Whole30 Challenge: Final Reflections

I’ve been so busy moving that I’m posting this late… but I’m so happy we made it! It’s been a crazy month, but I’m glad that I did it.

I owe my success to prepackaged meals

Reflection

  • Preparation is key. I’m 100% sure I wouldn’t have been able to complete this challenge without prepackaging my meals in advance. Knowing that the majority of my poor diet decisions occur at the end of the day when I’m exhausted from being out of the house for 12 hours, having prepared meals in advance made a HUGE difference. In fact, I often felt happy about eating chicken and veggies (even if it’s a bit boring) at the end of the day because I was so glad to not have to cook!
  • I’m glad I didn’t weigh myself. I probably would’ve been tempted to eat junk food if the number on the scale wasn’t “low enough”. Given water retention can cover up 5 pounds of weight loss, I’m so happy I didn’t put myself through the stress of seeing the numbers fluctuate every day.
  • Cutting out artificial sweeteners makes a difference. While I’ve never had issues with artificial sweeteners triggering sugar cravings, I did notice I ate less without them. Before this challenge, I remember drinking obscene amounts of smoothies sweetened with stevia – that completely stopped on this challenge! That’s not to say I didn’t have any smoothies at all (I did a few times), but when I did, I simply had less. I was more able to determine when I was full and stop accordingly.
  • Stress makes things harder – much harder. The final week of my Whole 30 I focused on my move to San Francisco, which made following the diet a lot more challenging. To avoid breaking the diet, I ultimately let myself eat anything as long as it was Whole 30 approved (while before, I was focusing on lean meat and veggies). This meant more fatty meat, sweet potatoes, and fruit, which undoubtedly slowed/stalled my weight loss. I also accidentally triggered my sugar dragon after eating trail mix with dried fruit in it, but recovered by eating sweet potatoes, fruit, and mulberry tea.
I can actually walk this distance in the predicted time now – used to take me twice as long.

Benefits

  • I lost weight! I debated on actually measuring myself, but I decided against it knowing I will be disappointed (and tempted to eat junk food) if the number is not as low as I’d like. Instead, you’ll just have to take my word for it! 😛 I do have to say, though, that my clothes are noticeably looser. In fact, I can go down a t-shirt size at this point.
  • My stamina and energy improved. Before, I used to be pretty tired on 7 hours and 30 minutes of sleep – now, I feel about the same on 6 hours and 30 minutes of sleep! I’m not promoting sleep deprivation (nor was it intentional), but I have noticed I can function on a lot less sleep than I used to.
  • My cardiovascular fitness increased. For the first time in months, my Fitbit cardiovascular score is “average” – even though I exercise less than I used to before this challenge. I’ve also noticed that I tend to walk a lot faster and don’t get as tired climbing flights of stairs.
  • I was forced to face my problems. Prior to this challenge, I relied on “sugar highs” to get me through rough times. Even though I still binged on this challenge (I ate 1/2c trail mix a couple times, other times I’d eat 12oz of meat), you simply can’t get the same dopamine hit on Whole30 food. For the first time, I was forced to find solutions to my problems instead of drowning my sorrows in junk food. That’s why I finally decided to get out of my toxic work situation by changing offices. I’m still learning to stop the binge eating behavior – but Whole 30 has improved it a lot.
  • I discovered food sensitivities. After Whole30, I realized that beans and dairy do not agree with me. I was also shocked to find that my favorite “Amazing Grass” (wheatgrass/green drink/superfood mix) drinks didn’t work either. They all give me nasal allergies! Luckily, I had no problems with rice or wheat. While I plan to stay Whole 30 compliant most of the time, I’m glad I can eat sushi once in a while!

Costs

  • Dry eyes and hair. I still don’t know the cause of the dryness, but I do know it started right when I started Whole30. However, I learned that I can keep it in check as long as I eat sufficient carbs.
  • GI upset. I have a history of stomach issues, so I wonder if the extra fiber in my Whole30 diet is why I had so much GI difficulties. However, I learned that I can keep the stomach problems at bay as long as I drink enough chicken broth. I’m also trying “tummy fiber” as a cheaper alternative, which is looking promising.
  • It’s expensive. This wasn’t a huge issue on my challenge because I had a lot of grass-fed meat in the freezer, but I know I won’t be buying more going forward. Certainly I’d prefer to – but with San Francisco rents, I’ll need to watch my spending going forward. I am still working on the budget, but I at least plan to reduce my meat consumption and switch to organic meat instead.

Where do we go from here?

  • Since I like the way Whole30 makes me feel, I’m planning to keep the Whole30 way of life but allow myself one or two “break” meals every week so I can eat out with friends. During those meals, I will eat real food; not processed junk.
  • I absolutely LOVE preparing my meals in advance – and will continue doing it going forward!
  • I will not use food as a coping mechanism. Limiting myself to Whole30 compliant food helps, but it doesn’t negate the unproductive behavior. After all, a binge is still a binge – whether you’re eating junk food or veggies!
  • I will not use food as a reward. I will look into alternatives such as treating myself to a relaxing bath.
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