DAY 755: The dirty on Whole30

whole30alum.jpg

I MADE IT.  ALL THIRTY DAYS.

Here’s the official Whole30 timeline of what to loosely expect along the way.  Here’s what actually happened to me:

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 6.32.39 PM

THE SCORE
Days with low-carb flu:  7.5
Days with a headache:  16
Days with diarrhea:  3*
Days constipated:  8
Days with no weird effects:  4

*I think there were more of these in the beginning; at least, I recall having loose stools often and going at least once per day.  I unfortunately didn’t start keeping a symptoms calendar until I started that wretched, wretched 4-day stretch of constipation, and by that point, I could only recall back a few days.

BROAD SUMMARY (MENTALLY [because the physical should be self-explanatory based on my calendar image])
Days feeling meh/normal/pretty much fine:  16 (1 – 16)
Days feeling fucking terrible:  5 (17 – 21)
Days feeling fucking awesome:  9 (22 – 30)

TL;DR
Did you ever get your tiger blood?  YES.
Was it worth doing this shockingly expensive, drawn-out, often infuriating dietary experiment to feel awesome for less than a third of the time?  YES.
HUH?  WHY?!  There is no TL;DR way to answer this question.  Trust me blindly or keep reading, champ.

First of all, let me say up front that I’m proud of myself for doing this.  At no point did I falter, or even consider abandoning ship.  I stuck with it the whole time and I owned this process, and it wasn’t without its challenges or massive frustrations.  If I could high five myself without looking like a total dork who never learned to clap right, I would do it.

Sticking to Whole30 truly did help me tame my “sugar dragon,” challenged me to face the way I’ve been using food to punish or reward myself instead of to nourish myself, and gave me the feeling of power and control over what I put into my body (ironically enough, on such a restrictive diet).  It got me back into the gym on a routine basis.  It (eventually) made me feel great physically and like totally baller mentally.  I learned to love almond butter.  I reached rain-man levels of label-reading expertise.  What I thought was already great skin, became even greater.  I got something I really wanted out of this, which was improved sleep.  It forced me to become comfortable with discussing my dietary habits with people, out loud.  And ya know, it just feels great to have set out to do something for 30 days, and to have inarguably risen to the challenge.  Above all, it punted me out of my I-don’t-wanna stupor, and gave me results along the way:  my final weight-loss number from Whole30 is 17.2 pounds (most of which was knocked off in the first 2 weeks).  I still have a long way to go, but holy hell, y’all.  That’s a big-ass number, especially considering that low-carb flu sidelined me for a full week and I didn’t really start working out in earnest until the final third of the program.

And yet, I don’t think I would ever do this again.  The main reason is that it was astronomically expensive for me.  I’m not exaggerating when I say my weekly grocery bills doubled.  To give an example of the runaway costs I had on Whole30, I site breakfast.  Typically, I eat a bowl of passably healthy cereal (Cheerios) that I buy on sale at CVS for $2.50/box, and it lasts me over a week, along with milk from the grocery store that also lasts me over a week, for which I pay under $4.00.  Assuming each lasts me 10 days, that means one day of breakfast costs me roughly $0.65.  SIXTY-FIVE CENTS.  It’s practically free.  On Whole30, however, grains and dairy are no-nos, so I had to seek out compliant options — quite the quest within itself — and then I had to properly balance my plate.  For breakfast alone, I had to have starch (let’s say breakfast potatoes, which cost me about $6 to make last for the week), protein (let’s say Aidell’s chicken-apple sausage, $6.00/package, which lasts two days), and fat (usually avocado, which I can make last 4 days — thanks, refrigeration! — for $1/each).  I would also usually add in a fruit to help inject some fiber into the meal (let’s say raspberries, $4.00/package, which lasts two days, according to serving size).  Are you seeing how this adds up insanely fast?  Pricing this out per food item and factoring in staying power gives me a breakfast that costs $6.10 every morning.  SIX DOLLARS AND TEN CENTS.  It’s almost ten times more expensive every day!  And that’s just ONE MEAL!  Extrapolated across the full month, if I had had this meal for breakfast every day (which I did not, but I’m doing this just to drive home the point), it’s a total cost difference of $163.50!!!!  UNAFFORDABLE.

Beyond that, the amount of time it takes to plan (i.e. find compliant, balanced recipes that I liked) and prepare (i.e. cook and portion out) all the meals and snacks is something you should be provided a time machine for.  And I don’t mean a gizmo that lets you travel through time; I mean one that lets you add hours to your day.  Honestly, I thought this would be a very minor adjustment heading into Whole30 because I already put in so much thought and time into my menu planning and prepping efforts, but this knocked my socks off.  I’m used to sacrificing my entire Sunday to the kitchen altar of the nutrition gods, but even cooking morning to night did NOT give me enough time, especially if I had any hopes of getting a workout in.  I repeat:  cooking morning to night for an entire day was not enough time to get ready for the week!  Taking the example of breakfast again, something I never had to do any kind of prep for when I was simply eating a bowl of cereal, I was now having to fully prep an entire additional meal in addition to lunches and dinners for the week, increasing my kitchen work time by 50% right off the bat.  I had to sacrifice more and more of my weekend to Whole30 prep time, and it got a little dicey pretty often.

Finally, doing Whole30 can be a bit of a lonely experience.  I’m fortunate that I had a co-worker roped in with me, and I’m very glad I was vocal about my decision to take on the program ahead of time so that people I see regularly would already be in the know and implicitly give me support and accountability, but social situations could be very trying.  It’s basically impossible to find something at a work function that’s likely to be compliant, aside from an undressed pile of lettuce and perhaps some raw fruit or veggies.  There is sugar in everything.  EVERYTHING.  It’s also an isolating feeling to be at a celebratory event and be the wet blanket who’s not raising a glass of fizz to the guest of honor, or digging into the cake alongside the rest of the guests.  I’m only grateful I didn’t have to do any traveling during those 30 days; that would have been straight-up painful.

All that being said, I *am* glad I did it this once.  I learned a lot, and I think differently about food now.  On day 21, when I was up to my ears in frustration with stalled progress and feeling stymied by the whole thing, I would have said it was a pure waste of time and money.  On day 22, the Whole30 gods mercifully gave me my tiger blood, and there was no turning back.

I’ve done one day of reintroduction (sugar), and just those 12 waking hours were enough to show me the effects of sugar on me:  it makes me feel guilty, and it immediately exhausts me.  After a few days on Whole30, I had no more energy crashes and maintained a pretty consistent level throughout the day pretty much every day.  One day back on sugar, and the spikes and crashes set back in immediately.  Mind you, it wasn’t even an unusually high amount of sugar; it was a bit that was a casualty of preparation from each meal (except the cupcakes — yeah, plural.  I was at a bridal shower and I baked those bad boys blind on day 30.  You really think I didn’t deserve both of them?!  😉 )  I hate sugar now.  I mean, I still like the taste, but I hate the concept of it.  It has wrecked many a person’s relationship with food, myself included.  Taste wise, I do now detect a chemically/artificial taste in sugary foods that I didn’t previously.  It’s interesting… and unnerving.

This week, I’m actually back on the program.  There was one last recipe I wanted to test out, and I figured that while I’m at it, I might as well just keep on the program full-time the rest of the week.  I’ll continue reintroduction at the end of that.  I’m curious to see what I’ll discover.

If you’re considering doing Whole30, my best piece of advice to you is to economize your money and time.  You should save money for a few weeks before you start, and you should plan out all your meals before you even begin the program so that you save yourself that time once you get started.  Search for and build your little Whole30-friendly library of recipes well in advance, and write out your grocery lists by week so they’re ready to go when you get there. Believe me, you’ll be grateful for that little gift of time you give to yourself.  Oh, and if you can, definitely get a friend to do it with you.  The support will help keep you going when it feels like the tiger blood fairy has forgotten you.

Just don’t ask me to be that friend.  I’m taking a hard pass on doing Whole30 again.

DAY 737: There will be tiger blood

Well, here I am on day 14 — almost the halfway point of Whole30.  I’m basically disregarding the timeline at this point, because it has been of virtually no use to me.  All I can do is hope that the tiger blood I’m supposed to suddenly get 2 days from now is really coming, because I am B-O-R-E-D of this.  Actually, that’s not the best characterization of how I’m feeling, but it’s something akin to that.

I’ve finally started getting deeper sleep, but I have to coax myself out of bed in the morning because I just want to keep sleeping.  It’s also taking some time for me to feel calm/relaxed enough to fall asleep at night in the first place, which is weird and annoying.  So, so far, moderate progress on the sleep front.

The digestive issues are far from resolved.  If anything, there are just new twists and turns to the saga.  I had several days of sudden diarrhea (1-2 times those days) in the middle of last week and then over the weekend, which hasn’t happened again since Sunday.  Since then, I haven’t pooped at all.  I am a crabby thing when I’m constipated, so these last 3 days haven’t been my favorite.

And then, of course, there were the low-carb flu days.  (I’ve concluded decisively that this was what hit me on the night of day 3, not an actual cold.  I’ve read a metric shit ton about it lately, and I’m thoroughly convinced.)  It was an unpleasant occurrence that prevented me from good sleep and from working out, so needless to say, I was only too happy to kiss that mess good-bye when it finally started dissipating this past weekend.

Also, the cost of this has been exorbitant for me.  In the past 2 weeks, my grocery bills have doubled.  I am one person, eating and prepping meals for one.  The health benefits are one thing, but it’s simply not financially sustainable.  I’m hoping that much of that has to do with the fact that I really didn’t have any Whole30-compliant staples, i.e. almond butter (which I did cave in and buy, only to discover I’m not a fan >:(), and staples are a big up-front cost that then last a few weeks.  Unfortunately, the other side of that coin is, there really aren’t that many compliant staples — hello, you’re eating whole foods which need to be purchased fresh and consequently consumed pretty immediately thereafter.  I get it.  But holy crap.  I definitely had not anticipated this type of hit to the wallet.

The one thing I’m pleased with, of course, is the weight loss I saw on the scale.  I hope it not only sticks, but that it keeps climbing.

I’ll be taking my ass to the gym tonight, for the first time since starting Whole30.  Ideally, getting fitness back into my routine will have a beneficial impact on all of the above.  And it better get me some pretty potent tiger blood, stat.  I haven’t been thinking about quitting or anything, but let’s be real: I’m in it for the tiger blood.  I was promised tiger blood, and if I don’t get the vaunted Whole30 tiger blood, I might just lose my damn mind.

Just to end things on a good note, I’ll gush about the AMAZING meal I made for my lunches this week.  It’s a Whole30-compliant recipe combining chicken, pecans, and apple chunks with warm fall spices in a fantastically creamy coconut milk sauce.  It’s completely off season, but it made my entire house smell amazing while I was cooking it this weekend, and it’s kept well in the fridge and reheats very nicely.  I’ve just been eating it over crunchy kale greens with a side of Brussels sprouts.  (There’s conflicting information about whether or not arrowroot is compliant; it seems largely acceptable, but if you just want to be totally safe, you can skip it and the dish won’t suffer at all.)  So, the joy of a new meal experience that I really enjoy — especially as someone who typically hates cooked fruit in any setting, including/especially desserts — is a total victory.

Happy hump day, y’all.

DAY 724: Whole30, the Whole30, and nothing but Whole30

whole30

The day has come:  Whole 30, day 1.

This actually turned out to be as great a day to start as I had hoped.  I selected and committed to this start date a little over a week ago, allowing for a cheese-centric weekend with friends and a catered all-day meeting yesterday to pass.  My area ended up with winter weather on Tuesday, so I opted to telework that day, and it allowed me to prepare one of my favorite meals while I was at home, which magically happens to be Whole30 compliant (although my eyes did spring open wildly as I was drifting off last night in sudden fear that the tomato paste I’d use contained added sugar [I confirmed this morning that it does not]).  I’ll have to cook dinner when I get home from work tonight, which will be a semi-random concoction of things I don’t mind eating, all together in one dish.  *shrugs*  Weekday meal planning ain’t my thing.  I’m looking forward to having this weekend to map out the rest of the 30 days in one fell swoop.

Yesterday’s meeting concluded with a happy hour, so I made the rare exception and had a cocktail and tasted small bites of two sinful apps before heading home and realizing I had no dinner there!  So, it being my last day before Whole30, I grabbed some Mrs. T’s pierogies and some ice cream from the store on my way home.  Right there in the middle of the frozen foods aisle, I was very politely chatted up and asked out.  Seriously.  With no make-up on, face generally looking like trash, and arms full of an ill-advised pre-Whole30 mini binge that was composed of trash.  I did him a favor and declined, as he only would have become a Whole30-compliant meal… but it was very flattering.  And only mildly embarrassing.

Anyway, day 1 is now halfway over!  I’m about to dig in to my lunch, and later, one of the two co-workers who joined in on Whole30 with me asked if we could get together and have a welfare check-in for day 1 support.  I did Weight Watchers in my mid-20s and the thing I liked the most was the meetings; I’ve been so insular with my weight loss this time around that I’ve limited my support system to basically only strangers on the Internet.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s VERY valuable and helpful, but sharing Whole30 — even to the extent that I’ve freely discussed my choice to do it with people I know and see every day — has been great.  I think it’s because it’s not necessarily about weight loss; it’s just about health.  I have explicitly framed it that way, even though I’m sure most people can infer that it’s linked to my overall efforts.  I’m still skittish and uncomfortable talking about losing weight with anyone other than fellow fatties, but this is hopefully a sign that I can come around on that.

In addition to abstaining from added sugar, grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, and chemicals like MSG, I’ve added coffee to the list.  I already take it black, so it would have been a cinch to continue drinking coffee on Whole30 without feeling deprived of the cream and sugar, but I think it’s in my interest to give it up, given my recent challenges with sleep.  I am not a caffeine addict by any stretch; I rarely make it at home even though I enjoy the taste because it’s more about the social ritual of grabbing a morning coffee with my colleagues.  I could do decaf, but I’m not going to go out of my way to consume it when I could just as easily cut it out entirely for 30 days (and enjoy the saved cash while I’m at it).  So, that’s my little extra twist on the challenge.

For full accountability, I will share that I have one planned cheat — but it’s not food.  It’s the scale.  Technically, on Whole30, you’re not supposed to get hung up on weight because you should be focusing on your body as a system and see the nutritional changes as a holistic benefit to your overall health.  I think it would be beneficial to me, actually, to completely ignore the scale for a month, and I was kind of looking forward to having a set of rules in place that would make me do so.  However, I’m going to do it exactly once over the course of the 30 days.  You could argue that I don’t have to, and I suppose that’s true and I am making a choice, but I’m currently in a Transformer DietBet, and the weigh-in for round 2 will pop up smack in the middle of my Whole30 experiment.  Yes, I could choose to forego it and still technically be in the bet and eligible to win the whole pot, but why short myself the round’s victory (I was already at my goal weight for round 2 when I weighed out of 2 Kickstarters earlier this week) and the prize moolah for it?  Sorry, Whole30.  I gave you my cheese.  I’m keeping one illicit rendez-vous with the scale.

Anyway, so far so good here on Whole1!  Fingers crossed all over that it stays as much that way as possible on Whole2 and beyond.

DAY 680: Going against the (mi)grain(e)

This past Saturday, I had possibly the worst migraine of my life.

At some point after all the vomiting, a new sense of resolve overcame me.  It’s well past time for me to have found a way to kick myself in the ass hard enough to get back on the fitness express, but I just haven’t been able to really tap back into the feelings that gave me so much strength and power to go hard around this time last year.  Maybe it was all the incidental cleansing from the migraine-induced yakking, but somewhere in my mind, the right synapse finally fired and reanimated those atrophied senses.  I finally felt truly recommitted to The Mission.

On Sunday, when I was back to feeling 100%, I prepped my week’s worth of meals and portioned them out along with my snacks.

Yesterday, I hit the gym for the first time in months.

Today, I signed up for 2 new DietBets.

I’m back, baby.  Go time.

P.S. WordPress tells me that, quite fittingly, this is my 100th blog post!

DAY 655: Take your medicine

I enjoyed both health and flavor benefits of it last year, so I decided I would try souping again this winter.  So far, I’ve stuck to tried-and-true recipes that were nutritious, comforting, and yummy in my tummy.  Off to a great start!  And then…

I got an immersion blender for my birthday in the fall.  I was itching to finally use it, so I chose this week for its maiden voyage into the soup pot with a recipe I somewhat improvised for a pumpkin-and-butternut-squash soup.  I’ve made it exactly twice before, both times with different spices and in differing amounts.  The first time, I loved it.  The second time, I hated it.  I felt confident that I remembered enough about what worked and what didn’t to achieve success on lucky time #3, but… well, you see where this is going.

My immersion blender performed admirably — nay, heroically! — but a good soup was not  in the cards.  It ended up being quite a thick consistency, so it’s really more of a bisque, but that isn’t ordinarily something that would put me off a soup.  It’s just a little too… earthy.  Or something.  I can’t really explain what the problem with it is, but no matter how much I’ve been adding pumpkin seeds to or seasoning my nightly dinners (4 of 6 downed to date!), they’re progressively more unappetizing.  I have to reheat the soup 2-4 times as I’m eating because as soon as it loses heat and approaches tepid, it reminds me too much of baby food and I want to gag.

BUT…

I’m eating it anyway.

I typically subscribe to the credo that if you aren’t excited about your healthy food, it’s a backfire waiting to happen.  When something just doesn’t hit the spot for whatever reason and you force yourself to choke it down, it makes you extra aware of the things you’d rather be eating, and 9 times out of 10, those things are diet destroyers that kick your ass all the way down the shame spiral.  In this case, however, I’m doing it as a favor to past-me, who labored over a Crock Pot with an immersion blender to prepare this sad soup, and as a favor to current/immediate-future me, who is experiencing direct benefits of this week’s meal plan of which my kitchen misstep is a part.  This is the end of a detox period for me, and I can feel that closing down and moving into real power-lady mode.  The signs:  glowing skin, quality sleep, vanished bloating, increased energy, more-positive mentality, and — TMI alert — truly excellent poops.  Yeah, man:  post-detox, shit gets real.  😉

Soooo, I’m sticking with this unappealing soup until the bitter end.  I just have to take my medicine until the prescription runs out, and then I never have to touch the stuff again.

And next week’s menu will be better.

DAY 321: Soup-er Bowl Sunday

I’m so excited about my soup for this week that it’s getting a post all to itself.  Yeah, it’s that good.  I’m gonna be a happy girl at dinner time every night I have this to look forward to!

Take a look at what I’m dealing with here:

image1

I have learned a lesson from last week and wasted no time getting back on the protein train.  This recipe, including my little tweaks as calculated on My Fitness Pal, packs an awesome punch of protein (23 grams) and a respectable amount of fiber (3 grams).  Oh, and it’s delicious.

To make this soup, I used Williams-Sonoma’s Turkey Meatball Soup with Spinach and Farro recipe.  It yielded a TRUE 6 servings, and it’s very filling — there’s considerably little liquid in relation to the meat, grains, and greens, so it’s almost more like a stew.  To accommodate my tastes (and what I had in my pantry), I make a few key modifications:

  • Kale in for spinach.  Kale does a better job maintaining a bit of a crunch instead of being like spinach that gets all wilted and limp, which is a texture I can’t get on board with in a soup with so much wonderful chewy texture.  It’s a little higher in calories than spinach (by about 26 calories per 100 grams, so it’s chump change), but it has nearly 50% MORE protein and is higher in vitamin A.  Plus, I just prefer kale.
  • Waaaaaay more than 4 oz of kale.  I used at least 6.
  • An additional clove of garlic.  I don’t ever put fewer than 4 cloves of garlic in any recipe.
  • Lemon juice instead of lemon zest.  Really, it could be skipped altogether and not missed, but I like having a bit of lemon in meatballs for moisture, not taste.  Nothing ruins a meatball like dryness, and turkey meatballs are fussier than beef ones.
  • Half plain panko, half whole wheat.  I accidentally picked up the regular white stuff at some point, so I’m trying to sneak it into recipes in nearly undetectable ways just so I don’t waste it.  So, I did 3 TBSP of regular, 3 TBSP of whole wheat panko bread crumbs in the meatballs.
  • 1 TBSP shredded parmesan instead of 3 TBSP.  Again, this could be skipped altogether.  I only used the cheese in the meatballs because I had some left and needed to use it before it goes bad.  If When I make this soup again, I won’t use the cheese unless I have it on hand already.

Altogether, here’s the nutrition profile of my Turkey Meatball Soup with Kale and Farro:

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 4.29.18 PM

 

Oh my gosh.  So yummy, so satisfying, and so easy to make!  If only all soups could be like this.

Anyway, here’s wishing everyone good luck and strength during the temptation tests that await you at your Super Bowl parties tonight!  I’ll be home with a soup bowl of my own in a state of total bliss.  Cheers!

DAY 319: Protein shake-up

I’ve noticed something strange this week:  I’m hungry.

Ever since I got myself to within a limited daily range of calories, I have not felt hungry except when it’s time to eat.  My body is accustomed to the 7-7:30 breakfast, 10-10:30 AM snack, 1-1:30 lunch, 4-4:30 PM snack, and 7-7:30 dinner schedule I’ve been on since late March, and it’s been a dream.  I’m programmed now, both mentally and physically, to expect food at these 3-hour intervals, so I don’t fall for trick cravings or get hungry at unusual times.  I know when the food is coming, I get hungry for it right before my meals, and I feel satisfied afterwards.

Annoyingly, this week has been different.  I’m voracious when I wake up, which is really strange.  Mornings are typically the time when I’m hungriest, but this week, I’ve been waking up with the appetite of someone who hasn’t eaten in days.  I feel OK after breakfast until AM snack, but then the intervening time up until lunch is a real slog.  Normally, I’m impervious to the smells of other people’s lunches in my office if they eat earlier than I do (which is most of them), but I’m painfully aware this week of how jealous I am that they’re eating and I’m not as soon as I pick up the scent of someone else’s food.  I finally eat lunch, and I’m not satisfied with it, so it’s misery until PM snack, which is also not satisfying.  I leave the office, internally whine my way through a workout at the gym, and go home all crabby because I’m hungry, sweaty, and tired, with no expectation of being satiated by the dinner I’m about to consume.  That prophecy fulfills itself and I end up eating another snack, which also fails to make me feel full, so then I’m mad at myself for taking in extra calories that did nothing for me in the end.  It pretty much sucks.

Last night, with my mind and stomach both churning as I was lying in bed hoping to fall asleep, it hit me:  I didn’t allot for enough protein in my meal planning this week.

Wow.  Rookie mistake.

I think I got a little too cocky with my planning game ever since I stopped using My Fitness Pal religiously to calculate my food for the week.  In my defense, it’s been working, but things have changed a bit since I’ve been on my souping kick.  Until this week, I was getting enough fish or chicken from my lunches to account for what is often an absence of meat in my soupy dinners in terms of my protein intake, but this week, I missed the mark.  My lunches are a VERY small portion of beef and broccoli (in which the ratio of broccoli to beef is very much higher on the broccoli side) with whole grain rice, and my dinners are a smaller-than-usual portion of puréed bean and parsnip soup with a side of Brussels sprouts (surprise, surprise).  My cooking this week yielded enough for maybe 4 real servings, but I portioned out 6 to last me through the week.  It isn’t enough in that respect alone, not to mention the very limited amount of protein I’m getting from it because of my poor macro planning.  Result:  hunger.

Soooooo, I’ve already concocted a much more robust meal plan for next week, which WILL give me the appropriate amount of protein and will hopefully get my hunger back in check.  I’m looking forward to my honey-curried chicken salads and turkey meatball soup with farro and kale.

This weight-loss scene, man.  So much to learn.