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Dear (Food) Diary: the good and the ugly during my first Whole 30 experience

Dear (Food) Diary: the good and the ugly during my first Whole 30 experience

The Whole 30 Experience: advice for a skeptical first-timer.

“Let’s do Whole 30!” said S.

“I’ve done a lot of research and I think Whole 30 would be really great!” said A.

“Do it with me, it’s amazing!” reinforces S. 

 “Sounds like death to me. I’d rather cut off a limb.” I told this to anyone who mentioned it.  I love food!  I love eating it, I love writing about it, I love sharing it with my friends and family. Why would I want to cut any part of that experience out of my life? 

So how did I get here? I still have no idea, but I think it’s safe to say, peer pressure had a lot to do with it.

  

Day 1:

Things are going well, but since I work overnight shifts, not much of my day has changed. I really just eat snacks during work, so instead of chips I had carrots and an apple with sunflower butter. I did make a great salad though, with a simple oil & vinegar dressing. I forgot how much I like salad! 

Day 2:

I thought everything was going well; I made that large salad and have already failed! Turns out sugar is sneaky and it’s in everything… including the pancetta I sprinkled all over it! Vowing to be more vigilant, I transformed a favorite Instapot dinner: Dijon Pork Chops. Another fail! Most Dijon mustards have wine in them. Who knew?! I’m annoyed and feel like I was cheated.

Day 3:

We leased a new car today. I picked a terrible time to stop drinking wine. I feel cranky and short-tempered.  Well... more than usual.

Rewarding myself with grilled steak & shrimp with veggies. Maybe we will relax and enjoy it after the kids go to bed.  

Day 4:

 Spinach Salad with Flank Steak, Peaches and Walnuts

Spinach Salad with Flank Steak, Peaches and Walnuts

Another day, another salad. But it was fantastic! For lunch: leftover grilled flank steak, thinly sliced over baby greens with peaches, walnuts and red onion. I “dressed” it with grape tomatoes marinated in balsamic and olive oil. This was so flavorful and filling... I could eat it everyday.  

Dinner was yet another salad, but heavy on the meat. Taco salad of seasoned ground beef (cumin, chili pepper & cayenne), pickled jalapeño slices, salsa, shredded iceberg lettuce, grape tomatoes and sliced avocado. I miss the corn and beans a little, but not the cheese, surprisingly! As a “treat” we had a few plantain chips on the side.  (My, how the bar has fallen!)

 

Day 5: 

Weekend breakfast is the bomb! We would feel amazing if days were always started like this: skillet roasted potatoes, eggs and avocado. Sometimes sprinkled with Everything Bagel Seasoning. Cashew milk in my coffee isn’t great, but it’s honestly better than I’d expected.  At least it’s creamier than the almond milk that I’ve tried in the past. 

 Whole 30 Grilled Chicken over Baby Greens

Whole 30 Grilled Chicken over Baby Greens

Dinner was a win as well! ALL the family members inhaled it! Chicken breasts seasoned with 21 Season Salute, served over baby spinach (drizzled with olive oil & lemon juice, salt & pepper), oven roasted asparagus and thick slices of California navel oranges. I must remember this simple but surprising meal!

Day 6:  

 Skillet Ribeyes with Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potato Wedges

Skillet Ribeyes with Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potato Wedges

More steak!  It was amazing, but mostly because we rarely have steak more than once a month, let alone twice in one week! Dinner was cast iron ribeyes in ghee, sautéed baby Bella mushrooms, oven roasted sweet potato wedges and Brussels sprouts. I had half a red grapefruit... maybe to cleanse my palate, but maybe because I actually wanted ice cream. 

Day 7:

I miss pancakes. And I don’t even eat them very often.  

Day 8: 

We needed a quick dinner tonight. How hard can it be to transform chili (when you aren’t eating sugar or beans)? Not hard at all... as long as you’re okay with just eating a bowl of ground beef and salsa.  It was a sad night, but at least we are full. 

Day 9: 

 Whole 30 Tuna Lettuce Cups

Whole 30 Tuna Lettuce Cups

I’m back at work so it’s anything I can pack in a bag. Tuna salad made with homemade mayonnaise, diced apples, walnuts and white onion, served on baby Romaine...  like a little lettuce cup! I feel like it’s a nice change from what I normally eat at work.  

My husband and I agree... We. Are. Dragging.  

Not much pep in our step these days. Could we really be on such a dramatic sugar withdrawal, nearly two weeks in?

 

Day 10: 

I just found Carrot Cake and Apple Pie flavored Larabars. Thank the Lord!  

 

Day 11:  

Today’s National Rosè Day. Are you kidding me? Damnit!

On the other hand, we have never loved flavored seltzer water so much. Current favorites: watermelon, cherry pomegranate, blackberry tangerine, mandarin lime. Also, fruit is my new friend!  

 Meanwhile, my girlfriend is forwarding recipes of strawberry dessert bars. I need to bake something.  Anything.

My parents invited us to dinner tomorrow. She texted “what can you eat?” My reply: “Meat.  And ALL the veggies.”

 

 Sheet Pan Chorizo & Roasted Veggies with Shrimp... a surprising family hit and incredibly easy!

Sheet Pan Chorizo & Roasted Veggies with Shrimp... a surprising family hit and incredibly easy!

I lucked out tonight with a simple one pan oven meal of chiorzo, Brussels sprouts, sweet peppers and shrimp. It was smoky, spicy and so satisfying! Every single child loved it; my husband and I were just disappointed we weren’t going to get their leftovers! 

I did make some Tahini & Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies, and they look incredible!  I can’t believe my will power… I didn’t taste a single chocolate chip, not a crumb of that soft batter. The fact that my kids keep going back for more is confirmation of a job well done, but I really want a cookie!  

Day 12:

 Avocados really helped fill the cheese void, and we consumed nearly double the amount of eggs we normally do in a month!

Avocados really helped fill the cheese void, and we consumed nearly double the amount of eggs we normally do in a month!

 Breakfast was once again... life! I’m just gonna live off this high all day. Avocado is my husband’s new favorite food and we go through no less than 2 dozen eggs a week! Dinner at my parents: we had hamburgers with no bun, and you guessed it... salad. The kids tell me their brownie sundae was awesome. Super. 

 Day 15: 

I was really excited to try a new recipe tonight… meat bolongese over roasted spaghetti squash.  It was my first time preparing the squash, but it took so long to cook (according to Pinterest instructions), it wasn’t ready before we needed to leave for our soccer games. My husband and I enjoyed a bowl of meat sauce instead. It was still tasty, especially since it was our homemade sauce (without cheese and sugar) but I wish we had some vegetables.  Better luck next time. 

Day 16: 

 My dairy-free, sugar-free, soy-free “latte”!

My dairy-free, sugar-free, soy-free “latte”!

I raced out of the house in a crazed frenzy at 7:45 am after realizing I had an 8 o’clock appointment. No coffee was had! Sadly, I decided to buy a McDonald’s coffee for the first time since starting Whole 30. I could not even choke down the black sludge. I finally had a $10 breakfast at Starbucks (by noon) with my toddler that included a cake pop and vanilla milk (for him) and salted almonds for me. I texted my girlfriends and joked that I finally found a soy-free, dairy-free, sugar-free (and joy-free) latte! (Unsweetened black iced tea.) Still... better than black sludge.

 

Day 17: 

 Kombucha is delicious, great for gut health and can be made with fruit juice instead of added sugar!

Kombucha is delicious, great for gut health and can be made with fruit juice instead of added sugar!

I HAVE to prepare better when I know I’ll be out running errands! Trying to grocery shop when starving is torture. Out of desperation, I grabbed a Justin’s almond butter packet and two hard boiled eggs from the refrigerated section at Target. I’m kicking myself for not getting a compliant bottle of kombucha!

I feel like I’m in a giant maze, running from store to store, buying all the “great” compliant foods the most inexpensive way possible. Wegmans, the public market, Walmart, Lori’s Natural Foods, Trader Joe’s. I thought I was a decent meal planner (and grocery shopping guru, according to my 10 year old) but Whole 30 brings it to a whole new level, and I am painfully aware of my shortcomings. Basically, if you don’t prepare, you don’t eat. And you can’t survive off carrots & sunflower butter. 

Day 18: 

Soccer all morning followed by a celebratory brunch. Imagine our delight when we saw “steak & eggs” on the menu! The waitress insisted the homefried potatoes were gluten free, so I chose to believe her, and we stuffed our faces. She informed me they’re prepared on a flat surface with other (offending) “items”... the sweet dear was concerned for my gluten sensitivity. I laughed and sheepishly confessed “oh, I’m just on a stupid diet, thanks for looking out for me, though!”

 

Day 19:

It’s 91° today in Rochester, NY, and tomorrow it should reach 97°.  I’m sure my hair is an indication of 99% humidity. I opened the refrigerator for a seltzer water and spied the cold brown bottle of craft brew. Condensation is starting to collect on the label... like tears. Today is the first day I have wished I could just drink beer! However, I appreciate not feeling swollen and bloated... it would eventually follow.

I’ve also taken notice of my skin... it’s looking more even, no teeny red capillaries just under the skin; no blotchy areas. That’s a pleasant surprise! No filter needed for my Instagram stories this week, even after being awake for 24 hours. 

Day 20: 

I honestly can’t believe we’ve made it this far without cheating! Aside from the pancetta and mustard debacle of days one and two, we’ve been on the straight and narrow.  Upon reflection, my biggest crutch and indulgence is wine. I still, after almost 3 weeks, really miss having that evening glass of wine.

My husband’s is packaged foods, “convenience foods,” anything he can grab to satisfy a craving or hunger without any thinking or preparation. Pretzels are his usual go-to, followed by chips.  Even a giant bowl of cereal in the evening. He usually gravitates towards that where I would crave a piece of cake, a brownie, or a bowl of ice cream.

 Preparation is  key  for success during these 30 days.

Preparation is key for success during these 30 days.

Planning and meal prepping/grocery shopping is our biggest stumbling block.  I find it’s very difficult to make a meal on the fly if you don’t have something in mind first.

I’m surprised that I do not crave pasta and rice/grains since we used to have them nearly every night at dinner.  I don’t really even miss sandwiches, but I DO want tortillas! Either in crunchy chip form or a taco shell, but a great burrito, quesadilla or wrap would be wonderful every so often! 

 Whole 30 Egg Roll in a Bowl

Whole 30 Egg Roll in a Bowl

I did a little research before grocery shopping this week. I found a meal for each dinner that looked delicious and not too difficult or have too many ingredients. Dinner tonight was an egg roll bowl. Pretty straightforward… stir-fried cabbage and onion with ground beef, seasoned with fresh ginger, garlic, coconut aminos, coconut oil and sesame oil. At the end, I topped it off with scallions, freshly grated carrots and a drizzle of homemade spicy mayonnaise.   

It wasn’t bland, for sure, but I feel like it was lacking something. (Maybe that crispy deep fried wonton?) At least it is the start of a great recipe to be tinkered with in the future. 

 

Day 21: 

There are brownies at work! Brownies, cookies, sandwiches and wraps.

There must have been a drug rep here earlier, who brought a plethora of sugar and gluten, and now it’s taunting me. I thought I’d kicked my sugar dragon, now it’s calling to me from the break room.  

I’ll just sit here with my toasted almonds, pinning endless tart, pie, cake and cookie recipes... not sniffing those brownie containers at all.  

  

Day 23: 

 Whole 30 Wild Blueberry Banana Almond Smoothie 

Whole 30 Wild Blueberry Banana Almond Smoothie 

The kids are home. It’s the first day of summer vacation and smoothie season begins! I know smoothies are not technically against the rules, but it’s not in the spirit of Whole 30 either. Something about the act of drinking your meals versus chewing sends a different message to your brain and the enzymes released don’t break down the food in the same manner, yada yada yada. All I know is I have four growing boys that need to eat ASAP, and it’s the best way I can give them veggies and protein and calcium in one fell swoop. And yes... it seems like breakfast dessert to me, so I’m not sad.

Day 24: 

 Whole 30 Chick-fil-A Chicken Nuggets

Whole 30 Chick-fil-A Chicken Nuggets

I have been marinating chicken chunks in dill pickle juice for 24 hours now. I found a recipe from a Whole 30 blogger, and I am so excited that I did! Once I breaded them in egg and a mixture of almond flour, tapioca starch and spices, they were pan fried in a small amount  of coconut oil. Instantly, scent was almost too much to handle! My husband quickly had to make sandwiches for the children because he didn’t want to share these Chick-fil-A chicken nugget knockoffs! I don’t care if we never do Whole 30 again, I will still make these chicken nuggets over and over!  

 Day 25:

 We went to an end-of-summer party tonight! There was the cutest mini bar set up, complete with summer cocktails and craft beers. Coworkers brought trays of homemade cookie bars and deli wraps. Ugh! Luckily, one of the hosts had just started Whole 30 as well. I could not believe our luck! There were containers of cashews, dill pickles, olives and so many sliced veggies and bowls of fruit! My favorite part… she told us we could sneak into the kitchen and help ourselves to mini packs of W30 compliant guacamole, and join her later for “basement sausage.” “Ummm, that sounds worrisome. Should I ask more?” She clarified… “It’s the secret stash of cooked sausage for my Whole 30 friends!” Well then yes... yes I WILL sneak into your basement and stuff my face in secret! 

Day 26: 

 Whole 30 “Breakfast Poutine”

Whole 30 “Breakfast Poutine”

We are getting down to our final weekend so breakfast needed to be memorable! Of course, it’s not much different than what I would normally make, but like I said… we live for breakfast lately! I called it “Breakfast Poutine.” Well, as close as it can be for people who can’t have gravy or cheese or bacon! French-fry-style potatoes seasoned with garlic powder and smoked paprika, browned in a skillet before finishing off in the oven. Once those were crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, I transferred them to a plate and cook a few eggs, over-easy.  Then we topped it off with sliced grape tomatoes and a sprinkling of Everything Bagel Seasoning. Once those golden yolks were cut into, they covered the potatoes in a creamy deliciousness! 

 

Day 27: 

 Gorgeous, fresh, sweet sugar plums, found at the public market!

Gorgeous, fresh, sweet sugar plums, found at the public market!

It’s nearly 4 weeks in. Bottom line: I want pie. My inbox is filled with notices that my favorite farm markets are bursting at the seams with fresh fruit. I’m dying to make gobs of jams and jellies and treats with crust!

 

Day 28: 

I overslept! All my planning and grocery shopping is out the window since I only have 25 minutes before I need to leave for work, and I only have a freezer full of meat. Eggs to the rescue! Pinterest has been gentle nudging me to make “Eggs in Purgatory”... a simple but satisfying comfort food; essentially eggs poached in marinara sauce.

 Whole 30 Eggs in Purgatory with Fresh Basil and Roasted Asparagus 

Whole 30 Eggs in Purgatory with Fresh Basil and Roasted Asparagus 

While my quick tomato sauce simmered away, I tossed some asparagus spears into the oven to roast. The eggs were nestled in the sauce and cooked after just a few minutes, then topped off with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and fresh basil. I was surprisingly pleased with this meal! My husband, not surprisingly... not so much. He still ate it (probably out of pure desperation and hunger) but there were many faces. I imagine it would be even more delicious with a buttery, toasty bit of French bread!

Sorry, love, but I’m adding it to the rotation. 

 

Day 29: 

Nothing incredible or delicious to report.   I am so tired, starving, and just trying to countdown the next 24 hours. 

Day 30: 

It’s here! We did it! I can’t believe it! We are celebrating our last dinner with one of her favorites… chorizo and clams with roasted veggies. It’s so flavorful, filling and incredibly easy since it’s all made on one large cookie sheet in the oven! With all the extra time I have not prepping dinner, a glass of wine would have been perfect to enjoy right now. Sigh... c’est la vie. 

 

Day 31: 

Wait… what??! You saw that right. An EXTRA day. Grocery day is today, so we don’t actually have any food in the house that’s not Whole 30! We decided to run with it one more day since we “stumbled” on day one with the pancetta and Dijon mustard. But tomorrow we are going down in flames and my belly is going to pay for it! We are having a huge brunch at our favorite bakery/diner. Almond Crusted French Toast on homemade bread with real maple syrup... and (sigh) half-and-half in my coffee… I can hardly wait!  

 

Final Thoughts: 

I'm incredibly proud of us.  I never realized I was such a slave to certain foods, or ingredients. I also wasn't really sure we'd be able to kick those apparent addictions. We came through the other side and are better consumers because of it, I feel.  My husband boasts he lost about 15 pounds!  He looks great, and is already asking when we can begin our next round! (I angrily laugh and give him my best eye roll. That's like asking a woman if she's going to have anymore kids... just after giving birth!  Not cool, man... not cool.) I lost 7 pounds; broke my own barrier. I reached a weight I haven't seen since I was a starving and broke flight attendant, living off canned green beans and buttered spaghetti.  That was 17 years ago!  More importantly, I like the way we look. I have really slimmed down in my hips and waist area. I swear, I look taller!

I would absolutely recommend this detox... with ALL the necessary warnings and suggestions. Do NOT enter into it lightly.  This is no ordinary diet. You will be disappointed if you aren't fully aware and prepared. Even then, it will be a struggle.  But after all that... yes, it's worth it.

I have to admit... I feel like my mind is broken now.   I just don't know how else to state it. Maybe "reset" is a more positive description?  I have a hard time choosing items that contain sugar. Or even cow's milk over a nut-dairy option. And I definitely make sure I'm checking the ingredient list of practically everything. When I load my groceries onto the conveyor belt at the check out, I try to be sure half of it is made up of produce, with very few boxed items (re: packaged convenience foods). 

Even though I'm baking in the kitchen again (happy news to my boys), I rarely indulge in desserts after dinner.  We still don't eat many grains or pastas either. Occasionally a slice or two of really amazing pizza (hello wood-fired mushroom & truffle white pizza!) but no sandwiches. Since reintroducing gluten again, I can see how my body reacts... and it's not great.  Bloating and swelling in all the wrong places. (There are NO right places, just to be clear!) My body also screams "STOP!!!" each time I attempt to eat ice cream. This is a sadness I might not recover from. I'm just not ready for us to break up, so I'll have to do a little more experimenting on what the exact cause of our issues are; especially since cheese, creamer and I are still friends.

I still can't say no to donuts though.  In fact, once I had one after Whole 30 was over... I think I had one everyday for a week.  EVERY. DAY.  Now that's falling off the wagon!  Lastly, for those of you wondering, I am still having my nightly glass of wine. And I'm SO happy to do so!  Only now... I do it with purpose, intent and awareness. I know what it does to my body and consciously pour that glass for pleasure, instead of from habit. 

If you are thinking of embarking on your first 30 day journey, have traveled it numerous times, or just have a few questions for either of us... Matt and I would love to hear from you.  Drop us a line!  Now I am off to meal plan.  Our next Whole 30 starts just after school begins, and not only are we going into it with our eyes wide open, this time we are bringing a couple newbies along for the ride!  My parents and close friend/co-worker have watched the transformation, listened to our story, and are ready to begin!

 

Candle Wednesday

Candle Wednesday