Whole 30 Recap

Whole 30 is OVER! O-V-E-R over!

Yeesh, don’t cheer too loudly, Shannon.

Really, though, I'm glad it’s done. I survived. One of the most famous tough-love lines from Whole 30 is “Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.”

Umm...I have to say I found drinking my coffee black to be pretty damn (mentally) hard.

So wait, back up. Why did you do Whole 30 in the first place?

Plain old curiosity, honestly. While I feel like we generally eat pretty healthy (I cook most nights, make things from scratch, don’t drink soda or eat fast food, etc.), lots of my recipes still utilize things like grains, pasta, and dairy. I also love to bake and the real heavy cream and sugar in my coffee each day is definitely a bright spot. Plus: beer. Wine. Cocktails. What happens if I take all that away?

So while I did not and do not have any underlying health concerns to address through a program like Whole 30, I was just genuinely curious about what would happen by taking out a good chunk of things in my diet. Would my skin be clearer? Would I sleep better? Would my energy levels spike through the roof? What’s all the hype about, anyway?

Well, what did you find out?

Honestly, I felt mostly the same. I never got to the “tiger’s blood” stage or crazy energy levels some people talk about. I also have three young kids AND Nolan transitioned to a toddler bed during the month which took a toll on my sleep, so maybe hyped-up energy levels were an unrealistic expectation in the first place.

I did feel more clear-headed. It’s hard to say for sure, but I truly feel as though my head was less fuzzy than it’s been the past few months, especially during the typical slump of the mid-afternoon/early evening hours. However, I have to say I also attribute that to spring finally arriving in these parts. A mid-April blizzard did nothing to improve my mood, (I was, in fact, MORE crabby than usual since all I wanted to do while we were trapped in the house was bake and eat all the bread and cream-based soups), but the sunshine has been a total game-changer. I have to say I always feel perkier at this time of year, regardless of diet.

The best surprise has been the absence of bloating. As in: gone. I didn’t even know I was bloated before; I just thought it was how my stomach looked after having three kids. But my stomach has definitely been flatter and my pants have been fitting looser. I was surprised at how soon I noticed (or didn't notice) the bloat, too, really only four or five days in.

What about the kids?

The kids did not do Whole 30 with us, besides at dinner. I only make one dinner each night, so they eat what we eat. However I wasn’t going to make this any more difficult (or expensive) than it already was, so we still had cereal and milk on hand for their breakfast, grilled cheese for lunch, and Goldfish for snack time. Also, since we started the day after Easter, I wasn’t going to forbid two four-year olds and a two-year old from eating their Easter candy because I’m not a monster.

What will you do moving forward?

There are some things we’re committed to. No more buns for our burgers, for example. Lettuce works just fine and even the kids loved wrapping their juicy hamburgers up with the crunchy green stuff. I found a few recipes we loved, so I’ll keep those in the rotation. And I'm going to keep an eye on the labels of things we're consuming (so. much. sugar). Those are some small changes, but ones that will still make a difference.

Really, though? We’ll go back to eating a lot like we did before. Neither Tyson or I felt that much different on Whole 30 or found any glaring sensitivities to any foods we omitted. I often found myself feeling like my food was missing something: a piece of bread with my soup, some naan with our curry, cream in my coffee. I missed these things as much for the change of flavor, texture, and variety as much as anything.

I am going to be more intentional with my snacking moving forward. I found myself actually snacking more on Whole 30, which, while technically “forbidden” I found it's a better way for my body to process food than with three large meals. I do much better with smaller portions and a couple small snacks during the day. I simply can’t eat very much at one time. Bananas with cinnamon and cashew butter were a favorite afternoon snack of mine, though moving forward I may also add a sprinkling of chocolate chips. :)

I also realized just how much I missed baking. I often bake myself or with the kids and it was pure torture to not bake for a whole month, especially during the snowstorms we had not once but twice (aka prime baking weather). I love baking for the creative outlet, as another activity during the day, and, yes, I plain old enjoy eating the results, too. Bring on the brownies!

Anything else?

I was amazed at the community surrounding the Whole 30 program. Not the forums (talk about crazy die-hards) but just the regular people in my life. I had several people message me the very first day I posted something in my Instagram stories: some were beginning Whole 30 for the first time like me, others were offering their help and support. Literally many of them said, “Let me know how I can support you.” Who does that? Some of these friends were people I hadn’t talked to in years or had never even met! I was truly amazed and encouraged by the support these people offered and provided...all because of a Whole 30 hashtag!

I also realized just how privileged I am to do a program like this in the first place. First of all, it’s expensive. It stretched our budget this month and we spent way more on food than I am comfortable with going forward. I also found it tricky to get some of the more specialty items. Even though we live in a large urban area, the nearest Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are 20-25 minutes away from our house, in a direction we don’t typically travel. They’re also nearly impossible to navigate with three kids since there’s only room for one in the cart. Then there’s the whole time aspect. It plain old takes a lot more time to cook when you’re chopping, cutting, and making so many things from scratch. I often started dinner much earlier in the afternoon or found myself preparing food over naptime when I would have preferred completing other household tasks or basking in the one quiet hour of my day. I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be to be a working or single parent and stay on top of all the food prep.

Also: condiments. Condiments, condiments, condiments are life on Whole 30. Primal Kitchen’s Chipotle Lime Mayo was a Godsend this past month. Mustards, mayos, dressings, etc. were essential to keep the food interesting for me.

But tell me, did you cheat? Even a little bit?

Okay, okay. Yes. I did. The most glaring example was when we were at a birthday party with tacos when the infamous mid-April blizzard went through a couple weeks ago. Tyson and I looked at each other and realized what the drive home was going to entail, which would land us smack into bedtime. We realized the effort it would be to put the kids to bed after the excitement of a party, then make dinner, and then eat at a somewhat unreasonable hour was going to be a lot. Also assuming we didn’t get stuck in the snow on the way home. (A legitimate concern, we got 22 inches of snow in less than 48 hours.) Tyson and I looked at each other and decided to just eat the dang tacos. And y’know what? They were delicious. Neither of us felt that different after eating them. (Tyson’s honest-to-God biggest complaint was that his lips felt raw from eating some salty tortilla chips. Hang in there, hon.)

There were a couple other times where I fried my egg in butter because it stuck to the pan when I used ghee or coconut oil and once I used ¼ cup of regular flour because I didn’t feel like buying a $15 bag of almond flour for a recipe. I’m over it.

I also made a smoothie once or twice, whipped up “pancakes” out of a banana and an egg a few mornings to switch up my breakfast routine, and once I even licked the peanut butter off my finger when making the kids’ sandwiches, so clearly I’m going to Whole 30 hell.

Bottom line.

I am not a Whole 30 convert or fanatic. It was an interesting experiment but one I’m ultimately glad to be done with. I'm happy to go back to less chopping and convenience on nights that we're short on time. I’ll also be glad to grab a bowl of yogurt, fruit, and granola in the morning. However, the bloating find was a major one for me. It’s nice to know that if I’m ever feeling "off" I can do a quick reset for a week or so to get back on track.

Overall I think the biggest reason Whole 30 didn't work for my personality as much as it might for others is that I can have a little bit of something and call it a day. I am the person that can eat just two cookies from the batch, one piece of Easter candy without demolishing the whole basket, or drink a single glass of wine because that's more than enough for me. Melissa Hartwig, the founder of Whole 30, wrote about this in terms of Gretchen Rubin's concept of being a Moderator or an Abstainer. I'm a Moderator all. the. freaking. way. It didn't feel like "food freedom" to me to say that I couldn't have certain things. I did not enjoy just how much I thought about what I was putting in my mouth. Was it compliant? Was it not? If not? Too bad, so sad, walk away. It felt too black and white to me. In some ways it made me want certain foods even more, even things I don't typically eat, and I found it wasn't very healthy for my brain.

I'm going to toast with a beer tonight (another thing I missed, though honestly not as much as I thought I would) and enjoy moving forward.

In case you're curious, (and still reading!) here's an assortment of some of my favorite recipes and things I ate on a typical day. These are the things foods you'll find on our table moving forward...along with a jar of Chipotle Lime Mayo in our fridge!

  1. Dinner: Chicken fajita bowls.
  2. Breakfast: Garlic roasted potato and red pepper hash. Fried egg. Coffee.
  3. Lunch: Applegate hot dogs with mustard. Mixed-greens salad with shredded carrots, diced onion, sunflower seeds and balsamic vinaigrette. Pamplemousse La Croix.
  4. Breakfast: Compliant bacon. Fried egg. Sliced strawberries and banana with cinnamon. Coffee.
  5. Dinner (with leftovers for lunch): Barbacoa beef bowls with butter lettuce, pico de gallo, and fresh guacamole.
  6. Snack: Sliced banana with cinnamon and cashew butter.
  7. Breakfast: Fried egg. Compliant bacon. Garlic roasted potato and red pepper hash. Cold brew coffee.
  8. Snack: A handful of medjool dates with roasted, salted cashews.
  9. Dinner: MY FAVORITE. Tikka misala meatballs (made with 1 lb. ground pork and 1/2 lb. ground beef). Coconut cauliflower rice.
  10. Dinner: Sheet pan sausage and roasted veggies (based on this recipe, though I used Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and red pepper). Dijon mustard. Watermelon spears.
  11. Mocktail: Coconut La Croix with a lime.
  12. Dinner: Hawaiian steak kabobs. Coconut cauliflower rice.