“It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.”
What is Whole 30?
Odds are you have definitely heard of Whole 30 if not met someone who has done it. In the simplest terms possible, Whole 30 is 30 days of no pure form or variations of grains, dairy, sugar, legumes of alcohol. It’s an elimination program (call it a diet if you want, but I’m sticking to program!) of the main foods that cause bodily inflammation in order to promote better gut health, kick cravings, change your relationship with food and even heal *some* diseases caused by chronic inflammation. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s a great way to do that too, but even if the number on the scale is what drives you to do Whole 30, you’ll quickly learn that you thrive in so many other ways along with weight loss.
What drove me to Whole 30
As many of you know, I returned home from travelling in July and have since then struggled with not being able to clear up my skin, irregular and sometimes painful digestion, and some pretty severe anxiety symptoms. After watching a favorite author of mine tell the world how completing a Whole 30 significantly helped her depression, I wanted to give it a try.
**For the sake of saying it, I’m not a medical professional, nutritionist or dietician. I’m a 2nd year nutrition major who has been researching food science, nutritional healing and integrative medicine strictly out of curiosity and enjoyment for the last 3 years. Everything here is an account based on experience and my own research – but you should absolutely do your own research as well. Sources provided if desired.**
Before I tell you if it worked, I’m going to give you the biggest piece of advice here. Please, please, if you’re considering Whole 30, buy the book. Aside from my personal account, most of the information I list in here is from that book. Not only will it help you set the stage for your Whole 30, but it also is an on hand resource for how to cook, sneaky non-compliant ingredients, checking expected day-to-day symptoms and loads of easy recipes. You should also definitely consult your general physician or any medical professional that is aware of your health background before starting any diet or cleanse.
My personal journey
From the start, the one thing I ran into during conversation was, “Why are you on a diet? You don’t need to lose any weight!” First of all, this is a valid statement. Before starting Whole 30, I had a very healthy BMI, but that wasn’t the reason I chose to embark on Whole 30. In fact, in the book, it lists “checking the scale” on the “no” list along with the foods that aren’t compliant. Before moving forward, I just want to note that if this happens to you, especially if you’re doing Whole 30 by yourself, this is a really good opportunity to invite people to be a part of your journey and it might even lead to them starting Whole 30 themselves. I even got hit with so many “That’s great but you only live once so I’m going to keep eating cheese.” This program is chock full of “tough love” and no tolerance for cheating or excuses, but there’s some grace tied in too. People might not understand and they might make unnecessary comments. That’s when you seek to educate those who want to learn, have grace for those who don’t, and press in even deeper to why you’re doing this. It’s for you and your body and your health and your happiness. Anyone who doesn’t respond with an attitude of celebration and support for your move to love yourself is missing out on something beautiful.
As far as results go, I noticed a big difference in attitude and overall I feel better. Throughout the program, I unintentionally lost a healthy 11 pounds. My skin is clearer, my digestive system is almost completely healed, and my hair doesn’t fall out as much. On Day 9, I had some serious pain and seriously considered quitting the diet and possibly consulting medical professional opinion and would have humbly done so. Any symptom outside of the specific listed ones is not normal. This is a big adjustment for your body – another reason I’m so pro-buying the book.
I was a vegetarian for a little over a year and a half and in preparation, I began easing back into white meat and fish a month before Whole 30. I thought this would be the end for my digestion, but it actually transitioned pretty smoothly. So, you don’t have to, but I did my entire Whole 30 with only white meat. You can do this as a vegan or vegetarian as well and while you shouldn’t count calories, please remember that grains and dairy are extremely calorie dense so when you transition and you don’t have the meat as an option to add calories, it’s important that you make sure you’re fueling your body well.
I had planned on meal prepping and being prepared for Whole 30 – this helps a ton. If it weren’t for bringing my own food most of the places I went, I would’ve cheated for sure. However, towards the end, it was becoming difficult and I felt like I was planning my life around it because I work long hours and then was having to come home and cook food that was as “prepped” as it could be without throwing it in the oven. Crockpot meals are great for this. And hey, if I lugged around food in Wal-mart sacks everywhere I went for 30 days, so can you.
The good, the bad, and the best advice I’ve got.
I won’t lie. There were so many moments throughout Whole 30 that I was sitting there thinking, “When this thing is over I want spaghetti and garlic bread dipped in chocolate and then fried with ice cream and butter on top.” And to be honest with you, I wouldn’t put it past me. But that’s one of the bigger things that is so hard for whole 30 – learning to see food as something that is not a reward or a crutch for when I’m dealing with stress or emotions. This is the cycle of “stress, overconsumption of junk food, guilt, stress, repeat” that Whole 30 seeks to break by helping you not just break the bad habits and kick the sweet cravings, but replace them with better habits and change your taste cravings (I so doubted this at first, but it really does happen!). Whole 30 isn’t meant to last forever, but I’m not saying you couldn’t if you wanted to. It’s there to release your body of the toxins its already carrying when you start, but then to set the stage for helping you make better and healthy choices after it’s over.
That’s my biggest point. There are hundreds of thousands of opinions on the healthiest way to be eating. We’re right in the middle of the rise of veganism and there are countless documentaries floating around on the obesity epidemic. I don’t know what the “healthiest” diet is and I don’t want to pretend to be healthier than anyone else. Please don’t stress about this during your Whole 30. It can be really overwhelming and intimidating when looking up recipes to see a list of 20 superfood ingredients you’ve never heard of before. Whole 30 is a wonderful way to expand your flavor palette if you love to cook, but there’s no need to go broke buying things you’ll probably never use again anyways. When it comes to being “healthy”, stick to the big, obvious stuff and I promise you’ll be fine. Eat plant matter, it’s the most nutritious group of foods you could put in your body. You don’t have to freak out about pesticides. You don’t have to spend ten extra bucks on organic versus non-organic. You don’t have to go broke buying grass-fed meat versus just regular carrageenan-free meat from your local grocery store. If you can shop at the farmers market or you want to spend the extra cash, go for it! But when you’ve been living with a sugar addiction, and you go to store and walk out with bags full of fruits and veggies, that is a win. It doesn’t matter what anyone tells you. This is affordable. Some nights, a chicken breast, an apple and boiled egg were my most filling meals! I’ll give more money-saving tips on my insta live. Know that before I leave you with the info below, you can do this. The food is good. Your body will thank you. And you deserve to be happier and healthier.
There are many other details I’ll be covering in my Instagram live sessions on February 7th and 8th. The schedule looks a little like this.
2/7 @ 9 pm – What is Whole 30 + Healing your Body + Changing your relationship with food
2/8 @ 9 pm – Completing a Whole 30 when you’re picky and on a budget + The value of support on Whole 30
2/8 @ 9:30 pm – Whole 30 benefits unrelated to food + Finding your “why”
And below some of my favorite always-in-the-fridge recipes from Whole 30:
- meatballs. there’s so many variations of these online but these are my favorite!
- chicken salad. okay but for real this stuff is the shiz.
- kale chips. can’t even taste the kale.
- fat balls. i rip through these.
- boiled eggs. easy.
- sweet potato fries. I’m drooling just looking at them.
- tuna cakes. for lil fish action.