Whole30 : Lessons learned

Our Whole30 (and to be honest, it ended up being more of a Whole 23, but more on that in a bit) ended about 3 weeks ago. Here are some takeaways:

1. I am addicted to sugar. But I can beat it! As predicted, the hardest thing about the Whole30 was beating my afternoon sugar cravings. It was tough, and really revealed how entrenched those cravings are, but it felt good to be able to push through it. And it felt even better once I stopped having those cravings at all.

2. I have no desire to give up red wine. So many things on the Whole30 I completely buy in to and want to sustain long-term – abstaining 100% from red wine just isn’t one of them. However, I do totally get the benefit of being more moderate with alcohol consumption. Before the Whole30, I was averaging a bottle of wine each week. If I could keep that down to around 2 glasses of wine per week, I’d feel pretty good about things.

3. Continuation of point number 1 – sugar definitely messes with me. Now that I’m off the Whole30 and seeing my old sugar habits creep back in, it’s very obvious to me the effect they have on my mood and energy levels. Sugar makes me jittery and then makes me crash. Like too much caffeine, but worse.

4. But dairy doesn’t mess with me. This was a *huge* surprise. Dairy was at the top of the list of foodstuffs I expected were giving me issues. But much to my surprise, after my “experiment” of eating (a ton of) ice cream a few days after the Whole30 ended (yes, I know, not quite the controlled re-introduction that I was supposed to do)…I felt nothing. No gas, no bloating, no strange toilet activities…you get the idea. Of course, the sugar in the ice cream didn’t make me feel great, but I had no gastrointestinal issues whatsoever. Baffling. For the sake of science, I replicated the ice cream experiment (yes! for science!) a couple/few/several times, and each time the same thing – no reaction. I’m still going to maintain a low-dairy diet (now that my ice cream binge is over), but it’s nice to know that the occasional diary isn’t going to cause me upset.

5. Grains are probably really bad. And maybe beans, too. I’ve had serious stomach discomfort twice since ending the Whole30 – once was after eating quinoa and chickpeas, the other was after an indulgent brunch that included grits and a picnic with lots of chocolate. I had more minor discomfort another time after eating rice. I’m still experimenting with isolating exactly what it is that sets me off, but I have a strong inkling that the culprit is grains.

6. My metabolism adjusted in a surprising way. At the beginning of the Whole30, I couldn’t stop snacking. Even though I was snacking on Whole30-approved foods, I knew I was supposed to keep it limited. I really didn’t see how I could do that. For one thing, I am breastfeeding, so I knew that some snacking would be necessary. Surprisingly, as I got further into the Whole30, my snacking greatly decreased. Maybe I started eating bigger meals, or maybe I got used to waiting until mealtime to eat. I’m not really sure. The possible metabolism changes on the Whole30 and the no-snacking rule are both things I’d like to investigate further.

Now to address the fact that we didn’t actually make it to day 30 and what it was that threw us off the wagon. The first thing was alcohol/Memorial Day weekend/hanging out with friends – but mostly, of course, our own lack of willpower. Basically, we got to week 3, and our neighbor, whom we are close friends with, wanted to spend an evening drinking on the patio. We hadn’t done this in a long, long time, so we obliged. And honestly, I don’t regret that. We overindulged, and I think I would’ve done better with a couple fewer glasses of wine, but overall, the fun was worth it. The real problem came two days later when we went strawberry picking. I had all intentions of bringing the strawberries home and making pie filling and jam to be used post-Whole30, but Tom was more interested in having something that would be enjoyable immediately. I started out making this cake from Edible Harmony, but I subbed in pureed strawberries for applesauce in the cake batter. It’s a birthday cake, complete with 2 layers, filling and icing. As I started to make the icing, I realized how over the top it was to end our Whole30 with a birthday cake, so we conceded that maybe we didn’t need icing at this point. But we had no problem eating the two separate layers of cake, sometimes with a smear of butter and dollop of strawberry jam…..

So, as you can see, our Whole30 didn’t quite make it to 30. Tom is now back on the Whole30, only making concessions for soybean oil in mayonnaise and the occasional white potato. If you could see the whiskey I just finished, you would know that I, however, am not back on the Whole30. I am eating mostly paleo, but to be honest, my mom is in town and likes to eat out, which is not so compatible with Whole30. I’m doing pretty well with everything I cook at home, but I’m making room for a piece of dark chocolate here and there and a drizzle of maple syrup in my chia seed pudding. I’m keeping my sugar under control, and have found that I no longer even like putting honey in my tea!

My biggest takeaway from the Whole30 is that it is a great thing to do to recalibrate nutrition, cravings and willpower and to remember how good it feels when I eat 100% clean food. I intend to do a Whole30 at least twice a year and to stick as close to paleo as possible (while not stressing about it) in the meantime. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!


Whole30 Birthday Party


That’s our little Ada, enjoying her gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, dairy-free, sugar-free birthday cake. And who said healthy couldn’t be fun 😉

In all honesty, we are not usually that strict with Ada’s diet. But for her party, we wanted all of her baby friends to be able to share in the extra cake bits, so we wanted to eliminate all possible allergens that the other babies may not have been exposed to yet.

I would like to point out, though, that Ada’s cake was NOT Whole30 friendly. To my knowledge (and more importantly, to my ability) it is impossible to make a cake nut-free and grain-free unless you use 100% coconut flour. But cakes made with 100% coconut flour have a very distinctive taste, and we weren’t sure if Ada would like it. So this cake was made with millet flour, sweet white rice flour, and potato starch. We mix our gluten free flour mixes ourself (I’m sort of controlling like that…..) so we have lots of flours on hand.



For those less controlling about the taste and texture of their gluten-free treats, a simple pre-mixed gluten-free flour would probably do the trick 🙂

Here’s the recipe we based the cake off of: Fit Mama Real Food Smash Cake.

While Ada’s cake was not Whole30 friendly, I am very happy to say that the rest of the party was. This was 100% owing to Tom’s ingenious work with picking out deliciously healthy party foods for the adults.

Here’s our list of Whole30 party dishes:

Crudites (we used yellow and red peppers, cucumber, carrots, snap peas, broccoli)

Baba Ganoush

Carrot and Walnut dip

Locally smoked fish and avocado dip

Grilled asparagus wrapped in bacon

Plantain meatballs – these tasted surprisingly like banana bread!



It was scrumptious!!

And for everyone else, there was one other non-whole30 treat……


Whole30: Travel

A few weekends ago, we went to Toledo, OH for my grandmother’s memorial service. We were dreading the drive – all the way up on Friday evening, and back on Sunday. My parents must have heard my very loud thoughts, because they called mid-day on Friday and offered to buy us flights into Toledo for that afternoon. We were so relieved! Even though our last experience in an airport was not one we wanted to repeat – not one, but TWO canceled flights – I was so happy to let someone else steer the ship and take us up to Toledo.

Of course, there was the issue of food. If we had driven, we would have loaded our car down with Whole30 food so we would be well-nourished not only on the drive but also for snacks on Saturday since we couldn’t be sure what our options would be. Flying, though, brought the requisite space restrictions. We weren’t about to pay to check a suitcase full of food, so we mostly had to throw caution to the wind and hope for the best!

It turned out to be not so bad.

The hotel breakfast was sort of awkward on the ordering-front: no butter, no milk, no biscuit, no yogurt please. But we got through that. Snacks at a family-friend’s house were fine, too, although I was feeling pretty famished by the time we left. Luckily, a salmon and bacon salad in the lobby of the hotel afterwards made up the difference (DISCLAIMER: we may have applied (or in Tom’s case, poured) a bit of salad dressing on that salad….). Dinner was 16 oz of meat, topped with mushrooms and onions. If that’s not paleo, then I don’t know what is.

But the best meal of the whole trip, from a comedic standpoint, had to be our dinner in Raleigh before we’d even left. We were at the gate early, and I was already feeling the hunger pangs (it was the first week of the Whole30 and my metabolism was revved up), so I decided to investigate.

Out into the wild I went, like a true hunter-gatherer.

KFC? Everything was fried. R&B? I didn’t want a burger w/o the bun and sauce since then I might actually taste how bad the meat was. Pizza? Too many problems to count.

In the end, I found our meal in the unlikeliest of places: Bruegger’s Bagels.

It turns out that a club sandwich without the bagel is just a pile of meat with lettuce and tomato. Perfect. (Well, almost perfect. If you overlook the nitrites, etc. that were most definitely in the sandwich meat, then yes, perfect.)

So there we sat, at the gate, happily eating our pile of meat meal and thankful that a bit of foraging in the airport can sometimes mean a paleo-friendly meal. Meanwhile, Ada slurped happily on her meal-in-a-pouch blueberries and millet combo. A happy, healthy family.