Beyond Day 30

14 – 17 February – Day 29 – Day 32

I technically finished the Whole30 on Monday. I decided not to go for a full extra week because of the peanuts, but I sort of am, by default. I had been working for weeks to plan and lead a crazy stressful meeting on Monday and Tuesday (day 30 and 31), and had settled myself to a celebratory drink on Tuesday evening. However, I have remained Whole30 compliant other than my three gin and sodas (which were as compliant as they could be, minus the gin) on Tuesday.

I do feel as if I have had a ton of NSV, but I also feel as if my clothes are finally fitting better, and I can see a difference in the mirror. I wore a dress that I had gotten around Christmas time to my meeting on Monday, and while it’s a stretch fabric, I felt much less comfortable in it when I tried it on in December. I looked super hot in it on Monday! At the conference, I brought my own chicken salad, because it’s hard to know what the buffet food is made with, so to be on the safe side, I brought my own food.

However, I think a true testament to the success of this program was my ability to bypass the hotel’s buffet and coffee break snacks. Usually that’s the highlight of an offsite conference, so the fact that I was able to not just resist, but not even crave, these treats was a real success. I also didn’t get the 2pm slump that I saw all of my coworkers getting after lunch. There were many closed/closing eyes, and I felt nice and chipper.

I did have three gin and sodas on Tuesday night, and felt absolutely awful on Wednesday morning. It has really reminded me that it’s just not worth it, especially on a week night. I totally understood, in theory, that you don’t just (for example) miss the gym on Tuesday night, and perhaps not eat well on Tuesday night, but you miss out on being productive on Wednesday, you eat like crap during the day, and then just want to have a nap after work, rather than go to the gym. In theory, I knew this was what happened, but after a hangover-free month, it really hit home to me, that I would have had just as much fun with my friends drinking soda water, or having one drink. I’m going to try to do that this weekend, too. A good friend is going away, so I will have to go out, but want to try to be good so that I don’t miss out on being super productive this weekend.

18 February – Day 33

I took my after pictures and measurements this morning. To be honest, I’m so glad that I’m feeling better and have so many NSV, because my measurements are shockingly the same, as is my weight (though that’s less surprising given the weight training/muscle building I’ve been doing). In the before and after pictures, I can see a difference, but it also just shows how much farther I want to go. However, I think I can achieve more, by maintaining the motivation I’ve had to work out, and to eat healthy.  One fear I do have relates to adding back in some of the things I’ve been missing, while also continuing to eat relatively compliant. During Whole30, we’re encouraged and allowed to have fats (clarified butter, nuts, olives, etc…), and you can eat until you’re full, because you’re eating totally good food. However, if I eat until I’m full, continue to eat healthy fats, and ALSO eat pizza, drink beer and wine, etc… then I can see that adding up quickly. So I really need to be careful. I am so happy and it’s so easy eating this way, that I can see myself remaining relatively compliant 90% of the time. However, when I travel I may be more lenient, and also when going out every now and again.

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Have a long way to go before I’d be comfortable sharing either before and afters from another angle

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I told a friend at the gym last fall, as I stared in the mirror at a body I was really unhappy with, that my goal was to look in the mirror wearing this outfit and not be able to see my fat rolls and love handles. I’ve definitely come a long way! I think this was around Day 28

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A little snug in the thighs still, but I haven’t comfortably worn these jeans in 3 years! Why I brought them to Jordan with me where I’ve only been living for 2 years must have been wishful thinking.

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But now the problem is that a lot of my pants look like this…

10 March – Day 54

It’s been nearly 60 days as I finally get around to wrapping this journal up so I can share it with everyone who has been waiting on it!! After nearly a moth of reflection, I have to say, the Whole30 has actually changed my life. It has changed my relationship with food, it has made me more careful about what I decide to eat and when. It has made me stop and think before eating something that is off plan, just because it is there, and it has made it EFFORTLESS to look at some foods and not even desire them. I’ve had several conferences at hotels this past month; the buffets have always been a point of weakness for me with the specially made pasta bars, the creamy chicken and meat dishes and the soups and bread. However, I have gotten into an effortless habit of bringing my own protein salad – chicken or tuna, usually, and just making myself a salad from the salad bar. I have sampled the meat dishes, but because I don’t know – or do know – that they are cooked or marinated in non-compliant ingredients, I often stay away. It’s not because I’m trying to stay 100% compliant forever, but more because I still don’t know how some of these foods affect me, and I don’t particularly want to find out in the middle of an important conference or workshop.

I have been drinking lightly on the weekends – so far only gin and sodas and some wine. I had a couple of beers and pizza one gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon, but woke up on Tuesday with marks on my wrist from my hair elastic and tight rings. I could feel the bloating and my pants were tighter… I am inclined to say it was from the pizza, as it was my first time having bread or cheese, and I read in the book that some people get bloating 3 days after bread.

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Not nearly as satisfying as it used to be

I find that I’m just so happy with how I’m feeling, and how I’m looking that I don’t want to go too far off the compliant track, because I’m worried I’ll fall off (I’ve also continued with my weight training routine, which I know is contributing to all of this). However, I am off to Berlin for the weekend, which means 5 days of not exercising, as well as plenty of beer and meals out… I’m just going to have to be ok with falling off the wagon as long as I can get right back on it next week! I have a work trip to Gaza the week after I return, and while I think I will try to prepare the way I did last time, I will be a bit more lenient about what I eat from room service and the cafeteria at the office. Now that the weather is getting nicer and I have some personal and work trips coming up, I know I will have less time to spend inside food prepping and I will be more tempted to sit outside eating and drinking, but I think I can be smarter about the decisions I made. I went out for dinner with some girlfriends the other night and had a couple glasses of wine, as well as a salad with bacon and parmesan shavings on top. I considered removing them, but figured I could manage a few bites without hurting anything.

Cooking has become second nature and I find I can whip something compliant up without planning it. There are a few “musts” that I make sure I have at all times, and from there I can make something work on the fly:

  • Clarified butter
  • Eggs
  • Frozen meat: chicken, fish, ground beef. I also have IKEA meat and chicken balls that work well in a pinch
  • Cans of tuna
  • Smoked salmon (the kind you buy at IKEA)
  • All veggies including garlic
  • Lemons
  • White or sweet potatoes
  • All spices
  • Nuts, particularly almonds

I found I did NOT use a few things as much as the book said I would, including almond milk and cream. I made mayo a few times, and really love the ranch dressing. However the book made it sound like you were going to have “coconut cream emergencies” which I did not have. I have taken to using coconut milk in my coffee, which I enjoy. I also enjoy it black!

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Clarified Butter For. The. Win.

Week One

After about three weeks of thinking about it and one week of preparing my house, I have officially started the Whole30. My dreams of spending my Saturday food-prepping went out the window when I woke up nursing a massive hangover that sapped my energy for anything other than lying horizontal yesterday. On the bright side, I’m doubly excited about the prospect of going booze-free for a month. I’m looking forward to reclaiming my lost Saturdays for productive and fruitful errand running, laundry doing, gym attending and preparing for the upcoming week in a way that does not include a Netflix binge.

I did manage to make my clarified butter last night, which will allow me to roast my chicken tonight, and basically cook anything else for the week. I also made my mayo – not 100% perfectly, as I added the lemon juice at the beginning and wasn’t able to find mustard powder, but overall I think it went over well. I hardboiled a dozen eggs, and washed all my veggies in preparation for the week. I made my usual salad for lunch, though sans chickpeas, corn, black beans and feta cheese. I mixed up a batch of protein salad using tuna fish and mayo. I’ll skip the gym this evening so I can get on top of the rest of the food prep I was supposed to do yesterday, and hopefully be back on track tomorrow (dying to make the spinach frittata!).

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One-person refrigerator packed with one week’s worth of food. A lot of this ended up going bad. Lesson learned.

I knew the day was a success when I was able to successfully abstain from a department “breakfast” full of hummus, mutabal, labaneh and pita bread. I munched on the picked veggies and some stray arugula garnish. I think the hardest part for me won’t be what I can’t eat, but the effort required to make all of the foods on my menu. I am very low maintenance in the kitchen and as I live alone and cooking for one is quite a lot of effort, I usually go with simple dinners. I’m taking on a double challenge, as I’ll be learning to cook in addition to eating a bit differently.

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Typical Arabic fare. Fried, bread, beans, oil.

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Bread. Bread. Bread. (This was brought in by a colleague from Jerusalem, where it is famously amazing)

18 January, 2016: Day 2

I took my “before” photos and measurements this morning, as I ran out of time before work yesterday. I nearly cried. I can’t wait to see changes in my body as a result of this and my new weight routine. I have always carried spare pounds in my stomach; my legs are consistently well defined, skinny and muscular, and my arms, while not my favorite feature, are relatively strong as well. I also have a larger than usual rib cage, which has been a source of distress for me since I was 15 and 117 lbs. At my skinniest, I always felt fat because of the rib cage (it gives me an awkward profile and back fat), so this is a constant battle I have with my self-image. I’ve learned, looking back over the rare photo that does exist of me in a bathing suit back then, that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. What I would give to go back to that body! However, it’s become harder and harder to lose the “spare tire” over the years, and I am looking forward to how this elimination diet will affect my body composition.  I wouldn’t be upset if my boobs got a bit smaller as a result of this, either.

[Note: For the purposes of sharing this more broadly, I took out the “before” pics. I’m just not ready to share these pictures. Maybe once I’ve made some more progress.. I do have one side by side comparison at the end, though!]

Around midday, I developed a pretty dull headache that stuck with me for the rest of the day. The book warned this might happen, as a sign of withdrawal from sugar and carbs. To be honest, I really feel like my diet is very healthy overall, but I guess there is more “sneaky” sugar in my diet than I thought, and maybe carbs (of which I eat daily, but again, not to excess) are a bigger culprit than I knew. I did drink at least 5 liters over the course of the day, and managed to get in a workout.

I am a bit worried that I overbought/over-prepped, as I am eating for 1, and many of these meals are portioned for 2, with leftovers. I worry that some of my produce will go bad before I get around to eating it this week, but that will be a good lesson learned. I had hoped to get away from grocery shopping several times a week, but that might be the prudent thing to do, at least when it comes to fresh veggies and fruits.

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One day’s worth of breakfast, lunch and pre/post workout snacks

19 January, 2016: Day 3

Getting up this morning was a serious challenge. I snoozed for 45 minutes. I find my breakfasts are much more filing than usual, and I’m not starving before late lunch-time, which is a nice change. My headache is mostly gone.

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20 January, 2016: Day 4

Today was a hard day, but I think it had to do with the attempted break in at my apartment last night. I heard someone picking the lock of my front door around 10pm, and the ensuing interactions with my landlord lasted until about 11. After that, my adrenalin was surging, and I was not able to sleep until after midnight. As a result, I was extra exhausted in the morning, and had to deal with the added stress of getting my locks changed, filing a police report, etc… I found that I was wiped out by the evening, and fell into bed (at a friend’s house) and slept like a rock. Again, this might have been as a result of the adrenalin, and not the Whole30. I was proud of myself though; despite the mix-up in my schedule, I ate dinner before I left, and packed ingredients for breakfast (a tablespoon of clarified butter included!) and had my lunch and post-workout snack packed for the following day.

I’ve found that my favorite meal of the day is breakfast; I really enjoy how this has gotten me thinking outside the traditional breakfast template of scrambled or hardboiled eggs, which might be nutritionally sound, but are less satisfying. I like the permission to eat a bit more during breakfast, and have found it keeps me satisfied, not even thinking about eating again until 12:30 or 1, and I don’t actually eat my lunch until closer to 2. Since I get to the gym around 4/4:30, this often means I do not need to eat pre-workout.

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21 January, 2016: Day 5

After a full, solid 9 hours of sleep, I didn’t feel any more rested than usual.. hoping that improves! Again, I had a repeat of the amazing salmon/kale/fried egg combination from yesterday. I’ve found I haven’t stuck to the meal template that I initially purchased food for, for a few reasons:

  • I bought ingredients for 2 people, despite cooking for 1. This means I have more than 1 meal leftover
  • When I roasted my chicken in order to make bone broth, I neglected to think about all of the chicken that needs to be eaten. I had already made a protein salad with tuna fish, so I had double protein that needed to be eaten
  • I have, despite my best efforts, not been able to find butternut squash. I have seen and eaten it while in Jordan, but they are intermittently available at the grocery store, and sometimes it takes trips to multiple stores to track down all the ingredients. Anyway, I haven’t prioritized it yet
  • I have found that the lunch I formerly brought everyday has not changed (though it is minus cheese and chick peas/black beans!). I have in the past, altered the protein on top of the salad, and have no problem doing the same here. I don’t feel bored. However, now that I have a better idea of how many groceries I need, I will be able to buy better next week to avoid waste

I feel like I am eating TOO MUCH actually, sometimes. Not in that I feel like I’m bursting full, but that three filling, complete meals is a bit foreign to be. But I know the book says to power through this part these first couple of weeks, and that it’s all important to this restart. Additionally, I haven’t been as tempted to snack as I used to be.

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We have received warnings of a snowstorm with the potential to cripple the city for several days (think Atlanta when it snows… 1 plow, no one has snow tires, etc…) so we’ve been advised to stock up on food and water for 7 days. I will make sure to have enough frozen meat and veggies to get me through if required!

One issue, that I am embarrassed to write about, but that I think is probably worth noting, is that I have been less “regular” than usual [I have a friend who calls it “taking a meeting.” Let’s go with that]. I tend to “take a meeting” numerous times a day – to different results – but very consistently in the morning and after each meal. I have been finding that when I do “take a meeting”, it’s very solid, and it’s not as consistently happening after meals. This may have something to do with the beans I usually have on my salad, but even after eating a full serving of cabbage, I don’t feel the compulsion I usually do.. I’m not sure if this is good or bad.. remains to be seen, I guess!!

22 January, 2016: Day 6

I was incredibly tired today, even after 8 hours sleep. I couldn’t make it to the gym in advance of my facial (at the gym spa) as planned, so rolled out of bed in time to make breakfast and head to lay down again on the facial table for another hour. Spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking in my apartment, and laid down on the couch at 6:30pm, waiting for a respectable bedtime. This is right on track with the book’s prediction that today is the “I just want a nap” day. Made my both broth though!

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23 January, 2016: Day 7

Somehow I regressed today to the “Eat All the Things” day, which I didn’t have earlier in the week as predicted. I did my gym run after making this glorious spinach frittata and headed out in the afternoon for a quick IKEA and grocery shopping trip.As I walked out the door, it started to pour down rain, and I mused that all I wanted to do in this weather was curl up on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and a movie. Thank goodness I removed the popcorn from my apartment before starting this! IKEA was even more difficult, as we’ve made it a habit to get their hot dogs whenever we go, and their food court is always super tempting [I realized afterwards that the IKEA chicken and meatballs are Whole30 compliant, so bought a couple of frozen bags to enjoy at home]. Heading to the grocery store afterwards was an exercise in self-control. The bakery was cooking fresh bread, there was pizza in the ovens in the prepared foods section, and a local sushi restaurant was giving out free samples in the cheese section. I wanted to die. I know the book differentiates between cravings and hunger, and said that most cravings last between 2-3 minutes.. but honestly, I’m STILL thinking about that pizza.

A huge snow storm has been predicted (synching up with Jonas, which just rocked the east coast), and the supermarket was pre-apocalyptic. I’m meant to be flying to Lebanon for a work trip on Tuesday, but in the event that my flight is canceled and I’m snowed in, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of options to get me through more than just 3 days. Therefore, I bought a lot of meat that was already, or could be frozen, such as ground beef, individual portions of vacuum-sealed salmon and tuna steaks, and of course, the IKEA chicken and meatballs. I also stocked up on butter if I run out of cooking fat, and have a whole chicken in the freezer to roast and prepare new stock, should conditions become so dire.  It should get me through in a pinch, and I have enough veggies to get me through to Tuesday.

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Slim pickins at the butcher counter!!

16 January, 2016: Day 0

Why now: I spent two weeks at my parents’ house over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, eating, drinking, and sitting on the couch. To be fair, my parents eat very healthy food, but they eat a lot of it and more frequently than I am used to eating, given my 31 year old single lifestyle which doesn’t revolve around family dinners or hungry children. They are also almost, but not quite Paleo, which means lots of meat and bacon, but they buy bread when I’m home, so I just end up loading up on everything. Plus, ever the free-food chasing student, it’s hard to turn down the (seemingly) bottomless wine, beer and liquor their house provides. Not to mention the 1000+ cable channels, DVR and on demand viewing that limit my movement from the couch. Needless to say, I was ready for a change. My parents had done the Whole30 in November and were very happy with the results (I have forced them to buy Hellmann’s Light Mayo in preparation for my trips home.. I can’t bring myself to eat the “healthy” mayo they have adopted permanently); they encouraged me to think hard about whether this is something I was willing to undertake, but to really commit once I did.

Background: I was raised in a very healthy household, and was an athlete from a young age, so I have relatively good food/exercise habits. I’m by no means a gym rat, but when I’m there, I’m weight-training and jump-roping, rather than sitting on the elliptical texting and watching a movie. I’ve been a relatively consistent gym-goer throughout my 20s, with a few “extended” breaks. I tend to eat well: eggs for breakfast, a huge salad with some form of protein on top for lunch, and whatever I can throw together for dinner. I have almost zero sweet tooth, and rarely eat candy, chocolate or dessert. However, I have a few vices: white pasta, cheese, bread and alcohol. All things that I know would be behoove me to cut out of my life, but that I just can’t quite bring myself to do.

The Challenge: The hardest part of embarking upon this challenge is that I live in Jordan, in the Middle East. There are positives and negatives to this situation. Food here can be very fresh and healthy, however a lot of it is fried, bread accompanies every meal, and beans (foul, hummus, etc..) are everywhere. It’s also more difficult to make requests about how things are prepared in restaurants, due to the language barrier, and differing terminology. I don’t believe “organic,” and “grass-fed” are designations given to cuts of meat, and any US brands are often 2-3X more expensive, to account for importing them. Though it’s likely that locally sourced fruits, veggies and meats are more “organic” by their very nature. Pork is “haram” (forbidden) in Muslim culture, so it’s quite difficult to obtain in a 99% Muslim country, making a whole section of the cookbook irrelevant to me. That being said, I can find pretty much any brand that’s available in the US or Europe in one of the many larger supermarkets in Amman – at a premium cost, of course.

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Spices are plentiful (and cheap) in the Middle East

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Pretty much every brand you can get in the US/Europe – and more!

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Many, many more…

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OLIVESSS

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The beauty of fresh, local olive oils

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I’d go so far as to say there are *too many* brands of tuna to choose from.

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I’m pretty sure they can’t say red WINE vinegar in the Middle East…

On the bright side (for once) alcohol is heavily taxed (again, due to its “haram” nature), and nights out bore a hole in my wallet, so a drink-free month will be refreshing. Though, in typical expat fashion, all we do is drink on the weekends, which limits my chances for social interaction this month (I’m not one for being the sober one on a night out; I’d prefer to stay in).

Perhaps my biggest challenge will be travel. I work for the UN, and travel frequently – and often unexpectedly – throughout the region. I will be in Lebanon for three days in my second week of Whole30, and in Gaza and Jerusalem (Palestine) for my entire third week. It will be particularly difficult to maintain this eating plan while traveling for several reasons. It is considered incredibly impolite to refuse food and drink when offered. The tea traditionally served in this region is basically sugar water, and while it’s possible to ask for it “Bidoon sukre,” there’s no guarantee my first sip won’t be full of sugar. There are often limited dining options at the field office canteen, and packing a lunch can be viewed as impolite. Additionally, Gaza is essentially an open-air prison, having been under Israeli blockade for more than 8 years, and incoming goods are heavily scrutinized. There’s no guarantee a knife would make it through the thorough Israeli security checkpoints, and the only accommodation options for visitors are hotels without kitchenettes or mini-fridges. Homelessness, hunger, and unemployment are rampant in the area. 1.8 million Palestinians struggle to live a life that nobody should ever have to live. Despite the hardships endured, generosity and hospitality are hallmarks of the culture, and I am often invited to coworkers homes for dinner. Traditional Arabic foods, coupled with being in the uncomfortable position of refusing to take what is being shared in a region where people don’t have the luxury to diet may make it difficult to keep to the plan during that week.

Other (smaller) challenges include: limited cooking space, a small refrigerator, an oven with no temperature readings, a shortage of the “essential” cooking supplies (due less to unavailability in the country than to my aversion for paying stocking a kitchen I will abandon in 6 months).

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Care to venture a guess as to which setting is “broil”?

Goals/Problem Areas: I am relatively healthy overall, but there are a few areas that I’d be interested to see some changes. My skin is fine, on the whole, but for a 31 year old, I have more breakouts than I would like to see. I’d be happy to see a brighter complexion. As a borderline narcoleptic, I never have trouble falling or staying asleep, but even after 9 hours sleep I still struggle to get up in the morning. I’d love to see a change in a) the amount of sleep I need, b) the quality of the sleep I have, or c) energy levels upon waking. I am also (in my estimation) 10-20 pounds heavier than I would like to be. The weight has gradually packed on, a few pounds per year, since my sophomore year of college, and while I probably look “normal” to the naked eye, I carry the majority of weight in my stomach, which is a risk factor for diabetes. I am starting this program in parallel with a 12-week weight training/transformation program, so I expect it will be difficult to attribute which changes are due to which program. However, as I mentioned, I have pretty consistently been working out (save the month over the holidays), so I won’t be shocking my system with weights at the same time I am shocking it with food (or lack thereof). I will default to the Whole30 when it comes to taking body measurements and will not be following the attached food plan that comes with the weights (as it emphasizes several small meals, and carbs).