I had been wanting to take on the Whole30 challenge for a while, but had never actually started due to excuses I would come up with each time. This time, I decided to actually push myself to take on the challenge, despite traveling, working and other events that would otherwise hinder me to continue. I told myself that I would tell others when I am starting Whole30 and also share my experience in order to help me stay motivated and keep going. I chose a date, May 1st, and began my journey. Living The Fittrio lifestyle meant that I was already doing many of the things required by the guidelines, but I now had to eliminate ALL grains (including rice, oats, and quinoa) and added sugars (including coconut sugar and honey) from my diet for the next month.
Grains had been my go-to source for staying full and eliminating them from my diet was definitely a challenge. This meant no more eating oatmeal, rice flour toast or granola. I made a promise to myself that I would NEVER restrict myself throughout this entire process and if at any point I felt restricted, I would simply stop and eat the foods I was craving. The first week was the most difficult as I struggled to stay full and finally gave in during my lunch break at work one day when I started to feel lightheaded. I ate a chicken quinoa gluten-free wrap that day and decided to rethink how I was handling this challenge. I began incorporating more protein and carbohydrates into my diet (such as potatoes), protein (eggs, chicken sausage, salmon), as well as eating a whole avocado a day (half for breakfast and half for lunch).
No matter how big of a breakfast I ate, I still found myself snacking more often throughout the day. But because I couldn't snack on things like crackers or bars, I would start snacking on fruit more than anything else. I was continuing to be mindful of my decisions and read labels more carefully than ever at grocery stores (even in items I would eat on Fittrio but could no longer eat on Whole30). Again, due to the fact that I eliminated so many packaged foods from my diet (such as crackers, chips and bars), I started eating a lot more fruit sugars (especially in my smoothies) and nuts.
I discovered many delicious recipes and definitely improved my smoothie-making skills with some of my favorite new toppings: coconut chips, cashew butter, hemp hearts and goji berries. Some changes I noticed about my body were that I felt less bloated throughout the day from the foods I ate. However, I found it very difficult to feel completely satisfied with my meals and was always left wanting something more. Getting hungry very often would also prevent me from exercising, especially towards the end of the day or after work, since I could not exercise on an empty stomach.
Sweet potato toasts became one of my favorite breakfast creations, with all the toppings I previously mentioned, to help me stay full. Then throughout the day, I began incorporating more nuts into my diet as a snack or along with my meals. I have a type of work schedule where I am constantly running around on my feet and don't get to determine when I take my lunch break. I sometimes get to eat my lunch at 12:30pm, while other days I don't get to each lunch until 2pm due to the number of patients we have that day. This definitely made it difficult for me to keep up with the Whole30 challenge while being at work. Not only that, but I also have a very fast metabolism which makes me hungry every 3 or 4 hours after most meals I eat. Taking on the Whole30 challenge has definitely made me more cautious about the foods I eat. Reading labels and deciding weather or not I could eat something made me realize I was being a little obsessive and at times restricting myself from things that I really wanted to eat. Since I had made a promise to myself to not ever restrict myself throughout this whole process, if at any time I felt that I was being restricted, then I would eat whatever food it was that I was craving at the time. For example, I continued to snack on RX Bars on work days in order to keep myself full before heading to the gym after work.
Additionally, I felt that I was forced to be more creative (in a good way) with my meals and now looking back at my food photos, I can really see how I became much more creative with my meals, especially during breakfast time!
This right here was probably the most filling meal I had during my entire Whole30 experience: two soft-boiled eggs, half an avocado with hemp hearts, lox from the farmers market, broccoli sprouts, oven baked carrots, potatoes and broccolini (I also had some walnuts afterwards). I learned a lot about the different food groups each meal needed in order to keep me full and satisfied for at least a few hours. I learned to add lots of healthy fats, protein, and even carbs sometimes (such as potatoes) in most of my meals!
I obviously did not follow the Whole30 guidelines for all 30 days of the program, simply because I refused to restrict myself from eating things that I felt like I wanted or that my body needed. I would say that I followed the guidelines about 80% and still learned a lot as a result of my experience during that month. As a result of not feeling completely full or satisfied with most of my meals, I would resort to lots of fruit sugars and sugary smoothies that would then make my stomach upset, and still not full. Here are a few things I learned: macro ingredients are key in every meal (protein, grains, and healthy fats), how much added unrefined sugars (such as coconut sugar, honey, or even dates) I had been having daily, eating grains or even grain-free bread helps me stay full for much longer, and that I could not live a Whole30 life because it does not suit my body type or active lifestyle. Overall, I have definitely felt inspired to pursue a paleo lifestyle, but know that I will never restrict myself from the foods I love!