Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Whole30/Paleo Challenge Mid-Point Update

Hey, everyone! I thought I'd do a Whole30 mid-point update so my readers can check in with me. So, how am I doing? Still good and even better. I'm really taking to eating this way.

I would say that it's totally worth it to give something like this a try. Often, the little things really add up in ways we don't see (or choose to ignore) and if you aren't quite where you want to be, health-wise, you owe it to yourself to experiment, even if that means a little (perceived) deprivation. Is that nightly glass of wine doing you any favors? Maybe, maybe not. Is that cheese making your weight loss progress plateau? Why don't you cut it and find out?

When I started Whole30, I was not looking forward to dropping butter, grass-fed cream and cheese from my diet, but I also wanted to see what would happen if I did. I also wasn't looking forward to not having any alcohol, even though I only infrequently drink. But, of course, the minute you can't have something, you want it, right?

So, the first week was the hardest, but truly not that hard. I've been able to be very compliant (but maybe that's the oldest child part of me not wanting to let my readers down;-)
I had fatigue and some sugar cravings, but the cravings have subsided and I have more energy now, although my energy issues run deeper than most people's as mine are thyroid and adrenal related and I still have more work to do in those areas. They are a 'work in progress', so to speak.

Cutting out dairy has been a big deal. When I first went Primal a year and a half ago, I immediately felt better and lost some weight. Recently, due to some thyroid issues coinciding with the holidays, I gained a few pounds and they wanted to hang out and not go away. Not cool!! What a relief to find that cutting the dairy also ended the plateau. I've done some reading and it seems I'm not the only one: Mark's Daily Apple had a recent article on the insulin secreting properties of dairy. In other words, for many people, the cheese CAN make or break your otherwise low carb diet and halt the weight from coming off.

So, cutting dairy has resulted in my pants fitting nicely again. When my experiment is over, I will add butter/ghee back in and some cream, though maybe not as much as I used to eat (these don't trigger an insulin release like milk/cheese/yogurt do) but I think I will leave the cheese out, for the most part.
The other reason I wanted to cut dairy was to see if my autoimmune issues would improve. So far, I can't tell a big difference like I could when I cut gluten out of my diet.

Reducing my intake of fruit and sugars/starches hasn't been a big deal- this is how I used to eat for a long time on Primal, but then all the starchy veggies of autumn came into season and I perfected my sweet potato fries and... you get the picture!
Right now, I'm more than satisfied with a half cup of blueberries, a spoonful of hazelnut meal, some coconut flakes all topped with thick coconut milk, cinnamon and sea salt. Super yum (and no blood sugar spikes/crashes or carb comas!)

I still need to up my workout frequency. I've been great about walking on a nearly daily basis (even when Nashville was snowbound, I was out there walking every day!), but I want to do more strength training. I want arms like Cameron Diaz!
I'm getting to bed later than I ought to (naughty me!!) I swear, getting to bed is my Achilles heel. I KNOW better! I'm positive that my energy and hormone balance would improve a whole lot if I did go to sleep earlier, before the nightly cortisol spike kicks in.

Here a some extras I've been doing to 'pimp' my program:
-fresh lemon in water in the AM- great for the liver.
-dry brushing before showers- great for healing the skin, releasing more toxins through the pores and stimulating collagen.
-ending showers with a few minutes of cold water- increases circulation and strengthens the vascular system, strengthens the immune system and boosts the metabolism. Not fun while you do it, but you feel like a million bucks afterward!


Since this program seems to be working out well for me overall, I've decided that I'm going to extend Whole30 for a few extra weeks to give my body extra time to heal. I think I'm finding that for me, a little less wiggle room is a good thing. I will never be one of the Paleo ascetics but I realize that I need a shorter leash when it comes to diet than some people do. If I didn't have an autoimmune condition, that would not be the case, but I have to work within reality. It's strangely freeing in a way, not having to seesaw about food choices.

I hope everyone else who has chosen to do a January Paleo challenge, Whole30 or even just a gluten-free challenge is learning a lot and reaping the rewards. And for those of you who are just contemplating doing this kind of thing, I hope it encourages you to take up the challenge!

I'd love to hear from some of you about your own goals!



  1. Interesting! I always think cheese is undermining me and perhaps, it is!
    Keep up the good work and keep us posted Erin

  2. Thanks, Deb! I know I'll be out in LA eventually and when I am, we need to hang out!

    I can't believe I'm not missing cheese more- I loooove me some goat chevre and manchego! A friend of mine was telling me that she recently hung out with Nora Gedgaudas (Primal Body, Primal Mind) and Nora recently cut dairy due to suspected inflammation and she quickly dropped 15 lbs!

  3. I'm really impressed by your success - I lasted a grand total of 9 days before giving in to cheese and sweet peppers. I did notice that in that time my skin got loads better, so maybe I do have a dairy issue going on. I just love cheese too much..maybe I'll try and reduce the amount I have long term. Did you try and cut nightshades too?

  4. Hi Deborah!
    No, I didn't cut nightshades. I've done it before and not noticed any difference. I don't eat peppers or eggplant much but I do like tomatoes and spinach. If I had joint pain issues, I would cut nightshades, since they are a trigger for those kinds of issues in particular, but thankfully, joint pain is not an issue for me.

    The dairy thing hasn't been easy, but I can usually stick with something if I'm accountable to someone- in this case, my blog readers;) Doing it for autoimmune reasons also gives me extra incentive.
    Eating extra coconut milk and avocado has helped, although last night, when I had a taco salad for dinner, I reeeeally wanted some sour cream on it!

    If cutting dairy is just too impossible for you, try sticking to only the low-casein types like butter, cream and real sour cream (Wallaby Organics makes one that is just cream and cultures- no milk pwd. or thickeners and it's spectacularly good!)
    Try this for awhile and see if it helps- then try using a little goat or sheep cheese. Sometimes people are reacting specifically to the A1-beta casein in cow's milk.

    Be kind to yourself- if you do feel the need to cheat, do it mindfully and consciously and remind yourself that one tiny bump in the road isn't enough to derail you. Cheat with purpose and not just out of desperation. That way, you're less likely to succumb to the all or nothing cop-out mindset. I always remind myself that even if I'm not perfect, I'm doing so much better than I was before I started:)
    Good luck!

  5. Congrats on your success! Dairy products slows my weight loss down too. So far I haven't been very successful at cutting them out for a long period of time. Reading your blog has inspired me to try harder! Thanks :)

    ps. I really like the look of your blog!

  6. Thanks for the compliment!
    It's hard to cut dairy unless you have a concrete reason to do so (for me, it was to see if it would improve my autoimmune condition). Dairy can be really addictive (as in literally- it can create opioids in the brain!)

    I'll be happy when I can add butter and ghee back in but I'm leaving the cheese out!

  7. Hi, Erin, I saw you had a blog and thought I'd give it a look. I had severe seasonal allergies, was on a load of meds for them. For me it manifested in inflammed sinuses, sinus headaches (which I'd suffered with most of my life) and lots of sinus infections. Through lots of research on the net, finding WAPF I heard about the milk powders that were added to a lot of dairy products. I'd been low fat dieting for years and practically living off that stuff. To make matters worse, I was using all kinds of protein supplements at the gym. I cut out all that stuff and my allergies got so much better and am on zero meds for allergies now. I rarely have sinus headaches. I eat a ton of dairy, but I'm very picky about it. I pretty much only drink milk from grassfed cows from a small dairy, it's minimally processed and they don't add any kind of milk powders or thickeners. My butter is grassfed and the sour cream I buy has no additives. (Kalona organics). I would highly suggest that before people throw the dairy baby out with the bathwater they just try to up the quality of the dairy they use to see if that helps with their inflammation.

    I've also found that if I avoid fruit during the worst of allergy season, I do much better. I love my coconut products but too much of it makes me wheezy.

  8. Hi Jenny!
    I hope it doesn't look like I'm telling people to completely ditch the dairy- I totally agree with you about the dairy quality thing and I'm actually quite pro pasture-fed dairy! I was already eating high quality dairy, so I wanted to try tweaking things a bit, just to see what would happen.

    For many people, casein intolerance (either total or to just Beta A-1 casein) can exacerbate autoimmune issues, so it's worth a trial run to eliminate it to see if it makes a difference. Hashimoto's patients often have casein intolerance that accompanies their gluten intolerance and I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing an important piece of my own healing.

    Anyway, I can't really tell a huge difference in my health from eliminating the dairy this month, but I can tell a difference in the level of inflammation in my skin and in my body composition and I strongly suspect that the insulinogenic effects of cheese were the culprit;-)
    Milk products (not the low/no casein products like cream/butter/ghee, which are basically fat) have been shown to cause insulin spikes and a lot of people report weight gain or plateaus when consuming them.

    I don't think this means dairy is bad- I just think it demonstrates the "building" power of milk. It's a very healing, dense food, meant to help a baby get as much nutrition as possible and insulin shuttles nutrients into the cells (including fat).

    I'll definitely be adding butter and cream back into my diet and possibly experimenting with a little cultured dairy after awhile. I love raw goat's milk. It makes me feel good I can tell it's very healing, but I do seem to start gaining weight when I consume it on a regular basis.

  9. Hi Erin! It's awesome you're trying this! I've started eating Paleo in summer last year, and I've so much improved health-wise! I can especially relate to what you wrote about dairy and insulin, since dairy tends to give me extreme blood sugar pangs. I've dropped it also except butter and ghee (clarified butter) which I love for cooking.

  10. Hi Kath! Whole30 was great to break me out of a rut and fine-tune my diet. I'm actually not missing cheese (but it sure is nice to eat butter again and I've had a little cream, but not nearly as much as I used to eat!)

    I think I may have a bit of mild casein sensitivity (often present in people w/ gluten intolerance and Hashimoto's) so I suspect that beyond just the insulinogenic factor, inflammatory influences might also play into the weight gain/dairy thing. Not everyone is sensitive (but then again, I'm not everyone;-)

    It's nice being able to fit into my jeans again;-)

  11. Hi there- I was wondering if we could perhaps correspond by email regarding hashis? I have hashimoto's too and I am wanting to pursue this avenue re the th1 and th2 dominance in the immune system. I'd love to hear how you're doing with it. I found out about my hashi's about 2 years ago and I've been on t3/cytomel only- I take between 87.5-100 mcg a day- it has made me sooo much better than before- but when I cut gluten out about 6 months ago I noticed my energy levels were much more consistently good. I have a feeling the dairy isn't doing me much good- my hashi's is pretty severe- anyway- I'd love to chat with you if at all possible- my email is overallgirl at gmail dot com- thanks!

  12. Hi Overallgirl! I'd be happy to chat with you. I'll send you an email from Pretty in Primal's gmail addy.