When I think of the usual bun fight in Anglican church basements or the refreshments served at both Evangelical and Catholic churches, I see recipes for diabetes, obesity, any number of auto-immune diseases and all around unhealthful bounty.
Several years ago, I found out I have Celiac disease, a connective tissue disorder and auto-immune reaction to wheat. A couple of others in our small parish are also gluten sensitive, so there’s often a special table with gluten-free goodies for us, separate from the delectable-looking egg salad sandwiches and baby croissants with sliced ham.
As I get older and start to show various signs of aging, arthritis here, stiffness there, occasional trouble going down stairs too fast I have become more and more interested in finding out what I can do to restore my health or at least protect what mobility that remains.
My doctor has been telling me for some time now that people who give up wheat but eat a lot of gluten-free products (often loaded with carbohydrates) and grains in general do not do as well as those who eliminate grains.
So last fall I tried the Whole30 Challenge. You can find out more about it here.
We eat real food – meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, healthy oils, nuts and seeds. We choose foods that were raised, fed and grown naturally, and foods that are nutrient-dense, with lots of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.
This is not a “diet” – we eat as much as we need to maintain strength, energy, activity levels and a healthy body weight. We aim for well-balanced nutrition, so we eat animals and a significant amount of plants.
Eating like this has helped us to look, feel, live and perform our best, and reduces our risk for a variety of lifestyle-related diseases and conditions.
For 30 days you eliminate the following from your diet: all sweeteners and sugar, artificial and natural such as honey and maple syrup; all dairy (though clarified butter is allowed); all legumes; and all grains. Oh yeah, alcohol, too. This includes no condiments that have sugar in them, even Hellman’s Mayonnaise, which doesn’t even taste sweet. You can have fruit but it’s not a good idea to overdo it.
If the prospect looks daunting, could you try eliminating these things for seven days? For four?
I did a strict Whole30 in the Fall, after Canadian Thanksgiving and it is an eye-opening experience. The first few days I felt highly irritable and a little punkish as I went through withdrawal from sugar and starches. But after less than a week, most of my aches and pains vanished, I found I had more energy—was just bounding up the stairs on Parliament Hill instead of waiting for an elevator. And bounding down the stairs forgetting that sometimes the tendons around me knees are sore and I had to go down one step at a time. Also, I effortlessly lost ten pounds while eating lots of meat, fatty spare ribs, handfuls of nuts and never counting calories or feeling deprived. Once you get your blood sugar under control all cravings disappear and I became acquainted with what genuine hunger feels like as opposed to addictive compulsions for foods.
We went to the States for American Thanksgiving and I enjoyed eating Turkey, the gluten-free stuffing I brought down and other goodies and generally “cheated” through Christmas though with a greater awareness of how much better I felt with no grains, etc.
I tried to get back on the Whole30 in January, but continued to cheat at events where wine and cheese are served and on Sundays at Church. But I’ve resolved to do the Whole30 Challenge for Lent because the penitential season gives me the added motivation to be strict.
This time I am also doing it without meat, except on Sundays.
What I noticed when I would have a big serving of rice or overloaded on some other carb is that not the next day, but the day after, the pain would be back in my knees, I would have more muscle stiffness and so on. Getting back on this week was easier because I had not been going overboard prior to Ash Wednesday (except Monday night when I had my Lundi Gras and drank some wine, finished off the cheese and thawed some cookies because I felt sorry for myself that Pope Benedict had renounced his office) and now I’m on day three and feel that great energy that make me dart around the house.
What I love about this way of eating is that it has helped me to gain much greater mastery over my love of food. I have never been able to be successful at portion control for foods that set up an addictive reaction. Yeah, I may be able to for a while, but I always feel deprived, hunger cravings remain keeping me hyper focused on food. On the Whole30 I am able to forget about food, eat when I’m hungry and it doesn’t have to be fancy or entertaining.
Except I have discovered when I have the discipline of this program I have made some delicious things to eat. I made fishcakes for Ash Wednesday that were too good I almost felt guilty eating them, especially when they were warm and crispy. And I just made a vegetable soup that is so good I keep ladling myself another bowl. I’ll put the recipes below the fold. But why am I putting this on Foolishness to the World?
Well, I think many, many people could benefit from trying this challenge. The diet eliminates many of the things that cause inflammation in the body, inflammation that can lead to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other problems. You don’t stay on it forever, you stay on to discover what wellness feels like and then you try back some of the foods and find out how they affect you. Trial and error. You see the cause and effect of too much rice, or too much chocolate or wine and weigh whether it’s worth the stiffness, the pain, the eventual hip replacement or whatever. I’m learning to be a better steward of this body of mine and the Whole30 has also given me a chance to experience what self-control feels like when it comes to eating.
A can of wild salmon
one cup of almond flour (I bought the unbleached stuff at a Bulk Barn, but you could make your own nut flour of another type –pecans or walnuts or almonds—in the food processor)
chopped onion and chopped parsley
I mixed all these together, made them into patties and fried them up in coconut oil. You could also use leftover fish from the night before. I have some cold haddock I’ll make into fish cakes shortly.
The vegetable coconut soup
I boiled up about eight-ten carrots with a few kale leaves (minus the stems), a couple of celery stalks, chopped onion and garlic and several pieces of fresh ginger. When the vegetables were soft, I put them in the food processor and blended them and returned them to the saucepan where there was some remaining broth. Then I added about two or three cups of coconut milk—I use Aroy-D which comes in a 500 ml cartoon and has no preservatives. It is wonderful. And coconut oil and milk is very good for you. I used the whole 500 ml. cartoon in the soup.
Man oh man is it ever good! Add a little salt to taste.
You could vary this with spices of various kinds, cumin, etc.