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!