Food Freedom Forever: My Whole 30 Reintroduction Experience

In March, I did my first Whole 30 and wrote about my journey here.  Today's blog is a follow-up to share the details of my post-Whole 30 diet.

Thanks to Whole 30, my skin is clear, I'm happier and more confident, my relationship with food is healthier, I'm sleeping better ... and the list of "non-scale victories" goes on.  Determined not to return to my former mediocre eating habits, I was strategic about reintroducing food groups throughout April.

The tricky part, I found, was reintroducing only one food group without inadvertently introducing another with it.  For example, reintroducing strictly dairy was a challenge because 98% of yogurts also have added sugar.  

In this post, I'll break down exactly what I did to reintroduce specific foods, how my body reacted to each (keep in mind that this part is totally individualistic), and how I'm choosing to eat now.  My hope is that these details will help someone else who is trying to figure out this slightly insane but life-changing diet.  Friends, you can totally do this, too.

Disclaimers: {I did my reintroduction on a different timeline than the Whole 30 book delineates.  I didn't feel that ten days was long enough for me to clearly discern which food had which effects on me.  You do what works for you.}

{Also, I am hypoglycemic, so my blood sugar is super sensitive.  Most people probably don't have as many blood sugar issues as I do.}

Day 1: Alcohol

How: Most alcoholic drinks have sugar in them, so don't try a fruity cocktail as your first post-Whole 30 adult beverage.  Some good options with low sugar are dry wine (Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon), extra brut champagne, or pure tequila or vodka.  You could make a sugar-free margarita with tequila, lime juice, and club soda (though I'm not sure why you'd want to because, gross).  Beer is not a great choice because most beers also contain gluten.

My reaction: Horrible.  I had one drink and my blood sugar was whacked. out.  I wanted to eat all the junk food, and I did not sleep well.  I had a slight headache in the morning, and my face broke out.  All of this makes sense, because alcohol is a toxin.

Now what? I may have a glass of cab or a regular margarita (give me the real deal, if I'm going to have one) on a rare special occasion, but the effects for me are generally not worth the momentary good vibes.  

Days 2-3: Back to Whole 30

Day 4: Legumes (minus peanuts) 

How: This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Black beans, pinto beans, hummus, lentils, black eyed peas...

My reaction: Generally fine.  I have since noticed that I am a little bloated if I eat a whole bowl of beans, for example, but I feel totally normal otherwise.

Now what? Bring on the beans (in moderation).  They help me stay full, I like them, and small amounts seem to have no effect on my body.

Days 5-6: Whole 30.  {I should note here that I moderately continued eating positively reintroduced food groups, such as legumes, on the Whole 30 days.}

Day 7: Corn

How: I separated corn from other non-gluten grains because I eat a lot of corn and wanted to see its isolated effects.  Food choices other than canned corn or corn on the cob include organic corn tortillas and tortilla chips, these breakfast corn fritters (substitute coconut flour), corn chowder, or Texas Caviar.

My reaction: Generally fine, thank goodness, because I love me some Texas Caviar and tortilla chips.  

Now what? I eat corn, on occasion.  I don't let myself have tortilla chips at home because I can chow down on so many of those guys once I open a bag.

Days 8-9: Whole 30 + legumes + corn

Day 10: Peanuts

How: Again, I separated this out from all other legumes because I'm basically obsessed with peanuts, and I (used to) eat more of them than all other legumes combined.  Food choices include dry roasted peanuts, peanut butter with no sugar added (great with apples or bananas), orange chicken, and ants on a log.

My reaction: Big bummer.  Headache, achy joints the next morning, and janky blood sugar.

Now what? PB&Js, it's been so nice knowing you.  People sometimes ask me which food group has been the most difficult to give up, and peanuts is the one.  However, there is no food that tastes better than feeling good feels.  Also, almond butter is a pretty tasty substitute.

Days 11-12: Whole 30 + legumes + corn

Day 13: Non-gluten grains

How: I chose not to reintroduce gluten at all, since I gave up gluten last November and already knew that it wrecks my skin and joints.  Good non-gluten grains include rice, quinoa, oats, gluten-free pasta, and buckwheat.

My reaction: Eh.  Nothing drastic, but I felt bloated and sickly full.  I don't love this food group enough to try to work it into my diet, so I decided to eliminate it forever.

Days 14-15: Whole 30 + legumes + corn

Day 16: Dairy

How: Minimally processed cheese, grass fed yogurt with no sugar added (very hard to find), cultured butter, cottage cheese.  I really wanted to reintroduce ice cream at this point, but ice cream is loaded with sugar, so I waited.

My reaction: Another big bummer.  My stomach hurt, and my skin broke out.

Now what? So long, brie cheese, blue cheese, all other scrumptious cheese, ice cream, and pizza.  You were a very delicious part of my life for a very long time.

Days 17-18: Whole 30 + legumes + corn

Day 19: Sugar

How: I knew that I didn't want to reintroduce refined sugar, so I stuck with foods that contained only coconut sugar, honey, agave, extra dark chocolate, and maple syrup.

My reaction: Right up there with alcohol (basically terrible).  My skin looked like a teenager's, and my blood sugar was nuts.  I could not fall asleep.

Now what? The more sugary things I eat, the more I want to eat.  Even though Paleo treats are generally healthier than regular desserts, sweet potato brownies are still brownies.  They are too much like the real thing in the sense that they awaken the Sugar Dragon that I had slain during Whole 30, but they are not enough like the real thing to make me disappointed and wanting the real thing.  This seems so crazy, but I've given up sweet treats and added sugar ... forever!  I made an exception during my birthday weekend and immediately regretted my choice.  "Desserts" now are limited to almond butter baked bananas, banana "ice cream", this hot cinnamon tea, and mug brownies.  Surprisingly, I'm 100% okay with these options, 95% of the time.

In summary, I am choosing to live a loosely Paleo lifestyle.  My one critique of a strict Paleo diet is that it eliminates some foods, such as legumes, which have nutritional value, while giving the green light to other lesser categories, such as bacon and alcohol.  "Clean eating", to me, is more balanced and attainable.  Also, there are very few restaurants that serve strictly Paleo dishes, and sometimes, I want to go on a fancy date with my picky husband or take my kids to Chick-fil-A without also taking my own salad dressing.  So sometimes, I'm not going to worry about what oil my meat was cooked in and I'm not going to be the annoying girl who asks specifics about every menu item, though, in general, I do like knowing exactly what ingredients are in my food.


I also had to decide that I will be an "abstainer," as opposed to a "moderator".  One isn't inherently better than the other; you have to decide what works best for you.  Abstaining is all or nothing: I'm not going to have half a piece of chocolate cake; I'm just never going to have it.  This sounds restrictive to moderators who might indulge in a half (or whole!) piece every now and then, but it has been freeing for me.  I don't ever have to make decisions about what I am going to eat or not going to eat, and then I don't walk around with guilt hanging over my head when my body reacts poorly.  I really like rules, and I am great at following them.  I am not great at making decisions.  

For the larger part of my adult life, I have battled an eating disorder from time to time and have never known how "food freedom" feels ... until now.   For the first time ever, I'm not compulsively restricting calories or running to burn off whatever I just ate.  I'm putting good food into my body, and this knowledge has empowered me to enjoy what I'm eating, to love exercise for what it is, and to pursue health over a particular image.  Those are all kind of a big deal to me.  

What does "food freedom" look like for you?