The Vegan Whole30 – Why and How?

If you’ve been a long-time follower of the Born Again Minimalist blog you’ll know that I have been in the vegetarian end of the pool before (for a total of about a decade, on and off) and repeatedly swam back to the waters of omnivorism. Ethical omnivorism, I called it, or Humaneitarianism. I only ate meat, dairy, and eggs from ethical sources. Animals should have a healthy, happy life followed by one bad day – that was my line of thinking. After all, animal protein and fat have their place in a healthy diet.

Well, y’all, I’ve come back around and I’m feeling confident that I am now well equipped with enough knowledge and research to never feel deprived or lacking nutrition on a plant-based diet. I’m vegan and about 99% sure it’s here to stay. That 1% is for all the people who want to ask me if I’d kill an animal to survive on a desert island. I’ll write more about my decision to become vegan in later blogs. This one’s about the Whole30!

What is the Whole30?

Have you heard of it before? You can get the complete run-down on their website but here’s the basic premise:

Health starts with food. Everything you put in your mouth either helps or hinders your health. Many food types (such as dairy, legumes, grains, sugar, and alcohol) can cause chronic inflammation of the body. The Whole30 removes these questionable foods for a full 30 days and reintroduces them in a slow, controlled manner afterward so that you can test your observations and understand any unknown food intolerances you might have.

The Rules

  1. No sugar or sweeteners of any kind (no maple syrup, agave nectar, honey, coconut sugar, sucanat, cane juice, stevia, xylitol, etc.)
  2. No alcohol
  3. No grain (wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, quinoa, etc.) or grain derivatives (rice oil, corn oil, cornstarch, rice syrup, etc.)
  4. No legumes (beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, soy)
  5. No dairy
  6. No carrageenan, MSG, sulfites (common additives)
  7. No making “healthy” or “compliant” treats or foods made with approved ingredients

That last one confused me at first. Why can’t I make banana ice cream, dang it? But their reasoning is really good:

Continuing to eat your old, unhealthy foods made with Whole30 ingredients is totally missing the point, and will tank your results faster than you can say “Paleo Pop-Tarts.” Remember, these are the same foods that got you into health-trouble in the first place—and a pancake is still a pancake, regardless of the ingredients.  – See more at: http://whole30.com/whole30-program-rules/#sthash.bF9lEqrQ.dpuf

The final rule was one of the hardest to follow: NO MEASUREMENTS OR SCALE FOR THIRTY DAYS. Yes. You can weigh yourself on Day 1 and Day 31, but no weighing in or taking measurements for the duration of the program. It’s about health, not weight loss. (On a related note, I lost over 9 lbs).

Read the full details and fine print here.

Why Vegan?

Most people on the Whole30 or a paleo diet rely  on meat. Vegans and vegetarians typically use legumes as a plant-based protein source, but I would be without those staple food items for my 30 day adventure.

Where do you get your protein?

This question is the bane of vegan/vegetarian existence. It is the most commonly asked question from meat eaters when someone mentions their plant-based diet.

protein-4

For the duration of the Whole30, I ate plenty of nuts, seeds, and seed butter for protein and fat. Also, many plants have a good amount of protein! Green veggies such as spinach and kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and asparagus have high protein content, and mushrooms are also a good source of plant-based protein. Green beans, snap peas, and snow peas are “approved” legumes on the Whole30 plan because they are in a green pod and are considered more veggie than bean.

Here is a question for you: Where did your grass-fed beef get all its muscles?

Can a vegan do a real Whole30 or is it modified?

The official recommendations of Whole30 say you can’t technically do the recommended Whole30 plan while vegan, because they recommend a moderate amount of animal protein. They include the following suggestions to doctor the Whole30 to minimally impact gut health while doing a Whole30-ish plan on a vegan diet:

If you simply choose to include off-plan dairy or plant protein in your Whole30-ish plan (this also applies to vegans, save dairy), here are our best tips:

Dairy: Prioritize pastured, organic, fermented sources like yogurt or kefir. You could also use a whey protein powder from grass-fed, organic sources, which would provide the protein you need with fewer downsides than other dairy products (including cheese). You may want to experiment with goat’s milk or sheep’s milk, if you know cow’s milk products aren’t well-tolerated.

Legumes: Your best choices are minimally processed, fermented soy products like tempeh or natto, or organic edamame (soybeans). You can also include non-fermented, organic soy (like extra-firm tofu) and various legumes in rotation. Avoid non-organic soy, processed soy products (like “burgers” and “cheese”), and peanuts.

Grains/Pseudo-Cereals: Avoid all gluten grains, including seitan (which is made from wheat gluten). Pseudo-cereals like quinoa are less likely to cause disruption to the gut or immune system than other grains.

Protein Powders: A hemp- or pea-protein powder is also an option for you, although you’d have to include quite a lot of it in your diet to get any substantial amount of protein. Read your labels carefully to make sure these protein powders include as few inflammatory ingredients as possible.

– See more at: http://whole30.com/2015/06/veg-whole30/#sthash.vOTVhyva.dpuf

But I like to go all in. I followed all Whole30 food restrictions and completed the thirty day experiment with no plant sources beyond those I already discussed. However, I did make a few adjustments to the plan due to my plant-based diet.

Snacks: The official guidelines advise you to have three meals a day and not have snacks. But let me tell you what happens when you eat only vegetables: they take up a lot of room in your stomach without a lot of calories. To get enough calories to function, I had to eat more frequently throughout the day. Check out this representation of caloric density:

Caloric-Density

Totally filling myself up with veggies or fruit would result in about 400-600 calories per meal. In order to eat 1800-2000 calories per day I needed to eat a couple snacks. My go-to snacks were trail mix (mixed raw nuts with raisins and coconut flakes) or an apple with nut or seed butter. Sometimes I would have a sweet potato or baked sweet potato fries as a snack as well, if I was feeling under-carbed.

Fruit: Official Whole30 recommendations advise limits around fruit. They’re not concerned with the sugar or calorie content, but if participants lean on fruit as a sweet treat, then they aren’t getting to the underlying habits and cravings the Whole30 can address and correct. However, following a plant-based diet means that my options for food are fruit, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. I ate a lot of fruit for breakfast every day. It gave me whole-food calories with plenty of micronutrients! Favorite breakfasts were sliced bananas with blueberries, melon chunks, pineapple chunks, or banana smoothies toward the end of the Whole30 when I desperately needed a change.

The Whole30 guidelines also recommend you eat fruit WITH your meals, not alone as a snack. My issue with this is that fruit tends to digest faster than other foods, so I typically try to eat it on an empty stomach to avoid gas and bloating from fermentation in my stomach or digestive tract as the fast-digesting fruit gets stuck behind slower-digesting vegetables and starches. No thanks! I usually eat my fruit for breakfast on an empty stomach.

My Experience and Results

My experience of the Whole30 was basically this:

  1. First week: Massive “sugar hangover,” tired, sluggish, cravings, weird dreams about bread
  2. Second week: Feeling REALLY GREAT about all food options available to me, creative meal planning and recipes
  3. Third week: Coasting. Same old-same old on foods I knew I liked and could cook easily.
  4. Fourth week: Boredom. Ready for this to be over. Not because I can’t wait to have a bean-rice-pizza binge but because this is expensive and I want to be able to eat other things
  5. Bonus: I don’t crave sugar anymore. I get plenty of natural sweetness from fruit and have no desire to run back into the sugar bowl for solace.

Grocery Costs

Yes, I spent more on food than I usually do. In a typical week I spend $50-$75 on groceries to happily feed myself and my boyfriend. On a typical Whole30 week I spent an average of $100 per week. Some of that was random one-off stuff like buying a jar of tahini to make some truly terrible squash based hummus. That is ten bucks I’m kind of mad about. But I am hoping to make actual chickpea hummus with it later so I reserve judgment. (Can you return an open jar of tahini to Whole Foods? Let me know).

Could I have done the Whole30 on a budget? Yes, I think I could. If I do it again, I will be much more careful about my meal planning and grocery budgeting and try to do it on about $50-$80 per week instead of $100+.

I did my grocery shopping at the following places:

  • West Side Market: LIFESAVER. Were it not for the market I could have easily spent twice as much money on produce.
  • Aldi
  • Earth Fare
  • Whole Foods

Exercise and Sleep

I didn’t stick to a workout regime on the Whole30. When I start juggling lots of balls at once, I have a tendency to stress myself out, over-fixate on perfection, and go down the path of disordered eating or thinking. I worked out if I felt like working out, and I slept in when I felt like sleeping in. My main focus of the Whole30 process was to (1) get control of my food habits, and (2) integrate healthy sleep habits into my routine.

 Mood

I feel pretty great! I had highs and lows in my mood as anyone would throughout a month. I was a little irritable in week 1, but not the evil scary monster I expected myself to be. I felt well rested and energetic most days. I feel “lighter” in spirit and body.

Physical Changes

I noticed in the mirror that my belly bulge was going away. Starting the Whole30 at 213.8 pounds, I expected a few pounds of fat loss but wasn’t holding my breath for a big change. Color me surprised when I weighed in on Day 31 to see the number 204.2 staring back at me! That’s a 9.6 pound loss in 30 days with minimal exercise, just focusing on healthy food and sleep.

What’s Next?

The reintroduction phase of Whole30 allows you to slowly reintroduce potential problem foods one at a time and notice any changes or symptoms. Here’s the sample 10-day reintroduction schedule from Whole30:

  • Day 1: Evaluate legumes
  • Day 4: Evaluate non-gluten grains
  • Day 7: Evaluate dairy
  • Day 10: Evaluate gluten

After each day, go back to Whole30 eating for two days while noticing any symptoms or effects from the food. Decide how, how often, and how much to incorporate these foods back into your diet, if you choose to continue eating them at all.

Since I don’t eat dairy as a vegan, I get to evaluate my foods in the reintroduction period over a seven day period. Here’s my plan:

  • Day 1: Evaluate legumes (peanut butter with breakfast, chickpea falafel with lunch, black beans with dinner)
  • Day 4: Evaluate non-gluten grains (oatmeal with breakfast, corn with lunch, rice with dinner)
  • Day 7: Evaluate gluten (sourdough bread with breakfast, Field Roast meat substitute for lunch, non-dairy pizza for dinner)

About Gluten

For a couple of years now, I’ve been largely gluten free. However, I do occasionally have some sourdough bread (the fermentation of the starter helps to break down the gluten to make it easier to digest) or sprouted grain bread (same deal, easier to digest). These foods don’t typically cause me any symptoms that I have noticed. I have had accidental gluten to varying effects, sometimes experiencing bloating and gas afterward and sometimes not. So I know something is going on with gluten and me. In the spirit of trying things, I’m going to reintroduce it to note its effects once and for all.

The Sugar Dragon

My primary goal for this Whole30 process was to eliminate sugar from my diet and destroy my sugar cravings. Before the Whole30, I was eating oatmeal with brown sugar and maple syrup once or twice a day, having dark chocolate several times per week, and enjoying other sugary snacks. For me, sugar is a really tricky food item. It’s 8 times as addictive as cocaine and I have a hard time keeping it in “moderation.” I can quickly become obsessed. For me, sugar is not a healthy food. I don’t plan on reintroducing sugar to my diet anytime soon. If I figure out a safe moderation steam-release on my sugar dragon, I will report back. For me, I think I will stick with fruit.

Soy: Friend or Foe?

There is a lot of research out there on soy. Some sources sing its praises as a heart-healthy, protein-rich superfood. Other sources say it is full of phytoestrogen and gives you man boobs. Since there is so much soy controversy, I plan on keeping my intake limited and not relying on it as a staple food item.

Chipotle

Can’t stop, won’t stop.

Exercise

Since I can only focus on one giant project at a time without treading the edge of mental dysfunction, I didn’t spend a lot of time focusing on exercise during the Whole30. Afterward, though, I am planning a new fitness regimen that I am very excited about! I’ll be training for a 5K using the Couch to 5K program as well as doing strength training three times a week. The combination of long cardio and strength should help to bust me out of the plateau that the Whole30 helped me break!

Onward and Upward!

Is a vegan Whole30 possible? Yes.

How does it make you feel? Like an unstoppable plant-powered badass.

Would you do it again? I am really not sure. I think I might do a Whole21 or a 30 day sugar detox instead of a complete Whole30.

 

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Taking Back My Life

Coach Caitlin Reed has lost over 80 pounds in the last three years by making lifestyle changes with the help of Beachbody coaches and products.

Left, March 2012. Right, June 26, 2015.

Growing up, I was fat shamed. I routinely heard such sayings as “Okay, it’s YOUR body” (when I asked for a sugary snack), “How will you get a boyfriend when you eat like a pig?” “I’m going to put a voice recorder in your pocket on your first date to see if you burp; that’s disgusting,” and other such exciting phrases. We were made to eat our vegetables. Once, we were denied a promised trip to the movies because we ate popsicles before we finished bringing the groceries in. Food was a punishment and a reward when I was a child. It was used to control and to keep me in my place. My relationship with food was very much equated with my potential for relationships with men and how men would see me.

I was not bullied in school for my weight but I had very low self-esteem. I had learned that fat people don’t deserve love.

Fast forward to age 18 when I met my first real boyfriend. First kiss, first love, first everything. Including first husband. Despite my mother trying to tell me that there were some red flags I should pay attention to, I was hell bent on marrying the guy because I thought it was all a big mistake, a fluke, because I was fat and there was no way that someone would actually want to be with me. So we got married on June 26, 2009.

Three months later, I realized I had made a mistake. He’s not a bad person, we were just a bad match and I was nowhere near ready to be married. I didn’t know how to communicate because I had never seen a model of a healthy relationship to follow (no offense meant to my parents, but I never saw them fight… just suddenly they divorced). After 2.5 years of marriage I moved out in January 2012, armed with some newly grown self-confidence and the knowledge that I didn’t have to settle for a life that made me so unhappy.

In December 2011, I weighed 300 pounds, my highest weight in recorded history. What a reality check – I had lost all control. I needed to take it back.

Once I moved out and we got divorced, I began the work of “Finding Myself.” This included a new job, a new apartment, discovering Dave Ramsey and paying off my car, and paying all my own bills like a grown ass adult. Minimalism ensued because one of the easiest ways to make a radical change in your life is to get rid of everything you own.

Then a woman messaged me on Facebook and we began a friendship. She saw me post a question about vegan diets in a health group. And she was a Beachbody coach.

That patient, patient woman talked with me on and off for eight months before I decided to sign up and try this workout and Shakeology stuff she was telling me about. I signed up as a coach because I can’t resist a good discount. And it was great! I loved it.

For some reason, on Thanksgiving day 2013, I quit working out. Shortly thereafter I canceled my account to save money.

Patiently again, my coach kept supporting me, finally letting me know about a new program called PiYo. I wondered, “What if I actually stuck with it this time?” and I signed up as a coach again.

Guess what day the box arrived in the mail? It was June 26, 2014. An ordinary day of the year to anyone else, but to me it was a reminder of a life shed and left behind. It would have been my fifth wedding anniversary.

I tore that box open, popped in the DVD, and TOOK IT BACK.

That date is now mine. It is my anniversary to myself. It is a reminder that I am enough, I am beautiful, I am confident, and I am capable of doing anything I can dream. It is a reminder that “what if” is an amazing thing. June 26 represents everything good in the world to me, because it’s the day I took my life back for good.

The key, for me, has been practicing self-love and working on myself emotionally as well as physically. How can I expect to treat my body right if deep down I believe it’s not good enough for me, that it’s ugly or useless or horrible? You cannot make lasting changes due to hating your body; you make lasting changes when you love your body. Learning to love myself (body, mind, and spirit) has been huge for me.

It has been a year since I took it all back and I am happy to report that I did not give up in the middle of my workout. I completed PiYo. I completed 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme. I completed Combat and Pump. I am halfway through a 20 week TurboFire schedule.

I can honestly tell you that I love exercise and crave it like a drug. I can honestly tell you that my coach and my supporters in our accountability groups have changed my life. I can honestly tell you that Shakeology is worth every penny to me because of the way it makes me feel and the way it fuels my body.

Beachbody is how I took control of my life. Now I’m actively coaching and helping others take control of theirs.

Happy anniversary, Caitlin. I love you unconditionally. Finally.

THE STATS:
All time top weight: 300 lbs, December 2011
No measurements available from this time. I wish!!

6/26/14
Weight 256
Bust 48”
Chest 40.5”
Waist 44”
Hips 53”
Thighs 31” each
Calves 17” each
Right bicep 16”
Left bicep 15”
Neck 14.5”

6/26/15
Weight 213.4 (lost 42.6 lbs in a year, 86.6 since December 2011)
Bust 43” (lost 5”)
Chest 35” (lost 5.5”)
Waist 37” (lost 7”)
Hips 47” (lost 6”)
Thighs 26.5” each (lost 4.5” each)
Calves 15” right, 15.5” left (lost 3.5” total)
Right bicep 13.5” (lost 2.5”)
Left bicep 13” (lost 2”)
Neck 13.5” (lost 1”)

My advice to people who want to make a huge change in their life?
1. Never give up.
2. Love yourself.
3. Never give up on loving yourself.

Love your body, clean your closet

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 was Love Your Body Day (LYBD).  LYBD seeks to encourage women (and men) to, clearly, love their bodies.  Stop fixating on the things you hate about your body.  Stop wishing it was different.  Stop worrying about numbers on a scale.  Stop negative self-talk.  Stop reading magazines that promote airbrushed models as the desired shape and size for beauty.  Stop letting other people’s words get you down. Here’s a secret: They aren’t always happy with their bodies either.

A pants size will not make you happy.

To bring this idea around to a practical minimalist application, I’d like to talk about the clothes in your closet, wardrobe, or dresser that do not fit and do not make you feel fabulous.

Holding on to clothes that are too big, just in case, is not healthy.  You have an excuse to stop being accountable for your health because you think it’s okay since you’ve got a pair of fat pants. First off, stop calling them fat pants.  Someone else out there just calls them pants.  They may like their body just how it is, and you calling their pants “fat pants” just adds another little layer of insecurity that society is throwing at them.  Stick to the clothes that fit you.  “But what if I gain weight?” Then you buy bigger clothes when you gain weight.  Keep yourself accountable — eat a balanced diet of mostly plants, and move for thirty minutes a day, and you should maintain your weight (minus any health issues that cause extreme weight fluctuations).

Holding on to clothes that are too small, as motivation, is not healthy.  Having clothes in your closet that are too small is a body-negative reminder of your “ideal” beauty and body.  Get comfy in your body, and stop making yourself feel bad by surrounding yourself with reminders of what you’re not.  If you want to lose weight and wear smaller clothes, do it.  In a healthy way.  Which will take a while, so go ahead and take that top to Goodwill.  Reward yourself with new clothes when you do lose the weight, instead of having to look at a blaring neon sign that says “YOU CAN’T WEAR ME” every time you get dressed.

Holding on to clothes that are not your style is silly. These are the clothes that technically fit, but that you don’t wear.  Because they have a weird pattern, or you don’t like the cut, or you just don’t wear long sleeved shirts but your aunt bought it for you, or a tee shirt from high school that you have no reason to wear, or any other of the million reasons people hang on to these clothes.  If you are not wearing them, get rid of them.  Try the hanger trick.

Some guidelines:

  • Only clothes that fit you and that make you feel good deserve a space in your closet.  Anything else is not worth your time.
  • If you are pregnant or otherwise gaining weight that is temporary, a range of sizes is acceptable, but it IS possible to avoid having an entire (soon useless) wardrobe of maternity clothes.  See Miss Minimalist for more on that.
  • If you have a lot of clothes in sizes that don’t fit and you can’t bring yourself to get rid of them all, limit yourself to one box of clothes to put in storage for you to have on hand in case of weight fluctuations.
  • Don’t let your mom guilt you into keeping an ugly shirt because she bought it for you. Apply this to whatever guilt-ridden sentimental reason you have for keeping something you don’t really wear. Sorry mom.
  • When purchasing new clothing, look for items made with forgiving fabrics with some stretch, or elastic waists.  This makes the clothing more comfortable to move in and accommodates minor weight fluctuations.

What’s your favorite item of clothing, and how does it make you feel to wear it? Share in the comments!