I completed Whole30 and this is what I learned

Today is Day 30, my last day of the Whole30 restart. I’ve been surprised by several things during the past month. First, cutting out refined sugar was easier than I thought it would be. I think this is because the Whole30 plan is so strict and I was committed to completing it that I wasn’t going to jeopardize my progress or have to start over at Day 1. Second, I have really enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen. Subbing sweet potatoes for beans in chili was surprisingly tasty. Sweetening foods with fruit juice or fruit was surprisingly satisfying. Trying new spices, new foods and new ways of preparing meals was surprisingly fun and appealed to my creative side.

Not all of my dishes were big hits with the kids. Case in point, I made this fantastic Turmeric spiced chicken for dinner last night and my girls wouldn’t eat it. To be fair, the spices were foreign to them and even I needed a second bite before my brain recognized the flavors as appealing. This recipe is a keeper for anyone who likes or thinks they like Indian food. Delish! Thank you @realfoodwithdana for the recipe.

turmeric-chicken

Some of my recipes were classic Pinterest fails in presentation, but still tasted yummy on my tongue. I made three ingredient banana pancakes that looked fine when poured into the skillet, but I was unable to turn them over successfully. Mea culpa! Now I know they need longer cook time than traditional pancakes. I’ll make these again though. They were a great way to use up really ripe bananas.

The pancakes done right look a bit more appealing and edible wouldn’t you agree:

3 Ingredient Pancakes! They actually taste really good. Gluten-free, Paleo Friendly, Low Calorie, High Protein breakfast. | Recipe By Photo

Third, I was surprised at how hard it was at first to avoid dairy and grains but how easy it became over the weeks. I didn’t even have to eat eggs for breakfast every day! I often substituted bread for lettuce to make sandwiches or tacos. Restaurants were very accommodating when I asked for this. Turns out that a BLT is just as good as a BBLT (BLT on bread).  LaraBars were a huge help when I needed to grab a snack on the go. The fruit flavored snack bars have nothing but fruit and nuts. That’s it. They are sweetened with dates. Apple pie, lemon, cherry pie and coconut cream pie were lifesavers for me.

I’ll admit that while I didn’t miss milk, I sure missed cheese and yogurt. It’s amazing how many recipes call for cheese or some dairy product, especially breakfast recipes. Eating out required menu research beforehand so that I could be prepared to ask for no cheese. I had to send back two salads to be remade out of six restaurant meals this month. That’s pretty good all things considered.

Speaking of restaurants, it was not hard to eat Whole30 at restaurants. I usually had a salad or baked/grilled meats. I ordered veggies dry (no butter) and wasn’t afraid to ask questions about how the food was prepared. Preparation was definitely the key for me. I had to go out with a plan in mind.

Now what about avoiding alcohol for 30 days? That was tricky from the standpoint of trying to have dinner with new friends and explaining why I was turning down a glass of wine. No one minded though and no fun was diminished. It might have been even easier if my kids weren’t all facing their own challenges which required extra attention and resources from me, and caused stress.

So…that’s a great way to segue into talking about stress eating. I eat when I’m stressed. Scratch that. I eat sweet, sugary, chocolatey things when I’m stressed. I found that this habitual response to stress did not disappear on Whole30, however (and this is huge), it did not control me. I felt myself wanting to eat junk as my usual response, but the craving for sugar wasn’t there if that makes sense. I already mentioned Trader Joe’s Spiced Apple Cider  as a great way for me to satisfy my desire for something sweet. I turned to cider and fruit as my substitutes for candy, cookies and ice cream. Not sure if that’s a completely healthy solution, but hey, I’m a work in progress and the point is that I didn’t crave refined sugar.

Since sugar substitutes aren’t Whole30, I had to come up with some new ways to sweeten foods or forego the sweetness altogether. I’ve been drinking my coffee with almond milk sans sugar for the past month and the taste has grown on me. I like the nutty flavor in my cup and know that that’s one area where I can eliminate added sugar. Eliminating sugar from baked goods has been a different story. When I bite into a muffin I expect it to taste a certain way. I made some almond flour apple muffins using spiced apple cider and apple sauce as sweeteners. They were an acquired taste. I kinda made up the recipe as I went to there’s no one to credit or blame but myself.

I also made a pumpkin coffee cake that I will take credit for. It turned out pretty good. The framework for the recipe came from Jay’s Baking Me Crazy. I made some modifications to be Whole30 compliant. Instead of using maple syrup, I added 1 mashed, ripe banana and 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce. I also added coconut flakes, walnuts and chopped dates. I eliminated the crumb topping altogether. It was somewhere between pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie in flavor and texture. I liked it and it was breakfast for a week.pumpkin-coffee-cake

So what were some more surprising aspects of Whole30? Well, I didn’t lose as much weight as I thought I would in the last two weeks. I lost 7 pounds in the first two weeks. After that, I only one more pound. I’ll take what I can get no doubt, but I’m not sure why I plateaued so fast. The satisfying news is that I dropped a pant size and fit comfortably back into all my clothes. I could definitely feel and see a difference in my thighs and stomach. I’m guessing that eliminating bloat-inducing foods helped with this.

Energy level. My energy level wasn’t noticeably different. In researching Whole30, that was one of the most frequent claims that I came across. I was supposed to peppy and full of energy. Maybe it’s the gray Pacific Northwest skies, but I didn’t feel any peppier than before beginning Whole30. Or did I? Maybe Whole30 is the reason I had the stamina to spend hours in the kitchen trying to make new foods and combing through grocery store aisles to find new ingredients (where do I find canned lentils by the way?). So, the jury is still out on energy claims.

Skin. My skin was supposed to look bright and beautiful.  I will say that as someone with oily skin, my face didn’t shine and I do think it looked very healthy. I found myself not needing foundation or tinted moisturizer. The rest of my body doesn’t seem to have that ashy look it gets in fall/winter. I’ll take this little victory and monitor to see what foods I reintroduce into my diet cause any negative effects.

Cost. My weekly grocery bills went up, primarily because I had to buy so many ingredients for the first time. Luckily, most of those new ingredients were spices and oils that will last for weeks if not months. I really didn’t spend more on perishable foods that before. My cart was heavily loaded with fruits and vegetable but strikingly absent were processed and boxed foods. It hurts my brain to think how expensive it would have been to eat Whole30 when I lived on St. Thomas. Luckily, I’m surrounded by grocery stores and was able to find the majority of my food at Walmart Neighborhood Market and WinCo. There were a few specialty items that I had to track down at higher end, natural food stores.

Time. Every week, I had to have a plan. My meal planner was a huge help. I mainly needed time to find Whole30 recipes and read all the labels in the stores. I made 12 completely new to me recipes this past month and some time honored favorites. It took time to make my list for the store, track down ingredients and prepare delicious meals. Now that I have all these recipes in my planner, I can just click on them and go. My electric pressure cooker was invaluable. My slow cooker came in a close second. My husband’s love of grilling was an added bonus on those nights where we just wanted a simple, tasty meal. He had to keep reminding me that not all our meals had to be new and exciting! I think having time to plan meals for the week always makes things easier whether you’re following a specific plan or not. I know this won’t change just because Whole30 is finished. I absolutely loved this quick, easy to prep recipe for Carnitas from Damn Delicious. The smell of it wafting through the house all day was amazing. While my family had their in tortillas, I put it over cauliflower rice and it was, dare I say, damn delicious!

carnitas

So, was it worth it? Absolutely! today, I feel motivated and recalibrated. I’ve got sugar out of my system and I can focus on reintroducing foods into my diet that are healthy and nutrient dense. I’ll be watching to see what foods have negative effects. I feel accomplished that I met a goal and proved to myself that I could do it. As for tomorrow, I’m uncertain and anxious about what “plan” to follow and whether or not I’ll be able to maintain healthy habits. That fear, however, will not stop me from going forward and broadening my food horizons. I also have tucked away in my brain the knowledge that if I need to, I can do another Whole30. And guess what, tomorrow, if I want, I can have some cheese to go with my whine!

 

Happy, healthy eating,

Wendy

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