Monday, September 26, 2016

Whole30 Part 3: Results

I had this post totally written a few months ago, it just took me so long to post it! See parts 1 and 2 of my Whole30 experience here: intro, recipes.

Whole30 has come and gone. It’s good it didn’t last much longer than 30 days because I was beginning to crack. The real stressor is that you think you are done after the thirty days but the reintroduction period can be about two weeks that you mostly still have to eat Whole30. It’s like you cross the finish line of the marathon, but have to run 4 more miles just to get back to your car. I kept fantasizing about the foods we were going to eat and it got harder and harder to resist. For example, the night before “dairy reintroduction” day, we had a little ice cream, since we were about to have dairy the next day anyways. 

I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do the reintroduction, but it seems like you can isolate affects of the various food groups best if you add only one restricted food in on one day then go back to whole 30 for two days, then add in the next restricted food group. We did it as follows:

Day 1 – legumes: I added garbanzo beans to our lunch salad and we ate chicken chili with beans in it for dinner.

Result: at the risk of sharing too much information, legumes caused major gas, at least for me.

Day 2-3: whole 30

Day 4: Non-gluten grains: rice with lunch and dinner

Result: About 30 minutes after eating, I was so sluggish. It was like I had just taken a Benadryl, I was ready to take a nap. The funny thing is, while I definitely noticed the energy decrease after eating the rice, I don’t feel like I noticed an energy increase that everyone talked experiencing while on Whole30, but maybe it was just more of an absence the post-lunch food coma that often drives me to reach for coffee too often during the work day.

Day 5-6: whole 30

Day 7: Dairy: yogurt for breakfast, then Greek chicken salad, the chicken was marinated in yogurt, the salad had feta and tzatziki.

Results: We both got stomach aches. I had actually experienced these sharp stomach aches before, part of what prompted me to go on whole 30.

Day 8-9:whole 30

Day 10: Gluten – toast for breakfast, spaghetti and meatballs for dinner

Result: it could have been because this was a weekend, I didn’t feel the tired effects as strongly as I did with the nongluten grains. I definitely felt more bloated the next day though.

Day 11-12: whole 30

Afterwards –

A friend asked what I missed the most. I think it was different things at different times. I always say I crave butter more than sugar – hard candy I can go without, but I always baked goods like cupcakes or cookies. I also missed yogurt a lot. I had gotten into the habit of having a yogurt smoothie in the mornings (yogurt & milk or kefir with lime, a dash of cardamom and teaspoon of maple syrup – so satisfying!) so I missed that. Jason missed pasta at different times, though cravings came and went for him too. 

There wasn’t a “reintroduction day” for sugar, but I guess we did it on day 13. Adding sugars back in was really a shock to my system, and amazingly, it wasn’t as satisfying as I kept day-dreaming about. I ate a mini key lime tart one night and felt like my teeth were disintegrating from all the sugar. I then got a headache afterwards. This happened for probably the first couple weeks any time I had something with sugar. Don’t worry, I pushed through and can now consume copious amounts sugar without the headache! Really, I do try to tone the sugar way down in recipes, or have a smaller quantity, as I don’t need as much to satisfy my sweet craving anymore.

Alcohol also had a much stronger effect. (At least for the first few weeks) I truly felt satisfied with just one glass of wine, or splitting a beer with Jason, plus, my tolerance had taken quite the dip, so smaller quantities of alcohol were best.

Over the course of the 6 weeks, Jason, despite his best efforts lost 7 pounds, and I lost about 5. After we ended the diet, Jason used the word “lighter” to describe how he felt while on it, and I guess he literally was. Another difference that I’ve noticed now that I’m back to “regular” food is that my skin was great while on Whole30 – I don’t think I had one pimple (in real life my skin hasn’t gotten the memo that I’m past adolescence).

We’re glad we did it, though we’re mostly back to our regular diets with a few tweaks. One of the most rewarding parts of it was that I feel like I was really able to recognize my bad habits, especially dependence on sugar and caffeine. It was a huge struggle at times to try to content myself with dried fruit when I really wanted a brownie or cupcake, but it really revealed my somewhat emotional relationship with food, such as the feeling that I needed a food reward after a hard day. It also has helped me to pause before eating “junk” food to consider whether I really want it, or if I’m eating something just because it is there or out of habit. I try to cut back on carbs for lunch since we both feel better that way and am much less dependent on my afternoon sugar fix.

One of the biggest changes is that I no longer drink my coffee with cream. I cut it out since dairy isn’t allowed and at the same time Jason started roasting his own coffee. So I kind of got used to having good coffee and was really disappointed to find that milk just deadened the coffee flavor so much that I really preferred going without it. Plus, because we both had slight dairy reactions, it has been a good way to limit dairy. By the way, the no cream in my coffee is a huge deal for me as my preferred cream to coffee ratio was about 1:3, and when I really wanted to be high maintenance I’d put in a blend of milk & cream. So now I’m just high maintenance about the kind of coffee I drink and try to convince myself that I am not a yuppie even though Jason and I converse about coffee as if it were wine – “Hmm.. I’m getting hints of blueberry and a smoky aftertaste.”

So, that is the end of our Whole 30 experience. I think it’s worth trying, especially if you want to try to improve how you feel, and potentially improve your overall health. And if you are going to try it, I raise the glass of red wine I have been drinking to you!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Purposeful Project - Intro

I read something once about a study on anxiety. A group of student who had a test were measured for anxiety levels. The students who had actually studied, predictably, had lower stress levels than those who hadn’t. But the really interesting thing is, that student who had not yet studied, but made a study plan, also had lower stress levels. So, I came up with a “study plan” for the next year. I’ve mentioned it on Instagram so wanted to explain a little more.

I read Gretchen Reuben’s The Happiness Project while we were in Indonesia (I know, I know, I built up the suspense in my last blog post and then only posted on Instagram about our trip. I haven’t even begun to go through my “big” camera photos!) It was a nice mix of actual studies and her own experience trying to be happier. She had a different focus each month for which she would create “resolutions” to try to follow. The impetus came to her when she was riding the bus with her children and realized one day the kids would be grown and she feared she would look back and realize that amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, she never stopped to just enjoy the unique and precious years. While it can sound a bit selfish to focus on our own happiness so much, Reuben takes the perspective that it really isn’t. Much of happiness is tied to relationships, being generous, and other outward focused aspects of life.

While not everything she said or did resonated with me, I do so often have the experience of wondering where in the world the past few months or years have gone. I always feel busy but am never sure what I’m so busy doing when someone asks what I’ve been up to. Like Reuben, I'm grateful to have a life that is relatively free of major challenges. I am happy or at least have every reason to be, but whether it’s the competitor in me – "She did this project, so I can too." – or just the desire to be more deliberate about areas of my life, I decided to do my own “Happiness Project.” However, I don’t really like calling it a “Happiness” project, because I’m a little less focused on happiness, per se, than she is. It's more that I want to know I’m doing things purposefully and not just reacting to whatever life throws my way. I hate saying that “I want to get more into…whatever” for years on end and not doing anything about it. So I’m calling this my “Purposeful Project.”

(Side note: When I read about how someone else gets their life organized, it stresses me out, because I feel like I need to do it too. I don’t want anyone else to feel like they have to do any of this. One of Gretchen Reuben’s big themes is “Be Gretchen.” In other words, know yourself, and know that it’s OK to do what works for you. Things that make some people happy won’t necessarily make you happy. I think if I had little kids of worked multiple jobs or had some other major happening taking up a lot of my mind and time, I would hopefully have been able to feel the freedom to say, “This project is not something I want to spend my time or mental energy on. I need to cut everything out to focus on my kid/ job/ whatever without distractions.” So I hope you feel that freedom too.)

I know it’s not the beginning of the year, but September always feels full of fresh beginnings with the school and fiscal year just starting up, so I figured this is as good a month as any to start. I sat down over labor day weekend to make my plan for the next nine months (I figured I could take the summer “off”.) I tried to start out by thinking about some “principles” I want to keep in mind for each goal. In asking myself the questions Reuben recommends, what makes me happy and what makes me unhappy? I tried to start out by thinking about what makes me happy and what makes me stressed out.

After writing out the things I want to work on, I realized that what makes me happy is feeling organized in the sense that  I narrowed down a few positive things (organization, learning) and negative things (wasting time, nagging tasks) to use as a framework for determining my monthly goals. I really like lists, so found it insightful when Reuben said what helped her most was her resolutions list which she used by to measure her progress each day. Using the template one her blog, I made my own spreadsheet, though must confess, now that I’m partway through the first month, have been horrible at checking it.

So that is the background of my “purposeful project.” I feel a little self-conscious about focusing on myself so much, so quick, let me know about your goals or what you thought of the book or anything!