Whole30: Week 1

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I’ve now officially started my second week of Whole30, and I’m happy to report that it’s going pretty well. There were some definite challenges this week, but I think mostly because I was already eating pretty well before I started the Whole30, I haven’t experienced some of the worse parts of the infamous Whole30 timeline, but just for fun, I’m gonna go through a mental recap using it as a guideline.

“Day 1: So what’s the big deal?” Yup. Felt that exactly. In fact, for breakfast day 1, I made the same thing I’d been eating for the whole week prior: bacon, mushroom, onion, and red pepper scrambled eggs. Breakfast scrambles are the best for using up any bits and pieces of random vegetables you have in the fridge, so that’s what I’ve been doing until I get tired of it. I also had leftover pulled pork and stir-fried veggies from the week before for lunch, and for dinner I ended up throwing some lamb shoulder chops on my grill pan and making a side of theclothesmakesthegirl’s silky zucchini soup. And, it did feel good to be consciously aware that I was making good choices.

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“Days 2-3: The Hangover” Not so much (at least not compared to the one I had the day before I started whole30). My breakfast continued to be my scrambled eggs, my lunch was leftovers of lamb and soup, and for dinner I threw together paprika roasted chicken thighs with pastured chicken we’d picked up at the farmer’s market a few weeks before and a wilted bacon spinach salad.

Not the greatest pic, sorry

Not the greatest pic, sorry

The only real challenge of these two days was  a pre-scheduled Austin Food Blogger’s Alliance happy hour at Sushi Zushi. I contemplated over and over again whether I should just skip it but when I saw that they had riceless rolls, I decided to go.  It was definitely difficult, and more than little disappointing to not be able to eat about 90% of the food they offered, but the shishito peppers and the riceless roll that they special ordered for me were both really really good.

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“Days 4-5: Kill ALL the things!” Again, not really. Or, at least, not sure, because these two days also coincided with a big deadline at work so I was already stressing out about that. My breakfast these days consisted of leftover bacon spinach salad with a fried egg and fruit and more scrambled eggs, this time with Mexican chorizo that made my week. I did, however, get tired of both my zucchini soup and lamb leftovers at this point though, so I used up some leftover sweet potato, cabbage, and bacon and made a sort-of stir fry that was very satisfying. And Friday Mr. Little Fish and I had a small, last-minute dinner party of grilled steak with caramelized mushrooms and onions, crispy salt and vinegar potatoes, and oil and vinegar coleslaw (that I unfortunately forgot to take pictures of). Our friends also brought sausage, cauliflower rice, and spaghetti squash. The whole meal was decadent and fantastic, and no one ever would have guessed that I had a particular “diet.” It did sort of suck not to be able to drink, but waking up without any of the aftereffects was kind of great.

“Days 6-7: I just want a nap….” This is an interesting one, because last night, having forgotten about this timeline, I was trying to theorize with Little Fish about why I was having such a hard time waking up this weekend. I thought it might’ve been because I’d started taking my allergy medication at night and it was knocking me out. But now I’m wondering whether it is indeed because of the Whole30. In any case, the food we made this weekend included a DELICIOUS Mexican chorizo, red potato, and spinach scramble for breakfast with a side of banana drizzled with some homemade cinnamon macadamia nut butter (heavenly).

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It also included some grilled salmon that I marinated in coconut aminos, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes, but unfortunately for me, resulted in my only fail of the week when I accidentally burned it. It was still delicious; we just lost some to the pan. We ate it with leftover oil and vinegar coleslaw and cauliflower rice that I drizzled with some homemade ghee (see my instagram for some process photos)! I also made the happy discovery that Applegate grass-fed beef hotdogs are Whole30 compliant, so we rounded out the weekend with hotdogs and grilled onions and, you guessed it, coleslaw. And, of course, at some point I snacked on some apples and macadamia nut butter.

 

Overall thoughts: I know I’m not supposed to weigh myself and count calories and whatnot, but for me this is as much a fitness tool as it is a nutritional reset. So I’m pleased to say I lost at least 2 pounds this week and, even despite all the food I’ve been eating, I’ve continuously clocked in at below my calorie goals. I still get sugar cravings every once in a while, but I’m actually pretty impressed with my willpower, especially at the sushi happy hour. I am sort of preemptively sad that  I won’t be able to enjoy a nice, fun meal out for my birthday next week, but Little Fish and I will be scheduling a birthday dinner for when I get back from Mexico so patience I must have.

Whole30 Ready, Maybe

By December of 2014, I’d gained back about 10 pounds of the 30 I’d lost the year before. I’ve run the gamut of emotions on that one, but one of those, luckily, is a tepid sense of accomplishment, because, even though I weigh more on the scale, my measurements have more or less remained the same (everywhere except my hips; thanks, Latina side of me). I know I have weightlifting to thank for this, as I have actually been consistently going to Bodypump (weightlifting classes) with a good friend/coworker of mine since last summer. I went from barely being able to carry my own groceries to seeing visible, measurable muscle on my body that I’m actually pretty damn proud of. It turns out, I like being strong. Like, really like it. And it also turns out that my body likes building muscle (and still mostly hates cardio).

But, while I can attribute some of the weight gain to muscle, I know it’s probably not realistic that all of it is just dem gainz (despite how hard I tried to convince myself that I was eating so much because I was bulking haha). I knew I needed to get my eating back in check, especially after the decadence that was those winter holiday months. Don’t get me wrong, I actually eat pretty healthy most of the time. I am a big believer in the spirit of the paleo diet–meat and veggies and fats–and I’ve grown to actually really like those things. I don’t eat pasta or grains or most dairy not because I’m just blindly following some rules but because I actually don’t really want any of it. I like food, and I like a lot of it, and the amount of veggies I can for the same calories as a plate of pasta is truly astounding. To me, clean eating is nice because it appeals to my psychological desire for quantity.

But my one real weakness? Sugar. Oh sugar. Even with all I know about sugar (you should really see Fed Up if you haven’t already), even with as much rationalizing as I can do about it, it’s just so hard for me to quit it. Sugar is the one thing  I know I can actually trim from my diet and would help. I also knew that I needed to cut back on portions, and while I think the idea of intuitive eating is great, I prefer measurable data so I started calorie counting in January. It’s helped, some. I’ve had some losses and some gains, but with a bachelorette trip to Mexico approaching, it’s time to hunker down.

So, starting Monday, a couple friends and I will be starting our first ever Whole30 (which will turn out to be more of a Whole27 or so because we had a Supper Club meeting planned Sunday and rather than cheat early on, we decided to start the day after, but I digress). The good thing is that Whole30 (a pared down intro to the paleo diet) is really not that different from my everyday eating. But those few things I will have to actually change, mostly concerning my Badboy-friend Sugar, is gonna be hard. I will try to update you on the journey here so that it can help keep me accountable, but, as you know from my lack of blogging, sometimes it can be hard to sit down and write. In the meantime though, I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever tried Whole30? Did you enjoy it? What were your results? Did it have any lasting impact on the way you eat? Are you interested in trying it down the line?

Homemade 3-ingredient Energy Bars

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When I first decided to start losing weight, I thought exercising was the way to go. I have not-so-fond memories of waking up before work in the middle of the DC summer to do Insanity workouts in the 1 bedroom apartment I shared with three people. Two of us shared what would normally have been a living room, but instead had two little twin beds on opposite sides of the room. I used my little corner to do workouts so intense that I would continue sweating through my shower and all the way until I got into my air-conditioned office.

The problem with all the intense workouts , though, was that they were making me hungrier, which, when you’re trying to lose weight and restrict calories, didn’t end up working out too well. So, when I decided to get serious with the losing weight almost a year later, I switched gears and mostly focused on food. I worked out here and there, but I figured exercising would come more into play when I got to the maintenance phase. And now, after 7 months of maintaining my weight loss, I figured right.  Here I am now in week 4 of P90X3, and not only is it helping me maintain the weight loss, but I feel no signs of slowing down. As expected though, that hunger is returning.

Enter: these energy bars. I’m sure more than a few of you buy  the energy bars found at your grocery store. Not all energy bars are created equal though, and most of them contain a lot of preservatives, sugar, or other unrecognizable ingredients. For awhile, on the recommendation of a friend, I was eating these Thunderbird Energetica bars, which unlike many other bars, used all whole-food ingredients, natural sugars, and no grains.  They weren’t cheap though.

So, I decided to simplify things and make my own, using the same concept. It’s a pretty foolproof recipe: 1 cup nuts, 1 cup dried fruit, and 3/4 cup dates. The dates act as both a binder and a sweetener. The berries and dates give you the complex carbs you need before an intense workout, and the nuts give you some lasting protein and fat. No grains, no added sugar, no unpronounceable ingredients. Win-win if you ask me.

Homemade Energy Bars
Serves 9

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Ingredients:

1 cup dried cherries (or any other dried fruit), unsweetened if you can find them
1 cup almonds
3/4 cup pitted Medjool dates, halved
Parchment paper, for lining
Plastic wrap, for molding
NOTE: you can use literally any combination of nuts and fruit that you would like. I have also made a blueberry and walnut version that I really liked. Other possible combinations: blueberry-almond, cherry-walnut, cranberry-pecan. Be creative!

Directions:

1.  If your dates are a bit harder or drier, soak them in water for 20 minutes to soften them a little bit. Add all three ingredients into your food processor.
IMG_71492. Pulse for a minute or so to break up the nuts and other bits. Your mixture will go from this:
IMG_7150To this:
IMG_7151And eventually get here:
IMG_7152Scrap down the sides of the food processor if things seem to start getting stuck. Stop when you get to the ball shape above, about 10 minutes.
3. Scoop the ball out onto a cutting board lined with cellophane wrap.
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4. Cut off another piece of cellophane and place it on top of the ball.  Use this to mold the ball into a roughly 8×8 square, or however thick you would like your bars to be.
IMG_71544. Wrap the square up with the cellophane, and freeze the whole thing for 2-3 hours.
IMG_71565. Once pretty solid, take it out and cut into 9 squares (or more if you would like smaller portions).
IMG_71576. Use parchment paper squares (I just cut my regular roll) to separate the bars as you stack them into a container.
IMG_71587. Store in the fridge or freezer! I prefer them frozen, which gives them a pleasantly chewy texture and not as paste-like.

 

 

Homemade 3-ingredient Energy Bars
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Snacks
Cuisine: American
Serves: 9
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried cherries (or any other dried fruit), unsweetened if you can find them
  • 1 cup almonds
  • ¾ cup pitted Medjool dates, halved
  • Parchment paper, for lining
  • Plastic wrap, for molding
  • NOTE: you can use literally any combination of nuts and fruit that you would like. I have also made a blueberry and walnut version that I really liked. Other possible combinations: blueberry-almond, cherry-walnut, cranberry-pecan. Be creative!
Directions
  1. If your dates are a bit harder or drier, soak them in water for 20 minutes to soften them a little bit. Add all three ingredients into your food processor.
  2. Pulse for a minute or so to break up the nuts and other bits. Your mixture will start with small bits and pieces of nuts and fruit, to more paste-like and, finally, to a big ball. Scrap down the sides of the food processor if things seem to start getting stuck.
  3. Scoop the ball out onto a cutting board lined with cellophane wrap.
  4. Cut off another piece of cellophane and place it on top of the ball. Use this to mold the ball into a roughly 8x8 square, or however thick you would like your bars to be.
  5. Wrap the square up with the cellophane, and freeze the whole thing for 2-3 hours.
  6. Once pretty solid, take it out and cut into 9 squares (or more if you would like smaller portions).
  7. Use parchment paper squares (I just cut my regular roll) to separate the bars as you stack them into a container.
  8. Store in the fridge or freezer! I prefer them frozen, which gives them a pleasantly chewy texture and not as paste-like.

Why Calorie Counting is Probably not Worth Your Time

This interesting video explains the imperfect science behind calories, showing us why obsessing over them is more than likely a waste of time.  Instead, focus more on eating whole, unprocessed foods and eating mindfully.

The questions are endless:  should I eat less fat?  More fat?  Less carbs?  Red meat?  Should I stop eating gluten?  What is gluten??  What’s the deal with eggs?

If you are confused about nutrition, you are not alone.  In fact, if the flip-flopping nutrition industry is any indication, a lot of people are confused.  This article does a pretty thorough job of addressing a lot of these questions, citing actual scientific sources, and hopefully eliminating some of that overwhelmed feeling.

Want some short answers?  Healthy fats are healthy.  Unhealthy fats are not.  Eat carbs in the form of fruits and veggies.  Grass-fed red meat is the way to go.  Don’t go gluten-free if you aren’t allergic to it.  Gluten=wheat.  Eggs are the perfect nutrition package.