Several months ago I told my husband that I wanted to try going gluten free for like 2 weeks to see if I have any sensitivities. I even bought some gluten free spaghetti and wondered what gluten free bread tastes like. The box of spaghetti is still in our pantry… unopened. I never started. Why is that?
I know why: because I’m pretty sure I would have half-assed it and given up after a week or so. Because I had no guidelines, no drive, no idea what the results COULD be. I had no motivation. There – I said it. No motivation to start a gluten free diet. It felt like a lot of work and I hadn’t even started yet. But I did go gluten free eventually. And dairy free, sugar free, alcohol free, and all grain free all at the same time. For 30 days. That’s right – 30 days. Actually 32 days because I sorta messed up one day, but what’s two more days after all that?
I did the Whole30 Challenge complete with buying the cookbook and reading guidelines on their website and success stories, and so on. And that’s what I didn’t have when I attempted the 2-week gluten free show. I’m a sucker for pretty cookbooks with pictures and easy to follow recipes and that’s exactly what I got from the Whole30 folks, and that’s what made starting and sticking to it so much easier. I had my days where I was angry and mad at the world (just like they predicted) when all the yummy bread and chocolate and wine was taken away from me. But I also had amazing days where I noticed the bloat is going down, my skin is getting better and drinking Kombucha from a wine glass really does make a decent substitution for the real thing. Especially the next morning!
These were my expectations going into this:
– I would get healthy, glowing skin, free of the perioral dermatitis and breakouts
– I would get tons of energy
– I would miss wine terribly
– I would miss chocolate terribly
– I would miss cheese & yogurt terribly
– I would lose maybe a little weight
Halfway through most of these things did come true. Read about my halfway point here. But not all of it happened and not with the severity I had expected. I didn’t eat a lot of sugar to begin with so I thought that would be the least of my problems, and that’s also why I didn’t think I’d lose much weight, if any.
The biggest takeaway from this challenge was something that I actually try to teach people all the time: you can totally live without certain foods, and at the same time learn to love better foods.
I thought living without chocolate, cheese, and wine would be the hardest 30 days of my life, but seriously?? That’s not hard. As it says on the Whole30 site:
It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime. – See more at: http://whole30.com
There are two main goals with this challenge:
1. Clean your body of all the possible trigger foods that can cause sensitivities, discomfort, or indigestion. Those are mostly the grains, dairy, legumes, and alcohol. After the 30 days you bring them back one by one, watching closely how you react to each one. I’m not there yet, so I’ll do a final results post in the near future.
2. Conquer your cravings. The sugar, dairy, gluten and alcohol. Because cravings usually happen when your body doesn’t get what it needs. And it ain’t sugar or wine. It’s energy and healthy nerves, and a feeling of being satiated with nutrients so you can rise above those cravings.
Did you know that a craving only lasts a few minutes at most? If you can distract yourself from a craving long enough, it will go away on its own. I can vouch for that now. Not being able to have a piece of chocolate after lunch sucked at first, but then I did one of these things instead:
– have a cup of peppermint tea
– have a piece of fresh (sweet) fruit
– have a handful of raisins and nuts
And then it went away. No sugar, no dairy, no wine, no donuts. True story! And the more you conquer it that way, the easier it gets. Because you CAN get used to a different diet. It just takes time. And some level of accountability. If you diet in secret you’re way more prone to cheat. Also, most people jump ship when it comes to diets because they start with the end in mind: I’ll be thin and then I can eat whatever I want. They’re not focusing on the progress, but only on the result. And then when they don’t see results fast enough, they give up. It’s too hard. It doesn’t taste good. Whatever the reasons are.
The key is to focus on the progress. One day at a time. And notice the little progress, day by day. Because you’ll see it. Maybe it’s not a 5lb weight loss but maybe it’s a progress of having found a new love for zucchini noodles instead of spaghetti. Celebrate that!! Having a plan, guidelines, recipes, and a whole cheer team on facebook or instagram is key to getting through diets.
Tell everyone what you’re doing and why and document it. Hold yourself accountable publicly!
If you don’t want to put it on social media, then write a food diary. But put it in words, so you can see it and remind yourself how far you’ve come. That’s why so many people on Instagram post their meals with the # of day they’re on. It helps! Because it’s PROGRESS.
And before you know it, this crazy new diet is not so new anymore and you find yourself eating soup for breakfast like that’s just what you’ve always done.
OK, I know what you’re here for, so here’s what really happened:
– Did I get clear and glowing skin? Meh, somewhat. I definitely have fewer breakouts. I have improved the perioral dermatitis but it’s not completely gone. Especially after a week in the office… by the end of the workweek my skin usually looks a lot worse because of stress, make up, and lack of sleep. Here’s the before and after shots. Definitely less redness…
– Crazy Energy? I waited for the so called “Tiger blood” to kick in so I could have endless energy, but again: meh… Maybe my expectations of tiger blood were to look like the energizer bunny on steroids so of course that didn’t happen. But in all fairness, I admit that I no longer have any afternoon slumps. No 3pm sweets cravings or yawning going on here
Here’s why I think the whole super energy thing didn’t happen for me: I had already stopped drinking coffee months ago. I had already stopped adding sugar in my tea. I had stopped eating most junk food and had a fairly clean diet. And: I have plenty of days where I just don’t get enough sleep (only 6-7 hours at most). And: I haven’t been exercising.
– Weight loss. That’s the real indicator for many people. So, I stepped on the scale expecting about 3-4 pounds less. It was more! SEVEN pounds to be exact. Not an insane amount but definitely more than I thought. I knew I lost weight because many of my pants got loose and my bras got bigger overnight (why do we always lose weight in the wrong places??).
Here’s why I dropped so much weight: I didn’t snack off my kids’ leftovers. I didn’t eat ANY refined sugar! No processed anything, no alcohol, and no cheese. There were nights when I felt like I was still a little hungry but sneaking a bite of granola or a spoonful of leftover mac and cheese was not on my menu. So I either drank a glass of water or ate a piece of fruit. Or nothing. I didn’t think I would notice much weight loss, and it’s barely visible, but here’s what 7 lbs before and after look like:
Did I miss wine & chocolate?
Occasionally, but it wore off after a couple of weeks and like I said earlier: I learned to use substitutes for both and they worked. Because a craving only lasts so long. I learned to be stronger.
So what’s gonna stick around?
Today is day 32. I will do a follow up post once I am done reintroducing all the forbidden foods to see what caused any reactions. But even beyond that I’m planning to keep the following habits:
– eat less grains and sub with more veggies
This is the one that really made me feel better, lighter, and more awake.
– drink less alcohol
aside from the extra calories, you need to give your body (esp your liver) a break. It has enough to work on with the daily onslaught of pesticides, toxins, perfumes, exhaust, caffeine and the regular job of filtering your blood, making bile, etc. I used to have a glass of wine almost every night, but I’m planning on reducing that to 1-2 times per week only now. When I feel like having a glass on other days, I’ll stick to my kombucha in a wine glass. It is way better for me and costs only 1/3 or less.
That’s it. I know – it may sound like not much but I was already largely cutting out sugar, saying no to junk food and I had switched from coffee to teas a while ago. I’m not trying to pat myself on the shoulder here or praise my eating habits vs anyone else. I’m saying these things to show why my personal results were not as dramatic as those of others.
If you’re interested to do the Whole30 and try it for yourself, I HIGHLY recommend it. Not just for the health benefits, but also because it is an amazing thing to set a challenge for yourself, cheer and eat your way through it, learn great new things, make some awesome new friends online, and then be proud of yourself when you’re done.