Reading Whole 30 testimonials or those from people on Paleo diet is one of my favorite things to do online. Following is our story. I put it here, mainly for my own record, but also in hopes that if you find similarities in your life you’ll be encouraged by our journey. Before Whole 30 I read testimonials and hoped it might one day be me, but to tell you the truth I figured we’d loose weight, but my expectations for anything more were pretty low, although I held out hope I’d be wrong. I discovered that everything, even the peace within our home starts with food. Our Whole 30 not only changed our diet, it changed our family.
I consider myself a health conscious individual. One of my ambitions in life is to live and eat healthily, which has directed my life choices, from vegetarianism as a teenager, to home birth and breastfeeding as a new mother, to homeschooling my kids and having a backyard farm. When we were new parents it was easy to live out this ambition, we had more money and our little family’s requirements were few. Within a few years, however, our family grew to include three kids and I slowly worked myself into the full time job of stay at home mom. With one less bread winner in the family, as the kids grew tall and sturdy, our income shrank and was fragile. We no longer bought from the monthly natural food co-op, we passed the health food store and headed for Wal-Mart, and unfortunately the staples in our home became peanut butter sandwiches, mac and cheese and processed meats. Every day I packed my husband’s nitrite-filled-turkey-deli-meat-sandwich and cringed thinking of the years I was taking off his life.
In October 2013, he was diagnosed with hyperlipidemia and the doctor said that if he could not get his triglycerides under control she would put him on medication. She suggested he try fish oil supplements and sent him home with a list of other suggestions that might help. After an in depth investigation of the various forms of fish oil, types of fatty acids, and actual omega 3 in them, I found a brand that I liked. I realized that the whole family would be better off from the numerous benefits of fish oil. Furthermore, I discovered that if we reduced the omega 6 fatty acids in our diet we could make the fish oil work better and quicker. Much of this information came from Dr. Barry Sears who recommended in addition to taking fish oil supplements, his hormone leveling, anti-inflammatory Zone Diet. We started the diet. We did well. We lost weight. Unfortunately, we were hungry most of the time.
I was very intrigued at the notion of inflammation being linked to depression, autism and even Alzheimer’s. I learned that there were vitamins, particularly B vitamins as well as magnesium, zinc and vitamin D that are essential to life and typically deficient in the general population. Our oldest son has autism and I read that even when certain vitamins are available, either in the diet or through supplementation, many autistic people can’t metabolize them well, if at all. The recommendation is to use highly bioavailable supplements. I felt it was a pretty good guess that we were all deficient in these critical vitamins and minerals and in early December I ordered supplements for the whole family. It took a little over a month for my husband to begin to feel better, but he was finally sleeping through the night, a rash of seborrheic dermatitis disappeared, and he no longer had muscle spasms in his legs. My acne cleared considerably, I felt better and I was also sleeping through the night. We did not see the dramatic changes that I was hoping for in the kids, but two of them no longer had seborrheic dermatitis, which recurred since infancy. We got through the holiday season still staying pretty close to the Zone Diet, but we both felt hungry throughout the day. I referred back to Dr. Sears’ books for information on adjusting the diet to eliminate our hunger pangs. I also wanted some solid information on the appropriate block portions for children. My hope was to get everyone eating in the Zone. I knew that an insulin leveling diet would probably do wonders for them, especially our oldest son, but it seemed impossible to find information on how to adjust the plan for growing kids.
In addition to behavioral and nutritional issues, we had a problem centered around our meal times which was destroying my joy. We have always sat together at the table to eat, but this became a time of chaos and unpleasantness which my husband and I decided to separated ourselves, breaking our repast tradition. Mealtime was something like this, I cooked and as quickly as I could placed the kids plates on the table, grabbed my husband and my plate and headed to another room as I called the kids down. They clomped down the stairs and into the kitchen where, upon seeing what was before them, commenced to grumble and protest. Every single meal, no matter how I planed not to, included something that upset them and like the rotten apple that spoiled the whole bunch, the negativity flourished. Each of them was convinced there was a correlation, a conspiracy of sorts between the disappointing food on their plate and all the other disappointing things in their lives. I was out to get them. Even when I cooked something they usually liked, suddenly, as if I should have telepathic knowledge of this, they no longer wanted to eat it. Additionally, our middle son was rigid and rarely tried anything new. He would absolutely refuse to eat if it was something that he did not like. To accommodate everyone, our meal options were limited. I loathed cooking, and envied the mom whose children happily ate what she prepared and I could not even imagine how the mother felt whose kids praised her for her delicious fare. I wanted to change things, I wanted my kids to enjoy their food, and I wanted to enjoy cooking for them.
One day, while trying to figure out how to tweak the Zone Diet I landed on a forum where I saw folks commenting,”I’m doing Whole 30.” I was curious so I looked it up and what an incredible surprise I uncovered! Right in front of me was an anti-inflammatory, forthright, dietary plan, PERFECT because it included kids! Could it be the answer to my cooking woes? I printed all the pdf documents they offered and presented them to my husband. We talked about the ramifications of our entire family eating strict Paleo for a whole month. We determined since we were eating very similarly already, it would be pretty easy for us. For the kids, however, it was likely to be unfathomable. So, after several days of weighing the pros and cons we figured that our life on Whole 30 could not be much worse than it was already. I was curious too, to see if this diet would help quell our oldest son’s negativity and anger issues. Perhaps it would do more than the vitamins had. So it was agreed, we would embark on this thirty day journey as a family!
The big question was how to tell the kids (ages 11, 9 and 7). I was nervous and anxious at the thought of their reactions to no sugar, no bread, no cereal, no pancakes, oh my goodness…no peanut butter! I figured the best way to approach it would be through education. I knew that just taking away food without a reasonable explanation would be detrimental to them and hell for us. They needed to know why we were doing it. It just so happened that our 83 year old neighbor had been recently hospitalized for Atrial fibrillation. He had lost 30 pounds in just a few months and he was subsequently placed on a restricted diet of low salt and no processed foods. Now, our neighbor annually grows a garden full of delicious vegetables, yet his diet consisted of fast food. He did not like, nor did he eat the majority of the things he grew and he was inexperienced in the kitchen. This timely example gave us much to consider, like the long term effects of what we eat. They witnessed him go from a man who regularly climbed a ladder to clean his gutters, to a nearly dead skeleton in a short period of time. We discussed how a diet of fast and processed foods impacts a person and how difficult it would be to be old and have to change your ways. We considered the fact that he never learned to cook for himself, which might have compelled him toward his poor food choices.
In addition to the lesson from our neighbor, I remembered seeing a reference to Food Inc. on the Whole 30 site and I decided we’d watch it. I’d never seen the film but took the leap that it would be okay without me previewing it. In hind sight, had I known more about it I would have planned a different lunch. So, the kids and I sat down that morning and watched. That documentary sealed the deal for everyone. Afterwards, my middle son, the meat eater, confirmed he would no longer partake of meat he was done. Unbeknownst to him, I had for the first time in a long time, bought a roast. Regrettably, that is, a factory farmed roast and it was cooking in the oven as we watched. Oh joy! There’s nothing quite like watching how animals are raised and slaughtered in the American meat factory and then having to eat a greasy slab of flesh raised and processed in that fashion. It was a hard meal to swallow. Let’s just say, they now ask how the beef they eat is raised, if it’s grass fed it’s a go, anything else is garbage.
So after that sobering and stomach churning afternoon, we continued our discussion of food and they were beside themselves with curiosity. They were giving me the third degree, “Are you putting us on a diet?” and I need a diversion. I was not ready to spill the beans yet, who only knew the harangue in store for me. In order to redirect them and prove that life after Whole 30 could still be exciting, I googled Paleo desserts (I know, I know). They were impressed.
With all this information in a short amount of time, they were suspicious and continued to ask if I was putting them on a diet. I finally confessed that we were all going on a diet, reiterating all that we’d talked about before and watched – we wanted to start making better choices about our foods and the thirty days would help us do that. I promised we would prepare a Paleo dessert after it was over and to sweeten the deal even more we threw in $30 a piece if they could stick to the rules. They heartily agreed to the proposition and we set the day after our middle son’s birthday party as the start date, January 13, 2014.
I straightaway commenced to rid our pantry, fridge and freezer of all non Whole 30 foods. I did not anticipate having to get rid of much, because although we ate processed foods, we ate a lot better than most people. But, according to our new dietary rules, I actually had bags of food to give away! After a trip to the grocery store, about the only thing that went back on our shelves were spices, everything else went into the fridge. What a huge shift this was for me! I was actually stricken with terror and anxiety at the thought of having perishable items that I had to prepare and hope everyone liked. I’d spent so much money that week, there was so much pressure. I put off dealing with it, yet I knew the food was not going to cook itself. I forced myself into the kitchen. I needed guidance! What had I gotten myself into, I thought. I purchased the electronic version of Well Fed and with the brilliant idea of a cook up, felt my strength and resolve return. I did it! I roasted beets, rutabagas, turnips, and butternut squash. I prepared salads and seasoned our food in new ways.
And the day finally came, the first Whole 30 meal. The test…at last, what would happen? Sadly, the kids still grumbled and complained. Well, at least my husband and I really enjoyed the new food. The fourth day – that day I believe I’ll always remember. On the morning of the fourth day I called the kids to breakfast and ran for cover in the other room. They gathered around the table and ate. What was that? No griping, no moaning, no grumbling or complaining? I crept to the door, opened it slowly and peeked out. Had they died? No, they were sitting at the table laughing, talking and seeming to enjoy their breakfast! From the fourth day on, I heard what I thought I’d never hear and what was music to my ears, “This is SO good, mom!” Our picky eater who had to have ketchup on EVERYTHING was eating beets, butternut squash, and rutabagas and was adjusting to not being able to douse everything in his favorite condiment. Our oldest son, whose “favorite foods” changed like the direction of the wind, was very happy with the new menu. There was harmony at last at the table which set a positive tone for the whole day!
Each day we read a portion from It Starts with Food, as well as the articles about, peanuts, beans and milk provided on the web site. So, by the end of our thirty days they were steeped in the reasoning and science behind their new diet.
Around week three, there was some trouble brewing, but this time it was from my husband. He was altogether bored sick of roasted veggies and chicken breast. He needed more flavor. He needed more variety. He needed beef! He was “thinking outside the bun” and it had nothing to do with eating grain-free. I put the kids on the computer and we all searched for recipes that looked tasty and would be fairly easy to make. We chose seven recipes, mostly from Well Fed and Well Fed 2 and worked as a team through a 1 and a half day cook up which yielded 105 meals ready for the week! Not only did we have three delicious meals for every day, my kids took their first steps in learning valuable cooking skills. We have continued our weekly cook up, perfecting as we go with the goal to get it all done in a day. Although the kids are adding to their responsibilities each week, I still find myself helping them with simple tasks. I look forward to the day when everyone knows their job and we are working together like the proverbial well oiled machine.
Our Whole 30 ended February 11, 2014 and it provided our family with the information and encouragement that we needed to really be health conscious individuals. Our kids now willingly turn away candy. They read the labels and investigate ingredients. Our oldest son could be a Whole 30 evangelist, he tells everyone about Whole 30 and Food, Inc. We know someone’s in for a lengthy and probably uncomfortable discussion about their food choices when we hear, “There is a documentary, called Food Inc. that you really need to see! It will CHANGE the way you think about food.” People are quite impressed with the resolve our kids have for eating Whole 30 compliant (we’ve veered very little post Whole 30). Our autistic son’s anger outbursts have decreased significantly, he no longer hits himself in the head, and he says that he is less depressed and agrees that the change in his diet has significantly changed him. Our middle son now eats all kinds of foods! The number of foods he refuses to eat has markedly decreased. We saw another change in him. Before, we did not realized just how little he hugged or that when we tried to hug him, he’d arch away, fall on the floor, or just run. We thought this was his age or personality. I know now that it is a manifestation of his sensory processing disorder. He now gives us tight, long hugs! Our daughter no longer complains of stomach pain and seems less hypochondriacal. My husband and I feel great; he lost 6.8 lbs. and I lost 2 lbs. during our Whole 30, and the pounds continue to come off. We love our new bodies, but the most significant outcome is the harmony and peacefulness in our home. I never would have thought that it would start with food!