So one of the main reasons I haven't been blogging much lately, aside from the girls' birthdays, a bit of sewing, and endless remodeling/gardening/landscaping for our new little house, is because I've been doing the Whole30 nutritional reset. No dairy, no legumes, no sugar (including maple syrup, honey, stevia, and agave), no grains, and no soy or corn; it sounds like the worst, right? I can't tell you how much I miss my lentils and brown rice! And cookies and cheese (ahem).

Basically, I eat a lot of veggies, some eggs and fruit, and a tiny bit of local grass-fed beef and poultry. As someone who only eats meat every few months, I think adding animal protein to my diet was harder than giving up the grains and dairy. I initially attempted to do it without the meat, but I was starving and tired after three days. My body is feeling a lot more balanced with the added protein, and I honestly feel better than I have since before I was pregnant with Norah.  I am 16 days in, and I don't feel bloated, my skin is clear, I'm sleeping better and waking up with more energy, I've easily lost 10 pounds, and my mind is finally quiet.

That being said, it has been intense, especially the first week. My sugar addiction has been out of control for years; it took an entire week for my detox symptoms to subside, and it wasn't pretty. I was grouchy (probably a mild word choice), constantly thirsty, and had crampy stomach aches.  Pushing through that first week was difficult, but it helped me realize how often I eat sugar and why I use it, and that has been nothing short of transformational. I don't need sugar/treat of choice after a long, stressful day; I need to acknowledge that it was hard, I handled it the best I could, and move on. I don't need to eat to fill an emptiness, I need a life full of people, ideas, projects, and passions that make me whole. I need the energy and mental clarity that comes with eating well to enjoy all of the people and experiences that I love.

I love food. I really love great food, and I'm excited to have cake on my birthday, cookies cooling on my counter on Saturday afternoons, and homemade ice cream all summer long. But I hope I can use food as a generous celebration of a good, full life, and not just a sorry a replacement for one.

Since I'm too cheap to join the Whole30 forum, I thought I'd post some of my thoughts, insights, and questions here, just in case one of you has tried Whole30 or other paleo diets and would like to join in the conversation.

- My first question is a breastfeeding one: Since I have started this Norah has been wanting to nurse nonstop. I'm wondering if my diet change also changes the composition of my breastmilk? Am I not getting enough calories to produce an adequate milk supply? Maybe she's just growing?

- When you haven't had sugar in weeks, sweet potatoes taste like marshmallows!

- I spend 3-4 hours a day in my kitchen either prepping for future meals or cooking. At first it was frustrating, but now I really enjoy and look forward to it.

- I think the cheapest way to do this is to buy all your veggies in bulk from Costco. Last week I bought the huge bag of baby kale, spinach, baby bella mushrooms, avocados, snap peas, romaine hearts, strawberries, 2 dozen organic eggs, and 2 pineapples for $35. I buy sweet potatoes, beets, fresh almond butter, coconut milk, and chia seeds from our local health food store for about the same amount.

- I have this absolutely unfounded theory that Pinterest is making people fat and miserable.  Think about it: How many crazy awesome dessert recipes have you made from Pinterest? How many times have you actually clicked through and completed one of your sweet workout pins? I just want to know who is eating the cookie dough wrapped brownie deep fried and frosted in cinnamon rolls and Oreos and still has a Brazilian butt, bikini- ready abs, tank top arms in 30 days, a watercolor flower tattoo and is a prolific photographer of baby hedgehogs. Every time I visit the site I want to eat so many insane, sugary things - it's such a weird trigger, right?

- I really want to read the book, It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig.


kami said...

I love that you're doing this! I'm doing something similar right now to address my health problems (and my children's health problems) and you're right, it's transformative. I was/am totally addicted to sugar and used it as a way to comfort me or deal with stress. Finding other ways to cope is so important and for that reason, I'm so glad to be off of it. I will never be able to eat it like I used to but I also look forward to savoring it when appropriate. Ps) I've been a long time lurker. I think Libby Jones told me about your blog since she knows you and you'd had a home birth (our husbands are friends from HS). I had home births too so she directed me to your blog. Just wanted to say hello and to hang in there - I'm right there with you! Oh and you're so right about the sweet potatoes. Also my little one has been nursing more too...I'm not sure what that means...and there is no worse place to visit than Pinterest when you are not eating sugar!!!

mary s. said...

Hi Rachel! I had to weigh-in on this since I am a Whole30-devotee. It has seriously changed my life.

I've always been a meat eater, but during the past couple of years I flirted really seriously with being vegan. I am a big researcher when it comes to food and nutrition and became pretty passionate about it. However, I started to have a bunch of different health/autoimmune issues (some fertility-affecting, some not) and generally felt like crap: super low-energy, hungry all the time, and mentally "fuzzy".

I started researching diets to help with my autoimmune issue and Paleo kept coming up - much to my dismay! But after doing a lot more research on the science behind this way of eating, and especially after stumbling upon the Whole9 site and the Whole30 program (both of which I consider to be a subset of Paleo that I most agree/connect with philosophically), I decided to give it a try. It has worked WONDERS for me on so many levels.

I totally agree re: Pinterest! Pinning the maple syrup-soaked donut holes recipe is NOT in my best interest right now. HA! I keep telling myself that since my husband is still eating this stuff, I may want to make it some day...sigh.

Re: sweet potatoes: YES! I do love to make them savory, though - I slice them up, toss with coconut oil, a bit of salt, loads of garlic powder, onions, and roast them. My absolute favorite side dish.

I would HIGHLY recommend reading the book. There is so much information on their website already, but it's nice to have the whole plan in-hand and read it start to finish. :)

P.S. I am an avid reader of the forums, but have never posted - I had no idea that it cost money! Have you browsed through the "Pregnant & Breastfeeding" forum? There may be an answer to your breast milk question there...


Rachel Swan said...

Kami, I'm so happy you said hello! I can't believe how much we have in common! Libby Jones is an amazing woman with crazy talent - I'm so glad she sent you this way!

Mary, I'm so happy to read your experiences with Whole30/Paleo diets - it is absolutely life changing for me too! And thank you for the breastfeeding link, I think I was confusing the forums with the daily newsletter, which is $15 a month. HA! The link had great info and offered a lot of insight into what I've been experiencing since starting the program.

One thing I find so interesting is that I have numerous friends who have been struggling with infertility for the past 7+ years, and now they are telling me that their doctors are telling them to cut out all gluten and dairy. Pretty crazy stuff, right?

I'm excited to try your sweet potato recipe! I love them savory too. My favorite way to eat them is stuffed with wilted baby kale, sliced sausage and baby bella mushrooms that have been sauteed with ghee, crushed garlic, and a few shakes of red pepper flakes. Mmmmm!

mary s. said...

Your sweet potato recipe sounds amazing! I am definitely trying that.

Definitely explore the forums - GREAT info there and I use the search feature a lot when I've got a question about a certain food/ingredient, etc.

Yep, so crazy re: how gluten and dairy apparently is somehow linked to trouble conceiving. I feel better than I ever have, so I'm hoping that it helps. :)

So great to hear how positive this has been for you!!

Lacey. Kellen. Beck. said...

Hey Rach- I'm curious. How does your body do when you've reintroduced meat into your diet? Any reactions? It crosses my mind from time to time but is something I'm totally scared of because the only times I have attempted to was while pregnant... and it didn't go over well!

Rachel Swan said...

Lacey, I'm going to send you a message because you're awesome and I would love to see you soon. My body actually craved meat when I was pregnant with Norah, so I started adding organic, local chicken a few times a month into my diet, and that's about where I've been for the past year. Since I started Whole30, I added grass fed beef and wild caught salmon and I feel great! I don't eat it every day, but probably 3-4 meals a week. Once I cut out foods that I relied on for energy (wheat, beans, dairy, SUGAR, and various
grains) I noticed how much I needed the animal protein to function. What I have noticed is that my body seems to use animal protein more efficiently than grains, beans, and dairy (no bloating, puffy, irritated skin, or crazy moods), so the switch is worth it to me - especially if it's high quality meat.

Holley Atkinson said...

Hi Rachel I'd love to know where you got the 1917 food poster. Is there a source link? great stuff.

Emily said...

This is really interesting. I am about to head over to the Whole30 website and check it out. I am a recent convert to vegetarianism (4 months) and while not eating meat has not been a problem for me (I ate little to begin with) I am having a hard time imagining life without the protein of legumes and the fullness of whole grains. This is definitely in part to living in the city and not always having the time/energy to prepare meals at home. I rely on my local markets for ready made items like four bean salads and chilled soups to grab and go with. All that said, I have recently switched jobs and with it my schedule. After a decade of waking up around 6am I am now working nights serving and getting home around 4am. My body has not adjusted after a month. Ive all but lost my appetite completely, sleeping when I used to be eating/working and vice versa. I'm going to the gym to try and regain my energy levels and help me adjust but I know that I've got to reset my eating schedule. One meal and nothing else can't be good for my body or mind. Do you have any thoughts on what Whole30 could do from your experience? How has it affected your appetite? I don't have the ability to snack or eat much during my 9hour shift so I don't know if loosing the beans/grains is going to make me hangry. On that note, I'm really not eager to get back with eating meat. It's not really possible to buy local even if you can get high quality organic. I am having ethical issues with the environmental impact of animal farming and am not sure if its something I'm ready to throw out. Is it adaptable for vegetarians? You said 3-4 hours in the kitchen but I assume that has something to do with feeding 5. Any enlightenment from your progress so far?

Lauren said...

You go, girl! I am so proud of you!