So we started Whole 30. What is whole 30? The basic synopsis is this: a 30 day reset of sorts to help with overall health by reducing systemic inflammation throughout the body. How? By eating whole foods. Nothing processed, no added sugars and avoiding food groups known for creating inflammation. Specifically grains of all kinds, dairy products, sugars and sugar substitutes, legumes and ‘bad’ fats. Once the 30 days is over, you begin introducing these foods back into your diet, one by one, to identify any allergies and trigger foods. For 30 days you eat a diet of various proteins, vegetables, fruits, some nuts and healthy fats like avocado and coconut…Sounds easy, right?! Well, there’s quite a bit more to it and if you read the book that brought it mainstream, It Starts with Food, then you’ll get what I’m talking about. It’s not a fad diet and not really meant to be a weight loss program at all, but because of healthier eating and reducing inflammation, your body naturally responds by shedding water weight, bloat and fat as it rids you of toxins and allows your gut to heal, thus leading to proper break down and absorption of food. It’s a lifestyle change.
I read the book is one day, it was that good. I love the book because it gets (in their words) “science-y” and explains how certain foods are processed by the body and how they contribute, or don’t, to overall health. You won’t find any set meal plans in the book, as it’s not a diet plan, but you’ll get suggestions on what to look for and basic meals that you can build upon.
I wanted to embark on this for weight loss, because let’s be real, homegirl has some weight to drop. About 50+ pounds of it, in fact. But I also wanted to address various other issues I have going on at the moment. I’m a firm believer that food can change your health and heal diseases, it’s just that in our world, over-processed foods are so readily available and so good…they’re just REALLY bad for you. Your brain becomes affected and you become addicted to food. I’m addicted to food. I love food and eating meals or going out to eat are social and fun, but what’s the fun of watching what you eat when everyone else is enjoying those mozzarella sticks and not getting fat?! Ok, that’s dramatic, but you get my drift. I’m also an emotional eater. Whether it’s sadness, anger, even happiness…I reach for food to comfort me. Add to that being a binge-eater and you have a recipe for disaster. I’m notorious for going on binges of eating out for like a week straight because “tomorrow is another day” or “I’ll start Monday.” But then tomorrow comes, and Monday comes, and with it another Wendy’s cheeseburger (OMG I love Wendy’s cheeseburgers) and the cycle just starts over again.
I also have body image issues and have since a very young age. I’m self-conscious about my body 100% of the time, always thinking people are judging me and the stomach rolls that sit on my lap when I sit. When, in reality, no one probably cares. I refuse to wear shorts and bathing suits and am in constant conflict with these thighs that I can’t seem to hide and it affects me mentally. More than I ever thought it did, because eventually to just get to used to degrading yourself in the mirror and it seems normal, like everyone does it. It’s gotten to the point where I go try on clothes, which is bad enough, but refuse to even look in the mirror at my half-dressed self and quickly cover it back up. This is not healthy, and it’s not just about food, but about my relationship with food. Which is another facet of Whole 30, to rebuild your relationship with food. Now I know this doesn’t happen overnight and my days of Wendy’s cheeseburgers are far from over…hey, we have to indulge SOMETIMES…but it’s a process and it’s something on my mind even more so now that I have a daughter. I want her to grow up loving herself, whatever size and shape she is and I want her to nurture her body by being healthy.
So aside from the weight issues, I have a lot of medical issues that go along with all of this. Which is basically the same idea, if you go along for long enough eating the wrong foods, then feeling bad becomes normal and you don’t change it. You just accept it. But I can’t accept it anymore…
You all know that both children I gave birth to have severe food allergies and asthma, so I won’t get into that here, but the point is that they’re not alone in this…
You see, I’ve also lived my life with food allergies, environmental allergies and asthma, as well as other auto-immune related issues. I was highly allergic to dairy and wheat as a baby and deemed as “failure to thrive,” meaning that I wasn’t growing and wasn’t getting enough nutrients. My mom switched my diet to goat’s milk and my allergist added heavy doses of vitamin c to help my immune system and I got better, but not completely. All throughout childhood I was in and out of the hospital, asthma attach after asthma attack, and having reactions to things out of nowhere, like a hot dog once at a local café, which we narrowed down to a preservative and/or food coloring. But I didn’t learn until much later in life just how much food affects your body.
Back in 2008, after a couple of seasons of migraine-like headaches, they became so severe I couldn’t move my eyes without excruciating pain. I would see flashes of light constantly and felt like I was living in a permanent state of rave-like circumstances. It got so bad, I had to see a doctor. After blood tests, heart tests, eye tests and an MRI, I was told I likely had Multiple Sclerosis. It was devastating news and it was hard to process. I began seeing a neurologist, who turned out to be a quack, and I began researching, and researching and researching…and I began a a routine everyday of checking my vision and touching my fingers to my nose several times a day with eyes closed, because that’s how you’d know if your coordination was starting to waiver…but eventually, I grew a back bone and quit the quack doctor after she told me I’d be crippled in a year if I didn’t start dangerous drug treatments TODAY. Seriously though, she wanted to prescribe Epilepsy medication to me for my TMJ disorder…and I set out on a path to find out what was wrong, because they really could never diagnose the MS officially, since I didn’t match the profile perfectly.
I saw eye doctors, allergists, ENT doctors and Osteopathic doctors and got second opinions and never stopped reading. The funny part was, the eye pain and headaches coincided with seasons, and I’d just moved to Michigan in ’06, which is bursting with every allergen my body can’t handle. I found a pattern and was able to identify what was going on. My immune system was on fire and there were no firemen to put it out because every cell inside of me was on high alert. As years passed, things calmed down, or, I got used to it, rather…but it sort of set off patterns in my life with health and because of my knowledge of food allergies with my kids, I’ve now come to realize I have more going on than just what’s outside my front door…
Allergies – Envrionmental allergies (grasses, trees, etc), Pet allergies (specifically dogs), Food allergies (peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pineapple…I’m still somewhat intolerant to dairy and I gather I’m intolerant to gluten)
Asthma – I’ve had asthma my entire life. It’s a chronic, lifelong disease. I’ll have periods where it doesn’t affect me, and then periods like the last 6 months, where I can’t get it under control. I was in and out of the hospital for it as a child, sometimes requiring steroid and adrenaline shots to get me working again. I’ve had asthma medication on hand for most of my life, but I loved it in middle school because it got me out of running the mile 😉
Skin – Eczema, keratosis pilaris (my arms are scarred and usually red and inflamed from this type of rash, which I’ve discovered is food-related), Dermographism, Solar Urticaria, Heat-induced Urticaria, Pressure-induced Urticaria and just overactive mast cells in general. Being allergic to sun, hot showers and tight socks is super fun, let me tell you!
General Immunity – let’s just say I’m never well…my immunity sucks and because it’s always on alert because of allergies, it opens the door to every virus out there. Since January I’ve been sick multiple times, and just spent the entire month of July sick with cold, conjunctivitis, Herpangina (Hand, foot and mouth but just in the mouth)…always accompanied my days long asthma attacks and allergies. I’ve been sick my whole life. As a kid, eventually my mom stopped taking me to the doctor because she could just call him, tell him my symptoms, and he’d call in a prescription. I also had too many antibiotics as a kid, which is a horrible for gut health!! Even my c-section scar/incision pain flares up again whenever I’m sick. It’s so awesome.
This is gonna get TMI for a second…
Digestive – Cramps, bloating, gas, stomach aches and severe abdominal pain, heartburn and constipation…oh the constipation…again, you get used to something and it becomes your normal. Constipation is not normal people! If you’re not pooping daily, your digestive system is screwed up. I’ve been constipated my entire life. So much so that I’ve developed anxiety about going anywhere other than my own house. If I go once a week, I’m lucky. And let’s not discuss what happens when trying to get that shit (no pun intended) out…because blood and pain…’nuff said…
Hormonal – hormonally I’m all wrong. I have regular cycles, for the most part, and definitely don’t struggle with infertility in the least bit. My husband could look at me and I’d end up pregnant, but my periods are hell. Beyond hell…the pain, OH THE PAIN! I’m not giving the gory details, they’d truly scare you, but I will say this…I wouldn’t be surprised if I was anemic…not too mention I have all the symptoms of hypothyroidism and it’s obvious my cortisol is out of whack as well with this mid-section I’m building here…oh, and my hair is falling out again, even though I’m past the postpartum hair loss I experienced last fall/winter.
And the scariest yet, because that MS diagnosis still taunts me and gets in my head and scares the ever-living shit out of me…
Neurological – Tingling and numbness in my extremities. This absolutely sucks. I first started noticing that my right hand, specifically pinky, was numb and stays numb. Which extends up my forearm to my elbow. Like I can’t even feel a hot stove if that pinky touches it. For awhile I thought maybe it was Carpal Tunnel, and it might be, but then I would recognize a pattern. I would get tingling, like pins and needles, starting there and radiating through my other arm and down to my feet and legs…actually, it was so bad around age 22/23, my legs would go completely numb after walking for more than 5 minutes and I’d collapse or sit until it stopped and I could walk. I started seeing my Chiropractor for that, which helped, but that was the worst I ever had it…until recent years. One time I mentioned to husband during a happy hour that I had the buzz tingles and he was like WTF are you talking about?! Because I guess other people don’t get that. Who knew?! But if I drank enough, they’d fade into the background. I’m good at ignoring things…in the last year, I’ve been able to figure out that the tingling happens typically related to meals or when drinking alcohol, specifically beer. Come to find out after many years, this can also be a symptom of food allergy or intolerance…did someone say wheat?! (I was tested for Celiac recently, which was negative, but I do believe I’m intolerant to gluten)
Everything listed above is auto-immune in nature. Meaning that my immune system is attacking me from the inside out. Even being overweight can be caused by a compromised immune system. I read and research and read some more almost constantly, in an effort to help my kids and my entire family. Even James has skin manifestations and most recently had a huge auto-immune event where the doctors think he had Vasculitis, but weren’t entirely sure. So we all need some immune help. We are an auto-immune nightmare…
A miraculous thing happens though…when I’m pregnant, most of this goes away. I’m an immunity rockstar while carrying a child or breastfeeding. So for the last 3 years, I was feeling pretty good and eating whatever I wanted! (Wendy’s cheeseburgers were a staple after every OB appointment with Arlo)…so enter January of this year and all hell broke loose! Hormones dropped and my immune system is basically in shock and trying to dig itself out of the depths of despair. It’s not working.
So I began researching diet once again. I tried South Beach Diet again, which is great for me, but it includes a lot of dairy, which affects me to a certain degree. I quit dairy for 8 months solid in order to breastfeed dairy-allergic Lark and I felt really healthy during that time. Then I tried Veganism, only for a week which is hardly anything, but it nearly killed me. It’s an extremely carb-heavy diet and I was in so much pain. I actually think I may have an issue with potatoes, but it’s hard to say. Nightshade intolerance is a thing (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, etc). Then I read about the Ultra Simple Diet by Dr. Mark Hyman, which is another awesome book! And eventually came across Whole 30, which really intrigued me!
SO here we are…one week in for my husband and I. My initial thoughts are that it’s really hard and really expensive. You have to eat meat or eggs for basically every meal and they want you to eat organic, grass-fed meats. I can’t afford that and our small town doesn’t have that many resources for that. So I buy the best I can that I can afford. It’s not too far off of what we already eat, because I make most meals at home to adapt to my kid’s food allergies. Meat, veggies and fruits are staples in our house. The problem is, we love to eat out! The other problem is, I’m lazy and don’t like cooking everyday, which this pretty much requires.
Both of us are feeling better and I didn’t have much withdrawal issues by quitting all of the offending foods. It helps that I quit my biggest source of sugar about 3-4 weeks prior (Coke/Soda). I had a headache on day one and chills all day. The headache I think was sugar/caffeine withdrawal, but the chills ended up being a legit fever from yet another virus. SO I’m not sure if I have just handled really well this time, or if the painful virus just masked it all, but I feel pretty good. No bloating, no stomach pain, I’m going to the bathroom more and have had virtually no gas. I can’t comment on the hormonal issues yet or the overall immunity, but even the numbness and tingling has subsided, except for after dinner last night, which I’m still trying to figure out. I’m also down 7 pounds! Ok, so one of the main rules of Whole 30 is to not weigh yourself for 30 days, because it’s not a weight loss program, it’s a lifestyle change and your trying to rebuild your relationship with food. But I am doing it to lose some weight, so I’ll be honest, I’ve been weighing myself…James is down about 7-8 pounds as well and he is having less stomach discomfort as well. I’m not feeling much more energetic yet, but I’m told that will come later, but I’ve also been sick so my body is just run down anyway. So it’s been interesting. I look to Pinterest a lot for ideas, but have yet to follow many specific recipes. I’ve never eaten so much Kale in my life and I’m loving all of the avocado and coconut oil! I urge anyone looking to make a change to read the book. There’s so much more in it that I could even write down here.
I don’t know what my future holds for food and I, but I know I need to learn moderation and have a healthier mental relationship with food, as well as eating healthier to keep my body in check. I hope I’m being transparent enough for people so they can be inspired to lead a healthier life, however that may be. Again, it’s not an overnight fix, it’s a process and I’m hoping I can keep the changes going. 30 days is a long time and not a long time too…We’re doing our best with what we have and so far it’s been really positive.
Here’s what we’ve eaten:
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with kale and tomatoes
Lunch: Leftover baked chicken with roasted carrots and hot sauce
Dinner: Grilled steaks with mushrooms, asparagus, balsamic glaze and grilled peaches
Breakfast: Fried eggs with salsa
Lunch: Leftover steak and veggies
Dinner: Ground chicken kale meatballs with tomato sauce and I can’t remember what veggies. Might have been broccoli? I’m so bad!
Breakfast: Eggs with veggies and salsa
Lunch: I actually just had a big snack of homemade guacamole and carrot sticks with Lark. Should have had protein, but didn’t
Dinner: We went to a restaurant, so it likely wasn’t 100% compliant. But again, we did the best we could. We both had “burger bowl” which was basically burger patty topped with veggies. We each had a few fries as well. It was at a restaurant that’s really good about food allergies and such, so it could have been worse. Disclaimer: if you have a slip up, you’re supposed to start the 30 days over, so this dinner would have likely spurred this outcome, but we can’t be sure so I’m calling it “doing the best we can” because we were out of town.
Breakfast: I had a banana/egg/cocoa mixture topped with sunflower butter and diced apples with cinnamon. It was SO good!
Lunch: I had avocado and carrots again. I think I’m just having a hard time with so much meat, since I’m not a big meat-eater and going without beans is really hard for me.
Dinner: Pork chops with sautéed kale, cabbage and diced apples (so good!)
Breakfast: Fried eggs plain because I was in a hurry…should have had veggies!
Lunch: Leftover pork and veggies
Dinner: Grilled chicken salad with ranch dressing that made using mayo I made from scratch! It was good!
Snack: Berries with coconut milk and topped with chopped pecans
Breakfast: I didn’t eat breakfast. I know, so bad!! I need to make a casserole so we have something quick for grab and go.
Morning snack/breakfast: Berries with coconut milk and topped with chopped pecans
Lunch: Leftover chicken salad
Dinner: Burgers with rutabaga fries and “fry sauce” made from my homemade mayo, and obviously no buns or cheese (this is the meal that I had a tingling episode after. I also went to bed with pretty bad abdominal cramps. Just a note that rutabaga is considered a nightshade)
Breakfast: I did it again. Was rushed and didn’t have time to cook eggs.
Morning snack/breakfast: Berries with coconut milk and topped with chopped pecans
Lunch: Leftover burger and rutabaga
Dinner: Pork Carnitas are cooking at home in the crock pot as we speak!
So that’s the basic run down of what we’ve been eating. It’s been nice because with most everything (aside from eggs) being safe for my kids, family meals have been less stressful. I know we’ve had some fruit in there, which is fine, but you’re not supposed to make it a habit. I know these last two days I’ve been hungrier than usual, but I’m chalking that up to not eating a proper breakfast. Lesson learned. I’m cooking with either olive oil or coconut oil, which are really healthy fats. The book suggests Ghee, which is clarified butter, but I don’t want to clarify my own and the jarred stuff is about $15 at my local grocery store so I’m doing away with that one for now…
On to week two. We can do this!!