Thursday, July 9, 2015

What the Heck Is the Carb Flu? (Whole30: The Beginning)

Beginning the Whole30 Challenge (link to the Whole30 website) took some guts, but drastic times call for drastic measures. My eating was out of control, and absolutely mindless.

If you are getting ready to tackle any clean eating challenge or to "detox" your body, you are probably aware that there are certain symptoms that are certain to plague you. I was expecting cravings and headaches, but there was one thing I was not counting on. I had never heard of the carb flu, but I'm here to tell you, it is a very real thing.

Day 1
I survived Day One of my whole foods challenge. Prior to starting, and at the beginning, I read everything I could get my hands on about weaning my body off of caffeine, white sugar and flour, dairy, and processed foods. I knew it would be tricky, given my lifelong love affair with all things baked, but I really want to find out if the promises are true. My biggest hope is that I will be able to cure my constant cravings, and my other hopes are that my joint pain will be alleviated, and I will get my energy back. If my jeans fit better, I will be deliriously happy.

Day One is typically a day when participants are wondering what all the hoopla is about. Day One is easy; a breeze, even. 

I faced my BIGGEST TEMPTATION of the whole challenge on my first day, and I passed it with flying colors. 

Some people take the approach of enjoying all of the forbidden foods before starting a clean eating plan, and then quitting everything cold turkey. The Hartwigs, the designers of the Whole30 program warn against pigging out before starting. 

"Remember the pre Whole30 bender you went on? Pizza, cookies, Jim Beam, jelly beans (oh, the jelly beans)? Yeah. This is when it comes back to bite you in the butt. (And the head.) And it is definitely true that the amount of suck you experience in this phase is directly proportional to the amount of crap you consumed before you began the program. Especially if you consumed it consistently. This phase is especially hard for the habitual Diet Coke (and Diet Dr. Pepper here in my part of the world) drinkers. You know who you are." -Melissa Hartwig
Consuming all of the forbidden faves the day before may work for some folks, but I was leery of compounding the symptoms, so two weeks leading up to my making this commitment, I weaned myself off of caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and white flour, in preparation for the Whole 30 plan. 

The headaches and cravings were expected, but that did not prepare me for how hard they hit me later. My energy flagged, and my cravings increased. What a lousy combination. I can't imagine how much worse the "hangover" period would have been if I'd indulged up until the moment I made my official start.

Day 2 
I awoke with my hands, wrists, and ankles aching. I iced my back as I always do, and applied a hot compress to my extremities. Then the headache set in. It's called the hangover, or carb flu, by some. It's not a true flu, of course, just the body's response to a lack of sugar to use as fuel.

Nearly all day, I read and read and read. I wanted to arm myself with good information to keep myself motivated. By the time Chuck got home from work, my headache had not let up, and I agreed to stay home from youth theater where we volunteer as cast photographers. Chuck edited photos in his office, and I downloaded the Whole 30 book while lounging like a sloth on the couch.

It's so confusing to read so many different approaches to eating healthier. Dr. Hyman and J. J. Virgin insist on starting the day with a whole foods protein shake. Whole 30 says no shakes or smoothies; EAT FOOD; don't drink your calories.  Coffee is not allowed on one program. Coffee IS allowed on others, just without cream and sugar. No fruits on some plans. Some fruits on others. Cocoa is allowed, according to one expert, if it's EXTREMELY dark. Cocoa is NOT allowed by another, unless it's 100% cocoa. (Baker's cocoa. Have you ever eaten that? Ugh.) 

And the length of time commitment varies. 10 Day Detox (Dr. Mark Hyman). 2 Week Sugar Impact Diet (J. J. Virgin). Whole 30 (Dallas & Melissa Hartwig). How long do I want to endure this? 10, 14, or 30 days; the choice was mine.

I made it through lunch with Chuck's mom at a darling Mexican restaurant. Nothing a la carte was available. So I ate the side salad that came with Mom's enchiladas. And drank a lot of water. Iceberg lettuce and two slices of tomato were not going to meet my dietary needs. My pain in my head went up another notch. By the time I got home after two, I crawled into bed to try to sleep it off.

At 3:30, I texted Chuck: "I am so tempted to drink one cup of coffee to help this headache, without sweetener or cream. Or...I could just take Excedrin Migraine, without any of the potential yumminess."

Chuck's response: "Hmmm. Temptation. Is black coffee an entry drug to fully loaded coffee?"

He had a point. So, I took the Excedrin, if a little grumpily. You've heard people say they are in so much pain, even their teeth hurt? Well, my left front tooth hurt. I was chilled to the bone. I kept turning up the heat, and putting on layers of clothes. The carb flu continued into the night.

Day 3 things got better. To read more, click HERE.

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