Last week's series of events ended up being a driving force behind compromising my Whole30 challenge. Fortunately, I didn't use life as an excuse to completely disregard my health and nutrition, but instead fell halfway between strict obedience and complete abandon. And now, with two days left of the Whole30 program to go, I am officially declaring the experiment to be over.
In the last week or so, I have at some point eaten everything on the list of foods to avoid for Whole30... with the exception of alcohol. I haven't had a drop. I have, however, eaten gluten and legumes and dairy and sugar. For example, when I had a serving of macaroni and cheese or a slice of pizza, I was consuming both bread and dairy products. Neither of them had an adverse effect on me. I also ate some peanut butter, and it too left no ill effects behind. I had one soda, two days ago (and while I thought I'd enjoy it, it was really disappointing in flavor, so I'll continue to have those sparingly). I've even eaten some sweets, like cookies or Nutella and been fine.
However, on Thursday night I ate a brownie at the beau's work event. I selected the smallest brownie on the plate. It was likely made from a mix, and it was dusted lightly with confectioner's sugar. I left the rest of the sweets table alone and was proud that I indulged in my sweet tooth without overdoing it. Twenty minutes later, my stomach was bloated and sore, and the tremendous pressure made it impossible to sit comfortably.
Yesterday, I made my mom a key lime pie from scratch for Mothers' Day. We shared a slice and it was amazing! It's one of my favorite desserts, and it was a labor of love that was totally worth it! But then I went to my grandmother's house and had a brownie there, and later that night had a small piece of peach-apple pie at the beau's house. My stomach went right back to hating me and I was miserable.
The common thread in all of these incidents? Refined sugar.
I know the stuff is not good for me (or for anyone!) and clearly too much of it quite literally makes me sick. This shouldn't be a shocker to anyone, but aside from desserts it is prevalent in a lot of other foods... including condiments, meats, breads, beverages (including milks), yogurts, "healthy" cereals... you name it, there's sugar in it, for many of the brands. And it is so time-consuming and maddening to stand in the grocery store and read label after label to find which foods do not contain added sugar or sweeteners. I've already spent years doing this and thinning out most of the common brands that are guilty of adding all this sugar, but clearly my sweet tooth encourages me to eat more than my body can handle.
I'm terrified that my body's reaction to too much sugar is a warning sign of health issues to come. I have had regular check-ups and recent blood tests, and I'm perfectly medically healthy with no signs of pre-diabetes. I even lost enough weight on Whole30 to take my BMI into the "normal" range for the first time since my knee injury. That's incredible! But now that I've taken some time away from sugar, I can more clearly receive my body's signals when it tells me exactly what makes me so bloated, gassy, and lethargic.
So many people suffer form the same ailments. For years I was told it was hereditary. I've been encouraged to take over-the-counter pills to counteract the symptoms, but all they'd ever do is cover up the problem. I want to fix the problem! And that means I need to get my sweet tooth under control. No offense to anyone with Type II Diabetes, but I don't want it. I don't want to get to the point where I am required to medically monitor my intake, lest I lose limbs or even die from it. My system has made it very clear that I ingest too much refined sugar, and I'm going to listen to it.
Would I do Whole30 again? Absolutely. In fact, I'll likely adopt much of what I've learned into my lifestyle for good. My sweet tooth was appeased during Whole30 by eating an orange or a handful of grapes. I even occasionally nibbled on a square of very dark chocolate (85% cacao or higher) to satisfy my craving. And it worked! And I'll still have the occasional cookie or bite of cake on special occasions, but it's more obvious than ever that the best foods to eat are those with one ingredient, or meals I make from scratch so I can monitor every ingredient it contains.
So I don't have a gluten or lactose intolerance, and I don't have any nut allergies. I still don't know what caused that allergic reaction in the first week, but I've been told by several people that my body may have just overreacted to the reintroduction of foods I hadn't been eating. I have not had any allergic reactions since then. Instead, it turns out, my body just revolts against too much refined and fake sugar, and prefers whole foods that are lightly or naturally sweetened. My findings are nothing groundbreaking, and nothing I didn't already know... But now it's imperative that I earnestly apply it to my lifestyle, unless I want my gut to live in misery.