I've been thinking about the Whole30 "paleo" eating plan that we did for the month of September (technically, September 3 to October 3). I still haven't gone back to the way I ate before. I still generally avoid grains and legumes, and my dairy intake is very moderate. I do have some sugar and some alcohol, but a lot less than before (ha!).
Why? I felt clean and good during my Whole30 month, and I'm not ready to mess that up. When I go off-plan, such as staying up until 11pm on a Saturday drinking beer with one of my oldest friends, I just get back on the paleo wagon afterward and feel fine again within a few days.
A random list of what I've learned:
- Hey! Don't buy asparagus in the fall.
- Read labels on anything that has a label. Did you know certain club soda has sulfates? Did you know certain turkey sausage has sugar? Did you know certain tomato sauce has agave... stuff? Don't just TRUST that an item has nothing bad in it. Check out the label before spending $$.
- There's no need to go crazy with meat consumption. Look to boost veggie intake instead. I took to grouping vegetables into three categories: salad stuff, greens (kale, spinach, string beans, etc.), and starchy (winter squash, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, etc.). I tried to have some of each every day, sometimes two per meal.
- I liked Well Fed, the Whole30 approved cookbook by Melissa Joulwan. It is a slim paperback, but useful and beautifully done. It was a relief to have as an inspiration and a reference.
- It was key to have easy snacks like apples and sardines on hand. Apple slices with almond butter was a fabulous snack for me, especially after a 5K.
- Coconut oil, avocado oil, and organic grass-fed ghee were all worth the investment. At our local coop, these cost at least $10 each. The coconut oil and ghee are great for cooking (roasting, frying). Avocado oil is lovely for drizzling, such as over a pile of steamed kale with salt.
- As I wrote in one of my posts, the Whole30 seemed to break down into four week-long periods. The first week was "This is totally weird." The second week was "This is weird and also awful." The third week was "I think this is working!" The fourth week was "This is working, and now it's going to end, waaah." I do miss it, but it could just be because it took an immense mental effort so I'm proud of myself for that.
- It was useful to have special food prep time on the weekends and/or in evenings, such as steaming sweet potatoes & beets, baking up winter squash, making sauces & mayo.
- To replace our usual adult beverages, we invested heavily in seltzer. We shared at least one liter of seltzer a day to try to forget we weren't drinking yummy beer or wine. It worked.
- I recommend paying the $14.95 for the daily whole30 email. It's not that you can't find the basic info on the Whole30 website and forums. But that takes time and effort. The daily email chunks info up into useful bits, and provides some good links. It wasn't 100% applicable every single day, but I liked it. It also helped me keep track of what day we were on. Thirty is a large number for some.
- I'm glad I had an exercise plan and ran every day for my Whole30. It was a good test for how my body was working and feeling that day. It helped me clarify what I needed food-wise and rest-wise. And I'm sure it helped the "diet" (weight loss) aspects of the program be more effective.
- I like to think of the Whole30 as non-inflammatory, not as a "caveman" or "ancestral" diet or whatever. The health aspects are what resonated the most with me, and seemed to resonate with people who were interested in what I was up to.
- Sweet potatoes did become palatable. In fact, I am still enjoying them for breakfast on most days.
- We ate two dozen eggs a week! That is about 2.3 times the normal rate, wouldn't you say?
- Cauliflower is amazing! Also, acorn squash! Who knew?
- The Whole30 is expensive. As mentioned above, the specialty oils cost about $10 each, and they last about 2 weeks. Plus, we spent an average of $200-250 a week on groceries, which is WAY more than we're used to. A lot of it was on high quality stuff though--dropping $50-90 at the farmer's market meant we had local meat, tons of local produce, and plenty to eat and choose from over the week. (Also some of it was on non-Whole30 stuff for the kids.)
Favorite Whole30 meals:
- bean-less chili
- anything with jicama
So, would I recommend the Whole30?
Yes, with reservations. I am a geek and a Capricorn and a mom and a runner, all of which may contribute to my being very willing to invest a lot of willpower into allegedly bettering myself and feeling like I've accomplished something FOR ME. However, I am so glad my eating partner did this with me, because his experiences really emphasized that this program is NOT for everyone. Some people will have problems and just hate it the whole time. He seems to be right back to where he was before and completely happy with that. No problem. But if the Whole30 appeals to you, give it a try!