While it's a ways off, I've been thinking about retirement lately. Specifically, what will happen to medical and prescription costs when I'm no longer covered under an employer's plan. The numbers are not pretty, folks.
Some things are within my own control. To gain control over those factors, however, I need to start making some lifestyle changes. Step one: get a much better handle on my blood glucose readings.
I'd heard good thing about the Whole30 program. Most importantly, I could do anything for thirty days. If I hated it, I'd try something else. If I liked it, I had the option to continue. The extremely low carb nature of the program would do wonders for my readings, and I might find out whether or not I had any sensitivities to grains or dairy after eliminating/adding back those foods.
The entire time before I finally made the decision to do this, I mourned the fact I'd spend a month without cheese. I'm from Wisconsin, folks - that is practically sacrilege.
You can read the details at the link above, but basically, you can eat almost any veggie, fruit and protein source, plus specific fats. You cannot eat any grains, legumes (some exceptions), dairy, added sugar, msg, soy, or drink/cook with any alcohol.
Easy peasy. Really.
The only hard part, if you aren't used to cooking from scratch, is evaluating the already prepared things you are used to using - right down to condiments and spice mixes (I'm looking at you, lemon pepper that has added sugar!). Making your own mayonnaise is both easy and tasty. Ketchup is easy to prepare, though the taste is considerably different from the 57 varieties of Heinz (the amount of added sugar in commercial ketchup is distressing). I ended up making my own poultry spice mix (thank you, internet), since the one in my cabinet had - you guessed it - sugar in it.
All in all, it was a great experience, with results I didn't feel I had to work hard to achieve. Sure, the planning took a while, but the payoffs...
- Blood glucose average dropped about 30 points. Still not quite where I'd like it, but an incredible improvement.
- 500% increase in energy, from the start of the second week on.
- Skin glowing, hair and nail growing like weeds (downside: paying for haircuts more often, lol).
- More restful, restorative sleep.
- Increased ability to focus at work, particularly through what used to be the "afternoon slump".
- Between meal hunger disappeared.
- Ankles no longer swell.
- Clothes fit much better - in some cases, they no longer fit at all!
- Significant weight loss - without really trying, without being hungry all the time, without feeling "deprived". I've not been on the scale, but I'm guessing about 15 - 20 pounds.
What didn't work so well:
- As a single, I've rarely cooked all three meals a day for more than a couple of days in a row. It's been much too easy to run through a drive through to pick up breakfast or dinner. I'm a good cook, just lazy, lol. Preparing three meals a day for thirty days - yikes, the time it took, especially in the first two weeks as I worked on changing those habits.
- Dishpan hands. Seriously. I do have a dishwasher, but don't put the pots and pans and cooking implements in it. Since I generally needed those things again very quickly, a portion of all prep time was immediately washing things so they were ready for the next set of cooking.
What I'd do differently:
I decided on a Friday to start on Monday, which didn't give a lot of time to prepare. Next time (and I plan to start again the first week of January), I'll be sure to do much more advance cooking and freezing. Compliant soups and burgers, cooked and diced chicken to put on salads, perfect sausage cooked and packaged for breakfast hash. Not to mention hard boiling at least a couple of dozen eggs (thank heaven for InstantPot!).
While I'd put the non-compliant pantry food in a box in the back of the pantry, I'd not gone through the spice cupboard to take a look at the ingredients on the blends (ended up mixing my own poultry seasoning at the last minute because my jar had sugar as an ingredient). Time to go through and at least clearly mark which ones are compliant, which are not, and decide whether or not to keep the noncompliant around.
Other than the work involved in planning (and dicing, and cooking, and cleaning...), at which I became more efficient as the days went by, I found the program surprisingly easy. Beginner's luck? The results were certainly worth the work involved. More than that, I think the way I view food, along with my eating habits, have undergone a permanent shift.
Whole30 website - Basics of the program and more.
Whole30 forums - Even if you don't post, there's lots of hive mind information out there.
The Whole30: A Thirty Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom - This was my primary go-to resource. Included in the book are about 100 compliant recipes and meal ideas, including the basic recipes for condiments, salad dressings and variations on them.
It Starts With Food - While I've not read it, this is the book that started it all. It goes into the science of why certain foods don't provide what our bodies need, how they impact us, and the benefits of correcting our nutrition.