My [Nigerian Food Style] Whole 30 Experience

WHOLE 30!! I talked about it more than once on some of my Friday Reflections. I guess I should start by describing what Whole 30 is. I can't possibly do it enough justice so I'll just direct you to their website. In short, it's a nutritional program "designed to change your life". Basically, no rice (or grains of any kinds; not even oats!), no sugar (of any kind; real or artificial), diary, alcohol, cigarette (duh!), MSG (hello Indomie, knorr or any other boullion cube!), sulfites, legumes, do not try to recreate baked goods of any kinds using "healthy stuff"; for thirty days. Oh, no weighing yourself too. This is way more than just a diet; supposed to heal unhealthy relationship with food. But real food is allowed: meat, fish, vegetables etc. Just go to their website for the long lists of Don'ts and short list of DOs.  It's been said to "cure" MANY lifestyle related diseases like PCOS, Lyme's disease, infertility etc.

“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”

I first heard about it on La Bella Imperfezione about a year ago, where she just dropped a one liner about it. And then this year, she mentioned joining the program. The first thing about my partaking in it was just to satisfy my curiosity. A second was, it seemed like a good challenge, and while I love to whine a lot, I am realizing more and more that I do love a good challenge. So I did not join to lose weight or anything like that. I just wanted to see the effect of eating painstakingly healthy on my body and I had [targeted] specific health markers (read hormones, skin etc.) I thought food affected. I now realize, upon writing this post that I did not take enough photos of the foods I ate. Sorry about that. First let me tell you that it's VERY doable on a Nigerian diet. I ate things like vegetable stew aka efo riro (remember don't add maggi or knorr), plantains, sweet potato (made as porridge or roasted), irish potato, salads, grilled chicken, grilled fish, okra, eba, amala, salads, and more salads lol. You WILL get bored with what you eat, but nevertheless you'll enjoy them if you can cook. I kept a daily journal of my Whole 30 progress on my phone, which is what I share below. I will give my  final thoughts on the program in the last paragraph (so read till the end :-p).

My whole 30 experience started pretty well. So well, I was almost thinking easy peasy. I ate strictly compliant meals. I basically had no cravings. I did not experience the rage and terror from sugar withdrawal that I had read about. What on earth were people complaining about? This is easy! I thought.

Note: Then Day 5 came.

I am getting angry for no apparent reason. My default mode all through the day has been "pissed off".

I think the problem is that I am hungry, out of my apartment with nothing compliant to snack on and the fact that I'm unable to just grab something on the go (well hello no sugar rule!) is really annoying. After being in the sun for so long, what I need is sugar! I want to strangle someone.

Note: Then I had to go grocery shopping. Let me tell you something about my local Whole Foods express line; It's filled with temptation. You are flanked by sugary treats! Ugh
On the Express Line at Whole Foods; this stung!

It's week two and I'm not having it. I'm continually nauseous; and desperately craving actual food like rice, pasta, and something (ANYTHING) with sugar.

I also worry this thirty days of deprivation might lead to an over consumption of the things I miss once this is over. I share these concerns with M (who at the time, was with me in the Whole 30 madness business).

In the meantime, I judge myself for ever thinking this could be easy.

I'm experiencing a kind of inexplicable bursts of hunger. The kind of hunger that makes you shake.

Day 9 comes with a bathroom disaster. I can't keep food down and it's disrupting my day. I can't believe I have 21 more days of this misery. I have a cucumber, tomato and spinach salad packed but I can't eat. I'm starving but I can't eat. I contemplate quitting. I head to my journal meeting at 8:15pm and there's Georgetown cupcakes. I want to grab one and forget about Whole30. I learn tonight that I have a really strong willpower and my self-control is topnotch. I do NOT eat cake. Unbelievable.

It's day 10 and I have full blown diarrhea. I can't keep food down.

Its day 11. My supervisor and I are hosting a conference with participants from Asia and everywhere in the US. I take them to a welcome dinner at an Italian restaurant and of course bread is passed around. Guess who can't eat it. Ugh. Whole 30 is being done at a very wrong time. But we move. Will I give up tonight? Let's see.

Note: I did not.

Day 12 is conference all day. I arrive and realize I may have to compromise at lunch. In the afternoon, I grab a sandwich and can not eat it. I wan't to, but can't. I'm saddened by this because I may have developed an unhealthy attitude to food. I don't want to be the one who never eats outside cos everything is bad and unhealthy. But I really can't eat this sandwich. So I don't eat lunch. I look forward to dinner.

Day 14 is huge. My church turns ten today and there is a huge block party in celebration. I don't plan to stay because I have a great deal of work waiting for me at home. I think about forgetting work and hanging out with friends at the party. But then again I literally can't eat anything being served. So what's the point? I just found out there is a dessert truck *gasp*. At this point, this Whole 30 feels like punishment, but I have a crazy obsession with knack for  completing anything I start at all costs. So I head home.

Day 17: Whew. I am getting closer to the finish line. I have been quiet because there really is nothing to talk about. It's been very routine. However my stomach hurts a little bit today and I have to use the bathroom. Now as for the effects, I wouldn't say my skin is glowing anymore than it used to. By the grace of God, I [normally] have an okay skin; a little bit dry but pretty good. I don't have any extra glides in my steps, if we are being honest. Maybe it's too early to tell. I sleep ok; as okay as it always was.

Note: Some of the major benefits of Whole 30 as advertised were extra bursts of energy, amazing glow on your skin, and just an all round fabulous life. At this point, I wasn't experiencing any of it.

Okay so it's day 19 and I notice that I'm always tired and lethargic and just generally in a foul mood: I don't wanna do anything. Meh.

Day 25: now I'm just [really] bored; from eating the same things everyday. Five more days to freedom. Yes, freedom. I'm constantly weak. I need out :-(

Day 31: I am exceptionally glad this is over. It feels like freedom to be able to eat anything. I feel relief. Joy. Peace.

Now that this is over, I'm much more comfortable writing about it. Would I advise anyone to hop on the Whole30 train? Yes, if you want to lose weight. Yes, if you have an unhealthy relationship with food. A la you eat when your boyfriend is fighting with you; when you are sad; in the middle of the night; a gazillion times a day. Then you need this. I think this mostly taught me I do okay with food. It also taught me to be constantly aware of what I put in my mouth; to eat better because my body is the temple of God not a trashcan; that we are always offered food in public. Goodness, food is every freaking where. Now, upon completion, I don't feel anything different per se. I don't feel cleansed or rejuvenated or wholesome. And if you read online, many people share this feeling. There are some others that record this being the best thing since God said "let there be light". So don't take my word for it. Perhaps the best news from the experience is  all the foods in my regular diet work [well] for me. I have pretty much reintroduced all my regular meals in my diet [except legumes; gotta have me some moi moi soon!] and I feel great. I am absolutely, stupendously thankful to God for this. Also, I'm really thankful he saw me through this till the end.

So my best advice is to reiterate my dad's advice: eat everything in moderation. Never ever go overboard. If you had ice cream this morning, maybe say no to chocolate cake in the night. Lol. So yeah, that's it. I will be incorporating some of the Whole30 thing in my regular diet and maybe once in a while do it (or variations of it) for some days. But I don't see myself doing it for 30 days again, except I'm desperate for some detoxing.

Sorry for the long story!


P:S: Here is an update to this post almost five years after it was written. The update has very specific food recommendations and much more about the program and dieting/healthy living more generally. The update is significantly better, I promise! 

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