Over Halfway Through Whole30 – A Rant

I am proud to say that I have made it over half-way through my Whole30 without completely cracking yet. On a positive note, my back is hurting less. There is a small but non-zero chance that this is related to the Whole30 Plan, but I think it is more likely related to the fluid from my failed epidural injection finally bring absorbed by my body. We’ll see if my back behaves any differently after I go back to my regular Primal diet. I must say that doing a Whole30 has made me appreciate how liberal the Primal diet really is! Here are my observations on Whole30 so far:

1. It has made me irritable, that is, more irritable than baseline, which (in case anyone hasn’t noticed) is already pretty damn irritable.
2. I miss dairy more than anything. This is especially true of my snacks (more on that in a minute). I also miss using a strong-flavored cheese as a sort of condiment. A half an ounce of goat cheese, Gorgonzola or feta can go a long way in enhancing the flavor of a dish. I am constantly reminding myself that I can’t use Parmesan. This is a typical dilemma I face in cooking. Gourmet food is fresh food, simply prepared, which is generally consistent with what I consider healthy. However some dishes scream for heavy cream and cheese.
3. The snacks are tedious. I miss my homemade yogurt and my homemade buttermilk cheese. I’ve taken to making unusual concoctions of different combinations of nut butters, cherry or blueberry coconut bowls and banana boats. I’ve run out of grassed beef jerky, and sardines just haven’t sounded appetizing. So I’m eating too many nuts. Hey, what else is new? If I were able to get by eating 3 or 4 times a day, this would be a lot easier.
4. I don’t miss alcohol. Well I did for the first few days, then I pretty much forgot about it. I even went to a party last night where everyone was drinking and I didn’t really care that I was just drinking water. I do miss using wine for cooking.
5. I don’t miss eating desserts, even chocolate, but I miss making desserts. There are so many ideas I want to try!
6. This is a tough diet to follow while nauseated. I was very thankful that I had bone broth on hand and that I had made homemade chicken soup. I could also stomach hardboiled eggs, but I really wanted some toast! I’ve been trying to just tough it out. At least the Zofran allows me to keep my food down.
7. The only way that I’ve been flagrantly cheating is in weighing myself. I am not trying to lose weight, in fact, I’m trying NOT to lose weight. Hitting my lowest adult weight since college was not really my plan here. Of course, any time you eliminate broad categories of food, it is easy to lose weight. Give people more limited choices, and they eat less. Although Whole30 is a far healthier diet than the standard American diet, I’m not convinced it’s healthier than the standard Paleo diet.
8. At this point I’m having almost unbearable cravings for Bandito Burrito, although I know that that is the last thing my gastrointestinal system needs right now.
So I guess I have alluded to the fact that I’m not going to extend my Whole30 throughout the whole Lenten season. See, my best drinking partner is coming back into town on day 31, and that was the clincher. Plus we plan to do a lot of cooking, and I’m sure we will need butter, heavy cream and cheese. 12 more days till Mom comes back – can’t wait!


21 Day Primal Transformation Summary

Overall diet success score: 9

Overall exercise success score: 2

Overall lifestyle success score: 6

Hardest parts:  Although I didn’t struggle with the diet, I had a difficult time at the end with nearly constant hunger.  This was also accompanied by weight loss, so I think I just need to eat more.  I thought the exercise plan was quite reasonable, but my back was giving me too much pain most days to exercise.  Even as a child I wasn’t much one for spontaneous play, and this certainly hasn’t improved with age.  I prefer to focus on a task until it is done rather than take breaks and have to figure out where I left off.

Best parts:  The single best part of this transformation was reconnecting with my family.  I had been spending too much time on my computer and not enough time with my family.  I was devoting my emotional energy to work and then coming home and spending time on social media instead of real social interaction.  Jewel especially has gotten excited about trying new Paleo recipes, and she has gotten more involved in cooking now, as has Tom.  (Dora already is quite the cook!)  The second best part is the diet itself.  The food is so satisfying that I don’t miss grain products.  I thought after awhile the novelty would wear off, but at least as of yet I am content to eat this way indefinitely.

Remaining needs to improve items:  I need to figure out a way to manage my back pain.  I can’t predict when it will flare up, and I can’t take anti-inflammatories, so I am limited in how I can treat it.  Also, I haven’t figured out a way to both get adequate sleep and exercise.  The only time I can count on being able to exercise is very early in the morning before work.  I’m working on going to bed earlier, and now that I won’t blog every day, maybe I can make that happen on a more regular basis.  The other item I am still dealing with is hunger.  I do not want to lose any more weight (or even fat for that matter), so I am adding back in starchy vegetables to see if this helps.  I also quit tracking my calories for the time being so that I am not artificially limiting myself.

Overall comments on 21 day challenge:  My primary reason for attempting this challenge was to see if this diet would improve my back pain.  It was disappointing to find that it didn’t help at all.  Perhaps I need to give it more time, but I would think that I would have seen at least a small improvement by now.  The improved relationships with my family have made the challenge worth it.  Many of the daily challenge items were difficult or impossible for me because of the nature of the work that I do and the fact that I live in Alabama and it’s winter.  I do feel that Sisson wrote the book with a southern California bias.  Also I felt that the book was more geared to a single male lifestyle, or at least a male with no children.  He addressed the issues of being a mother (especially a working mother) very briefly.  I would have had more success with this challenge in the spring, when the days are getting longer, it’s warmer and the farmer’s markets are open.  I do think that this was a great way to jump into the Primal life with both feet for those who are ready to make this leap.  Other people may find it easier to slowly adapt parts of the diet and lifestyle over time.  This wasn’t all that different to how I already ate, and I was already trying to follow the exercise program, so for me it made a lot of sense.  I also enjoy cooking from scratch and absolutely detest most processed foods.  Aside from not eating crap, I’m not a picky eater, and I’m open-minded about trying new foods.  I think a picky eater, especially a picky eater in the typical American sense of wanting things to be breaded, deep-fried and free of anything green, would have a hard time with this diet.  I recommend this book to anyone who is ready to make positive steps to optimize their diet, exercise and lifestyle .

Can’t BEAT This Breakfast!

I thought that I had finally reached the point that my hunger had subsided, but it came back this week with a vengeance. Dora had requested hard boiled eggs, so I decided to try the tempting Bacon, Egg, Avocado & Tomato Salad that Jewel pointed out to me. I didn’t think I could eat a whole avocado for breakfast, so I used half. I also used lime juice instead of lemon.

This held me over for 5 hours, which is unprecedented for me. Even with using only half the avocado, I could barely finish it. If I can find another good tomato again this winter, I will make it again soon. I also think this would be good as a lunch stuffed into Romaine leaves.

More Primal Changes
13. I am drinking less often, and not because it’s discouraged on the Primal diet. Most nights I just haven’t felt like it. I think that I feel less stressed since limiting screen time and giving up multi-tasking.

Since I am making sleep a priority I’ll sign out for now!

Shepherd’s Pie

Jewel is particularly enamored with Paleo recipes. She flipped through The Primal Blueprint Reader Created Cookbook and commented on how wonderful all the recipes sounded: avocado, bacon, coconut, chicken, pork… I asked her to pick out some recipes to try, and she said that everything sounded good except the spicy recipes. We settled on two recipes to try this week: Shepherd’s Pie and Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro Pesto. I decided that Shepherd’s Pie would be a good choice for a Sunday dinner.

Jewel teasing me that she’s going to eat all the ground beef raw

Steam a head of cauliflower until tender, then process with butter and cream until smooth. We used a large head of cauliflower, so we ended up with some leftover.

Sauté chopped onions until tender.

Add ground beef and cook until browned.

Add vegetables. I didn’t think green peas were Primal, but since this cookbook is from Mark’s Daily AppleI guess they’re ok.

Slowly add beef stock. I think this was a large part of why this recipe turned out so incredibly delicious. I used a pot roast stock that I had in the freezer.

Spread the mashed cauliflower over the top of the beef and vegetable mixture. Top with pieces of butter. If you didn’t use an ovenproof skillet, you’ll need to transfer this to a pie pan.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Tom’ dinner. I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing. A few minutes later I smelled the asparagus getting a bit too crisp in the oven. We ate it anyway. I thought that this was one of the best things I had ever made.

Day 21 Journal
Success Score: 7

Sensible Indulgences
Difficult to eliminate: peanut butter. Potential Primal swap: almond and cashew butters
Difficult to eliminate: oatmeal. Potential Primal swap: Oatless Oatmeal
Difficult to eliminate: breakfast cereal. Potential Primal swap: eggs, nuts (if eaten as snack)

Full-Length PEM Workout
Moderate Aerobic Workout (swapped with Saturday)
Activity: 4 mile walk
Location: Indian Creek Greenway
Duration: 56 minutes
Comments: We really pushed the pace! I got my heart rate as high as it used to get on an easy run.

More Primal Changes
11. Fearlessly cooking in bacon fat
12. Eating coconut

Summary Comments
Daily energy levels: 2
Hunger level between meals: 5
Satisfaction with meals: 10
Struggles with Primal efforts: balancing listening to my body with getting things done
Benefits noticed from primal efforts: more family participation with meals
Daily highlights: Vigorous walk and good conversation with a friend, cooking with Jewel
Daily needs-to-improve: endurance

Date Night at Cotton Row Restaurant

Tom and I were long overdue for a date night, so I didn’t feel guilty splurging on a meal at Cotton Row Restaurant Saturday night.  I love the atmosphere of this place, from the exposed brick and wood decor to the soft instrumental jazz playing in the background.  I was disappointed that they’ve managed to pack more tables into the dining area, so that we were right on top of the loud people at the next table.  (I am completely unable to tune things out, so I unwillingly listened to their conversation the whole evening.)

It was easy to stick to a Primal diet.  I did treat myself to a couple hot toddies made with bourbon, chai and a touch of honey.  They weren’t that sweet, actually.  They mainly tasted like bourbon, which I like better than tea.

The foie gras starter that we shared was amazing.  It was served with bacon lardons and green apples and topped with a 50 year-old Balsamic.  Yum!  Tom had never eaten foie gras before, but I told him that if he liked liverwurst and Vienna sausage he would like foie gras.  It had a smooth melt-in-the-mouth texture.  I would have been happy with this as my entree.

Tom ordered the short ribs, which are served over grits.  This is what I usually order when I attend a pharmaceutical dinner at Cotton Row.  This picture doesn’t remotely do this dish justice.  The ribs are falling-off-the-bone tender.  I describe this as tasting like the best pot roast ever.

I ordered the duck breast, which is my go-to dish at a fine-dining restaurant.  There are a few meals which I have intentionally never tried to perfect at home, and duck breast is one of them, not that it is widely available at the grocery store anyway.  Again, the picture really can’t do it justice.  The mysterious object in the middle of the plate is braised endive.  The other reason I was drawn to this choice is that it came with several vegetables: there were sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts on the plate as well.  The duck was tender with a crisp but delicate skin.  The port-cardamom sauce was a sweet but not sugary complement to the duck.

Service was attentive without being annoying.  Our water glasses were consistently refilled, and our dishes were removed promptly but not hurriedly.  The food arrived sooner than I expected.  My only complaint is that we ordered second drinks to arrive with the meal, but they did not arrive until after the meal.  Since we were not in a hurry it was not a big deal.  We did not have any room for dessert, so I did not get a chance to try the cheese plate I had been eying.  Overall we were pleased with our experience at Cotton Row.

Day 20 Journal
Success Score: 6

Diet – Intermittent Fast #2
Well this was a total fail again.  I couldn’t even make it to bedtime Friday night.  I did manage to shower Saturday morning before I absolutely had to eat breakfast.  I needed to go into the hospital, and I didn’t think it was the best plan to see patients and possibly draw blood on an empty stomach!  I’ve been eating 6x/day since I was 16 years old.  I’m not sure that I’m ever going to manage fasting.

Moderate Aerobic Workout
Activity: body weight strength training
Location: home
Duration: 40 minutes
Comments:  I had limited time to exercise on Saturday, so I swapped Saturday and Sunday’s workouts.

Lifestyle – 10 Primal Changes

  1. Eating significantly more vegetables
  2. Spending less time on social media and forums
  3. Spending more time with my family
  4. Making it a priority to get adequate sleep
  5. Started writing this blog on a regular basis again
  6. Got out of the rut of cooking the same old things all the time
  7. Spending more time outside
  8. Getting up and moving more frequently throughout the day
  9. Disciplining my use of e-mail.
  10. Completely giving up my futile attempts at multi-tasking

Summary Comments
Daily energy levels: 10
Hunger level between meals: 8
Satisfaction with meals: 10
Struggles with Primal efforts: inability to fast
Benefits noticed from primal efforts: making healthy choices just comes naturally
Daily highlights: going out for dinner with my husband at a nice restaurant
Daily needs-to-improve: trying to do too much in one day

Mom Saves the Day

I’m pleased to report that this year’s first batch of homemade yogurt turned out delicious.

I scalded the milk last night and let it incubate overnight.

So I was able to have my favorite snack – yogurt with raspberries and almonds.

Mom fed us a tasty, primal-friendly meal. Dora had already called the biggest lamb chop.

Day 19 Journal
Success Score: 2

Go Local #2
Again, It really isn’t feasible in January to get much local food.

Sprint Workout
Success Score: 10
Location: neighborhood gym
Activity: Lifecycle
Duration: 35min
Comments: Hill intervals, maintaining the same RPMs on the hills as the flats

Mini Play Breaks
Comments: There were no breaks today. The closest thing I got to a break was scarfing down my lunch as fast as I could at 2:00. By the end of the day I wasn’t even sure I knew my own name.

Summary Comments
Daily energy levels: 9
Hunger level between meals: 7
Satisfaction with meals: 10
Struggles with Primal efforts: still can’t go very long without food, much less fast
Benefits noticed from primal efforts: had plenty of energy despite too little sleep
Daily highlights: enrolling a patient in a challenging study after a long dry spell
Daily needs-to-improve: right now I can’t thing of anything under my own control.

Hungarian Paprika Pork Chops

One of the keys to consistently eating a healthy diet is planning. I make a weekly meal plan, taking into consideration my day off and the kids’ evening activities. I also plan to make extra food at most meals so that we will have leftovers available for busy evenings. This solves the “what are we having for dinner?” nightly crisis. I may deviate from the plan if I find something else my family likes on sale, but it gives me a guideline for the week. For instance, today is my day off, so I had planned to go to Earth Fare and the new seafood market. However, poor Dora came down with a stomach virus in the middle of the night last night, so shopping was off the table for me. This didn’t make me throw in the towel and order pizza. I asked Tom to stop at Publix on his way home and pick up pork chops, fresh veggies and chicken soup. Dora doesn’t care for pork chops, so she didn’t mind that the rest of us ate them while she had canned soup. I placed asparagus and Brussels sprouts in the oven to roast while I prepared the pork. I also heated up the last of the red cabbage. This meal was as quick to prepare as many of the packaged meals on the market, and of course it tasted much better.

Hungarian Paprika Pork Chops

Mix spices in a small bowl. I was excited to try the paprika Mom brought back from her recent trip to Budapest. Rub the spice mixture onto all sides of the pork chops.

Place the pork chops on a pre-heated George Foreman grill.

The pork chops are done in 6 minutes!

Day 18 Journal
Success Score: 7

Kitchen/Pantry Purge #2
Offending Foods Tossed: I really wasn’t offended by any of my food
Compromises with cohabitants: cereal, granola and energy bars, pasta, baking supplies
Hardest part: finding a reason to do this
Best part: not being tempted by the grain products lurking in the pantry
Comments: Honestly, it’s not as if I have a pantry full of cookies and chips. I didn’t even have any crackers for Dora!

Moderate Aerobic Workout
Activity: body weight strength training
Location: home
Duration: 40 minutes
Comments: I couldn’t leave Dora at home alone, so I did strength training rather than an aerobic workout.

Use Your Brain
Daily challenge: balance work, home, a sick child, cooking meals, cleaning up, making it to a doctor’s appointment all after having missed out on deep sleep last night due to cleaning up vomit.
Long-term challenge: learn Italian
Best part: playing mah jongg with Mom and Dora
Most difficult part: utter exhaustion
Comments: I doubt that this is what Mark Sisson had in mind.

Summary Comments
Daily energy levels: 1
Hunger level between meals: 1
Satisfaction with meals: 10
Struggles with Primal efforts: unable to get to stores which carry more of a variety of organic, grass-fed and wild options
Benefits noticed from primal efforts: decreased hunger
Daily highlights: doing strength training for the first time in awhile
Daily needs-to-improve: Getting back into the habit of exercising.

By the way, while I wrote this I was making homemade yogurt. 🙂