Our lives literally revolve around food and there's no escaping it. Every party, family gathering, work event - food of all kinds stares you in the face and is extremely difficult to resist. So you eat to your heart's content...and then regret it. Sound familiar? Have you been there? Are you there now?
I grew up in New York City with easy access to arguably some of the best (and worst) food in the world. When I relocated to Charlotte, NC, I was pleasantly surprised at how much of a "foodie city" this place is too! We've eaten at some amazing places, and as a bonus there is so MUCH less traffic to hinder us from going and getting some seriously good grub, which I LOVE.
Relocating, however, didn't get rid of one pretty significant problem: While my eyes, nose and taste buds would agree that most prepared food tastes and smells great as well as looks amazing, the truth is the rest of my body could seriously care less (joykill!). Feeling full, bloated, exhausted, if not borderline disgusting and regretting ever going out to eat in the first place occurred more times than I care to recall. Perhaps the culprit was the irresistible fried dish on the menu, or maybe it was the delectable dessert, or maybe it was the creamy dairy selection? Who knew? This was becoming a typical reaction and the worst part was not being able to punch out on my time card and take a nap...because mom's don't get union breaks. Ha!
To make matters worse, I have what doctors like to call "hereditary high cholesterol" which basically means that no matter what I eat I'm doomed to see my cholesterol numbers continue to rise until I'm put on medication...yay!
When I first found out from my doctor that my total cholesterol numbers were higher than they should be, it scared me. I mean, I felt generally good - sure I was pretty tired quite often but aren't all moms tired; it's the nature of being a mom, right? It upset me that my blood work wasn't "normal."
At that time I was blessed to have a fairly new friend in my life who ate super healthy so I picked her brain and started out on my journey to eat healthier by making some changes in my kitchen. Before I'd ever heard of The Whole 30 Program - in an attempt to defeat those scary cholesterol numbers - I started swapping out name brand and GMO products to organic, non-GMO ones:
- Instead of Doritos® or Tostitos®, I bought healthier chips like Late July & Good Health.
- Instead of regular whole wheat, I bought organic whole wheat bread.
- I tossed the bottled salad dressing and started making my own.
- I used organic breadcrumbs to bread my chicken and switched to organic cooking oil.
- I bought organic meat, eggs & cheese.
I chose to buy organic kitchen staples because that was the easiest way to make changes. I still ate exactly the same food groups I'd always eaten, using the same recipes I'd always followed. I did this for about 6 months before having more blood work done and guess what?! My total cholesterol dropped 30 points! Crazy, right? Just by buying organic kitchen staples my body seemed to be healthier, and I lost weight too!
(Queue epic soundtrack music) Enter the Whole 30...
Before moving on, I won't lie to you, doing a Whole 30 is intense! It's extremely difficult on so many levels. At least that's how it was for me the first time around.
OK, so what is the "Whole 30" anyway?
Well, it's not a diet so let's nip that misconception in the bud. Whole 30 is actually a dietary reset for your body. By eliminating many of the foods that are known to cause a whole host of issues for 30 consecutive days, afterwards you'll be able to reintroduce them to your diet little by little with the hopes of pinpointing exactly which ones are the cause of your problems. In other words, if you experience things like frequent headaches, eczema, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, reflux, etc., there is a good chance that these symptoms are related to the food you are eating. Even if you don't have any major health issues, it's not difficult to imagine that all your motherhood duties leave you virtually exhausted before the day is over.
Show of hands if you're frequently out on a desperate Starbucks run at 4pm - go ahead, raise that hand, I won't judge.
To be clear, I'm not here on a pedestal shouting that everyone must complete a Whole 30! All I'd like to do is encourage you to try it just once. :-)
For me, Whole 30 gave my energy levels an extreme boost, making the 30 day reset completely worth it, and my family benefited from my renewed stamina...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
So, why did I want to take the Whole 30 plunge when I'd already experienced so much success switching to a cleaner way of eating?
Well, I guess it was sort of positive peer pressure! I was seeing quite a few friends around me attempting it and ending up looking/feeling amazing! They had so much energy!
They had so much energy it was quite frankly, annoying! You know those people that just never seem to look or feel tired even though they have kids? I mean, how in the world could they have so much energy as a mom of little ones?! I wanted to be that annoying too. ;-)
As a result of my move to healthier ingredients I looked better, my blood work was better too, but I was still tired. At the time, I was a mom of two kids, working my baby sign language business like crazy; running around from place to place; dropping the kids off at the baby sitter; no sleep; baby literally attached to my hip when I wasn't working; trying to keep up with maintaining the house; overseeing contractors that just wouldn't do their job in our backyard while my husband worked ridiculous hours at his office in the city... just the general everyday rat race reality of New York City life.
In the midst of all that "controlled" chaos, I decided to buy "It Starts With Food" since I was all about studying the research behind a program before deciding if it's beneficial enough to invest in. I wasn't able to come away from reading that book without a desire to try it out - it's that good! Besides, what was the worst thing that could happen? End up being an annoying, energetic person too? I definitely needed the energy for my own sanity and my family could certainly benefit too.
Well, it worked! After about 4 days of organic sugar withdrawal, I felt pretty good! It's really amazing finally learning how your body responds to food and I learned things that I'd never realized before, like that I really shouldn't be eating dairy - ever! That's one of the reasons I started making my own almond milk - which, by the way, tastes soooo much better than store bought almond milk, if I do say so myself.
Reintroducing foods after the Whole 30 is very important.
If you reintroduce everything all at once, it defeats the purpose of doing the Whole 30 in the first place - you can ask my husband how he knows this is true! ;-) Thankfully, an entire book has been written about the reintroduction phase and basic life after Whole 30 called "Food Freedom Forever".
Eliminating negativity is also extremely important!
Unfortunately, we as a society, tend to be so negative in our thinking! For example, I hear these definitive objections to Whole 30 a LOT:
"Oh, I can't complete a Whole 30, I love my dairy too much!"
"I can't go without my toast in the morning!"
"I don't want to give up my wine with dinner!"
"There is absolutely NO WAY I can live 30 days without ice cream!"
Entertaining these thoughts - or worse yet, inviting them to move into your guest room rent free - will set you up for failure, that is, if you ever even attempt to try!
I am well aware and sympathetic to the fact that there are a bazillion (yes, bazillion) factors going on in each person's life, and we're all extremely different. When you have a moment, do a brief study on the word "bio-individuality". You'll find that bio-individuality speaks to the fact that each one of us is biologically unique. And although it's important to recognize that Whole 30 is not a magical program that will solve all your problems, it is worth nothing that it has more often than not helped change the lives of many people, despite their bio-individuality.
OK, so instead of talking about what you can't eat on Whole 30, let's talk about what you can eat! Remember, let's be positive!
- All fruit - in moderation
If you're like me, you could easily eat an entire watermelon all by yourself...definitely not a good idea.
- All types of meat & seafood
Grass fed/pasture raised meat and wild caught seafood are best if you're concerned about your cholesterol levels like me, but they are not required according to the Whole 30 rules.
- Potatoes of all kinds
- Almond Milk that's homemade or any other nut milk without added ingredients
- Coconut Milk without added ingredients
- Unsweetened fruit juice in moderation
- All vegetables - except peas & corn
- Whole 30 Approved Healthy Oils (Avocado, Coconut & Olive Oil)
Unfortunately, going out to a restaurant can pose a obstacle to Whole 30 because most restaurants do not cook with healthy oils. In this case, safflower, sunflower, canola, grape seed, or sesame oils may be consumed, just not on a regular basis.
I recommend you purchase the Whole 30 book, "It Starts With Food" if you're interested in reading up on the science behind the program and to really get some good insight into the different myths out there about food; what's compliant or not (meaning what you can and can't eat); your portion sizes; get some emotional support; etc. During my first round of whole 30, I referred back to this book at least once a day!
In the "Whole 30 Cookbook" you'll find amazing meals at your fingertips. There's something about meal planning with an actual physical book that makes things feel a bit easier, if old fashioned. I mean, sometimes having my phone around me 24/7 makes me very distracted and unproductive - all those mobile alerts and notifications going off have me feeling like-SQUIRREL!!! ;-)
Over the past few years, I've completed three separate rounds of Whole 30 - two of them during my pregnancy with Riley, my 3rd little one. I've now transitioned into living a Paleo lifestyle. The Paleo diet is a great compromise if you do not want to fall back into your eating old habits.
Paleo is not as strict as Whole 30 in that you can have natural sugar, like raw honey for example, and you can recreate things that aren't Whole 30 compliant but use grain free flours instead like cassava, coconut, arrowroot & tapioca flour, for example.
I've found that since I started cooking and eating yummy Paleo recipes, I've lost a little bit more weight, have pretty consistent energy and less overall body fat. I'll be having some blood work done soon and am extremely interested to see what my cholesterol numbers look with this new way of eating!
I took the plunge and tried a Whole 30 and found out that it does turn you into an annoying energetic person! ;-)
In all seriousness, us moms, of all people, need as much energy as we can get! The demands of motherhood are quite exhausting and anything that we can do to get our energy levels up a bit to be more present with our little (or big) ones during the day is worth it.
To be honest, sometimes I still feel like I'm just surviving, going through the motions of the day, but that feeling usually only happens when I'm not eating the right foods.
Bottom line - You'll never know if a whole 30 will work for you unless you try! Your health and well-being are worth it and you've only been granted one life to live. C'mon, it's only 30 measly days! :-)
Have you tried the Whole 30? What were your experiences with it? Anyone else out there have insight into the hereditary cholesterol dilemma? Please share in the comments! I'd love to hear from you!
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