Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Whole 30 Experience...

I promised this post a few weeks ago, but here it finally is. My thoughts on my Whole 30 experience.

As I mentioned when I started this, I recently read Chris Kresser's Personal Paleo Code. The book resonated with me for a number of reasons, and I really liked his acknowledgement that Paleo is not a 'one-size-fits-all' lifestyle. After all, I often argued to my husband, I can eat corn without problems, so why not have it as an occasional treat?

Kresser's plan has you do essentially a Whole 30. He calls it a Reset Diet. But you eliminate grains, dairy, sugar, alcohol, butter, white potatoes (which are now Whole 30-approved), and take a few other important steps for 30 days. After this point, you can test various foods to see if and how your body reacts.

I posted earlier about the biggest hurdle I encountered, an accidental lack of carbs! We sorted that out with sweet potatoes and plantains and felt much happier and better able to perform while working out. So, a few things I learned:

  • I actually can't eat grains. I'd argued to my husband all along that I could handle corn, and I didn't see any reason why I shouldn't be allowed to eat it. For 30 days, I craved tortilla chips. All I wanted was chips and salsa. So, against the recommended plan, that was the first food I tested.  Chipotle chips and medium salsa? Down the hatch! Best lunch in a long time. 6 hours later while walking the dog? Sharp, painful stomach cramping. The corn wasn't completely out of my system until almost 24 hours later, and I missed my morning workout.  I actually still have not tested rice, though I did have rice noodles. Reactions haven't been quite as bad, but I generally don't feel good on grains.
  • Sugar is simply a habit. I found it very interesting how easy it was for me to give up sugar and move on. I've never had a big sweet tooth, and the Whole 30 made it very clear to me that visiting the candy bowl at work was simply a habit.  Again, I've had cheats here, but I am much more aware of it. Sugar is a conscious choice now, not a mindless "oopsy".
  • Dairy is iffy. I didn't get a clear answer on dairy. I haven't gone back to yogurt, and I'm very conscious of the cheese I choose to eat, but some days I feel perfectly fine, and others not so much. The obvious answer here is yummmmmmmm, cheeeeeeeeese!
  • Stress = Alcohol. I enjoy drinking. There, I said it. I also drink when I'm stressed. A glass of wine after a long day of work is delightful. Abstaining for 30 days really drew my attention to this correlation. But I still don't see it as a big problem. I understand the potential drawbacks to drinking, but also don't think a single glass after work is a big deal. I am glad to have seen the correlation clearly though so I can be aware if it becomes an issue.
  • Stress is a big problem for me.  My whole life is a big ball of stress. It's who I am. It seems like every management method, every supplement, every attempt to control stress simply fails. I am a sensitive person. I'm learning to embrace that. But it means I internalize and feel responsibility for, well, everything. And this is holding me back.
On that note...  a few things I didn't learn, or, my disappointments with Whole 30:

  • I can't lose weight. There, I said it. I went to a doctor, who figured I had adrenal fatigue, or just need to stop eating bananas after 4:00 p.m. (seriously) (I don't). I took supplements for my adrenals and had more energy, but not a single budge on my body. I took before and after photos on my Whole 30. Nothing changed. I will not post them. I changed how I work out, adding more strength and such. I can see a little more muscle, and my butt is bigger, but otherwise, yeah.. nothing changed. 99% of people have Whole 30 success stories of losing weight and being otherwise amazing. I do not.
  • I didn't feel 100% awesome, or find the fountain of youth of energy. The stabbing stomach pains I sometimes get are generally gone. I know my gut is healing. But, I still felt bad a decent amount of time. And I didn't have all the energy I thought I would. My workouts aren't easier, my runs aren't easier. I know part of this is stress-related, but....
  • In general, my joy toward food was gone.  Doing Whole 30, I felt discouraged about food. I saw it as fuel, period. This was good and bad. I am much more conscious about what it's doing to my body. But, I am discouraged by the high cost of eating the Paleo way (holy F meat is pricey). I am depressed by my inability to lose weight, look good, perform well athletically.  I still feel much more guilty about anything that isn't Whole 30. 
I refuse to make food a source of stress, which has led to a relaxation of my diet. But I often feel guilt over that relaxation. I know many of my issues are probably beyond diet, but in terms of Whole 30, I am a bit disappointed. I expected to see more and better results. I don't regret it, because I think the things I learned far outweigh the inability to drop some chunk. I would encourage anyone to do a Whole 30 to explore some of those cravings and connections within your diet. 

I do think when it comes to food there is a fine line to walk between health and stress.  While I'm discouraged that I didn't lose weight, I also feel like joy in food is more important. I have made many amazing meals that are Paleo. Dialed-in Paleo even (Kinda like 80% 30 instead of Whole). Diet didn't solve everything for me, nor can it. And with that in mind, I want to take the good lessons I learned and move forward without making food a stress point. I am conscious of what I eat, but I am dropping the guilt over the occasional cheat. I want to live the healthiest life possible, but I'm also aware that I'm only living one life, and I'm going to enjoy it.

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