On Monday January 5, 2015 I started Whole30. When I explained what it was to my family and close friends, I could tell by the looks on their faces they were all thinking “As if Emily wasn’t crazy enough.” You may have heard about this Paleo-esque diet (for lack of a better term, I dislike the “d” word). It is really Paleo on steroids, as is not only eliminates gluten, but there are no grains, period. In addition it excludes sugar, soy, dairy, legumes, and alcohol. In the spirit of Whole 30, you are also supposed to limit snacking and there is no re-creation of things like muffins or pancakes with Whole30 approved ingredients. Holy wow! This is definitely going to be a challenge.
So why am I doing this, especially when I am overall a healthy triathlete who eats a nutritious and wholesome diet? I also am not one to subscribe to full-on elimination diets, I believe that true allergies aside, real people eat gluten and sugar; everything in moderation. Well first of all, I see it as a personal challenge. I am apt to snack on things like waffles smeared with Nutella and I eat a lot of chocolate in all of its delectable forms, sometimes at breakfast, lunch, and dessert. I want to see if I could break this habit of reaching for chocolaty goodness and replace it with more nutritious options when I am in the mood for a snack. I also feel like I was sick or fighting off a cold for the better part of the month of December, and I do not feel like it was a coincidence that I fell ill before the new year after all of the cookies, chocolate and wine I consumed while being home for the holidays. This happens most every year, you think I would learn to not go too far off the deep end every year.
Finally, besides craving a challenge, this is an experiment. I am curious to see if it makes a difference in how I feel and there is a possibility that I may uncover some underlying sensitivity to something that I did not know I had; this may change the way I eat indefinitely, but surely for the better.
I have gotten many questions about Whole30, and one of the most frequently asked questions is how the lower carb diet will affect my training. My response has two parts. First of all, between recovering from a tough inpatient sub-internship, the ongoing issue with my knee, and illness, I have not been doing much training since Kona and am certainly not going to jump right back into 20 hours a week. Secondly, Whole30 is not devoid of carbs. Fruits and vegetables are sources of carbohydrates, just not the ones that come to mind when you think of the word “carb” and I can eat all the fruits and veggies I want, as well as potatoes and pumpkin. There are also Whole 30 compliant Larabars like Cashew Cookie and Pecan Pie.
It has been a week since I started, and so far so good. It is hard to tell if how I am eating is what is contributing to how I am feeling since I also finally got over a nasty cold and started working out more regularly. I like to think that it is making a difference. I have gone out to eat twice, which required planning ahead to see what on the menu was compliant and how I could make other items fall within the boundaries. I was able to eat a delicious Cobb salad with bacon, chicken, hard boiled eggs, avocado, and tomato dressed with red wine vinaigrette, but held the blue cheese. I did have to snack before going out to a sushi restaurant since all I could eat was sashimi.
Not going to lie, I do feel hungry more than I thought I would, most often later in the morning and before bed. I have also found myself eating more Larabars and handfuls of nuts than would be considered “limited.” Full disclosure, I do really miss Nutella. However, I am really trying to focus on what I can eat and a great deal of foods that I can have are some of my favorites, such as sweet potatoes, guacamole, and bacon. Yes, bacon.
This past week I have eaten a lot of eggs and chicken, all sorts of veggies, and I have expanded my repertoire of nuts beyond almond and walnuts. I have yet to get super creative with my menu, and the only thing that I have made that is new and different, is lettuce wraps with ground turkey seasoned with garlic, ginger and cayenne, cashews, green onions, celery, and coconut. They were delicious. I also mixed it up with eggs and baked them in muffin tins just like Allen Lim would make.
Let me know if you have any questions about my Whole30 experience. I’ll keep you posted on how it is going and maybe post some pictures of my meals, although I am far from a chef and do not live by the rule that the presentation makes the dish. I will at least share some of my favorite Whole30 recipes.
Follow me on Twitter (@EmSher1), since I post most of my #whole30 experiences there!