Burgers. Crinkle cut fries. Milkshakes. Those are my weaknesses. So a couple of months ago when Shake Shack opened a few blocks away from my NYC apartment I knew I was in trouble. As a single New Yorker, I pretty much live on all kinds of takeout. My pull towards Shake Shack is next level. I even had to FaceTime my mom as an intervention to stay away from it.
It’s not that I don’t like cooking, I just have little patience for New York City’s hour-long waiting lines at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I like things fast and easy. But my version of fast and easy was making me bloated, gain weight, super sluggish, and likely contributing to low mood swings. So when I found out sports nutritionist and now leader of the WHOLE30 empire, Melissa Hartwig, was coming out with The Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook, I figured I should give it a try. She also created a companion journal, The Whole30 Day by Day, so you can track your progress and get guidance, encouragement and additional resources along the way. The extra challenge was to see what it would be like spending at least one holiday on the Whole30.
I’m on Day 18 of the Whole30 plan (which Hartwig likes to remind us isn’t a diet, but a food “reset”). The idea of the Whole30 is simple. You eat whole foods for 30 days and eliminate all forms of added sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes (like beans and peanuts), dairy, and other ingredients you can’t pronounce. Believe it or not, being on the “reset” during Thanksgiving wasn’t too rough. Yes, it was hard not eating my mother’s candied yams, stuffing, and cranberry sauce with sugar and liqueur but I made up for it by taking in the scent of her pies and indulging in a few comparable recipes suggested by popular Whole30 bloggers (like green beans with caramelized leeks and mushrooms). The Saturday after Thanksgiving we host a “family” day for the New Orleans wing of our tree. Mom made gumbo that got insane raves. (That hurt.) She made mine Whole30 compliant by subbing regular flour for arrowroot. My meat was chorizo instead of the regular cured meats with sugar. (This did not hurt me. IT WAS DELICIOUS.)
If I hadn’t been such a Whole30 novice, I would’ve realized that one of the suggestions is NOT to try this plan during the holidays! The original cookbook warns against it because of the stress that comes with the season, which makes it harder for you to focus on the plan. It can also be challenging to stay dedicated when you are missing out on family traditions centered around food. Thankfully, starting the Whole30 just before Thanksgiving did just the opposite for me. It helped me bond with my parents.
But before you get too excited, understand that Fast & Easy doesn’t mean you’ll blink your eyes like a genie and a wholesome, healthy meal will suddenly appear. A lot of time goes into shopping and prepping. Once you do all of the shopping and prep your ingredients, mise-en-place (all in place), the recipes are all mostly done in about 30 – 35 minutes. (There are exceptions in the book that require a few hours of slow cooking. We’ll save those for the less-busy, non-holiday season.)
I’ve now made meals from delicious Asian Pork and Carrot-Noodle Bowls to Seared Salmon Fillets with Ginger-Caramelized Pineapple (fave meal so far). This cookbook is giving me confidence and a plan. While at home, my parents pitched in and ate everything I made! Back in New York, I braved the Trader Joe’s line knowing the result on the other end would be food that’s making me feel good!
Here are a few things I’ve learned since committing to the Whole30 Reset:
- This plan is doable. It’s not going to kill me. It’s not hard.
- I’m saving money. One trip to Trader Joe’s cost just over $25 for four days of meals and counting. One NYC take-out delivery generally costs me that amount!
- I feel more structured. The Day-by-Day guide helps keep me accountable and serves as a pseudo-replacement therapist when I need it.
- I might be able to live without consuming so much sugar. I don’t miss soda or other sugary drinks. But I will be drinking a glass of wine or two when I complete this.
- I have more energy.
- I’ve lost weight. (Nope. You aren’t supposed to weigh yourself on the Whole30, but in the interest of public health (sarcasm), I don’t mind sharing that I’ve lost over 14 pounds so far– and my vintage Levi’s are fitting me again! I swear I won’t peek next time around.)
- As Hartwig likes to say, “no slip-ups allowed” but there is also “no perfect Whole30.” I had to remember this advice on two of my roughest days. One was on Day 6 when I realized I’d eaten non-compliant bacon (didn’t know it had sugar), the other was on Day 14 when I learned some crystal-ginger tea I’d consumed for an upset stomach contained sugar.
- I really miss McConnell’s Ice Cream (chocolate strawberry to be exact).
- I’m kind of over Shake Shack.
Day 30, I’m coming for you! Hartwig calls this “Tiger Blood” mode. I call it “Diana Ross singing in rainy Central Park” mode. You’ve got to get it done! To check out the rest of my Whole30 Fast & Easy journey, follow me on Instagram @kafidrexel. To start your own journey, make sure to pick up Hartwig’s latest installments!
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