After a five week trip back to the land of McDonald's, I've not been digging how I look in a mirror. I haven't been liking anything about myself recently and have been ashamed with how much weight I gained over those weeks. I was already heavier than I liked when I left for the US and I felt huge coming back. Of course, after weeks of tacos and beer no ones gonna look their best. I thought it would melt off after being back in Japan for a few weeks because it always has before. Big difference is that I'm not working and basically sedentary during the day when I used to be on my feet at least 5 hours a day. When I saw that I was actually gaining weight back in Japan, I decided something had to change for me. Enter the Whole 30.
If you want more info on the Whole30, feel free to google it because there's a wealth of comprehensive information that I can't possibly fit here. But basically it's
- Grains (including corn)
- Legumes (excluding green beans and peas)
- Nuts/Seeds (excluding peanuts)
We tried to do elimination diets before to figure out if some of our health issues were related to food, but we'd always give up after a few days. I don't do well with restrictions, and then living in Japan makes it all the more difficult. But add the danger of my clothes not fitting and those restrictions don't seem like much of an issue anymore. The Whole30 program does not want the focus to be on weight and you're not supposed to weigh yourself during the diet, but that's not gonna happen. Sure, the program basically promises to cure you of all life ailments, but I'm still mostly doing it for weight loss and if I get clearer skin, better sleep, and more energy that'll be great too.
This upcoming post series about the Whole30 diet may seem a bit out of the ordinary for a travel blog mostly aimed at expats, but I think there are probably a few of you out there who feel the same as I did. That it would be totally impossible to do this diet in Japan. I mean look at that list of Bad. No tofu, no soy sauce, no mirin, no sake, and no rice. You can't really eat Japanese food on this diet. This means if you're an ALT who eats school lunch and you can't tell them you don't want it, it might actually be impossible. Josh can't get out of lunch at his Wednesday school, so he's doing it for every meal, except the one lunch a week he eats with his students. Diet restrictions are hard enough in Japan, so if you want to do this one, forget about eating out for a month. I'm going to document what we eat and how we feel and if we can even finish it. But enough talking, and lemme tell you what we ate. Please excuse the pictures. I just used my phone and I am not a food blogger at all. These are just snapshots of my food.
Ok so calling this Week 1 is a bit of a lie. It's more like a do-over Week 1. We sort of started February 13th and acknowledged we'd do a full start on Wednesday after Valentine's Day dinner and chocolates on the 14th. This got pushed to the 15th because we had a ton of leftovers we needed to finish and we thought we were finally in the clear. And then I remembered I still had an article about soba restaurants and I needed to go to one more restaurant. Finally we got started on Sunday the 19th. I do want to share a few of the meals we made that week because they were pretty good.
- Sheet Pan Fajitas
- 3 Ingredient Breakfast Skillet (made my own salsa)
- Chicken California Bowls (took out the noncompliant ingredients)
- Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry (left out the sugar)
None of those meals were particularly difficult for me to make here. A little bit expensive since red and yellow peppers are like 150 yen a pop, but mostly doable. Zucchini may not be the easiest to find if it's the wrong season in Japan or if you live in a very country part of Japan. I feel like if my crappy Daiei carries them, your store probably does too. If they don't have zucchini, just add another veggie you really like. For the California Bowls, I pan friend all the vegetables and chicken since I didn't feel like pulling out the tiny grill we have in the dead of winter.
- 3 Ingredient Breakfast Skillet
- Leftover Burnt Eggplant and Spinach Curry
- Creamy and Smokey Chipotle Pork Chops with a side of mashed sweet potatoes (This was really good. We substituted fresh cilantro for dried, but I think the fresh cilantro would be great if you can find it. I think you could sub another herb like parsley and it would still be great. We mashed the sweet potatoes with ghee we made ourselves and coconut milk.)
- Italian Style Egg Skillet (I made Whole30 compliant Italian sausage the night before. I very loosely followed this recipe. We left out the bacon because complaint bacon does not exist in this country, and no basil.)
- Red Curry Coconut soup (I didn't have a recipe for this. I just threw a bunch of veggies and chicken in a pot, added water, lemon juice, fish sauce, coconut milk, and red curry paste and then let it all cook until I thought it was done.)
- We went to a friend's house for dinner and she made us Slow Cooker Creamy Southwest Chicken Soup. We topped it off with lots of avocado and cilantro. We ate a ton of fruit for dessert.
- Italian Style Egg Skillet (I had a breakdown this day and decided I couldn't eat anymore meaty breakfasts for a while.)
- Strawberry smoothie (Whole30 discourages smoothies for some reason, but uh... it's fruit and I needed something light to balance how bloated and heavy I felt from basically a week of ground meat, eggs, and tomatoes for breakfast)
- Red Curry Coconut soup
- Enchilada Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (This was another winner. We subbed canned tomatoes for the tomato sauce and just added spices we'd normally add to enchiladas anyway since we don't have chili powder or compliant taco seasoning here.)
- Mango Lime Chia Pudding (The Whole30 says recipes that are designed to recreate "treats" you miss from your diet are out and actually mentions chia seed pudding. Yeah no. I'm not eating this for dessert. I'm eating this because I can't make overnight oats anymore and I need something easy to make the night before so no prep in the morning. I don't know how people can eat eggs and meat every single morning. If you can't find a mango here, this recipe website has a few other versions that would be doable in Japan. Or add another fruit you like. Chia seeds are available at most import stores now and you can even buy them on Amazon.)
- Leftover Enchilada Potatoes
- Butter Chicken with Cauliflower Rice ( I had to add salt to this recipe, but otherwise it was really creamy and almost velvety. Josh disagreed with me, but I liked the cauliflower rice with the butter chicken more than regular rice.)
- Mango Lime Chia Pudding
- Leftover Butter Chicken
- Smitten Kitchen Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka ( We subbed coconut milk for the yogurt and I added some dried dates for the sugar. Feel free to skip that step.)
- Zucchini and Fried Potatoes with Scrambled Eggs (We used this recipe for the potatoes and added zucchini at the end.)
- Leftover Chicken Tikka
- Jalapeno Lime Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries (We used ground beef and dried cilantro for this recipe. I also grated about a quarter of an onion in the meat mixture instead of a shallot. I made up my own recipe for the Sweet Potato Fries.)
- Sweet Potato Hash (We don't have a spiralizer so we just chopped the sweet potatoes long and thin.)
- Leftover Turkey Burgers and Sliced Carrots
- Juicy Asian Oven-Roasted Pulled Pork with Cauliflower Rice (This is our favorite pulled pork recipe. We modified it to make it Whole30 friendly. I used compliant fish sauce, added a little bit of からし or dried Japanese mustard powder instead of the spicy brown mustard, used compliant hot sauce instead of the chili garlic sauce, and subbed about 5 dried dates for the sugar. I made sure to puree the entire thing before to blend in the dates with the sauce.)
Thoughts about this week
I think because we sort of did this diet for a week before our actual real start date, this first week felt like the longest week ever. The only weird craving I really got was for Zipfizz because I drink one every morning, but otherwise no food cravings. I was hunnngrry all the time. They tell you not to snack, but I had to eat something in between lunch and dinner. Supposedly once you figure out how much to eat during each meal, this hungry feeling will go away, but it stayed this entire week. I'm not sure how I could have eaten anymore without being in pain after a meal. I snacked a lot on dried fruits, nuts, and cheap fresh fruits like bananas and apples. I had one day that I wanted to just murder everything. After a week of ground meat and eggs, on Tuesday I could not make myself finish breakfast. I just felt heavy and gross. I had a headache and was so irritable. I didn't realize how little meat Josh and I consume at home until the Whole30 and we both agreed we don't like how much we have to eat everyday right now. I'm also not noticing any of this "Tiger Blood" they talk about. I think I've felt more tired this last week than I usually do. I haven't weighed myself, but it feels like I'm either the same weight or maybe heavier. My skin has been clearer, but that probably has more to do with the Retin-A I've been using. Josh mentioned he hasn't had any headaches, but he said that's not an every day or even an every week thing so we'll have to see if that keeps up.
The number one thing that's been the hardest to do on this diet is cutting out so many condiment and spice blends. I can't use a few of my favorite spice blends because they have corn starch or something non-compliant in them. Basically everything I want has sugar or some sort of soy in it. Mustards have sugar. Bacon, ham, and sausages have sugar or some sort of soy product in them. All brands of chicken stock here have sugar or flour in them. It's really frustrating how limiting it is here when I google all these recipes by Americans designed for an American Whole30 experience.
We're lucky that we live in a big city so we have a lot more available to us than those in the countryside. Gyomu Super 業務スーパー is a really cheap grocery store that sells foreign foods that are difficult to find other places. They have a lot of frozen fruits and vegetables that are hard to get in regular grocery stores. We got frozen cauliflower for the cauliflower rice recipe I linked to. They sell the cheapest coconut milk in Japan and really nice thick pork chops. Costco is also a life saver. Lots of veggies and fruit for cheap, huge bags of nuts, different cuts of meat to make cooking more interesting, and they sell a Whole30 OK chicken broth. On the other hand, going to the land of free samples and baked bread should be considered a form of light torture when you haven't been full in a week.
Have any of you ever done the Whole30 or any other elimination diet? How did you do it?