I was first introduced to the Paleo way of eating about 10 years ago, while researching how to effectively manage my fibromyalgia symptoms without medication. Proponents of ‘eating Paleo’ touted benefits like reduced joint pain, better quality sleep, improved mental clarity, happier mood, and weight loss. I wanted all of those things, but found it too scary and difficult to give up my favorite comfort foods. At the time, the idea of completely eliminating all grain, dairy, legumes, and added sugars seemed far fetched, unrealistic, unsustainable, and extreme. Food was such a huge part of social interactions that the idea of ‘eating Paleo’ (apart from all of my friends and family) seemed impossible and lonely. So if you’re in that boat right now – I completely understand.
It took me a few years before I was desperate enough to try it, and it didn’t take long to realize it’s effectiveness. Over the years, I’ve shifted my overall eating habits in this direction, opting for whole foods over processed, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and cutting back on the grain and sugar. During that time, I’ve definitely had periods of reverting back to my old (extremely unhealthy, but typically-American-highly-processed) diet, but I’ve also gone the other direction and stuck to a very strict (but temporary) grain/sugar free way of eating. After more than a dozen trial runs, usually lasting from one to three months each, I’ve come to believe in the magic (and, okay, science) of eating this way. Still, I’ve struggled to make it a permanent lifestyle change.
Now as I embark on my very first Whole 30, my goal is to find a balance between extremes. My hope is that I’ll be able to add back some of the foods I love (in moderation) and find the perfect plan for me (and Jason is doing the same). For the first time ever, I’m approaching this with a true lifestyle change approach. I’m focused first on the ‘non-scale victories‘, instead of being so focused on the number shown on the scale (which I’m realizing has been one of my common pitfalls in the past). I’m optimistic to be one step closer to finding my ‘forever food’ (due mainly to the reintroduction period laid out in the Whole 30 plan, which I love).
If you’re familiar with the Whole 30, you know the first week is the most difficult. You’re battling sugar withdrawals, and some of your symptoms (aches, pains, poor complexion, energy level, etc.) may actually get worse before they get better. I have definitely gotten through all of that by Day 10, but I believe I experienced it to a lesser degree (probably because my eating habits were already 50% of the way there before I even started with Day 1).
I’m finding it easier than expected to resist cravings and stay the course on the Whole 30 when compared to other variations of ‘eating Paleo’ I’ve tried in the past. I even went out to watch Jason host an improv comedy show at Glass Nickel Pizza on Day 6 (where I would typically enjoy pizza, chicken wings, and beer) without the slightest slip. I set myself up for success by eating dinner before going, then ordered a tall club soda loaded up with olives and limes during the show, and waited for Jason so we could eat salads together. Being in the same room as dozens of pizzas and pitchers of beer was surprisingly tolerable.
Making a lifestyle change such as this doesn’t have to be lonely. You can enlist your family, coworkers, or close friends to support you. I’m so glad to have Jason by my side for this journey, because it definitely cuts down on the loneliness factor that sometimes goes along with committing to a modified way of eating. If you don’t have the support of your closest family and friends, you can reach further out to the wondrous internet for moral support and encouragement. Create or join a Facebook group like the one I’m a part of. We’re all women trying to improve their health and lose weight (and I only know two of them personally). Not everyone is taking the same approach, but we’re still all in it together. If you don’t know anyone with health goals, you can search for public groups geared toward improved health and weight loss. There’s also the Whole 30 forum, where you can introduce yourself to many others who are Whole 30-ing right along with you. (I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m glad to know it’s there if I need it.)
The Whole 30 folks really have a great support structure in place so that you can easily follow the plan with minimal effort, and so you are fully prepared for common slips. The entire list of rules is available for free online, but I opted to purchase the Kindle version of the book
for $14.99 (which, in my humble opinion, is worth it just for the basic recipes). I also paid fifteen bucks for the daily emails, which require that you interact at the end of each day. I’m finding it strangely motivating to click “I did it! Another day in the bank!” every evening, probably because I can’t bear the thought of selecting “I failed. Let’s start over at Day 1.” (I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the idea.)
I know that eating whole foods can seem more expensive than the highly-processed, mass-produced, convenience foods many of us rely on. But there are things you can do to save money like buying in bulk, canning, freezing, shopping local farmer’s markets, subscribing to a fruit and vegetable or meat CSA, and/or sourcing meat, eggs, and dairy directly from local farms. I would also argue that, at least in our family, the money we save on drive-thrus and takeout more than makes up for the little extra spent on whole foods. I can also justify the extra cost with how much better I feel, which is worth so much more than money (and could arguably save money in medical bills in the future).
I’ve been trying some new recipes this time around, like making my own mayo and chicken bone broth (both of which are super delicious and easy to make). There’s a lot of cooking when you eat this way, and it is relatively time consuming (one of my typical reasons for giving up). I actually love to cook, but I can still get burned out on cooking three meals a day. Every. Damn. Day. And the dishes! Oh, the dishes! I hit that wall on about Day 7, and I wanted nothing more than to just order takeout (but I didn’t – yay me!) Instead, I went to the book for some quick meal ideas and found their recipe for No Fuss Salmon Cakes (pretty tasty, but not my favorite recipe from the book). I solved that day’s problem, but my cooking-related burn out lasted for a few more days. Which supports the claim that the most common ‘quit’ days are Day 10 and Day 11. I was so glad to have that information ahead of time, because it gave me extra resolve not to quit.
For the next 10 days, my goals are to drink more water, add in some exercise, and get more efficient at meal preparation so I can avoid the ‘sick of cooking’ pitfall. As of writing this on Day 11, our entire family has come down with a nasty cold. Yuck! We’re all low on sleep, and a little grumpy, but hanging in there. I can only imagine how much worse we would feel if we weren’t following the Whole 30.
That’s all for now. I’ll check back in with you after Day 20.
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