Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Whole30 -- recap and update

I've been meaning to write this post for a long time. I knew it would be a long one so I put it off. For like, 3 months. Oops.

We decided to do the Whole30 for a couple of reasons. The most important one, for me, was that Josiah was having lots of tummy problems. Constipation, gas-- both of which kept him up at night. Other than that, it was wanting to take some weight off. I had the excess baby weight still, and Jeremy was wanting to shed some pounds as well. I normally wouldn't try any new diet (or attempt to lose weight) while breastfeeding, especially with a young baby (J was around 4 months), but I was eager to see if what I was eating was causing his upset stomach. I was nervous though, and for good reason, as I will go into in a little bit.

I'm a planner, so I planned out breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week. Yes, Elias did  change his diet with us in good measure. He still ate dairy (he drinks his weight in raw milk daily), but I wanted to see if getting him off refined sugars and gluten (or grain) would help his moodiness and sleep problems (neither of these were huge problems with him, but there were some issues). I tried to stay away from the paleo replacements for what we usually would have had, but I did make some concessions for E. He ate almond flour or coconut flour muffins for breakfast, along with eggs and bacon, if we were having it. Jeremy and I mostly abstained from those things.

It was hard at first-- Jeremy struggled with giving up soda, and I was missing sweets to bolster my flagging late afternoon energy. It felt to me like I was walking in deep sand; I had no energy. And that's when my breastmilk supplies dropped to about half what they used to be. Looking back, I think I didn't have enough carbs included for a nursing mom, I should have been eating a lot more winter squash, since it's so prevalent right now. I didn't do anything wrong, but as my body was making the move to using protein stores for energy instead of carbs, I went into a little bit of shock physically. It took about 3-4 days for my milk to come back. Lots of nursing, lots of fenugreek, lots of praying in those few days, and I am still so thankful that it came back like it did. I haven't had any problems since. However, I did add a few things back into my diet to stop my body's rapid weight loss. I drank a little raw milk (which I didn't really enjoy anymore-- crazy), and I continued to eat soba noodles a couple of times a week with E. (He and I actually just stopped eating those; I noticed that both of us would have an upset stomach after lunch, after being grain-free in every other part of our lives.)

And Elias? He acted like a drug addict in a recovery center. I was pretty shocked: I thought he ate pretty healthily. And he does, compared to how a lot of other kids eat. But still, he cried for cookies, threw fits one after the other, and seemed almost ill for several days. It was embarassing that I let him get that way. It's my job to create a healthy environment for him, and I failed in that. I thought that because I made everything from scratch that his body was healthy, but sugar is sugar.

It got a lot better after the first two weeks. Our bodies stabilized, and some of the cravings stopped. We did eat some of that banana "ice cream" that the low carbers love, and we still do, actually. We both dropped almost 15 pounds. My skin cleared up (it wasn't bad to begin with, but all those little bumps that only we can see disappeared). A skin condition on my scalp that I've had my entire life just vanished. I couldn't believe it. That was worth the entire experience right there. Josiah's gas also was completely gone.

The fall-out:  it went so well that we decided to eat "paleo" at home, exclusively, from now on (Whole30 all the time just felt too boring). And when we stray from that outside the house, well, we have to deal with the (gastrointestinal) consequences. That's good-- it means our body has healed to the point that it can "protest" when given something less than nourishing. But it's hard too, and definitely is something to consider when approaching doing the Whole30 yourself. This is a permanent change, hopefully, not just a quick weight fix.

Ultimately, as hard as it is to have to stick to this diet longer than I had originally wanted to, it really is good for me. And isn't that the point? We all want to be "healthier", whatever that is, but we don't want the work involved. Well, too bad. This is what it takes: a complete overhaul of the way we approach food. And if I really want to feel better, look better, live better, I have to say no to the "puppy chow" that's so prevalent around here at Christmas parties. No to the fluorescent colored cupcakes at get-togethers. No to frozen yogurt on date night. No to soda, you guys. It's not worth it, although it's hard to believe that in the middle of a sugar craving.

My favorite thing that the Whole30 has done for me? It's given me a true plumb line on what is the best food for my body. No more wondering what is best. No more whole grains and heart healthy oils and, and, and, that the nutritionists push as healthy. It's meat, vegetables, some fruit, and a few oils tested by time and tradition, not manufactured in a plant. So, I don't have an excuse any more. I know what is good for me, and if I don't stick to it, I know what is coming my way: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, mood swings, bad skin, achy joints, you know the rest.

The verdict? Yes, I would encourage you to do the Whole30 program. But you have to be prepared to do it the right way, and it's going to be hard. Get the book It Starts With Food so that you're armed with information when others ask you about your diet, or if you're tempted to by some Doritos at a backyard party.

So where are Jeremy and I now with our diet? At home we eat mostly paleo: vegetables, meat, and fruits, hopefully in that order. We do eat some vegetables that are typically off-limits, like white potatoes and peas. Every once in a while I make a chicken or turkey pot pie, with a white flour, all butter crust.  I put raw cream in my coffee in the mornings. He and I had a date night the other night and went to Chili's for burgers. I ate the bun but ordered it without cheese. I'm willing to feel kind of bloated for the night because of the bun, but not willing to deal with the backlash from soft cheese. Thanks to the diet, I now know how foods affect me.

I make a meal plan every week, so I have the plans from the approximately five weeks of the Whole30. Let me know if you'd like to see them. Below, I'm going to post the websites and links that helped me with recipes and information about the Whole30, along with my Pinterest page. You can also make your favorite recipes but with approved ingredients. For example, I made a butternut squash and apple soup but replaced the dairy with coconut milk and nixed the maple syrup, and I paired it with hamburgers wrapped in lettuce leaves. 30 days is a long time; you'll have to get creative! I started using coconut flour and almond flour, like I said, and they're both really good. More expensive than wheat flour, but you'll use much less of it, especially in the case of coconut flour.

Websites and articles:

My paleo Pinterest board (remember, paleo does not mean Whole30, so some of these will need to be adapted or omitted for your 30 days.)

Roost (so much eye candy here...)

Multiply Delicious (this is where I got many of our Whole30 recipes when we were just starting out)

The Clothes Make the Girl (make her paleo pad thai w/ sunshine sauce. Do it!)

Nom Nom Paleo (she did a Whole30 series for January, not even a month ago, which could be really helpful)

Elena's Pantry (many of her things are baked goods, made with alternative flours, but she has one or two that use bananas or dates as the sweetener, up to you to decide whether or not something you want to do on your Whole30 or afterwards)

The official Whole30's take on grocery shopping on a budget (very helpful!)

And, of course, the book: It Starts With Food


sweet potato pancakes (the only one I've found that uses all whole ingredients)

banana pancakes (we made these a lot; there are many paleo recipes for banana pancakes)

savory coconut flour pancakes (great for when you could've used a tortilla; up to you to decide whether or not to use coconut flour on your Whole30. We did, sparingly.)

"anytime" cookies (these are a treat... I kept them in the freezer, mostly for Elias)

banana "ice cream" (we waited till we were closer to being done with our Whole30 before partaking, but this is a recipe we still make weekly)

sweet potato hash (you may have to sub some ingredients in this particular recipe)

orange sweet and sour chicken (with a veggie stir fry on the side. This recipe is really good)

apple cider braised brisket (apple cider is hard to find here now, but we loved this recipe)

We ate lots of sweet potato: hashed, "fries", baked chips. A sweet potato will be your best friend. As will frozen bananas (see above). And coconut milk (great with some frozen banana and berries alongside your, I imagine, meat and egg breakfast.) When in doubt: replace whatever you used to eat with vegetables. Fill your plate up with them.

I'm sure there are recipes and websites that I'm forgetting to put here, but if I do think of some, I'll update.

Hope this helps you guys!


  1. Hey--I didn't know you had a blog! I'm going to check it out! Great job on sticking to it--I'm so excited for your progress despite the cost going into it. And I love your tough love attitude. I always think, "Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels" and sure that's even more applicable when your kiddo is going through the same thing!

    1. Thanks, Beth! This blog is more a smattering of writings about our daily lives as a family...certainly not as polished or as well-written as yours!

      I've always loved that saying, but it's hard to understand what healthy feels like when we've all be so sedated by crummy foods. That's something I loved about this project: it showed us what healthy really does look and feel like.

  2. Interesting point about the scalp condition! When I stopped eating gluten the eczema I'd battled my whole life went away. In over 2 years it hasn't come back at all. I did some research and there's a very strong tie between the two, which possibly may include whatever you were dealing with as well. All in all, I was just really surprised that gluten had an impact on skin as well as the gut!
    Josh and I are going to do some sort of major detox a few months before the wedding (which is now, I guess... wow) so maybe we'll try the Whole30!

    1. That's interesting, Lace. I had been assuming it was the cane sugar, since I had a flare-up around Christmas when I was overdosing on chocolate, but so often gluten and sugar go together that it's hard to make a clear diagnosis. What always catches my imagination is to think about if that's what it's doing to my outsides, what on earth is it doing to my insides??

      I think you guys would do well on the Whole30, especially since you've already given up gluten. You're halfway there already :)

  3. Hi! I was wondering if you noticed any behavioral changes in Elias as a result of the Whole30? I am on day 27 and plan to start to rest of my family in a few when my 1st grader is out on Spring break.

    I'm hoping it will make a difference for him in particular.

    1. It's hard to tell-- it didn't seem like it at first. He's so much better now, behaviorally, than just a few months ago, but kids change so much around this age that I hesitate to chalk it up completely to the diet. But! I will say that I see a difference when he doesn't eat well, now after being on the diet for a good length of time. He'll get tired more quickly, and just doesn't seem to feel very well. I imagine my eyes are more fine-tuned to this after doing the Whole30 as well.

      Be prepared though-- the first week with the kids will, I imagine, be a difficult one. E exhibited withdrawal symptoms in a way (as I said above) that made feel ashamed about the amount of sugar he had been having. After a few days, though, it got much better.

      Good luck!