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.

Accidental Sorghum (Whole30 Day 5/Day 6)

Did you know sorghum was a grain?

It is.

This fact dawned on me as I was falling asleep, a full 4 hours after I added 1/2 cup sorghum flour to our delicious veggie burgers.

You see, in gluten-free baking, sorghum is sort of a holy grail flour. Gluten-Free Girl says its the gf flour most akin to wheat flour, so it works great in all sorts of baked goods. I have been used to using sorghum as a go-to flour whenever a recipe doesn’t specify a particular type of alternative to use.

The particular recipe I was using last night was this one: Super Healthy Veggie Burgers. It is supposed to be a grain-free burger, but I obviously sabotaged that bit. It says to use 1/2 c almond flour and 1/2 c any other ground nut/seed. I used the 1/2 c almond and 1/2 c hazelnut, but I was increasing the recipe by 1.5, so I needed to add one more 1/2 c. Naturally, I reached for the sorghum.

And there you have it. Accidental sorghum.

I’m not sure why it didn’t dawn on me that sorghum could possibly be off limits, but the thought didn’t even come close to crossing my mind. The mistake is even funnier considering that, while we were cooking, Tom and I were talking about how we both had a humorous fear that we were going to accidentally eat something we weren’t supposed to.

Well, it happened, and we managed to survive.

I haven’t told Tom about the mistake yet. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s noticed feeling any different today. I, for one, definitely had some not-nice feelings in my belly this morning. But sometimes it’s hard to tell what that’s coming from – it could just be from the inordinate amount of veggies, and thus fiber, we’ve been consuming. For now, we’re feeding the leftover veggie burgers to Ada and hoping for the best!

Other than that goof up, the past 2 days have been great. Tom and I have both experience a reduction in cravings and haven’t been finding it so hard to get through the day. One thing that has helped is our realization that we should be eating HUGE meals. Whole30 doesn’t recommend snacking (something I obviously was unaware of on Day 3). Instead, they recommend eating pretty large portions of food at each meal – 1-2 palm-sized portions of protein, a whole bunch of veg, a thumb-sized portion of oil/butter, plus some seeds/nuts or avocado. This includes breakfast – hence our turkey burger + egg breakfasts.

The sugar-crazed madness I was in on Day 3 has also definitely waned. On Day 4, I had an apple with my breakfast, and didn’t even finish it. Today and yesterday, I had breakfast without any carbs at all. I think this has been pretty helpful in setting me up for a successful food day both days. Afternoons have also been fine. While I am still incorporating 1 snack most afternoons, I am making sure it follows the Whole30 meal template – i.e., mostly protein.

Here’s a recap of the last two days and what I’ve had so far today:

Day 5

breakfast – turkey burger, egg, cooked kale with seeds, sesame oil, avocado, coconut flakes

lunch – sweet potato w/walnuts and pumpkin seeds and ghee, onions, peppers, mushrooms, chicken drumstick, 1 piece bacon. Small serving chia with granola.

(no snack b/c I was going to yoga)

dinner – coconut crusted chicken, peas, cauliflower rice, avocado sauce


Day 6

breakfast – 2 eggs, kale, chia with granola

lunch – coconut crusted chicken, cauliflower rice, sweet potato and onion, 1/2 an avocado

snack – 1/2 banana, 4 strawberries, coconut milk, coconut flakes, cinnamon – very decadent! and verging on too much of a treat to be Whole30 compliant…but o well.

dinner – veggie burgers, ratatouille



Day 7

breakfast – chia with granola, cooked kale with 2 eggs

lunch – chia with 1/2 a banana and granola, turkey burger, 1 egg, 1 piece bacon, 1/2 an avocado, steamed asparagus


Tom and I are leaving in a few hours to fly to Toledo, OH for a memorial service for my grandmother who passed away at age 91 last December. We are packing some food with us, but it will be interesting to see how Whole30 on the road goes! Stay tuned!

To hate, or not to hate? Whole30 Day 4

As I sit here eating my last serving of chia – there have been 3 today – and reflecting on Day 4, I can decidedly say that it started better than it has ended.

Last night, I wouldn’t have predicted that.

To rewind – after my post yesterday, the afternoon went pretty well. I had one more snack before dinner, and then Tom cooked sausages with sweet potato fries and arugula. Dinner was delicious, but the cravings came back. Once again, I was wandering hopelessly around the kitchen wondering what, if anything, would be a good choice. I managed to distract myself, and found that after 10 minutes or so, the cravings were gone. We had some nettle tea before bed, and that was that.

One surprise that I didn’t see coming was that I felt strangely relaxed before going to sleep. I truly felt like I could relax my muscles and ease into deep sleep. I don’t have trouble sleeping (other than the obvious trouble of having a 1-year old), but I do have trouble completely relaxing at night, and I often wake up with a stiff neck. Some of that is due to curling my body around Ada, but the difficulty relaxing is there whether or not I’m sleeping next to her.

However, even though the evening was relatively smooth, I had read earlier in the day on the Whole30 Timeline that today would be the day I would start hating everyone and everything. The desperation I felt immediately following dinner last night felt like a warning that I would wake up today filled with bile. So despite easing into sleep, I expected to wake up with fury.

But I woke up pretty much okay with everyone and everything. I wouldn’t say I felt fantastic – still tired from being up with a crying baby, still stiff and achy even though I felt relaxed last night (maybe stiff from the coffee? that’s one cause and effect I’m exploring), and still hankering for some green tea – sans honey. But that is still better than daggers coming out of my eyes aimed at everything in my path, as promised by the Timeline.

I stayed on track and had a productive and happy morning. I didn’t have cravings too bad after lunch and didn’t feel the need for coffee. But Ada needed more attention than I could give her and still get my work done, and I got an email from our lender listing more items requested by the underwriter for our loan – that on top of several other dangling threads related to things I need to do personally and for our big move coming up and Ada’s birthday and my mind felt full. I wanted to cross things off my growing to-do list, but I was tethered to my computer/job.

And I found that I did start to hate all the things.

I’m not sure it’s fair to blame my bad mood this afternoon on the Whole30, though. I allowed myself a snack a few hours after lunch and didn’t feel all too deprived. Maybe something happens when the bad food is out of my body that allows buried emotions to rise to the surface. Or maybe it’s just that every month or so I feel sorry for myself for having a really boring job. I’d like to change that, but it would probably mean not being able to stay at home with Ada. That change will come soon enough. Whatever the cause, I ended the day feeling frustrated.

Tom had also had a rough day and had spent most of the afternoon hungry. So he grabbed some hazelnuts and we went for a walk. We took Ada to the park and let her play on the swings and the slide. When we came back, Tom cooked dinner while I exercised. All of this helped to relieve the frustration somewhat, but even after a bath with Ada and a hearty dinner, I am still feeling in a slump and very much looking forward to a fresh start tomorrow.

Recap of meals today:


-hot lemon water with cayenne

-juice (chard, parsley, 2 carrots)


-2 eggs, 1 slice bacon, half bowl of chia with grain-free granola and an apple


-leftovers from dinner: 1 sausage, some sweet potato fries, plus kale and seeds cooked in coconut oil and sesame oil, 1/2 an avocado


-snack: 1 slice ham, 4 olives, spoonful of chia with berries and sprinkle of granola


-snack: 1 slice ham, 1/2 an avocado


-dinner: 1 sweet potato, cooked onions and peppers, 2 chicken drumsticks

-after dinner: 2 spoonfuls chia with sprinkle of granola


The Whole30 Begins (Day 3)

Today has been hard. And it’s only 1pm.

The Whole30 website says this:

It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime. 

Okay, I agree, drinking my coffee black is not hard. But drinking my tea without honey and going a whole day without chocolate. Is. Hard.

Today is Day 3. Day 3 of no sugar, no dairy, no grains, no alcohol, no legumes, no additives, no giving in to cravings and addictions. Here is what I’ve had so far:


-hot lemon water with cayenne

-juice (beet scraps, parsley scraps, 1 carrot, handful of kale, lemon juice) – it was an alright juice, it could’ve benefited from an apple, but I knew I was planning to eat some apple later so I didn’t want to overdo it.


-fruit salad (banana, clementine, apple) with coconut milk and crunchy grain-free granola (a mixture of nuts and unsweetened coconut, sweetened with a splash of fresh-squeezed orange juice)


-2 eggs scrambled with 4 olives


-small scoop of chia with remaining fruit salad and a sprinkle of granola


-leftovers from dinner: small piece of fish with salad and roasted beets, carrots, onion, radish

-1/2 an avocado and 1 slice of roast beef


That is so much food, right? I can’t believe how much I’ve eaten. I think it’s partly due from not getting a full night of sleep – that always cranks up my appetite. But it still seems extreme. I don’t know if this is because of a spike in my appetite after not eating a ton of food over the weekend or if it’s due to not bulking out my meals with grains.

Dealing with a nearly-constant appetite has been inconvenient, since I’ve spent a lot of time preparing and eating food today. But what has probably been more difficult is resisting the urge to fulfill my cravings, even with Whole30-approved foods.

One of the major reasons for me for doing a Whole30 is to cut my sugar cravings. Every day after lunch and usually again later in the afternoon, I get the urge for something sweet. This urge is usually taken care of by eating maple syrup sweetened chia, a piece of dark chocolate, or putting honey in my tea.

While these “vices” are a far cry from slurping down a giant soda or smashing my face into a sundae, they are all definite no-no’s on the Whole30.

And today, like clockwork, I started looking around the kitchen, desperately. What could I do? I was tempted to grab another spoonful of chia pudding (it’s unsweetened now, but the coconut milk, vanilla extract and natural flavor of chia still make it indulgent) or a handful of granola. The foods themselves are Whole30-approved, but the motivation – squelching a craving – is not. If I’m going to disconnect emotional and addictive reasons for eating, these are exactly the crutches I have to give up.

Today, I am drinking coffee to get through this afternoon. I’ve found in the past that coffee often cuts my desire for something sweet. Coffee is Whole30-approved, but I’d like to cut it out and have been decreasing my consumption – I hadn’t had any in a week! – but I guess there will be days like today.

My hope is that, by the end of the month, I will be able to get through the afternoon cravings without coffee, or better yet, that I will no longer have these cravings. Today, coffee will have to do.