My wife found a book called It Starts with Food and I highly recommend it. Part of the book is about doing a “Whole 30 Challenge”. This, essentially, means that for 30 days you cannot eat any processed foods, sugar, grains, legumes and dairy. NONE. Read the book for more information but basically they want you to only eat food that is not only natural, real food but it also must promote good physiological health, gut health, hormonal health and must support the immune system.
I was amazed at the portions of the book that talk about how important your gut (intestinal track) is in supporting your immune system – I had no idea.
When I started the challenge a week ago the first thing that jumped out was how I was going to get along without diet soda and Diet Mountain Dew specifically. I drank about 64-100 ounces of water a day prior to starting this challenge but I bet I averaged around 50 ounces or more of diet soda a day, too.
Can’t have it.
I like some shredded cheese on my eggs in the morning. Can’t have it. I like a bowl of cereal every now and again. Can’t have the cereal or the milk.
And one part of the book that really drove home the point was their example of a “good day” of eating. It went something like this:
Wake up in the morning and for breakfast have two pieces of wheat toast with margarine or some butter replacement with some low-fat yogurt and possibly some fruit. Then around 11am you are starving so you go to the deli near work and have a turkey sandwich on wheat bread with light mayo and light cheese and a bag of baked potato chips. At around 3pm you are starving again so you find a granola bar of some sort to snack on. When you get home you have dinner which consists of some sort of chicken or fish with wheat pasta or rice or some other “healthy” grain. But then by 8pm you are starving so you go to the freezer for some ice cream.
This was my day on most days almost exactly. I didn’t put cheese or mayo on my sandwich at lunch or have baked chips (I had to have the jalapeno kettle chips) and instead of ice cream at night I usually had a bowl of cereal or some fruit. But, man, did I put away granola bars and wheat bread.
When reading the book they talk about how most of what I ate actually made me more hungry in the long run and caused cravings and the desire to eat. Being that a lot of the food was processed it just passed right through me and did much more harm than good. It was an eye opener to say the least.
I was sold and started my first Whole 30 on Monday, October 15th (and I forgot about Halloween which will be tough with the kids candy lying around).
The book talks about overcarbsumption, which I certainly did, and the subsequent “carb-flu” which comes in the first week of the Whole 30 program. I did not have this. I truly was trying to cut bread out of my diet already, but wasn’t strict with it (as seen by my trips to Subway). And since my wife had just completed a Whole 30 challenge prior to me starting I had quite a few Whole 30 approved meals the month leading up to the challenge.
As expected my biggest struggle was missing the diet soda. The cravings were rough the first three to four days. There was one day I returned my parents truck to their house and road my bike back home. All my mind could think about was stopping at a 7-Eleven on the way home to grab a Diet Mountain Dew and this was day three of my challenge. And I ended up having to stop at the 7-Eleven because I had to take a work call and it took all of my willpower to not go inside and get a soda. Now here I am at day seven and the cravings are mostly gone. When I got to a place like Chipotle (which if eaten correctly is Whole 30 approved) I still want a Coke Zero, but I have gotten better at putting three of four slices of lemon in my water and being OK.
It is times like this that I wish I like iced tea (would have to be unsweetened, of course).
My wife almost immediately noticed that she slept much better (an expected result according to the book along with numerous other positive affects that one would never think was caused by food – can you say acne?). I haven’t noticed much other than, and I will try to say this as politely and clean as possible: my bathroom habits. I am much more regular than before and, well, I stink a lot. My assumption is that my intestinal track was so porous due to my poor eating habits that it is slowly repairing itself and a lot of waste that used to find its way outside of the intestinal track are now taking their proper course. The gas, my guess, is also the body repairing itself and getting rid of toxins and other items that have been stored for entirely too long.
The book says the damage is highly reversible and I figure I have beat up my body for 35 years and if this only takes a week or two to repair I will be amazed and totally sold.
The book states that you might be tired due to the body switching from using insulin and carbs for its primary source of energy to utilizing fat. Don’t expect to set records at the gym due to this change in energy source, but that hasn’t been the case for me. In fact I set a personal best in my deadlift on day four of the challenge by 30 pounds!
I haven’t felt much different during the first week but I think that might not be the norm. Again, I was sort of eating Whole 30 (or at least paleo) for a month prior so maybe that helped me get started in doing the challenge 100%.
I highly recommend everyone reads the book. And doing the challenge doesn’t mean you cannot socialize and eat out; you just need to be smart about it. At Chipotle they serve grass fed meat so I get a chicken salad bowl with veggies, lots of mild and hot sauce and a dollop of guac to finish it off. Here are some examples of what I have eaten this past week:
I love eggs, thankfully, because in this challenge they are a lifesaver. They are quick, easy and full of quality proteins and easily mixed with other foods. Prior to starting this challenge I would often (two, three or four times a week) sautee some veggies (think peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, jalapenos, etc) and then dump four eggs into the pan. Before Whole 30 when I was done I would sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and I can’t do that anymore but there is still plenty of flavor. Ignore my presentation skills…they…lack…
Salads are a must. This one is mixed greens with red, yellow and green peppers, jalapenos, tomatoes, mushrooms, cucumber and some grilled jerk/lime chicken.
The Whole 30 program wants you to use grass fed beef if possible but understands if you cannot due to cost. In my freezer I had two frozen beef hamburger patties and the ingredients weren’t listed and the packaging said “all beef”. After reading the book I know how much I should trust packaging. Anyway, I went with it. Two grilled hamburgers topped with sauteed vegetables and a side of breakfast sweet potatoes (chopped and drizzled with olive oil and Mediterranean seasoning).
Thankfully my wife is doing this and thankfully she likes to cook. Without her I would be lost, seriously lost. This concoction is a breakfast hash she made. It is sweet sausage with sweet potatoes and chives with a few eggs cracked on top. It was freaking amazing.
And if that last one wasn’t good enough she outdid herself with his recipe. These were pesto burgers (hamburger with pesto mixed in) topped with a mushroom cream sauce (using coconut milk) and bacon ends on top. As a guy who was on Weight Watchers for over 18 months; these Whole 30 recipes are so full of flavor I almost lose myself.
Get creative. Have fun with this! It should be and the results you will feel are amazing. There is a sense of accomplishment just breaking those cravings. When I realized I wasn’t craving soda I felt a tremendous amount of achievement in something so simple.