If you’ve been on my facebook recently you’ve noticed that I’ve been eating different type of food. As in not Sun Chips or Fun Size Twix. Nope. I’ve been eating food from a thing called Whole30 and to say that it is working my conditioning would be an understatement.
So Why Whole30?
Most people look at me and question my logic/sanity when I tell them that I engaged in Whole30 food prep. They say things like “oh you’re not fat, you’re in great shape, you even do triathlons.” While most of those things are true and/or appreciated (no, please, keep on saying that), things aren’t always what they seem.
Many of you know that I had a tympanoplasty, or new eardrum, recently. Like I said over there, I had to spend 6-8 weeks off from any type of exercise so as to not damage the eardrum or the dermabond (glue) that keeps it all together. Six weeks of no exercise is dubious for anyone, but especially someone like me who has junk food in their office.
While I was eating Whole30 appropriate foods I went over to my friend’s fancy weight machine. Not only does it calculate your weight but it also calculates your body fat and visceral fat, which is a thing I didn’t even know existed. The test indicated that I had more body fat and visceral fat than I should have. I believe it found this out by shooting a “safe” electrical pulse through my body in order to see how long it took. But honestly I don’t know. Also, they do that.
When I started eating Whole30 foods I weighed about 199 lbs. That is more than my appropriate weight of 180 lbs. or so. And I was convinced that it wasn’t all muscle. So I began the trek.
So What is Whole30?
“The Whole30 is a 30-day fad diet that emphasizes whole foods and during which participants eliminate sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy from their diets. The Whole30 is similar to but more restrictive than the paleo diet, as adherents may not eat natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. Foods allowed during the program include meat, nuts, seeds, seafood, eggs, vegetables, and fruits. During the Whole30, participants are advised not to count calories or to weigh themselves. After the program is complete, participants are counseled to strategically reintroduce non-Whole30 compliant foods, document the impact of these foods, and decide if eating such foods is “worth it”. The program’s founders believe that sugar, grains, dairy, alcohol, and legumes affect weight, energy, and stress levels.
So the basic idea is that while on Whole30 you eat whole food (as opposed to processed food like a pop tart) and you don’t eat “sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy.” So there is a LOT that you’re not supposed to eat and a lot that I was eating that was off limits. But there is a lot that you can eat too. And you’re allowed to eat a lot of it with the consideration against calorie counting.
I often said that our diet while on Whole30 consisted of “Chicken, Kale and sadness.” That was truer than I thought.
So as you can see, there is a lot that you can eat on it. Breakfast for us was usually eggs and kale, I packed a lunch that included Chicken and apples and almond butter, and dinner was usually the same. I also carried snacks of Lara Bars and fruits.
At first the change is pretty jarring. It’s a lot to go from eating whatever you want to specific regimented things and at 4 times a day. Especially when you are a “grazer” like me. But eventually it got easier and by the end of the program I felt better. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my loving partner helping me with the meal prep.
There were things that I did that were not Whole30 compliant. For instance I had cream on my coffee more than once and there was one day where we absolutely broke down and had chocolate. By Whole30’s strict standards, I would not be able to say that I completed the program. But I’m not doing this to get a merit badge, I’m doing this to kickstart some life changes that have been sorely overdue.
#1: A guy came up to me at the gym and asked me what event I was training so hard for. Life, motherfucker.
— GSElevator (@GSElevator) April 25, 2012
My weight went down from 199 lbs to 178 pounds (as of the time of this post) which is actually a little underweight for my height. We made it through the 30 day period that Whole30 is based on. After the 30 days is over the next step is to add things back into your diet one at a time and see the effect they have on your diet. We are still going in most respects. We had a glass of wine a week ago and a few days ago there was cheese in an omelette but other than that we have been going pretty strong. Part of why I am still losing weight is because I have learned a couple of lessons from Whole30 that I take with me.
The Lessons I’ve learned from Whole30
1. I can wait to eat
So I am a “grazer.” As a grazer, I walk around a place where there is food lying around and eat it multiple times a day. I’m notorious about it; I walk around, I see the food, I eat the food. It comes from when I was a kid and walked around the grocery store and ate all the samples. That leads to packing on the calories and pounds in a major way. I even eat WHEN I’M NOT HUNGRY. We have food like this in my office AND I HATE IT. I asked them to buy different food but they keep on buying the crap. Never mind the fact that it’s my office and I don’t have to actually let them do it. Never mind that.
On Whole30 you get 4 meals a day and that’s it. No grazing. I had to pick carefully and walk past the crap in the break room. It was hard. We have very very good muffins. They’re chocolate. You should come by and get one, because I don’t want them there.
As a result, I don’t graze much anymore. I don’t have to eat when I’m not hungry! I can drink some water or look at a picture of my cats or something. But I don’t have to eat.
2. I can stop eating crap
Okay so crap is a generic term for “fast and processed food.” I was just doing a business trip and I went to the hotel lobby to get something to eat. I stared at the menu long and hard and thought about getting the burger before I settled on a Cobb salad without cheese and a red wine vinegarette (which only has a little bit of wine in it? Confusing. I ended up eating it dry). I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who had lost 40 pounds 10 years ago. He reminded me that certain food at fast food places feel good at first but after a while you feel worse.
The amount of processed food in our lives is staggering and the impact has been devastating. There is so much of it around. I ate it all the time because it was quick and the sugar made it taste good. On Whole30 you abstain from processed food altogether. I got off it and rarely look back. There are some times when I miss the occasional Nutri-grain bar or pop-tart, but on the whole I don’t really miss the food I was eating before.
3. I can stick to coffee, tea and water
This is a big one for me. When I was at my heaviest I was drinking a lot of sugar sodas. Again, they taste good or whatever but the caloric gain was off the charts. And for what? It’s water, coffee and tea from here on out. I’m supposed to drink 3 liters of water anyway, and a little bit of almond or coconut milk with cinnamon makes the tea and coffee taste a little better.
4. I can show up differently around leftovers.
This one is really big for me. A couple of weeks ago I was with Kim at an English pub and she ordered the fish and chips. I ordered something else and ate all of mine but Kim had leftovers. I could have left those there; Kim didn’t want them. But I heard this nagging voice in my head saying “take that home, it’s leftovers.” I took them home and ate them the next day.
Next up on #Whole30: how do I show up around leftovers. In my house growing up you did. Not. Waste. Food. Period. If you had leftovers then you weren't getting any additional food cooked until the leftovers were finished. It stuck with me and i hate not eating leftovers even if I am in a elimination diet where that food is not approved. It's kind of funny because last night I went out with friends I ordered a burger and didn't eat the bread and had sweet potato fries and then at 2am we all went to a pizza place and I only had water. But these fries were already in my house from me and kim went out Friday night. As with everything it's not about the actual food but how you show up in your life. #Whole30
Ever since I was young we ate leftovers multiple times a week. We cooked once or twice a week and ate the leftovers every other day. We ate all the leftovers before cooking something else. And it was just understood that we were going to eat them because being wasteful was a sin. Now when I see food that is not going to be eaten, I try to take it home or eat it even though it can probably just go away. Even if that food is harmful to me or makes me gain weight.
This lesson is different from the others because I still havne’t learned it all the way yet. I am still struggling with leftovers. We don’t go out to eat a ton though so doesn’t come up too much.
So How’s it going?
It’s been about a month since our Whole30 journey stopped. We are still using the lessons that we learned in order to guide our eating choices. I eat three meals a day with Larabars as one snack and I don’t graze anymore. I put the sugar sodas out of the office and I feel a lot better. My weight is still down too as I enter an important portion of marathon training. I’m thankful for Whole30 and I’m thankful for Kim keeping me going here. I will post updates as we move along this process.