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?

Monthly Slice: February

A little slice of February…

I can sum up the month of February in two words: school and Whole 30 (not technically a single word, but roll with me). As I predicted, second semester has been a whirlwind so far. I’m taking fewer classes but I started an awesome new job (I get to learn lots of digital tools and play with WordPress) so I am just about as busy as I was before. (So if you sent me a message and I took forever to respond… I’m sorry!)

One of the perks about being in the localization industry so close to Silicon Valley is that we get to attend events at major tech companies – this month we went to Apple and I tried not to geek out too much. I didn’t dare pull out my ancient iPhone.

(This might just be American materialism, but I am dying to get the newest iPhone so that I can take better photos. Does anyone have it?! Is the camera all it’s cracked up to be?)

Another cool thing: my marketing class visited a local chocolate factory last week – most delicious “field trip” ever. If you’re ever somewhere where you can get your hands on Lula’s chocolates, I highly recommend them. (I believe they’re only available in the U.S. at the moment. Get the salted caramel.)

Highlights: Sunday strolls with Hugo! (Zzzz. Sorry, that’s the most exciting thing I’ve got.) We live in such a beautiful area, and it’s so refreshing to blow off studying for a little bit to walk on the beach or wander around Carmel. (The beach in February? Yes – it’s 12 degrees Celsius on a cold day here. Winter is not so much a thing. Although we did get a crazy amount of rain and storms in January.)

 

In the kitchen: You might remember from one of my recent posts that I did a Whole 30 last month! If you followed my Whole 30 Instagram diary @wherearemycarbs you know how that turned out… I’ll write more about it in another post. Basically, I’m glad I did it, I’m glad it’s over, and I finally figured out what’s been terrorizing my skin (after I poisoned myself with it for months.)

If you’re interested in “clean eating” (what does that even mean? Who decided beef is “clean” and white rice is not?) I made a Pinterest board just for Whole30/Paleo recipes (of course I did).

 

Blogging: As usual, I have a lot of posts in my draft folder that I don’t have time to finish. I have some Paris, some Lyon, a lesson plan post that I secretly hate… I also want to share a post from Hugo’s perspective on being a French guy in California. Let me know if you have any questions for him!

I like to balance what I write between useful posts, travel posts, and my own musings, but lately it’s been a lot about ME… my blog, my whims, right? No, actually it’s because I’m enjoying writing these monthly updates, but I don’t have a lot of time to blog 😦 so the number of posts between monthly updates is minimal. One day I will find blogging balance! (And maybe figure out why I’m doing this in the first place. Why do I blog, again?)

Can I be honest about something? I wrote this mini-post this month because I wanted to share a little anecdote without making it into a big post, and I immediately regretted it — it seemed so orphaned and sad and boring all alone, and I wished I had combined lots of little stories into one post instead. Now I feel like I either have to delete it or write more mini-posts so that it’s a little series. (Luckily I have a lot of anecdotes about French.) #OverthinkingIt

A really nice person shared this design blog with me and I can’t stop watching her videos. She has some WordPress resources too!

I’ve also spent a fair amount of time playing with WordPress at work and now I’m addicted to WP Theme Detector to find out which themes and plugins people with beautiful functional blogs are using.

What I’m listening to: Hugo and I watched the movie Begin Again while we were dog-sitting for friends (we loved being dog parents for a day!) and I can’t get the songs out of my head. I’m not sure how I feel about the movie (full disclosure, I fell asleep. But to be fair, I usually fall asleep during movies) but the music was catchy. It’s all about a songwriter in New York City. I always think how much pressure it must be for the people who actually write the songs that are supposed to sound like they could be major hits.

Favorite Trader Joe’s snack: I couldn’t eat a lot of Trader Joe’s goodies this month because of my Whole 30 (grocery shopping made me so sad and hangry. I know that’s not how you’re supposed to feel on Whole 30 but I did) but I LOVE their kale salad. I used to hate kale but I’ve come over to the dark green side.

(For those of you who live in France, can you buy kale where you live? I know you can in Paris, and when I left Lyon, they were selling it at Monoprix. For anyone who doesn’t know, this all started with The Kale Project. Now I’ve talked so much about kale that you’re going to think I’m some kind of kale fiend, but I’m really, really not. WAIT one more thing. I love this funny kale story from one of my favorite blogs of all time.)

Let’s see, kale, Carmel, blogging struggles… yes, that pretty much sums it up! What was the highlight of your February?

 

Little Snippets: Whole 30 + Back to School

Hi there! It’s February and GUESS WHAT? I’m doing my first Whole 30 this month. If you haven’t heard of Whole 30, you can read more about it here. Basically, it’s a month-long dietary cleanse where you eliminate sugar, grains, dairy, soy, and lots of other stuff from your diet. After the 30 days are up, you carefully reintroduce these foods to understand how each one affects your body.

I was planning to eliminate gluten and dairy for a month anyway to see if it would help my painful hand eczema, and when I read Anne’s account of her Whole 30, I decided to try it too.

February seemed like a good month to do a Whole 30 cleanse since there are only 28 days. (Kidding – I started on January 31 and plan to end on March 1.)

I’ll let you know how it went at the end of the month (I’m on day 9, so far so good.) I started a new Instagram account to micro-blog the experience – I post about my #Whole30Struggles, what I’m eating and what I WISH I were eating, haha. You can follow along @wherearemycarbs.

Continue reading “Little Snippets: Whole 30 + Back to School”