Well, yesterday was day 30 of my Vegetarian Not-Quite Whole 30 Experiment. I made it through! I am here to give you my final report!
Going in, my main goal was to get back to a healthy, whole-foods diet after all of my holiday indulgences. Basically, from Halloween until New Year’s Eve, it was a steady stream of booze, candy, and other junk. I was pretty enthusiastic about the idea of cutting out sweets and alcohol for that reason. I needed to cut out dairy again, too — it’s something I normally avoid, but I’d eaten a ton of it on our trip to Iowa for various reasons. I was less certain about cutting out grains, mostly because I view them as a healthy part of my diet, not as a problem. I gave myself the loophole that I could eat whole, gluten-free grains such as quinoa and brown rice if needed.
As it turned out, I managed to avoid those grains for over three weeks. For that period of time, I was doing Vegetarian Whole30 almost perfectly by the book. I still weighed myself weekly, which is against the rules, and I ate a couple of servings of black beans that hadn’t been fermented, which is also against the rules. Otherwise, I was spot on. And it wasn’t that hard, being so close to how I’d normally eat if I were trying to compose a healthy meal in the first place — just minus grains.
There was only one problem I kept noticing: fatigue, both general fatigue and muscle fatigue when working out. Often, even a gentle, three-mile jog at a painfully slow-for-me pace made my legs feel like useless noodles. This didn’t really ever go away.
I was sure losing weight, though! I dropped a lot of (what I assume was) water weight during the first week, and kept losing smaller amounts after that. I last weighed in on Saturday the 26th had lost nearly 9 pounds. (I only weigh in once per week, so I haven’t done this week yet — I’ll update this later with the total.)
Whole30 isn’t about limiting your caloric intake, so calorie counting isn’t part of the program. I was curious about it, though, so I tallied up the calories for 3-4 typical days of food, and I came up with some scary low numbers: between 1000-1200 calories per day. That’s not good for me. My BMR is almost 1500 per day, plus I’m on my feet frequently at work, plus I run 3x per week, plus I do PT strengthening exercises 3-5x per week, plus yoga once per week. I was operating on a huge calorie deficit.
I tried to get more food into my system, but at this point I was frustrated, feeling stuffed already (with high-volume, low calorie foods, no wonder) and fewer and fewer “allowed” foods were appealing to me at all. This was when I finally took my whole grain loophole and sailed right on through. I ate quinoa twice, a serving of brown rice once, and had oatmeal for breakfast twice. Things improved.
I didn’t feel too disappointed or let down that I wound up adding in the “forbidden” grains in the last week. I’m happy with the decision, and also happy that I did successfully avoid them for the first three weeks, just because it gives me a good sense of how I feel with and without them.
Now, of course, Whole30 is not supposed to be about weight loss, but about breaking certain patterns of food consumption for improved health and a better understanding of your diet. Usually people report improved energy levels, better sleep, better skin, and better digestive health. I’ve already mentioned that my energy levels really suffered (due, I think, to the super-low caloric intake). In all those other areas, I didn’t observe any changes. I’ve never had problems with sleeping, digestion, or my skin. I usually get one big zit approximately every 28 days, and I still got it this month.
What about re-thinking my food consumption habits and changing patterns? On that topic, I have a few good positive takeaways:
Dairy: don’t need it. Plan to continue avoiding it.
Sweets: It felt good to break the cycle of feeling like I HAD TO have something sweet every night. I successfully filled my sweets cravings with fruit and I’m happy with that. Not that I won’t be buying or baking the occasional sweet treat, but I don’t need it daily. Good to know.
Artificial Sweeteners: This is the longest I’ve gone without drinking Diet Coke, like, ever. I am going to make a bold statement here: Diet Coke and I are DUNZO. No more. I have my Sodastream now and can make fun fizzy drinks at home without the nasty chemicals.
Alcohol: I really, really love my wine and my bourbon. I don’t need to have it every day, but on the days I do, I am going to appreciate it and enjoy it and not feel bad about it. I’ve given up so many vices in life already (fast food, meat, cigarettes, sugary soda and now Diet Coke too, most junk food…). You can pry my adult beverages from my cold dead hands. On second thought, no. Not even then.
Oh, and when I finally had free rein on grains, at breakfast this morning, do you know what big, bad, carb-o-licious grains I decided to eat? That’s right, friends:
A flourless, live sprouted grain English muffin. Grains are really not one of my problem foods.
And that brings this experiment to a close. Hit me up if you have any questions, friends! And if you did Whole30 yourself, CONGRATULATIONS! And if you’re blogging about it, would you leave a link? I’m already following a lot of people who’re doing it, but I may have missed some peeps, AND other readers here may also be curious.