Sarah and I finished our sort-of-annual Whole30 this week. It’s a nice thing to do once a year or so when you feel like it’s time to clean up your act a little. And it’s a good way to be thoughtful about your eating and drinking, even if those aren’t problem areas for you. We’ve done it a bunch of times over the years and some are harder than others. This was one of the more challenging ones.
For those who aren’t familiar, the Whole30 is an elimination diet/habit-breaking challenge. For 30 days you don’t eat added sugar of any sort, grains, legumes, dairy, carrageenan, or alcohol. Additionally, you don’t recreate baked goods or treats with approved ingredients. So, no Whole30 cupcakes, no Whole30 pancakes, no Whole30 whiskey sours. You get the idea. Finally—and this isn’t a huge deal for me—you aren’t allowed to weigh yourself during the month.
Not so bad, right? With a little practice, it’s not. The real issue comes with the sheer amount of label-reading you are required to do. You’d be surprised how many items in your grocery store have banned ingredients in them. No added sugars isn’t just no white sugar; it’s also dextrose or maltose or sucrose or many others. No grains isn’t just no bread; it’s also no canola oil or corn starch or rice. No legumes isn’t just no beans; it’s also no soy sauce or peanut oil or tofu.
Go ahead. Read the ingredients in your pantry items. You’ll see all of these things in there. It’s a lot.
The first time you do this, it’s a real challenge and requires quite a lot of learning. But, as mentioned above, this isn’t our first time. It might be our sixth or seventh? We’ve got the label-reading thing pretty dialed in.
All that aside, I’ve got some thoughts and reflections about my experience on this most recent Whole30.
- I lost 14 pounds this time, from 227 to 213. Losing weight isn’t the point, but it was worth noting.
- I finally figured out how to make sweet potatoes that I actually like. The secret ingredient is salt. Here’s how you do it: peel and halve you sweepots. Slice into 1/4″ thick semi-circles. Toss with olive oil, more salt than you think, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. Spread on a half sheet pan. Throw into a preheated 450°F oven and let cook for like 35 minutes, stirring a couple times. That’s it. Fantastic.
- Sliced napa cabbage is a great bulking item for lunch leftover stir fries. Finish it with a splash of rice vinegar.
- I didn’t miss dairy at all. I like to have it as a snack, but I realize that I actually just like fancy cheese as a treat.
- I also didn’t miss alcohol that much. I missed having something to sit down with and wind down, but not the beer or wine itself. It would be nice to find an adequate replacement. Tea won’t do it.
- In past Whole30s, I would get through the first 7 to 10 days and suddenly feel great with all the added sugar and booze out of my system. This time not so much. The primary difference this time is that I have three small children and don’t get nearly the same quality or amount of rest I used to. Do with that observation what you will.
- Radishes really scratch a lot of snacking itches. Dress with flake salt.
- Thank god you can still drink coffee.
That’s it. I recommend the program if you’re at all interested in tinkering with your nutrition and habits. It’s pretty eye-opening and, once you’ve figured it out, it becomes a nice reset button.