I just finished my month long, Whole 30 experience that was BEYOND my wildest expectations! The Whole30 website touts this program as one that will “change your life!” and before embarking on it, I was like “YEAH, RIGHT!?” Those are some pretty big shoes to fill!
Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system. – Whole30
I’ve known about this plan for a long time, but couldn’t wrap my head around actually doing it. If it seems restrictive in the least, I want to run in the opposite direction. The plan eliminates certain food groups that are known inflammatory causing foods. This list includes dairy, grains, legumes, sugar, alcohol and processed foods. Like, what am I supposed to eat then? I was living off processed protein bars, nightly ice-cream cones, rice bowls from Chipotle several times per week and no peanut butter?????
ARE THEY CRAZY?!?!
However, I was quickly becoming a slave to the Sugar Dragon. I wanted sugar (often) and couldn’t seem to shake it’s clutches on my own. And if Whole30 could help me slay it, well, I could do ANYTHING for 30 days, right???
I decided to jump in full force. I took my before photos, weighed myself and even started a support group on Facebook for others who were interested in journeying with me for 30 days! Every day we would check in and post our food photos and our thoughts on how we were feeling. I believe it was BY FAR a much easier experience because I had so many women, in my corner, doing the same thing I was doing from all parts of the globe!
The Whole 30 website has a timeline of what to expect each day. You can find this resource HERE! And it’s pretty true to what it says. I will say that the level of junk you shove into your face prior to Whole30 will definitely correlate to the level of detox/headache you experience. Thankfully I had not been eating THAT bad, nor had to give up soda and all that entails, so my initial week wasn’t that bad. I had a slight headache that didn’t even require any medication to get rid of.
So what were my initial fears and how did I overcome them?
Giving up grains….how was I going to get adequate carbs to keep up with my workouts???
Thankfully I love sweet potatoes and butternut squash and fruit and….LOL Seriously though….this was not an issue. Every morning I would always eat either an apple or a large mixed berry salad with my protein. Then at lunch or dinner I would have an entire sweet potato or some other starchy veggie like butternut squash or carrots. They easily satisfied my carb needs in order to not feel weak and lethargic.
Will I enjoy my morning coffee ritual without adding cream and stevia?
I actually gave up cream in my coffee a few years ago when I found a stevia that was so pure, without all the nasty, bitter aftertaste. So the thought of not having my stevia in my coffee was really one of the biggest hangups on why I didn’t want to actually do this program. But, it’s only for 30 days. I can handle ANYTHING for 30 days. So I went black. And shockingly, it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t die. Someone also told me about the Hazelnut Nut Pods (click link) on Amazon. These are a rich, smooth creamer made from almonds & coconuts that are free from carrageenan, dairy, soy & added sugars. I would mainly drink my coffee black, but would use this on occasion to make it feel like a special treat. Although this creamer could be used daily with no guilt or regret!
Could I eat out if I was in a pickle or just sick of cooking?
Yes! Although, I will tell you, that I ended up enjoying my home cooking better than anything I could find in a restaurant. We did hit up Chipotle early on, but I just didn’t enjoy it as I once had. The important thing about eating out is to check and find out how certain items are prepared in the kitchen. Do they use butter instead of olive oil? Do they use a soybean oil? For example at Chipotle, only their carnitas is Whole30 approved because it’s the only meat cooked with a Whole30 approved oil. (A bowl of lettuce, carnitas, salsa and guacamole is approved if you plan on going!) It can be tricky and time consuming trying to confirm every item, so sometimes it’s just easier to stay home during those 30 days. However, if you are able to be compliant, there is nothing wrong with eating out!
So what were my results? I’m sure you’re dying to know, right??? I wish I had taken my actual measurements, so if you are planning on doing this too, REMEMBER to take your measurements…you’ll be glad you did!
The top row I weighed in at 145 lbs. I am 5’2″ and as you can see, I carry my weight in my rear! 30 days later (bottom row) I weighed in at 137 lbs. I lost a total of 8 lbs. and every area on me shrank; my hips, my arms, my thighs, my rear, my waist and the small of my back! Most importantly my sugar cravings were GONE! The Sugar Dragon was slayed and I did NOT want to re-invite him back in.
The CRAZIEST part of this whole thing was the fact that my taste buds completely changed. The last week of the program I was already planning on the items I was going to reintroduce back into my diet. I really no longer craved dairy or grains, but stevia and my beloved Shakeology Vegan Chocolate protein shake were two items that I COULD NOT WAIT to get back. Imagine my surprise on day 31 when I added stevia to my black coffee and it really wasn’t all that great. Total bummer. But then, I fixed my protein shake in eager anticipation….what a let down to taste it. It was sickeningly sweet! I literally had to dump it out in the kitchen sink! What was going on????? My taste buds had changed and I no longer needed, nor wanted, all that sweetness in my life! Talk about life changing. They were right.
These are my top tips to experience Whole 30 at it’s finest:
- Meal prep, meal prep, meal prep! You want to have a variety of plan approved food on hand so that when hunger strikes, you aren’t temped to grab something not healthy. My recommendation is to have a few soups, eggs, and a variety of meats pre-cooked so that you can grab and go!
- Keep things interesting! You CAN do Whole30 simply eating a variety of proteins (chicken, fish, pork, steak, etc.), adding a baked sweet potato and some variety of vegetable. That COMPLETELY works. However, I think you miss out of the DELICIOUSNESS of the program if you don’t dive in to some fun, tried and true recipes. A month ago I was in a serious cooking rut. I hated cooking and was completely bored with our food choices. Digging into the Whole30 recipes found in the book (click link) and also scouring Pinterest (click link) completely reinvigorated my love for cooking again. I looked forward to our meals everyday and it kept me excited about eating this way. I didn’t miss the grains, etc. because the food in front of me was just so darn delicious. I prepared my menus each week and linked the recipes I used as well. You can find weeks 1 & 2 HERE. Week 3 is found HERE. Week 4 is found HERE. The last week is found HERE.
- Don’t fall prey to snacking on nuts! It is so easy to grab a handful of nuts thinking it will eliminate your hunger, only to find yourself going back for more and more handfuls. Before you know it, you have easily added several extra hundreds of calories and ample fat to your diet without even feeling full. I purposefully did not buy snacking jars of nuts for this very reason. I also had a compliant almond butter on hand, but only dipped into it twice in a literal emergency. I was fixing to eat the entire pantry in a moment of true hunger, so I sliced a banana down the middle and added 1/2 T of almond butter to each side. Crisis adverted. I tried to NOT snack, but when I got uber hungry I would grab a Lara Bar (click link) or an RX bar (click link) for a mid afternoon snack!
- Have these staples on hand: Boiled Eggs (perfect EASY breakfast for busy mornings) that you can pair with some fresh berries. Aidell’s Chicken & Apple Sausage are whole30 compliant and delicious. La Croix sparkling water is a delicious alternative to plain water. I have one with dinner every night for a wonderful treat. Lots of sweet potatoes. Bag of spinach cooks up quickly for a fast green veggie….add a squirt of lemon and some salt…yummmm!
- Don’t go at this alone! Find a partner….better yet, find a group! Start a private page on Facebook where you can share in your experience. It will make it SO MUCH easier doing it with someone else!
Overall, the Whole30 experience has truly changed my take on food and how I feed my body! Going forward, why would I NOT want to continue feeling this great? However, I do know that I won’t pass up on dessert forever and I want an occasional glass of wine. So my plan is to live the majority of the time (90%) eating Paleo/Whole30 and 10% of the time, I’ll indulge. I feel like this way I can TRULY have my cake and eat it too!
There are so many other things I could say about my Whole30 experience, so if you have any specific questions…fire away! I’d love to help you in any way possible!