Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Whole30: My experience

What I Did

Whole30 (developed from whole9life.com by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig) is, put simply, a nutrition guide that eliminates the most common "problem" foods for 30 days in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of what foods help or harm the body. You can read more about it here.

Food I cooked
From August 1 - August 30th I followed this rigorous nutritional plan.  No sugar (not even artificial). No wheat, grains, seeds. No potatoes (sweet potatoes are okay). No legumes. No dairy (except clarified butter).  Only a maximum of two servings of fruit per day. No fun alcohol. No caffeine (not a requirement, but I decided to do this).

In addition, no "making foods into other foods" or as they like to call it Sex With Your Pants On (SWYPO).  Maintaining at least 7 hours of sleep each night. And finally, no weighing in or taking measurements. No tracking calories or nutrients.  No snacking - three meals per day.

Why I did it
Having been on a fairly straightforward paleo diet since January, I started tri-training in March and April.  I noticed I started getting dizzy, headaches, fatigue, and occasional itch-sensations.  Just all around feeling like poop.  While I'm currently workiong with some specialists to find out if i have adrenal gland issues and/or food intolerance(s), in the meantime I figured I'd give this plan a try.  From friends who have done it it's very enlightening and a chance to tame the "sugar dragon."

Here's my stats on the day I started:  
Food I grew!
Before (Aug 1) weight: 201.2
Before (Aug 1) measurements:
Bust = 37"
Waist 37"
Hips 48.5
Arm 13.5
Wrist 6.25
Now that the 30 days are at an end.  Let's start with ...

The Good Stuff
  • Less bloating, tummy flatter.  Almost immediately within the first few days I noticed that water weight came off and stayed off during the 30 days.  Carb reduction has a bunch to do with this.  I've had a pretty normal paleo diet since January but went off for a bit before doing Whole30.  When I take out grains and flour from my diet I always react this way.  It's a good thing cause while it's not actual "fat" pounds, it does make me feel thinner and leaner. 
  • Skin smoother and no itching.  Dubya was pleased with the silky smooth soft skin and so was I.  Perhaps it's the addition of the healthy fats or maybe just the cleaner food.  Whatever it was my skim felt great and I didn't have the "itches" anymore that I sometimes get. 
  • When I eat a certain amount of healthy fat with the meal I feel fuller longer. Avocados. Ghee (or clarified butter). Tree nuts. Olives.  Adding some healthy fats to my meal made a huge difference in hunger and being able to last in between meals.  They recommend not snacking in between meals as part of the plan, so I had to add the fat.  I did a great job of trying to have a different kind of fat each day.  Oil, avocado, nuts, olives or something else (but not two of them in the same day). 
  • I don't really need caffeine except in "isolated" situations. The first 3 days without caffeine I had terrible headaches and had to muscle through each day, around day 4 they faded and now at day 30 I really don't even think about that morning cup of joe.  I've found that I don't miss the coffee as much as I miss the "morning sugar/caffeine bomb." When I crave coffee I don't crave it black, I crave the milky sugary cafe latte' that gives in to my hunger dragon. 
  • Not as sore after HIIT classes.  While I didn't exercise strenuously during the 30 days (especially since the first two weeks I was very tired and headachey), I did find that when I did workout afterwards I wasn't as sore.  The plan recommends eating protein at least 15 minutes after a workout, and this works! ( I usually scarfed down a pack of tuna after class.)  Most of the time attending a class means the next day my glutes and hamstrings will be screaming, not the case during my Whole30. 
  • Lubricated joints; no "old woman out of the bed" in the morning. Most mornings I feel very sleepy, crotchety, and sore.  In the past I've had problems with planar faciitis and so I'm used to having that first step out of bed be labored and exhausting.  Not the case during Whole30.  Sleep felt like it was actually doing something and in the morning I felt more energy to get up and go.  
  • Tigerblood at week 3 and 4.  Okay so on the Whole30 timeline it goes through the days and symptoms of how the body will react. The first week is horrible, second is meh, but by 3rd and 4th I was feeling pretty super duper. I felt leaner, had more energy, sugar cravings weren't as bad and there was general happiness and glow around me.  It's like magic. 
  • I'm a better label reader. Due to the above information, I have become a better label reader and food shopper.  I was shocked to find hidden ingredients in food.  Soy and sugar are the two that get plugged into food and we assume it's not there (like why the hell do they put it in tunafish!?)  Now that I know what to look for and how to shop I've certainly learned a better way to cook. 
  • Great support with emails and forum and website.  The best part about Whole30 was that I was never alone.  Now me being the social media freak that I was I documented my whole trip down Whole30 Lane via instagram, twitter, and facebook (thanks for all the support everyone!), but also there's a website with a wealth of info.  The forums are a great place to find answers to questions, recipes, etc. Signing up for the Whole30 emails (there is a cost associated) was a great idea, each morning I'd read some helpful tips and motivation and that helped to keep me at it. Google became my best friend when  standing at the grocery store wondering: "Can I have this?"
But, there would be no good without bad...

Bad Stuff
  • Headache for first three days of no caffeine. As mentioned, this was rough.  The very first day of no caffeine it was non-stop pounding and would not go away.  I just suffered through, distracted myself, and went to bed early that first night.  The next day it waned and the next day is was an even duller headache.  By day 4, I was fine.  In the morning I did find that I wished for that energy boost, but by Week 3 when tigerblood kicked in I hardly noticed it.  I did switch over to drinking a hot cup of herbal tea in the morning.  Mainly cause I like the warmth and it's a ritual.  It helped a bit but of course they were all caffeine free. 
  • Tired all the time, lack of energy, constantly sleepy (weeks 1 through 2). This was tough and in mid week 2 I really almost quit.  I felt sick and even kind of depressed.  In retrospect it was mu body reacting to the lack of sugar in my system, but of course while I was suffering all I wanted to do is go home, get in bed, and cry. 
  • Got sick one day, not sure if it was what I was eating or just a bug cause my body was run down.  I did have a Monday in Week 2 that I got sick to my stomach and vomited.  The prior Saturday I had a youth group lock-in and I'm unsure that as a result my body was rundown or if it may have been something I ate or a stomach bug.  I don't get sick very often so it's worth mentioning that this happened.  (However, at least I'm able to check off "throwing up on the side of the road" on my bucket list, TMI right?)
  • Intestines hated me. All four weeks I had problems in the bathroom. (One of the reasons I'm excited to get my food intolerance test this week.) My lower half constantly gurgled and each and every #2 was an awful bathroom experience.  In seeking out answers I was told to take probiotics that I couldn't find (and they were hella expensive) or drink kombucha (which tastes like ass), eat kimchi (wtf?), or eat saurekruat twice a day (won't that give me the farts!).  This really just convinces me that while I may possibly have issues with gluten, sugar, and legumes - there may be more to it.  I think i have some hidden issues in my gut that need to be regulated.  That'll be the next part of my health journey. 
  • Expensive. Holy assless chaps, Batman, is Whole30 expensive! They recommend grass-fed beef and cage-less, farm fresh eggs, ghee (I made my own!) and other highly organic products.  And that comes with a cost.  I tried my best to get these items when I could, but I'll tell ya sometimes we just had regular meats.  (Note: I didn't eat out at restaurants very much doing this so sometimes the cost savings there outweighs the cost of the food.) 
  • Lips were constantly dry despite drinking tons of water. I'm not sure if this is even related, but it's something I noticed. I drank a ton of water everyday and stayed very hydrated.  That may be a food allergy issue, but it may just be a natural reaction to Whole30.
  • Spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I love to cook, but there's two things I hate about it a) I'm usually always alone in the kitchen and I hate that and b) dishes. I've gotten sick of being in my kitchen honestly.  While I enjoy trying out all the meals and having fun experimenting it can be tiresome cooking each and every night without a break. 
  • Dirt under nails.  Again, another, I'm not sure if it's related or not, but I had dirty nails constantly.  And I'm one of those gals who hates the brownish/blackish crud under my nails.  I clean them constantly.  During Whole30, I felt like I couldn't keep them clean.  
  • Womanly issues.  For those guys reading - skip this post unless you want graphic detail. They gone?  Ok, so ladies, I've been on BC pill for 13 years (yeah I know, it's about time to stop that).  When I started paleo in January I had a few months of early spotting before my scheduled week of menses.  During Whole30 the same thing happened.  I had spotting, was highly, overly emotional and the worse cramps I've had in a long time. From what I've read on the forums, this is common for most women.  It usually regulates itself (for those who do Whole90) In addition, I started bloating again and it made me feel just like how I did in week 1.  So yeah, that sucked. 
  • Too much shopping.  The produce market. The farmer's market. Whole Foods. Regular grocery store.  One day I actually went to three stores to get what I needed.  It's insane.  Because vegetables become such a staple to everything I ate, it became necessary for frequent trips to just pick up this or that. 
  • No difference during my workouts.  While I didn't feel as sore after workouts, I can't say for certain that it helped my performance.  I still lifted the same amount and still felt like I had the same amount of energy during the workout.  So there wasn't an amazing boosts there. 
  • Pretty much knock out socializing.  Everyone wanted to grab dinner, and little Miss Picky had to either decline or ask to go to a specific place.  And then when I was there I hated it.  I hated sitting at the table watching others eat the foods that I wanted to eat.  While I never gave in, it sucked. 
Stuff I made!
So did it make a difference...?  
After (Aug 30) weight:  194.2 (7 pounds down!)After (Aug 30) measurements:
Bust = 36.5"
Waist 37"
Hips 49.5
Arm 13.5
Wrist 6.25
My Opinions and Observations
  • Water weight, but not "lbs".  As I said, I'm less bloated which means that my pants fit a bit looser and I look and feel a bit thinner, but there wasn't any "real" weight loss here.  The measurements prove that.  
  • I don't crave carbs.  I crave sugar! This is probably the most important learning lesson I got from Whole30. I crave sugar when I'm hungry!  Like a crack addict!  In fact any of my cravings when I pinpointed the food came down to just wanting sugar.  I'm not as addicted to grains, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc. as I am to the idea of having fruit, chocolate, candy, or sugar coated anything. This really helps me as I go forward in my journey.  It's really an ah-ha moment for me. 
  • Sugar cravings didn't go away, they just got easier and less frequent. I never had a day where I didn't crave sugar.  Some people on Whole30 claimed the "sugar dragon" went away.  In my case, it never did.  They recommend going longer for that, but honestly I'm unsure if it will ever go away. 
  • Averaged about 4 meals a day.  They recommend 3 meals a day with no snacking in between but I couldn't do that and I refuse to starve myself.  This ended up with me eating breakfast around 7am, first lunch at 10:30am/11am, second lunch at 1/2pm and dinner at 6/7pm.  I'm not sure why that is, but my body liked that rhythm.  That may be something I keep doing. Just like hobbits. 
  • Sleep is vital. I could tell the difference between the days where I got 6 hours of sleep and the days that I got 8.  It makes a difference.  I tried as best as I could to hit the sack at 10pm-ish each night. Keeping up with my sleep will definitely be something I'll be more strict about. 
  • Grass fed tastes and cooks better. There I said it.  I'm not sure if it can be scientifically proven or not, but it cooks better and tastes better, imho. Especially where grass-fed ground beef is concerned.  Give it a try yourself and tell me I'm lying. 
  • Vitamins/supplements are sneaky.  If you're thinking of doing this, I suggest going off your vitamins and supplements while you do. You'll be shocked to find out, btw, that many of them contain flour, grains, soy, etc. that you can't have while on Whole 30! Read your labels!
  • PREP!  I'm not joking when I say vegetables overtook my kitchen and the problem with that is you can't eat them all before they go bad - cut 'em up and freeze 'em.  Cook bone broth and can it, use it throughout the week to make quick soups. Cook dinner for n+1 and eat the leftovers the next day.  Being a step ahead isn't recommended in Whole30 - is absolutely necessary for success. 
  • Imho, this is not a sustainable way of eating.  So while Whole30 doesn't specifically state that after 30 days to keep going, many people do.  As with any restrictive diet, I completely hate that idea.  This was a good challenge, a good cleanse, and fun to do.  It's not a weight loss diet.  Let me repeat that, this is not a weight loss diet. It is for people to do a try-out to clean eating and getting rid of those pesky problem foods. 
  • Food intolerances.  Upon Day 31 they recommend that you introduce foods back into your diet slowly to see what foods give you the most problems.  (Seeing that I've had digestive issues the entire time, I'm not sure that will help me, but it's helped others.)  But it will help to find out what works and doesn't.  I know for a fact that carbs make me bloat. And I know for a fact that me and coconut milk don't like each other.  That's knowledge you can get by simply changing your diet (keep in mind food intolerance tests cost hundreds of dollars!)
  • The hardest thing I've done since losing 80 lbs.  By far.  I can say unequivocally that I did not cheat during this.  Not. one. bit.  But this was hard.  Way hard.  And I'm both shocked and proud that I completed it. 
Final Thoughts

For some people this is an eye-opening experience.  For me it was educational, but it wasn't mind-blowing.  I'm guessing that those who go from poor diet to this have a better reaction then those like me who come from a paleo diet. I learned some great stuff and I enjoyed the challenge, and I do recommend that everyone give it a try.  It helps you to learn what you crave, how to shop and cook, and you'll feel better afterwards (guaranteed).  But now that it's all done, excuse me while I bit into these chips and queso and chocolate ice cream.  ;-)  

Until next time, onward.

A must have ice cream after Whole30!


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