30 days

Sunday marked the “end” of my Whole 30 eating challenge. But it’s just the beginning of a new way of thinking about food.

Over the last 30 days, I eliminated dairy, gluten, wheat, sugar (including wine, excluding a moderate amount of fresh fruit) and the so-called “bad fats”. I didn’t eat beans or grains (even quinoa) and only limited types of nuts. I learned to drink my coffee with coconut milk, and I didn’t even indulge in the s’more layer birthday cake I made from scratch for Jack’s birthday. I went to happy hours and out to dinner with relative ease, sticking to water, both flat and sparkling.

“How much weight did you lose?” a few friends have asked. The rules of Whole 30 included no hitting the scales, but I checked this morning, and the answer is two pounds. Weight loss was not the point though; the benefits have been much more extensive. I have more energy because I’m sleeping better. The inflammation around my gut has decreased. My skin looks amazing. The only time I found myself ravenously hungry was when I didn’t get enough protein at the previous meal. Oddly, I really haven’t craved anything and didn’t cheat. No one ever believes me, but it’s true. When you give your body what it needs, you lose the taste for the bad stuff.

I don’t intend to sound preachy, so skeptical readers, don’t take it that way. We all have our own particular relationship with food, and mine is reward driven. “I’ve had a bad day, so I deserve this” and “I worked out today so it’s okay to indulge” are phrases that frequently swirled around my head. But I was “rewarding” myself by ingesting foods/beverages that actually don’t make me feel better. What’s up with that?

Many people wondered what my first meal would be once I’m off the plan. But with the exception of indulging in a glass of wine or a nice piece of cheese now and then, I plan to remain compliant with the Whole 30 plan. So this morning, I had the breakfast I pictured on the first day: hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, avocado.

the whole 30 yards

my first morning's breakfast
my first morning’s breakfast

I’m not a dieter. Denying myself the delectable leads to intense cravings for said taboo items. I have done a few juice cleanses with varying degrees of success (and by success, I don’t mean weight loss but improved complexion, better sleep patterns and more energy). Mainly, I try to eat healthily, though I do have my weaknesses, namely cheese, wine, and half and half in my coffee.

But on the morning of my dear friend Lauren’s wedding, I woke up resembling the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. My face was so puffy my sunglasses left a deep imprint after I had them on for only a few minutes. My abdomen was so distended I could barely bend over to put on my shoes. And the worst part? The bridesmaid dress that fit fine a week before? Yeah, well I was so swollen that it took the might of the three other bridesmaids to get the zipper up. Then, I exhaled. And the zipper broke. Five minutes before the ceremony.

If I’d woken up like this any other day, I’d have visited the ER. I warn you now, never WebMD “water retention” because the causes range from too much salt, alcohol, sun exposure (all which I had in spades) to kidney failure, liver disease and congestive heart failure. I was pretty convinced I was dying, but I had a wedding to stand up in. I drank my weight in water, abstained from alcohol, and MacGyver’d the dress until I could change into something else. After the reception, I returned to my room, cried a bunch, and devised a plan for a reset.

I’d just read Wardrobe Oxygen‘s post on the Whole 30, and while I’ve been dismissive of Paleo-style food plans, I was inspired by Allie’s positive experience eating only whole, one-ingredient foods. I decided to give it a shot.

As it turns out, my Whole 30 shopping cart didn’t look that different from how it usually would, with a few notable exclusions. I’m on Day 5 and so far, I don’t miss anything. It hasn’t been torturous to watch my kids devour chips and salsa. I’ve been around wine without longing. After a bit of experimenting, I discovered coconut milk in my coffee does the trick. I did almost lick the Nutella off a knife the other night after I made Jack toast, but that was more reflex than desire. The bottom line is after a few days, I’m sleeping better, and I have energy after only one cup of coffee.

I suspect there will be challenging days ahead (please don’t flaunt your pimento grilled cheese sandwich from Cheesetique) but nothing could be worse than how I felt on that morning when I could have lumbered through the town of Sonoma and caused more damage than the recent Napa earthquake.