My Whole 30 Experience — The good, the bad and the ugly

Pre-Whole30 qualms 

When my friend asked if me if I wanted to join her in a round of Whole 30, my initial thought was "no way." I had some friends who had done it and the thought of doing it myself had crossed my mind, but I had some questions in my mind about the validity and long-term benefits of Whole 30. Some of my thoughts and questions were:

-It's too extreme.
-Whole grains are not unhealthy.
-Why nix beans and legumes? This is sounding crazy.
-Why do such an extreme diet only to go back to how you ate before -- just like you do with every. other. diet.
-Why put myself through 30 days of deprivation, probably for nothing long-lasting?

Despite my qualms, I knew I needed to do something different than what I was doing a month ago. I was eating healthy-ish, but too often depended on a sugary snack to spike my energy and get me through the day. Even more importantly, my digestive system was having some annoying issues I wanted to get to the bottom of.

So, I figured this Whole 30 business was at least worth a shot. I would easily be able to tell if it was helping me or not. So I committed to it.

Getting started 

I prepped for my first week with a menu and grocery list and a great paleo cookbook. My first week of Whole 30 was surprisingly easy. I expected sugar withdrawals, headaches and the like but I didn't experience any of that. I actually felt like I was more full and what I was eating was so much more delicious than what I was eating before. I think the reason it seemed easier than expected to me is that I was not cooking regularly before. I would often throw together something random or cave-in to eating out and I was not enjoying cooking at all. The fact that I was now motivated to plan and cook new, yummy, healthy meals excited me. Also, I was in total control of what I was feeding my body, and that felt so good. Sometimes, I need a strict set of rules to eat by in order to really stick with something.

As the next couple of weeks rolled by, I did have moments when I wanted a treat or a piece of toast. But they were fleeting, and I was still feeling the adrenaline from being in control of my diet and knowing my insides were being cleansed.

The bad and the ugly 

Despite feeling mentally good, my bowel issue (I'll spare you the details) was still there. And I was feeling even more bloated than I did before I started the diet. I was bummed because getting rid of that stuff was a driving force behind me trying Whole 30 in the first place. I still decided to push forward though, to know I gave it a real shot. Now. I've heard Whole30ers talk about a crazy increase of energy and feel-good hormones. To be honest, my day-to-day energy level stayed about the same. And I still got grumpy. I guess there's more that affects my mood than diet. Like, self-control. :)

Nearing the end

On a better note, though, during my last 10 days of Whole 30, I had to go on long runs for a half marathon I'm training for. On both days, I had gotten about 5-6 hours of broken sleep (thanks to certain kids of mine). I made sure to eat a good high protein, healthy carb breakfast before each run, and I was surprised by how much energy I had. It became very obvious to me that even if I'm tired, my body can carry me through if I fuel it correctly. That was cool to learn.

I hit my Whole 30 "peak" on day 21. I felt really good. My tummy issue I keep referring to finally went away after about two years of dealing with it! I felt like my habits were really sticking and my cravings and body composition were changing. 21 was a magical number for me. They do say it takes 21 days to form a new habit.

My last week of Whole 30 was my hardest. I started getting anxious to hit that 30-day mark. I didn't necessarily feel like I wanted to go on a donut binge or anything -- I just felt like I was ready to be the sole determiner of my diet and try adding some things back in that I thought my body would like -- like certain grains and dairy in moderation.

At the same time, I felt a little bit of anxiety about my Whole 30 being over. I know -- weird! I had just worked so hard to get to where I was and I was worried about erasing it all. I decided that I wouldn't just eat all the things I missed in one day. That would feel like regression to me. Instead, I made a plan about what I would add back in and when.

Back to the "real world"

On day 31, I added back in some gluten-free grains, and since then have tried a piece of whole wheat toast here and there, honey and maple syrup as a sweetener, my protein powder, and a little bit of cheese to eat with apples as a protein snack every once in awhile.

I still haven't had a real treat, and that feels good. I seriously don't crave them like I used to. Instead, I crave healthy fats and protein. You'll often find me with a salt-and-peppered hard-boiled egg and a protein shake as a night time snack (we eat dinner at 5 and my metabolism needs a 4th meal before bed every night).

Lunch time is still my tough spot. It's hard to come up with something that is healthy and protein-rich yet quick and kid-friendly. Any ideas?

My plan from here on out: I'm not exactly sure. I don't want to stress about it too much. I trust myself to make good eating decisions, especially after my Whole 30. I DO know I am going to have a real dessert with my husband when we celebrate our 4-year anniversary this weekend, and it's gonna be good. :) It'll gonna be gelato or a donut, because those are pretty much the only treats that are still in my head after my physical and emotional sugar cleanse, so to speak. I also want to be minimal with how much dairy I eat (I think I'll just stick to cheese), and how often I eat grains and legumes.

Here are my Whole 30 thoughts in a nutshell for easy reference if I decide to do something like this again:

What was good: 

  • I started cooking (and being excited about cooking) regularly
  • I felt mentally and emotionally amazing for being in control of my diet
  • My kids and husband started eating healthier.
  • I felt more energy during my training runs. 
  • My skin got clearer
  • My hair was shinier 
  • I tried and enjoyed new foods (Had my first roasted artichoke and now I'm addicted! I also started making my own almond milk. Way easier than I thought it was.) 
  • My cravings for sweet things significantly diminished and I crave protein and healthy fats instead
  • My tummy slimmed down. An unexpected perk. 

{Day 1 and Day 30}

What was not so good: 

  • I felt like I was eating more meat than was good for my body
  • I got sick of eggs
  • My day-to-day energy stayed about the same
  • It wasn't the magical cure for the emotional roller coaster I sometimes am :) 
  • My digestive system got worse before it got better (It took 21 days to improve)

What I'll do on my next health challenge:

  • Recruit the husband
  • Make a more structured workout plan to accompany my eating changes 
  • Eat less meat
  • Rely less on nuts and nut butters (they contributed to bloating)
  • Add some non-physical goals into the mix (like work on patience with my kids, etc. 
  • Re-read "It Starts with Food" and other healthy diet books before and during my challenge. A good nutrition book goes a long way in giving me the "why" of what I am doing. It helps me stay motivated and committed. I highly recommend "It Starts with Food" and Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" and "Food Rules." 


Hawaii, Part V: The end.

Before I go too much further, I need to say something about the food we ate in Hawaii. (Since you're dying to know, mom.) We both agree that Ted's Bakery was our favorite spot to eat. The donuts are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. People also rave about the Haupia pies -- those were yummy too. 

We stopped at a fruit shack on the side of the road and ate mango, coconut, pineapple from the nearby Dole plantation, passion fruit and local oranges. Fresh tropical fruit is probably my favorite food.

On our last night in Hawaii, we headed back towards the airport and stopped at Waikiki Beach, where we started. We had a yummy meal and tried to soak in every last ounce of warmth and Hawaiian goodness we could before boarding our red-eye flight back to inversion-laden Salt Lake City.

 This is my kind of alley. 

 This camera pic doesn't really capture it, but the white sailboats sailing off into the sunset were picturesque. 

There was even a firework show on the beach to send us off. :) 

The only thing that made it possible for us to leave Hawaii somewhat happily was going home to these two sweeties, who I missed like crazy. 

Hawaii, Part IV: La'ie

 Our friends were nice enough to hook us up with discounted tickets to the luau and night show at the Polynesian Cultural Center in La'ie. The new show they do is pretty spectacular. I love how it focuses on the sanctity of life. The dancing was incredible. 

In-between the luau and the night show, we decided to drop in the Hawaii Temple's visitor's center to drop off some things our downstairs neighbors wanted us to give to their daughter, Karem, who is serving as a missionary there. We were lucky that she was sitting right there in the foyer, because we were advised not to seek her out. She burst into tears upon seeing us and it was a sweet visit. 

The Lai'ie, Hawaii LDS temple 

One of the senior missionary couples recommended that we go to La'ie Point on our way out of town. We're so glad we did. As they said, it was like visiting another world. 

Some locals Clay worked with while we were in Hawaii said visiting Hanauma Bay was a must. It is a huge snorkeling destination. It was gorgeous, and we saw some huge, colorful fish. 

Here's a quick view of Hanauma Bay with a hiccuping Clay at the end:

Hawaii, Part III: Pro surfers, beach hopping and a Hawaiian rain forest

While we stayed on the North Shore, we went to the world-famous Vans Triple Crown of Surfing competition, ready to see the huge waves Hawaii is famous for in December. We were lucky enough to see some of the pros practicing on the famous Banzai Pipeline, the heaviest and most deadly wave in the world, but the 10-12-foot waves came the morning after we left. USA's Kelly Slater won the competition that morning.

Clay and I agreed that our favorite day in Hawaii was the day we had no agenda and went from one beach to another. The weather was 80-degree perfection and it felt so good to soak up the sun, especially having come from blizzardy Utah and knowing that's what we'd be going back to. 

We had to go back to Turtle Bay Resort, where my dad sent us on a surprise honeymoon. I thought we were going to California until we were on our way to our hotel after our reception and my dad broke the exciting news that we were actually Hawaii-bound. It was by far the fanciest resort I've stayed in, and the breakfast buffet with a full spread of fresh tropical fruit and made-to-order omelettes was unforgettable. We decided to start saving up in hopes of staying there for our 10-year anniversary. 

We watched some people surf the waves at Turtle Bay.  video

Hiking was on our list of must-dos in Hawaii. We loved the scenic walk through the beautiful Hawaiian rain forest, Waimea Falls. Next time, we want to do several hikes. Four days just wasn't enough! 

We loved re-visiting the quaint little town of Haleiwa, where we last visited in 2006, during our honeymoon. We ate at Thai Opal, where the owner walked up to us, shook each of our hands, then went through a list of things (like cilantro, pork, tofu, etc.) to find out what we liked and didn't like. He said, "I'll take care of you" then walked back to the kitchen to create a custom meal for us. It was fun to have the restaurant owner choose our meals for us. They were really good -- especially the cilantro-lime lettuce wraps. 

 A cool church at the edge of town

A re-take of a photo we took when we were here 7 1/2 years ago. The bench is much more dilapidated than our marriage. 


Hawaii, Part II: Pearl Harbor

Visiting Pearl Harbor was at the top of my list for our Hawaii trip. I went there once in high school, but I've since gained a greater appreciation for the events of World War II. In fact, I am intensely interested in it.

During World War II, Americans became unified in a way that hasn't been matched since. They were unified in their fear for their loved ones who were serving on the front lines and in their fear for their own lives. They had to rely on and help each other, because living was not easy during the economic stress the war put on our country. They had to unite in hope that things would get better. What life was like during that time intrigues me.

I also love hearing people talk about their war experiences  even the horrific things they experienced  because it instills in me a deep gratitude for what so many men and women did (and still do) to protect America's freedom. It makes me grateful that I don't have to send a husband off to war and worry about his well-being. I know women who have had to do that, including my sister-in-law, and their strength is inspiring. When I learn about the millions of people who died and countless others who suffered unimaginable wartime atrocities, it reminds me just how charmed my life is.

With that said, here are some shots from our day at the Punchbowl cemetery and Pearl Harbor:

 First, we visited the Punchbowl cemetery, where more than 33,000 men and women who served in the Pacific wars are buried. Others whose bodies have never been found are also honored.

I love what this monument says: 

 There were some beautiful views from the top of the cemetery. 

 There was no one else at the cemetery when we went, which added to the peace and solemnity already present at the site. The grounds are so well-kept and beautiful. 


We arrived at Pearl Harbor just four days after the 72nd anniversary of the attack. 
The US received multiple warnings about the attack, but it seemed so impossible that no one really thought it would happen. Two men even saw the Japanese bombers flying towards the harbor, but they mistakenly assumed they were US planes flying home from a training exercise in California. 

After watching a film about the attack on Pearl Harbor, we took a US Navy operated boat to the site where the USS Arizona sunk. 

 9 quarts of oil surface from the sunken ship every day. Survivors of the attack say the ship is still "bleeding."

This wall lists the men who died on the USS Arizona as it was bombed, went up in flames and sunk. More than 1,000 men are entombed there. USS Arizona survivors can chose to have their urn of ashes deposited into the sunken ship by divers. 30 have already done so. 

 I'm glad that day is over, but I know there are still many veterans and civilians who relive their memories from that horrible day. 

               This is the USS Missouri battleship, where the peace treaty was signed to end WWII. 


Hawaii: Part I (Waikiki)

The closest I can come to re-living the incredible trip we just took is to write about it, so here I am.

In September, Clay told me he had some work to do in Hawaii, and that we could make a trip out of it if we wanted to. After a lot of thought (#not) we started lining up babysitters and planning our getaway. I'm so grateful for the people who helped with our kids so we could have four carefree days in paradise. 

Once we booked our tickets, I had my moments of anxiety about leaving our kiddos -- it was my first time ever leaving Camden -- but we knew they would be in good hands. Plus, I knew the break would be so good for me as a mom and for Clay and I as a couple. Also, we thought the kids would have fun being with their grandparents and having a break from us. 

We boarded our flight, and Clay were excited just to be on an airplane with time to read and talk uninterrupted -- a rare luxury. 6 hours flew by and we landed in Honolulu. We felt blissful as we breathed in the warm, humid air and packed our jackets away. 

After we checked into our little hotel room near Waikiki Beach, we found a restaurant called Cheeseburgerland. The burgers were pricey but delicious. After dinner, we walked along Waikiki Beach at sunset. It's a crowded beach, but still beautiful.  

Yachts at Waikiki Harbor

The next morning, we got up at 5:30 a.m. (8:30 Utah time, so that was sleeping in for us) and went for a run along the beach as the sun came up. I was impressed by how many people, of all ages, were out exercising at that hour.

Clay had to go to work, but I was looking forward to my time alone. I did some shopping at the huge local mall, got lost for an hour, then hurried back to the hotel so I could spend some time on the beach. I walked along Waikiki Beach for about half an hour, just soaking in the scene and enjoying my alone-time with no agenda. I sat on the beach for awhile then walked to a nearby Army Museum. I love learning about war history. The reason why is a whole other post, so I'll leave it at that for now. 

When Clay was done with work, we went on a walk on the beach at sunset then decided to have dinner at Nico's, a picturesque little seafood restaurant at the end of a pier that a couple of people recommended to us. The food was good, and the ambiance was even better. 

Nico's on Pier 38

On our way back, we stopped to check out a humongous cruise ship, then got dessert at Bubbies, a homemade Hawaiian ice cream shop that also came highly recommended by locals. I got the Oreo and coconut ice cream and it was delish.

We went back to the hotel and to bed at 9 p.m. (that time change had us exhausted early). I was so excited to go to Pearl Harbor the next day. It didn't disappoint.