Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Food Experiment (a.k.a. Whole30)

If you've ever reached for a cookie when you were 
stressed or bored or angry
(but not hungry)
you can understand emotional eating.

Very few of us are immune to it. We want comfort from stress and often we eat to fill a void. This doesn't have to equate to a full-blown eating disorder or anything. It doesn't mean you are definitely overweight or in-crisis. It just means that, for many of us, eating is not just about hunger and nourishment.

Since the start of 2016, I've thought and learned a lot about myself when it comes to eating, emotions, and what it takes to fuel my body. This--in big thanks--because of the Whole30 challenge.

For the past two months, our family (Mom, Dad, Jeremy, and I) have been on a "food experiment." I highlight that word intentionally because I am a person who is absolutely opposed to diets. I don't believe in them. They don't work long-term And I grow so weary of the endless cycle of diets I see people (particularly women) going on and going off, going on and going off.

So for the month of January we took the Whole30 challenge.

According to the website: "Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system." So for 30 days we did not eat any sugar, dairy, legumes, or grains. But we have eaten fruit, vegetables, nuts/seeds, and meat. It may sound impossible to go without milk, cheese, bread, or pasta for a month, but according to a few thousand people (and myself), it's obviously not.

We each had specific health concerns that we suspected might be attributed to food sensitivities we didn't really know we had (a.k.a. Mom and I had health concerns, the boys just kindly came along for the ride).

Here is all of the food that went down to the basement, because it was not Whole30 approved!

So, I cleaned out the cupboards and started cooking. And this challenge really tested my go-to cooking routines. Here are some new things I learned how to make this month that took me out of my cooking comfort zone:

-I made almond milk
-I roasted a freaking turkey!
-For the first time, I cooked sirloin steak.
-I roasted cornish hens. Don't ask me what they are, but I ate them.
-Bison? Yeah, I fried up some bison and ate it for breakfast.
-Didn't know what kielbasa was, but I made a delicious hash out of it with apples and bay leaves.
-I learned what ghee is and how to make it at home.
-I made zucchini noodles.
-I cooked with plantains and used them to make "nachos"
-Capers? Yeah, no big deal.
-I used a helluva lotta avocados. We didn't have those in Korea.
-And herbs! I cooked with fresh herbs, like, mint, cilantro, thyme, oregano, and parsley.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I am every homemaker's new kitchen guru.

Here are some of my favorite recipes from the month:
-spaghetti squash with meat sauce
-chocolate chili
-chimchurri sauce

salmon with spiralized carrot and zucchini slaw

chicken curry, roasted vegetables, and cauliflower rice

roasted sirloin steak

roasted veggies, steak, mashed potatoes

pad thai with spaghetti squash

plantain nachos with spicy ground beef

roasted spaghetti squash and ground beef

Them there are cornish hens...

I am happy to say that the four of us went THIRTY freaking days eating only fruit, veggies, nuts, and meat. We were VICTORIOUS!

After the thirty days are over, you've reset your system from common allergenic foods (like dairy, wheat, and soy), so now you need to test which ones might be better to limit/avoid. Because if on day 31 you just go back to your normal eating and feel icky, you won't know which food is the culprit.

So for us, we re-introduced foods this way:
Day 31: dairy
Day 32-33: regular Whole30
Day 34: legumes
Day 35-36: regular Whole30
Day 37: soy
Day 38-39: regular Whole30
Day 40: gluten-free grains
Day 41-42: regular Whole30
Day 43: corn
Day 44-45: regular Whole30
Day 46: wheat grains
Day 47-48: regular Whole30

You get the gist?

Here are some things I've learned:

My needs and wants are very different
After spending thirty days without toast or cereal or rice or desserts, you begin to realize that the foods you rely on because you think you need them are really just wants like nearly everything else. I don't need rice with my curry, I just want it. Since this experiment, I've realized that grains make me a bit constipated. And I feel better when I limit them. So that doesn't mean grains are evil or that I can never eat them again, but when I do, I'm not going to waste it on rice or croutons or something. You better believe it's gonna be a cinnamon roll, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or macaroni and cheese. Every damn time.

I've gotten trapped in a cooking rut
This food experiment made me look outside the box for new foods that were Whole30 approved. Like fish or spaghetti squash or sweet potatoes or beets or unsweetened coconut flakes. It's broadened my ingredient list and added a lot of color (by way of more veggies) to my diet.

Sugar is everywhere and we are all over doing it
We spent 30 (well, more like 58) days without any added sugars. No sugar, no coconut sugar, date sugar, palm sugar, honey, agave nectar, Splenda, or Stevia. That meant plain coffee and tea. That meant no ketchup from the store. That meant most marinara sauces. Most chicken broths. Most of...a lot of things you wouldn't suspect have sugar added to them. Like, chicken breast anyone? Yeah, that's just silly. But beyond added sugars, nearly all starches and grains end up being digested as carbohydrates and inevitably sugar. That's why all of our "comfort foods" usually have bread or noodles in them. It's dang satisfying and terribly addictive. I'm not determined to live a sugar-free life, but just a less-sugared life.

The Whole30 really made me ask a lot of questions about
-What is the purpose of food?
-Do I need a cookie right now or a hug?
-If I can eat this way for thirty days, what's stopping me from eating this way for longer?

Have you done the Whole30?
What was your experience?