For the past few months, I have contemplated doing the Whole30 program. For those of you new to the idea, the Whole30 is basically a body reset. You cut out grains, sweeteners (of any kind, no honey, maple syrup, etc), dairy, and legumes for 30 days. This gets rid of all inflammatory and hormone disrupting foods and allows your body to heal and gives you a chance to reconnect with food and your relationship with it. It’s as much a psychological journey as a physical one. Taming your “Sugar Dragon,” getting rid of cravings, balancing your blood sugar, losing weight, and other amazing benefits come from this program.
I started reading, It Starts With Food, the official book behind the Whole30, and my husband and I decided to go for it. I did a shopping trip to grab a few things and we started. It’s now been one week since we completed our 30 days and I wanted to wait until it was all over to share my thoughts and experience.
I kept a journal to jot down some of the main things, and will try not to ramble, but it is 30 days to re-cap! I will go over the first two weeks first (it will sound depressing, but trust me, the last two weeks make up for it . . . something to look forward to).
Everyone seems to see the things you can’t eat on Whole 30, and the things that you can eat get tossed aside. What you are eating: meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and good fat. We eat pretty close to that anyway, so we didn’t think it would be too bad. It wasn’t. We ate eggs every single morning, which we were already doing, but I just added in more vegetables for breakfast. The first few days were fine for both of us, then around day 4 my headaches started. In the book they describe this as your body getting rid of all of the junk you ate the night before you started (which we totally did – we binged like crazy the night before – ha). I woke up with a headache for about the first week. I felt cranky and impatient. I am not a person who goes through mood swings – unless I’m pregnant, and even then they are minimal. I don’t get crazy PMS or anything, so feeling out of control and mean was frustrating for me. I wondered for a couple of days if I might be pregnant (and freaked myself out entirely at the prospect), then realized I was just getting rid of everything built up in my body.
The majority of those first two weeks I felt tired, bloated, and gross. I wasn’t sleeping that well, and I wanted naps all the time. Having read the book prior to starting, I knew what we were in for. They give you fair warning that it takes at least the first couple of weeks to start feeling any kind of normal again. Your body is trying to reset and get used to this new way of using food. The point of eating all of the protein and vegetables is to teach your body to use your fat for energy, instead of the quick carbohydrates it is used to using. A switch like that takes time, it’s not a quick fix. They say over and over again in the book to be patient with the process, and once again, I was so glad that I read that first. Apparently a lot of people quit around day 10 or 11 because they aren’t seeing any results yet. Knowing that, I was able to just push right through those days and keep going. I fully expected to not see anything happening until even the last week.
One major “rule” of the program is to avoid snacking. That was hard for me at first. Snacking just to snack is probably something I did too much, even if they were “healthy snacks.” To change your relationship with food, you have to really connect with it and think about WHY you are eating the things you are, and when. If you are snacking just because . . . that’s not healthy. If you feel like you HAVE to have a treat after a meal, even though you are full and don’t need it, that isn’t healthy either. Even if it’s just fruit, it’s not about WHAT you are eating, but the fact that you feel you NEED something sweet when you don’t. The point of Whole 30 is to really stop and think about your food, and it really does make you think. They suggest no distractions during meals either, sit down and enjoy your food.
I drank A LOT of water to keep me from grabbing snacks in the afternoon or evenings (when kids are sleeping and I typically would eat something even if I wasn’t hungry). You should eat 3 meals and they should fill you up until the next one. If you work out hard, you eat a small meal consisting of protein and vegetables to hold you over until your next meal. If you are getting hungry before your next meal, you add in a bit more fat to the next one and play around with it until you find what works the best for you.
My husband didn’t have as many headaches or as much bloating as I did. He seemed relatively fine and started dropping weight around the second week. Boys!!! I found some new recipes and experimented with more vegetables, and it was fun. I have had experience cooking Paleo-type meals before so it wasn’t anything too new, but the no added sweeteners was hard – sugar is in EVERYTHING. My biggest challenge was finding sauces or condiments to liven up all of the meat. I tried homemade mayo but it wasn’t super great and I didn’t try it again. I made my own ketchup, which turned out pretty good and was great to add into meatloaf. My favorite was a spicy cashew cream sauce that I ate on meatballs, salmon burgers, turkey burgers, potatoes, etc. I loved it! I made lots of big batches of potatoes and meatballs so that I would have something quick to grab.
I will post more on the actual food later, but I wanted to get down how I FELT, and what it was like in that way first. I wouldn’t categorize the first two weeks as hard. It was a change, that’s for sure. Mostly staying away from sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, stevia in my herbal tea, etc. I wanted pancakes (because I ALWAYS want pancakes). I had to re-think foods that would keep me full, just as I did when we did the Paleo diet a couple of years ago for several months. You really have to re-adjust your fats and protein to ensure that you aren’t starving and are satisfied until your next meal. As your body adjusts, you start to notice that you really are satisfied and don’t need those snacks like you thought you did.
The body is truly amazing. Food is amazing. It will never cease to amaze me the profound effect that food can have on you. What we put into our bodies either strengthens us, or brings us down. I feel it now more than ever. Now that we are done and have experimented re-introducing a few things, I am even more convinced that most of us are walking around without the slightest clue that we feel horrible. The potential we have to look and feel amazing, to never feel frumpy or tired, to have energy steady all day long, clear skin, to sleep like a baby every single night, to taste REAL food and know how good it is, is there. If we really want it, we can have it. I am fully convinced that this program can change lives.
Now be excited, because Part II is where the magic happens . . .