January 11, 2014

Whole 30: Day 6

After I started talking about my interest in a Whole 30, Anna, one of my readers, reached out to me on Facebook, asking if I would like her copy of "It Starts With Food," the book about the Whole 30 and the science behind it all. Awesome! It just arrived yesterday, and I am very excited to dig into it. Once we're done with the Whole 30, I think I'll do a giveaway here on the blog. More on that in about 24 days.

Matt, still skeptical and a bit grouchy, is reading it first - I am hoping it helps make better sense to him, or at least helps him understand why we are following this plan. He reacts pretty well to books like this - a year or so ago he read "Eat and Run" by Scott Jurek and for a good week after, he wanted to be vegan (this was deterred when I brought up the fact that he mostly hates vegetables and no, you can't have vegan pancakes for every meal).

Today was really low-key. I had a lot of work to do for my classes Monday, so I spent quite a few hours on the couch with my textbooks and my iPad, taking notes. I got up to stretch every now and then, play with Noah, refill my water bottle. Tomorrow, and every day this week before we leave for Minnesota, my goal is to get to the gym, even for just a short workout. I know I've said this a thousand times, but right now, I am feeling confident that my eating is under control, so I am ready to get back into a routine of exercising.

Last night I put chicken, garlic, and asparagus in the crock pot for today's dinner - I knew we were low on eggs so I made the dinner early so I could have it for breakfast as well. It was pretty good ... adapted from a recipe Matt found in Michael Symon's cookbook. Next time, I would change up the spices. It tasted a lot like asparagus (not a bad thing, necessarily) and not a lot like garlic (which I wanted).

Having chicken for breakfast instead of eggs (or my usual Chobani) was really filling. I didn't start to feel hungry again for a good six or seven hours. Though maybe that was me being distracted by my mountain of work or my oddly needy super snuggly baby. He didn't want to play, didn't want to nap ... just wanted to be held all day. Some days are like that.

When Matt woke up, he had fruit for breakfast, and then leftover spaghetti squash for lunch. When he was hungry not too long after, I told him he needed more protein, and made him an egg scramble with ground turkey.

I also made some roasted carrots, after Matt was complaining about how boring carrots are without any hummus to dip them in (beans are not Whole 30 compliant). I tossed some in a few good shakes curry powder and cinnamon, then roasted them in a single layer on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes at 375ºF. He loved them, and said I could make them again any time I wanted. (How lucky I am!)

I love the combination of curry and carrots. It's sweet and delicious.

Dinner was, again, the chicken with asparagus. We didn't eat until after 7 because we just weren't too hungry today. I worry sometimes that things aren't working - mainly because of my dieter's mindset, that unless I am starving and feeling deprived, I can't possibly be losing weight. I feel less bloated, for sure, and yesterday at work, I wore the black and gray dress I bought for the funeral - it fit differently already. Looser in the belly, I'm sure because of the bloating.

I keep trying to reassure myself: no matter what the scale says at the end, what I am doing right now is excellent for my body. I am properly fueling it and not forcing it to run on glazed doughnuts from the office breakroom, hastily eaten before anyone sees me sneaking them. I don't hide my eating when I eat well. There are no binges. There's no shame. Even if my body weight hasn't changed much yet, I am already feeling lighter, with the load of some of my food guilt already lifted.

January 10, 2014

Whole 30: Day 5

Before I get into today, I had a lot of folks asking questions in the blog comments the past few days, so I wanted to get to those:

What is the Whole 30?
Their website does an excellent job of explaining it, much better than I could. Essentially, though, it's paleo eating - anything that a caveman would eat is okay. So, no grains, no dairy, no sugar, no unhealthy fats, no alcohol. There are some interesting infographics floating around online showing correlations between the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers and food processors. Our diets went from protein based to refined carb and sugar based. I'm not a doctor and can't vouch for the data, but I *can* say that I know how I feel when I eat a lot of pasta, bread, and sweets, and I know how much better I feel when I avoid that stuff.

Is Matt doing it too?
Reluctantly, but yes. I don't know if I could do it without him. Having one meal to prepare, one good healthy meal, and no temptations anywhere ... it makes it easier.

Are you following the no-scale rule?
Yes, we are. We weighed ourselves beforehand, and won't weigh ourselves again 'til we're done with the thirty days. It's hard, but I am slowly learning to trust my body.

How much sage do you add to the turkey sausage patties?
I could never be a TV chef, or even a food blogger. I am terrible about measurements. I usually just throw in a spoonful of this and a few shakes of that. Multiple spoonfuls if it's garlic. If I had to guess, I would say it's a teaspoon per 1/4 pound of ground turkey. Sometimes I will chop up some green apple and add that, but usually it's just a bit of salt and pepper. We keep it pretty simple around here.

All about spaghetti squash: is it good? Is it super squashy tasting?
I find that with spaghetti squash, folks either love it or hate it. If you go into it expecting something that tastes like spaghetti, you'll be let down. If you appreciate it as a vegetable that kind of looks like spaghetti, you'll fall in love. We're in the latter group.

It doesn't have a strong squashy taste, not like butternut squash or pumpkin. When cooked perfectly, it's still a bit firm - it almost falls out of the shell but the individual strands still have a bite to them.

And we love it with any sauce, from pesto to tomato sauce.

Making baked egg muffins: does the sauce stain the silicone cups?
I didn't notice an off color or smell left in the cups, but that may just be that I'm married to an exceptional dish washer.

Breakfast this morning: more scrambled egg muffins. This time, with broccoli. I'm thinking this weekend, it'll be mushrooms since I have some leftover. They're a really quick and delicious breakfast!

Today was my first day back to work, and let me tell you, I am bracing myself for a heck of a semester. Because my name was changed in the system over Winter Break, I missed a department wide email that got sent out a few days ago. Not usually a big deal, except this one mentioned that my immediate boss resigned effective next week. So today, three days before classes start, I walked into a mess of schedule reorganizing, because now his courses need to be taught by someone else. The whole day was full of stuff like that, just majorly stressful.

One good thing, though, was that I noticed that I almost forgot to eat my lunch. Maybe it was the pile of work distracting me, but even when I ate, I was barely hungry but not starving. I only ate because I was heading into a very long meeting and knew my stomach would grumble in the meantime. I made a burger with avocado in the middle, and brought my leftover brussels sprouts.

The burger was good, I have no idea how long it has been since I've made anything with beef at home. We usually use turkey, mainly because we prefer the flavor.

After work, I got home and started cooking since we were having friends over for a game night. We usually eat dinner around 5 but we would be eating later, and I got a bit snacky. A few nuts, some avocado. I caught myself and had some water.

Dinner was spaghetti squash again, with another homemade sauce just like the one I made the other night. It was just as good, and our friends loved it too! They're doing a similar type of eating plan right now, so it was nice to cook for everyone and still be supported and on-plan.

I know I only had one day of work, but oof, I am ready for the weekend. Hopefully all my scheduling issues get resolved by the time I show up to teach on Monday!

January 9, 2014

Whole 30: Day 4

Just a quick post tonight, since I have to be up early tomorrow for my faculty meetings ... well, I guess I am up early every day because of, you know, the baby ... but at least the past few weeks I've been able to rest a bit. Tomorrow it's back to the old grind.

For breakfast, I wanted to try something new-ish. I love eggs poached in tomato sauce, but Matt, again, is a new and unadventurous egg eater, so I tried making them in my silicone baking cups. I put a bit of last night's tomato sauce in the bottom, then cracked an egg on top and baked it. I also made some regular egg muffins, scrambled with asparagus, for Matt.

They were delicious, very good flavor. I overcooked mine and the yolks were basically hard, but still, the sauce and the egg together ... you wouldn't think it's a good combination, but it totally is.

Lunch was leftovers from last night's dinner - we had leftover spaghetti squash, but no meatballs, since I had only thrown a few together quickly. So a few hours after lunch, we found ourselves a bit hungry, and dinner was in the crockpot and a few hours away from being finished. I decided to toast some nuts with assorted spices. Matt had gone to the store last night to pick up a few things we needed around the house, and he ventured into the grocery section with the nuts, looking for a snack. He picked up cashews and asked if those were okay, and I said yes, but only if they were raw or dry-roasted. They were roasted in peanut oil, however, and so they were a pass. Needless to say, my already-feeling-deprived husband wasn't pleased.

(I'm not feeling deprived at all, by the way. I feel really, really good so far, not starving, no cravings, no headaches or exhaustion.)

So, I had him get some plain nuts and told him we would toast them ourselves. I took a few servings of raw almonds, walnuts, and pecans, and put them in a skillet. I kept them moving constantly over medium-high heat until they seemed done (very scientific, I know ... they smelled nutty but not quite burned).

Then I added a tablespoon of mixed spices (garlic powder, onion powder, various peppers) and a teaspoon of olive oil, and tossed it all together. Then I poured it out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper to cool down a bit, and there you have it - snacks!

The spices were a nice touch, and it kept Matt happy for a little bit while we went to run some errands.

When we got home a few hours later, it was dinner time. I made another recipe I had found on Pinterest: chicken with brussels sprouts. Simple, but delicious. There's no link on the Pin, but the recipe is given - based on the picture, though, I did things a bit different. I mixed the mustard with the water and oil, then tossed the sprouts in the mixture to make sure it was all evenly seasoned. Also, I subbed chicken thighs for chicken breasts because that's what I felt like when I popped it in the crock pot this morning.

I liked it a lot, but Matt wasn't crazy about the brussels sprouts - I have yet to win him over on those, I think roasting them will do the trick. In the meantime, he ate his chicken, passed me his brussels sprouts, and had some berries instead. I put the second serving of sprouts away to have with my breakfast. Definitely looking forward to that - it was seriously really good!

And with that, I am off to bed. I am a bit nervous about tomorrow, especially after receiving a ton of emails tonight after nearly a month of silence. Small problems with scheduling and whatnot for the Spring classes. It will all be resolved, no need for me to lose sleep over it.

January 8, 2014

Whole 30: Day 3

Today I felt a little worried, because I haven't really been "suffering" as much as my pre-Whole 30 reading made me think I would. I seriously ate nothing but junk over Christmas break - shouldn't I be feeling worse when I strip my eating down to just meat, veggies, a little fruit, and some nuts?

I thought about it, though, and I think it's because I am still on vacation (I have faculty meetings on Friday, and classes start Monday). Once I am back to work, I am sure it will become much harder - the temptations there are crazy, I've never worked anywhere with so many treats in the office kitchen at all times! That, plus our upcoming weekend in Minnesota (party for Matt's grandmother, who is turning 95), will be the true challenges.

For breakfast today, I made little egg muffins - basically crustless, non-dairy quiches.

I scrambled 6 eggs and mixed in some raw broccoli and cooked ground turkey, then scooped it all into 8 small silicone muffin cups and baked it for 20 minutes at 375ºF. Those, and some mango chunks, made for a great breakfast.

Lunch was leftovers from last night's dinner and let me say, it was definitely a dish that got better after sitting overnight. The acidity from the tomato was less pronounced and the spices and apricot flavors really came out. This is something I would make and divide up for lunches when I am back to work.

My snacks so far have been all fruit, or an occasional 100-calorie pack of almonds - just referring to the label on the box they came in, we're not counting calories on the Whole 30 (or weighing ourselves, which I will get to in a minute). I have been keeping snacks to a minimum, only having one when I am truly hungry. After all the non-stop snacking I did in Connecticut, it's good to feel actually hungry again.

For dinner, I roasted a spaghetti squash and made a homemade tomato sauce - diced tomatoes, chopped zucchini and yellow squash, mushrooms, and the rest of the olives from the other night. I also added garlic and basil. I let it cook a bit, then blended it well with my stick blender. I topped it all with some hastily thrown together turkey meatballs, since I could tell Matt was nervous at the idea of a meatless meal. I usually make meatballs with spices, an egg, and breadcrumbs ... these were literally just meat. Not bad, but next time, I'll probably just brown the ground turkey and toss it on top.

Better than it looks, I promise.

So, yeah, it's going pretty well so far. One aspect of the Whole 30, as I mentioned before, is that they encourage not weighing yourself during the thirty days. The focus should be on eating well and taking care of your body, rather than fixating on a number. And I completely understand the value of that, yet I still struggle. This has been something I've had problems getting my mind around for years. I don't trust myself. I don't trust my body to function the way it ought to given certain conditions. If I eat right, I'll lose weight. Why do I need to step on a scale every day to validate this?

January 7, 2014

Whole 30: Day 2

Our second day went well, and I think we're both feeling pretty strong. Matt says that he feels better than yesterday, as the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal seem to have subsided. His main complaint is that he is hungry, which I suppose is to be expected after eating junk food non-stop for three weeks. I gained more than twice the weight he did while we were in Connecticut; I'm surprised I don't feel worse, or at least hungrier. So far I feel surprisingly satisfied, which I think is due to the fact that our meals are so protein heavy.

Today's breakfast was eggs - scrambled for Matt, over-hard for me - plus some mini homemade turkey patties I made using lean ground turkey and sage. I've made them before as burger-sized patties and had chopped apple in there as well, and I think next time I will do that too - it adds another aspect of flavor that's really quite wonderful.

After breakfast I sent Matt the grocery store - yesterday, to avoid being tempted by noncompliant foods, we had entirely avoided the dairy section when doing our big weekly shop ... and unfortunately forgot to swing by and grab the small whole milk yogurts that we sometimes mix in with Noah's breakfasts. He got some, and was pleased to report when he returned home that he had not been tempted at all to sneak a treat while shopping alone!

Lunch was simple - a little piece of tilapia and salad. I whipped up a batch of homemade mayo using a recipe I found on Pinterest and used that as a base for a homemade salad dressing, along with some spices. The dressing recipe needs some tweaking but overall it was pretty good, and the mayo came together very quickly with the use of my stick blender.

In the afternoon, I started to have a little bit of tummy trouble - something that always happens when I switch back from off-plan eating to a healthier diet. Other than that, though, so far we aren't feeling sick.

Dinner was another Pinterest recipe - this time, apricot chicken made in the slow cooker. I made a few substitutions - for example, instead of using canned diced tomatoes, I bought fresh tomatoes and diced them myself. This, I figured, would help reduce sodium and avoid preservatives or artificial ingredients. In all honesty, next time I would probably skip the tomatoes entirely - the flavor and acidity ended up overpowering the dried apricots to the point where we could hardly taste the fruit. The chicken, though, was very moist and flavorful and pulled apart easily, so I think that with some modifications, we will be making this recipe again.

As we started the Whole 30, I've been trying to make a few other changes. First, I'm trying to get back into the habit of taking a daily multivitamin. I am also being more diligent about properly cleaning my teeth. I am very ashamed to admit that this is a problem, but I find that depression and poor oral hygiene go hand-in-hand. These little healthy habits seem minor but I know that they're big steps for me toward the routines I've known to be successful in the past.

And speaking of the past, the other day while driving back from Connecticut, Matt and I were listening to a podcast interview, I believe with Larry King, and either he or the host made reference to a quote attributed to Mark Twain:
History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
It's stuck with me ever since I heard it. I find it to be true, particularly in the scope of my weight loss journey. I've been trying so hard to replicate the ideal conditions I had in fall 2010 when I was first successful at all this, even though seeking them is entirely futile ... 3 1/2 years later I'm in an entirely different place and an entirely different situation. My goal, then, should not be to repeat exactly what I did to earn my past successes, but rather, to emulate my previous efforts and modify them given my current circumstances. I worked alone the first time, but now I have two sidekicks, both of whom are willing to help and want to see me succeed ... even if for one of them, cheering me on simply means smiling while I pushing him in the running stroller.

I will never be in a situation again like the one I was in my first lost the weight, but that doesn't mean I can't see the same results - it simply means I need to find a different route to my goal.

January 6, 2014

Whole 30: Day 1

We lasted about twelve hours doing the Whole 30 at my mother's house. We were ready to dedicate ourselves, but it very quickly became apparent that preparation is going to be crucial to all this. There just wasn't anything compliant in the house. My family eats a lot of processed foods, lots of refined carbs. (Which is why I rarely return from trips there without having gained about twenty pounds. My body does horrible things when it is fueled by processed foods.)

So today's our real first day. Day 1. And so far, it's a mixed bag.

I'm feeling mostly good, but Matt is definitely in withdrawals already. Maybe it's all the driving, maybe it's eating better and eating less, but he's a little grumpy and tired. I know it'll hit us both badly in the next few days, and I will be sure to share every detail.

For anyone curious, the Whole 30 is an eating plan that focuses on eating lots of veggies and healthy protein while avoiding processed foods, plus no alcohol, dairy, grains, sweeteners (even honey and natural sweeteners), or legumes. It's restrictive, for sure, but considered to be a very good detox - much healthier than Beyoncé and her lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup cocktails, anyway.

It's something I've wanted to try for quite a while, after reading about Denise and Amy and Rebecca's experiences, among so many others. One of my absolute favorite life-after-weight-loss bloggers, Caroline, loved how she felt during and after the Whole 30 and has now committed to being almost entirely NSNG (no sugar, no grains). Her habits in weight loss maintenance best mirror what I envision my own goals being someday, so of course, I wanted to follow her footsteps and give the Whole 30 a try.

I'm just tired of feeling so tired, you know? Feeling gross and weighed down and depressed, just so unhappy with how far I once had come and how dangerously close I am to my initial starting point from nearly four years ago. I want to lose weight and be healthy for good, and I know that I feel my best when I properly nourish my body, keep it hydrated, get it moving. 

And not just weight loss, but other physical aspects of my body are different as a result of eating too many processed foods. An eczema-type rash all over my fingers that I had as a child but disappeared when I got healthy the first time ... it is back and as itchy as ever. My lips are painfully and severely chapped, something I've heard is an early symptom of diabetes. That terrifies me. My saving grace throughout my pregnancy with the fact that I got pregnant at a time when I was in the healthiest condition I've ever been. Great blood pressure, no gestational diabetes. We would like to have more kids in the future, and I want to be and just as good shape (if not better) before trying for Baby #2.

Let's not forget Baby #1 either. I've become my own mother, in a sense - hiding from the camera, getting rid of pictures that don't show me an unflattering light. I want Noah to have photos of himself with his mother. I want to be able to get down on the floor and play with him without aching, to be able to keep up with him once he starts walking - we can already tell he will be go-go-go, he's so happy and full of energy.

I want to be, too. Enough is enough, right? So back to today.

We woke up and scrounged together a meal with whatever we had in the house - after three weeks away, it wasn't much. We had pears and W30 compliant turkey sausage for breakfast, and I put two chicken breasts in the crockpot with some peaches and balsamic vinegar for lunch. We made a menu (something I did every week when I initially lost the weight but had gotten out of the habit of doing) and then used the menu to make our grocery list. We didn't wander the store aimlessly, grabbing this and that because they look good. We got what was on the list, then we came home. Even that, though small, was a victory.

We took everything non-compliant out of our main cabinets and put them out of sight for the time being. Just easier that way, at least for now. Matt has a tendency to wake up in the middle of the night and stumble out to the kitchen for a snack, so now he will have only compliant foods in his reach.

Our main sources for recipes right now are Pinterest and the cookbooks we got for Christmas - my cousin Sarah sent me two crockpot cookbooks (Mediterranean and vegan cooking), plus I got Matt a cookbook by Michael Symon that features quick and easy recipes, many of which can be adapted slightly to make them Whole 30 compliant. For example dinner tonight was from there: chicken thighs with tomatoes and Kalamata olives. It was exceptionally delicious. One problem I can already foresee, though, is needing to plan lunch better - when meal planning, I figured we would be able to eat leftovers ... but I'm not used to cooking larger meals and having leftovers. We usually cook small, with just enough for the two of us for that one dinner.

The Whole 30 will be a very interesting challenge for us. Our dinners are already mostly meat and veggies, so that's not much of a change. But no dairy means our favorite breakfast of Chobani is out, and no grains/sugar means I'm going to have to be diligent about preparing lunches ahead of time, because I can't rely on Lean Cuisines or the bagel shop in the building where my office is.

It's a good challenge, though. They're all healthy habits that we know work for us, but are easy to let fall aside when we are faced with tempting foods or stressful situations. I love that the website is so no-nonsense about the program, something I think we need a bit of right now:
"It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You won’t get any coddling, and you won’t get any sympathy for your 'struggles.' YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.
Don’t even consider the possibility of a 'slip.' Unless you physically tripped and your face landed in a box of doughnuts, there is no 'slip.' You make a choice to eat something unhealthy. It is always a choice, so do not phrase it as if you had an accident. Commit to the program 100% for the full 30 days. Don’t give yourself an excuse to fail before you’ve even started.
You never, ever, ever HAVE to eat anything you don’t want to eat. You’re all big boys and girls. Toughen up. Learn to say no (or make your Mom proud and say, 'No, thank you'). Learn to stick up for yourself. Just because it’s your sister’s birthday, or your best friend’s wedding, or your company picnic does not mean you have to eat anything. It’s always a choice, and we would hope that you stopped succumbing to peer pressure in 7th grade.
This does require a bit of effort. If you’re cutting out grains, legumes and dairy for the first time, you have to replace those calories with something. You have to make sure you’re eating enough, that your nutrients are plentiful, that you’re getting enough protein, fat and carbohydrates. You’ll have to figure out what to eat for lunch, how to order at a restaurant and how often you’ll need to grocery shop. We’ve given you all the tools, guidelines and resources you’ll need, but take responsibility for your own plan. Improved health and fitness doesn’t happen automatically just because you’re now taking a pass on bread."
I will likely be blogging more often as a result of the Whole 30, because of the detoxifying nature and the need to be organized with the meal plan and grocery list. I may also include recipes and pictures - please let me know if this would be of interest to anyone! It seems a bit like we're the last ones on the Whole 30 bandwagon, but hey, better late than never. I think a big push for me was, again, Caroline - seeing her share pictures of her NSNG Christmas made it seem doable, attainable, not as impossible as I once thought.

What about you? Has anyone ever tried a Whole 30? Any tips or suggestions? What were some of your favorite recipes? For anyone who has not done one, what are your favorite things to do to get yourself back on track - a new exercise, new workout shoes, new cookbooks?