Tim and I are finishing up a successful Whole30. While we didn’t plan it this way, Day 30 landed on Easter Sunday, which means no Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs for me, no sour gummy bears for Tim. And somehow, we’re totally okay with that. That in itself makes Easter Sunday a miracle on more than one level.
My other goal for Lent was to get rid of 40 Bags in 40 Days, and I should just confess now that that one was a gigantic flop. I got rid of less than 10 bags in 40 days because every time I’d sit down to go through old greeting cards or piles of love letters that Tim and I wrote to each other in the early days of our relationship, I’d fall head-first into the “la la la’s.” Like the term “piggy-piggy,” “la la la” is another one of our weirdo family terms. This started years and years ago when my sister was little and my mom would tell her to clean her room, and instead of focusing on the big stuff, Emily would sit on the floor cross-legged, looking through something sentimental, and an hour later, she would have traded room-cleaning for an hour-long “la la la” session.
If you had asked me before I embarked upon two pretty extreme Lenten practices, I would have never guessed that I would be successful at the restrictive diet and a failure at purging papers, but perhaps that’s what Lent is all about. The purpose is to think about sacrifice and discipline and Jesus and all that jazz, and really, if you can’t cut out Diet Cokes for 40 days, how in the world can you relate to Jesus’ struggle? Right?
As far as I know, Jesus didn’t have piles of tree drawings from Zacchaeus or sentimental greeting cards from Moses to distract him, but he did spend 40 days fasting in the Judean desert, which is pretty close to how the Whole30 felt for the Arndts.
The Whole30 experience has given us a lot to contemplate. I normally start Easter Sunday with an early alarm to wake up and shove Starbursts and chocolates into plastic eggs for the kids, which means my breakfast on Easter Sunday is often Starbursts and chocolates with a hot cup of Tim’s famous coffee. This morning, Easter morning started with a fresh perspective on so many things.
Here are some things we learned doing the Whole30. While some of these are no-brainers, they were eye-opening for us. Also, if you think to yourself, “I could NEVER do that,” please think again. Tim and I are the least self-disciplined people I know, and we did it, so you need to find a better excuse.
- There is sugar in EVERYTHING. Shopping for the Whole30 is a bit daunting in the beginning as it forces you to examine exactly how much sugar you’re inhaling at every turn. While Tim and I are more salty snackers, we didn’t realize how many foods we were eating had added sugar. I knew there was sugar in our maple bacon, but there’s sugar in regular bacon, sausage, tomato sauces, beef jerky, and – get this – some organic chicken broths! There is sugar in a ton of juice smoothies, why?There’s even sugar in my Crest mouthwash! What?
- Shopping at the Farmer’s Market is great! The perks are many: free parking, the relaxed atmosphere of the market, the huge variety of fresh, organic food. But our favorite thing about the farmer’s market experience has been getting to know the people who are growing the food we’re buying. We adore the couple who sells us the non-chemically bacon (which is an acquired taste for sure), talking to the “Mushroom Girl,” and meeting Margaret, the beautiful Kenyan woman from Margaret Farms who sold us duck eggs. (Tim’s making deviled eggs with duck eggs for the Easter brunch we’re going to today. I’ll report back.)
3. The Whole30 can be done without explaining it to everyone, but I wasn’t able to do that. It should come as no surprise that I tell everyone about it, and I announce it dramatically by saying, “We’re on a VERY restrictive food plan. Basically, we can eat meat, vegetables, fruit, and air.” People look at us like we’re plum nuts. (Lucky for us, we can eat plums and nuts.) Then, we start telling people about it and there are usually two camps – the people who’ve done it before and talk about how great they felt while doing it, and the people who said, “Oh, I could NEVER do that.” That’s where the real talk on the Whole30 website comes in. Cancer is hard, war is hard, but eating whole foods for 30 days isn’t hard at all. I promise you if Tim Arndt and I can do it, anyone can. And we feel fantastic.
4. Grapefruit without sugar is actually delicious. I would guess that in my 44 years on this planet, about every 3-4 years I would buy a grapefruit, watch it sit sadly in the fruit bowl untouched, and finally cut into it and take a bite, cringe, and douse it with sugar so I could choke it down. Why even buy a grapefruit? Yet, after 25 or so days of not eating sugar, Tim brought me a half of a grapefruit and I grimaced, then took a bite and it was so delicious I devoured it and wanted more. That’s the thing about ridding your body of processed sugars – the sugar from fruit is actually tasty. Who knew?
5. Social situations without booze are still enjoyable – and much cheaper. Anyone who knows me knows I love my wine and my adult beverages. If you try to plan a Whole30 around situations where you won’t drink, you’ll never do it. My sister turned 40 during our Whole30, and we had a terrific time riding the train to San Antonio with friends while drinking unsweetened ice tea. As a side bonus, we got to be the designated drivers. I went to several work functions and drank club soda, and one night, had dinner with girlfriends and when the tab came, everyone else shelled out the big bucks while my non-boozy portion of the meal was $15. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am ready for a glass of wine, but I’m much more aware of social situations where booze can be a bit of a crutch. Tim said it best when he said, “You don’t need wine to be funny.” I don’t?!
6. Preparation is a must. I’d say it took us half a week to prepare mentally and half a week to prepare our kitchen for the change. While we generally ate pretty healthy foods for our home-cooked meals, we ate a lot of cheese (not allowed), drank our share of sodas, and snacked on tortilla chips constantly. Tim gets the credit for doing a LOT of the heavy lifting here. He bought tiny little plastic bags and made snack packs of nuts and died fruit (beware: a lot of dried fruit has sugar in it – read yer labels, kids), and he did 99.9% of the cooking, so we always had something to nibble on. As a result, we were never hangry.
7. It changes your snack habits – Pre-Whole30, we were chips and salsa snackers, or chips period, or hummus and crackers, or cheese and crackers, but processed crackers and chips were often part of the snacking situation. During Whole30, I found myself walking into the kitchen and cutting up a tomato and eating it with salt and pepper, and then laughing at myself for snacking on a tomato. One day, I had a bowl of black olives and some marcona almonds. Some days, I’d just eat a banana. I’ve never been that kind of snacker before. It’s crazy!
8. So, how much did we lose? Whole30 has a rule that you can’t step on the scale during the 30 days, and so we have no clue if we’ve lost weight or not. I did step into some pants that I haven’t worn since skinnier days without much effort today, so I’ll take that as a win. Like a lot of the Whole30 testimonials, while weight loss is definitely a side benefit, I’ve lost so many other things that I’m excited about. My years-long issue with acid reflux? Gone except for the 2 nights I had orange juice before bed. Lesson learned. Seasonal allergies? Gone. Eating Mexican food until I’m stuffed to the gills? Not for the past 30 days.
9. Eating healthy foods lets you “play” in the kitchen. Now, I’ve not been the one doing the playing. That’s all Tim. But we’ve eaten some things we never would have picked before. Roasted beets in a salad with chicken – delicious! Homemade chicken curry on cauliflower rice (OMG, Trader Joe’s riced cauliflower is a lifesaver and is great in chicken soup)! Almond butter on celery – not so bad! If you invest in good spices and fresh herbs from the start, you’ll have a much more rich Whole30 experience.
10. What’s next? There’s a reintroduction phase of Whole 30, which helps you gauge what foods you’re sensitive to, but interestingly, Tim and I have a few things we want to have (sushi, and Mexican food in moderation), but our plan is to keep eating Whole30 compliant meals because we’re loving it so much. And for my vegan friends who frown upon the meat part, I’m looking to up the veggies and reduce the meat – though we didn’t have meat for every meal. Also, I’m a bit sick of eggs, but at least for today, a deviled duck egg is in our future, instead of a Reese’s peanut butter one, and what’s crazy is that we’re going to be just fine.