I have a theory that most of us think we eat a ‘pretty healthy’ diet. As I high-raw vegan I certainly held that view about myself.
BUT I also believe that most of our common everyday ailments are food-related and can be solved with a change in dietary habits.
I recently reached a point where I couldn’t ignore what was going on in my body. I was experiencing constant bloating, fatigue in the afternoons, nonstop sweet cravings, poor digestion, and bouts of dizziness arising from low blood sugar . I was longing for more energy, more clarity, and more focus. And deep down, I just knew that I could feel better than I was.
I decided to take an honest look at my diet. The majority of my diet was vegetables, which in theory is great. But you can’t function optimally on just veggies. Without the addition of more calorie-dense foods, you have to graze all day in order to get enough calories, and that would leave me constantly bloated and full but still searching for a snack. I also recognised that I’ve been relying on small indulgences to perk me up: raw dark chocolate every day, stevia-sweetened colas, tons of caffeinated tea, dips into the nut butter jar and healthy vegan snacks.
This is why I believe it’s so important not to be dogmatic or judgmental about diets and our bodies. I would be doing myself a disservice if I hadn’t kept an open mind. To always be taking an honest look at your lifestyle and asking if you could do better is a good thing. We always deserve better. The minute we start to get stuck in one way is when we’re in trouble.
I decided to experiment with myself and see if there was a better way available to me. Enter the Whole30.
It’s a 30-day commitment where you eat nothing but nutrient-dense, whole foods based on the guidelines above. You’re encouraged to eat 3 square meals each day made up of protein, fat, and produce. In their words, it’s a ‘no cheats, no slip-ups, no excuses’ plan designed to ‘reset your habits, your hormones, your metabolism, and your relationship with food’.
(For the full rules, check out http://whole30.com/whole30-program-rules/ )
Now, you might be thinking this wouldn’t be so hard for me: I don’t eat dairy. I drink a glass of wine about twice in a month. Grains and legumes aren’t really my thing. The only added sugars I consume are stevia and coconut sugar.
But you would be mistaken. Going without chewing gum, little bites of something sweet, and constant mini snacks was, at first, HARD. It’s incredible how much of a hold my snacking habit had on me.
Eating a protein with each meal has taken some getting us to as well – to be perfectly honest the main reason I’m high-raw and vegan is because I prefer the bright taste of salads and smoothies to things like rice, lentils, and chicken. I don’t like the taste of meat and I detest eggs, but I decided I would include some fish, which I’m ok with, as well as use clean vegan protein powders, tempeh and tofu to make sure I was properly following this meal template defined by the Whole30 folks.
Right now I’m 4 days in and I wanted to let you guys know how I’m doing so far, with the intention of sharing the rest of my journey with you too.
A typical Day 1 for someone doing the Whole30 is easy, because you’re filled with the excitement of doing something novel. For me, this was no different. I breezed through the day with a smoothie breakfast and salmon with salad for lunch, then sautéed tempeh with avocado and asparagus for dinner. I drank tons of water and I slept like a baby that night. In fact, they say that incredible, easy, deep beautiful sleep is one of the main side effects of the Whole30 and I can back that up. It usually takes me a while to fall asleep, but immediately I’ve been able to sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow on this plan. Wow. That in itself is almost enough to make want to do this for the rest of my life.
The second day brought about the worst headaches -which I was kind of expecting. Every client and friend I have ever known experiences withdrawal headaches on the afternoon of Day 2 of any cleanse, detox, or giving up of a substance you take daily. I can only put this down to taking in less caffeine from chocolate and iced caffeinated drinks, and more importantly no artificial sugars since I’m not chewing any gum. It’s an incredible reminder to me that even small allowances we make for ourselves have a huge impact on how we feel. You always think you’re in control, or that these things are random, but in reality- your food dictates how you feel. That is a universal reality. Breakfast that day was a smoothie with hemp protein in it, lunch was a bunch of sardines with a salad of avocado, cucumber, mint, cilantro and baby gem lettuce. The headache hit me in the afternoon and I wanted a nap so badly, so I drank some black tea and a whole bunch of water to power me through. I was out at an Indian Restaurant for dinner and I had some tandoori fish with sautéed okra and a side salad. The hardest thing so far has been getting used to has been eating protein with every meal – feeling full and satisfied at every meal is still kind of bizarre to me. I will say though, that my digestion was already noticeably better on this day.
On Day 3 I woke up after having slept for 9.5 hours straight, and woke up still feeling tired. In the official book also named ‘Whole30’, they warn you about this. It’s just your body getting used to processing real food without any of the uppers, the downers, the stimulants, the hyper-real taste sensations. I drank a lot of water but still felt like I was in a haze all day – almost like I was hungover.
On the upside, I will say that something magically shifted that day too – I had zero cravings. Like zero! And I didn’t feel hungry, cranky or tired in between meals – no desire to prop up my energy levels here and there with dietary crutches.
This program is already feeling so damn transformation and insightful that I’m excited to see what it brings next. I will keep you guys updated for all the way along, and if you’re interested in learning more, I would definitely recommend you buy their books ‘It Starts With Food’ and/or ‘The Whole30’. You can also check out their official website for all the info you need.
I’ll be back soon with another update. In the meantime you can follow along with my progress on twitter (@jennazoe) or instagram (@jennazoe1).