So, have you heard of the Whole30? It’s all the rage on Instagram, which is where I first heard about it a few months ago. If you’re not familiar: it’s a very restrictive version of the Paleo diet, but it lasts for only 30 days. I would compare it to an elimination diet — no dairy, grains, sugar, processed food, soy, legumes, alcohol or paleo “treats” like coconut flour muffins or fruit desserts.
The program creators are insistent that this diet is meant to be a reset and they acknowledge (and agree) that it isn’t entirely sustainable for longer than the usual month. The idea is to cut out anything that’s potentially inflammatory to your body, and then slowly reintroduce categories to see how your system reacts. Supposedly, it’s fixed all sort of problems in all sorts of people. Most participants also lose weight.
I’m not a usual dieter. I can’t even tell you how much I weigh right now — I don’t own a scale or count calories. I stopped doing that a few years ago, when I was trying to lose a few pounds and realized I was obsessing (in an unhealthy way) about the numbers. I can usually tell whether or not my habits are healthy by whether or not my clothes fit — when they stop feeling comfortable is when I realize I probably need to refocus on health. I haven’t been taking care of myself over the last six months or so — I’ve been eating a ton of processed food and restaurant meals, I haven’t been working out, and I’ve been letting stress really get to me. So I decided to try out the Whole30 in July to get back on track!
So, how did it go? I made it… to day 27! Yep. I quit early. I tried, y’all! I really did. And overall I consider the month a success.
The first two weeks were absolutely awful — I was grumpy, I had headaches and excessive fatigue and cravings and was just generally unhappy most days. This detox period was just awful. By day 10 or 11, I really wanted to quit — by that point I was bored with the food and not feeling like the diet was worth all the trouble. It was rough.
Weeks 3 and 4 was when things started to pick up: I didn’t feel magical, but I didn’t feel awful anymore, either! My energy levels were stable (and higher than average), throughout the day, even without coffee. I’ve struggled with fatigue for years, so this was a revelation. I was sleeping really well and felt more productive.
The one issue I have with Whole30 is that it can be unforgiving. There are so. many. rules. For example, if you eat vegetables cooked in soybean oil, you are supposed to start over. I can understand the need for these extreme restrictions, but worrying about these details felt a little too intense for my own experience. My main goal with the Whole30 was to create healthy, long-lasting, and totally manageable habits.
However, I would say I was 99% compliant up until day 27. By then, I felt so done. Like, okay, I get this, I want a glass of wine! So I did it. Travis and I went out to a super great restaurant and I had a compliant meal, plus a glass of wine and a piece of the most amazing bread I’ve ever tasted. And it was so worth it. Two days later we went out for pizza and frozen yogurt and I got the worst bellyache of my life, so I guess that’s the other side of the coin. Oops.
I’m so glad I did it, though. I’ve learned I definitely have a gluten/grain sensitivity, and I’m also a little sensitive to nuts (which are allowed on the Whole30, but I never would have realized I was intolerant had I not cut out all the other irritants). And I really did feel better, overall, after the detox period. It’s worth those first two awful weeks!
If you try the Whole30:
1. Read the book that goes along with the program. I read it before starting, and it gave me a ton of motivation and helped me understand why I was cutting out the foods that aren’t allowed. Plus, there are some recipes in the back!
2. One of the biggest issues for Whole30ers is the amount of time and food prep. I talked to a ton of people who tried the diet, and ended up quitting early because it just took too much time. I honestly didn’t have much of an issue with this, since I work from home and was able to take the extra time to actually cook something 2-3 times a day. I was more concerned with making sure I had a consistently, fully stocked fridge! If you work from home and are thinking of trying the Whole30, you really have no excuse! Go for it.
3. Finding something more interesting than water to drink on Whole30 is a challenge. I got a lot of “are you pregnant?” looks when we were out with friends and I was drinking soda water and lime. Sparkling water (infuse it with herbs or fruit!), tea, and kombucha are your friends. Also, canned coconut milk in your coffee, if you are used to drinking it with cream or milk!
Have you tried a Whole30? I’d love to hear your experience!