Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Whole30, the Aftermath

Well. I just realized that I hadn't given any sort of an update since I finished the Whole30 and reintroduced foods. Here's the lowdown. For two weeks I have basically been giving myself acne by ingesting various foodstuffs. Turns out that dairy and wheat are both horrible for my skin, and other grains aren't awesome. Wine is fine. I haven't checked on legumes yet; I just have little interest in them. Sugar is still a bit of a mystery, as I haven't added it back in an isolated fashion. There's always a bit of something else in there, like in the birthday cake I ate at my nephew's party and the mint brownies I had at the church school meeting. So my skin isn't wholly clear, and it might be the sugar, or it might be residual effects of all the other crap I ate these two weeks, but it's not horrible, and I'd rather just finish the container of chocolate covered espresso beans before I do the work necessary to figure it out. It's tough, after thirty days eating a very restricted diet, followed by two weeks of finding out that some of your favorite things are no longer an option for you most of the time, to go strict again and figure out how the last couple of forbidden foods affect you. I have thoroughly enjoyed the coffee cream chocolate bar from ALDI and the chocolate covered espresso beans from Trader Joe's that I've consumed this week. Which means, yes, that my sugar craving did not disappear.

The thing about my craving for sweets is that it's not a standard sugar craving. I don't want straight up sugar. I can't just eat fruit and be fine with that. In fact, I hate the really sweet, fruity candies, like Skittles and Sweet Tarts. I can only eat one or two Starburst at a time. Jelly beans? No thank you. It's the richer sweets I crave, things like good salted caramels and high quality chocolate. I have a sweet tooth that's tempered by something else...maybe fat? I'm not sure. But it doesn't surprise me that I still love sweets.

What does surprise me is how easy it has been to leave bread and pasta and cheese behind, how I don't really miss any of the starches that much. I truly enjoy the kind of dinners (protein with a big vegetable helping next to it) that we had when I was doing the Whole30, and it's been a no-brainer to continue making those kinds of dinners now. I really thought I would miss noodles a lot more, but not so much. And as for bread, what I really miss is the ease of ordering some Jimmy John's sandwiches to be delivered to our porch, and not the food itself. And that's good.

I have yet to figure out if I really want to conquer my sugar issue. I am undoubtedly eating less since many things I used to have sugar in are on the no-go list of dairy and wheat and other assorted grains. When I finally buckle down and figure out if sugar causes an immediate acne response (other things have produced blemishes in twelve hours or less, like a sick kind of magic), I might feel differently about it, but for now, I am not feeling the urge to cease picking up some chocolate that isn't dairy heavy from time to time. (And by "dairy heavy," I really mean things made with milk as opposed to heavy cream and/or butter. It really is true that the things I am sensitive to in milk are not in the cream part.) Maybe at some point it will be worth it to me, but I think for now I've got plenty of other things to get used to. I'll take it ten steps at a time, and leave that one last step for later.

For now I'm just enjoying knowing that there is a solution for my acne that doesn't involve rubbing in a gel for ten minutes every night and having to use only white towels and sheets, then sometimes still bleaching things because my hand touches my face and then I touch something with my hand. I really thought I'd be all right with using the zit cream if the only thing to come of this was to figure out what causes the acne, but I actually really like having the freedom that using just a cleanser and a moisturizer can afford me.

I also really like having all my clothes fit again. It's not so much that I have a majorly hot bod now or something (because I don't), it's just that what I see in the mirror now looks familiar to me. It's my old shape, without all the miles and miles of running. I'll take it. It's comfortable.

Thanks, Whole30.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Did It, and Then I Got to Have Coffee Again

I completed my Whole30 and am now adding things back in one by one to see how I'm affected. Turns out that I didn't completely obliterate my sugar cravings, but I managed to pick up more cravings for fruits and vegetables and the like, so there's more balance. I've been doing a little casual Googling as I add categories of foods back in, and what cracks me up most is all the posts where people are talking about how they ate too much fruit and they knew it and their lives are ending because it's just too much sweet food and they might die or something! Or be Whole30 failures! And that right there is why I didn't buy the success guide on offer; I don't want to know if I'm supposed to limit my fruit. People, please. I was eating six-cookie lunches and having pretty much no fruit at all on a regular basis. Give me another restriction, and I might smack you. Frankly, if the sweet I'm craving is the sweet of fruit, I'm really not going to worry about it. If someday I do worry about that sort of thing, I hope someone will smack me, and hard enough that it makes a sound.

I am loving having coffee again. I did a little research and decided that palm sugar is the way to go for sweetener, then laced it with a moderate amount of heavy cream. I'm still enjoying some of the Sidamo beans we brought back from Ethiopia (woe to us all when they are gone--WOE!), and it is so smooth and delicious that I am beside myself with pleasure each morning when I take my first sip. It tastes better than it ever did, and let me tell you, it tasted AWESOME before.

Now I proceed with the rest of my plan for adding things back in. Dairy gave me blemishes within twelve hours, no joke, and I only had two small slices of blueberry cheddar and a small glass of milk. Oh, dairy, we will meet again, but far less frequently than before. Because the reaction was so prompt, I went ahead and moved on to the next phase, sampling straight up sugar today. This is, incidentally, why I am still awake to write this. I had a giant dark chocolate iced mocha (made with almond milk, with thanks to Whole Foods for having non-dairy milk selections that are not all soy or grain-based), and then tonight I found a coffee crunch dark chocolate bar in the basement that I'd meant to give someone for Christmas, but had slipped off the pile of gifts I'd put by the stairs. I brushed the cobwebs off and ate half of it, discovering partway through the mouthgasm I was experiencing after a month off chocolate that the "coffee crunch" portion was just bits of espresso beans. Whoops. Someday I'll be sleepy again...I think.

I'm pretty sure the extent of my sugar issues are related to crashing hard when it wears off and becoming bloated in a most unattractive fashion. I'm going to consider that trial done as well and move on to the next round. Tomorrow I'll give it a bit of a rest from reintroduction during the day and have a bit of injera at dinnertime to kick off the grain tryouts. Because it's a fermented grain product, the effects will be less than straight up grain flour, so it will be Sunday a the earliest that I'll truly test the grain waters. I'm planning on going big with a buttery croissant*. The reaction later may or may not be pleasant, but for the moment I'm taking a bite, I'm sure it will be divine.

It's good to be done(ish).

*Because butter and heavy cream contain fewer milk proteins than other dairy products, there's generally very little reaction to those. Ideally, butter should be clarified to remove remaining milk proteins, and heavy cream should be limited, but did you get the part about my former six-cookie lunch habit? I think I'm not going to worry about a splash or two of deliciousness in my coffee each morning or butter used to bake a croissant.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Have a Plan

I am resisting the urge to give thoughts about my Whole30 until I have finished AND reintroduced foods. All I really know right now is that I no longer need any acne medication. None. This from the girl who was spending ten minutes every night just rubbing in benzoyl peroxide gel. So the big goal of reintroduction is figuring out what the acne trigger is. If it's dairy, I already know that the occasional ice cream or frozen custard will absolutely be worth the benzoyl peroxide application. Not nightly, mind you, but just when I decide to partake. If it's grains, I'm not sure what I'll decide. Probably that some treats are worth it, and some I can figure out how to make myself without grains.

So the plan is to reintroduce dairy first on Thursday, then sugar on Friday or Saturday, then grains next week. One grain at a time. If dairy is fine, I'll likely just cook up some breakfast oats with milk and see how I do, and if that seems good to go, I'll grab a wheat-laden something or other later in the week, followed by something with corn. I'm fairly certain that brown rice is not causing my acne, so I'll not make a big deal out of that one. And as for the legumes category, well, that will probably just happen when I eat something with peanut butter or go out for Mexican food. Potatoes are the only other remaining forbidden food, and those were due to not being nutrient dense, so I think I can just have those whenever.

Beyond figuring out the cause of my adult acne, I'm also interested in maintaining a diet in which I am mostly eating whole foods. I too easily fall back on baked goods and very sugary coffees, and I'd like to do less of that. It's a slippery slope that I've slid down before, though, so I am not saying that anything will happen in that regard. Maybe I will do better. Maybe I won't. Maybe I will become a Whole30 evangelist.

We'll see.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Happy Medium?

It occurs to me that one week from Thursday, I'll be done with the Whole30 and will need some sort of plan for reintroducing foods into my diet. I don't want to do it all willy nilly, as I'd like to find out what foods are triggers for certain issues, and by certain issues, I mean acne and grey hair. This morning I looked in the mirror after washing my face and noticed that the grey hairs that normally populate the area near my right temple were gone. I was baffled. But then I rememberd how stress turns hair grey, and it occurred to me that eating more healthy foods and eliminating harmful ones might have the opposite effect. Still, it's weird, right?

I don't really care that much about the grey hair, but more about what it means overall for my health. I'd like to approach adding foods back in a way that will enlighten me as to what is worst and what is okay in limited amounts. Much to my surprise, I haven't missed pasta or even cheese that much. I have missed desserts and sometimes a bit of bread (good bread, warm on the table at a nice restaurant, with a side of butter, bread) and definitely my coffee. DEFINITELY my coffee.

I know that a lot of people who do the Whole30 and stay on the plan are out for optimal health and sticking to a system that will keep them eating this way most of the time. And while that's nice and all, what I'd really like is to enjoy food again. We've had some good dinners that I will definitely cook on a regular basis going forward, but I've missed just sitting down and really enjoying a meal. I think it's okay for food to bring pleasure; it doesn't have to just be a tool that is fuel for your body. I also think it's okay for some foods or drinks to be comforting, as long as you're not comforting yourself more often than not.

On Saturday we gave the go ahead for searchers to look for our daughter's family in Ethiopia; they are in the drought affected region, and we have been quite worried about them. While we were figuring out a way to look for them that would work with our budget, I'll admit that I had a heavy heart, but it was nothing compared to what overtook me once I'd emailed all the documents and accumulated information and recent photos of our girl. In that moment, I surely would have liked to sit still with a nice coffee, sweet and with cream, wallowing in my sudden grief.

It's not that the Whole30 people say you can't ever have your sweet coffee with cream, but I get the sense from reading articles on the resource page that wanting a dessert just because you want it is frowned upon, and craving a familiar warm drink when you're sad is not the direction they want you to head. I don't want that to be my life, frankly. At the same time, I also don't want to go back to eating very few fruits and vegetables and grabbing junk because I don't want to make the effort to eat something good. So I'm looking for a happy medium. I've got nine days to figure it out.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Oh, hi. I am still doing that crazy thing wherein I don't eat any sugar, dairy, grains, legumes, or anything else delicious. In fact, that's exactly how I describe it when people ask why I'm not partaking of dessert. I go, "Oh, on a total whim one Tuesday, after reading about it the night before, I decided to give up eating everything delicious in hopes of curing my acne and my sugar cravings." Today is Day 15, and I am not going to lie to you: it is still kind of hard. It's probably feeling particularly hard right now because I just returned from Branson. Do you know what they have to eat in Branson, Missouri that is suitable for Whole30 consumption? NOTHING.

Okay, fine. They have eggs and fruit and salad bars. Still, I figured if I could tough it out through our annual Branson excursion with all the kiddos, I could tough it out through the rest of the thirty days. And I can.

Overall, this has been very good for me. I've used less and less benzoyl peroxide gel each night, and have yet to get even one zit. I've dropped all the weight I put on through two years of adoption paperwork and new motherhood, or at least I think I have, if my clothes are a good indicator of such things. I've been much better at staying hydrated, and I'm eating a TON more fruits and vegetables. I'm glad I'm doing it, even though I do miss a lot of small things. I miss grabbing an iced mocha when I head out to do errands by myself. I miss having a small chocolate something or other at the end of a taxing day. I miss having the option to have even a little treat. But I'm no good at moderation, so I'm going to ride out all thirty days and hope that at the end, I feel good enough and am used to eating this way enough that I won't backslide completely into six-cookie lunches.

We'll see.