Today is January 30, and my Whole30 is officially wholly complete! I can’t believe I did it, and aside from just a couple beers he had, Jody did it, too!
If you missed my first blog post on what is and why I’m doing the Whole30, the Whole30 is exactly what it sounds like – a 30-day nutritional program in which you eat nothing but whole foods in the hopes you’ll balance your hormones, reduce inflammation, and reset your relationship with foods.
In this post, I’ll list the foods I eliminated, the foods I enjoyed, the benefits I got out of the Whole30, the things I didn’t like about the Whole30, and what this experience has taught me.
So let’s outline the foods I normally eat regularly that I gave up for the last 30 days:
- Alcohol, including my favorite, red wine.
- Sugar: real, artificial, Stevia, agave, honey, etc.
- Things with sugar in it, like Sriracha, most condiments, and salad dressings.
- Dairy, including cheese, Greek yogurt, chocolate, and anything with whey.
- Beans, peanuts, corn, tofu, tempeh.
- Canola oil, soybean oil, peanut oil.
- Bread, pasta, rice, orzo, including the whole wheat varieties.
Here is what I did eat for the last 30 days:
- Lots of grilled fish and seafood
- Veggies, mostly in salads, and often sautéed and spiralized.
- Heartier vegetables, like sweet potatoes, red potatoes, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash.
- Nuts and seeds, mainly almonds and cashews.
- Snacks a couple times a week: homemade plantain chips, homemade kale chips.
- Once a week maybe: homemade date-with-a-nite bites, Lara Bar, RX bar
- Herbal teas, coffee with almond milk, coconut water, aloe water, La Croix.
Putting this all together, a typical day for me on the Whole30 would look like this:
- Meal: Baked egg white muffins, butternut squash, avocado.
- Snack: Banana, almonds.
- Meal: Salad loaded with veggies, apple-cider vinegar as dressing.
- Snack: Apple and/or orange
- Meal: Grilled fish with some kind of vegetable, maybe some baked “french fries,” a La Croix.
Benefits I saw during the Whole30:
- I cooked every single day. As a result, we saved money on eating out, and I made a lot of food I hadn’t tried before (like the rustic roasted carrots pictured above).
- Some days I had a lot of energy. And some days I felt like I had no energy. That’s the funny thing about Whole30. I didn’t wake up one day and feel the ‘Tiger Blood,’ at least not for me. But aside from some grogginess to start, overall, I felt pretty good.
- I drank less caffeine. Somehow in the last couple years I have managed to work myself up to about four to five caffeinated beverages a day. I now have about one to three, and only coffee or tea.
- No wine-induced bouts of insomnia. Truthfully, I probably would have slept straight through every night, if it wasn’t for the next point, which is…
- I drank more water. When you can’t drink booze or anything with a hint of sugar in it, you drink a LOT of water.
- Reduced cravings. After about 10 days, I stopped craving wine and cheese, my two major no-brakes food groups. But while I craved less sugar, I craved fruit even more (and ate a lot, probably too much, of it).
- Less anxiety. I really never stressed on the Whole30 about what to eat. The rules were clear-cut which made my nutritional decisions pretty easy. And when you’re not worried about one thing, you can focus on and accomplish other things.
- I didn’t have PMS. That’s right.
Things I didn’t like about Whole30:
- I was hungry a lot. See next bullet point.
- I ate less protein and more carbs. This one might be hard to grasp, but stay with me. I struggled quite a bit with this program because as a person who doesn’t eat meat, my only protein sources were fish and eggs. Some days I was even eating eggs for breakfast and for lunch (sidenote: I get free lunch at work and rarely do they have fish other than tuna salad). But the main problem for me was that two of my other major protein sources – dairy and legumes – were eliminated this month. Prior to Whole30, my macros were around 45-25-35 (carb-fat-protein) and on Whole30 that shifted to about 55-20-25. Which was basically a difference of having squash with breakfast instead of yogurt and a baked potato with lunch when I couldn’t get fish. And I never ate baked potatoes before (because BORING!).
- It’s not flexible, and in life, you have to be flexible. Yes it’s only 30 days, but the program specifically says ‘not even a single bite of anything non-compliant or you have to start over.’ I skipped out on some sweets my mom brought back from her trip to the Middle East because (cue Yoda voice) ‘not one bite have I could.’ That was a bummer. And while I cooked more than ever, food exhaustion set in around week three. No matter how you cook salmon, it still tastes like salmon.
- I didn’t lose much weight. To be honest, this surprised me. I’m happy for any weight loss but I could have expected more since I was still working out five to six times a week. Considering that while some lose weight, many people have reported gaining weight on the Whole30, I know I shouldn’t be disappointed. Jody, on the other hand, did lose more weight than I did. Maybe what this tells me is that an elimination diets are just not for me.
The Whole30 was a kind of experiment. I wanted to see if I had the discipline to do it, and I did. And that is the most important thing I could take away from this experience.
Completing this challenge has reassured me that I had been eating pretty well all along. I’m still the same person, and I don’t feel all that different after 30 days of eating strictly clean. My strategy before was to eat mostly whole foods and indulge in moderation, and I’m going to carry on doing just that. What I’ll also take away is that sugar is in everything, and if corn is used as filler for livestock then I really should be more cautious about the amount that’s hidden in the foods I eat. However, since I saw no health benefits to eliminating dairy (I know, casein is potentially addictive, but I need protein!), I’ll be reintroducing Greek yogurt into my daily diet. And yes, I will still enjoy alcohol once or twice a week.
In summary, the Whole30 was a kind of experiment. I wanted to see if I had the discipline to do it, and I did. And that is the most important thing I could take away from this experience. You can do anything if you set your mind to do it. And I’m determined to enjoy a giant slice of pizza and one (maybe two) glasses of wine tonight to celebrate just that.
I’d love to see a cost comparison – did you noticeably spend more or less on food during the 30 days?
That is a great point I forgot to make, Stasia! At the beginning of the 30 days, we were on track to actually be spending more on food than we normally do in about a month. Pantry items like almond butter, nuts, coconut, almond or coconut flour, etc are never cheap, and because of all the fresh produce and protein we were eating, sometimes we’d need to shop twice a week. However, because we were going out to eat much less frequently (I think we went out about three times all month) and weren’t spending money on alcohol, we actually saved a little money. I hope that makes sense!
I’m very impressed! I’ve wondered if I would have the discipline to do something like this. Good for you that you proved you do!
Thanks so much Dana! It was challenging for sure!