Healthy, Whole30

30 Things I Learned From Doing Whole30

I DID IT! I survived–and thrived–doing my first Whole30. Truly, it was one of the best, most important things I’ve ever done for myself. I thought I’d break down my experience into 30 thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. The experience is totally different for everyone (but the first week does suck regardless). I happened to have IN.SANE. mood swings my first week while most of my friends who have previously done Whole30 experienced bad headaches. Sugar detox makes up its own rules.
  2. Whole30 is a commitment, so don’t even let yourself think you can cheat it. The main thing that helped me stay on track for Whole30 was I tapped into my inner stubborn side. No, I was NOT going to cheat or back out after I had told everyone on my Facebook I was doing it! Are you kidding?! Find your inner stubborn person if you’re going to do this.
  3. Your true family and friends will be wonderfully supportive, even if they think you’re a little crazy maybe. I was touched and often blown away by how understanding many of my family members, friends and co-workers were. From dealing with the Week 1 mood swings to the “Hey, I’m gonna ask our waitress a million questions before I order, hope that’s cool!”, they cheered me on through the 30 days.
  4. …but you will find some people are not quite as supportive. It happened. But don’t let it get you down! #haterzgonnahate
  5. Maybe my headaches were caused by something not-chocolate all along? So, here are the facts: I’ve only taken medicine for a headache once in the past month. I cannot stress how insanely awesome this is–I have a prescription for migraines that helped me function pre-Whole30…and now it’s sitting at the bottom of my purse mostly unused at this point.
  6. Sugar. Is. Everywhere. I rarely, if ever, looked at ingredients when buying groceries in the past. Now, it basically governs whether or not I’m going to buy something. If it has anything that sounds too science-y (with a few exceptions) or any added sugar (again, a few exceptions like bacon with trace amounts of sugar), I don’t buy it anymore. Also, if you want a kick in the pants to start Whole30, watch Fed Up on Netflix. It horrified me to the point of wanting to go forward with kissing added sugar goodbye.
  7. Calorie counting never forced me to make good decisions. Realizing this was a pretty significant thing for me. In the past, whenever I wanted to lose weight I would always calorie count, and it worked for me just fine. I would count carefully and lose weight successfully almost every time. However, calorie counting never forced me to eat veggies or good fats. Hm, I have 250 calories left. Should I eat an avocado or two servings of chips? Well, two servings of chips will fill me up more I’m sure sooooooo…bring on the chips. Also, I would go to bed hungry way too often, and that’s just not something I struggle with during or after Whole30.
  8. Veggies aren’t so bad! I’ve mentioned this in previous blog posts, but sometimes I have the taste buds of a 5-year-old. Certain textures are weird to me, I don’t like tomatoes or onions, etc. etc. But Whole30 made me not only eat but come to love certain veggies. First of all, almost any vegetable tastes delicious when you roast it. Roasted Brussels sprouts? YES YES YES. Also, I learned that sweet potatoes, in particular, are a new favorite of mine.
  9. I think legumes might be an issue for me. Whole30 has you cut out legumes but allows nuts (very close to legumes) and snap peas because they’re more pod than seed. I never ate many legumes, particularly beans, before Whole30, but I quickly learned that snap peas and too many nuts caused me to have an upset stomach, so I definitely dialed back on that.
  10. Either dairy, gluten or corn is also an issue for me. So I was on vacation in Texas for days 27-30 of my Whole30 and stuck with it! But then on day 32 I celebrated before heading back home by enjoying some DELICIOUS taquitos. During Whole30, I never once experienced swelling in my legs, which I had experienced often pre-Whole30 as a side effect of a medication I have to take. However, on the way home, I noticed the swelling was coming back a bit, so now I’ll eventually go back and test to see which one it is.
  11. It’s not only possible to eat out on Whole30, it’s actually not that hard. OK, so you’ll have to do some research ahead of time or ask your waiter a decent number of questions, but it’s totally possible to eat out while staying on Whole30. I modified a salad at Panera, ordered a grass-fed burger wrapped in lettuce, ordered a plain sweet potato at Texas Roadhouse, made my own salad at a restaurant with a salad bar…all while on Whole30.
  12. It’s not easy to go on vacation while on Whole30, but again, totally doable. Like I said, days 27-30 for me were spent in airports and in friends’ homes or eating out with them. I prepared ahead of time by packing lots of snacks (individual packs of Justin’s almond butter, dried fruit with no added sugar, LaraBars) to keep me going between meals as necessary, but I also just asked that everyone understand that I was sticking with it–and everyone was so wonderfully supportive. Two friends went on special grocery shopping trips to make meals I could eat at their homes, while the rest of my friends allowed me to choose restaurants I knew I could eat at.
  13. I didn’t need the scale to feel good about myself. One of the Whole30 guidelines is to not weigh yourself for the entire 30 days–they recommend you focus instead on how you’re feeling rather than a number on a scale. And I’m glad they pointed me in that direction, as I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the scale and how it can make me feel. Giving it up for Whole30 made me instead go “Hey, I feel energetic and happy today! That’s awesome!” instead of obsessively fretting over whether I was going up or down on a number.
  14. You will spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Honestly, this was the biggest adjustment and hardest part of Whole30 for me. Going from basically NEVER cooking (again, I was the queen of warming up meals from the freezer) to having to prep and make my own meals every day was a huuuuuuuuuuuuuge shift. I’m actually still getting adjusted to this. I’m hoping to one day maybe even love it?
  15. I don’t “deserve” bad food after a bad day. Oh man, did I ever say this a lot in the past. “I drove through because I had a crappy day and I deserve it.” “I mean, I got this because I got XXX done and it’s kind of a reward.” This isn’t to say I’m NEVER going to eat something “bad” anymore, but I’m definitely not allowing myself to pick up something not healthy for dinner just because I had a bad day or am feeling stressed. Because you know what relieves some stress? Chopping up things aggressively in your own kitchen.
  16. Before you start, read as much as you can on Whole30. Seriously, stalk their website. Borrow or buy It Starts With Food. Find recipes on Pinterest. Print off their downloads for your grocery shopping. The more you read and know, the better off you’ll be. Also, if you’re in the middle of the grocery store and you’re like, “Is this ingredient Whole30-approved?”, Google almost always will give you the right answer.
  17. There will be moments/days you want to quit, but it’s worth it to push through. On day 17, I about tossed in the towel. I was in my kitchen, prepping food for what felt like the billionth hour, and I was like, “I AM OVER THIS.” But then I realized:
  18. I am worth one month of saying “no.” No to what I used to eat, no to my old habits, no to not giving my health a restart. We are all worth saying “no” for a month. Truly. You have 11 other months of the year to do whatever with.
  19. Food is a suuuuuuuper emotional thing. I was prepared for Whole30 to be physically difficult, when in reality it was actually WAY more emotionally and mentally difficult for me. Not being to eat whatever made me want to cry some days. Having to work hard in the kitchen made me want to punch things (or humans) sometimes. Watching my friends eat cheese curds while I ate my lettuce-wrapped grass-fed burger made me die a little on the inside. Food is so emotionally tied to our experiences and memories, and it’s tough (but worthwhile) to force yourself to face new things to break some of those old binds.
  20. For me, food is also something I started thinking about on a Biblical level, too. Before Whole30 I never really considered “Am I honoring my God-given body when I eat this?” But about halfway through Whole30 I started thinking, “OK, so God made the Garden of Eden, which was good. And they didn’t have doughnuts in the Garden.” So when I stepped back and started thinking about things from a more Biblical sense, eating healthier started to become more important to me, too.
  21. I can live without dessert. I thought I wouldn’t be able to live without snacks or “just a little sweet” before bedtime. Turns out when you stuff your bod full of protein, veggies and good fats for your three meals, you don’t really need snacks to keep you going.
  22. You will have to spend a liiiiiittle bit more to eat healthy. My grocery bill went up significantly the first week, but once I knew more what I actually needed to get through the week, I ended up only spending about $40 more in groceries per week. That may seem like a big number to some, but to me it’s worth it. Also, I went all-in on buying organic or grass-fed on Whole30, so it’s not as expensive if you don’t want to go to quite that extreme.
  23. When it comes to my grocery bills being more, spending more time in the kitchen, learning how to cook, I kept asking, “Is my health and happiness worth it?” And yes, it absolutely is worth it. Definitely.
  24. Even a picky eater can survive! Like I said, I’ve been compared to a child with my picky palate. But Pinterest is a great resource for Whole30 recipes galore, and I was totally able to either find recipes I liked or modify a few to suit my tastes (AKA goodbye onions, I don’t want you).
  25. You will need a break from eggs at one point. In America, breakfast typically means something with eggs. I’ve personally come to love this egg cups recipe, but after awhile I was like, “NO MORE EGGS.” Yeah, eggs will get old. Whole30 recommends you think of your three daily meals as Meal 1, Meal 2 and Meal 3 instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner, so if you want soup or meat and veggies for breakfast/meal 1, go for it. So on my “I’m so sick of eggs” days, sometimes I’ll have a chicken breast and carrot sticks for breakfast or something similar.
  26. I feel way more stable emotionally. I’m known, at least among my immediate family, as being a bit of an emotional person. AKA I get hangry and/or can turn into a rage monster in about two seconds flat. But I truly think I’ve leveled out a lot more emotionally since doing Whole30, which is probably due partly to a) lack of chemicals and additives in my food and b) fewer glucose spikes without all the added sugar.
  27. I feel maybe the best I’ve felt since high school. I mean, seriously. Part of the reason I did Whole30 was because I felt all blah and sluggish all. the. time. before, but now I feel like I’m at least full of more energy. I don’t really deal with “that 2 o’clock feeling” every day now. I sleep better BUT…
  28. Whole30 doesn’t magically turn you into some morning person if you’re not one (at least for me). I really thought this would happen to me! I imagined waking up surrounded by cartoon birds who would sing as I seized the day a la Disney movies. But the struggle is still super real in the mornings for me. But hey, at least my days are better. 🙂
  29. I lost 13 lbs. while on Whole30… But more importantly! I can feel a difference in my body, and I feel a renewed sense of purpose in life and more confidence in myself.
  30. I think everyone should give Whole30 a try. I’m being serious. I can only imagine how some of you would feel after embarking on Whole30. I want everyone I know and love to feel as happy and great as I do now. And what could you have to lose?! Seriously. I’m here to support you every step of the way if you do!

So, yeah, Whole30 was a great experience for me. I’ve decided to stick with a mostly Paleo diet now, which is basically Whole30 plus a few more things/a bit of wiggle room. Also, I’ve decided I’m only going to “splurge” or eat off-plan when it’s a special occasion out with family or friends. Because sometimes you still gotta have those cheese curds. 🙂

Oh, and you probably came here for some before and after photos, huh? Here ya go! Goodbye, 15 lbs.!

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Confession: Runners scare me.

They’re like the cool kids in school. They’re scary and big and just way better at everything, but you just so desperately want to be like them. Or at least I do.

Let me back up. Today I read a column that really got under my skin for multiple reasons. The tone and the thought process behind it just didn’t sit right with me. So I polled a few friends and asked them what they thought (granted, all these friends are around the same age as me). But each one had the same reaction I did; one friend put it best when she said it “really burned (her) biscuits.”

This is the column, titled “The Slowest Generation” (yes, it’s really called that), on WSJ.com I’m referring to. It discusses, from the perspective of a Baby Boomer, the decline of serious young runners in America. It also touches on how running events are not what they used to be, saying they’re more of a “parade” (his actual word) than a serious competition.

This reminded me of the editor’s letter I read in the June 2013 issue of Runner’s World. Now, given the fact I am a novice runner at best at this point (nevermind, let’s be honest: I run like a turtle through molasses), I had never really noticed that particular publication on the newsstands before. But I had just recently signed up for my first 5K, which happened to be The Color Run. I was pumped! And the cover featured a happy gal who looked like she was in a color run, so I thought, “This is the publication for me!” It offered me tips on training for a 5K, so I bought it.
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Once I started reading the articles inside, though, I felt intimidated. “Whoa, these people are SERIOUS” was my first reaction. The editor’s letter was a mixed bag for me. On one hand, he acknowledged me, a new reader, when he wrote, “As you’ve no doubt noticed, we evoke this curious trend on this month’s cover. If you’re a new or casual runner, you probably love it. It may have compelled you to open this magazine for the first time. (If so, welcome!)” This part made me feel happy and included.

But the next sentence said, “If you’re a decades-long subscriber who trains seriously and chases PRs, you may be a little turned off. I get it.”

And just like that, I felt like the cool kids were pushing me out already.

Because I will probably never be an awesome runner. I will probably never run a marathon (though I’d like to shoot for a half at some point). I’m still going to eat and drink what I want most of the time. I’m going to be more focused on fun than being at the front of the pack at races.

But so what? As long as I’m doing SOMETHING, that’s the most important thing, is it not?

Because guess what? I started trying to run because of The Color Run. I saw the photos and thought, “That looks FUN.” So I went to a running store for the first time and plopped $100 down for my first pair of real running shoes. But my feet hurt after a few months of owning them, so I went to another running store. Another $100 pair of shoes, only slightly less pain.

So, because I had The Color Run coming up, I wanted to get to the root of the problem. So I went to an actual foot doctor. They X-rayed my feet, watched me walk, and made molds of my feet. I’ve always attributed my foot pain to having no arch whatsoever, but the foot doctor said it was much more than that. Turns out the bones in my feet all grew slightly crooked. And my hips are a bit turned in. Surprise!

So, because of The Color Run and how excited I was to run it, I paid for a rather expensive set of orthopedic inserts. I have an arch for the first time in my life! But, more important, I can run for more than a few seconds without feeling like my feet are going to snap.

I’ve spent a lot of time and money in the pursuit of running. Because I was pulled into the fun, silly side of running. I’ve joked around and said I would only do a 5K if it was slightly gimmicky. That’s not far from the truth, though.

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My first 5K ever, which was in July, was the Milwaukee Brewers Sausage 5K. For those not aware, the Milwaukee Brewers have five sausage mascots that race during every 7th inning stretch at Miller Park. They’re a thing of legend around here. So the chance to race with them?! AWESOME. But I was a bit intimidated that morning. Sure, lots of the people there were families/friends just there for a good time (I walked/ran it with my dad, mom, and sister), but a good chunk of the participants meant BUSINESS. They were stretching when we showed up. They didn’t really seem to make eye contact with anyone else. They were focused.

Now, I’m not knocking them, really. Because it’s awesome that they were out there probably going for personal bests. But, to a little first timer like me, it was overwhelming. I just wanted to have fun!

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The Color Run was a completely different experience. EVERYONE was there for the fun of it. Yes, people were running, but most of them were chatting with their teammates as they ran, shrieking whenever they hit a color zone. I heard people behind us in the starting chute joking, “We’ll finish last. But it’s OK!”

And why wouldn’t it be? They were there. They were smiling and laughing and having a grand ol’ time. They had gotten their butts out of bed on a Sunday morning to something fun, which also just happened to be a form of exercise. Plus, if the whole going-3ish-miles wasn’t your exact cup of tea, the after party was a blast. When else do you get to rave with complete strangers after just finishing your first 5K (many of the people in the crowd cheered when our emcee asked if it was anyone’s first 5K) while simultaneously being dosed in color dye?

So while I’m not trying to discount running as a serious sport, I’m just asking the serious ones remember us newbies. We may have different ideas of fun, but I think we can all be friends.

I’ll be participating in my third 5K on November 10. It’s a 5K called The Mo Run. I signed up with a friend because it looked FUN. But I’m also hoping to be able to run more of it than I could during The Color Run. But no matter what, I’ll be enjoying life while exercising. And isn’t that the most important thing of all?

5Ks, “The Slowest Generation” & why runners scare me

Aside

Twenty pounds later...

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated! The hard truth is that March was a difficult month for me as far as staying motivated goes. I have a great support system between my family and friends, but I found myself not wanting to go to the gym. I tried excusing home workouts as enough. Spoiler alert: they’re not enough.

One week in March I didn’t go to the gym AT ALL. The week before I had gone five times, and I had loved it. Then I just hit a total wall and had no desire to go anymore. I did some stability ball exercises at home, but nowhere near the intensity I hit at the gym.

I lost 0 pounds that week. That was the first time I went without losing a pound or more in a week since I started this journey. Exercise makes a difference, kids. Don’t fool yourself into thinking healthy eating is enough (though it’s very, very important!).

So I got back on the wagon this week. I have started walking/jogging outside since the weather has FINALLY started to become spring-like here (in other words, it’s in the 40s). But I need the structure of the gym still a few times a week, so I’m getting back into that rhythm again.

I hit a milestone yesterday. I weigh myself every Friday morning. I started this journey on December 31, though I didn’t start eating better along with exercising until the end of January. As of yesterday, I’ve lost 20 pounds. Twenty pounds! I’m literally stunned.

At the top you can see a current before and after photo of me. The before is from Christmas. When we took that photo, I wasn’t 100% happy with the way I looked, but I thought I overall looked OK. It’s such a strange reality you live in when you’ve been overweight for so long. You start seeing yourself a certain way, and suddenly don’t realize how far you’ve let yourself go.

I have a longggggg way to go, but I’m going to get there. Slowly but sure. Twenty pounds is a victory for me. I can see the difference 20 pounds makes. I feel happier without those 20 pounds.

Twenty pounds. I’ll take it.

Healthy

Twenty pounds later…

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DreamI’m in love with this quote above. It perfectly sums up the past few weeks of my life.

I’m still eating right, which has surprisingly stopped being so difficult. I haven’t used a cheat meal in two weeks, I think. It truly, truly gets easier the longer you do this. The temptation is still there, that’s for sure. Yesterday I went to see a movie with my sister and I was so tempted to just be like, “Eh, a cheat meal night! Why not!” But I realized it so wasn’t worth it, so I ate my Lean Cuisine pizza at home before we left. My sister ate popcorn next to me and I didn’t cheat a single kernel. Or a sip of soda.

I’m almost two weeks without soda now. While I can’t say that I technically feel any different, I know it’s good for me. I did manage to drop 2 lbs. over the past week, up from my normal 1 lb. So that’s an accomplishment. The cravings still hit me from time to time, especially when I eat foods that I normally would have a Coke with (i.e., tacos and pizza). I’ll feel my hand want to reach for a can, but I resist. I’ve been having pretty much just water for the past two weeks. I tried flavoring my water, but bleh. I’d rather just have plain water.

Exercise is still up and down. It’s the hardest thing to commit to, though I always feel better when I do go to the gym. Now that I purchased a stability ball, yoga mat, and hand weights, it does make it much easier to at least do SOMETHING every day. My friend recommended this stability ball home exercise, which kicks your freakin’ butt. So even on my bad days, I’m doing something, which is more than I would have EVER done before.

My stamina is up. I’ve noticed that I’m not breathing hard after doing seemingly little physical movement. What a relief. I used to be slightly winded after walking into work every morning. Embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. Now I feel fine, and I purposefully walk as fast as possible to and from my car. It feels good that I can go up a flight of stairs with a basket of laundry and not be winded. That was my reality before.

Green Smoothie

I’ve been drinking green smoothies every morning at work for the past week. It’s amazing how changing that one little thing changes everything. Before, I generally would just eat a breakfast bar (which technically isn’t bad for you, but it’s not AS good), but now I just drink a smoothie. It keeps me full until lunch most days, but the biggest difference is how much more alert and clear-headed I feel after I drink it. I feel so much more focused now in the mornings. It’s a great feeling.

When I’m having a low day now, I watch “The Biggest Loser” to re-energize myself. I’ve always enjoyed watching that show, but now I don’t watch it while eating a bowl of ice cream.

I also created a Facebook support group for ladies of any age, physical set, etc. to share their stories, get inspiration from others, and swap recipes and helpful links. It’s been so wonderful. If you want to join, just let me know!

The wedding I’m standing up in is almost four weeks away, and I’m going to feel good no matter what. I’ve already achieved more than I ever thought I could. But I’m not stopping after the wedding. I’ve already signed up for two 5Ks this summer to keep myself motivated and going. It’s going to be awesome.

Healthy

Dreams into Plans

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My Farewell to Coca-Cola (for at least 30 days)

Well, the dreaded day is here. The day I bid farewell to my sweet, sweet Coca-Cola. For anyone who knows me well, you know what a BIG DEAL this is. I love Coke. Before I started this journey, I’d have one with lunch and one with dinner. Probably averaged 28 ounces a day (I know, I know).

Once I started counting calories, I cut down that amount to one 12 oz. can a day. And that was hard enough, because I’d think about Coke during my other meal. I’m basically some level of a Coca-Cola addict, sadly.

So that’s why I’m doing this big, scary thing: I’m giving up Coca-Cola (and all other soda) completely for at least 30 days. It’s half to up my weight loss progress (less than 2 months until it’s bridesmaid dress time!), but mostly to prove to myself that I can. That I’m stronger than I think. That I can give up something I never thought I could.

It’s not going to be easy. I already know this. I don’t really drink much outside of water and soda. I’m not a huge juice, coffee or milk fan. I’ll be experimenting more with smoothies during this time (just bought a new blender yesterday), and plan to get Crystal Light mixes to add to water so it’s a bit more exciting.

But the bottom line is that this is happening. That photo at the top of this entry was my Coke from last night. The last one for 30 days.

I’ll need encouragement during this period. I’ve been told by many people that once I give it up, I’ll probably never go back to it because it’ll taste too sweet. And if that’s the case, great. But I can’t imagine that at this point. So please share any tips, ideas or great drink combinations to give a try.

Good bye, lovely Coke. It’s not you (well, it kind of is)–it’s me.

Healthy

My Farewell to Coca-Cola (for at least 30 days)

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