I first learned about Whole30 a few months ago, overhearing my Pure Barre instructors talking about it. For full details on the plan, click here. But I will give you the quick and dirty, as well as give you a glimpse of my experience and impressions over the past 30 days.
What is it?
It is a diet reset, so to speak, where for 30 days, you eat only “whole” foods. Similar to Paleo, with some small differences (no honey, agave nectar, or alcohol, which are allowed on a Paleo diet). It is designed as a type of diet cleanse – to curb cravings and set new, and presumably healthy, habits. Its primary goal is not weight loss, but healthy eating.
What can you eat?
Basically, meat, seafood, healthy fats, nuts, vegetables and fruit without any added sweeteners – and without counting calories.
What can’t you eat?
Dairy – cheese, yogurt, milk, etc
Beans – including peanuts and soy
Wheat and flour products – including pasta, rice, bread
Any added sugar – fake or real
Why did I decide to do this?
I keep active with exercise, but my diet over the past few months had basically become to resemble that of a 14 year old boy. Seriously. My occasional treats had become every day staples. Although I was still counting calories, it had gotten to the point I could not remember the last time I had eaten a fresh vegetable. Gummy bears, cookies, Rice Krispies treats and Twinkies had begun to have frequent appearances on my My Fitness Pal logs, and I drank more diet soda than water. What really sparked me, though, was Pure Barre. I was in the middle of the Pure Barre Madness Challenge (20 classes in 31 days) and although I was seeing performance improvements, I wasn’t getting any improvements on the outside…. and I realized it was my fault. Despite all my hard work at the barre, I was basically throwing it in the trash can with my eating. So, with 10 days left in the Challenge, I decided to go all in, and begin Whole30.
Here I am, Day 30 today, and here is my take…
Was it hard?
I remember after chatting with some of the Pure Barre Instructors about this that I thought, “Hell, no. That sounds too hard.” But then I realized. There are certain things in life that are, actually, hard. What Nelson Mandela did was hard. Losing a loved one is hard. Not eating a Twinkie or drinking diet soda for 30 days is not hard. Did it require some planning? Sure. Did it require a change of habits? Absolutely. But that was really the point. So once I got over thinking that this was hard, it made the process a whole lot easier… honestly.
How did I feel?
Well, it varied. Days 1-3 I kept thinking, “what’s the big deal?”… I felt great, wasn’t craving sugar (although admittedly I went through a bit of a sugar binge the day before), and wasn’t that hungry.
However, the constant hunger started about day 4 and lasted until about day 10, when, after chatting with a colleague, I figured out I was still doing it wrong. Although I was eating all “approved” foods, my proportions were jacked up. I needed to be eating more fat. Yep, you heard that right, more fat. At the beginning, I was too reliant on carbs – fruit, dried fruit (no added sugar), etc. After understanding more about what my body actually needs, I started to eat more guacamole, cashew butter (occasionally no sugar added peanut butter, see below regarding “cheats”), and more meat. And, the hunger went away.
Days 13-15 were by far my worst. I was craving cupcakes, candy, everything and anything. It was not fun. Of course, I didn’t plan this well and these days fell over Easter weekend. Why is this a factor? Well, because I love Easter candy with an unhealthy passion. Any of it, and all of it – jelly beans, Cadbury eggs, and yep, even Peeps. But I stuck to my guns, and didn’t have any…although I *might* have a hidden stockpile of said contraband
Starting around day 16, however, I started to feel great. No cravings, a ton of energy, and a lot less obsessed with food.
One other physical change I did notice, was that my 3 pm almost daily headaches went away, completely, with no other changes in habits. Not sure if this was due to dehydration or sugar crash or what, but this was a change that although was unanticipated, was very welcome indeed.
To see Whole30’s version of the timeline, click here.
How did I make time for it?
As many of you know by now, my work schedule at baseline is bad, and during this 30 day period it was even worse. During this 30 day period I only had one day off. Yep, unfortunately you read that correctly, only one. The number of meals that I have actually cooked in the six months prior to this you could count on one hand. Not going to lie, I hate cooking. But, I knew that cooking was going to be a part of this adventure, so, I planned for two cooking nights a week. During which, I would cook dinner, then put together a slow cooker meal to go into the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, all my nanny had to do is empty the container into and start the slow cooker. So that gave me dinner for the first night, with leftovers the next day for lunch, the slow cooker meal for a dinner and the leftovers from that for another lunch. Then, the 3rd night it was every man for himself so to speak and I would throw something together just for myself – ex. bacon and eggs, shrimp and veggies.
What did I eat?
Some examples of meals –
Spaghetti sauce made with ground beef, mushrooms, onions, garlic, organic tomato sauce, and spices over spaghetti squash.
Slow cooker Korean short ribs with sweet potatoes oven roasted or pan fried with coconut oil.
Taco salad – ground beef with spices, over lettuce with guacamole.
Slow cooker carnitas pork served with over lettuce with guacamole.
Meatloaf without bread crumbs and using tomato paste instead of ketchup.
Slow cooker potroast with carrots, onions, and potatoes.
Slow cooker salsa verde chicken, again over lettuce with guacamole.
Pan fried shrimp and oven roasted cauliflower.
Bacon wrapped dates – which I have been in love with for years, and the fact that I could eat these kept me happy 🙂
Breakfast was usually eggs and bacon with fresh fruit. So yep, I ate a lot of bacon.
Lara bars – not all of them are compliant, and they do pack a lot of sugar, albeit natural, in them, so I probably had maybe 4 bars throughout the 30 days.
Dried fruit, no sugar added. Same comment as above, I was eating too much of this at the beginning, and kept it limited towards the end.
What did I drink?
Big question of the day – did I cheat?
Well, yes and no. Yes in the sense that soy sauce is off limits, and I did use some Worcestershire sauce at one point to marinate the Korean short ribs, and definitely not all of my bacon was organic. Unfortunately, with my schedule, I just couldn’t prepare every single meal at my house, and I don’t know any hospital in the world that serves organic bacon… But if you find one, let me know 😉 In addition, due to the aforementioned ridiculous schedule, I did have a few scoops of no sugar added, all natural peanut butter.
Did I lose weight?
Okay, so this technically was another cheat – you are not supposed to weigh yourself at all during the 30 day period… but I did. I did not lose any weight for the first week or so, but over the remaining time, I did end up losing about 8 pounds. May not sound like a lot, there are multiple testimonials out there with people reporting 20+ pound weight loss, but this by far is the most amount of weight I have lost in 30 days in my life and I don’t actually have 20 pounds to lose for full disclosure.
What are you going to do on Day 31?
So, when I was perusing the Whole30 timeline about half way through the program, I got to the end, and it stated that most people feel a “twinge of panic” when their 30 days come to a close. My initial thought, was Ha! Panic?! Yeah, right, I am going to not panic my face straight into a cupcake. However, now that I am actually at the end, I am a bit unsettled as to what I am going to do next. I don’t want to undo the past 30 days of effort, and I need to balance this with the desire to not go the rest of my life without a Cadbury egg. Am I going to drop dairy completely? What about gluten? Should I designate “cheat days”? In all honestly, I don’t have this 100% figured out quite yet. But I have decided to make some changes permanent. I have decided to drop diet soda completely and stick with water. I am continuing to plan 2 nights of cooking per week. I also will continue to eat breakfast every day, something that was pretty rare before starting this program. My craving for sweets is pretty much gone – at this point, it is more of an emotional desire rather than a physical one, and I think understanding this is crucial to moving forward towards a healthier diet.
What are your overall impressions?
This was a great decision, and one that I really needed to make – I feel better, weigh loss, am healthier, without headaches, and have proven to myself that I can make time for some cooking. I had been trying to lose the same 4 pounds for months, and regardless of any increase in activity, it just wasn’t coming off. This program really drove the lesson home that weight loss and health in general, is 80% nutrition and only 20% exercise. You just can’t go and exercise away bad eating. In addition, my taste buds have definitely been reset – fruit that never tasted sweet to me before now tastes incredibly sweet. Although this did require some planning, the experience was actually liberating because I wasn’t a slave to calorie counting or food weighing. I proved to myself that my mind is stronger than I give it credit for, and that I clearly don’t have to give in to any and every food craving. Overall, I think pretty much everyone could benefit from this, and I would definitely recommend it.
Now, I’m off to eat some bacon, and try not to panic about tomorrow, Day 31 😉
This sounds great and extra kudos for managing it during such a busy month work wise. You have a really intense work schedule in the U.S., we have it so easy over here. I would miss the diet coke more than anything and the coffee and tea.
AWESOME! I gave up meat for lent one time and had to try not to carb load at every meal. Good job for giving up the sugar, that’s probably one of the hardest things people try to give up too, especially with your work schedule. Healthcare isn’t easy on the body to begin with but all the more reason to take care of it yea?
I completely agree! If anything, seeing all the illness around me makes me strive to be the healthiest I can be! Thank you for your comments:)
I’m glad you wrote this, my wife and I have been contemplating this one for a while now, and your assessment, while ending well, doesn’t seem to be nothing but gushing fluff for the whole program. The only thing holding us back right now is my working nights on the road, when dinner is often quick and out of a gas station. Planning will be a nightmare to get around that and do it right.