Somehow, it’s already August. I always think summer will mean extra time, but with freelancing, summer classes, and adventures with my two-year-old, the weeks have flown by, and the hours are full.
If you read my interview with Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of Whole, over at WBUR’s Commonhealth, you know nutrition has been on my mind lately. For the past few months, I’ve incorporated a lot more vegetarian meals, eliminated dairy, and really examined what we buy and what our habits are.
And then my husband started doing the Whole30 Challenge—you know, the one that’s all over the Internet these days and often invites comparison to the Paleo diet. In case you’re not familiar, here’s a quick summary: for thirty days, eliminate dairy, gluten, all grains, legumes, sugar (including honey, agave, and alcohol), seed oils, etc. to calm down the inflammation in your body. Basically, you should eat plenty of clean, whole foods–plenty of vegetables, along with protein, fruit, and healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, etc. After the thirty days, can you assess what you’d like to try and introduce back into your diet, and what you’re better off avoiding.
The changes in him were immediate, and not just in terms of weight loss. His congestion and joint pain decreased, and his energy levels increased. We’ve never been huge consumers of processed food (being gluten-free and then also dairy-free makes that hard, anyway) but watching him, I began to see how our choices could be even cleaner and healthier.
With celiac disease and other autoimmune conditions, I am all too familiar with how inflammation can wreak havoc in your life so I jumped on board and did my own Whole30 Challenge, and it’s been a great experience. I’ve lost weight, yes, but more than that, I’ve gained so much energy (I used to drink 6-7 cups of coffee daily, and now, even with the same lack of sleep, I drink one) and I am much more conscious of what foods make me feel good, and which ones simply aren’t worth it.
For example, I know I won’t be re-introducing dairy since I don’t miss it and am less congested without it. I don’t plan on re-introducing rice or corn, but I do think quinoa has an occasional place in the rotation. I’ve discovered nightshade vegetables like tomatoes and eggplant really bother me and aren’t worth it, and gluten makes my husband feel truly horrible.
Kale is our favorite new food, and we some days we have it with all three meals. Since we never bought sweets or desserts I thought I was doing pretty well avoiding sugar, but I now see the many small ways it crept into my diet, like the cane sugar in in my almond milk and in vegetarian soups I often had for lunch. We are both amazed at how much more we enjoy fresh fruit, and crave it in a way we never did. (Interestingly, I just came across this NYT article that makes the case for eating fruit.) Olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon taste better than any salad dressing, which usually have some sort of sweetener.
Honestly, the hardest part for me was getting used to drinking black coffee, and while I will try it out with completely unsweetened almond milk, I now know I can drink black coffee and be okay—it took me a long time to acquire that particular taste, admittedly, but I did it, and I feel so much better without adding chemicals or sugar to it. I am not a huge red meat eater (remember, I’ve been vegan for breakfast and lunch and eating mainly vegetarian for dinner), but I’ve been getting a lot of my protein from eggs and fish, and since it’s summer, we’re throwing so much on the grill.
It’s been a great exercise in thinking thoughtfully about choices and paying close attention to what makes our individual bodies run best, and we plan to keep with it.
Have you tried the Whole30 Challenge? What benefits did you notice? Are you doing some sort of modified Paleo diet? What recipes or resources are most helpful?