Yup, it’s been a minute. Between finals, holidays, trying to cram in a bunch of CDC work during school break, and one last ditch effort to complete the Yeti Challenge* on New Year’s Eve (success!), I just about imploded as Jan 1 rolled around. 2017 was certainly a great year in my book. Another year of my PhD program finished, we bought a new house, and ran 100 miles, to name a few. In terms of overall athletic effort I completed: 1 100 mile, 1 100k, 1 50 mile, 3 50ks, 5 marathons, 3 half marathons, at least one marathon + distance per month (some of these were training runs), and over 1330 miles run. Even with all these awesome race experiences that a previous version of me could never have imagined, the end of the year holiday excess reminded me one key fact of my life: I still have a shitty relationship with food.
Every new year I’m left feeling drained, bloated, gross from the heavy food insanity that occurs in the last few weeks of the year. Even with marked improvements in my ability to take single helpings, just the type of food alone makes me feel like crap. Due to that feeling, plus the fact that I didn’t have any heavy training loads planned for January (more than any idea of a “resolution” really), this scientist felt like it was time for an experiment…a nutrition experiment.
I’d been following the Whole 30 phenomenon for a while and felt like it presented a safe, balanced, manageable, and compelling challenge. You can visit The Whole30 program for detailed information, but in a nutshell it’s paleo on steroids. The elevator pitch explanation is basically that it’s a food “experiment” where you eliminate foods that potentially cause GI distress and inflammatory processes for 30 days, and then you slowly reintroduce foods to find out specifically what affects your body. The 30 days acts as a kind of cleanse of all the crap from your body while you still get to eat a ton of awesome food, just in a much more mindful, meticulous way. I’m kinda an all or nothing person so this plan was a-ok for me.
The TL;DR version of Whole30 –> eat meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and natural fats. DO NOT consume sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, or dairy. DO NOT consume baked goods or “treats” (if the ingredients are “compliant”). DO NOT weigh or measure yourself. NO counting calories**. HOLY CRAP, RIGHT?!
Guess what? It’s the end of day 16 and I’m fine. In fact, I’m more than fine. I’m excited about the food I eat, and I actually enjoy cooking for the first time in my entire life. Plus, I feel pretty damn good. Like I feel as if my whole body has deflated, in a good way. I’ve been to several social events, and just returned from a 5 day ski trip and no slip ups. The process can feel overwhelming at first and you may be compelled to be a hermit for 30 days and not engage in any social activities. NOT SO! Here’s 5 tips I’ve used so far that have made this approachable and even fun!
- Instacart: this is a lifesaver for me. Honestly, the experience of Whole 30 plus Instacart is a huge part of why I now ENJOY cooking. The grocery store really stresses me out. Using Instacart, I shop online for the specific things I need and don’t end up browsing the store and impulse buying. There’s a small service fee but I’ve been able to use promo codes each time. I also had a small credit today. I usually pay the shopper/Driver a nice tip because 1) it’s service industry, 2) they’ve all been so friendly, 3) and they shop my entire order and deliver in half the time it would take me. At the end of the day I figure it comes out even based on the $ I save from impulse buys. I highly recommend giving it a shot. This referral gets you $10 off and free delivery using code JRUDD318E.
- Nom Nom Paleo App: this is a great resource for paleo and whole30 prep guides and recipes. Her best resource is the free app with tons of recipes that you can easily search by Whole30. Pretty much everything I’ve cooked in the last 2 weeks has been from this app. The deviled egg salad and the instant pot beef chili are my faves and super easy.
- I’m late to this current obsession but yes, the Instant Pot: yeah, this is the pressure cooker of the 21st century I guess and I never thought I’d be so excited about a kitchen appliance. Call me converted. I have the Duo Plus 6 Qt 9-in-one and this baby replaces: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice/porridge cooker, yogurt maker, cake/egg maker, sauté/searing, steaming, warmer and sterilizer. The beef chili, including prep, took 30 minutes total because of this magic. I’ve been rolling out the hard boiled eggs like clockwork. Whole30 or not, this thing is amazeballs, especially if you want to rock some 30 minute, one-pot meals.
- Stock up on savory snacks. I keep some of the sweeter Whole30 compliant snacks like Lara Bars for workout needs. The program itself prefers reaching for protein and healthy fats to fufill most snacking needs – kill the sugar monster basically. To acomplish this, I maintain a stock of hard boiled eggs, nuts (no peanuts – those are legumes!), beef jerky (check labels for no added sugar!), veggies, and salsa. I’ve been carrying snack bags of almonds in my purse or backpack so if I get stuck late somewhere or sitting in traffic and feeling ravenous I reach for those. With a busy lifestyle, this point is key.
- Find accountability in those around you. My friend invited me to a small, private FB Whole30 group. It’s been a great resource for ideas, as well as a place to go to vent and have like-minded people talk you off the ledge. I also told my husband, obviously. He would have noticed anyway due to the fact that I cooked for him more in the last 2 weeks than I have in our entire relationship, but I prepped him for the adventure anyway. This turned out to be a lifesaver a few times when we were skiing. There was an event that had free hot chocolate and s’mores. I LOVE hot chocolate but I was able to pass easily since they just had the instant kind (why waste the experiment on that?), but the churro marshmallow s’mores were a whole other ballgame. I mentioned at one point that I may “cheat” a bit with just one s’more. A few minutes later he made the point of telling me that the chocolate was rock hard from being outside in the freezing temps and it just wasn’t that great. I’m not sure I believed him but it was more than enough to kill the urge. Honestly, the fact that I didn’t have hot chocolate and s’mores on a ski trip did not diminish the awesomeness of the trip one bit. It’s amazing how we justify food choices around vacations and events, when the joy of the event itself should have nothing to do with food. Light bulb moment for sure.
So that’s my Whole30 halfway point roundup. I’ll be sure to check back in after day 30. If you’ve done Whole30, doing it now, or thinking about it in the future. Feel free to chime in here.
* Yeti Challenge: 50k, 50mile, 100k, 100 mile in one calendar year.
** The no counting calories thing was what really sold me. Honestly, the idea of counting calories is absolute unsustainable bullshit prone to huge error and cheating anyway. Just eat real food!