I promised to share more details of our own 30-Day challenge, so here you go!
THE TOP 10: THINGS I LOVED
1. I loved the feeling that came every time I cooked a healthy meal for Dustin. It was nice knowing that I was serving up wholesome, healthy foods that would prosper our health, rather than foods that would act as deterrents to good health.
2. I loved trying lots of new recipes! In previous months we had really gotten stuck in a rut of food non-variety. My old stand-bys were becoming just that – old standbys. All these new flavor combinations were really fun!
3. I loved trying all kinds of fruits, vegetables, meats, and fats that I had never tried before (and some that I had not tried in a very, very long time). For example, have you ever tasted jicama? It’s a strange-looking item in the produce department. It tastes like a sweet version of raw potato. You can eat it raw as a crunchy item to dip in guacamole, or you can cook it to make a healthier version of mashed potatoes. What about coconut milk? I had never tried it before, but it is delicious, and such a great source of good fat! Ever heard of avocado oil? It’s at your local grocery store, and it is so yummy on a salad!
4. I loved gaining a new respect for meat. Many of you know that I was a vegetarian for over 12 years. A few years ago I suddenly had a craving for chicken, and I’ve been loving chicken ever since. It’s been more difficult for me to get used to the textures of other meats. I just haven’t enjoyed them. However, after learning about how important it is to eat good meats, I decided to start experimenting a little more. I tried tuna, tilapia, bacon, ground turkey, deli turkey, ground beef, beef jerky, and even steak. I enjoyed some more than others (bacon is definitely a new favorite food of mine), but the fact that I TRIED all those items was pretty exciting! We also just ordered some grass-fed beef from a local farmer, and I am looking forward to developing a new love for red meat. I’ll keep you posted on that!
5. I loved having an excuse to have avocados OFTEN! Guacamole is my favorite form, but I’ll eat avocados sliced, diced, mashed, or just peeled! These delicious, green friends are a wonderful source of healthy fat. Dustin loves them too!
6. I loved slimming down. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had become very discouraged about how I was looking/feeling in my clothes. One thing I learned during my 30 days was that my body was very inflamed. This inflammation showed up in the form of bloating, and it formed an ugly intertube around my waistline. After a few weeks without grains, I could tell a huge difference in how my belly, waist, and back looked and felt. It was so nice to slide into my favorite pair of jeans that I had not been able to zip just a few weeks before. It wasn’t my goal to lose weight, but I definitely wanted to be rid of that bloating!
I also loved watching Dustin slim down. He’s looking lean, fit, and better than ever!
7. I loved not having afternoon headaches. While on a grain-heavy, sugar-heavy diet, I often had headaches. They were usually just nagging pains that would surface when I was very tired. After the first week of the challenge, the headaches were gone (even on days when I was very tired).
8. I loved sleeping better! I have always had problems falling asleep at night. My parents can attest to the fact that I was always a “night owl” growing up. However, it’s amazing to find out just how many ways the foods you’re eating are affecting your body and health. I would never have thought that my sleep problems were due to my sad diet, but apparently they were! During our 30 days, I fell asleep quickly, and slept like a baby (well, like a baby that sleeps through the night). Natural Calm helped too!
9. I loved having clearer skin. I’ve never had horrible problems with acne, but I’ve definitely had my fair share of blemishes. During my 30 days, my skin was clearer than ever. If I remember correctly, I didn’t have a single blemish. Since finishing the challenge, I have experimented with a little dairy (organic heavy cream in my coffee), and I was awarded with a blemish the next day. Now I know that dairy was the cause of some, if not all, of my facial blemishes. Good to know!
10. I loved the fact that I was breaking bad habits, and learning better habits. I cannot say enough about the importance of making a 30-day COMMITMENT. Yeah, it was difficult at first, but the payoff was amazing. Ever heard the phrase “it takes 21 days to form a habit”? Well, try 30 days… just to be sure. I had many bad habits… particularly giving in to sugar cravings and carb cravings late at night. And as I’ve already mentioned, resorting to convenience-food items, or eating out, had become a growing habit in our lives. If you’re telling yourself “well, I’ll just try to do better,” trust me- you won’t. That was my mantra too, and it’s the mantra of many people I know. I hear people say it all the time (and I said it myself!): “I’ll do better next week,” “I’m trying my hardest,” etc.
Here, let me help you out. Commit to doing this for 30 days, and then tell me how you feel. It’s just 30 days! No one is forcing you to eat the foods you’re eating. It’s your choice. All you have to do is make the choice!
THE BOTTOM 5: THINGS I DID NOT LOVE (because 5 is all I can think of)
1. I did not love being unprepared. We started our Whole30 the day after returning from a long weekend out of town. There wasn’t much in the cabinets, or in the fridge, but we were determined to go ahead and start so we could finish before our vacation 3o days later (little did we know that it wouldn’t have mattered… we stuck pretty close to the plan, even on vacation!). We didn’t have time to go to the grocery store when we got home from our trip, so we decided to just to eat what we had. Our Day One was a Thursday, and we both had full work-days ahead, so there wasn’t time to go to the grocery store on our first day either. That first day we ate eggs for breakfast, raw vegetables for snacks, salads for lunch, and salads with boiled eggs for dinner. It was NOT enough food. We were hungry, craving sugar and carbs, and somewhat hopeless all day long.
That night we had a meeting to attend at Panera Bread. We didn’t want to sway off course, and we also didn’t want to spend $8 on a bowl of lettuce with olive oil, so we didn’t eat anything there. After we left, we went straight to Harris Teeter to stock up on a few things for the next day. We came home that night (it was after 10 PM) and made chicken, brussel sprouts, and squash. It was SO nice to feel full!
On Day Three (Saturday), I was finally able to make a meal plan and go shopping. Things went much more smoothly after that, and we haven’t suffered from hunger much at all since then!
2. I did not love spending so much time in the kitchen. When you are making everything fresh, you suddenly find yourself doing alot of peeling, chopping, dicing, etc. Also, we live in a tiny apartment that does not have a dishwasher. Insert me. There were (and still are) ALOT of dishes. From the things we use to eat our food (plates, utensils, cups, etc.), to the things I use to prepare our food (pots, pans, food processors, blenders, choppers, knives, cutting boards, etc.), I was constantly surrounded by an avalanche of dishes.
I didn’t mind so much the first two weeks, but by the third week I was VERY burnt out. I felt as though I was living in my kitchen. Not only did I have to rise early to make breakfast (and do those dishes), I had to make and pack lunch (and do those dishes), make dinner (and do those dishes), and then plan what to do for the following day. It was starting to get very overwhelming!
But by the fourth week, I had learned many time-saving practices that really shortened my time in the kitchen. I had also found some great podcasts to listen to while I was cooking and washing. Suddenly my kitchen-time became stress-free-time! I really enjoyed being able to put the thoughts and worries of the day behind me, and just cook (or even do dishes!).
3. I did not love making trips to multiple grocery stores. This is not something you HAVE to do, but it was something that I did (and will probably continue to do). Since the typical American diet doesn’t really look like the Paleo diet, most grocery stores do not carry everything I need/want for us to eat each week. Before the challenge I would shop every two weeks, and sometimes just once a month. I would buy lots of non-perishable items like boxes of rice, cans of beans, boxed pastas, jarred pasta sauces, frozen meat, etc. Things changed dramatically when we started buying fresh.
Every weekend I shop at the Farmer’s Market (for cheap, local, organic fruits and veggies), at Costco (for great prices on chicken, other produce like organic spinach, and other items like big jars of sun-dried tomatoes, etc), and at a regular grocery store (there are still some items that the Farmer’s Market and Costco don’t carry, and the prices are much cheaper than Whole Foods or Earth Fare; for example: omega-3 enriched eggs, coconut milk, coconut flakes, curry paste, etc).
Once I learned my way around these places, and what to get from each place, things became much easier. Now I am always prepared with a list for each place, and I enjoy picking up the things we need. It’s almost like a “treasure hunt” each weekend. I particularly love going to Whole Foods and Earth Fare about once a month. Yes, they are both very expensive, so I don’t buy much from either place, but it is so much fun to walk down the aisles and find items that are gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar (and artificial sweetener)-free, and still delicious!
4. I did not love the awkward “we’re not eating your food” moments. During our 30 days, we attended one cookout, one family dinner, a weekend at my parents’ house, dinner out with Dustin’s parents, several dinners with friends, and a few more public events. Since we were trying to be super strict for 30 days, we would usually eat before-hand to prevent starving to death. We took dinner (to share) when we got together with friends. When we went to a restaurant we could usually find a delicious salad with grilled chicken or something, but we had to specify “oil and vinegar for dressing on the side, no candied pecans, no croutons, no cheese,” etc. Both our families were very understanding and interested in what we were doing, and my Mom graciously served Paleo meals when we went to visit.
Everything worked out fine, though it was quite an adjustment. The last thing we wanted was to make anyone feel like we were ungrateful for their hospitality, or that we were hoity-toity food snobs (though I’m pretty sure we are the latter, at this point).
5. I did not love the occasional BAD recipe, or food combination. There were only a few of these, but they were not fun! To use all those ingredients, and do all that work, and then to taste (or smell!) the creation and cringe was definitely a disappointing experience.
Now that you’ve read what we loved, and what we did not love, allow me to point out that the good far outweighs the bad. There is the potential for disappointment and extra work with most anything you try, but this experiment is definitely worth trying!
In fact, most of the “did not love” items could have been avoided, were resolved, or will not apply to you! #1 could definitely have been avoided: preparation is vital. #2 was resolved, and some of it probably will not apply to you: I started to enjoy my time in the kitchen, and most of you probably have a dishwasher anyway! #3 was difficult at first, but now I enjoy my weekly treasure hunts and shopping excursions. #4 is the only one that is still a little difficult, but as more of our friends and family are adjusting to the way we eat, it is becoming much easier. And finally, #5 is something that I’m sure I’ll face again, but bad recipe experiences sure do make for great stories!
I hope you’ll allow my Top 10 to motivate and encourage you to give Whole30 a try! And I hope you’ll use my Bottom 5 to make your own Whole30 experience even better than mine!