I’m just over a week in to “life after whole30.” I’ve reintroduced eggs with no repercussions….but my almonds? My almond butter? We might have a problem. I’ve had a minor headache each day since eating them, and I’m not sure if it’s the almonds, or the extreme lack of sleep due to a sick kiddo (read: I pretty much pulled an all-nighter this weekend and not in a good way).
So, I’m going to give almonds another try at reintroduction. Because life is just so much better when you can schmear almond butter all over everything. Right?
Anyhoo. I’ve been updating ya’ll throughout this whole process (see week 1, week 2, week 3, and week 4 here), but I wanted to do one final recap to put my all of my thoughts together. Because looking back it’s really quite amazing just how far I’ve come in 30 days. Remember when I was dreading it? Certain I couldn’t live without cheese?
I’m not even kidding when I say I don’t even care about cheese anymore. Seriously. I really don’t even want it. Chocolate? That’s a different story.
I started Whole30 for two main reasons. First, to try and identify (and/or confirm) any potential food allergies or sensitivities. Second, to address some other unpleasantries occurring much too often for my liking (headaches, stomach aches after eating, general feistiness and irritability, and insomnia). I’m still working towards identifying my food allergies/sensitivities through reintroduction (a process that will take awhile) but I’m confident that I’ll know pretty quickly if I have any. My results otherwise have been amazing. No more headaches. Not one stomach ache since Day 1. My irritability has vastly improved (this one’s harder to gauge since I’ll obviously still get mad or annoyed sometimes or have bad days. But I definitely don’t have the crazy “swings” anymore). Unfortunately my insomnia hasn’t gotten much better. I still have terrible sleep most nights. However Abby still wakes up most nights. So part of me wonders if my body is just staying “on alert” waiting for the inevitable “momma!!”
In the end, I’ll take the “wins” I’ve gained over the sleepless nights. And even though I’m not sleeping very well my energy is still incredible during the day. My skin seems brighter and clearer. I feel stronger. I feel more confident. And I lost 6 pounds so my body feels leaner and healthier. I do have before and after pics but I’m terrified to post them on the Internet. ha. I can spill my guts out here in written form, but in the literal form? Ummm…..not ready for that.
What’s been unexpectedly awesome during this past month are the people that are inspired by what I’ve done and are considering whole30 themselves. So I thought I’d put together my top ten tips. I’ll try to stay succinct. But no promises.
1. Read the plan. Like really. Read it.
The whole30.com website has a ton of information to get you started. There are downloads available, forums and FAQ’s. I studied this site for a good two weeks before starting. But I also highly, highly recommend reading the book, It Starts With Food before you start. It answered so many questions, explains the science behind why foods are off-limits, and even has recipes to get you started if you need them. The $10 it took was money well spent (I bought the Kindle version).
2. Plan your meals. Like a boss.
This is my #1 piece of advice. I would have been lost without meal planning. Then again, planning comes naturally to me and I generally feel lost without one. I would literally scour recipes (and my pantry to see what I already had), then write out what I was going to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner each week (allotting for leftovers in there as well). Once that was done it only took a few minutes to make my shopping list.
3. Say hello to a new kind of Sunday Funday (aka meal prep).
I chose to dedicate part of my weekend to meal prep. Either making my breakfasts (so they could easily be reheated), making a batch of soup (to use as a side), or even pre-making a dinner if I knew I’d be short on time one evening. Not everyone may want to do this, but it was so helpful on days where I just needed to grab something and go, or got home late from work. Well worth the time spent. Also, be prepared to spend a lot of time in the kitchen either cooking, cleaning up from cooking, or eating.
4. Support at home is nice, but not necessary.
While the Hubs was very supportive of whole30, he wasn’t officially doing it with me. Therefore I didn’t raid our pantry/fridge and eliminate non-compliant foods. I thought this might be hard having temptation at my fingertips, but my will power was surprisingly strong. I think just knowing that one slip-up meant starting over at Day 1 was enough to keep me on track. Although, I will admit it was harder to turn an eye to the beer, chocolate, chips and cheese during the first few weeks. Also, I was still cooking all sorts of other food for Abby too and I think what I noticed most about continuing to do that….is that I did a lot of mindless “bites” or “snacking” before when I would cook her dinner. I’m really conscious of doing that now, which is a good thing.
5. You won’t miss alcohol as much as you think.
Weird, but true. I mean there were definitely times when we were out and it would have been nice to have a beer. Or wine. But for the majority of the time? It was ok. It really only stung a little when we were out in a social setting.
6. “The sugar demon is strong with this one.”
I knew giving up sugar would be hard. But I wasn’t prepared for just how hard it would be. Sugar is in virtually everything so you either have to find an alternative, make your own version of it, or just forget about it. I think I missed it more than I thought I would, and I definitely wasn’t mentally ready for fighting those demons. In fact, I’m even more scared to wake them up; which is why I still haven’t had any.
7. Not all Whole30’s are created equal.
I found out pretty quickly that not everyone approaches Whole30 the same way. Simply searching “#whole30” on Instagram or Pinterest doesn’t necessarily yield good results. Oftentimes recipes deemed compliant were far from it. Some of the meals pictured were in no way following the meal plan guidelines for servings of meat vs. veggies vs. fruit. Not everyone follows the meal plan to a “T” and that can be hard if you’re trying to. It’s easy to avoid these errors if you’ve read the book and studied the guide, and I was glad I had.
8. Document it.
I kept a daily journal of how I was feeling, what was going well, what wasn’t, and what my favorite foods were. I also reported here on a weekly basis to recap everything. Looking back I actually think that both of those exercises were really helpful. I could see progress being made, and when I hit low points (um, week 2!) I could look back and remind myself that “this too shall pass.” It also reminded me that despite the hard things, good things were happening too.
9. If you need more support, get it!
I was so lucky to have a girlfriend doing this with me. Granted, she was in a different state…but just to even bounce a question off of her, complain about a hard day/craving or swap recipes with was so nice. I’m so grateful for that. But if you don’t have someone doing it with you? The Whole30 forum is awesome. I often found myself looking for answers there. From the looks of it there are people starting everyday and talking about it on the forum, so you can buddy up with a virtual group of people that started around the same time as you. It’s a great support mechanism.
10. It will get easier.
I know at the beginning it’s overwhelming. It’s stressful. It’s scary. You should have seen me leading up to that first week. I had lists stuffed in every pocket, recipes pinned up the wazzoo (want my board? click here), charts and lists printed off to study. It was a whole30 command center up in here. But I promise you. It will get easier. You’ll get comfortable with the food lists. You’ll find recipes that you love. And pretty soon it won’t seem like a chore…it will be exciting and easy.
That’s a lot of words. So much for being succinct.
Let’s move on to my top five recipes (with pictures!) that I’m keeping in my rotation (remember that some ingredients might need to be omitted to be whole30-compliant).
Cinnamon “Greek” Beef Stew. This is the most flavorful, yummy, delicious stew I think I’ve ever had. It’s not like traditional stew…it reminds me of an Indian dish in a way. No wonder I like it.
Artichoke Lemon Pesto Chicken Squash. You had me at artichoke pesto. Seriously. DELISH.
Chipotle Chicken Sweet Potato Skins. My love for sweet potatoes has only grown during these past 37 days. Partially due to these guys.
Larb. Why-oh-why must you look so unappetizing? P.S. your name doesn’t help either. But man, Larb. I think I love you.
Mustard Garlic Brussels Sprouts. Just make these.
Seriously though? Almost everything I made/ate was really good this past month. You can look at my weekly recaps for more recipe ideas, or hop over to my Pinterest board.
My final thougthts on whole30? I am so thankful I pushed through my fears and worries and just did it. It really has changed my life. So much that I plan to continue to try and eat this way (at least when I’m in control of making my meals). It really has changed my relationship with food and I have a better sense of how certain foods make me feel, and how that age-old saying of “you are what you eat” is so, so true.
I think everyone should give whole30 a try. It might just change your life too.
done-talking-about-whole30-for-awhile (and still-missing-almond-butter) Janna