Following a rather splendid calorie fuelled Christmas cruise, a few large pizzas and a return to bad sandwich van habits coupled with an incessant whistling in my ear, a few comments on how healthy I've been looking and feeling in need of something different to do, I thought I'd give the Whole30 lifestyle a pop.
"Whole30?" I hear you, like many of my work colleagues, ask with a curious, bemused and sometimes cynical look on your skull covering, "What's that? Some sort of jigsaw/badger collection/religious cult?". No. Far from it.
I've been explaining Whole30 to the uninitiated as a kind of dietary reboot that has been popular in Amerrycar for a number of years now. Its a lifestyle plan that tries to get you to think in more detail about how and when you consume food, how to scrutinise and analyse the ingredients in convenient things you buy and generally stick two "holier-than-though" fingers up at people who eat nothing but nice things like pizza, cheeseburgers and chocolate all day without any obvious external repercussions.
What sets Whole30 apart from other "dietary lifestyles" is, I guess, the rules. To do Whole 30, you need to abstain from dairy, sugar (including artificial sweeteners), sulphites, grain, alcohol and legumes while also avoiding weighing scales and "treat recreations" (eg paleo pancakes) for thirty days. Ultimately the idea is, after the 30 days, you slowly reintroduce things back into your diet and take note of the things that make you feel ill or carry on eating healthy wholesome food.
It kind of sits nicely in a Venn diagram like this -
So I've been following a Whole30 eating regime since 18th February. Of course I didn't just wake up and go "I'll do whole 30 today!", no, I chose then because in January I still had a load of naughty treats left over from Christmas to eat and I also had my wedding anniversary in February which was going to involve eating out. It also meant that I would finish in time for the annual mid-Spring Chocolate Festival.
The initial carb fog of the first few days were difficult but having previously lived virtually sugar free and reducing dairy consumption in preparation it wasn't too hard. The first few days also brought weird hunger pangs but they too passed. The second hardest aspect was finding something for breakfast that wasn't eggs. I'm not a big egg fan (I won't put anything that's come out of a chicken's arse near my mouth) but regular steak brekkies, the occasional smoothie and a weird pureed sweet potato/almond butter thing soon had me feeling full till lunch.
Coffee consumption has gone up too. Coffee is a natural appetite suppressant so that, as well as not carrying cash, has done away with the temptation of work's vending machines and sandwich van. That said, scrutiny of packaging has often had me disappointed when finding banned ingredients in seemingly innocuous food things.
For example, the other day I was almost about to eat some cashew nuts but, casually inspecting the packaging revealed they were somehow treated with rice flour and sugar, both things forbidden on Whole30. Other things like mayonnaise can also prove to be dangerous. Quite why is a mystery but even though, like every school boy should know, mayo is mostly egg yolks and oil, nearly all the mainstream mayos have either corn flour (no) or sugar (no too!) in their ingredients. But having already to check ingredients for dairy in case Mrs Gnomepants v2.0 might want to try, I like to think I'm pretty adept at spotting potentially dangerous ingredients.
Aside from that, 12 days in, I'm not finding Whole30 difficult at all. I found Slimming World harder because of all the counting and weird rules (like the mashed banana thing, what the fuck are you supposed to do with a banana once you put it in your mouth? Swallow it whole!?). Also, I wasn't keen on the heavily female leaning "group" thing that goes hand in hand with SW. And Paleo and keto are mostly just Whole 30 but with different rules about sugar.
I think planning the weekly meals in advance has helped. I had planned to make a shit load of homemade curry like what I used to do in Barnsley, but our freezer is currently too full for me to make and store the base sauce so I haven't done that yet. Initially I thought replacing soy sauce would be the most difficult to replace in recipes, but I soon discovered that coconut aminos do the job of soy, and besides that, 30 days without eating any Chinese food isn't hard either. I've also made a job lot of bone broth, just like Mrs Gnomepants V1.0 used to do every week, but I've had about 1 of the 5 litres I made so far. And making mayo was initially a disaster but I think I've cracked that now too.
I can only assume that the majority of American groceries are riddled with additional sugar, dairy, grains or beans (probably soya) which is why most experiences I've read written by Americans, talk about Whole30 being difficult. Being a Brit, our food is not as saturated with naughty additives as it once was so I suppose I've been really lucky, dietary wise, with already not being that much of a junk food nut, already eating meat and veg for meals and really only having a bit of dairy in cheese or with a cup of tea before Whole30. Perhaps also, the reliance on artificial sweeteners has meant my come down from sugar dependence was easier than, say, those people who eat a shit load of sugar every day. Either way, day 12 and I'm still going strong. Lets see how I am in another 18 days :)