For me, my sugar addiction was out of control. I was waking up in the morning craving extremely sugary coffee. I was drinking at least three Diet Cherry Pepsis a day. And there was, of course, “The Smarties Incident of 2017.” Never, NEVER, pick up a bag of Smarties “just because it’s on clearance after Easter.” And then, never EVER proceed to eat the entire bag yourself over the course of several days, like an idiot.
I needed an intervention.
If you haven’t heard of any of your friends or family tackling a round of Whole30, you must be living in a remote location. WHOLE30 is EVERYWHERE!
So, what is Whole30? You commit yourself to 30 days of what some might refer to as “extreme Paleo.” Essentially: no added sugars, no artificial sweeteners, no soy, no dairy, no carbs. You may eat meats, fruits, vegetables and some nuts. Am I missing anything? No joy in my life?
I will take a moment to note that the lingo for Whole30 cheating is “non-compliant.” In other words, if you are eating something that isn’t allowed on Whole30, you are eating a non-compliant food. If you find something that is allowed, you have found something “compliant.” I will take another moment to say that I despise that word “compliant,” because when I hear it all I can imagine is being tortured by a Hydra agent and asked if I’m willing to comply (Ah-hem, Marvel nerd stuff. Apologies.).
My cousin and her husband have had great success improving their health with the program. They became my coaches over the course of my thirty days. I did not undertake the program to lose weight, although I very much need to. I had three primary goals:
- Break my diet soda addiction
- Ditch sugary (expensive!) coffee drinks
- Find more healthy meal options for my family and learn how to prepare them
Losing weight was secondary to those things, although I did lose over ten pounds in the end.
Here’s what I learned:
- Sugar addiction is real. About a week into the plan I hit a wall so extreme that I wanted to sleep all day. I was forgetful. I didn’t feel well. After pushing through those days, I experienced an amazing phenomenon. For the first time in my life, I was able to enjoy those fizzy sparkling waters (“natural essence,” whatever that means, with no added sugars or artificial sweeteners). Previously, I thought those waters tasted like fizzy tasteless acid. Now, those “natural flavors” provided me with more than enough sweetness to enjoy them.
- Kicking those sugary coffee drinks was a bear, but I did it. This idea of driving through somewhere and spending $4-$6 for a sugary “coffee drink” first thing in the morning is certainly a new one, generationally speaking. Not only is it hard on the waistline and the pancreas, it’s hard on the wallet! My personal kryptonite was McDonald’s vanilla iced coffee. A medium drink has 28 grams of sugar. Interestingly, the World Health Organization recently lowered it’s recommended daily intake of sugar for adults to 25 grams (six teaspoons) a day. A DAY. Not only did my morning “sugary coffee beverage” have more than six teaspoons of sugar, it put me over the recommended sugar limit for the entire day. This was one of the primary reasons I was terrified to do a Whole30. I loved that cold kick in the face first thing in the morning. Nevertheless, I found a way to cold brew my own coffee at home and added a compliant unsweetened coconut cream to it just to cut the bitterness. I used these reusable mason jars. Important note: Most coconut milks that you find in cartons in the milk coolers are NOT Whole30 compliant due to the additives. You need to buy cans of actual coconut milk or cream and read your labels carefully. My palate has adjusted and now I enjoy my coffee this way: unsweetened and mildly creamy/nutty in flavor.
- Read those labels and have a plan. I realized really quickly that sugar really is sneakily lurking in so many foods. At the grocery store, I read labels and found it as a primary ingredient in almost every meat, sauce, dressing, frozen meal, and on and on. You need to have an idea of what will work for you for meals and snacks once you start. If you are going to travel, plan to bring a cooler of your own food. If you are supposed to go out to dinner, be prepared to eat very lightly (undressed salad) or sip thoughtfully on an unsweetened iced tea with lemon while those around you eat pasta or pizza. This is all fine, though, because this is THIRTY DAYS of your life. You’ve got this. If you keep with you at all times a banana and some almonds or an apple and a Larabar (read labels carefully for compliance), you can usually patch through any window or craving until you can get home to your own food. Speaking of which…
- Every pan you own will be dirty every day. And that’s okay. This is a learning experience. For me, I wanted to have a great plan for my breakfasts so I could transition from my morning tradition of “McDs iced vanilla coffee and egg white delight with no canadian bacon” seamlessly. This prep begins the night before. I put my coffee into my cold brew pitcher and stick it in the refrigerator. When I get up, I shred a sweet potato, fry it in a little ghee and scramble a couple of eggs. This, with my homemade iced coffee, gave me a little taste of sweetness in the morning, but offered me a much healthier and less expensive alternative. I’ve eaten this breakfast almost every morning and plan to continue doing so.
- There are a few things I will recommend you purchase. Ghee was a new thing for me, but definitely worth it. It’s clarified butter so the milk fats have been cooked out. It’s basically a rich animal fat that is not refrigerated. I melted about a teaspoon in the pan before adding my shredded sweet potato. You will need some fats for cooking. I used olive oil, primarily, because that’s what I had on hand. I’ve heard good things about avocado oil from my cousins, too. Be careful with the spray oils for cooking. Many include soy as an ingredient, which is not compliant. I recommend having a good box grater and a very strong vegetable peeler, because you’ll be giving them both a workout. Parchment paper also comes in handy since you’re doing so many dishes and roasting so many vegetables. If you are going to be kicking a major soda addiction, buy some La Croix or other sparkling water. It won’t taste good to you at first because it’s very fizzy but not sweetened. Add some sliced lemons or limes to it for the first few days and it will help you get over that soda hump. I can drink it straight out of the can now and it helps me get my waters in for the day. Larabars are sort of the “last resort” for Whole30. Some flavors are compliant, but they are discouraged because they could be seen like a candy bar. In my opinion, if you’re a busy person trying to do a Whole30, you WILL get in a bind and find yourself stuck somewhere without compliant food. Keeping some Larabars on-hand, in your purse or in your car, is just good sense. My favorite flavors were Key Lime Pie and Coconut Cream. And, yes, they were compliant. Finally, since you cannot have soy sauce, I recommend investing in some coconut aminos. They are a soy sauce substitute, a whole food and low on the glycemic index. My entire family enjoyed them. We don’t have a Whole Foods or Trader Joes nearby, so I ordered mine off of Amazon.
- Eggs. Yes, if you can tolerate eggs, your Whole30 experience will be much easier. I was a vegetarian for three years and so eating a lot of animal protein is still hard for me. There’s no way I can have meat three times a day. My compromise was to have eggs at breakfast and a lean, white meat for dinner. I still do not eat red meat. Eggs are affordable, easy and fast to make. If you become ravenously hungry, scrambling a couple of eggs can get you over the hump. This has also worked for me when I was at a friend’s house and got hungry. They didn’t have any vegetables or fruit but they did have eggs!
- You can find tons of free recipes online. Pinterest and google will be great resources for you as you find recipes. This was my absolute favorite recipe. I plan to continue making it once a week with a huge side of veggies.
- When all else fails, prepare some lean meat or eggs and a ton of veggies. Having some frozen vegetables on hand was life saving. I liked the california mix in a steam bag. It isn’t dressed with any sauces and you can just cook, dump out and add salt and pepper. I also liked brussels sprouts and zucchini. Both, along with sweet potatos, got a ton of mileage on my Whole30.
- Riced cauliflower is legit. No rice, no pasta, no bread on Whole30. However, riced cauliflower, especially fried with some other vegetables in olive oil and coconut aminos, is a delicious substitute.
FINALLY, I will say that I was able to stop taking a medicine that I’ve been on a long time for my polycystic ovarian syndrome, because my blood sugar appeared to normalize. I lost over ten pounds and several inches from my waist. I’ve kicked the soda and sugar drink addictions.
Most importantly of all, I plan to continue eating this way. My goal is to stay “compliant” 75-80% of the time and repeat a Whole30 ever three months.
This was one of my favorite quotes from the book and I found it very motivating. Enjoy! And share your Whole30 tips below.