Whole30 Wrap-up: We made it!

A week ago today, we finished our first Whole30. (If you want to read back over three previous posts I wrote on our journey through the process, here's a post on why we decided to do Whole30/what it is, here's my take on the first ten days, and finally here's a look at being 20 days into the process.) I'm really proud of us for sticking with it and seeing it through--it wasn't easy at moments, but it also wasn't undoable by any means. 

Fresh fruit at the end of summer--these colors make me happy!

Fresh fruit at the end of summer--these colors make me happy!

And the end results? Not that this is all about weight and losing inches, but seeing obvious results in your body sure is encouraging! I lost 12 pounds and just over 9 inches from my body, while John lost 16 pounds and just over 7 inches. (This is huge for me as I struggle with PCOS, which makes weight gain easy and weight loss hard. Two years ago I was on a doctor-prescribed weight loss pill, and I lost 0 pounds. Whole30 plus moderate exercise proves that good, nourishing food is medicine!)

In addition to results that we can feel, we also had some key realizations:
1. In the past when I've "dieted," I've never really seen results because I made excuses left and right. "Moe's for lunch isn't that bad! I got the healthier option, too!" ("Healthier option" being the smaller size of a still deceptively caloric burrito with chips and salsa.) Having very clear, basic guidelines in Whole30 helps establish definitive boundaries that aren't always fun, but take cheating and bargaining with yourself out of the picture. I don't know about you, but I need boundaries, because left to my own devices, I rationalize the heck out of why eating a Chick-Fil-A meal with a Dr. Pepper isn't all that bad!
2. Sugar is in everything! Read labels and plan to make many of your own sauces and condiments accordingly. We watched the documentary Fed Up (on Netflix!) which further convinced us how much sugar Americans consume, much of which they don't even realize they're eating because a teaspoon sneaks in here, a tablespoon there, and before you know it you've had waaaaay more than your daily allotment of sugar! There's nothing like excess sugar to sabotage healthy eating efforts and attempts at weight loss.
3. There are so many delicious things you can make that leave out added sugar, dairy, legumes, and grains. And after a time of rest, your body can have some of those yummy things again, depending on what you decide to reintroduce or leave out altogether. I've enjoyed having rice and oats again this week. Oh, and some wine! We do live in Spain, after all. 

Top tips if you decide to do a Whole30--and I highly recommend you try it at some point, because you will feel better...promise.
1. Familiarize yourself with the program rules, especially what you can and cannot eat. Know what you can't eat, but focus on what you CAN eat!
2. Get online and search Whole30 meal planning ideas: there are tons of resources out there. If you have Instagram, follow Whole30 because they post recipes every day to get you inspired. (Recently, they've had a series on doing the Whole30 for families with kids, with great kid-approved recipes!) Get on Pinterest and search "Whole30 recipes" and tons of possibilities pop up. (Double check recipes, though, because sometimes people list something that they say is Whole30 compliant and yet it adds sugar...either forget that one for the time being, or substitute fruit for the sugar.) Type "Whole30 blogs" or "Whole30 meals" into Google and many, many blogs and websites are out there that provide encouragement and meal suggestions. (And many of those have before and after photos, which further help inspire me!)
3. Go shopping and stock up for a few days at a time, especially with lots of fresh produce and good sources of protein. Make sure you have compliant, delicious food on hand--an empty pantry or fridge is your mind's invitation to Taco Bell (or Chick-Fil-A, or Chipotle, etc.). Resist the urge, get to the grocery asap, and remind yourself fifty times on the way why you're doing what you're doing!
4. Stay out of temptation's way. If you know your coworkers are going out to Panera Bread for lunch, make yourself a delicious meal to take along and order yourself a black iced coffee. Don't come unprepared or you will probably slip up...because we all know that you will believe that chocolate chip muffie is calling your name. Stick with it!
5. Be creative with your recipes when you need a change. Stick with staples (baked salmon, vegetable soup or beef stew in the crock pot, big salads with grilled chicken) when you're busy. Make it work for you! Oh, and always have a snack on hand--a handful of cashews and some raisins was really helpful when I was out and needed a quick fix.

Now that we're a week away from the Whole30 lifestyle, we're branching out some. I enjoyed some frozen yogurt with strawberries last week, and it tasted great. I'm enjoying the fact that I can buy a bottle of wine here for 1.60 euros and it tastes fantastic. I've even had some gluten, and felt fine. But my mindset has changed, and I love the way I feel. I feel like portion control has been easier, and because I'm feeling better I want to exercise more. I am hoping that we keep up this healthier approach to eating in the months to come, especially with much change on the horizon as well as the holidays approaching before we know it. Here's to a healthier and happier few months to come!

 

 

checking in: 20 days into Whole30.

I can't believe it, but we're 20 days into Whole30, with 10 days to go! I'm simultaneously feeling like this:

I am physically feeling great (hence the boxing cat picture)--it's doing my body a world of good to give it a 30 day rest from dairy, grains, sugar, alcohol, and legumes. In these next ten days, we're going to be talking about how to move forward into post-Whole30 life. This much restriction isn't meant to exist for the long-term, but I definitely need to consider what I need to drastically reduce in my diet (or cut out altogether) so that my body can function best and I can feel good in my skin. 

At the same time, I've felt a little bit like a sloth with the whole cooking thing. While I was really into looking for recipes, shopping, and taking the time to prep and cook in the kitchen days one through ten, all that has felt more tiring this second third of the way through. I don't mind eating the same recipes over and over, but some change is nice. But we've done just fine, and are making it work!

Here are a few additional recipes I've cooked this week. You're going to want to check out the link to that green sauce below--it is delicious!

Sweet potato and carrot custard  . I baked a second one of these tonight, and am about to dig into it for dessert. This custard is really good with a splash of almond milk and some fresh berries on top.

Sweet potato and carrot custard. I baked a second one of these tonight, and am about to dig into it for dessert. This custard is really good with a splash of almond milk and some fresh berries on top.

I found a crock pot in the apartment we're staying in, and so I threw some beef tips, carrots, onions, and tomatoes in along with beef stock. It wasn't the most flavorful thing we've eaten, but it satisfied our desire for some red meat and veggies.

I found a crock pot in the apartment we're staying in, and so I threw some beef tips, carrots, onions, and tomatoes in along with beef stock. It wasn't the most flavorful thing we've eaten, but it satisfied our desire for some red meat and veggies.

One night I cooked some thin steaks, sauteed some spinach (my new favorite thing for any and every meal!), steamed some potatoes, and made this chimichurri sauce that is so incredibly delicious. (The sauce popped up on my Twitter feed from Melissa Joulwan, who is a whole foods and all-things-paleo diva.) As you can see, we even put it on potatoes! I made a second batch tonight and we're enjoying it on everything.

Chicken avocado burgers  with sauteed spinach, beets, and apricot . I found out that I really like beets (and that John won't touch them--so they're all mine! Mwahaha!) this week.

Chicken avocado burgers with sauteed spinach, beets, and apricot. I found out that I really like beets (and that John won't touch them--so they're all mine! Mwahaha!) this week.

Above: Sometimes it's fun to make your food look pretty, even when it's super basic!

Happy weekend, all!

The First 10 Days of Whole30

Spinach and bacon quiche with an almond meal crust , accompanied by fresh, juicy watermelon! This quiche was OK, but I wouldn't recommend the recipe, so I'm going to look for another one next time I make quiche.

Spinach and bacon quiche with an almond meal crust, accompanied by fresh, juicy watermelon! This quiche was OK, but I wouldn't recommend the recipe, so I'm going to look for another one next time I make quiche.

Italian Almond Crusted Salmon . Get the recipe   here  . We've eaten this recipe a few times, and it's so moist. If you can't find almond meal/flour at your grocery store and don't have a Trader Joe's nearby, get a bag of raw almonds, throw them in your food processor, and blend until fine.

Italian Almond Crusted Salmon. Get the recipe here. We've eaten this recipe a few times, and it's so moist. If you can't find almond meal/flour at your grocery store and don't have a Trader Joe's nearby, get a bag of raw almonds, throw them in your food processor, and blend until fine.

Zucchini noodles with pasta sauce . This recipe was John's idea, and after he ordered a special "noodle" cutter on Amazon, he made a homemade pasta sauce to go along with the zucchini "noodles." I loved it!

Zucchini noodles with pasta sauce. This recipe was John's idea, and after he ordered a special "noodle" cutter on Amazon, he made a homemade pasta sauce to go along with the zucchini "noodles." I loved it!

Beef and veggie chili, topped with avocado . I made up this recipe as I went, too, and it was both very satisfying AND a great way to get about 4 meals (or more!) out of one pot! I used ground beef, canned tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers, plus chili seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Beef and veggie chili, topped with avocado. I made up this recipe as I went, too, and it was both very satisfying AND a great way to get about 4 meals (or more!) out of one pot! I used ground beef, canned tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers, plus chili seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Baked sweet potato, topped with pineapple and apricot chunks . I put the fruit in a saucepan with some coconut oil, nutmeg, and cinnamon while the potatoes were cooking, and softened them. I sauteed some spinach on the side, and this was a very easy, super delicious meal.

Baked sweet potato, topped with pineapple and apricot chunks. I put the fruit in a saucepan with some coconut oil, nutmeg, and cinnamon while the potatoes were cooking, and softened them. I sauteed some spinach on the side, and this was a very easy, super delicious meal.

Homemade guacamole  (2 avocadoes, lots of lime juice, salt and pepper + veggies to dip) and  homemade tuna salad  are standbys. 

Homemade guacamole (2 avocadoes, lots of lime juice, salt and pepper + veggies to dip) and homemade tuna salad are standbys. 

We are in the double digits! Whew. I have to say that I'm glad these first ten days are behind us. The process of starting a Whole30 has been a mixture of surprise, learning, difficulty, hard work, and satisfaction.

Surprise: I feel great (though I knew I would all along...sometimes it takes feeling it to believe it)! There actually are tons of things we can eat, even when you cut out dairy, all grains, and all added sugar: fresh salmon, buttery avocados, sweet potatoes topped with cinnamon and pineapple. Everything healthy that I'm eating now tastes more fresh and satisfying, the fruit hitting the spot when a sugar craving arises. Oh, and I'm learning that I can say no to the tray of sweets after church and stick with black coffee, and that true friends will be sensitive and understanding about the choices we're making and will accommodate when we're having lunch together.

Learning: We read all labels in the grocery store now (not for calories or fat--no counting in this program!) to check for unpronounceable ingredients (in other words, things we probably shouldn't be putting into our bodies) and sugar--and wouldn't you know, sugar is in every. daggum. thing! Look the next time you're at the grocery store, and you'll be surprised. I think the Western world, especially America, drinks/slathers on the majority of its sugar intake in the form of sodas, "thirst-quenching" drinks, sauces, condiments, and salad dressings.

Difficulty: Cravings. Lots of them. Anywhere we walk in Valencia, we pass innumerable bars and cafes, all with people sitting outside drinking wine, Coke, or a beer--all things we can't have right now. Or there's the smell wafting out of the bakery, and I think about how good a napolitana con chocolate would taste. (It would taste great, in case you're wondering.) And then I'm forced to think about why I'm doing what I'm doing right now, and my unhealthy relationship with food, especially food of the unhealthy, sugar-packed, but oh-so-yummy variety. And did I mention that sugar is in seemingly everything? There are hard moments, but I know Whole30 is for 30 days, not the rest of my life. I will be able to eat a brownie again, but hopefully will learn how to stop with one, and enjoy it for what it is: a once-in-a-while treat, not an invitation to eat the entire pan.

Hard work: Whole30 can consume as much or as little time as you want it to. You can eat super simply, replicating your meals every couple of days to avoid spending all your free time in the kitchen. Or you can spend countless hours on Pinterest and blogs finding recipes, grocery shopping, and then cooking. We've been somewhere in-between the two extremes. At this point in time, I've got a lot more free time than I've ever had in the past, and so I'm enjoying searching Pinterest boards and Whole30 blogs for inspiration. Our grocery stores here have so many more food options than the one we frequented in Alcalá. At the same time, we are making good use of leftovers and we're totally OK with eating the same thing multiple times in the same week (like baked salmon and broccoli, chicken and tuna salads, and gazpacho).

Satisfaction: I feel good. We feel good. I can already see how beneficial a gluten-free diet is for me (John doesn't have the same issues, so I don't forsee him quitting gluten as much as I hope to); not that I won't ever eat it in the future, but the way I feel right now is convincing me that I would be a much happier person without an abundance of gluten. It's so nice to eat a meal and feel 150% satisfaction in knowing everything in it is good for our bodies.

According to the Whole30 timeline, days 10 and 11 are usually the times that people give up, throw in the towel, and go back to where they were before. We're pressing forward, even when brownie and ice cream cravings hit hard. We're a third of the way through; we've made it this far, so there's no going back!

Here are some of the meals/snacks we've made this past week:

Above (L to R): Whole30 chocolate "pudding"paleo mayo--light, fluffy, SO easy to make and perfect for tuna and chicken salad; and homemade Larabars, addictively delicious!

Above: Homemade chicken salad--I just throw things together until it looks good, and put it all on Romaine lettuce. I think my recipe for this was: grilled chicken breasts, paleo mayo, chopped green grapes, and 1 chopped avocado; salt, pepper, and dill to taste. YUM.