What I Learned from my Whole 30

Last month I told you that I was doing a Whole 30 — some of you have been following along on Instagram where I mini-blogged the experience on a daily basis. The short story is that it didn’t accomplish what I was hoping for, but I’m still glad I did it, and food will never be the same.

If you’re not familiar with Whole 30, it’s essentially a 30 day dietary reset during which you eliminate grains, sugar, dairy, legumes, soy, alcohol, and pretty much everything else and so you end up surviving on sweet potatoes and eggs for a month. (You can read the actual food rules here.) It’s similar to the Paleo diet, but stricter since it’s only for a month and not intended to be a permanent lifestyle.

I used to think people doing Paleo were absolutely crazy. No pasta? No dessert? Why are you trying to take all the joy out of life?! But I decided to jump on the “clean eating” diet for one specific reason: my hands.

I have severe eczema on my hands that has been getting worse and worse for the last year. It’s only on four and a half fingers, but that’s enough — if you’ve ever had eczema, you know how painful and itchy it is. If my fingers aren’t raw and bleeding, it’s a good day. I had heard about Whole 30 before but never felt inclined to do it (give up dessert?! Never!) until I read Anne’s account of it — she also had a skin problem with her hands and Whole 30 was hugely helpful. I had been planning to cut out gluten and dairy anyway, since those are common causes, so I went ahead and hopped on the Whole 30 train.

If you’re thinking, “Wow, I could never give up all those foods — you must have amazing self control!” let me stop you right there. I don’t really want to tell you this, but in the interest of full disclosure, I cheated on my Whole 30 more than once. Little tiny cheating — a sip of wine, an accidental chickpea, vanilla extract in the unsweetened almond milk. (No gluten or sugar, I promise!) I had a hard time when I wasn’t the one cooking — I felt so awkward and demanding being honest about my diet. Most people were understanding, but some gave me a hard time about my food choices, especially not drinking alcohol. (Side note: Can people just not do this? It is the uncoolest thing in the world to judge people by how much they do or do not drink.)

But on the whole, I did pretty well. I was already eating a healthy diet, but I do love my carbs and cookies. At first, I was frustrated because a lot of my go-to quick meals were off-limits, and I couldn’t have my after-dinner dark chocolate, so I guzzled raisins like a monster (yes, I guzzled them. Totally in the Whole 30 spirit.) But I discovered some great new recipes and ultimately I’m keeping a lot of the habits I picked up.

But here’s the thing. My eczema didn’t get better. It got worse. I couldn’t leave the house without bandages wrapped around all my fingers. Even the skin on my face became dry and itchy. I couldn’t understand it — even though I had a few slips, I was still eating much better than before! No more bread, no more chips — I was all about the almond butter and apple slices, almond butter banana smoothies, raw almonds with just a little salt, chia pudding with raspberries and almond milk…. healthy snacks, right?!

Three weeks in, Hugo said something to me that made me realize — it’s the almonds!!!! I switched from soy to almond milk around the time this whole thing started and I’ve been drinking it every single day. Then Whole 30 got me addicted to almond butter and I used it as a meal replacement when I didn’t feel like cooking. It just never occurred to me that almonds could be the problem because they are “healthy”. It was a major lightbulb moment, and when I stopped eating almonds, I saw a big improvement right away.

So that’s the good news. The bad news is that the eczema isn’t gone, so there is another factor here that I haven’t figured out yet — I’m working on it (le sigh). The other bad news is that once I realized I had been poisoning myself throughout my entire Whole 30, I pretty much fell off the wagon. There were nachos involved.

I didn’t realize how much my body had changed until it was over. Not so much physically (although I did lose some weight) but how I react to different foods. I can barely eat sugar anymore because it gives me a monster headache after a few bites! I’m a little bit sad about this because DESSERT IS MY FAVORITE but I’m much better at indulging only when I really want to and not just eating cookies because they’re in front of me. I also just crave healthier foods than I did before. But I’m glad I can drink wine again. I missed wine.

In other news, I am working my way through alternative milks since I can’t have almond milk anymore, and I want to stay away from soy (and I’m not so much with the dairy). Everyone is raving about cashew milk but I’m staying off nuts for now. So far I’ve tried Ripple (made from pea protein — I call it my pea milk which is funny because it sounds like pee milk) and oat milk (which is cheap and delicious but a little fattening). Suggestions welcome 🙂

Here’s the bottom line for me: I think everyone has to eat the way that is best for their body, and it’s not the same for everyone. Not even scientific studies can agree. There is some research that shows that spinach and tomatoes can cause inflammation, for crying out loud — does that mean we should all stop eating them? No. Does that mean that cutting out those foods may help some people? Sure. So there’s no reason for anyone to lecture those non-spinach-eating people on the health benefits of spinach. There’s also no reason to chastise cake and ice cream lovers for their consumption of gluten and dairy (oh, it happens). Their body, their choice. There’s not a one-size-fits-all healthy eating solution.

Whole 30 Resources

Whole 30 is very popular, and there are tons of great resources and recipe ideas out there! I found some fellow Whole 30ers on Instagram who shared their stories and suggestions (and said they missed wine too!)

Anne has written a lot of great posts on Whole 30 — start with preparing for your Whole 30mastering meal prep and avoiding food boredom, and lots of other tips and reflections on Whole 30.

I went a little crazy on Pinterest — I made a board for Whole 30/Paleo recipes, then another one just for Paleo desserts (because they are not kosher for Whole 30!) and a board just for smoothies, and then ANOTHER one for healthy snack ideas, like oatmeal bars. (…I may have a Pinterest problem. But I say it’s not a problem — it helps me to keep recipes and useful blog posts organized!)

I also discovered the gluten-free cooking blog So Let’s Hang Out by Gina — she has a lot of Whole 30 compliant recipes and a week-by-week account of her own Whole 30 (she tells the story of a stressful night on Day 5 that started with bourbon and finished with In n’ Out, which made me feel a lot better about my own imperfect Whole 30. We’re all just doing the best we can and that’s fine.)

When in doubt, start at whole30.com. There is more information than you could ever read, and there are also some tips on doing Whole 30 outside the U.S./Canada, since some recommended foods and ingredients might be harder to find in other parts of the world.

So, what do you think? Would you ever do a diet like this? Are there any foods you just couldn’t give up?

Guide to International Food in Lyon (by arrondissement)

When I moved to Lyon from Paris, I complained that there wasn’t enough international food. Since then, two things have happened. 1) I realized I was wrong and 2) a ton of new cool restaurants have opened up! About half of the places on this list opened after I moved to Lyon (which was in 2013).

By the way, I’m using “international food” fairly loosely here – in most cases, I don’t mean “100% authentic food the way it is served in its country of origin” (because how the hell do I know what “real” Ethiopian food is like) I mean “not French.”

Because I love baguettes and quiche and all, but I don’t want to each French food all the time.

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My Favorite Wine Bars in Lyon (by arrondissement)

Hi! I’ve been writing more and more about Lyon this year, and some of you have told me that you found these posts useful (which is awesome, because otherwise why am I doing this?) I’m so glad to hear it – thank you for the feedback.

Here is the most important one yet. (Unless you don’t drink wine, in which case this will be almost totally useless to you. Maybe you like tea or coffee? No? Croissants?)

It goes without saying that I really liked all these places, or I wouldn’t have put them on the list! But there are a few that I love – my favorite favorites – so I’ve marked them with a ❤.

There are loads of fantastic wine bars in Lyon – feel free to comment if you have a favorite I haven’t included! These are simply places I have been to (many times, in some cases) that I think are great.


1st arrondissement

❤ La Cave d’à Coté: Cozy, great planche of charcuterie & cheese (Closed Sunday)

Le Vin des Vivants: Pretty terrace, low prices (Closed Sunday and Monday)

❤ Autour d’un Verre: Classy but casual, tasty tapas (closed Sunday. Owner speaks very good English.)

Bones & Bottles: Oh-so-hip, a little pricey, great food – small plates (closed Sunday and Monday. English spoken)

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The Prettiest Places for Tea in Lyon

There is something really nice about sitting down for a snack or a cup of tea in a beautiful setting. I’m not one to prefer the fancy schmancy over something simple, but I can’t deny that I like drinking out of a pretty cup. Here are a few places in Lyon where you can enjoy the asthetic as much as your goûter.

Jeannine & Suzanne

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Jeannine & Suzanne is a new café in the 2nd arrondissement. Everything is beautiful. The tables, the chairs, the walls, the floors, the ceiling, even the ashtrays outside (pretty metal tea boxes). Oh, and the food is beautiful too. Their little tarts are works of art, and they have a long list of tea and other beverages. The kitchen is visible through a glass wall. The vibe here is modern-beautiful-quirky. Aka, totally Instagrammable.

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Best Boulangeries in Lyon

It is no secret that I like French bread (and croissants and pains aux raisins and éclairs and… well, you get the idea). When people ask what brought me to France, I tell them it was the boulangeries. Whenever I am mad at France because the Sécu refused my carte vitale application for reasons they made up, I go get myself the best pain aux raisins I can find. (Something I didn’t know before I moved to Paris: All the flaky pastries like croissants and pain aux raisins are called viennoiseries in French.)

As I slowly get ready to leave Lyon, I find myself wanting to write about it more and more. (So if you have any questions about Lyon, let me know.) I can’t believe I’ve been here three years! I’ve lived up in the Croix-Rousse neighborhood and down on Presqu’île, so those are the areas I know the best, but I try to make it a point to eat croissants all over the city.

Here’s a list of some of my favorites:

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Eating My Way Through Paris (Again)

When I go to Paris, I really just want to eat. I have an ongoing list called “Stuff to eat in Paris” that I pull out every time I’m back in the soixante-quinze. (Because Paris is in department # 75 and French numbers are funny.) I enjoy hitting up much blogged-about hotspots and deciding if they live up to the hype, and discovering new gems by chance, like the Bar à Soupes in the 11th.

I was back in the City of Lights in June, juggling my love of food with my loathing of Paris prices. (It’s like if you attacked normal prices with helium. Because they’re inflated. No, I’m exaggerating. It’s not that bad.) You’ll notice that I spent a lot of time in the 10th, my current favorite arrondissement for doing stuff. (The 12th is my current favorite arrondissement for chilling, in case you were wondering.)

If you’ve ever lived in Paris, you’ll know more than a few of these!

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Paris cheap eats: International yummies for 10€ or less

My first year as an expat in France was spent in Paris as a struggling English teacher plagued with visa problems.

I didn’t eat out a lot.

When I did splurge on something that wasn’t pasta, I wanted the yummiest possible food for the least possible cost.

Actually, I still want that. So now, whenever I’m in Paris, I hunt down the best cheap food I can find. These are some of my favorites so far.

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