Whole30 aka my month of bacon :)

I first learned about Whole30 a few months ago, overhearing my Pure Barre instructors talking about it.  For full details on the plan, click here.  But I will give you the quick and dirty, as well as give you a glimpse of my experience and impressions over the past 30 days.


What is it?

It is a diet reset, so to speak, where for 30 days, you eat only “whole” foods.  Similar to Paleo, with some small differences (no honey, agave nectar, or alcohol, which are allowed on a Paleo diet).  It is designed as a type of diet cleanse – to curb cravings and set new, and presumably healthy, habits.  Its primary goal is not weight loss, but healthy eating.


What can you eat?

Basically, meat, seafood, healthy fats, nuts, vegetables and fruit without any added sweeteners – and without counting calories.


What can’t you eat?

Dairy – cheese, yogurt, milk, etc

Beans – including peanuts and soy

Wheat and flour products – including pasta, rice, bread

Any added sugar – fake or real



Why did I decide to do this?

I keep active with exercise, but my diet over the past few months had basically become to resemble that of a 14 year old boy.  Seriously.  My occasional treats had become every day staples.  Although I was still counting calories, it had gotten to the point I could not remember the last time I had eaten a fresh vegetable.  Gummy bears, cookies, Rice Krispies treats and Twinkies had begun to have frequent appearances on my My Fitness Pal logs, and I drank more diet soda than water.  What really sparked me, though, was Pure Barre.  I was in the middle of the Pure Barre Madness Challenge (20 classes in 31 days) and although I was seeing performance improvements, I wasn’t getting any improvements on the outside…. and I realized it was my fault.  Despite all my hard work at the barre, I was basically throwing it in the trash can with my eating.  So, with 10 days left in the Challenge, I decided to go all in, and begin Whole30.

Here I am, Day 30 today, and here is my take…


Was it hard?

I remember after chatting with some of the Pure Barre Instructors about this that I thought, “Hell, no.  That sounds too hard.”  But then I realized.  There are certain things in life that are, actually, hard.  What Nelson Mandela did was hard.  Losing a loved one is hard.  Not eating a Twinkie or drinking diet soda for 30 days is not hard.  Did it require some planning?  Sure.  Did it require a change of habits?  Absolutely.  But that was really the point.  So once I got over thinking that this was hard, it made the process a whole lot easier… honestly.


How did I feel?

Well, it varied.  Days 1-3 I kept thinking, “what’s the big deal?”… I felt great, wasn’t craving sugar (although admittedly I went through a bit of a sugar binge the day before), and wasn’t that hungry.

However, the constant hunger started about day 4 and lasted until about day 10, when, after chatting with a colleague, I figured out I was still doing it wrong.  Although I was eating all “approved” foods, my proportions were jacked up.  I needed to be eating more fat.  Yep, you heard that right, more fat.  At the beginning, I was too reliant on carbs – fruit, dried fruit (no added sugar), etc.  After understanding more about what my body actually needs, I started to eat more guacamole, cashew butter (occasionally no sugar added peanut butter, see below regarding “cheats”), and more meat.  And, the hunger went away.

Days 13-15 were by far my worst.  I was craving cupcakes, candy, everything and anything.  It was not fun.  Of course, I didn’t plan this well and these days fell over Easter weekend.  Why is this a factor?  Well, because I love Easter candy with an unhealthy passion.  Any of it, and all of it – jelly beans, Cadbury eggs, and yep, even Peeps.  But I stuck to my guns, and didn’t have any…although I *might* have a hidden stockpile of said contraband

Starting around day 16, however, I started to feel great.  No cravings, a ton of energy, and a lot less obsessed with food.

One other physical change I did notice, was that my 3 pm almost daily headaches went away, completely, with no other changes in habits.  Not sure if this was due to dehydration or sugar crash or what, but this was a change that although was unanticipated, was very welcome indeed.

To see Whole30’s version of the timeline, click here.


How did I make time for it?

As many of you know by now, my work schedule at baseline is bad, and during this 30 day period it was even worse.  During this 30 day period I only had one day off.  Yep, unfortunately you read that correctly, only one.  The number of meals that I have actually cooked in the six months prior to this you could count on one hand.  Not going to lie, I hate cooking.  But, I knew that cooking was going to be a part of this adventure, so, I planned for two cooking nights a week.  During which, I would cook dinner, then put together a slow cooker meal to go into the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning, all my nanny had to do is empty the container into and start the slow cooker.  So that gave me dinner for the first night, with leftovers the next day for lunch, the slow cooker meal for a dinner and the leftovers from that for another lunch.  Then, the 3rd night it was every man for himself so to speak and I would throw something together just for myself – ex. bacon and eggs, shrimp and veggies.


What did I eat?

Some examples of meals –

Spaghetti sauce made with ground beef, mushrooms, onions, garlic, organic tomato sauce, and spices over spaghetti squash.

Slow cooker Korean short ribs with sweet potatoes oven roasted or pan fried with coconut oil.

Taco salad – ground beef with spices, over lettuce with guacamole.

Slow cooker carnitas pork served with over lettuce with guacamole.

Meatloaf without bread crumbs and using tomato paste instead of ketchup.

Slow cooker potroast with carrots, onions, and potatoes.

Slow cooker salsa verde chicken, again over lettuce with guacamole.

Pan fried shrimp and oven roasted cauliflower.

Bacon wrapped dates – which I have been in love with for years, and the fact that I could eat these kept me happy 🙂

Breakfast was usually eggs and bacon with fresh fruit.  So yep, I ate a lot of bacon.

Lara bars – not all of them are compliant, and they do pack a lot of sugar, albeit natural, in them, so I probably had maybe 4 bars throughout the 30 days.

Dried fruit, no sugar added.  Same comment as above, I was eating too much of this at the beginning, and kept it limited towards the end.


What did I drink?

Water only.


Big question of the day – did I cheat?

Well, yes and no.  Yes in the sense that soy sauce is off limits, and I did use some Worcestershire sauce at one point to marinate the Korean short ribs, and definitely not all of my bacon was organic.  Unfortunately, with my schedule, I just couldn’t prepare every single meal at my house, and I don’t know any hospital in the world that serves organic bacon… But if you find one, let me know 😉  In addition, due to the aforementioned ridiculous schedule, I did have a few scoops of no sugar added, all natural peanut butter.


Did I lose weight?

Okay, so this technically was another cheat – you are not supposed to weigh yourself at all during the 30 day period… but I did.  I did not lose any weight for the first week or so, but over the remaining time, I did end up losing about 8 pounds.  May not sound like a lot, there are multiple testimonials out there with people reporting 20+ pound weight loss, but this by far is the most amount of weight I have lost in 30 days in my life and I don’t actually have 20 pounds to lose for full disclosure.


What are you going to do on Day 31?

So, when I was perusing the Whole30 timeline about half way through the program, I got to the end, and it stated that most people feel a “twinge of panic” when their 30 days come to a close.  My initial thought, was Ha!  Panic?!  Yeah, right, I am going to not panic my face straight into a cupcake.  However, now that I am actually at the end, I am a bit unsettled as to what I am going to do next.  I don’t want to undo the past 30 days of effort, and I need to balance this with the desire to not go the rest of my life without a Cadbury egg.  Am I going to drop dairy completely?  What about gluten?  Should I designate “cheat days”?  In all honestly, I don’t have this 100% figured out quite yet.  But I have decided to make some changes permanent.  I have decided to drop diet soda completely and stick with water.  I am continuing to plan 2 nights of cooking per week.  I also will continue to eat breakfast every day, something that was pretty rare before starting this program.  My craving for sweets is pretty much gone – at this point, it is more of an emotional desire rather than a physical one, and I think understanding this is crucial to moving forward towards a healthier diet.


What are your overall impressions?

This was a great decision, and one that I really needed to make – I feel better, weigh loss, am healthier, without headaches, and have proven to myself that I can make time for some cooking.  I had been trying to lose the same 4 pounds for months, and regardless of any increase in activity, it just wasn’t coming off.  This program really drove the lesson home that weight loss and health in general, is 80% nutrition and only 20% exercise.  You just can’t go and exercise away bad eating.  In addition, my taste buds have definitely been reset – fruit that never tasted sweet to me before now tastes incredibly sweet.  Although this did require some planning, the experience was actually liberating because I wasn’t a slave to calorie counting or food weighing.  I proved to myself that my mind is stronger than I give it credit for, and that I clearly don’t have to give in to any and every food craving.  Overall, I think pretty much everyone could benefit from this, and I would definitely recommend it.


Now, I’m off to eat some bacon, and try not to panic about tomorrow, Day 31 😉


If I am naked, will my steps still count?

The other day, the battery on my Fitbit unexpectedly died. It was a new battery, just two weeks old, so it took me by surprise. I wasn’t prepared with an immediate replacement battery. I was also traveling at the time so it wasn’t like I had a stash at home to run to. So there I was, in the middle of an active day feeling naked because my Fitbit died, lamenting all the steps that would go uncounted.

I got the Fitbit Zip about 6 months ago to participate in a work sponsored team walking event. They gave out T-shirts and cheap clip-on pedometers. When I broke the latter immediately after taking it out of the box, I had to find a replacement. I did some quick research online to decide what to get to replace my now broken cheapo clippo. I studied the various options from the various brands that do and do not offer fitness tracking (e.g. a simple step counter that you manually reset and manually record should you choose to track from day to day vs. something that syncs with an app and become the ‘Big Brother’ of every move you do or do not make).

fitbit-contentsI decided to get the Zip because it would do what I needed (count steps for the then upcoming 30-day walking challenge with colleagues), minimize the effort required on my part to count said steps (auto syncing with my phone/laptop and reseting itself every night at midnight), and was reportedly durable ($60  for a strong clip in a discrete form factor that is water resistant compared to $15-20 for another cheapo clippo that I would immediately also break). Did I need a sleep tracker? I thought “No.” I sleep like crap. I am a trauma surgeon who does most of her academic work in the middle of the night as well. “So what’s the point,” I said to myself. Finally, every day I wear a watch on one hand and a bracelet on the other. There’s just no more room on my wrists for some of the more high end fitness trackers, not to mention that I would have gone insane on the days the fitness band clashed with my choice of outfit.

In the 6 months that have followed, I have clipped the Zip to my bra every day. Yup, every day. My everyday bras, my going out bras, my on-call bras, my sports bras, and my strapless bras worn under ball gowns. I. CANNOT. LIVE. WITHOUT. MY. FITBIT. (And yes, I guess I have a lot of bra categories and no you won’t read about them here since my dad and many male colleagues follow the blog).fitbit-bra

So when that battery died, I might as well have been topless. I was a frantic mess knowing that my stroll to the bathroom from the armchair in the corner of the hotel room was not being measured, knowing that my steps around the convention center that day were not tallied, and knowing that my deliberate choice to walk back to the hotel after dinner to repent for the bread and dessert would go uncounted.

Why did losing Fitbit’s diligent counting of my steps leave me feeling so exposed? Why has the Fitbit become the accessory (yes, not a scarf or a particular shade of lipstick for this fashionista) I cannot leave the home without? Because…

1) Fitbit keeps it real. Despite trying to be a fit and healthy person, I was blind to how sedentary I can be on some days, in particular non-clinical days, before the Fitbit came to rule my world. Now, I know the good days and the bad days. There’s no lying to myself.

2) Fitbit changes mundane behaviors. Since my office is 8 doors down from the division’s admin office and  7 doors down from the billing office and since the bathroom is past those two offices, the pre-Fitbit me would have gathered my mail and my billing and dropped it off on my way to the bathroom. Now, I take three separate trips to drop off billing, drop of mail, and answer nature’s call. Some other more obvious examples include parking in the regular garage even when my on-call status allows me to park in the much closer trauma attending parking spot or always taking the stairs on rounds, no matter how high the floor. It’s not like I didn’t know these things before but somehow knowing that the Fitbit is watching makes me more diligent.

3) Fitbit helps overcome mental exhaustion. Mental exhaustion tends to deplete me as much as physical exhaustion. There are days when I have been rather montionless, no where near my daily goal of 10K, but I still feel exhausted perhaps due to a trying OR case or a challenging grant write-up. Before the Fitbit took reign over me, such exhaustion had a 100% chance of leading to me being glued to the couch eating a bowl of chips or a box of caramels if I was lucky enough to go home that night (if on call, it led to the very disheartening inner voice chanting for a quiet call night). Now, most of the time seeing the frowny face on my Zip’s display get’s me to the basement workout room (most nights) or the work gym (if on call) for, at the very least, an easy jaunt on the treadmill or elliptical. All the steps, even a low speed, count.

4) Fitbit provides positive reinforcement on the good days. Who doesn’t want to know that they walked a half marathon a day for three days in a row at Disney? Who doesn’t want to get a congratulatory e-badge for exceeding 40K steps on the same day they get a real medal for completing an actual half marathon? That’s right, I like being congratulated for my achievements and Fitbit’s tracker is a master congratulator for movement related achievements. Go me!

5) Fitbit feeds a competitive streak. Using the Fitbit app one can connect with other Fitbit users no matter which particular Fitbit device they have chosen to track with. We can egg each other on (umm, and also support one another) to see who moves the most in a given week. I love checking the app to see who I am better than in a given week. And if I am doing worse, well see #2 and #3 above. Time to get moving.

6) Fitbit syncs seamlessly with MyFitnessPal. I have been an on again, off again MFP user for nearly two years. When I track, I achieve my weight-related goals, when I don’t the weight slowly creeps up (so yes, in many ways, MFP is to calorie consumption as Fitbit is to moving). I get derailed when I get busy or eat a complex meal because I lack the time or mental capacity to log every calorie in or every calorie out. Manually tracking steps in MFP is cumbersome (not because of the MFP app makes it difficult but because, really, though it is easy to make note of 30 minutes spent walking the dog or running, how does one measure the steps accrued during various trips to the billing office or the bathroom). So, that the Fitbit automatically tells MFP exactly how many steps I moved in any day is truly a tracking victory. And, while MFP  allows me to up the calorie out for more intense movement, if I get too busy or forget to log concerted exercise, at least the baseline calorie burn from the steps taken during that exercise is measured with any extra effort on my part.

7) Fitbit is easy. All I need to do is wear it and be near my smart phone to get all the benefits listed above. The device and app do the rest. It’s all uploaded over the cloud to all versions of software. Voila. I am held accountable to myself for my activity or lack of it.

So, without my Fitbit clipped closely to me I wonder about all those steps I may or may not have taken and I feel utterly, completely naked.


[NB: in general the battery lasts 4-6 mos and this was truly unexpected and in no way detracts from my wholehearted recommendation for the Fitbit Zip.]

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