My Whole30 (Whole15...) Experience

11:00 PM
Whew! I did it, folks.  

I completed a "Whole15"...which is my trial version of the "Whole30" program (AKA diet). I'm going to try to write down my experience here without investing too much time or thought, because let's be honest: THE WINDOW OF TIME AFTER KIDS GO TO SLEEP AND I HIT MY OWN BED IS PRECIOUS AND LIMITED. Aaaand I may or may not be in the middle of Call The Midwife Season 3 and hoping to fit in an episode since hubster is out of town...when I should be doing dishes...have I made my point? :-)

Here's how it all began:

Dinnertime, October 3, 2015

Me: "So...this is my last non-Whole30 approved meal...
Husband: "WHAT??!"
Me: "Yep. I decided I'm gonna give it a try. Starting tomorrow."
Husband: "That's so dumb. You're such a follower!"
Me: "I'm not a follower! Okay, a little. But only because I am curious to see how I feel during the diet and when I start reintroducing those restricted foods after I'm done."

If you're not up to speed on what this eating program entails, check out the Whole30 website; it basically consists of adhering to specific dietary restrictions for 30 days as follows:

NO: grains, legumes (beans and includes peanuts/peanut butter), dairy, soy, caffeine, sugar of any kind (including artificial), pseudo-grains like quinoa, aaaand I think that's it.
YES: meat, fish, healthy fats/oils, vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, and--thankfully--potatoes. Coconuts, too (is that a fruit?). I personally consumed a large amount of homemade coconut milk....mmmm.

So it's quite limiting. However, the intentions, I believe, are good for those who need to break away from some unhealthy habits or relationships with food or if weight loss is the goal. I was already at a pretty healthy place with clean eating, minimally processed foods, but I did want to challenge myself and see if I could overcome my instant gratification reflex with sweets. Even if it is healthier, like a "paleo treat" or some other clean eating treat...too much of those can obviously become a viciously addictive habit.

A few days in....

I realized after about day 3 or 4, that even though there are lots of delicious options and ones that weren't really too different than what I was already used to, strictly following these eating "requirements" for 30 days wasn't going to be very beneficial for someone like me. Here's why:

MAIN REASON: I'm still nursing my almost-one-year-old baby. After a few days, I didn't necessarily see a decrease in my milk supply, but I do miss the appreciated boost that I would get with eating some oats. With so many dietary "no-no's", it gave me a mindset that was like "It's all about ME. Me me MEEEE!!!!!" when really it should be more like this, "What I eat affects me AND my baby." I believe that a nursing mother should have more freedom to make intuitive food choices; if I have a craving for a slab of cheese (which actually doesn't really happen) or a piece of buttery toast (yes...this one speaks to me), then I think I should go for it! So long as it balances out my overall food intake and carbs for that day.

Reason #2:  I don't need to lose weight. I guess I have been one of those lucky pregnant ladies that apparently only gains baby weight and so I'm back to my pre-pregnancy weight at about one week postpartum. I know...tough battle. I'm thankful for it, but hey, I've got loose belly skin that drives me a little crazy that never had the chance to regress with gradual weight loss, so there is always a trade off. Also, everyone wants to tone up and toning muscles doesn't always reflect on the scale....which is another point of curiosity--whether or not I would see any "tightening" or "toning" in accordance with my regular fitness routine. VERDICT, you ask?? After 15 days on the plan, I may feel slightly more trim around my obliques, but it very well could be my imagination :-) Nothing substantial, which shows me that how I was eating prior to starting the plan is acceptable in terms of maintaining a healthy and desirable weight. Everyone has different expectations, and mine have been met before, during, and after my "Whole15" experience. I know some Whole30'ers may argue: "but you didn't do it for the entire 30 days!! You would have seen more results if you would have stayed the course!" That may very well be true...but when I'm already at a comfortable physique, it just wasn't worth continuing when considering the "still nursing" factor.

Reason #3: Three words: too. much. meat. This diet had me eating a lot more meat than I was comfortable with. Several months ago I had made a conscious effort to consume and prepare meals with less meat/fish. We went from eating meat probably 5-7 times a week, to between 2 and 3, and at most, 4 times a week. It's difficult to find protein sources that aren't meat when you can't have beans or tofu/tempeh. A few times I would make protein smoothies (which are actually "discouraged" by Whole30) while using approved Whole30 ingredients, like chia or hemp seed. Okay, 2 or 3 times I did also "cheat" and put cocoa and dates together in smoothies. I know: for shame! But hey, a nursing mama needs her protein and to be hydrated!

Reason #4: I haven't noticed any difference in my faculties after 2 weeks, in fact, I actually had a couple of really "foggy mind" moments during the last 15 days that may or may not have been attributed to the change in diet, but otherwise I felt great before starting and I feel great now, too. So not much difference in that area.

Oh, one definite CON I noticed while on the diet: If I kept myself adequately sated, then I was perfectly happy to eat per the Whole30 guidelines. BUT--if I let myself get hungry (which happened a LOT the first week), then my first craving would be something super carby and NOT Whole30 approved. For example, I was driving home one day after running errands with the kids for a few hours and I suddenly found myself ravenous. I was super hungry and wanted to shove (in my mind) something like french bread slathered in butter or a huge chocolate muffin into my face. So I thought it was interesting (and not a good thing) that my first instinctual cravings were of that sort...because I think I probably--maybe--would have caved if someone had been like, "Here--I have some french bread slathered in fresh butter for you!". Probably an indication that my blood sugar was low or something....

Overall, it was a good experience and I'm glad I did it. It will be really interesting to see if I feel any different once I reintroduce some of the restricted items back into my diet. For example, tomorrow is my FIRST DAY off the Whole30 (Whole15...ahem) and I will be eating a piece of brown rice toast (so excited!) and then for dinner later we are going to sushi, so I will be having more rice. By tomorrow night or the next day, I should be feeling whether or not rice affects my body adversely or not. I'll slowly (somewhat...) do the same thing with reintroducing dairy (which I know already makes me feel bloated so I steer clear for the most part), wheat, and peanuts.

Some things I'll walk away with are definitely a continued appreciation for eggs (which I love and didn't burn out on, thankfully), avocados, sweet potatoes, homemade mayonnaise--which I didn't expect to like much, and citrus juices so I could make an "approved" vinaigrette for my salads. I think I'll eat my sweets and treats more sparingly now, too, since I do feel that my cravings for something super sweet have decreased a bit. Which means that I will be preparing or baking them less, which = less time in the kitchen, which = more time with my kiddos or husband or doing another needful task at hand.

Probably the biggest takeaway and benefit from this experience, was learning and training to be more of a mindful eater. For example, instead of grabbing one of my kids' pretzels or finishing their half eaten quesadilla, I wouldn't--because it wasn't Whole30 approved. But now that I'm off the program, I'm hoping that I'll maintain that same self-discipline and still not eat the quesadilla because I didn't make it for me, I made it for my daughter.  I'm sure I was pulling in a lot of excess calories with bad snacking habits! I baked cookies, muffins, biscuits and made pancakes for my family over the last couple of weeks and it definitely took some self-restraint to dismiss the temptation to lick the honey spoon or try the cookie dough or nibble some of those baked creations once they were done--but I did it. Here's hoping I'm on my way to being a more mindful eater!

Would I do it again?? No...not entirely. I would definitely cut the sugars and treats out but stick with some of my favorite go-to's that were not Whole30 approved, such as my quinoa, occasional Greek yogurt, oats, tamari sauce, and sneak in my fave cocoa and honey combo! I also like me some lentils and beans as a protein source when eating a vegetarian meal. Because really...when it comes to health and nutrition, my secret ambition is to eat like a centenarian ;-)

Okay, that is all and it took more time than I wanted, but I had to give a full and fair review on something that took some considerable mental focus. Now I'm excited to be expending that energy doing another worthwhile project that is badly needed: deep-cleaning my house!


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