Today it’s the first day of the Whole30 challenge, and I’m scared. I’ve been planning, reading, and getting nervous for a week, and the day is here already.
Not sure if you’ve heard about Whole30 before, but if you haven’t, let me tell you a little bit about it.
This plan is not a weight loss diet as such, although it helps on that area too. Based on a Paleo diet, the Whole30 aims to eliminate all foods that our bodies aren’t thrilled about for 30 days, to reset our digestive health. After that, there’s a careful reintroduction of said foods, where you get to analyse how (if at all) they affect your body and mind. The premise of this is that some foods we’re used to might not be doing us much good, but we’re so used to them, we don’t notice them anymore. Feeling not 100% right has become our new normal.
Now, given the fact that I’m always suffering from minor everything, I decided to give it a try.
This plan doesn’t promise you to cure you of all your ailments (and doesn’t disregard real medical advice, which gives me confidence), but it’s true that if your body is healthy and running like clockwork, many symptoms will be reduced. Here are some conditions the plan is supposed to help you with: high blood pressure and cholesterol (of course, any healthy diet would help with that), allergies, skin conditions, migraines, joint pain, thyroid dysfunction, chronic fatigue…
When I started reading about the plan, I quickly became disheartened: you pretty much can’t eat anything. Added sugars (and artificial sweeteners – not too bothered about this, since I’m not a sugary person), alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy… All of those are things you can’t eat (or drink). So there goes GBK blue cheese burger, or pepperoni pizza, or Nutella on toast, or cheese on toast, or baked beans on toast, or anything on toast! I don’t normally eat these things on a regular basis, but I do eat pasta and rice quite often, for example. So… Yeah, I wasn’t that convinced. Don’t get me started on the alcohol, what are you supposed to drink when you go out? Mineral water?
The pros about this plan is that it’s really only 30 days, after which, you decide what you want to do. Also, once you finish it, if you follow the rules to the letter, you end up having a great understanding of how food affects you, and can make informed choices about which ingredients you’re happy to allow into your diet. For example, bread might give you stomach pain and bloating, but you might decide that one Nutella toast is totally worth it (or not). You get to choose.
Another pro of this challenge is bacon. Yes, you can eat bacon (as long as it doesn’t have any added sugars or off-plan ingredients, that is). Also, being able to eat whatever for breakfast or dinner, is always a bonus, isn’t it?
The cons is that it’s difficult. They have a motto about the difficulty of the program (that basically says it’s not) but each person is different. It’s not difficult to give up food, per se, what’s difficult is the psychology behind it. I joke with some colleagues about eating my feelings, but it’s not really a joke. You see, I eat when I’m stressed, or bored, or sad… The only feeling that really doesn’t make me want to eat is being nervous, everything else, gobble, gobble, gobble! Sad, but true.
So, what can you eat?
To ease you into the program, they provide you with a 7-day meal plan for the first week, so you don’t have to think much, and even tell you how to cook it, as in, when to prepare in advance what, what time to start cooking, etc.
The first week has meals such as spinach frittata, protein salads, seared chicken breast, Mexican tuna, braised beef brisket, pork chops, oven-baked salmon, and even pan-fried plantains! I mean… My mouth is watering just by looking at the photos.
Why am I telling you all this? Several reasons.
First, this is my latest project, which means I’m currently over excited about it. I would love to fast-forward into it, and change my habits. I’m not looking forward to eating out, or some of the phases in the plan timeline, but it seems like a great opportunity to become healthier.
Secondly, I’m going to need help. At some point or another, I’m going to be tempted. Now, cakes and biscuits are not my thing, but crisps and cheese are. Team lunches, drinks, dinners out, sharing a flat, watching TV (popcorn is out too!) are going to be tough. They tell you to find supportive friends you can call if you feel weak. Hey, it’s me, I need help… I’m holding a ham and cheese toasted sandwich on my hand, and I am opening my mouth… HELP!. Supposedly, the supportive friend will talk you out of it, while suggesting if you’re really hungry and don’t actually have a craving, to eat some protein instead. I guess by the umpteenth time you call them within 40 minutes, they will probably hang up on you. I’ve thought of a few people I can, if not call, at least Whatsapp (Oummou, Su, Brian, you’re up), but let’s hope I don’t feel weak in the middle of the night, because I’m not going to be waking everyone up!
Finally, you will start seeing a bunch of food photos popping up everywhere you follow me (especially Instagram), because when you’re allowed to have pulled pork carnitas topped with fried egg, and pan-fried plantains for breakfast, you need to Instagram the sh*t out of it!
I’m starting today. Yesterday was my Day 0, planning and cooking, and today I’m going over to the Ronald McDonald House to cook dinner for families, and staying overnight. The company will give me a snack for the day, which I will need to be strong enough to refuse, and then I’ll have to be strong enough to not lick my fingers or taste the food while cooking.
Also today, I was joining a new Nike challenge (Find Your Fast). I’ve been going to the gym, and I’m feeling strong(er). I can even do about eight moderated push ups in a minute, which is amazing (don’t laugh at me, I have no upper arm strength). On Saturday, I woke up with pain in my neck and unable to turn my head in any direction. I was hoping it would go away, but I’m still stuck, so no gym for me. I’ll join the workout plan as soon as the pain goes away, and will try stretching in the meantime.
So there it is, 30 days of eating healthy, drinking healthy and cooking a lot.
I’m having dinner with Sean on Wednesday, and I still need to find a restaurant in London Whole30 compliant (or that it’s not too much of a pain to change ingredients). I’ve been searching online, but I’m a bit lost. Any suggestions?