Whole30 purists, avert your eyes. This might be painful for you to read.
If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you may recall that we did a Whole30 in April 2013. Er, rather, we did two thirds of one…
We didn’t exactly finish. I quit on day 19 or 20, dissatisfied and frustrated. I never did write the post that explained why we quit early, so let’s chat about that. Then, I’ll tell you why on earth we’ve decided to make another go at a Whole30 now, and which big rule I have zero intention whatsoever of following.
The Whole30 is a 30-day eating plan whereby you cut out some significant parts of a typical diet in order to cleanse your body of the yucky stuff that drags you down.
At the end, you are encouraged to gradually add things back in and be mindful of how they make you feel when you eat them.
The main things you cut out are dairy (except ghee), all grains and legumes, sugar (all sweeteners, including honey and maple syrup), and processed foods (they specifically single out MSG, carageenan, and sulfites).
So what do you eat? Lots of meat and heaps of vegetables, some fruit. A few nuts and seeds are ok. Lots of healthy fats. It’s basically a hardcore Paleo diet for 30 days. Many people wind up adopting the Paleo lifestyle on a permanent basis, to various degrees (We won’t be. See: 3 Reasons We Don’t Eat Paleo).
I don’t necessarily agree with the Paleo claims that all grains and legumes are evil, so I have zero intention of becoming a permanent member of Team Paleo. I have great respect for the work of the Dr. Weston A. Price Foundation, which was my point of entry into the natural living and traditional eating world.
The WAPF recommendations include properly prepared grains as part of a healthy diet, and I hope to start using homemade sourdough and/or ancient grains (my friend Diana highly recommends einkorn wheat) once we finish up the Whole30 next month.
So, why did I quit the Whole30 early last time? 3 main reasons:
1. I believe that people can really vary in their ideal balance of macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, and proteins). I felt woozy, dizzy, and fatigued every single day on my previous Whole30 until it occurred to me that I might need more carbs. So I fried up a sweet potato in coconut oil one morning with my eggs, and the fog lifted within 15 minutes of eating. I felt like a new person!
It was clear that I hadn’t been consuming enough carbohydrates for my body to function optimally, and yet many Whole30 and Paleo-folk seem to thrive on the low amounts of carbs they get just from certain vegetables (squash, zucchini, etc). I continued to struggle with this the remainder of our time on the program.
2. Another problem was that I was breastfeeding Canaan (who was 10 months old at the time) and he was showing clear signs of a decrease in my milk supply. Waking a ton at night, fussy, always acting hungry, being frustrated while nursing and not getting enough, and so forth. This was the most serious issue, obviously, and it’s what tipped me over the edge to quitting.
3. The last main issue I had with the diet was the stringent devotion that it requires. I know that some people see food in a purely utilitarian manner, and will strive to choose the foods that best nourish and strengthen their bodies, even to fairly extreme measures. It is true that striving for a healthy diet and learning self-discipline in this area is a good thing, but my personal philosophy significantly includes a passionate appreciation for the pleasures of food. This means that both nourishment and enjoyment play a role in my food choices.
Perhaps the most significant part of my personal food philosophy, however, is that I believe that food and community are so inextricably married that they cannot possibly be unbound. In my personal view, it would be wrong to completely divorce food from the fellowship with my fellow human, with those around me, sitting at the table partaking together.
If my stringent food choices (allergies notwithstanding, of course) prevent me from participating in the community that God provided around me, then they have gone too far, and no longer serve my whole self and my personal values.
Why I am doing another Whole30:
Now that I’ve told you at length why I quit the Whole30, you might wonder why in the heck I’m choosing to do it all over again. Allow me to explain, my darling.
In the last 6-7 months, our lives have been turned upside down with a personal safety crisis that began in March. Many of our ideals had to be put on hold as we left our home, put our stuff in storage, lived in a temporary situation, and finally moved into our first (purchased) home at the end of July. (Check out: 19 Crunchy Compromises I’m Willing to Make During Survival Mode).
Because of this, we have eaten a lot of junk. Fast food, store-bought frozen pizza, pre-packaged junk, and whatever else we could manage to get onto the table to fill our bellies while dealing with the stress we were under.
I have gained 15 pounds in the last 6 months (which is a full 1 or 2 jean sizes for me… which means that none of my jeans fit anymore – ugh) and hubs has gained as well. We are all sluggish and feeling quite “blah”, and dealing with unexplained aches and pains, and less-than-stellar digestive systems, mood swings, and energy levels. We knew that we had begun to eat too much gluten after giving up on gluten-free after four years (we had intended to stick with sourdough, but with the chaos of moving, we slipped into bad habits there, too).
We desperately needed a reset button. And, we needed it to be externally motivating (a program with specific rules for a specific length of time) or else we’d just fall back to bad habits when the going got tough. Like tonight, when the hubs works late again, I’m tired, and couldn’t figure out what to make for dinner (and the typical easy options are unavailable).
Thank goodness for leftover salmon patties (tweaked for Whole30) and potato wedges baked with avocado oil and real salt seasoning (that’s an affiliate link, but I only link to stuff I truly love) with some steamed frozen veg. Hopefully ready as soon as I hit publish on this post!
As far as the reasons I quit early last time, point #1 above is still a factor, and I am much, much more mindful of the fact that my body seems to need more carbs than some others. Also: the Whole30 folks announced new program rules this past summer… they are now allowing white potatoes! Woohooooo! I love potatoes, and sweet potatoes are not my thing… so this makes things so much easier for me (and the rest of my fam, who actually hate sweet potatoes more than I do…)
Point #2 is no longer a factor, as I no longer have a little one dependent on me for nourishment.
Point #3 is still a factor for sure, which is why I planned my Whole30 in between major social events. I did just realize that our Canadian Thanksgiving falls on the second-last day of our Whole30 (oops) but I think that we can manage to do a Paleo-style thanksgiving dinner and be just fine, which leads me to…
The one Whole30 rule I threw out the window:
It’s called SWYPO. It has nothing at all to do with the actual food ingredients themselves. In fact, it has to do with sex. Yup, Whole30’ers have a rule against what they call “Sex with your pants on” or “SWYPO”.
Essentially, they don’t want you to “paleo-ify” your old unhealthy habitual foods, like cakes, muffins, breads, pancakes, biscuits, pizza crust, etc. There are lots of Paleo recipes out there that use things like almond flour, bananas and dates as sweeteners, etc. However, even if using all Whole30-compliant ingredients, these things are NOT allowed on the Whole30.
Their assertion is that having a Paleo muffin won’t be as enjoyable as the beautiful, fluffy, sweet version that you can make with wheat flour and sugar, or buy from a bakery. Having it will be like sex with your pants on: not quite satisfying, leaving you craving the real thing, and never breaking the habit. Whole30 is largely about redefining your relationship with food, breaking unhealthy habits and addictions, and creating a new framework for your future. You can read the article on their website for a better explanation.
Now, I get the concept. I really do … but I’m not on board. I have a pretty strong and constant desire for healthier versions of foods we used to enjoy before turning to real food six years ago. In fact, I actually enjoy my healthier creations way more than the crappy store-bought varieties. I do not have an addiction to the unhealthy stuff (okay, so maybe I enjoy sugary stuff once in a while… but honestly I crave the decadent treats made with healthy ingredients so much more!)
I find myself craving healthy cooking and baking, and if I were in a room alone with a take-out pizza and a homemade pizza with healthy ingredients (and remember – I have zero intention of giving up grains altogether) I’d choose the healthier homemade version in an instant. With absolutely no hesitation. And no regrets or cravings.
The only reason I cave to the bad stuff is due to lack of time or energy to make my own. Stressful life situations make it so difficult, as many of you know. And when I choose to indulge in the occasional unhealthy treat, then there are other factors at play as I mentioned above, like eating for pleasure, or eating in community.
So, our goal in this Whole30 is to reset our bodies, get out of our rut from the last number of months, and to try out some new recipes for healthier versions of foods that we can fall in love with. We have no intention of giving up cakes, muffins, desserts, tortillas, or pancakes (healthy versions, of course). We have no intention of adopting a Paleo lifestyle. I have no concerns about a slippery slope from homemade brownies made with almond flour and rapadura to Duncan Hines boxed brownie mix. For me, the homemade version really is the better version. It’s not sex with my pants on. It’s the sexiest sex. (Good grief, this analogy can get embarrassing fast…) And we need to get re-acquainted with this kind of lovin’, we need to get our sexy healthy groove back.
So, here’s to 27 more days of a Whole30, and cheers to all the yummy indulgence food you can think of, made out of real food ingredients! And for goodness’ sake: Long live healthy homemade brownies!
[Disclaimer: I’m not trying to bash the Whole30 creators or SWYPO. I think it’s a really important concept, and probably vital for most people. We’re choosing to forgo it this time. Maybe we’ll regret it. I doubt it. We’ll see.]
[PS. Sorry this was super long. I have lots to say, with probably more to come!]
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