You did what?
A week ago I finished up a month of doing what I thought was the impossible. I gave up added sugar, grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, junk food, treats and certain food additives for a month.
I did this as part of the Whole30, a program that calls for removing these foods from your diet for thirty days so you can allow your body to heal and recover from any negative effects they might be causing.
Yup, this girl who LOVES food, who has a blog with the word “decadence” in the name, who has an almost-anxiety inducing need to try every good restaurant in town, gave up all of her favourite goodies for thirty days. AND at the start of ice cream season.
That meant a month without oatmeal, banana and peanut butter for breakfast. No daily square(s) of dark chocolate. No chunks of cheddar bitten right off the block. And definitely no cookies, brownies, doughnuts, ice cream, French fries, pizza, pasta, tacos…
Instead, I ate three meals a day featuring a combination of veggies, eggs, meat, poultry, fruit or a little almond butter.
Why would you do that?
I almost didn’t do it. I learned about Whole30 after seeing Instagram posts about it and my curiosity (and FOMO) got the better of me, so I looked into the program. And when I did, I almost threw my laptop across the room.
How dare someone tell me I should cut out those foods for an entire month? I understood the no sugar, no dairy, no bread aspect, but no grains or legumes? What’s wrong with steel cut oats and beans? I thought quinoa and farro were healthy! And how dare they tell me that compared to other things in life, doing the Whole30 is not “hard.”
Then my husband reminded me that no one was forcing me to do it. And I realized the Whole30 people are right. There are other things in life much more deserving of the word hard.
Plus, I needed a reset. I often felt bloated/gassy/irregular (gross, but true), I was a slave to sugar cravings (and then felt guilty when I caved into them) and my favourite jeans were feeling uncomfortably snug. So with my husband on board too, I went for it.
So, how did it go? The good, the bad and the surprising.
Let’s start with the good stuff.
- I made it the full 30 days without a meltdown.
- I learned how sugar is hidden in many prepared foods and how to identify it in ingredient lists (it goes by a number of sneaky names).
- I realized I had been eating “treats” several times a week, no longer making them “treats.”
- I realized how I often ate when I wasn’t hungry – out of boredom, procrastination and frustration – and learned that eating three proper meals a day can keep me full
- I was less gassy (yay!)
- By the end of the month, I had lost eight pounds and Blake had lost 14.
- I learned a lot about my relationship with food and what my body needs to fuel itself.
And now the not so good.
- My body went through an expected adjustment period. During my first weekend on the program, I felt exhausted, a little nauseous and had a headache.
- My pre-Whole30 energy levels were good (despite my love of sugar). But during the second and third weeks, I often felt tired and lethargic.
- The gassiness was almost gone, but my bowels became more irregular.
- Sunny days were a struggle. We made the mistake of wandering through Little Italy on a warm evening. Pasta, pizza and gelato never looked so good.
- By not being able to eat what I wanted, I felt like I was missing out, which showed how much my social life involved food. A Yankee game and a movie night weren’t the same without snacks.
- I probably should have eaten even more veggies and less fruit and meat. The program advises eating lots of veggies, moderate amounts of meat and some fruit. I blame barbecue and local strawberry season!
- Aside from initial “egg-haustion” at breakfast, I didn’t really get bored with what I ate.
- My kitchen game is stronger. I tried delicious recipes I’ve continued to make post-Whole30 (flank steak with chimichurri sauce, Greek chicken thighs, chicken tikka masala).
- I learned you can make toast out of sweet potatoes. Yum!
- I thought I was eating enough vegetables, but now I know I should be eating more.
- I would do another Whole30 (yup, you read that correctly).
So, did you cheat? Be honest.
Yes. My husband and I had lunch with a friend visiting from out of town. We were four days away from being done and didn’t want to subject him to our diet, so we went out for Mexican and ate quesadillas. Not the wisest choice, but they were delicious.
Any other cheating was by accident, either because I forgot to read a food’s ingredient list or didn’t realize an ingredient was off limits until after the fact.
I think I want try this Whole30 thing. What are your tips for success?
- See if a partner or friend is willing to join you. It’s a lot easier when you’re in it together.
- Try to pick a month that doesn’t have food-focused holidays or lots of food-focused social events
- Do your research! Read all of the resources available on Whole30.com before you start.
- Plan your meals in advance and have the ingredients on hand so you’re not tempted to cheat out of hanger.
- Use Whole30’s official recipe Instagram account to find tons of tasty meal ideas.
- Buy lots of eggs. If you like breakfast food in the morning (rather than meat and veggies), you’ll need a constant supply of eggs.
- Pan-fried plaintains, sliced avocado and roasted potatoes are tasty breakfast sides.
- Try new recipes so you don’t get bored, but don’t feel you have to conquer a new one each day (unless you have the time). I stuck to several good recipes and rotated them.
- Whole30-ify existing recipes. Think chicken and veggie fajita lettuce wraps, hamburgers on iceberg buns and sweet potato avocado toast.
- Can’t find sugar-free bacon or don’t want to order it online? Try substituting it with prosciutto or pancetta (just make sure they are Whole30 compliant).
- Stock your pantry with a jar of ghee (clarified butter) or make your own.
- Avoid eating out. It’s easier to know what’s in your food when you’re doing the cooking.
- Eat three square meals a day, even on weekends. My first weekend I just ate brunch and dinner, and ended up feeling sick.
- Find distractions for when you crave off-limits food, like colouring or going for a walk.
- Good luck!
So, you would do it all over again?
Yes! Overall, I found the Whole30 a positive experience. I think it was a great way to reset my relationship with food, figure out how certain foods affected my body and lose a few pounds. And although the thirty days are over, I’ve incorporated elements of the program into my regular diet.
I viewed my first Whole30 almost as a trial run and now know how to do it even better next time. It’s a tool I’ll use again after extra indulgent periods like summer vacation and the Christmas holidays.