My Whole30

Helloooo from the jungles of motherhood! It’s been a minute. This month I did a Whole30, and thought I’d briefly resurrect the blog and write it up for anyone who’s interested. I’m the queen of TL;DR posts, so feel free to use the headings to skip around.

Part 1: What is the Whole30 and why did I do it?
Part 2: What was it like?
Part 3: Results, Tips, Recipes

Part 1

What’s a Whole30? It’s an elimination diet aimed at the foods most likely to be causing you systemic inflammation. What I was actually looking for was a way to do a sugar detox that was safe for a breastfeeding mama, and I stumbled on the Whole30. A bunch of other moms I knew were doing it, so I looked at the website and said, “No way. This eliminates everything I enjoy about food.”

The essence of the Whole30 is:

No grains
No dairy
No legumes (including peanuts and soy)
No added sugar, natural or artificial
No alcohol
No MSG, carrageenan, or sulfates.

My life is bread and cheese. So:  Wtf are you supposed to eat?!

Well, you can eat any animal protein (meat and seafood), vegetable, or fruit. You can eat eggs.

That didn’t sound so terrible. I could make myself a steak and sweet potato spears for burger night. And I realized that one of my favorite regular dishes, oxtail soup, is totally compliant as is. And most of our Hello Fresh meals (we do 3 per week) can be made compliant if I just skip a component or two (don’t have the sauce, skip the rice, etc.) I thought I could go 4 weeks having oxtail soup and steak once a week each, and tweaking HF recipes. I just needed a few more recipes to rotate in.

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Pulled pork sliders on sweet potato rounds with slaw. Really, the food on this diet is a-okay.

And then I realized that migraines are one of the things that can be positively affected by this diet. I’ve had migraines my whole life. I’ve probably lost 1/3 of my life to them. If 30 days of eating differently might give me that third of my life back? Hell yes, I’m in.

I spent a month experimenting with compliant recipes so I would have some easy go-to’s. I planned for migraines (when most food nauseates me) and other foreseeable emergencies. I gradually reduced my sugar intake during that time so that my Detox Week wouldn’t totally derail me – migraines and motherhood DO NOT MIX. Here’s what happened:

Part 2: What It was Like, Day by Day

Week 1: Detox Week
Day1: Coffee w coconut milk: surprisingly delicious.
Day2: My detox headache pussed out before noon. Am I doing it wrong?
Day 3: Seriously, am I doing it wrong? I feel GREAT. Until too much fiber almost creates The Yellowstone Playground Potty Disaster of 2018. 😨
Day4: I’m rocking this party with my baggie of hard boiled eggs.
Day 5: No homemade family recipe carrot cake for me.😭😭😭. PS I’m SO TIRED.
Day 6: I’m obsessed with coconut milk. I FEEL GREAT.
Day 7: i’m…….so………tired…….but not in pain!

Week 2: To Be, Or Not to Be Supermom
Day 8: OMG. I’M BACK IN MY PRE-PREGNANCY JEANS!!
Day 9: Leftovers rock my world.
Day 10: I am SUPERMOM carrying this 20lb baby on a 4-hour hike.

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Hi, I’m Supermom, and this is Ladybird.

Day 11: I am not supermom. Overdid it on the hike.
Day 12: I have a migraine and all I’m eating is steak.
Day 13: The Day the Baby Fussed All Day Then Took an Epic Poop. Oh, wait, wrong log. I’m getting better at winging it with whatever’s on hand.
Day 14: Stranded in a thunderstorm – my first try at being THAT PERSON at an unscheduled restaurant stop with a hangry preschooler.

 

Week 3: Avocados and Insights.
Day 15: As coastal liberal elites go, I’m very late to this bandwagon, but I’m finally OBSESSED with avocado. It’s the little black dress of vegetable matter.

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That’s a baked sweet potato with bacon under that egg. Really, I promise, the food isn’t bad.

Day 16: I’m a lazy jounal-keeper.
Day 17: See above.
Day 18: Made a unicorn cake with my 3yo, and couldn’t lick the spoon or taste one crumb. It was excruciating. I suddenly realized that I associate sugary treats with family togetherness – baking with mom, making ice cream with grandma, junk food binges with Dad. All my strongest cravings this month are emotional – wanting to share a treat to celebrate with people.

 

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The Unicorn cake I couldn’t eat. 😦

Day 19: Mom asked today if I felt a difference. Last week of migraines notwithstanding (chiropractor said I strained a muscle in my shoulder), I’m generally in less pain than usual. I have more energy- I’m down to one cup of coffee most days, and I’m successfully getting up at 5am to have some “me” time.
Day 20: Zoodles are delicious, but watch the fiber.
Day 21: Finally read the entire label on my coconut milk – turns out it’s not actually *healthy* – the amount I drink in my coffee is 50% of my saturated fat for the day. There go my plans to drizzle it on everything forever.

 

Week 4+: Tiger Blood
Day 22: Getting more flexible with meal prep, and also lazy – totally skipped second breakfast to go to Target, just grabbed a Larabar on the way out.
Day 23: Up and energized at 5am! Starting to feel that Tiger Blood….
Day 24: Dreamed I accidentally ate some gravy that was noncompliant and I had to start the 30 days all over and collapsed in a puddle of tears.
Day 25: This week, my cravings have actually been stronger for my old comfort foods. I don’t need them, but I miss them more.
Day 26: There have been so many cruciferous vegetables today that I fear for the overnight air quality of our home.
Day 27: I’VE FINALLY GOT A MEAL PLANNING SYSTEM THAT WORKS FOR ME. After 20 years of trying, it turns out I just needed to be forced to do it for 4 straight weeks and I figured it out.
Day 28: I’m a lazy journal-keeper
Day 29: Did you know you can make sweet potato rounds…. in the TOASTER?! THIS. CHANGES. EVERYTHING.

My Last Day on the Whole30:
Day 30: Our fuse box started crackling, so we had to turn our electricity off and keep our refrigerator sealed, so I spent all day ordering compliant rotisserie chicken and sweet potatoes from the one restaurant in the neighborhood where I can do this, because dammit I signed on for 30 days and I want to finish all 30 days, AND THEN I ACCIDENTALLY LICKed SOME NON-COMPLIANT KETCHUP OFF MY FINGER AT DINNERTIME AFTER HELPING MY 3YO OPEN HER KETCHUP PACKET.

I was so close. Well, screw it. I’m not starting over on Day 30 for a lick of sugary ketchup.

Part 3: Results, Tips, Recipes

Soft benefits/results:

Honestly, this is possibly the best I’ve felt my whole adult life. I’m a little scared of the re-introduction phase because I had such dramatic results (I thought), it seems likely that I had some undiagnosed food sensitivities. I don’t know why this surprises me. I’ve known for ages and ages that I’m chemically sensitive, skin sensitive, and sensitive to alcohol and MSG. So why should I be shocked to discover that I’m also sensitive to gluten or dairy? (pleeeeeaaaase don’t let me be sensitive to gluten or dairy…..pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease).

So: I’m generally in less pain. Even when I’ve had migraines, they’ve been shorter and less intense. My pain between migraines is minimal. I have a lot more energy. I can go much longer between meals without feeling a “crash.” And I’m just happier. I don’t know if that’s physiologically related to the food I’ve been eating or psychologically related to the discipline of keeping this regimen, but I’ll take it.

Measurements:

I don’t own a scale, but I did take pre- and post-measurements. So:

Before:

Bust: 41.5″
Waist: 41″
Hips: 41″

After:

Bust: 38.75″
Waist: 36.5″
Hips: 39.5″

So I got my waist back. I was going to post pictures, but they’re just too terrible for words. Not me, the pics – they’re blurry and awful, and the lighting is all yellow and weird and no filter under God’s digital heaven will improve them, I checked already. But I’m back in normal, non-maternity clothes and feel like myself again. Hooray!

Breastfeeding:

I didn’t notice any supply problems, for anyone who is curious. Except maybe once, but I had essentially skipped a meal, so…duh. If you’re breastfeeding, they recommend you eat four meals a day, and try to include at least one fruit or starchy vegetable at each. I thought of my four meals as “Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Lunch/Tea, and Supper.” And stay hydrated, mama!

Meal Planning:

If you have a system that works for you, stick with it. I’ve always struggled so much with meal planning. It takes half the day and is too detailed, I have too much food, but then on the day in question I don’t want to eat what I planned, everything gets muddled, half the food goes bad, it’s a pain.

BUT NOW I have a system that takes about 10-20 minutes, and then I can STOP THINKING ABOUT WHAT I’M GOING TO EAT. Here is my planning template that I ended up with. All I need is to have a specific meal planned for dinner each night, with thought given to our schedule, and then a flexible list of things I might feel like eating for the other meals on any other day. That way I have all the I’m-in-the-mood-for flexibility I want during the day, but dinners, which are much more schedule dependent, are planned and prepped for. When I’m planning the next week’s meals, I take stock of what I still have leftover and plan to eat that first if possible. I go grocery shopping twice a week to keep produce fresh and prevent our refrigerator from becoming so overloaded that I can’t find anything I need.

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My favorite recipes!

1. Kitchen Sink Eggs. This is exactly what it sounds like. Dump all your leftovers in a frying pan and scramble some eggs around it.

2. Steak and sweet potato fries. Takes about 30 minutes from setting the oven to preheat to eating. This is something I can eat with most migraines without getting nauseous, so I tried to always have a couple palm-size steaks frozen and ready to go in case of emergency. And when I was really together, I had a ziploc of pre-cut sweet potatoes ready to go.

3. Monkey Salad.

This became my go-to breakfast after the second week or so. It’s a little sweeter than I wanted for breakfast with all that banana, but it requires little more effort than making a bowl of cereal and it’s DELICIOUS.

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Monkey Salad!

 

4. Lamb Stew, courtesy of Boho Berry.

5. Oxtail Soup.  This was already part of our regular rotation, probably twice a month or so. We got the recipe from our Cantonese-speaking neighbors downstairs. It’s easy, satisfying, clean, and one pot lasts for days.

~2lbs. oxtail (much cheaper at a Chinese market if you have one)

1 large white onion, roughly chopped

~ one head of garlic (original recipe called for less, but we prefer a whole head), minced

~ an equivalent amount of fresh ginger, sliced

1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

5 red potatoes, roughly chopped

5 tomatoes, roughly chopped

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Dump in oxtail, bring back to boil, boil for 10 minutes, drain. This is to “clean” the oxtail – you’ll notice a lot of scum rises to the top of the water, now you don’t have it in your soup.

While that’s going on, clean and chop all your veggies.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the bottom of a large stock pot (or your Instant Pot if you have one). Saute onion until softened, then add garlic and ginger until fragrant, then add celery and carrot, stir a few times to release the flavor.

Add the potatoes, tomatoes, and cleaned oxtail, and enough water to cover.

Stovetop: Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for three hours on the stove top (almost entirely unattended).\

Instant Pot: Cook 55 minutes on manual high pressure. Natural release. When I have time to do a full manual release, I do, and then I can fill the pot to the top line. If I’m not going to have time for a full natural release, I reduce the recipe and only fill the pot 2/3 full so I can do a quick release. I still recommend letting it natural release for at least 10-20 minutes before you finish with the quick release.

After serving, if you like, add a little salt at a time until the flavor “wakes up,” although I usually find this broth delicious even without salt. Sometimes I add a pinch of oregano at the beginning just for fun.

6. Greatist made an excellent list of sugar-free breakfast recipes, this is where I found most of my experimental recipes that I wanted to try, including Monkey Salad. Also, the Green Shakshuka and twice-baked breakfast sweet potatoes were fantastic, highly recommend.

7. Protein Salad. My favorite variation was leftover pulled chicken with compliant mayo on a bed of baby spinach with blueberries.

8. Favorite snacks: Tuna on cucumber slices, smoked salmon and melon, cashew cookie Larabars. Okay, you’re not actually supposed to snack on the Whole30, but sometimes life happens.

Has anybody else done a Whole30? How’d it go? What recipes got you through? It was nice to pop on here again and wave at you all. Back to motherhood…..

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