Thoughts on the Whole30 Thing Now That It’s Over

Whole30 cat memeFor those who haven’t been reading the weekly posts, here’s the simple scoop on Whole30. Essentially, it’s a 30 day challenge to eat clean — as in no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, or certain additives (carrageenan, MSG, sulfites), or re-created junk food — as well as to detox, change, habits, and so forth. There’s more to it than that, lots of philosophies and perspectives and addendum and such that fill and entire website with essays and blog posts about the challenge, but that’s the essential gist.

I didn’t really have any expectations when I started this challenge, so it’s easy for me to call it a success — and on the whole, I’d say it was. I followed the rules for 30 days, even when certain family members begged me to quit so that I could drink with them, even when I sat helping a friend put together grab bags of candy while she ate cupcakes, even when I was getting really, really bored and feeling really, really over it.

I’m not going to passionately rave about how great Whole30 is, like I’ve seen other bloggers do. But I will say the experience was worth it for me. Three days after the challenge has ended, and I’m still feeling pretty good.

For anyone interested, my here are my week one, two, three, and four breakdowns of what I spent on groceries and so forth. My overall thoughts and feelings are below. It’s a little random, but that’s how I roll.

It’s Not as Hard as It Seems

Okay, I know I said I had no expectations going in, but I guess I had one — that it would be hard as hell.

That was one expectation I was glad to have proven wrong. The Whole30 did take more work, requiring time and energy to meal prep for the week and cook after getting off work. But when I looked for it, the willpower to say, No, to candy, chips, and other junk food was there. One reason was that I was in the right headspace for this. When a sister roped me into trying to do this two years ago, the entire concept annoyed me and I didn’t really try, which had me quitting at the end of the week (better than my sister, who quit after two days). This time around, I was ready to commit, which made things go smoothly. Another reason was that I had already stopped buying some of the things on the banned list (such as milk and bread).

The hardest part was reprogramming weird habits that are almost like muscle memory. Like grabbing taquito off of my nephew’s plate to take a bite and show him how good it is and that he should eat it, too (which never works). Or, snagging a piece of candy out of the dish at the doctor’s office. In all of these occasions, I didn’t even particularly want the thing I was grabbing, but latched onto as a reflex. I caught myself immediately, but was surprised how I could act without making a conscious decision to do so.

The other challenge was that eating Whole30 is more pricey — with my grocery costs at least doubling what they were before the challenge — although not too bad when you can buy things to last you a couple of weeks, such as bulk items and meats that you can freeze.

Feeling Clean

The best way I can describe how I feel after all this is clean. The best way to describe it is the opposite of when you eat fried food and junk, when you feel heavy and dragging and like your skin is producing grease. It’s a good, light feeling, one I’d like to hold on to — which is one of the reasons I don’t have any immediate urges to runout and consume copious amounts of junk food.

No Cravings

The only thing I desperately wanted to have in the final two weeks of this challenge was corn (specifically corn as part of a Chipotle said) and a beer. Not the worst things to be craving as things go. I am not, however, dying to have chips or cupcakes or chocolate or any of the other things I used to want to have ALL THE TIME. In fact, if a cupcake were set in front of me, I wouldn’t even really want it right now (although I would probably be tempted to take a bite, which would likely lead to more bites). It’s kind of cool and makes me feel more in control of

There’s Sugar in Everything

I kid you not. Read the labels. It’s added to salad dressings and lunch meat and all kinds of things you wouldn’t think sugar would be in. It was one of the hardest things to avoid.

Also, wheat, which is also in a ton of things — although since most of those things are processed food items that I wasn’t allowed to eat anyway, it was easier to avoid.

Apparently, I Can Cook Things

I have been known to be a lazy cook, the kind of cook that just throws pre-made frozen food into the oven and sets a tim, the kind of cook unwilling to do anything that requires even a hint of additional effort. My mom and sisters have consistently made fun of me (in a loving way) for my complete lack of interest in this regard, as they are all rather good cooks in their own way.

But on the Whole30, I had not choice but to prepare my lunches at the beginning of every week and cook my dinner every night. So, I planned out that required small amounts of effort and time and was able to come up with a number of good eats that often took me less than 20 minutes to make. This included super easy stuff like chicken salad wraps or lettuce-shell chicken tacos to slightly more complicated meals like sausage and zucchini-bell-pepper-cauliflower stir fry, baked salmon with brussel sprouts, and a beef patty and portobella mushroom burger. After three weeks, I was even starting to get a little creative, mixing together ingredients without double checking a recipe first.

My favorite meal was a sausage sweet potato hash with a friend egg on top (I do not have a photo of this, I’m afraid as I got lazy about taking food pics toward the end) — something I would never have thought to make prior to this challenge. This breakfast is sweet and savory, and I love the egg yolk mixed up in it all. It’s just so good and supper simple. (If anyone wants the recipe, then I’ll provide it, but honestly it’s just sweet potato, yellow peppers, and sausage in a pan with a fried egg).

I Freaking LOVE Almond Butter

No, seriously. I didn’t know how good this was, so blinded was I by the standardized peanut butter.

A Balance Between Healthy and Happy

Finding a good balance between healthy and happy is the next step. What this balance looks like is different for everyone. Theodora Goss has a great post on this concept and presents an example on what works for her. For some this balance may involve sticking strictly to something like the Whole30 plan, for others it may mean eating whatever the hell they want when they want, and for still others it might mean something in between.

balance

It will probably take some time to figure out exactly what sort of balance works best for me, but this is what I do know:

  • I want to stick to having most of my meals consist of primarily meat and vegetables, with an addition of some grains like corn, quinoa, and so forth. I feel like this would work well for me, since I probably need some additional carbs beyond meat and veggies in order to power my running. I’m also happy having various kinds of fruit for a sweet kick with dinner or whenever.
  • I want to keep the habit up of cooking my dinners most nights. It feels good to be in control of my own cooking and it’s great when I get a tasty meal just right.
  • I’m going to have beer, wine, whiskey, or other booze when I feel like it (even if Whole30 says its a no-no, as in never). Enjoying a drink from time to time is a part of what makes me a happy person, as long as I’m keeping it (mostly) in moderation.
  • I am not going to play an is-it-worth-it game every time I want to have something less than the usual healthy. That kind of game would probably just make me miserable in the long run, feeding the kind of guilt spirals I just don’t need.
  • That said, I don’t want to fall into the eating-junk-food-because-it’s-there trap, which was something I did quite often before I started this challenge.

I’m sure I’ll have to change things around and re-adjust in the coming months as I continue to explore what sorts of food works for me, and as I face peer pressure again. (It’s amazing how much easier it is for me to say “I can’t because I’m doing Whole30” than it is to say “I’d rather not.”) Already this week, I’ve had a glass of beer and some sushi and other non-Whole30 items — and I’m still feeling clean, still feeling good.  Let’s keep it that way.

Tell me about your own food journeys in the comments. Whether you’ve done the Whole30 things or have tried other kinds of plans.

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The Whole30 Thing – Week Four

The what and why of the Whole30 food challenge is here, but essentially the rules are no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, or certain additives (carrageenan, MSG, sulfites) for a 30 days.

How I Feel

There are four days left in the challenge and I’m feeling good — that same clean feeling throughout my body. I also have no cravings, or at least not any for junk food (I just really, really want some corn, okay?). My only physical complaint right now it that my right shoulder and neck are a mess — although that is more than likely from some other cause.

In general, this has been a good experience (which I’ll write about next week when this is all officially over), but I’m definitely looking forward to being done and having more flexibility in terms of my food choices.

Continue reading “The Whole30 Thing – Week Four”

The Whole30 Things – Week Three

The what and why of the Whole30 food challenge is here, but essentially the rules are no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, or certain additives (carrageenan, MSG, sulfites) for a 30 days.

I’m three weeks in and fully in the I’m so done stage.

How I Feel

Clean (I don’t really know how else to describe it), but otherwise normal. No surges of energy that other people have described. At least not yet.

Mostly, though, what I’m feeling is a kind of boredom with the level of restrictions and I’m wanting this to be over with. I’m not craving anything in particular (except booze). I don’t want candy or pastries or chips or other kinds of junk food. All I want is to be able to have some corn on my Chipotle salad. Or, quinoa. Or, other mostly healthy things that provide some variety, but are restricted during the Whole30.

And I want a freaking beer, or wine, or whiskey, or whatever.

Other than that, I’m feeling pretty good to go on this. The cooking is sometimes annoying after a long day, but doesn’t feel overwhelming. Even the weekly meal prep is easy enough. So, I’m sticking with it and I’m certain I’ll make it through the next week and a half.

Meanwhile, my dad being his ever helpful self told me I should drop this thing so we can go out and have drinks together — thanks, dad.

Continue reading “The Whole30 Things – Week Three”

The Whole30 Thing – Week Two

The what and why of the Whole30 food challenge is here, but essentially the rules are no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, or certain additives (carrageenan, MSG, sulfites) for a 30 days.

How I Feel

I’m told most people quit on day eleven. That was yesterday.

I’ve had a few “I’m so over this” moments” and some cravings this week, but they were mostly idle thoughts and I was able to easily enough brush them aside.

The hardest part of the week was hanging out with my niece and nephew. There are some weird habits people can get into around kids — they aren’t eating their dinner so there is leftover food on their plates that’s easy to nab, or they have their little cups of Goldfish crackers and it’s just so easy to reach in an grab one, or so on.

While feeding my nephew dinner, which he was not eating, I went to do the see-look-it’s-good thing and went to take a bite of one of his taquitos to prove to him that I wasn’t lying, that his good was indeed good. I brought the taquito up to my mouth and even touched my teethe to it before I realized what I was doing. No bite was taken, thus no rules were broken. But, man, it was so close.

The funny thing is: trying to prove to a kid that they should eat a thing by eating it yourself never actually works. They see us eating stuff they don’t like all the time. So, maybe that habit should just be shut down entirely.

Continue reading “The Whole30 Thing – Week Two”

The Whole30 Thing – Week One

As I mentioned last week, I’m doing the Whole30 challenge — essentially no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, or certain additives (carrageenan, MSG, sulfites). Here’s my week one round up of how it’s going.

How I Feel

So far I haven’t felt overly tempted have been few. My office has chocolate in stock and other no-nos for this challenge. But even though I’m aware of them and other temptations in my everyday, I’ve found that I’m able to glance them longing for a brief moment and then move one. (I have had an anxiety dream midweek in which I was tricked into eating some pasta or something and felt frustrated about having to start the challenge over.)

Apparently, it’s entirely normal during the first 14 days to experience headaches, lethargy, sleepiness, crankiness, and so on. My energy has definitely went down as the week went on, with it being harder and harder to get out of bed in the mornings up through Thursday. There were also a couple of times midweek in which I’ve had less patience things that normally don’t bother me (although the fact that I’m overwhelmed with work at the moment may be contributing to this).

However, I woke up this morning with significantly more energy than yesterday and in a much better mood, so hopefully I’m on an upswing.

Continue reading “The Whole30 Thing – Week One”

The whole Whole30 thing

Whole30There is this thing called the Whole30 challenge. It’s a challenge to eat whole, non-processed foods for 30 days, including “meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds.”

During that time you are not allowed to consume added sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, carrageenan, MSG or sulfites. You are also not supposed to create baked good (breads, pancakes, etc.) with compliant substitutes, and smoothies and other blended drinks are frowned upon.

The aim is to go for healthy eating and there are entire areas of the internet given over to how awesome this challenge is and the health benefits it provides.

Although I find aspects of it annoying, I’ll be doing the Whole30 challenge for the month of August. Why? Because my sister has had some anxiety and health challenges, she wants to try it to see if it will help her, and she doesn’t want to do it alone. So, I’m backing her up.

I’m pretty sure I have the willpower to stick to the plan (she says as she sticks a piece of chocolate candy in her mouth). My two main challenges are going to be cooking and cost.

Most of the recommended meal plans I’ve seen for Whole30 so far have been elaborate to say the least, often written by people who seem to enjoy cooking. The plans involve weekly meal-prep work and homemade dinners every night and 50-item shopping lists.

None of which works for me or my sanity.

I don’t really cook much and I dislike grocery shopping. And it seems like the Whole30 thing would less helpful if it includes a massive amount of stress.

I’m trying to find ways to keep it all as easy and cheap as possible. I need breakfasts that I can put together in less than 5 minutes flat and ideally eat while I’m walking out the door (right now I do protein shakes, which are not allowed in the plan). Lunches will be mason jar salads made on Sundays (something I used to do for a short while) and dinners will have to be one-pan and able to be finished in no more than 20-30 minutes. Most of my shopping will be at Trader Joe’s. Apparently, I can have carnitas salads from Chipotle, which is awesome for a quick fix, since they’re right across the street.

I’ll post weekly updates on the meal plans and costs and how things are going — in part to just keep myself accountable.

Have you done Whole30? What was it like?

Checking Out Corktown, Detroit

While my journeys in Corktown — the oldest neighborhood in Detroit — occurred over the course of two separate days, they really belong in a single post, since Corktown was so distinct compared to downtown Detroit. Corktown is where I started to see real signs of decay with many buildings and businesses nearby boarded up and dilapidated. But several great restaurants and a new brewery commingle, revealing signs of vibrant life.

Wednesday night, after day one of the conference I was attending for work, my new friend drove us out to Michigan Central Station, was built from 1912-1913 for the Michigan Central Railroad and was closed down in the ’80s. It’s been run down ever since and is currently surrounded by a chain-link fence with razor wire at the top to prevent anyone from going in. Through the open doorways, you can see signs of crumbling and decay, but it’s still such a beautiful building. There’s local debate as to whether it should be torn down or restored. I vote restored, though I know it’s never quite that simple.

Detroit - Michigan Central Station
Michigan Central Station

Dinner that night was Slow’s Bar-B-Q, where we were served up some amazing, perfectly moist brisket and creamy, dreamy mac n cheese — so, so good. My second side was the green beens, which were perfectly cooked, but had a spicy sauce that I wasn’t digging. Just a bit to spicy for me, especially since I really like the taste of plain, lightly salted green beans.

Detroit
Great brisket at Slow’s.

* * *

On my second trip to Corktown (on Friday , my friend Lorie was driving through and she pointed out what looking like a bar inside a warehouse. “I drove past here last night and it was jumping,” she said. “Do you want to check it out?”

I said, “Absolutely.”

As we were walking in through the back, we were greeted by a young woman named Courtney. She said the place was a distillery, called Two James, and she was one of the partners.

She showed us through the tasting room, where the style expressed a sense of old and new all at once, to a door leading to the distillery. I thought she was just going to let us peer through the window, but she said, “We don’t normally let people back here, but since you’re so enthusiastic…” Then she opened the door and showed us in, where several men were working at the giant copper pot.

“They’re brewing gin right now,” said Courtney. “I always think it smells sticky.”

“Sticky” is the perfect way to describe the heavy sweet scent that hung in the air. I wouldn’t know how to describe it any other way.

She led us over to a barrel, where there was an unlabeled bottle and some small plastic shot glasses and gave us a taste of the gin that was brewing. I’m not normally a fan of gin — this was the smoothest gin I’ve ever tasted. I would even consider just having it over rocks and sipping it slowly.

I told Courtney as much. “Yeah,” she said. “Most gins have 4-5 botanicals. We use 12.”

In the tasting room, I ordered a Manhatten, which I knew was a whiskey forward drink. It was fantastic, one of those drinks in which you can taste the good liquor.

My second drink was the Corktown Mule, a mixture of Old Cockney Gin, lime juice, and ginger beer. The drink was sharp with the taste of ginger and refreshing, a great summer drink.

From the tasting menu: “Two James Spirits is proud to be the first licensed distillery in the city of Detroit since prohibition. Our 500 gallon American made copper pot still resides in an old red brick warehouse in Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood. At Two James, our passion lies in creating small, handcrafted batches of premium spirit, using locally sourced ingredients that highlight Michigan’s agricultural abundance and more importantly the people and city of Detroit.”

According to the bartenders, Two James is named after both of the partner’s fathers, each of whom are named James. The distillery was named in tribute to their fathers. It’s been open for only around a year and only sells the liquor they brew themselves. For me at least, Two James distillery is a must-go spot in Detroit.

A food truck, names Katoi, parks out behind the distillery and serves Thai food to hungry liquor tasters. But Lori and I were in the mood for burgers, so we walked down to the Mercury Bar, which is directly across the street from Slow’s.

We were running short on time when we arrived at the Mercury Bar, as I needed to be at the airport in under an hour or so to fly home. But Gino, a man with warm smiles, a pink-toned plaid shirt, bow tie, and thick-rimmed sunglasses assured us that he could get our burgers out in a hurry. The burgers came out in perfect timing and were big and juicy and good eating after all our liquor tasting.

Detroit was a delightful experience, not at all like the rumors would have led me to believe. I would definitely go back again and maybe next time, I’ll check out some more of the cultural sites as well as the good eats.

Detroit
The Two James logo.
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The tasting room.
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A wall of barrels at Two James.
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You can look through the barrels into the distillery.
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Inside the distillery with it’s large copper pot.
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The line of liquor.
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A tasty Manhattan.

Getting In and Hanging Out

Detroit

On my last day in Detroit (last Friday, Aug 22, as with previous night), we set out without much of plan, electing to wander around Greek Town and the surrounding areas. We checked out Saint Mary’s Church and had some eats at El Wood Bar & Grill.

While we were eating, we listed to the preparations for the Eminem and Rhianna concert going on across the street, including a sound check from Rhianna. At the gates, people were already lining up (it was only mid-morning).

Meanwhile, there were signs of people in jerseys, waiting for the football game that night. Since the arena is across the street from where the concert was being held, I can imagine how packed and chaotic the night would be — any restaurant and local workers were talked to just shook their head at what was about to enfold. Though Lori and I were well on our way out of there before the gauntlet fell.

Detroit - Saint Mary's Church
Saint Mary’s Church

The theme of the day seemed to be getting into places you wouldn’t normally be allowed, which started with our visit to Saint John’s Church. The door was locked as we were walking up, but as we were walking around the side of the building an old, young at heart woman came out a side door. We told her we were trying to see the church and she welcomed us in through the back offices, where she pointed out old photographs of the church whenit had been moved 60 feet back in order to allow a widening of the street out front. She also showed us portraits of the founder and his wife, let us into the original church chapel, and then let us explore the main church at our leisure.

Continue reading “Getting In and Hanging Out”

Good Eats and Great Folks in Downtown Detroit

My third night (last Thursday) in Detroit was dedicated to exploration. New friend Lori and I started out with the plan to walk around downtown Detroit and see what cool little spots we could discover in the area. To that end, we rode the Detroit People Mover (an elevated train) to Broadway station and just started walking.

Not far from the stop, we found ourselves at the Angelina Italian Bistro, across from the Opera House. Angelina’s featured a large marquee style front, which leads me to believe it might have been an old theatre — and since so much of Detroit has a history, I would not be surprised if it was. The bar and restaurant were virtually empty. Looking to try out a local brew, I ordered a Motor City Lager. The blonde beer was a little blander than I normally like, but it wasn’t bad. The appetizers, however, were excellent. The crab cakes were packed with flavorful herbs and the scallops were buttery melt in your mouth perfect.

On Eric’s recommendation, we walked a couple of blocks around the corner to Wright & Co. From the exterior, the only sign of a restaurant is a placard with the logo the phrase “Second Floor.” Inside and up a flight of stairs (or the elevator), which made me feel like we were discovering a secret, is the restaurant and bar, packed with people. The space is trendy with a great mix of old and new. I particularly liked the stamped tin ceiling.

Continue reading “Good Eats and Great Folks in Downtown Detroit”