Well, that month sure went by fast. Between finding new recipes, crafting meal plans, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and — of course — eating, it was difficult to find time to relax, much less to blog the process. We did get some recipe reports up, and we had a few good phone conversations, but for the most part our Whole 30 experience was memorialized in text messages. Those are a bit ephemeral for me, so I will share some highlights here.
- Learning new ways to use spices. I actually had to buy new bottles of cumin! Twice! And I used cardamom in a spur-of-the-moment stirfry.
- Being pushed to devise new recipes based on what was in my pantry. I felt such a sense of accomplishment after devising a breakfast based on leftovers instead of defaulting to “well, guess we need to stop at McDonald’s/the bagel shop/etc.” when I’d failed to meal plan.
- Eating real food for weeks on end. Knowing that my body is getting most of the nutrients it needs for proper functioning has been a wonderful feeling. Thinking about supplements in terms of the few items my body can’t make or needs more of (Vitamin D, magnesium) beats knowing that I am probably starving my body of most of what it needs (which always seemed to lead to a seesaw between massive supplementation and ostrich-like avoidance of any supplementation at all).
- Learning to feel “tired” at a reasonable hour and feeling refreshed within 10-15 minutes of waking. I assume this is a reflection of my cortisol levels being restored to proper functioning. Much of my life, going to bed was a matter of willpower and discipline (“hm, it’s 11pm; if I don’t go to bed now, I will feel awful tomorrow”), not tiredness. Now, I have a very clear idea of when it’s time for bed because my body tells me! How novel.
- Gut, gut, gut. My first week was fine, but by week two my intestines were unhappy. I haven’t really pinned down the cause. It might be a result of the massive increase in fiber overnight (I’ve since read pieces which suggest people should increase fiber intake more slowly to allow the body to adapt to the new status quo), or perhaps it is the result of eating a high-fat diet with no gall bladder to help distribute bile. Or perhaps the relationship between my gut and certain food items is problematic (either because of my gut or because of the food items). I am investigating these possibilities now.
- Ambiguous payoff. I never really felt the burst of energy at Week 3 described by the Whole 30 folks and many of their followers. In fact, none of the timeline really fit for me: I did feel a bit low-energy on Days 3 & 4, but I didn’t have cravings or guilt dreams, and I never got that awesome burst of energy. (I did have cravings in Week 3, and a guilt dream this past week, at about…Day 36?) There are so many factors which might have affected my experience. For one thing, in the month before the Whole 30 I cut out about 80% of my sugar and baked-goods intake (and lost about 10 pounds along the way). So maybe I’d slain the sugar dragon more slowly? Or, perhaps my metabolism was in such bad shape that it took me weeks to get to a point that others tend to achieve in days? Or maybe I have food intolerances which interfered with nutrient intake and hormone levels, making the “reset” aspect of the Whole 30 unavailable to me?
- Meal planning. Oy vey. At times this felt all-consuming. Some of this is simply the price one has to pay when developing new skills, since it always takes so much more energy and brain power to develop new habits. But the rest of it is TOOLS. Ede and I were using Google Docs in order to share updates real-time, but the Google Docs spreadsheet is very limiting. We did lots of typing & cutting & pasting. Ede stumbled across plantoeat.com, and I think this may be a good solution. It takes quite a bit of work on the front end as you get your recipes loaded onto the program, but once your pantry and recipes are available to the software, it is quite a timesaver. You can drag & drop recipes into a meal planner, and you can ask it to find recipes based upon foods in your pantry. Best of all, once your meals are planned, it will generate a shopping list for you. (!!) Right now I am spending hours finding & adding Paleo recipes to my account, but eventually this should really save time.
- Fat. Wow, it is really hard to get enough fat with each meal. Avocados have been in season, and I happen to like avocados, but even I have begun to dread yet another avocado. Plus, the season is ending. Olives are good, but salty. Nuts are good, but shouldn’t be consumed daily. I was able to get my fat portions up high enough when I was meticulous about planning and shopping, but by Week 4 I was burnt out, and now I’m beyond burnt.
Overall, I was pleased with the experience. I lost 10 pounds in the 5 weeks before starting the Whole 30 (mostly by cutting out sodas, pizza, and pastries), and I lost 11 pounds during the 4.5 weeks of the Whole30. (If you are keeping track at home, this means I still have a little over 30 pounds before I reach my goal weight.) It doesn’t seem like the Whole30 jumpstarted weightloss for me, but I am pretty sold on the idea that “eating paleo” is a worthwhile goal for daily life. (I will discuss the many, many permutations of what is considered “eating paleo” in a subsequent post, but let’s just say that the majority of my meals will be based around good protein & fat sources plus lots of veggies, and a bit of fruit.)