Well folks day 30 came and without much particular fanfare. When we started this I was sure I would be dying at this point, salivating at the mere thought of a diet coke or a muffin. Instead I just feel a passionate desire to keep eating this way as much as possible. This is going to be a beast of a post because there really is no succinct way to verbalize how I feel about this experience. So thank you for bearing with me!
I think the first thing that happened when we started Whole30 was a reassessment of our previous eating habits. We weren't eating poorly before, especially not at home. We don't have sweets and desserts at home, unless I make them, and I stuck to cooking fairly healthy meals. However, what we couldn't have seen without this journey was just how much we were snacking ALL THE TIME. This is killer. In between meals, several times a day we would essentially be having tiny little meals that rarely amounted to anything good. What we realized was that this completely prevented our body from functioning properly and from knowing when we should be full from a meal or how much of the meal to eat in the first place. With snacking out of the way we quickly learned to eat three large healthy meals a day. But most importantly we learned to be ok with being hungry. I think most of the West at this point has conditioned people to think that being hungry is a horrible thing and this feeling must be abated as soon as possible, thus fast food and food essentially EVERYWHERE you go - gas stations, home supply stores, even clothing stores!!
Looking back on my life I now realize just how grateful I should be to my mum for the way she raised us. When I was a kid I thought she was harsh for never allowing us to snack between meals but now I realize how wise creating that healthy habit in us was. I remember often being hungry that last hour before lunch or dinner and I realize that that was a perfectly healthy and normal feeling. It's a feeling I completely erased from my life in college and thereon forward. It's taken time to retrain my mind, yes, but now that so much time has passed it feels good to be in a grocery store while hungry and not feel the desire to sneak a small bag of chips or a granola bar into my cart. Instead, I now wait until I'm home and if I'm that hungry I just go ahead and start working on lunch or dinner.
Another huge revelation was seeing just how dependent I had become on sugar in my life. I couldn't drink a cup of tea without a dollop of honey, all of my non-water drinks had to be sweetened and dessert was not dessert unless it gave me a toothache. This was a hard one for me to kick since I inherited my dad's sweet tooth but about halfway in I realized that I was actually masking the natural flavors of whatever I was eating or drinking with all that sweetener. I also realized that some things are even more delicious in their natural state. This was a HUGE one for me. Now I'm not saying I'll never enjoy a piece of chocolate again (in fact I have a lovely chocolate bar waiting for me in the kitchen as I write this, a little present to myself for finishing) but I no longer view sugar as a daily necessity but as an occasional treat.
Something that we took a very frank look at during this journey was our relationship with eating out and processed foods. This is the area where the change we decided to make is perhaps the most radical - no processed food or "bad/chain" restaurants EVER. There is simply no excuse. Essentially all processed food, whether savory or sweet, has sugar in it and the presence of that will inevitably break my ability to monitor what I'm eating and also break my bodies ability to process food in a normal and healthy way. Bad restaurants create a never ending cycle of overeating and dulling our palates. Not to mention the fact that we never used to eat out at these places without enjoying several refills of diet coke and we feel that we can't cut that out without cutting out its best enemy. By partaking in that kind of food we make it monstrously difficult for ourselves to continue making healthy choices, it would be too tempting to slide back into our old ways.
This is actually a good place to talk about what it was like doing Whole30 while pregnant. I have previously mentioned that I had a terrible time during my first trimester, I was nauseous pretty much all day and throwing up several times a week. However, just like during my last pregnancy the one thing that seemed to "help" was fast food. French fries were like magic to me, instantly making the nausea subside. So for almost two months I was eating garbage practically every day. My skin looked awful, I felt lethargic and exhausted (partially due to pregnancy), just overall I felt terrible. So I was really looking forward to feeding my body well, not to mention I'm pretty sure my body was crying out for something other than a whopper. So eating healthy and super clean felt wonderful! My skin cleared up in a week, I had more energy than ever and I felt strong, healthy and happy. If anything I think pregnancy is the perfect time to do Whole30 (granted you're not dealing with morning sickness or food aversions). The fact that I was eating so many fruits and vegetables, drinking so much water and preparing my food in the cleanest way possible just made me feel empowered and thrilled to know that I was doing the best for myself and this little baby.
But the most important thing that Whole30 taught my husband and me is that eating healthy and well is sustainable, realistic and a must. Cutting corners when it comes to mealtime isn't as innocent as we thought because essentially we are cutting corners with our health and the cost of that would one day be astronomical. So yes, perhaps to eat this way we have to spend a couple more hours in the kitchen every day, have more dirty dishes, spend a little more money and be more diligent with reading labels but the results are so worth it. In fact, cooking together during Whole30 has been one of our favorite parts of this experience. Papa bear was always a little shy in the kitchen and it has helped him gain so much confidence. Because of how much work is involved with cooking three meals every day I knew I could have never pulled it off on my own and we've had a blast prepping and cooking alongside each other, it's like an added bonus!
I think I learned more about food and eating habits during these thirty days than I have in the last five years and I am so excited to go forward with renewed resolve and so many good new habits under my belt. I think this is going to be ongoing conversation in our house and I will do my best to keep you posted on how we do going forward. As they say eating healthy isn't a sprint, it's a marathon and we're going to keep learning and doing our best!
Before I sign off here is the last installment of our meals, these are dinners, lunches and snacks we've been having:
butternut squash soup
apples and almond butter
mango salsa and sweet potato chips
grilled steak & thai salad (marinated carrots, mango, tomatoes & lettuce)
tuna salad (tuna, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion & cucumber) & green beans
semi-homemade: chicken from the farmer's market, baked sweet potato & green beans
grilled flounder, roasted asparagus & tomato, cucumber & grilled onion salad
green beans, turkey meatballs, tomato sauce and tomatoes stuffed with avocado
chili - beef, sweet potato, squash & tomatoes topped with avocado & green onion
thai lettuce wraps - turkey, "peanut" sauce (I made my own with almond butter) cauliflower rice with pineapple and a mango, tomato & onion salad
I do want to briefly mention here that I am aware that we are very fortunate in that due to our current work situation it affords my husband and myself a lot of time at home, this made Whole30 much easier since we could actually cook from scratch three meals a day. This would definitely be more difficult for someone working 9 to 5 outside of the home. However, the days that papa bear traveled for work we got creative with packing his meals the night before and making sure he had healthy snacks on hand with him. I think one way around this predicament would be spending more time prepping meals one day a week and also cooking bigger batches of food so as to have more leftovers. We actually naturally got better at this by the end. And as far as the expense goes I will be honest with you and just share how it worked for us:
- 1st week to set up: $250 at Costco
- 3rd week: $100 at Costco
- 4th week: $70 at Trader Joe's
It is expensive to set up your fridge and pantry initially but as time goes by it actually becomes cheaper and cheaper to eat this way, especially since we practically stopped eating out.