Whole 30: Day 1

In the two years since I last posted on this page, a lot has changed. I married Laura and Marisa was born. I haven’t missed writing on this site. Too much real life happening…all the time.

The decision to jump back on the blog has nothing to do with ideas about politics or policy. After I recently decided to try the Whole 30 Program, I searched the internet for insight. I wasn’t able to find much commentary from thirty-something men. So I decided to publicly journal this experiment: partially as an accountability mechanism and partially as a resource for other similarly situated men who are researching the program.

Why Did I Decide to Try Whole 30?

After several consecutive years of weight gain, I lost fifty pounds between October 7, 2012 and April 7, 2015 (my 29th birthday). My weight loss plateaued at my “senior year of high school” weight in late 2015. I have more or less maintained the same weight for three years. My weight loss/maintenance plans have mostly revolved around intense exercise and slight improvements to a poor diet.

 

I came to realize what I should have known all along: weight is not necessarily a proxy for health. My blood pressure and pulse are “normal,” but I have recently been truly feeling the effects of too many years of too much enriched white flour (think Alamo Cafe tortillas), refined sugar, and processed foods. Losing weight is great, but I really just want to feel better.

There is a strong urge upon becoming a parent to live a healthier lifestyle. My entire concept of time has accelerated rapidly since Marisa’s birth last September. I used to think I had all of the time in the world. Now I know better.

Several friends and family members have successfully completed the Whole 30 Program, where weight loss is not the primary goal. Programs known for their…intensity…have suited me well in the past. For the first time ever, I am trying a dietary regimen not to weigh less but to feel better. Laura is doing it too (as we always say to each other: “you jump, I jump”).

Whole 30

The program rules (which include not weighing yourself and avoiding tobacco) are pretty straightforward:

Foods allowed on Whole 30

Whole 30 Shopping & Preparation

We spent the last four pre-Whole 30 days on what could only be appropriately described as a binge that included foods I never particularly crave like Bill Miller fried chicken and foods I absolutely love like Pizza Classics. I particularly enjoyed ceviche and Dos XX at El Bucanero on Blanco Road.

We spent several hours reading and discussing The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig and shopped at H-E-B Lincoln Heights and Whole Foods in The Quarry Market on Sunday. Our shopping carts were quickly filled with fresh produce and fish. It was striking that our final grocery tab was actually lower than usual.

Laura is an excellent cook and my skills are woefully underdeveloped, so we spent Sunday evening going over the basic cooking concepts that I wish I had known since college. She prepared ceviche and I mostly chopped vegetables.

Day 1

Observations

The decision to eat a large breakfast- which is not my normal routine- turned out to be wise. My days usually consist of one or multiple meetings at restaurants. On Day 1, I had a breakfast meeting at El Mirador on South St. Mary’s and a lunch meeting at Burgerteca at Big Tex. By eating immediately before these meetings, I was able to drink coffee while my colleagues ate without any real discomfort. During workdays crammed with back-to-back meetings, foods I can eat quickly like bars and fruit are valuable.

I did not experience my usual midday crash and bloating. I felt more focused than usual and did not sweat as much. My workspace was more organized than usual and I drank less coffee and more water.

There is a Whole 30 Timeline telling me that what I am experiencing is totally normal (with an ominous caveat):

Right now you can’t see why anyone thinks this is hard…Take note of that Rock Star feeling, stash it away and bring it back out when days get rough. Because rest assured that after a lifetime of suboptimal choices, things are going to have to get worse before they can get better.

Falling asleep was difficult because I was starving, but I slept well.  On Day 2, I woke up before my 5:00 alarm and was able to step on the treadmill at the YMCA by 5:30. I am training for a half marathon in October, and am concerned that this program will affect my running.

Meals

  • 2 scrambled eggs with red peppers and onions + 10 grapes (6:30)
  • Gala apple (10:00)
  • 4 oz. ceviche (12:00)
  • Larabar Cherry Pie (2:00)
  • 2 oz. ceviche (5:00)
  • 7 almonds (6:00)
  • Two stuffed peppers + an orange (6:30)
  • Celery sticks with almond butter (8:00)

 

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The Power of Habit

I came across this fascinating article about how Target uses our shopping habits to determine which customers are pregnant. Stores like Target want to attract pregnant customers because they are the Holy Grail. If a woman shops at Target for her diapers, she will buy groceries there too. New parents want convenience above all else. I was struck by the accuracy of the algorithm that the featured statistician used. Target was able to identify that a 15-year-old girl was pregnant before her parents even knew. The fine line companies must walk in this big data era is how to leverage the knowledge gained by the data without creeping people out.

After a couple clicks of the mouse, I was able to determine that the author of the article, Charles Duhigg, had written a book on habits both from a micro level (a person smoking cigarettes) and a macro level (institutional dysfunction). I’ve been a disciple of the Tony Robbins concept that “we are our rituals,” so I was naturally intrigued when I saw this video:

I bought The Power of Habit that afternoon and read it that night. I would highly recommend it to anyone because while not everyone has as many bad habits as I do, everyone does have at least one bad habit.

There are anecdotes that I found particularly fascinating. The first dealt with weight loss (a micro-level habit). The second dealt with the safety record at Alcoa (a macro-level habit).

The weight loss story involved a research experiment involving two groups of obese subjects. The control group made no changes to their habits. The other group exercised routinely. The pattern that emerged is fascinating. Those who exercised not only lost more weight, but they consumed fewer calories and smoked less (if they smoked at all). This introduces the concept of fundamental habits.

The story of the Alcoa turnaround was even more fascinating. The LA Times book review does it better justice than I ever could:

When Paul O’Neill took over the floundering Aluminum Co. of America in October 1987, he shocked attendees at an introductory news conference by proclaiming that his focus would not be on expanding sales or improving profitability. Rather, he said, his emphasis would be on improving employee safety. Investors at the conference thought he was crazy and rushed from the room to tell their clients to sell Alcoa stock immediately. “It was literally the worst piece of advice I gave in my entire career,” one later said.

O’Neill instituted wide-ranging programs to increase safety in what was previously a dangerous industry, empowering employees to offer suggestions and ensuring that accidents were immediately brought to the attention of executives. As the accident rate declined — ultimately to about 5% of the national average — something funny happened. Communication among employees increased, line workers offered other suggestions to improve efficiency, and the company underwent a renaissance. Within a year, Alcoa’s profits reached a record level. By the time O’Neill retired in 2000, the company’s stock was worth five times as much as when he started.

What the LA Times article failed to mention was that by the time e-mail and the web came into vogue, Alcoa already had a massive intra-corporate communications infrastructure in place (due to the safety program). The company was able to leverage the internet better.

This volume is highly entertaining and more than a little helpful. It relies on a simple premise, one that is outlined in the diagram below (courtesy of Duhigg’s website).