Whole30 is a nutrition program I’d heard about for a few years now. Some of my favorite fitness and lifestyle bloggers have tried Whole30 and swear by it. So after giving the idea much thought, I decided to try it out for myself.
I’ll be honest: I’ve never really challenged myself when it comes to health and fitness. I’ve always challenged myself in other aspects of life (school, work, etc.), but have never pushed myself when it comes to what I eat and exercising (although, Whole 30 is not a workout program. If you’re wondering what Whole30 is, I’ll explain below).
I eat “healthy” maybe about…50% of the time? Honestly, I love me some junk food. Specifically carbs, sugar and wine. I love Sour Patch Kids, Reese’s Pieces, ice cream, Italian bread, cinnamon raisin bagels, pasta, donuts, cupcakes, pita chips, wine – the list goes on and on, but I’ll stop there (#embarrassing). Oh wait, I almost forgot – did I mention that I absolutely LOVE cheese, too? Well, I love cheese. And I don’t discriminate – mozzarella, parmesan, goat, feta, cheddar, brie – I like em all. So what does all of this result in? Having very low energy levels, lots of headaches, and constantly feeling bloated…just to name a few.
WHAT IS WHOLE30?
“Whole30 is designed to change your life in 30 days. Think of it as a short-term nutrition 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.
Certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it. Are your energy levels inconsistent or non-existent? Do you have aches and pains that can’t be explained by over-use or injury? Are you having a hard time losing weight no matter how hard you try? Do you have some sort of condition (like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies or fertility issues) that medication hasn’t helped? These symptoms may be directly related to the foods you eat—even the “healthy” stuff.
So how do you know if (and how) these foods are affecting you? Strip them from your diet completely. Cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days. Let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. Push the “reset” button with your metabolism, systemic inflammation, and the downstream effects of the food choices you’ve been making. Learn once and for all how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day to day life, and your long term health.”
OTHER THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT WHOLE30
You’re basically eating a lot of fresh foods; nothing processed. You’re going to remove all grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol from your diet. I cannot tell you how many people asked me, “So what do you eat?! Nothing?” No, I would reply, I eat all fresh foods. And believe it or not, there is A LOT to choose from.
You do not count calories (thank God, because I’ve never done that in my life and never will), you do not pre-measure anything, and you do not weigh yourself for the entire 30 days. You can eat as much as you want (trust me, I ate so much food, probably why I didn’t actually lose weight, but more on that below).
You should really hone in to how you feel while on Whole30. Are you less bloated? Are your headaches gone? Do you have more energy? Are you sleeping better? I was amazed that my answers to all of those questions were yes, yes, yes, and YES.
After the 30 days are over with, you reintroduce each food that you removed from your diet back into it, one at a time. This way, you’re able to identify which foods you’re sensitive to.
PS – Whole30 is not something you sign up for; you just do it on your own. You don’t buy anything except your groceries. No one is trying to sell you anything; it’s no bullshit. It’s not an overnight fix; it’s a lifestyle change.
WHAT’S THE POINT?
I bring this up because about seven different people asked me, “what’s the point of doing Whole30? You don’t need to lose weight.” I didn’t do it to lose weight. I did it to become healthier. To get clearer skin. To not feel bloated. To have more energy. To take care of my damn body from the inside out.
Days 1 – 10
After eating so much food at my grandma’s house on one Saturday afternoon (stuffed shells, fried cauliflower, scalloped potatoes, cheesecake…and so much more), I was more than ready to start Whole30 on Monday morning. I made the mistake of working out during my lunch break on Monday (mind you, I had not ate anything for lunch yet), and felt super nauseous afterwards. It’s probably best to wait a few days before you start to workout again on Whole30.
After the first day, I already felt so much better! Probably because I typically dine out a lot for lunch, which isn’t that healthy (for those of you who don’t know, I have a full-time job as a Marketing Director for a software company. I do makeup and blogging on the side). Working in an office all day can make you want to get up and go somewhere during lunch, which is why a lot of times my colleagues and I will go to the foodcourt at the mall or stop at Panera to grab a bite to eat. Not good!
Speaking of the office, there were THREE work parties/functions during my first week of Whole30! On Tuesday there was pizza and wings to celebrate two new employees; on Wednesday we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sugar cookies with milk to celebrate World IP Day; and on Thursday I had a marketing function at one of my favorite Rochester restaurants where pasta was served for all 100 attendees. I had to grab a waiter and ask if he could get me a salad with plain balsamic vinegar. I was proud of myself for resisting all of the tempting foods – especially my favorite, pizza!
Days 11 – 20
After making it through the first ten days, I was feeling so good. My headaches were gone, my energy levels were high, I didn’t feel bloated, and my skin was so much clearer! I had about six different people comment on how clear my skin looked, even without any makeup on. I was still eating a lot; if I ever felt hungry, I would eat. But the difference between eating a lot of Whole30 foods versus what I used to eat was that I never felt bloated after.
On Day 12, I went to lunch with my best friend and her cousin, and was so tempted to have a slice of the bread that was served – not to mention the chocolate birthday cake. Instead, I filled up on a grilled mahi salad, which was really satisfying – especially because the dish was served with kalamata olives and mini potatoes. Up until this point, I didn’t realize you’re actually allowed to eat potatoes on Whole30 – nice surprise, haha. After lunch we treated ourselves to facials and at the end, we were served hot tea. I took one look at the ingredients listed on the label before taking a sip, and the #1 ingredient was sugar! No tea for me.
Now here is where I’m ashamed to tell you what happened next, on Day 13. I cheated. I cheated really bad. I knew I was going out for my two best friends’ birthdays, and I told myself I wouldn’t drink. Wellllll…I drank. I had wine and vodka with soda water. And THEN, I decided it was a good idea to have pizza – two slices of pizza.
The next morning I felt like absolute crap. It was probably a combination of drinking alcohol and consuming food that I haven’t in two weeks (sugar, cheese, grain, flour). Yikes.
Although I felt so mad at myself and defeated, I decided to carry on with the rest of the Whole30 program and not hit the reset button (I explain why below, in the WOULD I DO IT AGAIN? section). I know that’s not how Whole30 is supposed to work – you can’t cheat at all, but I still decided to continue with the rest of my two weeks without cheating.
On Day 18, I went to dinner with three of my girlfriends. A couple of them kept saying, “I could never do that, I just don’t have the willpower.” Here’s the thing: neither have I. As I mentioned above, I’ve never done something like this where I’ve challenged myself with regards to what I eat. It’s honestly not that hard. When you notice all of the amazing results (that I list below), it’s so worth it.
Days 21 – 30
The last ten days I still felt amazing, just as I had during the first twenty days. I kept thinking to myself, “this isn’t bad at all. I could do this forever.” The only times it was difficult for me was eating at restaurants and eating at other peoples’ homes. For example, when I go home to visit my family, my mom and dad eat pretty healthy. However, my two younger brothers do not, so the house is filled with so much junk food (sugary cereals, ice cream, Doritos, and more). I just had to tell myself, okay, no matter what everyone else eats, I am going to make my own meals.
Same with eating at a restaurant. You would think you could choose something on the menu that is Whole30 compliant at just about any restaurant, but I was surprised. One night for dinner I figured I would order a salad with grilled chicken or grilled shrimp, but that wasn’t an option. I ended up ordering a garden salad with no protein, so I went home and had some nuts and veggies afterward. I would say the most important thing before you eat out is to go online and look at the menu beforehand to make sure there is something you can order (that isn’t just a boring garden salad).
– Grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries
– RX bars (Chocolate Sea Salt and Coconut Chocolate)
– Almonds and pistachios
– Sliced peppers
– Scrambled Eggs with Spinach, Peppers, and Asparagus
– Riced Broccoli with Grilled Chicken
– Zucchini Noodles or Butternut Squash Noodles with Salmon
– Salad with Tuna
– Whole30 Shepherd’s Pie
– Riced Cauliflower (Mexican style) with Chicken in Lettuce Wraps topped with Homemade Guacamole
BENEFITS THAT I EXPERIENCED
– No headaches (not even one in thirty days, and I normally get a few per week)
– Clearer skin (noticeably clearer – several people commented on how nice and glowy my skin looks, and they normally don’t)
– Less tired, more energy (I never really got tired during the day, and normally I do. Especially around 2 or 3 pm, which is common for a lot of people because this is when they crave sugar, or crash from it.)
– Felt lighter, tighter, and healthier – never bloated (my stomach looked much flatter almost immediately. I didn’t feel like I lost weight, probably because I still ate a lot, but I did feel much tighter throughout my entire body.)
– Always felt satisfied (I still ate a lot during Whole30, so I always felt satisfied. The only times I thought, “wow, I really want that donut,” was if someone was eating a donut directly in front of my face.)
– More aware of what I’m consuming (this is a big one, people. I am sooo much more aware of what I’m putting in my mouth before it hits my lips. “I think I’ll have salsa with my sliced peppers – oh wait, this salsa has sugar as one of it’s main ingredients…never mind!”)
– Better breathing (I don’t know if this is all in my head, or if it’s Whole30 related, but I honestly think it’s Whole30 related. I have suffered from the World’s Worst Sinus Infection since 2010. Okay, I’m being dramatic. But really, I basically have a constant sinus infection. I should have went through with the surgery that I had scheduled back in 2011. Anyways, my breathing sucks. Especially in my right nostril – if you close my left one I legit cannot breathe at all. But guess what? I’ve noticed a slight difference – my breathing is a little better! Could it have to do with the change in my diet? Maybe!
– More creative in the kitchen (doing Whole30 forced me to make 90% of my meals, snacks, and even condiments! For example, I started following Real Food with Dana on Instagram and fell in love with her recipe for ranch dressing. I’m not even a huge ranch fan, but it was nice to have a little something to dip raw veggies into. This recipe tasted so good!)
I weighed myself right before I started Whole30 and I’m the same weight that I have been for a few years now. I fluctuate a few pounds up and down, but nothing crazy. I also decided to take a “before” photo so that I could compare it to an “after” photo once the program was complete.
Believe it or not, I actually gained two pounds! Luckily, I’ve never paid attention to the number on the scale because I think as long as you feel like you’re healthy and feel good about yourself, that’s really all that matters.
But I will say this: I definitely look slimmer. As I mentioned in a section above, I felt lighter and tighter the entire time I was doing Whole30. I noticed that my clothes fit better, for example, my pants and jeans were not as tight. My mom and Greg both noticed I look slimmer as well. I’m thinking the two pounds are likely muscle gain, since I was eating healthy for 30 days and working out about 4-5 days per week.
Note: I originally posted my before and after photos in this article, but decided to remove them because I was in my underwear…oops! Probably should have thought about a different “outfit” than that when I took the before photo, but oh well.
WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?
YES, especially since I cheated. Everyone who is on the Whole30 train will tell you that if you cheat, you must restart all over again. When I cheated after the first two weeks, I didn’t want to restart right then and there because I knew I would not be able to resist non-compliant Whole30 foods/drinks while on a mini vacation in Toronto for one of my friend’s bachelorette parties (that would fall within the 30 days if I restarted then). So I told myself I would do it again, and not cheat, sometime soon.
Greg and I decided that we will follow Whole30 during the week. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we will eat the same way that we did while on Whole30. However, we will allow ourselves to have a few drinks on the weekends or have a plate of pasta at a restaurant if we’re out to eat. I think this will be a good balance.
The #1 takeaway that I gained from doing Whole30 was realizing how much shit is added to food. When I would go grocery shopping, I would go to purchase something (such as a can of sauce to add to a recipe) and see that sugar is added. It made me so much more aware of what I consume.
Have you done Whole30 before? What are your thoughts on the program? Let me know if you have any questions about my experience!