11 & 12 are said to be the hardest in the entire program.  At this point, the novelty wears off and a lot of people decide to cheat or quit altogether.  I'll admit my only mistake was on day 8 eating at Moe's.  I thought I was being good by ordering grilled chicken and all compliant toppings.  Do you know how hard it was to refrain from chips, queso and sour cream?!?  Well, come to find out their chicken was grilled in soybean oil and soy is off limits.  Some people suggested I needed to start over.  I thought that was unnecessary because my stomach hurt after the meal and left me extremely bloated.  I learned everything from that mistake that I needed to: soy is something I need to avoid on a regular basis.  I don't feel the need to re-introduce soy into my diet.  Also, don't trust restaurants!  They will sneak anything into your food.  Check labels and ask questions. 

Week 3 is really where the magic happens.  You get an immense amount of energy and focus, also known as "Tiger Blood."  There is pretty much nothing stopping you from reaching Day 30 once you've experienced Tiger Blood.  I was strong enough to go out to bars and turn down drinks in my third week.  While I'm pretty sure everyone appreciated me being a DD, the best part of week three was the feeling of liberation.  When alcohol and food no longer controlled me, I felt pure freedom.  Drinking water while watching a band play was just as relaxing as drinking a beer.  Tiger Blood gives you confidence and I was confident enough to sing and dance just like anyone who had been drinking.  Also, this bar was an outdoor bar that I like to go to during the summer.  Just thinking about being able to show off this body that I've worked so hard for in a sundress over the summer would be enough motivation to not drink.  I look at alcohol in a whole different light now.  Don't get me wrong, I still love it.  I just don't feel the insecurity to drink it every time I go out now.

On Week 4 I decided I was ready to give restaurants another chance.  I went to lunch with co-workers and refrained from bread and the cheesy, fried appetizer brought to the table.  I asked the server all the right questions and was able to enjoy a tuna salad.  Later that night, I went out to dinner at Outback Steakhouse with my family.  Outback is a great place to eat when you are on Whole30!  They have a gluten-free menu with slightly modified options.  I typically get the crab stuffed tilapia, but the server informed me that it contains breadcrumbs.  I went with the grilled tilapia found exclusively on the gluten-free menu and a side of baked potato.  I actually clarified my own butter at home and brought it along in a container so I could give my potato some fat and flavor.  I don't know what I'm more impressed with- my ability to turn down a bloomin' onion or the cleverness involved in bringing my own butter to a restaurant.  Either way, that entire experience was a win in my book. 

I'm now on week 5, day 31.  I've had countless people tell me they could never do it.  32 days ago, I thought the same thing.  If you want something as bad as you need air, you will find a way to make it happen.  In these last 30 days, I not only improved my relationship with food but also myself.  I'm pretty dang impressed with the strength and resistance I showed during this program.  I'm a proud Whole30 alumni.  I mean, turning down nachos during the SuperBowl?  That's something I've never done before!  I literally went to four grocery stores looking for compliant plantain chips I could eat with my guacamole and my Dad made me baked wings with no sauce.  Who needs to pound beers when Lady Gaga was giving the performance of a lifetime, anyways?

For most people, Day 31 is a re-introduction day.  The journey does not end after 30 days because you need to experience restricted foods individually to see how your body reacts.  The journey really never ends, actually.  I have a Half Marathon on Sunday so I am going to postpone my re-introduction period a few days and enjoy my Whole30 lifestyle a bit longer.  I didn't want to re-introduce anything this close to my race and I have the momentum to keep going.  A huge reasoning for deciding to do Whole30 had to do with my running.  I knew losing weight and fueling myself with proper nutrients would improve my running exponentially.  Well, I have lost 21.6 pounds so I'm excited to see how I perform on Sunday!  Yes, you read that correctly.  21.6 pounds in 30 days.  No pills, wraps, or extreme working out.  This is Whole30. I am Whole30.