Whole 30. An elimination diet used to figure out what type of foods your body is sensitive to and also a way to reset your relationship with food. No grains, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol. Of any sort. This eliminates any and all sorts of processed food along with the thousand sneaky names that sugar and wheat go by in our food.
This was my third round of Whole 30, but my first attempt while nursing an infant. I was curious to see what the effects on both me and baby would be, but more importantly on how I came to the decision to do another round of Whole 30. Somewhere in the hazy, sleepy early days of motherhood (3rd time around), my relationship with food got way off track. I was finding myself in the pantry at all hours of the day scooping peanut butter from the jar just to cure what seemed like endless hunger. And for some reason, I also couldn’t get enough sweets. We’re talking ice cream, cake, donuts and lots of sugary carbs. I craved this more now than I did while pregnant with her. The more Della ate, the hungrier I was. I certainly wasn’t getting my calories from anything nutritional, so I knew that I needed a change.
In speaking with my family over a gathering in June, we all kind of felt the same way. So a few of us decided to commit to a July Whole 30 and support each other through a group text for accountability. If you are contemplating doing a Whole 30 I highly recommend doing this with an accountability partner or community. It’s really nice to share stories and recipes with one another. And to top it off, you won’t feel so alone in your quest for health.
So, on Day 1, I decided to write down my “symptoms” and keep a log throughout the 30 days which proved very helpful in remembering “why” I started this in the first place. My weirdest symptom that cleared up were these weird bumps on my upper arms. Not sure why, but they absolutely went away after the first week or two. I’m thinking it was the absence of sugar and/or grains in my diet.
Day 1-2 was pretty easy. To be honest, I kind of felt like what was the big deal? This is super easy. Aha, well just wait until day 3-5. The cravings set in along with a headache from sugar withdrawals. Avocados and dates we’re saving my life at this point. ALWAYS have these on hand if you decide to do a Whole 30. The community actually jokes about the “purse avocado” that you find yourself carrying around. For me, as a nursing mom during this time, snacking was vital. I had to make sure to keep coconut milk on hand, cashews, apples and almond butter. This was very crucial to successfully completing it and not feeling like I was depleting my energy. Della also didn’t seem phased at all by my change in diet. She’s somewhat of a unicorn baby, so not many things phase her. #3rdkidmode
The first almost 2 weeks were pretty uneventful for me in terms of difficulty minus the minor cravings and headaches for a couple of days. Then I had some severe fatigue, irritability and pure grumpiness on day 14. Historically speaking, in the Whole 30 community, around day 12-14 is when most people quit. You’ll find yourself mentally spiraling. “Why can’t I just have a cookie?” “This is stupid, why am I doing it?” “Just a little sugar won’t hurt!” DON’T GIVE IN!! I repeat, don’t give in. This too shall pass. Your body is adjusting to the wholesome and nutritious shift you’ve just made. You’ve stopped feeding it junk and you’ll feel better soon.
Day 15. I woke up and the cloud had lifted. The funk had passed and I had so much energy. Cue the Tiger’s Blood. I actually mowed the entire lawn this day just because I felt like it. I was craving getting out and active with the kids. Things were going pretty great. And to top it off, I was halfway through the program.
In order to follow Whole 30 to the letter of the law, there is not supposed to be snacking or treat making with approved ingredients. AKA Whole 30 desserts, chips, bread or pancakes. This is part of the re-training your brain on what is good for you and changing what you crave. I have already explained why I did not follow the “no snacking” portion of the rules. Even the creator of Whole 30 condones major snacking if you do a Whole 30 while pregnant or breastfeeding. BUT, let’s talk about the treat part. I followed this rule very strictly for 2 weeks. Then, reality set in. I decided to extend some grace to myself and start to have fun with it. After all, my mom came to visit around the 3rd week and she made some really delicious and compliant treats like chocolate pudding, grain free chips, tortillas, and muffins. These were all dairy, grain, and sugar-free! We didn’t go crazy with this, but I started experimenting with pancakes for the kids, different types of banana bread, and an almond flour flatbread. All of these things were totally yummy and part of our food freedom. Most nights we munched on bananas with warmed up coconut milk, shredded coconut, and nuts for “dessert”. And coming from a place where we spent too many summer nights consuming ice cream and cookies, this was a major win.
The last couple of weeks of the program were pretty good. I experienced a little bit of food boredom here and there. I was getting pretty tired of looking at chicken and eggs, but overall these habits were sticking and it was becoming the new normal.
There are many ups and downs with your emotions during Whole 30. So somedays you might feel great and then the next day you might be completely over it. One thing that is for sure, it’s an awesome feeling to finish something that you have started.
Fast forward to the end and to my first couple of weeks of reintroduction. You see, with Whole 30 you are supposed to reintroduce certain foods slowly into your diet to figure out what you are really sensitive to and how your body responds. I DID NOT do this the first two times. In fact, I believe I face planted into a pile of cheeseburgers and brownies on day 31 last time. For the record, I will never judge you for doing the same thing. But, this time was different. I felt a change. I didn’t want to find my nearest pizzeria and engorge on all of the things that had been off-limits for the past 30 days.
And now that we are over a week post-Whole30, I’ve reintroduced a bit of grass-fed dairy (doesn’t bother me in moderation), legumes (love them/no sensitivity), healthy grains (sourdough/quinoa/did not feel great after and I will avoid them more often). AND my old friend…SUGAR. I took a few bites of a sugary dessert that my kids had at dinner and indulged on a vegan cupcake. That’s it. My sugar dragon was slain. It didn’t own me anymore. I didn’t enjoy it like I had before. This was a victory for me. Turns out, I feel like crap when I eat refined sugar. Unrefined sugar like honey, agave or coconut sugar doesn’t have the same icky effect on me so I will be making some treats with that for sure. Also, I am a bit of a realist as well so it’s not like I am saying I will never have another piece of cake, ice cream cone, or cheat-meal again. I just know how it makes me feel so I will choose my battles more wisely in the future. I’ve also really enjoyed going out to eat again. I don’t find myself stressing out over the menu options. You simply learn how to navigate menus better and ask a lot of questions. Overall, I am really glad I did it and will still continue to eat this way about 85% of the time.
Remember, everyone’s food freedom looks a little bit different and quite frankly mine looks a little bit different depending on what season of life I am in, or even, let’s be honest what day it is. Here’s to finding what works for you and not beating yourself up for any choice that you make along the way.