10 Steps for Whole30 Success

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the Whole30 I find I am giving very consistent advice. Coincidentally, it’s 10 pieces of consistent advice…

  1. Do not decide to do this without reading the books. “It Starts with Food” and “The Whole 30” are both must-reads before committing to this. For me, if I don’t know exactly why the rules are in place, I find them much harder to follow (I’m also a Type A, perfectionist, strict rule abider, so that could be a factor). Some people have commented that it seems arbitrary that you can’t eat lentils or beans, since they’re really quite healthy. It’s true, they aren’t in the same category as mozzarella sticks, but by understanding the specific digestive reactions they have in the body, you get a better sense for why you can’t have them for 30 days. They’re readable in a day; you can skim the science-y parts of the books, but don’t skip them.
  1. You cannot pick and choose parts of this plan. There may be elements of this eating plan that you decide to pick up in your life, however you will not be doing the Whole30. You can’t do a modified Whole30 (save the exceptions listed in the book). Again, when you read the books, you understand why you have to do it the way you have to do it, and why if you don’t do it that way, you won’t be doing it at all. You can’t do it all except give up alcohol, or chickpeas.
  1. I do not recommend doing this as a vegetarian. A former 15-year vegetarian myself, I think it’s important to understand the reasons why you choose not to eat meat. If it’s ethical, then that’s one thing. However, if you’re doing it for health reasons, then I think (again, reading the book), you understand the reasons why meat is not as bad as people make it out to be, particuarly when you can find ethically raised and locally sourced meat (the meat I eat is questionable, but my ethics abandoned me 6+ years ago). There is a section on the book that addresses this, so please read that and make your own decision. It may be that a different eating plan is better for you.
  1. Only do this if you are 100% committed. Don’t try to talk yourself or someone else into it. If you haven’t come to the decision that this is something you are willing to commit to for 30 days, you will not succeed. This is particularly true if you have a busy job, if you travel a lot or if you don’t know much about cooking. The first 2 weeks are overwhelming. I was trying to make all these recipes from the book in a small kitchen without some of the key ingredients (because I couldn’t find them here). I ended up with a lot of food waste the first week, as I ended up with a lot of leftovers and couldn’t get through all the food I had planned to make. I did made a week one meal chart which outlined every meal I’d make for 7 days, but after day 2 I abandoned it. I think it depends on your personal style, but I felt better shopping for 2-3 meals every 2-3 days. It took more time but was more manageable. By weeks 3 and 4, I had a pretty good routine going, but again, I spent one full day food prepping each weekend. During the week was arriving home from the gym at 6 (early by most people’s standards given the 7:30am-3pm working hours here), making dinner, then lunch for the next day, washing dishes and prepping everything for the morning which took until 8/8:30pm. Given that I am in bed by 9/9:30, it really took my entire evening. Fortunately I lead the life of an 80 year old grandmother during the week, so didn’t feel as if I was missing any social engagements [Though, now that I think about it, that metaphore holds no water, as when my grandmothers were 80, they were both still volunteering and had a twice weekly standing bingo date].
  1. Don’t do this to lose weight. This is a huge recommendation of mine. That was one of my major reasons for embarking upon the Whole30. However, after reading 100 times in the books that “if you’re doing this to lose weight, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons,” it finally sunk in. It didn’t stop me from being discouraged when I wasn’t seeing any change in how my clothes fit or any noticeable change in my body in the mirror. I was one of the people that it took until Day 28-30 and beyond to finally start to see the changes. Had I only cared about how I looked and how my clothes fit, I probably would have stopped much sooner.
  1. Don’t not do this because you’re scared of losing weight. I know that everyone’s goal is not to lose weight (lucky bitches). I think that unless you’re already 80% compliant to this eating plan, you will lose at least a bit of weight. However this is because your body is ridding itself of fat. You will become leaner and more toned as your body becomes healthier. As there is no calorie counting or portion restriction, you can eat all you want, and I think the book even encourages bigger portions. Because it’s all whole, unprocessed foods, you really can’t eat too much of them. Your body will become full naturally, and that’s when you stop eating.
  1. The Whole30 book is your bible. I brought this with me everywhere the entire month. Their timeline on how you should be feeling throughout the 30 days is scarily accurate (as I reflected during my daily posts). It will help you understand if you’re “doing it right” and reassure you when you feel off. Keep it with you, especially when you’re grocery shopping and aren’t sue which additives you can and cannot have. If you’re going to spend $30 on something, spend it on this book.
  1. Embrace breakfast. I have had to give myself a full 20 minutes extra in the morning for breakfast (which just means I’m going into work 20 minutes late rather than waking up early!). It’s not an important meal for a lot of people, but for me, breakfast was my biggest meal of the day. It set me up to stay full through 1-2pm, which I really think affected how I ate for the rest of the day. I cannot emphasize enough how the focus should be on breakfast. I still eat eggs, but now I incorporate last night’s dinner – chicken, beef, roasted veggies, potatoes, etc.. I make the “diner breakfast” regularly – the beef patties can be made in advance and reheated on the stove which is an easy breakfast during weekdays.
  1. If you cheat, don’t start over. Instead, add days to the end. When you’re at day 1 or 7 or 10 and still not convinced you like this diet, and you realize you’ve cheated – accidentally or otherwise – the thought of starting back from day 1 is enough to make you want to quit. That’s how I felt after eating my peanuts. However, by the time I got to day 25/30, the thought of adding an extra week was nothing. It seems silly, but it makes a real mental difference.
  2. It doesn’t have to break the bank. Yeah, it will cost money. But for me, the money I spent on groceries was offset by the money I saved not going out to eat and drink on the weekends. There are a few expensive items you need to have – olive oil, almond flour, salmon, etc.. but overall, I didn’t spend more than I used to on groceries. I can buy cheap fruits and veggies in my neighborhood, which means I spend the most of my money on meat and fish. People freak out that this is going to cost them an arm and a leg, but I think that once you get into a routine, you know what to buy and what you don’t need as much of, and it balances out.

 

I don’t have “clothes on” before and afters, but I think some of the below pictures show the difference – particularly in my face, which I feel is always the last place I lose weight. The picture with my friend’s baby was taking around Christmas 2015, while the photo on the right was taken in March 2016, about a month after I completed my Whole30. My face reverts back to its original heart shape, and my cheeks and dimples become more prominent!

12957488_1148674535144848_174285978819926192_o

Rapelling down a waterfall in April 2016- 3 months post Whole30. Feeling strong and looking fit!! 🙂 

IMG_7486

I personally think the difference is my face is incredibly obvious from the left (November) to the right (March). Incidentally this picture was taken with the amazing health team in Gaza.

IMG_7533

The problem is that now my sports bras are too big!!!

IMG_7535

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.

IMG_7317

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

IMG_1685

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

IMG_1691

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.

IMG_1692

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.

IMG_7326

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!

IMG_7308

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!).

IMG_1598

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.

IMG_1592

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

IMG_1637

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.

IMG_7234

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.

12523108_872515340421_3902160997602983607_n

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.

IMG_7242

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.

IMG_7243

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!

IMG_7245

 

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.

IMG_1629

Slim pickins at the butcher counter!!