From Whole 30 To Plant Based Eating

We have discussed the Whole 30 way of eating a few times on this blog. It’s a great means to ditch bad eating habits like a sugar addiction and to learn what foods might be causing your health issues.

Unfortunately, Whole 30 doesn’t have a vegetarian plan and instead pushes pescatarian eating. I followed this plan for more than a year, mainly straying off course in restaurants and for special occasions like cake in the lunchroom at work.

But I don’t care that much for seafood and had grown tired of the meal plan. It was time for a change but I wasn’t sure what that change would be.

Ditching the seafood in favor of vegetarian eating sounded favorable but so many vegetarian recipes prominently feature a grain – bread, pasta, rice – along with some kind of cheese and beans.

I hadn’t eaten grains, beans or dairy on any consistent basis since starting the Whole 30. Sure, I would order pizza, a sandwich or pancakes in a restaurant but never brought these things home.

Not even the healthy whole grain stuff.

As I wrestled with food questions, it became increasing clear that my desire to eat vegetarian was at odds with many of the unhealthy recipes the internet provides.

And then I met Dewey, a friend whose health scare caused him to completely overhaul his traditional American diet of basically everything he wanted. Now he eats a plant based diet which also eliminates oils and sugar.

He has cut his cholesterol in half and lost about forty pounds in a season. He now enjoys each day as a new man – energetic and happy.

When I expressed interest in his food habits, he shared the details of his diet – called the Engine 2 plan – and how it has improved his life.

Then he suggested I try it for thirty days.

I said yes because you can do anything for thirty days, right?

As the thirty day marker approaches, I am quite happy with this way of eating. I feel energetic, my skin looks better and I feel better most days.

Honestly, I’m still figuring out what works and what I like, experimenting with new recipes and trying to determine what is right for me.

I don’t expect to have such stunning results as Dewey has enjoyed. For one thing, going from eating mostly seafood and produce to including grains and beans seems like it will make weight loss a little harder.

But I love that I feel clear of mind and have lots of energy. Plus, I’m hopeful that my cholesterol will be a little lower at my next doctor visit.

The biggest challenge to date has been restaurant eating. There’s a road trip on the horizon this fall and restaurants in the towns where I’ll be have limited plant based options. If they have a meatless option, it’s typically grilled cheese or maybe some kind of heavy pasta or a sad little salad.

Restaurant green beans are often cooked with pork in them, giving even the sides section of a menu the feel of a mine field. And I refuse to live off the sad little iceberg lettuce salads that so many places try to pass off as a meal.

There are some fast food options. For example, the Burger King Impossible Whopper is tasty but it’s still heavily processed fast food that should be a treat rather than a dietary staple. Qdoba caters to vegans but I assume they use oils in their cooking. Yet cooking oil on vegetables sounds like a lesser evil than greasy grilled cheese someplace else. Subway preserves their vegetables to the point they taste like plastic so that’s not a viable option either.

The good news is that I’m clearly committed because I’m already considering how to make it work and how much I’m willing to bend on vacation.

Since I’ll be in one hotel for a few days, taking a blender would allow for breakfast smoothies in the room.

I’m thinking there will be pancakes for dinner one night – a comfort food and a luxury at dinner time if there ever was one. That’s a single meal with pancakes made from white flour, eggs and milk with highly processed syrup instead of the pure stuff from home.

What other concessions am I willing to make on vacation? These are not game time decisions because I promise you, I will make the wrong choice when I’m hungry and the pressure is on.

Every. Single. Time.

I don’t want to be so strict that eating becomes a hassle but I do want to find hacks and means for nourishing my body without sacrificing my goals.

That’s not asking too much, right?

A Funny Thing Happened On Day 29

Whole 30 Day 29 didn’t go as planned. I took a trip to the Franklin Park Conservatory for a morning of art and flowers. The plan was to buy a salad and eat the fruit and nuts that I had packed.

That was the plan until I discovered the food truck served the Beyond Burger. If you’re vegetarian you know how exciting it is to find a quality vegetarian options on a menu. The Beyond Burger is amazing.

As I stood there studying the menu, a part of me demanded that I order the salad and be happy about it. Just a day and a half to go and I could say I’ve successfully completed four rounds. But there was another voice. It was the voice of a person who has done a few successful rounds and who feels she has nothing to prove.

The goal of the Whole 30 for me is to reset my bad eating habits and to acquire a taste for whole foods that are good for me.

Would a day make a difference?

If you’re a beginner, yes.

If you’re trying to identify foods that cause your ailments, yes.

If it’s important to you personally that you accomplish the thirty days – you bet.

But for me? No.

I have done a pretty good job ridding myself of bad habits and there was nothing wrong with eating the Beyond Burger topped with onions, cabbage, peppers, mushrooms and the best tomato jam I’ve ever tasted.

It was a delicious experience eating my burger and feeling the breeze in my hair and I do not regret this decision.

If I were trying to complete a round, tomorrow would be a restart. Day one again. With Whole 30, you restart every time you stray from the rules. Every single time.

But for me, it’s not about the round. It’s about good health. So tomorrow I will simply continue making the best possible decisions, eating clean and feeling good about it.

A year ago, I would have felt like a quitter.

Today, I feel accomplished for knowing that goals and priorities change and that I’m capable of adapting rather than blindly following a rule.

Isn’t this what the quest for personal growth is all about?

Somewhere I’ve Never Been

Maybe it’s the Whole 30 talking but I’m dying to have breakfast in a quiet diner I’ve never been to. I want to linger over my meal and plan the day ahead while eavesdropping on the early bird regulars. They’ll order their usual and chat with the waitress about their grandkids while I study a brochure over my veggie omelette or pancakes.

It’s Day 26 and, while I’m fine with most of my food, I’m sick of the limited protein choices. Being pescatarian, my proteins are seafood and eggs. No veggie burgers, no soy of any kind, no faux meats which literally are the only processed foods that make their way into my plate most days.

You can only fix fish so many ways before it starts to lose its luster.

But it’s Day 26 and I feel pretty good. I’m planning to keep going about another week or ten days before abandoning the strict rules and attempting to just focus on eating clean again.

Meanwhile, I badly want to find an old diner in a town I’ve never been and wait for the regulars to filter in. I’m thinking an omelette packed with mushrooms, onions, peppers, broccoli and goat cheese would be good. Add some hash browns and some toast – maybe a little fruit. That’s all. Nothing fancy.

Soon. Someday soon I’ll take off and find my way to a fabulous diner and come back with pictures to share. Meanwhile, my memories of pancakes and a delicious garden burger at the Oasis Diner will have to suffice.

Do Me A Favor

Do me a favor. If you are near a Tudor’s Biscuit World, go there now and order an egg on a biscuit with sliced cheese (none of that nasty melted stuff). Then sit and savor the darn thing while you think of me.

I’m more than halfway through the Whole 30 and don’t really care about most food right now but am dying for this stupid sandwich. The closest Tudor’s is about 45 minutes away and I would not want to start over my thirty days just for egg and sliced cheese on a biscuit but it would be tempting.

Yes, friends. It is that good.

If you’re not familiar, Tudor’s is a regional chain that serves breakfast and lunch. I’ve never had lunch food but their breakfast is pretty tasty. So if you ever have a chance to grab breakfast I would recommend it!

Go. Go forth and enjoy.

Whole 30 Captive’s Diary: Day Four

What follows is a true (if not exaggerated) account of my holiday with Whole 30.

7:35 a.m.- Awoke with a good attitude and an appetite for the veggies, eggs and healthy fats awaiting me at breakfast. It may be party day but I can do this!

9 a.m. – Finally got to sit down and enjoy the aforementioned healthy breakfast after helping my mother construct a homemade ice cream cake for her party. Note that this dessert doesn’t contain a single ingredient I can eat right now but a whole lot of things that are sugary and tasty. Think Oreos, Cool Whip, ice cream and caramel.

12:45 p.m. – Made a marinade for the fish I’ll grill alongside everyone’s hot dogs and hamburgers ( Hot dogs. Yuck!), make a nice salad and lay out a potato to bake.

1 p.m. – The pep talk portion of the day begins. This is where I remind myself that the food I eat tonight will leave me feeling satisfied but not stuffed and that there will be no sugar crash at any time today. I am strong. I am healthy. I do not want the sugary crap that will make me feel sick!

3:05 p.m. – Open bedroom door to find 3.6 pound kitten chasing a skink! You know… those little lizard things? Scream like a little girl and call Dad. Note: Life has not prepared me for this moment but I now understand why an independent gal like myself might need a husband. I always wondered why….

3:10 p.m. – Google “how to catch a wild lizard in the house” while waiting for dad and uncle to arrive. Armed with a spray bottle of water (that’s what the internet says), we find no trace of skink.

3:15 p.m. – Plan to move and leave everything behind begins to formulate. Fight off urge to find a Diet Coke and box of Little Debbie Fudge Rounds. I don’t even like Little Debbie products….

3:20 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. – Become consumed with appetite for Diet Coke.

4:30 p.m. – Feel terrible because my mother kindly made me deviled eggs and I can’t eat them because they contain non compliant mayo. She’s annoyed. I’m sorry that my desire to eat well has evidently ruined everything.

5:05 p.m. – Sit down to the most delicious dinner I’ve had in ages. Fish on the grill in veggie seasoning and olive oil is amazing. Better than any restaurant fish. Must remember this combination….. I didn’t even miss the ice cream cake because I had fresh fruit salad on a hot summer day.

5:17 p.m. – Assume the personality of a cult leader as I explain to the family the virtues of Whole 30 eating …. and understand that none of them are buying it. Tough crowd.

8:02 p.m. – Realize that holidays which we define by eating don’t have to be about the food. So what if I couldn’t have chips or ice cream! Big deal! I had a tasty meal and am still full and energized almost three hours later.

8:29 p.m. – Pack leftover fish for tomorrow’s lunch and take a moment to be thankful I never caved and had the dumb Diet Coke.

8:31 p.m. – Remember the skink and crave the drink again.

Sometimes the choices we make are emotional rather than logical. Logic wins today. Better rest up for another day of making good choices!

Whole 30 Has Begun!

July 8 is a date that’s been circled on my calendar for some time now. That’s the day I was supposed to start a new Whole 30 round with my pal Sarah.

Whole 30 is pretty intense and it seems like every 30 day round is tougher than the one before so it’s a good idea to have a buddy.

Unfortunately, it seemed that I kept eating crap with the reasoning that I won’t be able to eat it after July 8. And you know something? My body has been hating me for all the mistreatment.

When I eat well, my mind is clearer, my body stronger, my endurance impressive. But when I eat sugar and processed foods, I’m tired, sluggish, temperamental and simply feel bad.

So I decided on a whim Monday that my Whole 30 round was starting right that minute. And I’m so glad!

The anticipation was literally killing me and there was no reason to hold off since I know the rules and how to eat. I just need to do it.

Funny thing though – within an hour of saying “today is the day,” my mother texted to say she’s having a holiday cookout and wanted help with making an ice cream cake. Not long after that, at work, we scheduled an event with a lunch later this month.

It just goes to show, there’s never a perfect time to do what’s good for yourself. But if you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.

I’m taking my own food for the cookout – grilled fish, baked potato and a nice salad. Dessert will be fresh fruit. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? And as for that work function – I’m there to work, not to eat, and can do lunch on my own later. It will be ok.

Not sure what the Whole 30 is? I wrote about it here and here. It’s actually meant to help people identify foods that cause digestive issues, intolerances and other health problems. However, it’s a great way to refocus your attention and your taste buds using clean eating and real food. It is not for everyone but I feel amazing when I eat the Whole 30 way.

And, as for Sarah, I’ll just be a week ahead of my friend but intend to extend this round by a week so she won’t be in it alone. I’ll give you an update a little later and let you know how it’s going.