When I don’t eat the foods I normally eat and am always hungry, blogging about it is the last thing I feel like doing. I just completed a 45 day highly restricted diet whose goal was to identify foods that don’t make me feel good. After seeing my sister Carrie, brother-in-law Darl and my mother Mary go through this process a few months back with very insightful and positive results, my partner Suzanne and I decided to give it a try ourselves. The biggest initial challenge was to find a block of time where we wouldn’t have any social events that would make us really awful guests and a time when my bicycle racing and training schedule was minimal. We began on May 8th and finished on June 22nd.
The process is called “Whole30” (https://whole30.com). I’m sure many of you have heard about it and perhaps even tried it yourself. The basic idea is that you completely (and I do mean completely – label reading is an absolute necessity) eliminate any foods with sugar, dairy, gluten, alcohol and legumes. This leaves meat, eggs, veggies, fruit and tree nuts. Kind of like the Paleo diet but you can eat potatoes and salt (yum!). At the end of 30 days, you add in one of these items and see how you feel for a few days while getting back on the plan. Then you add in another item, wait a few more days and then another until you’ve reintroduced each single item for one day. The entire process takes about 45 days.
I thought the biggest sacrifice would be to do without alcohol. While I did miss it, I really missed bread slathered with butter. Since butter is dairy but clarified butter or ghee is not, my day 31 included about 8 slices of sourdough bread with ghee. My day 34 was a “skinny boy” margarita. Day 37 was real milk on gluten-free granola and some cheese, followed on day 40 by a big bowl of rice and veggies and then some black beans on day 43. I did cheat a little and keep alcohol (gluten free) in my diet throughout the reintroduction phase since I didn’t react to it. I’m certain it made me a little happier than usual.
What did I learn? My physical weak link is my lungs, I knew this going in. I allegedly have asthma although no medicines seem to help me so I don’t do anything for it. During the 30 days of restricted eating, I felt pretty awesome and could breathe deeply without any discomfort. The downside was being hungry pretty much 24/7 and running out of energy after 2 hours on my bike, in spite of gorging myself on 100% fruit and nut bars. Since many of my rides are 3 or 4 hours, this was a challenge. Day 31, following my bread orgy, was awful. I felt like I was getting the flu, my breathing was labored and I was really congested. I had a similar reaction on day 37 after reintroducing dairy. When I went back on plan, these reactions went away. Hmm.
Suzanne made some amazing meals for us and in large quantities so I think maybe the hunger part was somewhat psychological. Many people do this diet to lose weight. Since I don’t really have any weight to spare, I ate a lot of dried fruit (even though it’s packed with natural sugars, it’s permitted in moderation) and nuts. I did lose a few pounds by the end of the 30 days but have gained it back now that I’m back to my new normal diet which is now mostly gluten free. I’m trying to substitute coconut and almond milk for cow’s milk but haven’t really taken that plunge yet. Bottom line – gluten and dairy free starting this week. Cyclocross season is on the horizon and if I can use all of my lungs, I think I’ll race better.