Starting on Thursday September 29, 2016 I’m going for round two of the Whole 30 challenge, or plan, or “diet.” The first time I tried it was also about a year ago. While I experienced amazing health results such as reduced cravings and “hanger,” some weight loss, and healthier habits that lasted through the holidays, bad habits and foods have slowly trickled back into my daily diet over 2016. I’m ready to cut out all the inflammatory, empty-calorie’d, junky food and allow my gut and entire body to heal again. This time, I’m armed with the actual book The Whole 30, some new recipes and ingredients, and some serious post-nasal drip to get rid of.
Why I’m doing the “Whole 30” and what it means
Getting your “why” together is an important first step. As much as I love cake and bread and beans and rice and pizza and candy and soda… I don’t love feeling unhealthy all the time. That’s why I’m going to “remove all common potential dietary triggers, so you can be truly, honestly aware of what your life would be like without them.” After experiencing some of those effects last year, I want to reclaim that feeling of wellness and emotional control. Last time, I really only did a “whole 24ish,” relied way too much on store-bought smoothies, and totally ate beans, rice, and quinoa a few times… and still saw some great results! I know the literature demands you start over if you cheat, but I admit I kept going… This time, I’ve learned more, prepared more, and am ready to go the full thirty days.
For those who aren’t familiar with the plan, the Whole 30 refers to a month-long period where you eliminate ALL inflammatory food and drink from your diet, in order to allow your digestive system to take a break and heal itself. This means no added sugar, processed foods, alcohol or dairy – just vegetables, fruit, and meat. The overconsumption of high calorie sugary junk food “conditions your body to rely on sugar for energy” and encourages inflammation, which wreaks havoc on your digestion, weight, mental state, sleep, skin and energy levels. The Whole 30 plan helps reset your system to “restore a healthy hormonal balance, effectively regulate blood sugar, and become ‘fat adapted’ (able to use dietary and body fat as fuel).” Regulating blood sugar and getting control over cravings and emotional eating are yet another benefit of trying this plan.
Some symptoms I’d like to alleviate or improve are:
- Sinus Infection = Let’s just say I have to blow my nose, a lot. It’s annoying, and also irritates the throat and lungs. After having sinusitis over ten years ago, and a round of antibiotics that didn’t seem to work very well, I am super prone to colds. I usually feel as though I’m either “coming down with something” or “getting over” a cold.
- High Cholesterol = I learned I had some elevated cholesterol last year, which was one reason I originally tried the whole 30.
- Emotional Eating = I enjoy food a lot. It’s one of my greatest pleasures, and while I love eating good healthy food, I do have a taste for the junk as well. I like boxed mix cakes and canned frosting, I snatch cookies at every opportunity, and often “treat” myself multiple times a day for no reason other than “I’m awake”. But constantly rewarding myself with empty calories and processed sugar is a vicious cycle – I feel lethargic and tired, and need a pick me up every hour or two. For the last month or two, I’ve reverted completely back to bad habits, like buying one of those sugary Starbucks bottled drinks and a muffin from the liquor store next to work for breakfast, then getting a soda with lunch.
- Hanger = Much like emotional eating, I have a serious problem with hanger, or low blood sugar. I get shaky if I haven’t eaten in three or four hours, have very little stamina, and get seriously teary or short-tempered when I’m too hungry. I remember from my last whole 30 that although it took a while, eventually I was free from the emotional ties between my belly and my mind. I could get through belly-rumblings without changing my mood. I could pass up a cupcake with no problem.
Preparing for the Whole 30
One of the best ways to have a successful time is to prepare – clean out the kitchen, make a meal plan or two, and go grocery shopping a few days before your start date. There’s no way a serious overhaul or “diet” can succeed without a little prep. The more planning you do, the more reassured your mind will be going forward. You have a solid understanding of what you’re doing and why, backup recipes, and quick go-to recipes for lazy nights.
1. Cleaning Out The Kitchen
Like any lifestyle change, you have to get rid of the culprits. Throw out or give away the chips, cookies, crackers, and all processed foods. I’ve been gone on vacation and luckily hadn’t built up too much of a stash that needed purging. I didn’t want to fully get rid of all my pantry items, so I took the “forbidden” things (like honey, maple syrup, flour, sugar, oats, quinoa, rice, peanut butter, canned beans, and soy sauce shown above) boxed them up, and stored them away elsewhere. There’s a period of food reintroduction after the thirty days are over, where you can really feel if certain foods affect your newly cleaned system. I find that I use what I can see in many aspects of my life, but especially the pantry and fridge. I keep healthy choices in plain view on the shelves and decant produce in the fridge for easy access and visual impact (shown below).
2. Make a Meal Plan
The first week or two can be the hardest part of the Whole 30. It’s said that the withdrawal of your usual food choices can cause a sort of hangover. Plus, studies have shown that habits take at least two weeks to break, so I’m prepared for some serious cravings, briefly reduced energy, and irritability. Meal planning has become something I enjoy, and makes creating a grocery shopping list a breeze. Making a meal plan for 5-7 days at a time is the most feasible course of action. I try to go to the store as little as possible, but to reduce spoiled food I’ll try to go every 3-5 days. Once you start finding whole 30-compliant recipes, you probably won’t have trouble saving new ones up for next week. Find my first week of meals planned out below.
3. Go Grocery Shopping
I’m glad to find the book acknowledged that eating whole foods can be expensive. I just came back from a wonderful week-long vacation to Lake Tahoe, and have very few dollars rattling around ye olde bank account. I’m choosing to forgo some other treats for a while to help my health get back on track. Besides, not eating out or buying fast food should balance things out financially in the long run. But it can be a shock to those aren’t used to buying so much fresh vegetables, fruit, and meat. Yesterday I bought “produce you don’t peel” from the pricier organic health food store, things like fresh herbs, berries, greens, and potatoes.
To save money, tomorrow on payday I’ll go to a more conventional, and cheaper, market for peel-able produce like bananas, onion, and avocados. Luckily, canned and frozen off-season fruit and veggies are acceptable on the Whole 30 plan, too. Making your own mayonnaise and salad dressings ensure you’re getting some yummy flavors without store-bought additives. I honestly haven’t successfully made homemade mayo yet, so I ask a friend to whip some up for me. My favorite salad dressing can easily be adapted for the whole 30.
I also invested in a mini food processor for $50 to help chop, dice and mix. I remember there was a lot of time spent over the cutting board, and I’d love to alleviate some of that tedium. I found a spiralizer for cheap during last year’s whole 30. A roll of parchment paper will save you some serious pan washing since you’ll be roasting so many things. And if you can’t handle your coffee or tea black, stick a can of coconut milk in the fridge for a few hours to make coconut cream separate to the top.
Week 1 Whole 30 Meal Plan
- tomato & herb bacon omelet
- carmelized sweet potato & apple hash
- sautéed veggie egg scramble
- hashbrowns & egg with bacon
- sweet potato frittata
- chicken salad lettuce wraps
- BLT salad avocado dressing
- potato, bacon & green bean salad
- giant mixed salad
- bolognese & zuchini noodles
- baked chicken breast & potato green bean salad
- burger patties & baked sweet potato fries
- asian chicken & sweet potato noodles
- pork chops & applesauce
Snacks & Drinks
- unsugared herbal tea
- unflavored, unsugared mineral water
- hard-boiled egg & veggie sticks
- handful nuts & fruit
- fruit & nut butter
I’ll update the blog with weekly wrap-ups.
Follow me on Instagram @walnutavenue to see photos and day-to-day stuff!