After a stressful 3 months in grad school sleeping 4-5 hours per night with a cranky baby in the bedroom, I had weighed in at 210 lbs. Yes, part of it was intentional muscle mass due to 1-2 days a week of heavy Olympic lifting, but there was chub on my belly and cheeks that’s not regular for my build. I was eating everything I could to fuel my brain, my body, and my fight-or-flight hormones that were all out of gear. I made a decision to follow a different career path that aligned perfectly with my vision, eliminated chronic stress, regained necessary sleep (it’s weird the baby started sleeping once the stress was gone…hmm), and began eating less. In 3 months I had lost about 10 lbs. June 2014 came around and something was still off. I couldn’t eat anything and everything like I used to be able to without suffering the digestive consequences. It was time to try the Whole 30. It had been everywhere in the fitness industry, especially in CrossFit circles. Why not give it a go? I had never seriously considered cutting out bread, pasta, beer, pizza, dairy, and sugar before. Let’s do it and see what all the hype is about.
My main concern was being too hungry and not being full or energized enough to work, be active with my daughter, and workout. It was summertime and my favorite season to be out hiking, running, swimming, and stand-up paddleboarding. So, I made sure I had plenty of meat and red garnet yams to fill me up. These were my go-to foods. Beef, chicken, or fish and yam fries. Probably not the healthiest long-term! Come to find out after 9 months of this my body was telling me no more! However, on Day 3, my metabolism loved it. Kickstarted!! I could feel something was different, like I had been drinking green tea, had a runner’s high, and was sort of hungry but felt like I could last all day on natural energy. I guess this is the metabolic spark people talk about that initiates anywhere from 3 days for athletic individuals to 3 months.
I was on a role and lost another 15 lbs in about 2 months before I hit my optimal weight, which I was in high school, college, and pre-grad school sleep deprivation. I can lift, run, practice yoga, chop wood, or only workout a couple of days a week and consistently stay around 185 lbs. My metabolism had normalized, but I stuck with the diet a wee-bit too long! The first food I added in was white potatoes due to cost. I felt fine. The next week, I tried quinoa. I didn’t feel that great. I followed this same method until I had successfully added back brown rice, kefir, hemp, and occasionally pizza! Yes, pizza, my all-time favorite food.
Ok, so here’s what you need to know to ease your transition out of the Whole 30 into the new you.
After 30 days you will know what foods you’re craving. I urge you to not go binge on all of them at once! Pick one and eat it with a meal you’ve been eating the last 30 days. This will help you figure out whether or not you’re intolerant to it and will reduce the risk of feeling hungover the next day. This is a tricky one and there is some experimentation involved. Obviously, if you choose pizza right out of the gate, you may suffer. But, you may also be fine. It often depends on the balance of gut flora and fauna that are able to digest the food. I believe a diet ranging in a wide-variety of foods is healthy, versus ones that are overly restrictive. Unless, you’re really allergic to something. By eating a vast array of food, we are also supplying our guts with nutrients so one type of bacteria doesn’t become over or under nourished. My suggestion is to pick something light like a different kind of vegetable. Or go out and eat a burger, but try a gluten-free bun.
1-2 hours before your new meal, eat and drink a whole grapefruit. Also, sip on kombucha before and during your meal. If available, sipping on lemon water will also help before and during your meal. This will help to speed up gastric emptying and also give your immune system a major boost in vitamin C. Find more detailed information on this protocol in the Four Hour Body by Tim Ferris. Fun fact, a majority of your immune system is found in the gut!
Monitor how you feel after your meal. Energy levels, thirst, digestion, bowel movements, achy joints, sleep quality, etc. If you’re good within the first 1-3 days, then feel free to try the food more frequently. Wait a full week before adding in a new food. This gives you time to really get a sense of how you feel. If you’re questioning it, then all you have to do at this point is take it out, wait 5-7 days the try a different food.
Continue this process until you’ve created a custom diet just for you, your gut, your likes and dislikes, your schedule, budget, and family.
Stay open to experimenting with types of foods, always striving for the highest quality, playing with food preparation (as what can be found in the book Nourishing Traditions), and having fun! in my opinion, food is fuel, meant to power our life, not rule it. Congratulations on taking the initiative by completing the Whole 30 and learning what it feels like to break eating habits related to our family history, emotions, and habits. By cleaning up your diet, you are in control.