For as long as I can remember, I’ve had some pretty annoying digestive problems. My issues started to really ramp up in college where I would sometimes be afraid to eat in certain circumstances because I was afraid of having a digestive meltdown. I learned certain coping mechanisms, but never made an effort to pinpoint the source of all these problems.
Although my issues seemed to have calmed down over time, recently, I started noticing that as much as I was trying to eat healthy, I was having more and more digestive problems again. A couple friends had posted on Facebook about the Whole30 and I started looking into it out of curiosity. After reading The Whole30 by Melissa & Dallas Hartwig, it felt like the right way to determine if a particular food group was the root of all these issues I’ve been struggling with, and at the very least it could help me kick some bad habits. So I jumped in headfirst and prayed the negative effects of dropping sugar and caffeine wouldn’t kill me!
I will not sugarcoat it for you. The first week kicked my ass. I had a severe headache for four days straight and my energy was non-existent. BUT, after the first week, things started to improve and I didn’t want to quit every other minute of the day. By day 10, I was starting to notice some positive effects, mainly increased energy and a complete lack of digestive problems! For me to go 15 days without any sort of episode of upset stomach is pretty incredible.
If you’ve never heard of the Whole30, you can check out the basics here, but essentially it’s a 30-day plan to hit the reset button on your diet and the way your body processes food. Like me, you’re probably thinking “I don’t have any food intolerances,” but unless you have a severe allergy, you might not even know that a certain food has been causing problems until you completely cut it out. Thirty days of no grains, no dairy, no alcohol, no added sugar, no legumes, no soy or MSG and no processed food is intense. By cutting these foods out and then gradually reintroducing them, you can see the effect on your body and how you feel. My experience in just 15 days has told me that clearly something I was eating was responsible for how crappy I was feeling, and now I have the chance to figure that out so I don’t have to go through life that way.
A note about coffee: you can breathe a sigh of relief because coffee IS allowed on the Whole 30. However, while I love a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, I don’t really like coffee itself. What I like… is coffee creamer. But that daily cup of sweet, creamy bliss was causing issues that I could see even without the Whole30. For one, I wasn’t hungry for actual food until I had been awake for at least a few hours so my body was running solely on caffeine and sugar for most of the morning. Second, I was starting the day with a massive sugar intake, which set me up for sugar cravings (and crashes) throughout the day. I knew there was no way that almond or coconut milk was going to flavor my coffee enough so as much as I didn’t want to, I decided that giving up my coffee for the duration of the Whole30 would be the best choice.
TIPS FOR SURVIVING YOUR FIRST TWO WEEKS
Load up your kitchen with compliant food options ASAP or you’re done before day one is over. Having basics on hand like cut up veggies and fruits, eggs, chicken, and almond butter will help you avoid the foods you’re cutting out and make eating properly faster and easier. The book recommends clearing your kitchen of everything that you’re supposed to avoid, but if you’re the only person in your home doing the Whole30, that’s not a realistic option. My kids still need a lot of the foods that I’m not eating, so having the right supplies on hand makes it much easier to ignore that stuff.
Keep It Simple
Even if you’re the most amazing chef in the world, the first few days are really about focusing on what to eat and what not to eat. I enjoy cooking, but I don’t want every meal to be a gourmet process. I kept foods like hard-boiled eggs, shredded chicken, and a lot of produce in my fridge to makes it easy to find something compliant in a pinch without having to cook a whole meal. A small sweet potato in the microwave with some shredded chicken over a salad makes a great lunch in less than 10 minutes. As you get familiar with the cans and can nots, you can have fun branching out with new recipes.
Seek Out Inspiration
My favorite platform during the Whole30 has been Instagram. Seeing recipes or meals that others create, watching their progress and triumphs, and learning new tips and tricks helps to keep me motivated. When I’m feeling like I just want to be able to grab something to eat without hyper-analyzing the label, I check in on someone who has been successful in the Whole30 or even someone who tends to share healthy foods or tips. Sometimes it’s just enough distraction to get past a tough moment where my resolve is tested. A few of my faves are @melissa_hartwig, @whole30recipes, @yogimami, @emilyeatsrealfood and @therealfoodrds.
I will not lie. The first two weeks of the Whole30 have been hard… but not impossible. It will challenge you and push you in ways that are not always comfortable. The point is not for it to be easy, but for the rewards to outweigh the difficulties. If you’re interested, I strongly recommend checking out the Whole30 site because you can gather a ton of information for free. It might be the best decision you’ve made in a long time.