This post turned into a bit of a diatribe, so if you’re here for the meal plan, skip to the bottom. (Although the rest of what I have to share is SO important!)
The new year tends to come with a host of resolutions around eating better, getting fit, and generally improving one’s physique.
I’m a big proponent of getting healthy, but I don’t think it should come about simply because you need to reverse the holiday damage – bloat from alcoholic overindulgence, sugar shock to your body, or lack of a consistent fitness regimen. If you practice healthy, balanced habits year-round, you’ll find that you’re less likely to go overboard during the holiday season and then you won’t be chasing fads and temporary fixes to undo the damage.
I generally follow a clean eating habit and work out regularly. But, I’m starting the new year off with a re-commitment to the Whole30. I know, I know, isn’t that just another dietary fad in a sea of overpromising-and-underdelivering programs?
Now, I’ve tried a lot of diet programs to help me shed the mystery weight I packed on while training for half-marathons. I tried to go Paleo, I did the 21 Day Fix (a few times). I had moderate success, dropping a couple of pounds here and there. But I still felt shitty. After talking to some friends that had tried the Whole30, I decided to give it a go.
What Is Whole30?
It sets the stage for a lifestyle change. It essentially resets your health, habits, and relationship with food. Certain food groups have an adverse affect on your body. Whole30 eliminates those foods for 30 days. Then, after a reintroduction period, you can gradually add them back into your diet, observing how you feel at the addition of each new type of food. If you have a major reaction to, say, chickpeas, then you know your body fucking hates them and you should probably avoid them or consume in small doses moving forward.
So basically, for 30 days, you’re avoiding:
- Added sugar (contains empty calories, promotes overconsumption via pleasure and reward pathways to the brain, creates an unhealthy psychological relationship with food)
- Alcohol in any form (breaks down as sugars in the body and leads to inflammation)
- Grains (create hormonal and metabolic disruption and inflammation, contain anti-nutrients that make valuable minerals unavailable for use in the body)
- Legumes (contain fermentable carbs that can disrupt your gut bacteria)
- Dairy (have been associated with increased risk of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis)
- Anything processed
And PS, you’re not supposed to weigh yourself during those 30 days, because this is about so much more than just weight loss.
So I did it. I made it 30 days. I only fell off the wagon once, when I attended a wedding and indulged in wine. (Technically, you’re supposed to start over at Day 1 when you do something like this, but I opted not to)
What happened to me over those 30 days? I slept better. I had more energy. I was in a better mood. And shit – I lost 14 pounds.
(Weight loss was due to Whole30 + a rigorous fitness regimen that included running, Zumba, BodyCombat, BodyPump, and general strength training)
Why I’m Doing It Again
I hate that this entire post feels like an ad for Whole30. But my message is bigger than that program. While my office was closed between Christmas and the new year, I watched Forks Over Knives, and it focused my perspective and renewed my belief that we need to eat to live, not live to eat – a painful thing for a foodie to admit!
If you haven’t watched this documentary, I’d strongly recommend it. If you don’t care to invest the time, here’s the gist:
Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.
You guys, pay attention here: when we eat animal by-products and processed foods, we make our bodies sick as fuck. These things have been scientifically proven to have a direct correlation to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and many other life-threatening conditions. When we eliminate them from our diet, we can actually reverse the effects and reset our bodies on a healthier, longer life track.
I know, things like cake and french fries and cheese in any form seem impossible to give up. But the other major revelation I had at the end of my Whole30 journey is that I simply didn’t crave those foods anymore. My palate had become so accustomed to simple, clean, whole foods that it completely changed my flavor profile and what I craved. I fucking love that.
So with all of these benefits, why wouldn’t you give your body this amazing chance to grow strong and live long?
How I Did It
I’m not going to lie: this was some hard shit. The first two weeks were VERY tough, as my body was getting used to fueling itself on less (and different types of) food. I was fortunate to have Michael as my partner in this. He went all in with me, so we each had a cheerleader, a commiserator, and a sous chef.
How You Can Do It
A big reason why a lot of people putter out on the Whole30 is that it can require A LOT of meal planning and prep work. But it doesn’t have to.
I love meal planning. I enjoy any activity that requires organization, and I like the process of crafting a menu that I know I’ll look forward to cooking and consuming. My meal plans must always meet three criteria:
- include a wide variety to keep shit interesting
- make for easy and affordable shopping
- be quick to cook since I hit the gym post-work
I’m sharing what I’ve pulled together for Week 1, and hope that it’s helpful for any that may be struggling with meal planning. Or, for those of you who have yet to take the plunge, I hope it inspires you to consider it.
Whole30 Week 1 Meal Plan
- Diner breakfast
- Whole 30 chicken tenders with cucumber dill salad
- Stuffed peppers
- Kitchen sink scrambled eggs
- Taco salad (spinach, Boca crumbles, red pepper, tomato, jalapeno, avocado, plantain chips)
- Slow-cooker buffalo chicken sweet potatoes (minus the blue-cheese sauce)
- Asparagus benedict (sans hollandaise if pressed for time)
- Salmon patties with frozen okra and carrots, baked with avocado oil, salt and pepper
- Spicy shrimp with cauliflower mash and garlic kale (if no time to make the mash, Trader Joe’s sells cauliflower rice in the produce section, so all you do is sautee that with a little cocounut or avocado oil)
- Avocado BLT egg salad, fruit (tip: hard boil the eggs while making dinner on Wednesday evening)
- Mojo skirt steak with plantains and simple salad
- Scrambled eggs topped with salsa
- Tomato, watermelon, and prosciutto salad with mint
- Broiled fish topped with avocado, cauliflower rice, broccoli
- Shrimp and zoodles
Check out all of those glorious fruits and veggies just waiting to be turned into culinary delights this week!
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