I Did Whole30* in January and Here’s How It Went
*If you read nothing else besides this sentence and then immediately jump to the weight-loss part, remember that I am not a doctor and to “Consult your physician before beginning any diet, nutrition, or fitness plan.” Thanks, Google.
This was my third or fourth annual attempt at the Whole30 plan, which millions of people have found success with in a variety of ways. The primary one is weight loss, of course, or else it likely wouldn’t have the intense following it does.
And while weight loss is on my mind pretty much every day, I do try to think about it more in terms of how I’ll feel: attacking workouts more easily (including trekking San Francisco hills); indulging in rich foods sometimes, but not all the time; and exploring my relationship with food on a deeper level than “this is bad” or “that wasn’t worth the calories.”
There are a few cornerstones of the Whole30 program, which I inevitably break annually. So while I won’t get a gold star for doing it 100 percent, I do show myself some grace for doing better than the weeks or year that led up to my restart:
Don’t weigh or measure yourself in any way until after Day 30. I usually weigh myself daily – but I couldn’t bring myself to do that in the depths of 2020 when I knew I was gaining weight at an alarming rate and not doing anything to change it. I began 2021 by weighing myself weekly, just to log in my WW (AKA Weight Watchers) app, and tried my very hardest to not get overly excited about big losses or defeated from smaller changes.
Don’t even consider the possibility of a “slip.” This is entirely logical and completely doable, but I’ve previously allowed one slip for my annual Gasparilla Invades SF party at the end of January. While this didn’t happen in 2021 – and I thought I’d get through without temptation to drink – I did allow myself to slip with a taco salad on day 17. And, I felt like crap the next day so I more than made up for it in post-taco shell indulgence. I also indulged in one piece of buttered toast… but more on that later.
Eat when you’re hungry. Again, entirely logical. I was reading Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, which is fascinating on so many levels but also unpacks the French approach to mealtimes. In broad strokes, they eat at 8am (breakfast), 12pm (lunch), 4pm (snack), and 8pm (dinner), and don’t eat outside of those designations. I wanted to try this out for myself, so I ended up eating a snack at 4pm when I wasn’t always hungry or I was hungry before 8pm but made myself wait as close to the target mealtime as possible.
Now, there are a million different ways to approach this program and each person should absolutely examine their individual relationship with food, understand that an elimination/restrictive program is not a sustainable lifestyle, and everyone has different definitions of what healthy looks like for them. My experience is one of litchrlly millions and has looked different each year I’ve done it.
So, what did I eat?
Before I give you all the answers to unlocking the universe,** it’s important to note I had to change my approach to food. I had to meal plan. I had to meal prep. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, I wouldn’t succeed if I left things to chance and hoped for the best in the moment.
I’d seen the all-too-quick temptation of ordering pizza and eating it over the next four meals, thinking that was OK for portion control. I’d fallen all too easily in the working remotely trap of going straight from 8am until 3pm, only to look up and realize I hadn’t eaten lunch. I’d grab a snack and then have two dinners (or one American-sized plate) to make up for my missed lunch.
I thought emotional eating meant you cried into your ice cream or only smiled with a carb in hand. I rationalized away all of these things because I’ve never been thin, never had a flat stomach, never known what it meant to be slender. And I didn’t start – have never started – an approach to lifestyle change expecting those kinds of results.
But damn, did I want to feel in control of myself again.
I first referenced my spreadsheet with recipes and meal plans I’ve used before. I knew the temptation to eat or drink socially would be gone – San Francisco was under only takeout/delivery orders for the foreseeable future. (Even with this lifted, on Jan. 28, I was so close to the end I made myself stick to the plan, including this Saturday while sitting outside, masked, at bars and sipping sparkling water.)
I opened endless browser tabs with recipes. I looked for common ingredients to minimize a bottle of this or giant bag of that and have it go to waste. I invested in a meal-planning pad because writing (in case you’ve noticed) helps me commit to and be energized about an idea.
My mom agreed to try Whole30 for her first time, and we were in constant contact about recipes and ingredients. My sister-in-law has had incredible success following WW, so we three texted regularly with ideas and motivation. My girlfriends from high school and a good friend in Chicago were recommitting to WW as well, so I had plenty of humans to turn to in times of desperation or creative drought.
My meal plan each week consisted of:
- 2 breakfast options: a quick/premade one for weekdays and more exciting one for weekends
- 3 lunch and dinner options: three W30-approved recipes with four servings each, plus one takeout meal split into two portions
- 3 snack options: W30-approved nuts or plantain chips, plus some protein bars – which vary in W30 approvals and can actually make you crave sugar more
Breakfast: I thought baked egg cups were a revelation until I grew very tired of reheating already-cooked eggs. I often ended up with two cups of hot coffee or one cup of cold brew, plus a Tbsp. of Silk Coconut creamer and eating a couple of eggs scrambled in the microwave (45sec, check, 45sec). Weekends with sliced avocado, air-fried bacon, or bowls of sliced fruit were worth the delicious wait.
Lunch/Dinner: I wanted so badly to be into the same meal a fourth time around but sometimes abandoned it for a quick salad or anything at all besides the same meat and veggies I’d had the past three days. I optimized my laziness for meals made on sheet pans or in slow cookers – because signing an apartment lease in February 2020 meant living without a dishwasher would be fine 🙄 I finally bought an Instant Pot last year but it’s still in the box… so I looked for recipes to crisp up veggies in my mini air fryer while meat roasted in the oven.
Each week, I ordered one takeout meal of grilled, non-breaded wings with two side salads; and I split the entire meal into two portions. I got fancy and took advantage of a brisket add-on one week, then drooled while thinking about the brisket the whole following week. When I ordered it a second time (with a free piece of buttered toast!), I got food poisoning and promptly swore off brisket for a long time to come.
Snacks: Plantain chips and 5lb bags of Halos are my BFFs when it comes to W30-approved snacks. I also found my way to Lara Bars and RXBars, trying different approved flavors each week. These are high on my WW Points Plan (7-9 on Blue) so I felt a little pang of guilt each time (also see above re: craving sugars more).
All of this takes time. And while I don’t have anyone but myself to worry about, I also don’t have anyone but myself to count on for grocery shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning. I live within walking distance of a Trader Joe’s, Target, and some local markets – but with the dining restrictions in place, lines cropped up again and I’m not a fan of standing in the rain to schlep groceries from multiple places (without a car, mind you). I will absolutely throw money at the problem and am in a privileged position to be able to afford fresh food, selected by a third-party shopper, who delivers it to my apartment within a 2-hour window I select.
Of all the recipes I tried, there are quite a few I’ll keep in my regular rotation:
- Whole30 Smoky Sweet Potato Chili
- Whole30 Garlic Shrimp with Sweet Potato Noodles: I bought premade sweet potato noodles, instead of spiralizing myself and I’d halve this next time because reheating shrimp for days grossed me out
- Easy Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs
- Whole30 Spicy Pork & Pesto Zoodles: I bought premade zucchini noodles, instead of spiralizing myself
- Whole30 Instant Pot Sesame Chicken: As my IP sits unopened, and I couldn’t get arrowroot powder, I made the chicken on the stove top in a skillet
- Whole30 Loaded Baked Potato Soup
So, how did I feel?
Overall, as with years past, I’ve felt more clear-headed, more focused, and more energized. This is without keeping up with daily workouts, mind you. And I wasn’t boozing *that* much in 2020 considering bars were closed so much and I really don’t enjoy drinking at home alone. I slept much better on the days I got longer walks in, but even a 20-minute walk felt invigorating instead of like a thing I had to do. Turns out there’s a lot of time to fill if I stop working before 7pm and don’t eat dinner until 8.
Fruits tasted sweeter, because they were my main source of sugar. I got pops of flavor from roasted veggies and marinated meat, instead of the hollow (though delicious) taste of french fries or heavy (though delicious) taste of cream, cheese, and all of the dairy I could get my hands on.
My stomach didn’t feel distended, I didn’t wake up groggy from a restless night, and I was thinking about food constantly – but in a more balanced and mindful way. Instead of “What will I eat next?,” I was excited to try a new recipe or grateful to have leftovers and not spend $30 on delivery. ← This wasn’t how I felt every single day, mind you, but it was more often than not.
Now, the first day back from “break,” I learned about a change in my role at work. The next day, the attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol stirred up a million emotions, from anger to disbelief. Inauguration Day brought me to happy tears with every historic second of Kamala’s oath and mention of “Second Gentleman” – and then I was told promptly after the ceremony that my role was changing even more, including a change to my manager and fundamental projects.
Emotional eating had new meaning, the one that is largely agreed upon and I hadn’t considered because I wasn’t crying into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s: it’s a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions.
Well, shit. Ice cream does make me feel better. But isn’t that true for everyone (besides lactose-intolerant or vegan peeps)? It probably sounds super elementary, but I hadn’t explored my emotional relationship with food because I knew “bad” foods tasted good and that was that. With my adjusted eating times, I told myself during tough work days that I could have my snack at 4pm or wait until breakfast if I’d already had my 8pm dinner and was in a glass case of emotion.
So, how much weight did I lose?
This might be the only other sentence you read, so I won’t make you wait any longer… In the course of 31 days, I lost 13 lbs. Remember: This is my singular experience, and my BMI was considered Obese so I will very likely lose weight at a faster pace than someone with, say, 5% weight loss as a goal.
I was quite stubborn about not taking before and after pictures, because I don’t want there to be a fixed “after” (and yes, without a haircut in months and feeling my absolute grossest, I didn’t want it documented on the interweb forever).
But I can say, going into February, I’ll take away the following key changes:
- Fixed mealtimes: as close to 8am, 12pm, 4pm, and 8pm as possible
- Recipe exploration: Even with SF slowly reopening, it feels good to create for myself more often than not
- Understanding emotional eating: reaching for fruit or healthy snacks, instead of cookies or chips – and if I really want those, I’ll have to walk myself to the store, instead of keeping them at arm’s reach
Phew! This felt like a therapy session in itself. I’m curious if you’ve tried Whole30 or similar reset plans, and what your experience was. Do you have favorite recipes or “hacks” to make it feel less stressy?
**Nope, not gonna find that here either.Read More…
WO: Weekly Obsessions
This week our little Witty family finds itself in San Diego (insert Anchorman joke here). It’s been fun so far seeing my nieces light up with excitement over everything from the donut shop to the hotel room sliding glass door. It’s not been the best to see them freak out over sharing and pushing elevator buttons buuuut you win some, you lose some.
- The Donut Bar: Don’t let the simple name fool you. This sweet shop offers fun, festive donuts and a ton of drinks on tap (including rich chocolate milk). It also happens to be a block from our hotel, making it almost impossible to resist. Somehow, we’ve only managed to go twice so far 😉 And, compared to SF prices, they’re a good deal for the size of the sweets.
- The Taco Stand: I won’t give San Diego points for naming creativity, but maybe their businesses just benefit from Google search terms. Right next to The Donut Bar is this fan favorite of locals and visitors alike. I tried the nopal (cactus), fried fish, and shrimp varieties, and 2/3 were truly perfect. We’re heading to the La Jolla location for sunset on Friday, so I’ll be sure to report back about round two.
- Muppet Babies: One of the benefits of being around kiddos is learning about all the stuff they watch. I had no idea this classic cartoon was redone for Disney and featuring an all-new (to me) character, a penguin named Summer. Fozzie still has awful jokes; Kermie is still helpless without my fave, Miss Piggy; and Animal is still my younger niece’s spirit… animal. Gonzo rounds out the crew for ridiculous adventures and antics.
- Disneyland: A second benefit of kid time is seeing the
worlder, land, through their eyes. Even though they’re already experts at Walt Disney World, they got to experience a whole new (to them) park and distinguish differences between the two. From the classic It’s a Small World and Thunder Mountain Railroad to the Star Wars area, infinity and beyond, they had an absolute blast.
Images courtesy of: Yelp, Trip Advisor, Amazon, Disneyland
30 Before 30
In honor of my upcoming 30th birthday, I’ve researched countless “things to do before 30” lists. And while there are plenty to choose from, I kept coming back to “Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.”
The List was originally published in Glamour by columnist Pamela Redmond Satran in 1997. Over the next 30 weeks, I’ll be tackling each item on The List and reflecting about it here… publicly (gulp). I hope you enjoy and we can grow together. After all, turning older is a privilege denied to many.
By 30, you should have…
6. A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age.
Ayana Byrd began this week’s chapter describing her affinity for staying safe in the middle, never veering too far from the center to make waves.
I didn’t immediately relate. I’ve often considered myself somewhat of a rebel — or at least the black sheep — of my family. After all, I’m the only one who has a facial piercing (my nose, but it counts)! I’m the only one of my generation (until very recently) to get a tattoo — and at that, I have multiple. The horror! I’m the only one who left Florida to pursue a life beyond the Sunshine State.
This is where Ayana and I connect. She detailed her many adventures abroad, feeling limitless as she ventured far beyond the comfort zone of the middle.
It’s always surprised me when someone compliments me on my own big moves. I haven’t given them all that much thought, until now.
New York and San Francisco are largely made up of transplants. Sure, you have your lifers, the people who are quick to remind you they were born and raised there, and will call you out for any embarrassing transplant behavior. But by and large, there are tons of people in both places who’ve moved into these cities for the pursuit of something more. And probably because of that, I haven’t felt like my leaving Florida was all that big a deal. Plenty of people do it. Heck, lots of my colleagues have traveled much further — and risked much more — to come here.
But I shouldn’t lessen its importance, or how much those moves have changed me. Compared to my colleagues and friends, and yes, Ayana Byrd, I’ve done a paltry amount of traveling abroad. But aside from family who served in the Armed Forces, I’ve got the most stamps on my passport.
And without even leaving my zip code, I can see the world in a much more diverse way — challenging the status quo constantly — because I live and breathe in a city that pushes for progress and change.
I’ve had the privilege of learning about more cultures and backgrounds in four years away than I had in the 25 years prior. I’ve experimented with foreign (to me) ingredients, entertainment, customs and traditions. I’ve broadened my perspective on what an impact a life well-traveled can mean. I even spent seven weeks of the last year traveling — albeit, all domestic — because I can always find a reason to say “Yes” to a new experience.
Ayana’s story reminds me there’s so much to say “Yes” to, beyond the 50 states and how it’s OK to be a little scared the first (or every) time you venture somewhere new. Of all my wild and crazy antics, I’ll happily share a full passport and broader understanding of our world for years to come.
WO: Weekly Obsessions
I’m back from a ridiculous, fun, amazing weekend in Music City and couldn’t be more excited to share my trip highlights with y’all. Saddle up:
- The Southern: This place came highly recommended for both brunch and dinner, so we moseyed on over after touring the Grand Ole Opry. The drinks were delish, the food phenomenal and the service stellar. Highly recommend checking it out — maybe even for more than one meal!
- Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum: I’m a total history nerd, and what better way to escape the sultry southern heat than step back in time and learn about country music’s roots? There’s a super cool exhibit chronicling Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash’s musical mojo, too. I dig it.
- The Listening Room Café: The now-canceled show, “Nashville” led plenty of people to the famed Bluebird Café. But within walking distance of Broadway is this fabulous venue with local musicians and satisfying menu selections. Tickets for the 6pm show were FIVE DOLLARS each. It doesn’t get much better than that.
- Rose Creek: Among the many talented musicians we saw this weekend, these guys were my favorite. They had great stage presence, were fun and engaging, and I even got a signed CD… you never know where they’ll be in a year! Check out their first single, “High,” here.
Images courtesy of: The Southern, Wikipedia, Clyne Media, Facebook
WO: Weekly Obsessions
After months of planning and anticipation, my cousin’s wedding was absolutely amazing! The newlyweds ended the evening with a firework sendoff fit for a fairytale. I’m sort of back to reality while working remotely from Tampa this week — so here are four things I’m loving while in the 813. Are you surprised they’re all food-related?
- The Columbia: We celebrated my sister-in-law’s birthday Sunday at this iconic Ybor establishment. From mojitos to the 1905 salad to “good rice” that’s to die for, it’s no wonder this Cuban cookery has been a Tampa tradition for 110+ years. Don’t pass through Tampa without stopping by!
- Moreno Bakery: What birthday dinner would be complete without a towering, tantalizing cake? My SIL’s mom provided a fantastic Bananas Foster cake that left us all with sugar comas beyond compare. I’m actually drooling at the thought.
- Publix Subs: These things have a cult following for a reason. The PubSub is actually life-changing, and being so far from this grocery store makes them all that more special when I’m in Florida. Boar’s Head Italian FTW!
- “Sugar” – Maroon 5: Full disclosure: I actually can’t stand this song (or Adam Levine’s voice, still). But something about hearing it at a wedding — or when my niece is in the car — just gets the people going. Plus, the video is just the cutest ever (fake or not).
Images courtesy of: Affairs of Living, FB, BuzzFeed, Sugr Sugr
WO: Weekly Obsessions
September is always a month that kicks my ass. Between five birthdays in the family, the anniversary of my dad’s death, and whatever else life throws at me, I can’t seem to keep my head above water. Luckily, I have a long vacation coming up this month (on the water) and can focus on the positive vibes that will surely bring.
- Fantasy Football: What else does this month mean? FOOTBALL. And because I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ve committed myself to three fantasy teams. And a survivor league. And a weekly pick ‘em. Too much? Never. Bring it on.
- Modern Romance: I love Aziz Ansari and can’t wait to see him perform live in October. Till then, I had to get my fix with his highly entertaining — and informative — take on dating in today’s day and age. It’s a must, especially for any man who “doesn’t get” why he’s striking out.
- Balboa Café: I ran into a friend on the bus last week and we determined it was high time to schedule a brunch date. This neighborhood spot introduced me to crab cakes eggs benedict, and was quite literally life-changing. I didn’t get to sample their famous Bloody Mary … all the more reason to return.
- “Gossip Folks” – Missy Elliot f. Ms. Jade & Ludacris: I love that Missy had a quasi-comeback during this year’s Super Bowl, but lately, I can’t seem to get this song out of my head. Maybe it’s the catchy beat. Or the (NSFW) ridiculous lyrics. Or the addictive video. Whatever the reason, I’m not mad about it.
Images courtesy of: Busted Tees, Amazon, Balboa Café, Amazon
WO: Weekly Obsessions
There’s a phenomenon I hadn’t experienced until moving to San Francisco, known as Mercury in retrograde. This three-week period of time is said to wreak havoc on technology, communication and life in general … and it started today. Let’s try to put some balance back in our lives, shall we?
- Skellie @omgliterallydead: This viral Instagram takes all the millennialisms we love to hate and turns them into hilarious, filtered photos. This one’s caption? “Morning Yoga!! #yoga #yogaselfie #betterthancoffee #jk #nothingbeatscoffee #namastae #namastayinbed #om #flexible”
- Mr. Holmes Bakehouse: This SF bakery invented possibly the most delicious dessert craze ever — the cruffin. It’s a hybrid of flaky croissant pastry in the shape of a muffin, and the strawberries ‘n cream cruffin I had this weekend was pure heaven.
- Blue Apron: I don’t really know how to adult, but one of my goals this year is to gain more confidence in the kitchen (I can’t bake brownies for dinner forever). Enter this service, which delivers fresh ingredients and exciting recipes right to my door! I made my first meal with it last night, and I couldn’t be more proud.
- “Try” – Colbie Caillat: I can’t believe I haven’t featured this song yet, since it’s a constant star in my daily playlist. The video is powerful, and Caillat’s message is simple: You don’t have to change who you are, so long as you love yourself.
Images courtesy of: Instagram, Mah iPhone, Blue Apron, Lucky Mag
WO: Weekly Obsessions
It’s been a weird week, getting back into the swing of things at work and trying to get the last of my movers’ boxes unpacked. Weird, I thought staring at the boxes for hours on end would prompt them to unpack themselves. Hmph.
- National Singles’ Day: You guys hear about this? Apparently November 11 is China’s National Singles’ Day. The most impressive feat of all? Alibaba (similar to Amazon in the US) took full advantage to have more than $9 BILLION in sales. Dayummm, girl.
- Straw: This carnival-themed restaurant in Hayes Valley serves up delicious food and whimsical decor at a decent price. We didn’t get to sit in the Tilt-O-Whirl booth this time … all the more reason to go back soon!
- OKCupid: I recently joined this dating site in an attempt to take my relationships more seriously (had nothing to do with Singles’ Day, I swear). So far, it’s a better experience than my first few days on Tinder. We’ll see how long this lasts.
- “Secrets” – Mary Lambert: This soulful singer is well-known after last year’s “Same Love” with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis — and now her upbeat and honest follow-up is sure to be another smash. In the words of my mother: You go girl!
WO: Weekly Obsessions
I know I say it a lot, but I am truly exhausted today.
Why, you ask?
Well, I spent the last few days in San Fran looking at apartments and working from my new office, and then returned to New York on a red-eye this morning. No less than three cups of coffee later, and I’m finally certain that it is, in fact, Wednesday.
- Oren’s Daily Roast: I wouldn’t have survived today without my favorite downstairs baristas at Oren’s. If you want frou frou, go to Starbucks. If you want exciting flavor combos and coffee that tastes like coffee, check out this NYC staple.
- Out The Door: Back in California, some friends gave me a crash course on the SF food scene via OTD. Everything we tried was delicious, particularly the crispy salt & pepper squid salad. Yum!
- MUNI: It’s weird to be obsessed with public transportation — and its bus component, no less —but as someone who loathes the buses in NYC, I applaud SF’s city planners for thinking this one through. MUNI is easy to navigate and well-maintained … we’ll see if I’m still singing the same tune come October.
- “Leave the Night On” – Sam Hunt: I can’t put my finger on what it is that makes me gaga for this song, but I’m hooked. It doesn’t hurt that Hunt is foxy and he mentions Cali!
Images courtesy of: Twitter, Sunset, Wikipedia, Country Universe
WO: Weekly Obsessions
I spent the first part of this week in San Francisco for work and got back to New York, exhausted, today. I’m not even entirely sure it’s Wednesday, as I’ve been awake since 5, but we’re gonna just go with it.
- The Grove: I reunited with a dear friend over adult PB&Js and a bottle of vino at this fabulous little find. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and the company was even better!
- Alibi: My Cali co-workers introduced us to this swanky Financial District spot for happy hour. While they were out of quite a few liquors, they had my trusty blueberry-vodka-and-soda available — so I was thrilled.
- Gracias Madre: After happy hour, it was only fitting we stuff our faces. This vegan restaurant in the Mission District served plate after plate of amazing food. ¡Que delicioso!
- “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” – Tony Bennett: OK, so maybe I didn’t leave my heart there … but I thought I left my contact lenses and glasses case, so that’s pretty close. And in all seriousness, I hope to make it out to SF for a longer stay very soon.
Images courtesy of: BosGuy, SF Alibi, Yummy Plants, Paper Pastries