Well, friends, we made it to the end of Whole30. I am the type of person that pretty much will not quit something once I've committed to do it, which is why I really have to do my research before starting something. One of the things that most swayed me to dive into Whole30 with my family was the sheer amount of people willing to share their honest opinion and experience. The greatest resource to me besides the Whole30 book itself was the blog world. While I'm aware if you complete Whole30 following the strict guidelines to a "T" you'll see some immediate benefits, I also know if the lifestyle isn't maintained, the weight and cravings and food habits will return pretty quickly. My husband and I are passionate about giving our family the cleanest, most beneficial foods for our bodies as it is, but there are still some struggles woven in there from a carb lover (hi, nice to meet you) and a serious sweet lover (my husband sends his hello's.) We wanted to restructure cravings and also find a blank slate to work from when it comes to our 2 year old son's food aversions, unexplained rashes and tummy troubles. Whole30 looked like the perfect solution for all of us. I hope you find some inspiration and encouragement here to try this awesome commitment out for yourself.
I actually didn't feel that awesome for a large chunk of Whole30. My stomach is pretty sensitive and temperamental and eating things like Ezekiel bread or some gluten free crackers and essentially carbs really calms it. To not have access to any of the things that typically do the trick posed some challenges when I found myself nauseous and cramping. I do always notice the cleaner I eat, the more my body speaks to me about what it does and doesn't want to eat. I remembered the blood work I got done to show what my body doesn't process well a few years ago and both chicken and turkey topped the list. My body "tolerated them" after a while so I reintroduced them in full force, continuing on with random stomach pains and nausea a few times a week. When I was sick every day for the first weeks of Whole30, I stripped everything on my food aversion list out of my diet and after a few days I felt much better. I will admit, I was pretty tired for a good chunk of these 30 days and never experienced the "Tiger Blood" rush of energy the book explained, but I also am a mama to a six month old and a two year old so nothing short of magic was going to fill me to the brim with energy.
Physical Changes:My Diastasis Recti abdominal swelling and "mom pooch" that can't simply be exercised away is probably my biggest postpartum challenge. (read more about it here:) It's posed some new challenges both with confidence and exercise. While diligent physical therapy has helped me bring that gap from a three finger gap down to two, the bulge of those pesky organs between my abdomen is an unwelcome guest that is sticking around for now. Since I eat pretty clean and follow many of the Whole30 guidelines on a regular basis yet hadn't seen too big of a change in the separation area, I was pretty shocked to see the difference between my normal clean diet at 5.5 months postpartum and the Whole30 diet results 30 days later. Some of it is just the magic that happens 6 months postpartum for my body but most of it is this eating style. Trust me, if I planned on ever, EVER sharing these, I would have worn something much less offensive to the eyeballs- but in the spirit of serious vulnerability and full disclosure, here are my progress photos:
I cooked eggs and some form of meat every single day for my son and I and made a giant veggie and fruit smoothie for the three of us to share each day as well; mixing it, pouring out two portions and then adding Pea Protein and extra Spinach in for my husband. Some days I made hash browns, some days we had sweet potato, but typically it was eggs, turkey bacon (regular bacon or pork sausage for me) and a smoothie.
Since O is vegan, I stuck to tons of veggies for him as well as coconut cauliflower rice, hearty salads, potatoes cooked every way imaginable and zucchini pasta ("noodles") with a homemade tomato sauce full of peppers, onions and mushrooms. For Oshiolema and I, we rotated chicken, approved chicken sausages, zucchini pasta with a meaty sauce, fish and burger patties. We ate every vegetable under the sun, frequenting squash, zucchini, asparagus, brussel sprouts, carrots and beets at least three times a week each. O is 100% Nigerian and plantain pretty much runs in his veins so we went through boatloads of plantain as well. For Oshiolema and I, pulled pork made an appearance a couple times and pulled pork with plantain is a whole lot like paradise. Buying Cauliflower Rice already broken down and Zucchini noodles already spiraled really saved me time. Also, the enormous sheet pan veggie roast was a daily lifesaver.
There are tons of options for eating our depending on where you go. Just don't make the mistake of guessing that if a place claims to be healthy their food is gluten/dairy/grain free. We didn't eat out much during this time period, but things I would feel safe grabbing are burger patties with greens, roasted chicken, grilled fish and steak. I would always specify that I am dairy and gluten free and requested things to just be cooked in olive oil.
Coconut oil is subtle enough to cook anything with and flavorful enough to add some interest to sweet potatoes, veggies and such.
I kind of can't stand beets. They look, and taste, like dirt in my humble opinion. I know how healthy they are and plus my husband and son absolutely love them so I end up over the sink peeling beets in a fuschia mess a few times a week. Enter Love Beets. There are other "flavors" but the general idea is that the peeling, cooking and seasoning is done for you. Plus they're Non GMO Project certified and organic, which ticks off everything on the list. All the other flavors have sugar so they're not Whole30 approved but even I enjoyed the taste of these mild vinegar Beets. We ate them raw sliced up straight from the package and also baked on a big sheet pan roasted with carrots. Biggest time saver of Whole30 for sure!
Whole30 raves about the Epic brand on their website but I'm not an absolute die hard jerky person so I was a bit skeptical. Also, a picture of a turkey on the turkey jerky pretty much deterred me from ever eating it again, BUT- this sriracha cranberry jerky is incredible. So spicy and so addicting!
Non-Peanut Nut Butters:
While peanut butter is certainly the favorite in our house, peanuts aren't allowed on Whole30. I went nearly a year without nuts altogether and Oshiolema is nut intolerant. Sun butter is a life saver in these cases. Thankfully I've introduced nuts back into my diet and our favorite substitutions were the obvious almond butter and the not so obvious cashew butter (my personal favorite.)
I made a big smoothie every day and used coconut water as the base for its electrolytes and hydrating benefits. We got a huge box of them at Costco weekly.
I'm naming these my Whole30 MVP, no question. I am a bar lover in a big way. At any given time I have one in my purse, two in the diaper bag and some in the car. I cannot be without them. The problem is, even though I eat super clean bars normally, none of them are whole 30 approved. In fact, only two bars are Whole30 approved: Larabar and RX Bar. The approved Larabar flavors tasted like dates and sawdust and feet to me so I was desperate and tried this new-to-me brand instead. I am converted! I don't know if I should admit this, but I had one every single day. Only a couple flavors are approved but the black and white bars are my two favorites. Let me read you the ingredient list: dates, egg whites, cashews, almonds, cacao, cocoa, sea salt. The end. You're welcome.
O and I went through a whole lot of containers of Costco mixed nuts. They're a life saver since there are very few "snack" options outside of raw veggies and raw fruit. A girl needs some crunch every now and then.
I added this to cauliflower rice to make a sweet "rice," heated it up to pour over a baked apple with cinnamon and would add the liquid to smoothies for bulk and sweetness. It's definitely an essential.
General Takeaways:I lost 6lbs with the assistance of exercise and toddler chasing/baby breastfeeding, leaving me 1lb away from my pre-babies weight. While I felt pretty tired and somewhat nauseous for a good chunk of the 30 day experience, the final week was worth the entire process. Yes there were cravings, mostly for french fries and a good bagel, but as I stated before, I regularly give up these foods which I'm certain lessened the blow. The greatest difficulties for me were the challenges of cooking every single meal each day rather than making my son a sandwich or just boiling some oatmeal on the stove in a pinch. The 4-5pm hour was pretty challenging each day with a hungry toddler with lots of questions and energy and willingness to help and a fussy baby that just wants to be held...plus veggies that needed peeling and sauce that needed simmering and so on. It taught me discipline and really showed O and I the desires we have for our family as it relates to eating. Prior to Whole30, we had woven in a big weekly dessert and a huge weekly pancake breakfast that really and truly just aren't necessary. We've figured out new ways to incorporate sweets into our lives each month rather than each week since Oshiolema has always been more than satisfied with a bowl of kiwi and sliced banana and coconut for dessert. I've found when we indulge in sweets it's more so for the acceptance and group experience than true personal need, so we're looking forward to eliminating the excess.
I ended yesterday and while all along I was sure I'd be desperate for fries or toast or something, the only thing I indulged in were toasted coconut flakes and a decaf almond milk latte since it'd been four months since I last had a sip of coffee. To be honest, I totally felt (and see) a difference in my body and look forward to eating a mainly Whole30 diet for a very long, long time.