I can't believe I've completed one full week of the Whole30 Program. If you had told me even just a few months ago that I could go an entire week without ANY sugar (or sweeteners of any kind!), grain/bread products, dairy, or Diet Coke, I would have laughed in your face.
It's so amazing how our mental states and opinions about things can change over time, and when our circumstances change. For me, when I started hearing about people whose joint pain and/or nagging sports injuries mysteriously disappeared when they swore off sugar, wheat, or dairy, it was like a switch flipped in my brain and I began to imagine how much better that would feel than what I was feeling at the time. I was tired of feeling old, stiff, and sore every single time I exercised--and sometimes for days afterward. I mean, I'm 42, not 90!
The amazing thing is that, in only one week of this super-clean eating, the hip joint pain that typically plagues me during and after (and after, and after....) exercise has noticeably reduced, with no other potential explanation than the change in my diet. CRAZY!
A few thoughts about Days 1-7. Prior to starting the Whole30, I heard a lot about the "carb flu"--a term for the unpleasant physical symptoms people tend to experience in the early days of the program as their bodies "withdraw" from all the normal processed, sugary, grain-heavy, etc., foods they normally eat. I was warned that I could feel headachy, nauseous or stomachachey, lethargic, and just generally unwell. I have not experienced the "carb flu" at all. I don't know if that's because my "normal" diet was fairly healthy already (aside from the sugar and Diet Coke, ha ha...) or what, but it has not bothered me.
The only PHYSICAL symptom that plagued me (on Days 1-6) was extremely restless sleep. This wasn't due to extra caffeine, post-exercise soreness, or mental anxiety/worry/stress--in fact, I couldn't tell at ALL why I was tossing and turning all night--so I can only assume that there is something in carb-heavy foods that makes one sleepy (something I think we all know from personal experience after eating a heavy meal).
For me, the "symptoms" have been mental, not physical. It has been really hard to break habits like mindlessly snacking on my kiddos' foods when I'm getting something ready for them, popping a hard candy or piece of gum into my mouth after a meal or just because I'm bored, nibbling something while I'm cooking, or tasting the muffin or cookie dough I'm preparing. Yikes!
The first few days, I found myself fluctuating between feeling overly full--because normally I eat small meals and then snack frequently, so I wasn't used to eating hearty mealtime portions--and feeling twinges of hunger. But before too long I realized that those little twinges weren't hunger--after all, you can't truly be "hungry" an hour after eating a generous portion of fish, a big sweet potato, and a bunch of steamed vegetables, at least, not unless you're an endurance athlete who is motoring through hundred of calories an hour--but were instead cravings. Specifically, a craving for something sweet to top off my meal.
Cravings like this are nothing more than HABITS. I needed to get out of the habit of grabbing a cookie here, a piece of candy there, some chocolate chips when I'm baking with them, some mini-marshmallows when I'm making my kids some hot chocolate, etc., just for the taste.
Having said all that, of course I would still really, really, really like a cookie (or two or ten), a pint of ice cream (I have had fantasies about caramel swirl ice cream and Culver's frozen custard), a giant Diet Coke, a scone, or one of my own homemade muffins. Of course I would! But it's not killing me, and so far I have not given in.
Onward! Today the kidlets even go back to school. For real this time. So now the question becomes: Can a stay-at-home mom maintain this eating plan even when she's alone in the house all day with the kid-snack-stocked pantry RIGHT THERE?
Time will tell.
(p.s. I was reminded by something I read online late yesterday that there is an important reason snacks are discouraged on Whole30, beyond the fact that snacks can so easily be carb-y, junky foods. It has something to do with your body needing to go several hours without food in order for certain hormonal reactions to take place that help regulate your insulin, leptin, and ability to burn fat rather than glucose for energy (i.e., to get "fat-adapted," which you really, really want to do). So, I guess I'd better work harder at not snacking. Oops!).