Monday, September 22, 2014

Gluten-free Whole 30 challenge (Part 1 of 3)

When I first heard of the Whole 30 diet in 2012, I wasn't that interested in learning about it.  After all, being gluten-free takes a lot of time and energy (and money if you're inclined to stock up on gluten-free replacement foods). Who wants to avoid a ton of other things besides gluten?  Not me, that was how I felt then anyway.  

Two years later, my tune has least a little bit.  I have no need to avoid anything except gluten, but according to the Whole 30 program creators, their plan can help you reset your metabolism.  Being someone who's always game to try new gluten-free products, I definitely needed such a change.  There is simply not a legit reason to have 6 types of crackers in your pantry.  Period. 

So, after reading and re-reading the Whole 30 plan, ingredients and rules online, I decided to take the plunge.  During my experience, I dubbed the plan the "paleo-on-crack" diet and the "free-of-everything-worth-eating" diet.  But the truth is, I wasn't really ever hungry and most of my meals were interesting, satisfying and tasty.  Some were exceptionally delicious, in fact. 

Even though I was prepared for a plethora of negative side effects, including the likes of severe mood swings and abdomen swelling making one's pants too tight, I only experienced two of the many suggested "phases" noted in the Whole 30 timeline.  The first one was the sugar withdrawal headache on day 3.  Taking a couple of Advil got rid of it, but it took a couple of hours as it was a really bad headache.  The other phase I hit was the EPS (empty plate syndrome) when you're not hungry for anything you can eat.  I felt that way for part of the last week, but it passed quickly and I made it to the end without giving in and noshing on crackers and cheese or my favorite snack - popcorn. 

During my 30 days, I had a couple of minor hiccups, but in looking at some of the odd rules of the diet, they were not of concern to me.  When I went shopping for complaint ingredients like coconut chips, almond butter, no-sugar-added bacon and nuts, I forgot to take the 'names of sugar' list and I ended up thinking coconut nectar was allowed.  After I had a tsp. in my coffee the first day, I realized it's on the 'not allowed' sugars list (which was in the wrong folder in my office).  I had no way to make date paste yet (which I didn't find at the store) so I used a 1/2 tsp. on days 2 and 3.  I finally switched over to homemade date paste (made with the new mini-Cuisinart that finally arrived!) on day 4.  Another incident involved using factory farmed no-added-sugar bacon (from Gwaltney's) because I could not spend almost $100 to order compliant bacon (recommended on Whole 30's website) online.

The last mess up was ending up with a salad with plain chicken on it that also had a few traces of bacon in it when dining out.  I'm sure the bacon was cured with sugar as bacon should be....  I'd made such a huge deal about making sure they didn't put cheese on the salad that I overlooked the bacon.  As usual, the gluten-free menu had no descriptions of the items (what a ridiculous way to print menus!) and from my earlier online review of the options, I only remembered needing to have cheese left off the salad.  

All in all, I found the challenge shockingly easy to stick to and the only plausible explanation for that is that being gluten-free gave me a huge step up during this experience.  Eight + years of reading labels has made me an expert at it. Knowing what ingredients are used in restaurants led me to greatly limit my dining out.  I could not come up with a good reason to go out and pay for a plain, uninteresting meal when I could make something better for a fraction of the cost at home.  The only reason I went out the few times I did was to break the monotony of making ALL my own meals for 30 days.

Part 2 of 3 my Whole 30 experience will post later this week.    

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