In May I finished my first full round of the Whole30! My first attempt last October was rudely interrupted by the stomach flu at day 21, so I jumped at the chance to join a friend that I knew would keep me accountable. Self-discipline isn’t exactly my strong point so I knew it would help me to be in this with someone that wouldn’t give up the first time she was forced to pass on the bread basket at dinner.
Why the Whole30?
Did your mom ever use the phrase “garbage in, garbage out” when you were growing up? Turns out, she was right. When you fill your belly with junk that has little to no nutritive value, your body doesn’t look or feel the way it could/should/used to. Note: this effect seems to increase exponentially if you’re over 30.
Sometimes it’s not necessarily that you’re eating junk, but that you’re eating food that doesn’t jive well with your body. The Whole30 operates on the assumption that if you never eliminate these potential problem foods from your diet, you won’t know if they’re having a negative effect. Not having a life-threatening allergy to a particular food doesn’t mean that it’s not causing any issues for you. After eliminating specific food categories from your diet for thirty days, you gradually add them back in and watch for negative effects.
Successes & Challenges
You can check out the post I wrote last fall about my first two weeks of the Whole30 here since my experience this time around was similar. One thing I did differently was to continue drinking coffee. Instead of giving up coffee cold turkey like I did last time and feeling miserable for the first week, I tinkered with a combination of coconut/almond milk and coconut cream to replace my artificial sugary creamer. While it wasn’t my favorite, it at least allowed me to hang onto my morning coffee. Take my advice and don’t give up caffeine cold turkey.
Making Family Meals Work for Everyone
One of my biggest challenges with the Whole30 was dinner time. Preparing a meal that’s both compliant and appealing to my whole family is no simple task. My husband is pretty easy to please. The kids are much tougher critics. While my daughter (9) is getting more adventurous as she gets older, both kids have a tendency to reject the unfamiliar. Often I tried to find meals that we already eat regularly and adapted them to my own needs. For example, the kids would eat tacos, and I would eat taco salad or have a cauliflower “rice” bowl. The kids could eat spaghetti and I would have zucchini noodles. It’s a little extra work, but easy enough to swap out. Mostly I learned that this just takes planning ahead so I have the time to do the extra work.
Like I said at the beginning, I decided to do the Whole30 with a friend for the accountability and moral support. I jumped in pretty spontaneously. Without really checking the calendar, I didn’t realize how much would be going on during the thirty days. I’m proud to say that I stuck to it through Mother’s Day, two birthday parties, a graduation party, and a giant family campout with my husband’s daddy/daughter camping group. The campout was by far the biggest challenge because meals are cooked for the entire group. I packed some extra foods in a cooler and did my best to adapt the meals to stay compliant.
Timing is important
It’s probably going to be difficult to find thirty days with zero social occasions. Sometimes you’ll have to make the choice to stick to your plan despite the temptations around you. If you have a major event like a trip, your own birthday, or a girl’s weekend, that’s not the time to schedule your Whole30. It’s not that hard to skip drinks during happy hour with friends because you know there’ll be other happy hours. A trip to New York is a whole different ball game!
What I learned from my Whole30
- The mid-afternoon slump is not necessary. After two weeks, I no longer felt like I needed a nap around 3:00 every day. Unless I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, I had plenty of energy to get through the day.
- Grains don’t do me any favors. I didn’t pin-point whether this is a gluten issue or a grains issue, so that needs more research. After the first week, my waist was smaller and my belly was flatter. I didn’t have that uncomfortable fullness after meals. One of the first effects I noticed once I was regularly eating grains again was a lack of energy.
- Sugar is a problem for me. I love sweet foods and drinks. I always have. Even when I wasn’t able to eat dessert or put sugar in my coffee, I still found ways to get that sugary fix. Instead of eating dessert while watching tv at night, I would have apples and almond butter. Certainly a great substitute, but I didn’t address the issue of why I crave that food when I don’t need it.
- Thirty days is not long enough for me. I really need a Whole60 or maybe even a Whole90 if I want to see a long term change in my habits. At the end of 30 days, I was feeling good, and I was ready to indulge a little. The problem is that it wasn’t long until I was overloading my coffee with sweetness and eating grains constantly. My transition from Whole30 to my typical diet was slow, but not slow enough to avoid bad habits creeping up again.
The Whole30 was a good way for me to figure out some problem foods. It’s often described as hitting the reset button on your health. I’d like to head into the holidays feeling good so I might need to fit in a Whole30 in October.
If you want to see more of my Whole30 experience and find out whether I take the leap next month, follow me on Instagram @sweeterstill.