Guys. I read a book. And by read a book, I mean that I found a book last Sunday and then spent seven straight hours reading it. Yes, it was that good. That book was, It Starts with Food. Why would I do this, you might ask?
Well, I’ve recently been dealing with skin issues that I haven’t had before. About in August of this year, I started getting really terrible acne. And not just regular acne (which I’ve dealt with for the last ten years), but like, wake up with a golfball sized cyst on your chin (and your cheek, and your nose, and your forehead), acne. And I went to a dermatologist about two months ago, but honestly the topical stuff they gave me really isn’t doing much of anything, or at least that’s what it seems like thus far. Also in August, I started getting eczema. Being fair skinned and red haired, I know that I’m never going to be one of those people that has great skin, but over the last few months it’s become near unbearable. Being a dietitian, I tend to think that everything can be cured (or at least improved) by changing your diet. So as I was super fed up with the skin issues last weekend, I started looking for reading material that might help me figure out how to change my diet in ways that might help my skin to not suck so much (technical diagnostic term). And I came across the book, It Starts with Food.
I downloaded the free sample and read that, and then immediately bought the rest of the book and sat down with a mug of hot tea and prepared myself to be enlightened. I was. Now, being an Registered Dietitian, a lot of the information in the book wasn’t brand new to me. I’ve heard a lot of it before, but it was a GREAT refresher course in the way our bodies process and respond to food, and how the big food companies also understand this, and exploit it to basically get us as addicted as they can to their products, because of course that means we buy more and more. It also does a fantastic job of explaining how different foods/ingredients negatively affect our bodies (and our minds) and how over time, this can lead to a number of problems. The book goes on to explain how to figure out what foods/ingredients your body is particularly sensitive to and how these foods make you feel and/or think – by doing a Whole30.
What the heck is a Whole30? You may be asking… Well for a much more detailed answer than the one I’m about to give, check out this webpage. Basically, you take 30 days, and eliminate all processed foods from your diet. This includes: all grains (corn is a grain, FYI, and yes, even “healthy” grains like quinoa, bulgur, etc), all dairy (except for clarified butter or ghee), all beans/legumes (this includes peanuts and yes, even peanut butter, and it also includes soy – and PS, there is soybean oil in stuff you wouldn’t even expect in the grocery store – like Olive Oil mayo and vinaigrette salad dressings), all added sugar and artificial sweeteners (so basically if you want something sweet, eat a piece of fruit), alcohol in any form (not even for cooking), and you can’t consume MSG, carrageenan, or sulfites (which are in many processed foods). There are a bunch of other rules and suggestions for the whole30, like don’t weigh yourself, don’t try to recreate junk food, don’t watch TV while eating, etc, but I’ve given you the basic food restrictions. So by now you’re probably thinking, okay so what on earth can you eat? You can eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs (they recommend organic or wild caught if you can), vegetables (you are allowed starchy vegetables like potatoes – but not french fries obviously), nuts and seeds (there are limitations here but in general they’re okay), fruit (limit dried fruits), and healthy fats like olive oil, ghee, coconut oil/milk.
I started my Whole30 on December 1st, which, in retrospect, wasn’t a great idea. When I started reading the book I didn’t realize how strict this thing is, and I was originally thinking, no big deal, I’ll just make an exception for Christmas dinner and that will be fine. Wrong. Dallas and Melissa Hartwig (the authors of It Starts with Food) dish out some tough love and say “no slips, no cheats, no excuses”. You have to be 100% compliant for 30 days or you have to start over. Well, after I had started this no way was I starting over, so oh well, no shrimp fettucini alfredo for me on December 25th. Yes, that’s what my family eats for Christmas dinner, along with filet mignon and a salad (both of which I will still be able to eat – thank goodness).
So, now that you have the gist of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, it’s time to share my first week on the Whole30!
This is not easy. And I’m not trying to be a wimp or elicit pity, trust me, I know I did this to myself. Just an FYI for anyone who’s thinking they’re interested in trying a Whole30 – it’s a lot of work. And this is coming from someone who ate pretty well, cooked often, and doesn’t have a sweet tooth. I actually think I’ve been having a relatively easy time on this wild ride compared to what it would be like if I had routinely eaten like crap for the last several years. Here’s what my week has been like thus far:
Day 1 – I felt great. I was still super jacked up about my decision to take control of my health and see if I could figure out what foods I might be sensitive to. I had a ton of energy and even got in a great workout over lunch.
Day 2 – Alarm goes off at 6:15am. I reluctantly open my weary eyes and let out a stream of expletives. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as tired as I did this morning. I literally felt like someone dropped a ton of bricks on my head. I did not want to wake up and go to work this morning. But of course I did. At work I felt like I hadn’t slept more than 2 hours (even though I’d had a good 8 hr night’s sleep), and I had a headache, and I felt super nauseas all day. At this point I was wondering if I had done something wrong because I had thought I would feel great (since I was eating so cleanly). This prompted me to check the interwebs and see if I could find out what was going on. That’s when I came across this Whole30 Timeline, which explained everything. I was in “The Hangover” phase. I won’t lie, this timeline was a bit disheartening because it told me I basically have two weeks of suck ahead of me before I start to feel awesome. But, like I said before, no way was I starting this over, so I sucked it up and went to bed early this night. Also, the fact that I was still eating roughly the same macros (I know they say not to count calories or anything, but I did this day just to make sure I wasn’t feeling like poo due to not eating enough calories/carbs/fat/protein – and that wasn’t the case, they were all about the same as I usually eat), told me that there was indeed some sort of detox process going on inside my body, which was, in a strange way, encouraging.
This (or some variation of salad and roasted veggies) was my lunch for the first week. The salad was obviously very simple, just turkey meat and spinach and lettuce mix with some olive oil and vinegar for dressing. Most days I had Roasted Brussels Sprouts to accompany it.
Day 3 – Still tired but not as bad as yesterday. I also think I hit the “Kill All the Things” stage early, because boy was I in a mood today! Luckily it was fairly short lived and by the end of the day I wasn’t as irritated by everything that exists as I was this morning.
Day 4 – I was still kind of tired but felt good enough to get in another workout today over lunch. Feeling pretty decent at this point.
Here’s what I’ve been eating for dinner – a protein (usually organic chicken but one time salmon), a green veggie (either Brussels sprouts, roasted zucchini, or sautéd green beans), and baked sweet potato fries. The dip in the upper right hand corner is Lemon Dill Mayo that I made from scratch. I’ve never really looked at the ingredients list of store bought mayo before, and it’s pretty appalling. Making mayo on my own was way easier than I expected, and OMG it tasted incredible. It’s night and day to compare this mayo to store bought mayo. It literally tastes like a completely different food. Even if I do the whole30 and don’t see an improvement in my skin, at least I’ll have learned that making your own mayo is easy and amazing, and I seriously doubt I’ll ever buy mayo at the grocery store again.
Day 5 – Still feeling good, although I am starting to miss some foods at this point (really missing my popcorn and diet coke…) but, on the bright side, I discovered whole30 compliant Kombucha at Target, and I actually really like it. I decided that I needed to do a ton of cooking this weekend, because getting home from work and then spending an hour cooking and the subsequent half hour doing dishes – no exaggeration (you will do more cooking and more dishes during a whole30 than you will at any other point in your life) – wasn’t working for me. So I got on Pinterest and found a bunch of recipes that looked good and then went to the grocery store and bought more groceries than I have in the past year. I then spent this Friday night cooking (literally spent 5 hours in the kitchen) and doing even more dishes than I ever care to do again.
Here are some of the things I made on Friday. I made a Whole30 pesto sauce that I mixed with ground turkey and cooked mushrooms to make Pesto Meatballs (that I then enjoyed over zucchini noodles with a little nutritional yeast sprinkled on top). I bought a 4.5 lb organic chicken and used it to make chicken soup (with carrots, onion, potatoes, and I added kale the next day for some greens). I was pretty proud of myself for this one. I’ve actually never made soup from scratch like this before (ie, no canned or boxed broth or boullion cubes from the store). I also made a Paleo Apple Crisp (see recipe below).
Day 6 – Woke up this morning and continued to cook, because no, 5 hours on a Friday was not enough. Today was my parents’ Christmas Open House. I knew this was going to be a challenge for me. I knew my mom was going to have more food than you’d need to feed an army. And I wasn’t wrong. There were so many things at this party that I would’ve loved to eat – cookies, hot apple cider, sausage and cheese balls, spinach and cheese balls, M&M’s, wine, wine, and more wine (can you tell I miss my wine?). Towards the end of the night I was literally asking my friends to describe what the cookies tasted like so that I could at least imagine I had eaten one. The only reason I made it through this occasion was because I planned ahead, and brought a container of the chicken soup I’d just made and a bottle of Kombucha so that I wasn’t hungry and I could feel like I had a special drink. On the bright side, I had a great time socializing and talking to friends I haven’t seen for years (as well as a great time talking to friends I see frequently 😉 ). I’m always advising people to focus less on food over the holidays and more on friends and family (like in this Ten Tips for a Healthy Holiday post), and it was great to practice this myself and still have a wonderful time at a holiday party without indulging in any of the delicious holiday food.
Day 7 – Today felt like a milestone, because I’m a week in. I’m 1/4 of the way done with my Whole30, which at least feels better than saying I’m on day 2 or 3. I think I am definitely in the “I Just Want a Nap” phase though. I slept nine hours last night, laid in bed leisurely this morning, and then by 3pm was literally about to pass out so I took a 2 hour nap. I normally never permit myself to nap on a Sunday because I will have a heck of time falling asleep on schedule to go to work the next day, but I made an exception today. Something tells me I will be able to fall asleep just fine tonight…
One of the things I started making Friday night was Bone Broth. It’s apparently very good for you, and I’ve been hearing about it a lot lately but hadn’t ever made or had it, so I really wanted to give it a go. It takes forever to make. Most of that time is just simmering in a crock pot so I won’t say it was difficult to make, but I’m very impatient so the waiting part was tough for me, hahaha. I started it Friday night but wasn’t entirely finished until Sunday morning, when I skimmed the layer of fat off the top (middle picture, and no, I don’t know why the fat is slightly green…). I then had my very first cup. I won’t say it was bad or good. It tasted kind of like a watered down French Onion Soup broth. Kind of weird to just drink it on it’s own, but I’m going to try to have a cup a day to reap all the nutritional benefits from it. And maybe as i try again next weekend, I’ll figure out a way to make it taste a little better.
Okay, so now on to the promised recipe – Paleo Apple Crisp!
Before I get into the actual recipe, I know what some of you are probably thinking – Isn’t one of the rules of the Whole30 to not recreate junk food with paleo ingredients? Yes. It is. So let me just give you my thoughts here.
1) Apple crisp isn’t the same thing as a brownie in my book. Apple crisp (or at least this recipe for apple crisp) is mostly apple, which is a fruit, and fruit is allowed on the whole30.
2) Part of the reason they don’t want you recreating junk foods is that they want you to make real changes and not just make the same old foods you love in different ways that are whole30 compliant. Honestly I ate really well before starting this journey (I can’t even remember the last time I ate apple crisp). I don’t really have a big sweet tooth or eat junk foods or desserts regularly. I am doing this as a means to identify what foods I might be sensitive to in terms of my skin breaking out and getting eczema. I’m not really trying to break my old habits of eating junk – because I didn’t eat junk regularly. So I don’t feel that by having this version of apple crisp I’m setting myself back or “cheating” myself of the full whole30 experience.
3) I bought some reduced price apples at the grocery store (8 for $1.50), so I needed to use them fast and they weren’t crisp and good for eating cold, so I wanted to find a tasty way to eat them warm.
So there you have it. If you’re doing your own Whole30 and you do feel like it’s important that you don’t make any dessert-type foods because you’re trying to break a cycle of eating junk, then maybe this recipe isn’t for you. This isn’t something I’ll be making over and over again during the next 30 days, but it was a good way to use up those apples, and I might make it to take to Christmas dinner so that while everyone else is having cookies and pie for dessert, I’ll be able to enjoy my healthy apple crisp.
Guys, I’m not going to lie – this was amazing. I hate to admit that I was actually really surprised at how awesome it was. I thought that without the traditional brown sugar crumb topping it would lack flavor and just be kind of bland, but it wasn’t. At all. I mean it was really, really delicious.
There was so much texture and flavor. Maybe it’s because I’ve been without any added or artificial sugar for the last week, but I swear, I like this better than regular apple crisp. And you don’t feel all sluggish and foggy after you eat it like you do with typical sugar-laden desserts. It was also super easy and fast to make. Please, give this a try and then let me know if you loved it as much as I did.
Alright, I’ve been doing a lot of talking, so now it’s your turn.
Have any of you ever done a Whole30? If so, please, please, please leave me a comment and tell me about your experience with it. Did you make it through? How long did it take until you started to feel amazing? What changes (both physical and mental) did you notice?
And if you haven’t done a Whole30, what do you think? Do you think you would ever try it? If you’re wondering if this drastic diet clean up might benefit any number of ailments you have, please check out this website where they list from A-Z the number of conditions that have been improved or cured by doing a Whole30. I’ll keep you all updated each week with what I’m eating and how I’m feeling. Wish me luck!!!