The Whole 30 experiment- aka The Great Hunger Strike of 20117
Seth-"Hey man, want to do whole30 with me?" Me- "F$*K NO! Have you lost your mind?"
Friday, March 3, 2017-My eating for the day consists of steak nachos, pizza, potato chips and Sierra Nevada....
Saturday, March 4, 2017 Me: "Alright, I'm in." Seth: "Great, we start Monday."
And so began my Whole 30 challenge, or as I began referring to it, as "the hunger strike," "Going Ghandi" and "my poor life choice".
"Why you ask, would I do such a thing?"
"You eat great." you say. "You're the FRESHJUNKIE guy."
Truth is, earlier in the week, I had stepped on a scale for the first time in months and I was around 185. About 15 pounds heavier than I had been in years. I was pretty unmotivated and was looking for something.
Over the past 16 years or so, I have not done much "dieting" and as a rule, think that "diets" are a bad idea. Every diet you "go on," you will eventually "go off." It's not the going on that gets, you. It's the off. That being said, I am easily challengeable, and winning the challenge, even though it wasn't a contest, was all I needed to motivate myself. So I fired up the old computer and took the worldwide webses over to the Whole 30 site to see what I had gotten myself into.
I'd heard of Whole 30, but really had no idea what it was beyond being 30 days long and "whole-some". After a little reading I realized I was going to starve. Started in 2009 as a way to determine what was causing inflamation and food allergies, the Whole 30 diet eliminates almost everything but fruits, vegetables and meats. No grains, dairy, alcohol, processed foods, sugar, sugar substitutes and on and on. You can check out THE RULES.
On it's surface, this doesn't seem that hard, but my approach was to drink beer and eat every banned food on Saturday and Sunday and then I'd start Monday after a swim. This was fatal error one. One of the most important ways to ensure success on the diet is to plan. And on week one, I did no planning and was immediately hungry. I ate some eggs, and had some fruit. Which got me to 8:00 a.m. I ate my first salad at 9:00 a.m. and from there it was on!!
The first thing you will notice when on the whole30 is how terrible the American diet is for you. If you open your pantry or walk into a grocery looking through the w30 lens, you see you can't eat anything. Damn near 80% of the store is off limits. It's crazy. I knew there is added sugar in things, but how many was astounding. Add in not being able to eat grains and basically your whole pantry is out.
For the first week, I ate a lot of salad, a lot of cashews, eggs and fruit. I did read the fine print and realized I could eat potatoes by around day 8. I also learned that using red potatoes for hash browns is ill advised and I created and ate some of the worst things I have ever cooked. I ate them anyway.
Added to this dieting adventure, I signed up for a 3 day long distance swim fest and began upping my swimming mileage substantially. NEWS FLASH-Whole 30 is a terrible idea for endurance athletes. I was constantly lethargic, and every workout felt flat. I kept pressing on though as I am a black and white kind of person. All in or nothing. Despite the misery.
By week 2-3 I was actually fine with the changes. I still wasn't getting enough calories, but I wasn't ready to go postal any more. By the end of the 3rd week I forgot how many days I had left, and the last week was the same. I finished with no fan fare and was still alive, despite my 3 yr old tantrums in week one.
WHAT HAPPENED!? First the #. I lost 11 lbs. No, I didn't take posed "before and after pics," because you don't really want to see that. I burned some fat and leaned out a little.
But really, I felt no different. I must eat pretty okay most of the time, because I had no discernible good feelings. In fact, I mostly felt shitty. Lethargic, tired, and grumpy would be the top of my list. From reading some of the whole30 reviews, I was led to believe I'd have full clarity and have so much energy I'd be ready for anything. I was waiting to see rainbows and saw mostly fog. Wompwompwomp.
THE GOOD: The reality is, I needed a kick start, and if nothing else, whole30 is great for that. It gave me rigidity in my life that I don't usually have. I also needed to lose a few lbs. and this was a good way to do it. I ate more veggies, and was made more acutely aware of how much sugar and garbage is in our food. Read labels get to know what you are putting into your body, if it's from a box and or from a restaurant other than FRESHJUNKIE, it's probably not great.
30 days of eating on any diet really can be a positive in that it can give you a much needed jump start. The reality may be that 15 days is also enough. I found it took about 20 until I completely quit caring about any of the food I ate.
I did learn that I am likely allergic to something, not sure what. So, another minimal win. I may do one week of it again and see if I can figure it out, but probably not.
THE BAD: It's a diet. You will go on it and then you will go off it. I have pretty much returned to my normal eating habits, with perhaps a little adjustment. Like almost all diets it's not sustainable (nor does Whole 30 claim to be a forever plan). It takes a lot of planning and if I am honest, completely ruined food for me. I guess I am also a little lazy in that even though I am a good cook, I wasn't super interested in cooking lots of whole 30 approved meals and for sure wasn't going to dig into making snacks and stuff. I ate for calories, and ate a lot more raw food than cooked.
Not sure whether this is good or bad, but one of my realizations during this whole deal was how incredibly difficult it must be for people who love food and who are overweight and obese to lose weight. Food is a place of comfort and emotion for a lot of people, and the choices we have out there are at best terrible. Eating right takes will power, and planning. There isn't a snack food that you can buy off the shelf that isn't mostly garbage (IMO) and shit choices are EVERYWHERE.
It made me realize again that food is 80-90% of the fitness game. You can't out work a poor diet. Eating right gets you close to your goals, exercise sharpens the knife. A balanced approach with some carbs and grains is going to be more sustainable.
EAT right, live right.
Hugs+high fives, PF