Whole30: Cravings and Addiction

I’m writing this post from the inside of a McDonald’s – there are trays of cookies, “coffee” drinks with more chocolate/caramel than actual coffee, and burgers that are disgusting while also addictive (and would definitely satisfy this intense craving I’ve been having for cheese and bread). But, I’m sitting here with a black coffee and essentially ignoring all of the Ally McBeal moments I’m having in which I would jump the counter and start eating everything I could reach.

On New Year’s Eve, I saw a Hershey’s Kiss on the floor of a movie theater and wanted to eat it and run away to find more.

Tony has mentioned that all he daydreams about Kit Kats during conversations.

What do all of these things tell me? The more I practice a paleo lifestyle, the more I can see that nearly everyone is addicted to sugar (including me). It’s in bread, drinks, marinades, frozen vegetables, canned foods, soup, salad dressing – and that’s just the beginning. We consume this substance nearly all day every day for much of our lives; take it away, and you’ll experience symptoms very similar to those of a drug addict in withdrawals. Insomnia, headaches, irritability, restlessness, nausea, and fatigue until a week or so without sugar.

You might think this doesn’t apply to you – until you try a sugar detox. I invite anyone and everyone to truly remove added sugar (and limit natural fruit sugar) in their diets to see these effects firsthand. Remove grains, honey, sugar, agave, Stevia, and all sugar substitutes from your diet for a week to experience the extent to which sugar affects your life.

While the first week without sugar sucks, you will come out on the other side. Cravings will begin to subside the longer you bar sugar from your diet; they will subside more quickly if you don’t use fruit and juices as a crutch. With the above eliminations, many people will see a reduction in weight, better quality sleep, more energy throughout the day, and a better overall sense of well being. In fact, proponents of Whole30 often call the other side of their sugar addiction the “Tiger Blood” phase because they feel better than Charlie Sheen does on blow.

So as you begin 2014, reflect on what you put into your body. Should your food cause withdrawal symptoms when you choose more natural foods?

On a side note, here’s a pretty delicious recipe that can be made entirely vegan/vegetarian by omitting the bacon. It also heats up in the microwave well the next day!

Spaghetti Squash & Bacon

whole30 spaghetti squash

Ingredients
3 small cans tomato sauce (make sure it doesn’t have added sugar)
2 minced garlic cloves
2-3 tablespoons oregano
1-2 tablespoons red pepper
2 teaspoons garlic salt
as much bacon as you can handle
one spaghetti squash
1/4 cup minced onions

Steps
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half and place in a baking dish with about a half inch of water. Place in oven and set timer for 30 minutes.

Put tomato sauce, garlic cloves, oregano, red pepper, and garlic sauce in a saucepan on medium-low heat. Fry bacon, put a couple tablespoons of bacon grease and a few pieces of chopped bacon into the sauce. Put the rest of the bacon to the side for snacking.

Remove spaghetti squash from oven/pan, shred into strands with fork. Mix with the sauce and top with a few slices of bacon.

Paleo at Work

I think it’s safe to say that nearly everyone has neglected to pack a lunch for work at one time or another. Before paleo, I would order a sandwich, pizza, or hit a drive through when I didn’t have time (or completely forgot) to prepare and bring food. On Whole30, it’s imperative to plan for instances like this; the good news is it doesn’t have to take much time.

At the beginning of the week, I bring a couple of bananas, a small tub of mayo (recipe below), a can or two of tuna, almond butter, and some sweet potato bars to work. I store it all in my desk (other than the mayo), then take it home at the end of the week if I haven’t needed to eat it. This way, if I wake up 30 minutes late and don’t have time for breakfast or lunch prep, I can still eat well in a variety of ways: sweet potato bars with almond butter, tuna salad, bananas and almond butter. I would encourage anyone who is completing a Whole30 or even just trying to save cash and eat better to bring extra food to work at the beginning of the week just in case.

What about lunch meetings? Today, I’m eating a banana and tuna salad prior to heading to a lunch meeting at Panera Bread this afternoon; that way, I won’t be tempted to gorge on macaroni and cheese or sandwiches. If that’s not an option, there are always options at just about every restaurant. Chipotle? Get a salad bowl with carnitas, all of the salsas, lettuce, and guac. Panera? Get a salad with grilled chicken, no cheese, ask for olive oil instead of dressing, and add some pepper. Fast food? Ask that they load up your salad with fresh vegetables and grilled chicken (hold the cheese and dressing). Sushi joint? Sashimi with lemon juice is actually really good!

There are many ways to stay on track with the Whole30 – it just requires a little bit of planning and creativity.

mayo

Paleo Mayo
Total prep to plate time: 10 minutes

Ingredients
2 eggs, room temperature
half a lemon
2 cups of olive oil (extra light-tasting is best)
1/2 tsp. salt

Steps
Put the two room-temp eggs, salt, and the juice from the half lemon into a blender or processor. Blend for about ten seconds. Begin VERY slowly adding the oil (a few drops at a time for the first cup; a steady, thin stream for the second cup) to your blender or food processor while it blends, making sure that the oil is completely absorbed/mixed in. After the first cup of olive oil, your mayo should begin to thicken a bit; after the second cup, it should look like normal, white mayo.

I like to use this as a base for tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad, and numerous dips for vegetables. You can add mustard, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic, etc. to change the flavor; try sectioning out the mayo into four half cups with different flavors added to find what you enjoy the best.

Whole30: The First Few Days

Honestly, detoxing from sugar sucks. The first week of the Whole30 are not particularly pleasant; I’ve already experienced headaches, restlessness, and extremely intense cravings (particularly when watching movies). Knowing that I’m going to feel much better in a week helps immensely with making good choices – particularly in a grocery store with Christmas cookies half off. 🙂

Cooking takes quite a bit of time, and the added produce consumption requires a couple of grocery store trips a week (I made my second grocery trip of the week today after gauging how much produce Tony and I went through from the first round). To save some time, it’s important to have a couple of quick recipes that don’t sacrifice flavor for functionality. Here are a couple of my go-to recipes for when I’m starving but really don’t want to plan and cook for an extended period of time:

Lemon Pork Sirloin & Mashed Cauliflower
Total prep to plate time: about 25 minutes

whole30

Ingredients

One head of cauliflower
One can of coconut milk
About a tablespoon of ghee
One shallot
Garlic
Cayenne pepper

Lemons
Pork sirloin chops

Steps

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Cover a baking dish with aluminum foil, put the pork sirloin chops in, add salt & pepper, and put slices of your lemon on top. Put the dish into the oven and set your timer for 20 minutes.

Remove the leaves from your cauliflower, cut off the stalk (which you can throw away or use for vegetable stock), and cut your cauliflower into palm sized chunks. Bring water to a rolling boil, add a bit of salt, and dump in all of the cauliflower chunks.

While your food is cooking, mince your garlic and shallots. After 6-8 minutes, check your cauliflower with a knife – it should be able to slide into the cauliflower easily. At this point, drain the cauliflower; add the ghee, shallots, garlic, a little cayenne pepper, and start mashing away. Add a little bit of coconut milk to your cauliflower at a time until you reach the desired consistency (I like to leave some texture).

By this time, your pork should be just about done. Remove it from the oven and let it set for a couple of minutes before serving to prevent all of the juices from leaving.

Taco Baskets
Total prep to plate time: about 20 minutes

whole30

Ingredients

Ground meat (I use about a pound of turkey or chicken for every 3 people)
Tomatoes
Spinach
An avocado
1/4 of a sweet onion
1/2 of a yellow bell pepper
Any kind of hot sauce
Chili powder
Cumin powder

Steps

Put meat into a frying pan on medium heat with as much chili powder and cumin as you like (I use roughly a tablespoon of each). Cook the meat about three-quarters of the way (five minutes), add a little water (a quarter cup should work per pound of meat), turn the heat to medium-low, and cover to finish cooking.

Chop all of your vegetables into strips or chunks. Add a small handful of onions to the meat; remove from heat after about two minutes. Place spinach in a bowl, put meat on top, and cover with vegetables and hot sauce as desired.

This is super fast and a very easy way eat a lot of vegetables at once!

The Second Grocery Store Trip

Tony and I ate literally two packages of carrots in one day – they make a great snack to curb cravings. Though I believe the Whole30 plan doesn’t encourage snacking, I think it helps people who have never restricted their diet so drastically to stick with the program.

Today, we loaded up on produce that we don’t have a lot of experience with (radishes, dates, turnips, some kind of pepper) while making sure we had enough produce that could be eaten raw if we don’t have a ton of time to cook (kiwis, asparagus, avocados, pears, tomatoes, a pomegranate). I also wanted to make sure we had a variety of protein to choose from, so in addition to the tuna, almond butter, eggs, etc. from my initial grocery store trip, I picked up ground lamb, pork, and a couple of cuts of steak that I’ve never tried before.

This week should be interesting – it’s crucial to have enough variety in flavors and diet composition that this stays interesting until the negative sugar detox side effects subside.

whole30

Whole30 #2: Pre-work

whole30
The Whole30 is a hardcore paleo/elimination diet that lasts thirty days; it’s used to clean up your eating, establish better habits and relationships with food, and discover which (if any) intolerances or allergies you have with a variety of food groups. The challenge essentially consists of eating lean meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds for thirty days – no added sugar, grains, legumes, soy, dairy, alcohol, or processed foods are allowed.

I completed my first Whole30 in May of this year, and the results were incredible! I went from 124lbs to 110lbs, no longer needed an alarm clock to wake up, and felt amazing in general. The process was incredibly eye-opening and changed my eating for the better… but I’ve slipped back into some old habits (pasta & pizza – nom). While I certainly am more conscious of what goes into my food and body, it’s time to start another Whole30.

I want to document my groceries, cooking, and exercise habits here to help anyone who might be approaching a Whole30 or “clean eating” for the first time. My first experience was difficult; the first week consisted of headaches and feeling unwell, I spent hours in the kitchen trying to figure out what was going on, and I generally was winging it solo. This time around, I have an idea of what to do, how to prepare, and how to use time efficiently – so I’m sharing!

I hope the blogs to follow will be useful and inspiring to anyone trying to make a major eating change.

The Pre-Work

Due to Christmas, I skipped grocery shopping for the past couple of weeks and let us finish up just about everything in the fridge – that way, I could start from ground zero when it came to groceries (and keeping temptation out of the kitchen). I’ve found that it’s best to make more frequent grocery store trips so that everything can stay fresh and delicious rather than trying to plan for 7-14 days with one trip. Here’s what I purchased today:

  • grapes
  • ginger root
  • lemons
  • bananas
  • celery
  • red beets
  • oranges
  • apples
  • spinach
  • an onion
  • carrots
  • shallots
  • avocadoes
  • cucumbers
  • zucchini squashes
  • cauliflower
  • lettuce
  • tomatoes
  • tuna
  • tomato sauce
  • chicken broth
  • pork sirloin chops
  • ground turkey
  • yellow bell peppers
  • almonds
  • sweet potatoes
  • almond butter

  • I had coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut butter, almond meal, vinegar, ghee, eggs, and olive oil already on hand. I plan to head to our local butcher tomorrow morning to pick up chicken breasts, ground pork, ground beef, bacon (cured with salt), steaks, and possibly rabbit or lamb. We also have a few whole pheasants in the freezer that need to be butchered. Surprisingly, the local butcher is cheaper than Kroger and has pastured, local meat cured only with salt – no sugar, nitrates, or nitrites. I highly recommend finding a meat shop if it’s at all feasible, as it will save a ton of time going through the meat department at whatever grocery store you choose.

    The Meal Plan

    Based on what I purchased today and what I have on hand, I plan on making the following meals this week:

  • Eggs, bell peppers, onions, zucchini, and avocado
  • Sweet potato bars w/almond butter (recipe below!)
  • Taco salad
  • Shredded chicken with guacamole & spinach
  • Bacon, egg, & vegetable baskets
  • Zucchini noodles
  • tuna & vegetable salad
  • random vegetables & almond butter or homemade mayo
  • Sweet Potato Bars
    Ingredients
    4 large sweet potatoes
    1 can coconut milk
    4 eggs
    Ground cinnamon
    Ground cloves

    Steps
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    Cook 4 sweet potatoes in microwave or oven until tender. Mix together with coconut milk, eggs, and cinnamon/cloves to taste. Pour into 9×12 baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 1 hour. Let cool, cut into bars.

    Serve with almond butter or plain. These are great for quick breakfasts!