Last January, as one does, I pledged to eat better. Not one to phone it in, I adopted a meal plan with almost every vice crossed off the list. I blame Instagram, which was where I first spied the hashtag #Whole30, along with hundreds of iPhone-perfect images of delicious looking food. If I ate nothing but whole, unprocessed foods for 30 days, the Whole30 program promised, I would have less bloating, fewer cravings, better sleep and more energy.
Adhering to Whole30 involved staying away from almost everything I loved. Wine? Forget it. Bread? No way. Even foods I’d assumed were healthful were verboten, including peanuts and chickpeas. (There went my hummus habit.) Other no’s included: no wheat, no dairy, no soy and no sugar. For one whole month I subsisted on air and water (just kidding).
Watching everything I eat is nothing new for me, since I have lived with Type 1 diabetes most of my life and monitor my blood glucose levels dozens of times throughout the day. I can eat sugary foods and other carbohydrates; I just have to give myself insulin to coincide with the elevated glucose running around in my bloodstream, typically about 10 to 30 minutes after each meal. The fewer carbs I eat, the lower my insulin requirements.
While there are no refined sugars in the Whole30 diet, there are plenty of carbs: vegetables, fruit, even nuts have them. For an entire month I happily consumed plants, protein and fat. Breakfast became coconut yogurt layered with blueberries, chia seeds and hemp hearts. Lunch was a mound of kale, carrots, tomatoes and tuna. Dinner featured roasted sweet potato, zucchini “noodles” and salmon. For snacks I ate nuts, unsweetened jerky and green apples, which are generally less sweet than red ones, and less sweet means fewer carbs.
The first few days were rocky — post-lunch cravings for dark chocolate were especially hard. But while I may have been thinking about my next meal, what I wasn’t thinking about was my blood sugar. One might assume I was working overtime to manage my condition because Whole30 was flush with natural carbs. But the truth is my blood sugar was perfect. I still needed insulin, but the amount I took dropped significantly and my continuous glucose monitor displayed the flat blue line of someone without diabetes. Never in my life had I held such a tight control.