How to Survive Your First Whole30
Warning: diet talk ahead (I know, who am I?)
Since my PCOS and insulin resistance diagnosis I’ve been struggling to find a way to get my charmingly quirky hormones under control and keep PCOS’ impact on my overall health to a minimum. Of course the first thing doctors recommended was hormonal birth control, but since that could (and nearly did) kill me, I decided to focus on diet and exercise instead.
For months I restricted my caloric intake to the lowest safe recommended amount for a grown woman, lifted my ban on protein powder and added kettlebell routines to my barre class schedule in an effort to shed some of the weight PCOS had helped me gain bafflingly rapidly over the course of a year. I meticulously logged all of my food and exercise in the My Fitness Pal app on my phone and stepped on the scale at least once a day.
I dropped a frustratingly tiny bit of weight, but my periods were still unpredictable, spontaneous monsters if they bothered to show up at all. Worse than that, I could feel myself spiraling into a dark place of obsessive calorie-counting, and I recognized that while it might have been helpful initially to get a handle on what I was actually eating as opposed to what I intended to eat, continuing to log every morsel that passed my lips was only going to lead to at best, misery, at worst, to disordered eating.
So I pried the tracker out of my own hands and took a little break before diving back into my research. That’s when I came across Whole30.
For the uninitiated, Whole30 is a program designed to help you determine which, if any of the foods you eat are sabotaging your health. So, in a nutshell (not a peanut shell though- they’re legumes and therefore forbidden during your Whole30) for 30 days you only eat a stripped down diet of healthy, whole foods. Nothing processed, no sugar, grains, alcohol, dairy, legumes. At the end of the 30 day period, you can begin reintroducing foods you missed one at a time to see how they affect your beautiful body.
It sounded challenging but do-able, and the best part, for me, was that one of the rules states that you can’t step on the scale or count calories for the entire 30 day period.
After reading this testimonial from a woman who says all of her PCOS symptoms disappeared after she tried Whole30, I was sold.
So I did my first Whole30 in Feb/March. It was challenging but my body responded well. I felt great overall during it and while I didn’t experience the kind of dramatic weight loss many people report, a couple of pounds did fall off along the way, my skin looked and felt great AND best of all, my period finally started making regular appearances, which is a good indicator that my hormones are finally chilling out a little.
I kept following whole30 about 80% of the time after the reintroduction period and was surprised by the number of foods I was ok continuing to leave out, and continued feeling great until I was recovering from wisdom tooth surgery and had a hard time finding foods that weren’t full of sugary carbs but were still soft enough for me to eat in the days following surgery. Before I knew it, my sugar cravings were back full-force and I was feeling sluggish again. And that, my friends, is how I’ve found myself on day 30 of my second whole30 today.
A friend of mine was mentioning that she and her family were considering trying it out, and I realized that as a now two-time Whole30 veteran, I had lots of advice to share, so I thought I’d share it with you too!
How to Survive Your First Whole30
Cancel your Sunday plans (or whatever day of the week happens to be convenient for you). Food prep time is key to a successful Whole30. Having lots of compliant food on-hand and ready to eat throughout the week makes it so much easier to resist the temptation to turn to processed foods for a quick fix.
Consider investing in a veggie noodle-maker. I thought I would miss pasta more than I have. It turns out I mostly just care about sauce and toppings. haha. Zucchini noodles are great vehicles for sauce, especially when sauteed with onions and chicken broth. Yum!
Get Pinning – Pinterest is your friend in your quest to keep your Whole30 meals interesting and varied. I’ve collected a lot of Whole30-approved recipes and meal ideas on my PCOS Recipes board.
Learn to love the humble sweet potato – cutting out grains can leave a large carb-shaped hole in your diet. While fresh veggies can help fill it up, some delicious diced sweet potatoes roasted in coconut oil can really keep you from losing your carb-craving mind! Ditto roasted cauliflower.
Make use of your freezer. I found it really handy to make large enough batches of casseroles or whatever on my food prep days that I’d have enough to freeze some for emergencies. My nutritionist pal Sarah also turned me on to Life Choices chicken burgers, which are also Whole30-compliant and a handy thing to have in the freezer for busy days.
Bookmark a restaurant or two where you can easily order a simple salad and steak (or in my case, ensalada costena with a side of seared tuna from Milagro- yum!) for when friends or family insist on going out. It’ll save you some agonizing and keep you from making your server’s night hell.
That said: ask questions. I almost didn’t bother checking whether some delicious-looking sliced smoked turkey could possibly be sugar/nitrate-free, but am so glad I did! It’s been a protein-packed life-saver in the heatwave Toronto’s been under this week.
If you can, shop your local farmer’s market (where I found the turkey) or butcher shop, do. I can’t tell you how excited I was to find sugar-free bacon at my local butcher’s.
Stock up on emergency snacks you can throw in your purse: lara bars (check ingredients for compliance – I like cashew cookie and coconut cream), tins of tuna, nuts and seeds. While snacking isn’t encouraged during your whole30, sometimes it’s absolutely necessary, and you don’t want to get stuck in a whole30 desert when you’re stuck late at work.
Recipes that got me through:
Apple mushroom turkey meatloaf
2lbs ground turkey
1 large apple
1 large onion (diced and sautéed)
1 stalk celery
Mushrooms (diced and sautéed)
Salt and pepper
Combine well and bake at 350 until cooked through (about 30 mins)
Cauliflower Rice – I actually bake mine on a cookie sheet instead of heating it in the skillet
Have you guys ever tried a Whole30? Got any other advice or questions about it? Let me know in the comments!