Today’s Whole30 check-in topic comes from a reader’s post. Heather wrote:
“I am currently in the testing part of Whole30 (completed 30 days, and am now reinserting certain foods back in to see how they affect me). One thing I gave up during the Whole30 was my morning organic, sugar-free yogurt with salt-free almonds and sugar free granola. I am now eating Paleo except for this breakfast so I can test the way I feel and my performance during WODs.
I had my first one yesterday and another one today. Physically, I feel good, and I performed well and felt good during yesterday’s WOD… so I would like to know when I can declare my yogurt breakfast okay?”
Heather brings up an important question. You’ve followed the Whole30, and you’re reintroducing foods in a smart, scientific manner, one food group at a time. (Heather skipped the “one food group at a time” part of the reintroduction guidelines – but that’s not the point.) Pretend you’ve chosen dairy as your first test food group. You eat a small bowl of all-natural ice cream two days in a row, and feel no side effects. Your stomach isn’t puffy, you still feel good and you PR’d your deadlift an hour after your second bowl. The dairy hasn’t appeared to impact how you look, feel or perform… so why can’t you just start working a Paleo + Ice Cream diet? Warning: I’m about to burst your Breyer’s bubble.
First, and most importantly, because some foods are sneaky. Say you’re practicing temperance while “off-roading” (limiting consumption to once every week or two, and eating “bad” foods in moderate quantities). After eating those foods, you may not notice an immediate reaction in any of your body’s systems. However, your body is still experiencing some, if not all, of the negative internal effects associated with those foods, such as inflammation, gut irritation, and insulin spikes.
Dallas explains, “”Even infrequent consumption of foods (or food products) that contribute to elevated levels of insulin, cortisol, or the pro-inflammatory eicosanoids will set you up for inflammation-driven disease processes. Most of us already know the effect that chronic consumption of processed carbohydrates has on the development of Type II Diabetes, but this is only one example of how a previously asymptomatic (“silent”) inflammatory process can manifest itself as overt disease. Unfortunately, just eating a bagel and a yogurt for breakfast once a week is enough to trigger grain- and dairy-related inflammation, causing an uptick in all the inflammatory processes in your body for days or even weeks afterward. You might not be able to feel a bagel and yogurt invading your system, but you cannot avoid the pro-inflammatory effects of those foods.”
So Heather’s multi-cheat meal of dairy, grains AND artificial sweeteners (strike one) are each silently attacking her bodily systems from all angles… without her awareness. Sneaky, sneaky, in a very disconcerting manner, right? It gets worse. See, on top of the sneaky factor, the effects of these incidents are cumulative, especially if your “cheats” occur on a frequent basis. (Strike two for Heather’s breakfast routine.) Even if you’re not noticing the negative effects of your dietary transgressions now, there’s a good chance you’ll start feeling the effects after a two or three weeks of regular “cheat food” intake. That old knee or shoulder pain may start acting up again, your skin doesn’t look as clear, your digestive tract is less than happy, and your energy levels aren’t as consistent as they used to be. At that point, however, it’s too late to put an immediate halt to the negative effects – your body is already hurt, and in distress mode. The fix? Spend another 30-60 days going cold turkey Whole30 to reverse the effects – reduce the inflammation, allow your digestive tract to heal, restore insulin sensitivity. Essentially, start over.
Finally, a potential strike three for Heather’s breakfast: Nutritional off-roading on a regular basis, especially if incorporating multiple “cheat” food groups, may begin to trigger those old thought processes and behaviors that led you to crave sugars or sweets, over-eat, under-eat or artificially prop up your energy levels with carbs and caffeine. Remember, a primary goal of the Whole30 is to break old habits and overcome mental hurdles as related to food, eating and satisfaction. Now that you’ve graduated, don’t get too lax in your habits – those old thoughts and patterns are persistent, and may be just as sneaky in their invasion as the cheat foods you’re eating.
In summary, if Heather is digging her breakfast, I am all for her partaking of that particular combination once in a while. But making that a daily occurrence is a bad idea, for all of the above reasons. The good news is that there is nothing in that meal – no nutrients, vitamins, minerals or energy sources – that she can’t get from eating other, better, healthier foods. So put that meal on your F-Off list, Heather, but for the sake of your health and performance, base the majority of your breakfasts on quality food choices.
My recommendation to all of you is to follow these Cheat Smart guidelines when coming off the Whole30, and go “off-road” only when you need to, to satisfy those mental cravings and quality of life requirements. Dallas wraps it up nicely, saying, “Don’t be fooled if you don’t have immediate, obvious symptoms when you reintroduce one or more of these ‘non-Paleo’ foods after completing the Whole30. Minimizing the intake of inflammatory food groups like grains, dairy, and legumes is always the smartest and safest way to maximize your performance and minimize the risk of chronic disease.”
Post thoughts, observations, and recent cheat experiences to comments.