A Month with the Whole30

The holidays are never the best for eating, but this year was particularly awful. December was a month-long inhalation of carbs and processed food. It was bad. So when I heard my brother and sister-in-law were going to kick off January by starting the Whole30, I jumped on board and dragged Dustin along for the adventure.

The Whole30 is basically an extreme version of paleo: no sweeteners, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, and no alcohol, even for cooking. And any food that contains a banned ingredient, even in small quantities (I’m looking at you, bacon), is out.

So what do you eat? Veggies, meat, and fruit, preferably in that order.

If you go to the Whole30 site, they make the ridiculous promises that all diets make–basically, follow this plan and we’ll cure all your ills. I wasn’t in it for the woo woo. I needed to make a clean break from my previous out-of-control eating, and this seemed like a good way to do it. In the world of moderators vs. abstainers, I’m definitely an abstainer.

Armed with an iron will to succeed and the knowledge that even a tiny slip meant you had to start over, I embarked on thirty days of “clean” eating.

Here are a few things I learned:

  • Sugar or soy are in pretty much everything that comes off of a grocery store shelf, even in the deli section.
  • Grocery shopping is both easier and harder. You get to avoid most of the middle of the store, which speeds things up, but you have to look at every single label. And fresh fruit and veggies don’t keep that long, so plan to go fairly often.
  • There will be dishes. So many dirty dishes. When you are cooking three meals a day, it adds up quickly.
  • Breakfast is a test. I’m not a huge fan of eggs, one of the only “traditional” breakfast foods allowed. So you get used to eating whatever in the morning.
  • Trader Joe’s Salsa Autentica is good on just about everything. We used it on salads, eggs, and lettuce-wrapped tacos.
  • After eating no sugar at all, a couple pieces of dried apricot after dinner taste like heaven.
  • Avocados are delicious and we should all be eating more of them. We ate one almost every day.
  • Eating out is fraught with danger and temptation. We ate out maybe five times all month, and some of those only because we were out of town. It’s just easier to cook.
  • I didn’t have many cravings. I think it’s because December was so bad, but my body happily let go of bread and sugar. If it was in front of me (like the amazing chocolate brownie for a friend’s birthday dinner), I wanted some, but mostly I was fine.

As for all of the woo woo claims, those are harder to quantify.

I did feel better this month, but December’s eating was so bad it’s hardly a fair comparison. I dropped eleven pounds and my blood pressure (which wasn’t high to begin with) dropped some as well. I’m assuming both of those are at least partly due to the decreased amount of sodium intake.

The Whole30 did not, however, magically fix my relationship with food or do any of the other more outrageous claims they make.

But overall, it was easier than I’d expected. In fact, I will probably continue with some form of modified paleo as my normal diet. And that’s a win in itself.

Now on to daily yoga February!

PAX Prime 2014 – Day Three and Day Four

See my previous posts for day one and day two recaps.

Sunday morning my feet were killing me when I woke up. It was not a good way to start the day. However, rest is for the weak, so we bravely endured the Gearbox line. They are the studio behind the previously mentioned Borderlands. Their panel was a little odd, but it included a fantastic card trick by the CEO of Gearbox, Randy Pitchford. They gave out season passes for the Borderlands Pre-sequel, which was really nice of them.

At the Expo, we waited to try the Occulus Rift, the 3D headset. I was a skeptic (and still am, mostly) but I did play a pretty cool bullet dodging game where you could look around the “room” just by moving your head and dodge by leaning one way or another.

Sunday afternoon we attended the Patrick Rothfuss panel. It was awesome because we walked right in and didn’t have to wait in line. Mr. Rothfuss is always entertaining, and it was fun that he read his “not a children’s book” which we’d already read, and so we knew the ending.

We decided to skip the Sunday night concerts in lieu of an earlier night.

Sunday’s walking distance: 5.8 miles (13,264 steps)

Monday was the final day of PAX and when I decided we really should attempt to collect some of the Pinny Arcade pins that exhibitors were giving away. After watching the Penny Arcade Q&A with Mike and Jerry, we headed to the Expo to go pin hunting and play any games we’d missed previously.

Microsoft has a new game coming out called Age of Empires: Castle Siege. It is (sadly) not iOS compatible, but the demo was really fun. Though it will run on Windows, the rep did say that it will play best on a touchscreen/tablet. Boo! But they were giving away a cute pin, so yay.

Next we played Pillars of Eternity which is an old-school isometric RPG. We started with new characters, so I can’t say much about the gameplay since I wondered around in starting town for a while and only fought a couple of things. Looks fun, but it doesn’t include co-op, so it’s pretty much a no go for us.

At the Xbox booth we played Sunset Overdrive, one of their leading Xbox One titles for the holiday season. It was fun, if a little chaotic, but they made the excellent decision to have one of their employees on each eight-person team to answer questions and explain how to play. They also gave us a nice pin. Win!

All told, I came away with five pins, only one of which I purchased (proceeds went to charity, so I bypassed my “will not buy pins” rule).

And so it begins...
And so it begins…

Monday afternoon was the final round of the Omegathon, the video game elimination that ran all weekend. The players were required to get the highest score in Pacman, which was fun to watch, though quite short and not really worth the slog over to the main theater.

Monday evening is kind of hazy. I remember we went to dinner where I had fish and chips made with salmon. I’d never had fried salmon before. It was pretty good, as far as fish goes (I tolerate it).

Monday’s walking distance: 6.3 miles (15,687 steps)

Tuesday we got up and rode the train back to the airport. Can I take a minute to say how nice it is to be able to ride public transit to and from the airport? It. Is. Awesome. Plus, it only cost $5.50 for the two of us, which is infinitely cheaper than a cab or an airpot shuttle.

Overall, even with the crush of people, we had a really nice time. I was afraid that after going I’d regret buying PAX South tickets, but instead I’m excited for South. Though I will definitely be purchasing some sort of tiny, foldable stool to sit on while waiting in line. My feet will appreciate it.

PAX Prime 2014 – Day Two

See the previous post for a recap of day one.

Time waits for no woman, and so Saturday dawned early, if not particularly bright, complete with achy feet. Saturday was the only day it rained on us, which isn’t bad for a city known for its rain.

Our first stop was a signing with Mike and Jerry, the creators of Penny Arcade. Waiting outside to get in the Paramount wasn’t especially fun, but it wasn’t pouring, so we stayed mostly dry. The signing line was relatively short, and we got to sit down while we waited, so that was awesome.

Signing with Mike and Jerry
Signing with Mike and Jerry

After the signing, we saw that they were streaming the Halo panel from the main theater, so we sat and watched in the Paramount instead of walking all the way to the main theater. The new Master Chief collection looks pretty awesome.

We hit up the Expo for a while before our next panel. We played Gauntlet for a little bit because there wasn’t a line. It was fun because we had a full party (four players). I’m assuming they scale the difficulty based on the number of players, but we didn’t get to test out two-player co-op.

Our next session was Videogames in the Forgotten Realms. The big news was that Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition is coming soon, though they wouldn’t commit to a date. They also promised that the new update to Baulder’s Gate Enhanced Edition has worked out all of the multiplayer bugs. We’ll see if that holds true.

Saturday night we got in the biggest line ever. It was for the live D&D game with Jerry, Mike, and a few of their friends.

The line goes down the block and around the corner for another block
The line goes down the block and around the corner for another block

Benaroya Hall, the main theater, holds 2,500 people. The line was longer than that, though they were letting people know they might not get seats. We weren’t anywhere near the end of the line, yet we were in the middle of the upper, upper balcony.

Nosebleed section
Nosebleed section

For all that we nearly died in line (we were packed in like sardines and unable to sit or move for an hour plus), the D&D game was awesome. Patrick Rothfuss was an unannounced guest star. All of the players were hilarious.

Getting out was almost as bad as getting in, because they were giving away swag, including an awesome Pinny Arcade Tiamat dragon pin. I told myself I wasn’t going to get involved in pin trading, but it was so cool I gave myself some leeway. More on that in Day Four’s post.

Saturday’s walking distance: 5.3 miles (11,510 steps)

PAX Prime 2014 – Seattle and Day One

This was our first year attending the Penny Arcade Expo, more commonly known as PAX.

We hadn’t been to Seattle as tourists before, so we went a day early to explore. We saw Pike Place Market, the Aquarium, the monorail, and the Space Needle. It was awesome, but we ended up walking about five miles, which was a mistake in hindsight.

Space Needle, Monorail, Flowers in Pike Place Market, Seattle skyline
Space Needle, Monorail, Flowers in Pike Place Market, Seattle skyline

Friday was the first day of PAX. We absolutely did not know what we were getting into. There don’t seem to be official attendance numbers, but according to the Wikipedia page, it was 70,000+ in 2011. There were people everywhere. And the lines. We expected a certain amount of waiting in line, because that’s what happens at conventions. PAX wildly exceeded those expectations. Err… yay?

We spent the first part of Friday picking up our swag bags and starting on the Expo floor. Imagine two entire floors of a giant convention center dedicated to gaming companies and you have the Expo. It was packed, both with people and with booths. It’s a multi-day event, especially if you want to play any of the games.

A tiny slice of the Expo floor
A tiny slice of the Expo floor

Friday’s standout was Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. I love the Borderlands franchise, and this game seems like a solid entry. We had to wait a ridiculously long time to play (probably close to an hour), but it was fun. On a side note: We tried multiple times to play Tales from the Borderlands (a mobile game based in the same universe), but the line was always closed and two+ hours. Nothing is worth waiting two hours for, sorry.

After Borderlands, we went to our first session. It was presented by Intel on the Future of PC Gaming. It was more like a shareholder presentation than a presentation to a bunch of dedicated gamers. Alienware did unveil their new PC design (spoiler: it’s a triangle), but that was about it. It wasn’t really worth the five-block walk to the main theater.

The afternoon passed in a blur of more Expo, then we went to the Friday night concert, which was fantastic and totally worth the walk to the main theater.

The first act was Triforce Quartet, a classical string quartet (two violins, a viola, and a cello) that played video game music. They were followed by The Doubleclicks. They were sisters: one played the cello while the other switched between guitar and ukelele. The final act was Paul & Storm, who we’ve seen before but who are always awesome.

We returned to the hotel after midnight and collapsed.

Friday’s walking distance: 5.2 miles (11,246 steps)