The Whole30 Review

An honest Whole30 review: read about my experience with the popular elimination program. I share some challenges and why thirty days isn't enough for me.

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 body 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, I decided to do the Whole30 with a friend for the accountability and moral support. I jumped in pretty much on a whim. 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.

But, if you have a major event planned 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!

An honest Whole30 review: read about my experience with the popular elimination program. I share some challenges and why thirty days isn't enough for me.

What I learned from my Whole30

1 | 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.

2 | 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.

3 | 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 it’s a great substitute, but I didn’t address the issue of why I crave that food when I don’t need it.

4 | 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’ve definitely realized that one of the most important elements for me is how to best transition back to life after Whole30.

If you want to see more details of my Whole30 experience, you can find me on Instagram @sweeterstill.

An honest review of the Whole30 including the ups, downs and why thirty days might not be long enough.
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Self Care – What, Why and How?

As moms, we work so hard to make everyone happy and to make life go smoothly. We often do the shopping, the laundry, the cleaning, the cooking, and the driving everyone from here to there and back again. We wipe noses, bottoms, and tears.

When we go to bed, we’re so tired, but we can’t sleep because we’re thinking about everything we have to do the next day. We plan parties, playdates, real dates and holiday celebrations. But often we forget to organize time for self care.

What is Self Care? Why is it important? Tips for incorporating self care into your own life.

Self care, very simply put, is taking care of your emotional and physical needs. My daughter once asked me how our local pharmacy employees have time to sleep when the store is open 24/7.

I explained that the employees work in shifts because no one could possibly work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Except that sometimes being a mom feels like that.

Parenting is a round-the-clock job. We’re always on-call. Without taking time for ourselves, eventually our energy runs out, and we start to suffer.

Making time for yourself often feels like the last item on the priority list, but it shouldn’t be. Just like spending time with your spouse or significant other, having time for yourself is not bad or wrong or selfish. It’s necessary to recharge our batteries.

I love my family more than anything, but I need time on my own occasionally, and that doesn’t make me a bad wife or a bad mom. Self care can be as simple as reading a book or as elaborate as a weekend away from home.

Here are some of the ways that I take care of my own needs.

Time With Friends

Whether it’s meeting for breakfast on a Saturday or dessert on a weeknight, I try to meet up with my girlfriends on a fairly regular basis. I crave that time where I can laugh and talk with friends.

It’s important to have times of undistracted conversation, especially if you’re at home with kids full-time. Yes, a playdate for the kids can be a fun time to chat with another mom, but we all know there’s no such thing as a distraction-free conversation when the kids are around.

Bible Study and Book club

I meet with a group of women every other week for Bible study and once a month for a book club, and both are so renewing. We have good conversation and I learn so much. I’ve developed some good friendships too.

If you aren’t interested in a faith-based group, a book club, a cooking class or a yoga class are all great options. The idea is simply a regularly-scheduled purposeful group.


For those of us with an introverted side, time spent alone is essential. As much as I love to be with my friends and family, I also need time on my own to fully recharge.

Sometimes I’ll go to the bookstore and browse the shelves. Occasionally I go to a movie alone. I spend a lot of time around other people and sometimes I just need a break from interacting with others.

Weekend away

Each year my three closest girlfriends and I make it a point to have a weekend away together. The kids stay at home with their dads, and we have a weekend of undistracted conversation and fun.

We try to make it a pretty inexpensive trip and just enjoy a lot of “chick chat,” as my husband would say. Having a few days off from all my responsibilities as a wife and mom helps me recharge and regroup. I come back rested, happier and more than ready to be back at home with my family.

My husband and I also try to get at least one full day and night away from home each year. We need that concentrated time to connect apart from navigating the busyness of daily life as a family.

I’m very fortunate to have a husband who makes it possible for me to spend time with my girlfriends or on my own to refuel my tank. I make sure that he gets time with his friends too.

We spend plenty of time as a family and as a couple, but we both understand the importance of being off-duty. If you don’t have a partner that can give you these breaks, consider asking a family member, hiring a sitter, or trading off with another mom.

Just don’t neglect yourself because you think it’s not important!

How do you make time for yourself??

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The Whole30 – My First 15 Days

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.

the-whole-30-first2wksAlthough 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.


Plan Ahead

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.

whole 30 groceries

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.

whole 30 simple meal

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.


image from @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.

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

If you’re living in Low-Carb Land like me right now, you might be missing certain indulgences like, oh I don’t know, bread in general! But let’s get specific here. Pizza is a huge program buster, especially if you’re on a low-carb plan, so I went searching for alternatives. I didn’t have to look very hard because there are a lot of recipes out there for cauliflower pizza crust.

Even if you’re not avoiding carbs, this is a healthier, lower-calorie option packed with veggies. The recipe I used is from Sandy’s Kitchen and can be found here. After making cauliflower pizza a couple times, I now know that the key is making the crust thin so that it has the maximum potential for crispiness. Soggy crust is bad on real pizza and downright unbearable with cauliflower crust so spread it thin, people!

The crust is just grated raw cauliflower, shredded cheese, egg beaters and some seasonings. I used the shredding disk on my food processor but you could grate the cauliflower by hand too.

Using a spring-form pan makes it simple to get the crust into that perfect pizza shape, aka a circle. Covering the bottom in parchment paper before you snap the pan together and giving it a spray or two of cooking spray makes it a lot easier when it’s time to flip the crust.

After baking the crust for 30 minutes, you flip the crust and bake for an additional 10-15 to get it nice and crispy. The edges will look a little burnt but that means you’re doing it right!

Throw some toppings on with some sauce and some cheese and bake or broil for another 5-10 minutes. I just baked it and had no problem. I pureed a can of diced tomatoes and used about half a cup as the sauce. Yum yum.

So I’m not gonna lie. This dish will not be an exact replica for real pizza dough. But it’s definitely a reasonable substitution to help kick the craving. And it’s easy. Enjoy!
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