I’m a mom of three sweet, happy, healthy, sometimes grumpy & picky boys. Three boys who sent my body through the wonderful and sometimes unpleasant miracle of pregnancy and C-Sections to get here. Are C-Sections considered a miracle? It depends on if you’re asking one month before or after it happens or almost one year later. It’s been almost a year, so yes. I think so! With boys #1 & 2, I – much like Big Sean – bounced back. It didn’t take long before I was wearing all my old clothes, and thanks to a couple milk protein allergies and a crazy elimination diet while breastfeeding for their first years of life, I actually had to buy new smaller clothes. Boy #3 was a different story. I don’t know if it was my 30+ body getting tired of bouncing back, the fact that I didn’t breastfeed him (a week in the NICU and yes – another milk protein allergy played a big role in this decision!), or my less than stellar diet, but when he was about 6 months old I finally relented and bought new bigger pants. Bigger as in bigger than the bigger size I already keep on hand for when I put on just a little extra. So I knew I had to do something.
Maybe There’s a Problem
I’ve always had a sweet tooth. My favorite food is probably ice cream, and I’ve also always had a super need for a snack. I have long felt like I needed to find a way to have that sweet tooth extracted – but I don’t think dentists actually do that. And remember those 3 beautiful babies with milk protein allergies? When I took in #3, their pediatrician had the “maybe it’s you” talk with me. And I think he may be right. Maybe my body has been trying to tell me for a long time that what I’m eating is just down right harmful for my body. Enter: The Whole 30.
Just Eat Real Food
I started by borrowing this book from a friend. In it, the Hartwigs (Whole 30 creators) explain the reasons why they designed the diet the way they did, and the various benefits that have been reported by the thousands of people who have taken the challenge. (And believe me – it is a challenge!) For 30 days, you eat nothing but real food. No added sugars, dairy, legumes, grains, or highly processed stuff. (Yes, legumes and grains are “real food,” but they can be hard on a digestive system, so for the purposes of this program you cut them out!) The idea here is that this drastic change in the way you eat for 30 days will reset your body and mind, making long term change more attainable. It also gives those of us who have often wondered if there might be some food sensitivities lurking a way to put that suspicion to rest.
No Means No
I have tried before to “snack better” or “not have as much sugar,” but without a clear set of guidelines I was sure to fall back into my same old habits sooner than later. The Hartwigs discuss in their book how a drastic change seems like it may, in some ways, actually be easier to follow than a gradual one because it’s a clear yes/no on every food. And it also cuts out the inevitable negotiations that’d go on. You know… “Okay. If I have salad instead of a burger, then it won’t be as big of a deal when I eat the Blizzard.” With the Whole 30, it’ll just be a no.
Bigger Than My Waistline
As I mentioned earlier, the jump start to making a change was definitely my growing (or rather, stagnant) waistline. But my reasons for doing a Whole 30 are bigger than that. Some of the benefits that Whole 30ers have experienced include (but aren’t limited to):
- Raised energy levels/loss of Chronic Fatigue
- Reduction/elimination of unexplained aches and pains
- Elimination of seasonal and other allergies
- Clear skin
- Fertility issues rectified
- Elimination of symptoms of IBS
- Loss/reduction of symptoms of auto-immune disorders
- Improvements in sleep
- Elimination of chronic acid reflux
- Elimination of anxiety/depression
- Improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol
All of these things and many more have been cited time and time again by people who have taken the 30 day challenge. I’d encourage you to check their website for a more comprehensive list if you have other symptoms you’re curious about! I do not suffer from all of these ailments, but I have problems with enough things that 30 days seems totally worth it for a shot at relief. Heck – if I can just kick my Zyrtec habit it’ll be worth it! And, I’ll be able to put my mind at ease after I re-introduce dairy into my diet. I’ll know for sure if dairy is just something I should avoid altogether, limit, or eat without worry.
So Far, So Good
When I decided to make the change, we jumped in immediately….ish. We are not planning to do a full strict Whole 30 until September. (I did not want to be worrying about every single thing I ate during the summer – too many birthday parties, family gatherings, and invitations to dine out!) We did, however, throw away the candy stash and other junk in the pantry, put an end to purchasing chips and junk food, and have essentially begun following the Whole 30 guidelines for all at home meals. I have still allowed myself Italian dressing on my salads (alternating with compliant dressing – recipe to come soon!) and we are enjoying Dr. Pepper until September. We’ve cut out nearly all other added sugars – except sneaky sugar in sausage & bacon – and are giving ourselves some freedom when we are out with family at a restaurant or someone’s home. It has been pretty difficult at times, but I keep telling myself this – We used to eat the same stuff over and over before, it was just junky. Now, I’m eating the same stuff, but it’s great food. If I get in a rut, I remind myself it’s not the type of food I’m eating that’s the problem, just that I’ve gotten a bit lazy in planning.
What We’re Eating
The general guideline for a Whole 30 meal (whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner) is to give yourself 1 serving of protein, fill the rest of your plate with vegetables, and round out the meal with a serving of healthy fat (avocado, olives, coconut, almonds, etc.) Mix in a couple servings of fruit per day, and you’ve got it! My breakfast used to be a granola bar and/or cereal. Now I’m eating eggs, bacon, or sausage with a huge variety of veggies every morning. I did not think I’d be able to *do* broccoli in the morning – but it turns out I eat it lots of times for breakfast, and love it! My husband has been making sausage/potato hash often, with things like bell peppers or greens mixed in. We’ve quit buying things like spaghetti sauce that have unnecessary added sugars (keep your eyes out for a post on sneaky sugar soon!) and started making our own. My oldest son (who’s got a reputation as a picky pants) has discovered he loves raw mushrooms and whole carrots – though we must give partial credit to Bugs Bunny on the carrot thing. I am not restricting my kids’ diets like I am mine, but many of the changes have been for the entire family – and they haven’t seemed to mind.
Results So Far
I have high hopes for when we actually do our 30 day challenge, because I’ve already started seeing/feeling results with our Whole 30-ish diet. So far, the things I’ve noticed:
- Looser fitting clothes. I still have a ways to go, but I definitely feel and see change happening already.
- Loss of the need to snack. That’s right. Completely. I do not feel a need to snack at all because I am giving my body exactly what it needs for all three meals.
- Clearer skin. Again, nobody is going to be asking me my regimen just yet, but my skin is clearer than I can remember it being in a looooong time.
- Aches and pains gone. I can’t remember the last time I complained to my husband about my arm/foot/back/leg just hurting for no reason.
- Reduced IBS symptoms. They come and go, but I definitely can tell a big difference when I’ve been eating right for several days and then have bread/beans/cheese.
- Losing the sweet tooth. Sometimes at the grocery store I see something and think, “Maaaan that sounds nice.” But I don’t sit around the house wishing I could head out for an evening shake or go grab a quick piece of candy or ice cream from the kitchen.
- I stopped at one s’more. This one was big for me. We recently had a campfire on the river, and I ate a s’more and it was so satisfying I didn’t need another. I’d usually have at LEAST two, and still be wishing for more. But when I’m not filling myself with junk and sugar all day, then one s’more truly felt like a big time treat.
Take the Challenge
If you have thought even ONE time while reading this that maaaaybe you could benefit from this, then I’d encourage you to join us in September. I’ve heard it’s easier with support, and I’ll be posting here about how we’re doing and what we’re eating, and would love to have the feedback of friends and family (or strangers!) that are following along. I am looking forward to seeing even more improvements when I truly commit to the Whole 30 challenge. Let me know if you’ll be along for the ride!