My Experiment with Whole30:
In case you don’t keep up with all the new diet and nutrition theories, like I do, Whole30 is a radical reduction diet to access the effects of diet-induced inflammation in the body. As the name suggests, Whole30 is designed to detoxify the system for 30 days, during which time you COMPLETELY ELIMINATE: all grains, legumes, dairy, sugars, and all processed ingredients. Find the detailed list and the sea of negotiation HERE. No, you can’t have pancakes. Or WINE. Just FYI.
First off: This program is HARD. I will NEVER lie to you. It is hard. But! It is also completely worth it. After 10 days, my skin looked and felt amazing, I had a noticeable change in my mild edema and I was getting comments daily about how good I looked.
Discipline is hard, guys. Those unconscious scripts and invisible habits/negotiations will be completely in your face during this month, and it is not always pleasant. Reality is what it is, we just like to soften it by justifying all our decisions, regardless if they align with our ultimate goals.
My Brain: Oh no, this wine is falling, catch it with your mouth.
Also My Brain: Be Strong.
Seriously, having the self-control to NOT DRINK WINE was an almost-daily struggle (I work in a wine bar). Not to mention the direct confrontation with what and how often I was stress-eating. “You need that cookie.” Says my hypothalamus. “You’re a filthy, hormonal liar! SHUT UP NOW JERK.” Is it any surprise that the optic chiasm, where our optic nerves intersect, sits DIRECTLY above our hypothalamus, which governs our ability to sense hunger? No. Knowing is half the battle, people!
I also had to confront a lot of programming surrounding my “training” diet versus this new choice I was making, as I was on a pretty steady diet of supplements to help build muscle and increase performance, as well as pea-based protein shakes and my beloved caffeine accent of a bit of heavy cream with my almond milk. Yum…
I spent about 10 days in this “negotiated” version of the diet before I truly got serious and followed their program to the letter. Because, I am a scientist in my heart and you really can’t know if something works for you unless you truly commit to it. This is one reason why so many relationships fail, but more on that later!
Speaking of caffeine, may it bless us eternally, I was very surprised to notice that in times of weakness and depletion, my mind would crave caffeine but my body and my brain really wanted FAT. Eating a bit of smoked salmon with avocado, or adding a bit of ghee and coconut oil to my coffee, as you’ll find in the recipe below, took my mental performance back to “rockstar” whenever I got tired. See, the brain actually craves fats in order to lubricate neural connections. Fats are also good for your eyes, for the same reason.
Most importantly, in spite of dealing with the waves of the evil Crave Monster, especially when combined with the once-a-month Red Lady Monster, I started to really feel better. My body was shedding inches, even though I didn’t weigh myself (a rule while you’re inside the program), I knew things were changing by how I felt. I also didn’t think twice about eating healthy fats or anything else I wanted on the approved list, so although I sometimes felt psychologically deprived, I never once felt so “weak” that I just “had to” have that rice, or my almond milk latte. But Good God, you better believe I had my damn almond milk latte THE DAY I came off the diet.
I saved money. I honestly stink at keeping track of money and I had no clue how much I was spending on my high-roller lifestyle of late-night beer and burgers. Technically, grocery shopping was more expensive, because high-grade fats and proteins are expensive, and in addition to my snobbish coffee tastes, I also have a snobbish preference for all things organic.
It works. I began to understand and appreciate Whole Foods so much more. Not being able to just take a supplement forced me to research the nutrients of different foods. Also my cooking improved and my prep became more efficient. I learned to savor the richness and the sweetness of growing things, like soft, sweet and tangy ripe raspberries.
I also fell in love with avocados. Yummy.
All told, I lost over 20 pounds! But that’s not really the best of it. I finally feel like I have a direct relationship with how my diet affects my health and general good feelings. When I take that everything croissant with cream cheese from Elizabeth Street Cafe, I’m making a choice to maybe not feel so great, in order to satisfy an indulgence. Seeing these choices as indulgences, not the norm, was the most powerful part of this program. I really broke some bad habits. Hmmm…40 days to reset an old habit and replace it with a new one…sounds like something else I know!
Specifically, look at my belly. Wow.
Sidebar: Is Whole30 Paleo? I found myself eating a lot of paleo-approved items, mainly because they don’t contain additives or sugars. Check out this excellent article which explains this in more detail.