Why did I choose this plan?
Essentially after reading the book It Starts with Food, I chose to follow this plan because there are a lot of people I talk to and work with who ask “How can I do a diet restart?” This should always start with overall evaluation of your food intake and what needs to be cleaned up.
The Whole30 plan is really a restart at the highest level. It focuses on elimination on a grand scale – essentially getting rid of all processed food – yes, ALL. It also completely eliminates all added sugar as well as artificial sweeteners (including stevia) for 30 days. There is nothing slow about entering into this plan, it is all or none from Day 1. Eat the foods on the plan, do not veer off the plan for if you do, you start back at Day 1 again.
Allowed foods are meats of all kinds, veggies of all kinds except for peas and corn, all fruit, fats including avocado, coconut oil and olive oil (not vegetable oil), as well as ghee or clarified butter and nuts. Peanut butter is not allowed since it is a legume. Since the diet is dairy free (cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk are all dairy) it means that a “milk sub” is limited to something like coconut milk or almond milk. The diet is also free of all grains, beans, legumes and soy. The basic idea that when you eliminate it all from the get go, when you add back after 30 days, you should be able to notice a difference if you add a food back that wasn’t so hot for your system to tolerate. The book details what the potential problem with each eliminated food or food type is and why it may not be good to eat, even if you don’t notice a symptom when eating it. With diabetes and being able to follow BG after food, adding things back at the end should prove easier to identify what works well and what doesn’t.
I am fortunate that my husband agreed to do this 30 days with me as it made elimination of things in the cupboard that much easier. While I have 2 little boys, we already follow a gluten free diet, and since I don’t eat bread except on rare occasion, having things like that in the house for them wasn’t an issue. We were also limited to meat options since we do not eat any animals except for seafood. So our protein sources were fish, seafood, nuts, and eggs for a full 30 days.
What did I learn?
I started the diet with a good grocery list, a planned meal chart that I pasted on the refrigerator door for quick reference and I included breakfast, lunch and dinner choices on it so I didn’t just stand in front of the fridge trying to figure out what to eat. Meals are the main time of intake, and it encourages you to eat to satiety for the 3 main meals and only add snacks IF you are going to work out at which point you can do something before and after exercise. I found this to be a challenge for me, as I do typically have a snack at least in the afternoon on most days and sometimes in the morning if I have eaten really early. While my snacks are typically things like nuts or veggies, I tried to keep to the 3 meals/day part of this as much as possible. I feel that the first week was the hardest in habit adjustment and perhaps a bit of bodily adjustment as well due to the change in what I was eating or not eating.
Overall, I felt hungry with limiting the snacks between meals. I feel that some of this is likely a personal thing, considering I’m still nursing a toddler and that takes some energy out of my body, so overall, the snacks between that I was used to eating might have been needed. I found that the adjustment to my breakfast worked well, and was easier to figure out and manage post meal than my typical breakfast that I’ve been doing for years (with success, but having had to figure out insulin strategy to keep things contained). See below for a typical day of meals.
My husband who doesn’t have diabetes, but is more of a grazer through the day found it hard to not grab a snack between meals, but even with snacks was able to stay compliant with foods on the “eat this” list.
Filling up on veggies means planning to have enough in the house to eat day after day. We went through A LOT of veggies – and we normally eat what I thought was a lot of vegetables already!
I learned to do a lot more creative things with seasonings and with veggies specifically. While they are always eaten at lunch and dinner, adding them to breakfast was new and helped complete the meal. I also found a lot of great recipes for riced cauliflower to replace grain at meals – having used riced cauliflower before, I knew we liked it, but just didn’t do it as often or with as much variety.
I learned that I can go without chocolate. Do I want to avoid it completely now that I can add it back? NO! But, can I go without it, absolutely. In fact, now that I have added it back, I find that I want even darker chocolate than I had before and I usually tried to choose at least 80% dark. This ties into the ability to avoid adding a bit of stevia to my tea as well. I like herbal tea, but I have always added a bit of stevia to heighten the flavor – especially for my mint or blueberry rooibos tea. Not using it for the month was hard, but without any added sweeteners at all, I have found that things did become more flavorful and I can go without stevia in things I used it in before.
Was there a benefit?
In following this from the perspective of diabetes management I found a few good benefits which can be helpful too! Insulin needs went down. Because I was eating less “carb” and more veggie based carbohydrate, my needs went down on a day to day basis by 4-8 units. I also found that I needed less insulin to micromanage post meal (and with using Loop, I see a lot less positive temping after meals).
My exercise tolerance was lower in the beginning but, BG was easier to manage and with adjusting the typical plan for exercise I found it easier to keep BG from dropping as there was less bolus insulin around at that time of day.
Overnight control is easier and Loop accommodated a lot less. While my evening snack isn’t horrible when I eat it (frozen berries, chia pudding or sometimes a glass of wine), getting rid of it made sailing into the overnight a lot less of a worry for how it would affect things.
Mindful choices and attention to real “hunger” was easier. When you clean your cupboards and the fridge of all things that could be an option, it leaves you with only with what you want to eat as an option. And thus, a lot simpler to stick with the plan.
We did find that eating out took a bit more planning as things on most menus include some type of carb or food that wasn’t allowed in the 30 days. We have a list of preferred restaurants for eating with our boys as well as without them based on our usual food preferences. With the increased restriction on the Whole30 plan it even excluded some of our usual spots or meant we had even less options.
Was it a success?
I would say yes. Mindfulness is at a peak after 30 days and it gave me a chance to reset and evaluate what I can live without. Even though we do not do a lot of packaged food and eat gluten free, some fast meal items that we ate before, like bean based pasta, look just as easy to me now as popping a sweet potato in the microwave – which might be better for me in terms of glycemic impact too. This next month of adding some foods back will be interesting and maybe I’ll find I was not supposed to be eating so much Peanut butter or beans after all!
A Day of meals on Whole30
Beverages – water, herbal tea or sparkling water (La Croix, etc.)
Breakfast – 2 egg whites, olive oil, sautéed spinach/kale/mushrooms/onions and homemade salsa (without sugar added), ¼ up nut granola (no oats or grain)with ½ cup blueberries, 1/3 cup coconut milk
Snack – (maybe 2 or 3 days/week) – carrot sticks, cucumber slices or handful of cashews
Lunch – BIG salad with veggies, green apple, olive oil or avocado, tuna/sardines/boiled egg
Snack – usually daily (there is a long time between my lunch and dinner and I work out in the afternoon most days) – Apple with Nut butter or before exercise a smoothie with protein powder (egg white) and frozen berries.
Dinner – Sweet potato/baby red potato or winter squash like Acorn, steamed/grilled or raw veggie salad (like 2 cups at least), fish or seafood