Hopefully you’ve had the chance to read through my first post about why Bryce and I decided to embark on our Whole30 journey. If not, you can check it out here. This second post centers on the emotional ups and downs and mental reactions Bryce and I experienced while livin’ la vida Whole30. It’s a tale of excitement, trepidation, surprise, frustration, and enlightenment, among other things. Before I get too far into our story, though, let me start by saying that the Whole30 website provides a nifty timeline of what to expect on an emotional level throughout the program. I found this resource particularly helpful, and though my trek did not follow the calendar to the day, I did eventually go through all of the stages. The most amusing–especially for my coworkers–were the ‘Kill All the Things’ days. More on those in just a few paragraphs.
Knowing very well the road that lay before us would be marked with do not enter signs, I made up my mind on the day prior to our adventure to take advantage of a few, shall we say, treats before they’d be verboten. Several of my coworkers and I ventured out for a ‘last lunch’ at Cuban Burger in downtown Harrisonburg, where I devoured a burger. The patty itself was technically Whole30 compliant, so you may think that I was behaving myself…but I ate that burger with non-compliant goodies like a toasted bun, melted cheese, crispy french fries, and an ice-cold Coca-Cola. So freaking good! I wondered whether or not I’d be able to make it through the month without such greasy goodness. SPOILER ALERT–I did!
That same day, later in the evening, Bryce and I met Ian and Katie, some friends of ours with Whole30 experiences of their own, for drinks at a new downtown joint, Pale Fire Brewing. I wanted to try the brewery’s offerings before beginning Whole30, mostly because I had converted to a beer enthusiast over the past year and a half and couldn’t resist a final adult beverage on Whole30 Eve. (Verdict? Really good beer and great atmosphere, made better because of the people I was with.) Now, my intention to enjoy a beer…or two if I’m honest…was not because I thought it’d be hard to go a month without alcohol. Rather, I knew the Whole30 experience would affect my palette, and I wanted to enjoy the beer in case I lost my fondness for it. As we prepared to depart, Katie and Ian asked what our plan for Day 1 was (having already been down the Whole30 road before). When we responded that we didn’t really have one, they both chuckled and said, “Well, good luck!” Uh-oh. What had we gotten ourselves into?
Day 1: On the first morning livin’ la vida Whole30, I woke up slightly worse for wear, perhaps a little hung over from the previous day’s pre-program food and drink bender, perhaps a little overly tired due to the lack of a good night’s sleep, and perhaps nervous that we were not truly prepared. Regardless, I resolved to make this thing a success, so I whipped up my first compliant breakfast: an egg and broccoli scramble with a side of crispy bacon and fresh sliced tomatoes. It was a great kick off–I didn’t even miss my usual bowl of cereal. How could I? I felt sated and ready to face the day–no, the month–ahead. I should also mention that I drank some black coffee with that inaugural breakfast, and newsflash! It wasn’t as bad as I had been expecting. In fact, I quite liked it. Somehow, the coffee rounded out the meal. This was truly a pleasant surprise and a rather encouraging way to start the program. After making and consuming a delicious, wholly compliant first meal that morning, I felt if I could drink–and enjoy–a mug of hot, black coffee, this Whole30 challenge wouldn’t be so difficult after all. My spirits were further buoyed by a tasty, successful lunch and an out-of-this-world, Moroccan-inspired dinner. I convinced myself this would be easy even though we weren’t fully prepared and the timeline referenced above suggested otherwise. And don’t worry, my next/last Whole30 post will focus entirely on the food we ate, recipes and (more) photos included.
Day 2: If Day 1 was a home run, Day 2 was a grand slam. Bryce and I conducted the Whole30 shop of shops, hitting up Costco, a local natural food store, and the supermarket. We got home, unloaded the veritable cornucopia of goodies, and emptied the kitchen of non-compliant items by freezing or boxing up all possible temptations. Auf wiedersehen, peanut butter. Guten tag, almond butter. Until next month (or never), ramen noodles. How you doin, spaghetti squash. Hasta luego, cheese. Hola, coconut milk. The transition seemed fairly easy, probably because we immediately restocked the kitchen with all the good things we could eat instead of mourning over our departing contraband. Now fully prepared, Bryce and I were overcome with excitement. We both love to cook, and the seemingly endless possibilities newly available to us provided much needed encouragement, especially when I experienced my first ‘Kill All the Things’ moment.
TIP: Maybe not surprisingly, Costco offers a bounty of Whole30 compliant products: organic grass-fed beef, organic whole chickens, organic unrefined coconut oil, organic fruits & vegetables, avocado oil, almond butter, and I could keep going. If you’re thinking of starting the Whole30 Program and have a Costco nearby, I definitely recommend starting the kitchen-stocking process there.
Womp, womp: The honeymoon of the first few days wore off rather quickly. Though they felt like a cinch, the first entire week was pretty much the hardest–at least for me. By day 5, I was frustrated having to spend 30-45 minutes every morning preparing my breakfast. I wanted to roll out of bed, throw breakfast in a bowl or on a plate, brew a cup of coffee, and enjoy my meal in front of Facebook without having to figure out what I wanted to eat, dirty a dozen pots and pans to make whatever that was, and clean up afterwards. You know the old saying that the early bird gets the worm? That’s because it doesn’t have to plan, prepare, and cook the worm before eating it. Damn lucky birds. Thankfully, Bryce was there to listen to me whine about my morning woes, offer some words of comfort, and, most importantly, suggest a solution–one that ended up preventing me from ditching the program all together: the egg and sausage casserole. With my mornings back on a more time-friendly schedule, I no longer felt my journey was threatened by breakfast.
Hulk, SMASH: Also known as ‘Kill All the Things.’ I’d read about this stage on the Whole30 website and heard Molly Mogren talk about her ‘Kill All the Things’ phase on the podcast, Go Fork Yourself with Andrew Zimmern and Molly Mogren. Basically, you get all hangry during this phase. As the Hartwigs write in their books and on their website: “Day 4 dawns and you tentatively step out of bed, expecting to feel like you took a strike from Thor’s hammer in the temple. Instead, your head is surprisingly clear. Your limbs all feel functional. This could be a good day! You walk into the kitchen and as you’re greeted by the smiling face of your significant other you are suddenly overcome…with the desire to punch them in the face for smiling this early in the morning.”* While, I never felt like punching Bryce in the face, I did have moments at home when I had to leave the room to prevent myself flying off the handle. I refocused that energy into mowing the lawn–that showed him! I also had ‘Kill All the Things’ moments at work–one in particular comes to mind, when I wanted nothing more than to take a peeled banana and smash it right into someone or something. My coworkers found this quite amusing, and retrospectively so do I. At the time, though, you’d think they’d have worried I’d smash that banana in their face for making light of the situation.
I got this: After going all Hulk (internally, anyway–I never turned all huge and green despite all the spinach in our diet), things calmed down emotionally, and Bryce and I hit our Whole30 stride. We continued trying out new recipes, mastered the breakfast conundrum, managed not to kill anyone or anything, and successfully resisted temptations, of which there were many. Not that I have something to prove, but let me share some examples. In early May, Bella Gelato & Pastries opened a block from my office. Shortly thereafter, several ladies from work decided to go and invited me along. Despite the obvious reasons not to, I nevertheless joined them. The pastries and gelato menu was enticing (Brown Butter Cookie Dough, HELLO!), but I was able to stare temptation in the face and walk away, albeit with an iced coffee topped with a splash of compliant almond milk. (Yum, by the way. It felt like a special treat!) Several days later, Dianna, one of my Minnesota besties, came to visit Bryce and I. During her stay, we celebrated her birthday. Now, even though we retained a compliant kitchen, I couldn’t let her go without cake on her birthday. We were high maintenance but not communists. So, I took Dianna to The Cupcake Company just down the road, and when that red velvet cupcake whispered sweet nothings through the display case, I ignored it. Even when Dianna and I walked around Washington, D.C. before she headed back to Minnesota, I ably maneuvered my way around menus at a burger restaurant and Starbucks. My relationship with food truly started changing, and livin’ la vida Whole30 became a way of life. I said to myself, “I got this.”
The home stretch: With the end so near, we both confronted moments in which we wanted to throw our arms up in the air and surrender. On day 28 there was an unfortunate mishap with some amazing bolognese sauce served atop lackluster noodled vegetables. The frustration was palpable, and we swore the answer was some real pasta. 28 days is as good as 30, right? We can cook up that pot of bucatini sitting just down the hall with the rest of the contraband, right? Well, no. Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig make that clear, commenting that if it was meant to be 28 or 29 days long, they’d have called it Whole29 or Whole28. Then, with just one and half days left of the program, Bryce and I hit the road for New Jersey to celebrate a baptism and ordination with the Fergusons, more good friends of ours. We were both feeling nervous about the weekend, particularly since the special events with all of their culinary accoutrements would be taking place on the first day after Whole30. Would we stick to the program on Day 31? Would we throw caution to the wind and completely indulge? Would we fall somewhere in the middle? There are instructions of what do to after completing Whole30 in the books and on the website, and one of the wise suggestions is not to schedule the Whole30 during a special event–or to end on the day before a special event. Whoopsie. Still, we were optimistic that we’d be able to handle the transition out of Whole30, and despite potential moments of weakness, we powered through the desires to give up.
Day 30: The last day was surprisingly easy and almost passed without notice. Compliant breakfast at a New Jersey diner for breakfast, check. Compliant leftovers for lunch, check. Groceries from Trader Joe’s for a compliant supper, check. I think because we kept busy all day, we faced no real challenges and didn’t think about straying. Suddenly it was bed time and we realized that we had successfully made it through the Whole30 program. Woohoo! Let’s celebrate with a cookie, on day 31.
Results: Funny things happened over the course of the month. When we started, I was adamant that I’d go back to eating the foods we worked hard to eliminate. As we settled into the program and our bodies grew accustomed to the real, honest-to-goodness food we ate for every meal, however, I realized this way of life was not so bad after all. And, truth be told, I didn’t really miss that bowl of Fruity Pebbles all that much. It really does not compare to a homemade egg and sausage bake paired with a spinach tomato salad and half a fresh grapefruit. Cravings for that afternoon snickers bar disappeared. Both Bryce and I also noticed that we thought cheese would be one of the most difficult things to eliminate but discovered we didn’t miss it at all. In fact, we commented just a day or two ago that cheese often seems an ingredient added to recipes for salt. But why not just add some salt? Some expected things happened over the 30 days, too. After a week or so, we both starting sleeping better. Our energy levels stayed consistent throughout the entire day. Our seasonal allergies didn’t bother us as much. Digestion worked effortlessly (read: no constipation, no diarrhea, no irregularity). By the last day, Bryce lost 16 pounds and I 10. Completely worth the emotional ups and downs. In fact, it was so successful that two weeks after completing Whole30, we’re still mostly following the program and considering little things like adding honey to hot tea and cream to coffee cheats. What’s wrong with thinking that way? Nothing, if you ask me. Turns out livin’ la vida Whole30 truly educated us about the importance of eating real food, all while transforming our emotional relationship with food for the better.
Coming up in the third (and final) post about our Whole30 trek will be the culinary hits and misses of the month, complete with recipes, links, and post Whole30 experiences for you to explore.