Lessons learned – Whole 30

I walked in to work 6 weeks ago, on inventory morning, and my boss gave me a big smile and said, “What’ll you have? I’m buying you a coffee.”  I laughed and said, ‘I’ve given up coffee for 30 days.” He got scared. I mean, he really looked terrified, and he waved his arms in the air and yelled, “What? You need to warn me about these things!” Then I decided to push him completely over the edge and I added, “Oh, I also gave up alcohol. ” I’m surprised he didn’t walk out right then and there. I can be a little, how shall I put this?, cranky without my coffee. Unfortunately, the amount of coffee needed was getting ridiculous. Let’s be honest, I figured that if I was going to be miserable giving up coffee, I might as well go all the way and be really miserable. Both my sister and my cousin have done Whole 30 and  my sister gave me “It Starts with Food” (actually I just picked it up at her house and said, “Can I have this?” and took it home), so I figured this was the perfect time to jump in with both feet. It doesn’t hurt that my doctor told me to lose weight.

Coffee is totally ok on Whole 30, but l knew I needed to give it up for a while, so I added it to my  list, along with the usual Whole 30 suspects of dairy, alcohol, grains, sugars and legumes. Bye bye gluten, anything processed, and venti whole milk lattes. Hello meat, veggies, fruit, and lots of water. Oh, and ibuprofen for the first 2 days to combat the caffeine withdrawal headache. I started on a saturday morning, and made sure I took it really easy for the whole weekend. By the time I walked in to work on monday morning, the headache was gone, and I’d already had, gasp!, breakfast! I get up for work at 3:30 a.m., so wanting to eat breakfast is rare, and there’s no way I’m going to eat anything heavy, even though you are encouraged (told, ordered?) to have a full breakfast. You know me, I suck at following rules. There are a lot of rules on Whole 30, so I just did my best. Enter an apple and some almond butter. It’s filling enough, not heavy, and is probably the healthiest thing I’ve had for breakfast in years. Trust me, when you go from a coffee for breakfast to anything at all, it’s a big deal.

I made my lunch everyday for work, and cooked nearly every night. I ate a lot of vegetables. I ate a lot of meat. Honestly by the end of the first week I was sick to death of meat. That’s when I hit the internet for vegetable sources of protein. Did you know that one cup of broccoli contains 8.1 grams of protein? Since I love broccoli that was some good news. I started reducing the amount of meat and increasing the vegetables on my plate. I made Sharba Libiya without the orzo and chickpeas, and it was still awesome and comforting. Honestly, what made the 30 days easier was 1. feeling a hell of a lot better than I had in a long time, and 2. being able to see the results. I started losing weight from the very beginning, and being able to fit into my jeans more comfortably beat the hell out of a martini.

So the 30 days are over, I’m 15 pounds lighter, my skin is clear (I have rosacea, so this is a big deal), and I’ve come away with a few lessons learned.

  1. Life is too short to drink mediocre wine. When it was all over I went out to dinner and had a perfectly mediocre sauvignon blanc. It wasn’t worth it. Good wine doesn’t have to be expensive wine, and my idea of good and your idea of good might be completely different but drink some good wine.
  2. Dear God in heaven just high quality plain black coffee is so good it should be illegal. And just one cup is really fine.
  3. Not taking lunch to work is a big mistake, because you think you’re going to eat a salad, but after a hard morning you realize you’re buying lasagna before you know it. (That was today’s lesson)
  4. Keep it simple stupid. Trying to find recipes and plan menus was overwhelming at first. What recipes had ingredients I could use? Could I substitute? What do I make for lunch? Then it finally got to me that I was making this way more complicated than it needed to be. Throw some meat and veggies on the grill, make a bison burger (no bun) and some steamed spinach, spaghetti squash and meat sauce is amazing even without the parmesan (roast the squash, do not microwave it), and if push comes to shove throw some grilled chicken and roasted beets on mixed greens. We were burning through everything in our CSA box and everything we got at the store. We threw out less and less. You can see everything in the fridge! You can also see the items we didn’t use as much, mostly condiments.
  5. The way I shop for food has changed. Post-Whole 30 I made a chicken and veggies stir-fry with peanut sriracha sauce. I don’t need 32 ounces of sriracha, so I bought 5 ounces of a local product  from Preservation & Co.  I have what I needed for the recipe, enough for a few other dishes, and it’s not going to go bad waiting around to be used. Oh, and I supported our local economy! By the way, it’s pretty awesome sriracha.  I’m buying smaller amounts of condiments, because I just don’t need a lot. As for meat, veggies and fruits, if it can’t be made into several dishes, I’m passing it by. Broccoli with beef for stir fry, broccoli as a side with chicken, roasted broccoli with sweet potatoes on top of a salad.
  6.  After finishing and easing back into my “normal” eating patterns I realized that my so-called normal eating patterns were not to my benefit. It was easy giving up alcohol completely, it’s not easy stopping at just one. So that’s something to pay attention to. Non-fermented dairy makes me a little queasy. The more pasta I eat at a meal is in direct opposition to the amount of vegetables I’ll eat at the same meal. (I found that eating a small amount of meat meant that I’d eat a plate full of vegetables; that wasn’t true with pasta) All of the food that I thought I couldn’t live without? Yeah, I could. And I felt better not eating huge amounts of it.

I’m not as active or athletic as my cousin or my sister, but because of my job I’m on my feet and moving for 8 hours. It was interesting to see how what I ate affected my energy level and mood. Would I do it again? Yes, but I’m these lessons will stick with me for a while.



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