Over the years, I've tried a handful of different diets that have produced mixed results. I'm an emotional yo yo eater and while some people abuse drugs or alcohol, unfortunately, I abuse food.
Since moving to California, I've been focusing on eating raw and whole foods with the hope of getting healthier. Farmers Markets are abundant here and I really enjoy the taste of organic fruits and vegetables, especially when made into a good juice or smoothie.
The hard part has been drinking more water and weening myself off of the garbage that I've been accustomed to for the better part of 40 years. My achilles heal has always been bread, pastries and cheese. Getting into the right frame of mind has been a chore and eating raw and whole foods has really helped in that process.
What Is Whole30?
A friend of mine told me about this new diet that seems to be an improvement over the Atkin's/South Beach fad from several years ago. Whole30 is getting rave reviews and being heralded as the next big thing in the diet world.
If you are into Crossfit, DSD, P-90X or any of those other strenuous exercise programs, you have most likely become familiar with the term “paleo” and how that works. Basically, a paleo diet is named after the cavemen. How did they eat? They picked berries, killed their dinner and stuck to fruits and vegetables. In those days, there weren't pastries, potato chips or cake. The paleo way of thinking is this : If you can kill it or pick it, you can eat it.
Whole30 is a 30 day system that sticks to the prinicipals of the Paleo Diet. You can eat all of the protein you want. Fruits and vegetables of any variety are fair game. Foods with fewer ingredients are optimal. Ingredients that you can easily say should be a yardstick for what's good or bad for you to eat.
The manufacturing of wheat has changed the way our bodies process foods. Gluten Free is now a reality because an ever-growing number of people's bodies are rejecting or showing allergic reactions, sometimes violent, to wheat gluten, gmo wheat and other processed chemicals that go into our food supply.
There are several rules to the Whole30 program, that are a bit different from its predecessor diets. The trick to any diet is sticking with it and adhering to the rules, even on days that give you great struggle.
Some days, I have the willpower of a puppy. Other days, I can be as strong as iron. The main problems I have had are with the inner voice that talks to me. You know what I'm talking about. The dialogue you have with yourself regarding your own self-esteem, self-worth and overall confidence level.
Some days are better than others, but for the most part, the lack of serotonin in my brain causes the depression to manifest into not exercising and creating excuses for why I can't, won't or shouldn't do something, instead of getting busy doing it.
Avoiding added sugars seems like a no brainer, but is actually harder than any of us realize. Staying away from real or artificial sugars requires reading the food labels on what you eat. Once you've read a few labels, you begin to realize just how many crazy chemicals and processed ingredients are put into the foods we love.
Maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar are not your friend. Contrary to popular opinion, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, Xylitol and Stevia are not your friends either. I can't stress this enough, but read your food labels! Food processing and manufacturing companies like to sneak sugar into products by using fancy names that they hope we won't recognize.
I'm not sure how in the world some of these things make it past the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), but trust me when I say that you should read all of your labels and don't take things for granted. Yes, the FDA exists to supposedly monitor the food supply and make sure we aren't being fed toxic chemicals.
As we've seen over the last 10 years, they don't do a fantastic job of protecting our well-being. If you care about your health and your body, you owe it to yourself to read the labels and take matters into your own hands.
We're hearing reports about “pink slime” in our meat, gmo modified grains and a multitude of other problems created by the food manufacturers, all in the name of reducing their bottom line and increasing their profits. I understand that they are in the business to make money, but they are doing it at the expense of our health.
Alcohol Is Bad, mmKay?
The Whole30 program insists that alcohol, in any form, should be avoided. This includes by the bottle, pitcher and even in cooking. The odds of me being able to do that for 30 days are pretty good, but as an entire lifestyle choice, it's just not feasible for me.
I enjoy the taste of Bourbon, Rye and Microbrews. Cutting back on beer consumption is not difficult, nor is liquor, but in social settings, I will indulge. I've managed to cut out soda from the diet, which has given me newfound energy. I've never been a fan of empty calories and if I can stop drinking soda, I can definitely reduce the amount of beer I drink.
If I stick to a set number of calories on a daily basis, justifying drinking a beverage that has anywhere from 100-300 calories is hard for me. I cut soda completely out of my diet in 2009 and am definitely better for it.
If you're going to consume alcohol, it's better to stick with whiskey or some of the calorie conscious beers (ie. Michelob Ultra, Budweiser Select 55). Freeing up those calories for more protein or fruits and vegetables is going to pay dividends for you over time.
Avoid These Grains
Some people think that this rule is lame and unrealistic. My attitude is that with the gluten epidemic only getting stronger, it's easier just to avoid grains, altogether. There are too many things happening to the way these grains are processed and rather than give myself certain justification for eating one grain over the other, it's probably a good thing for me to just avoid grains and play it safe.
Here's a master list of grains to avoid :
Wheat, Rye, Barley, Oats, Corn, Rice, Millet, Bulgur, Sorghum, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Sprouted Grains, Gluten-Free Grains, Quinoa
This rule will also have an effect, when it comes to the way we add our wheat, corn and rice into our foods. Brans, germs and starches are in this category and should be avoided, as well.
I never really paid much attention to the ingredient labels on the back of foods and my obesity proves why it's important. If I can't pronounce the ingredient, why in the world should I be consuming it in my daily diet? The ingredients should be self-explanatory. Does anyone really know what Yellow #5 is anyway?
Stay Away From Legumes
One of my favorite comfort foods is hummus. I enjoy it with vegetables or pita chips, but unfortunately for me, the main ingredient of hummus is the chickpea (aka garbanzo bean). Because beans are legumes and I'm committed to Whole30, I have to refrain from eating hummus and all beans, sadly.
This means : No black, red, kidney, pinto, navy, white, lima or fava beans. Also, no peas, chickpeas, peanuts or lentils. Definitely no peanut butter!
I didn't know that peanuts were considered a legume, until I tried this diet. I guess it's classified as a legume because of the way it's grown? I would definitely say that the garbanzo beans and peanuts are something I will struggle to avoid. I've already switched to Almond Butter and I enjoy eating Raw, Uncooked Almonds, as a snack. It's not hard to find substitutes for any of these items, it just takes patience and some extra time at the grocery store.
Another item in the legume department are soybeans. This means, no soy milk, soy sauce or edamame. Some of you may think that this diet gets too restrictive, but the way I look at things is a bit different. I've abused my body for 20+ years and let myself balloon to almost 400 pounds.
If I really, truly want to be healthier and live longer, I simply have to sacrifice and avoid eating some of these foods for a length of time. I can't let my emotions get the best of me and cause me to binge on junk. I need to be smarter about the foods I keep in my cupboards and what I consume, when eating out.
People from my parents generation think all of this talk about GMO and free-range stuff is a bunch of liberal nonsense. The fact of the matter is that the processes used to create food for our consumption has drastically changed over the last 30 years.
Chemicals, flavoring and additives are named in cryptic language that is not easily detectible. We are consuming our favorite foods without ever knowing what is truly in them. Meanwhile, obesity, cancer and lactose intolerance are skyrocketing.
You can't sit there and dismiss our society, as a bunch of pansy hypochondriacs. Friends of mine get violently ill if they accidentally eat wheat gluten. I don't wish this allergy on anybody. it's definitely not pretty. People dying from peanut allergies is not a new thing, but the rates of these occurrences are increasing.
As these problems continue to persist, you will start to see grocery stores changing their layouts to accomodate these ailments. Well, I say this like I know, but I really don't. Diabetics still have to scour the entire store to get all of their sugar-free items because they won't create an aisle for sugar-free only. Logic would dictate that if they wanted to keep customers and make money, that they would accomodate people who have these food problems and set up special sections for shopping convenience.
I would have to say that my favorite food of all-time is cereal. It's easy to make and fills me up. The problem with this scenario is that even using Skim Milk can bring on crazy calories. Since I've moved to California, switching to fruit for breakfast has been a natural progression and I only occasionally have cereal now. When I do have cereal or a latte, I stick with Almond Milk.
I prefer Soy Milk, but I need to be staying away from that, also. Almond Milk is one of the healthier substitutes for milk and the taste isn't horrible.
Sweet Potatoes vs White Potatoes
At the introduction of the Whole30 Diet, several years ago, there was a rule that sweet potatoes were fair game, but white or golden potatoes were not allowed. I'm not sure what they've discovered from a scientific point, but all potatoes are considered to be acceptable for Whole30.
I know that the composition of the sweet potatoe is much different than that of a Yukon Gold or Russet and I've been enjoying trying sweet potatoes, as a substitute. Sweet Potatoes and Coconut Oil have become the go-to vegetables in Los Angeles and some very interesting dishes have been created, based on that. Part of the reason that regular potatoes get a bad rap is because they will turn to sugar and cause weight gain, if not eaten in moderation. This is the last thing I need in my diet, at the moment, because I absolutely love them with cheese and bacon bits.
At the end of the day, the odds of me sticking to every single little rule in the Whole30 diet are pretty slim. The way I look at it, if I can incorporate this diet into my everyday routine, even 50% of the time, I'm doing much, much better than where I was before I started.