Why I Hate (to Love) the Whole30®
I know what you’re thinking: “Sarah. . . WHY are you posting about healthy eating right before Thanksgiving?” Good question. If you know me at all, you know I’m a lover of food. All food. I’ve been known to frequent both Whole Foods AND the Arby’s drive-thru. I’ve never been the poster child for healthy eating.
However, after baby #5, I was carrying a pooch pouch that I just couldn’t get rid of. My clothes weren’t fitting well, and I was quite honestly discouraged by all the flab. So I made up my mind to do the Whole30®.
I’ll be honest: I complained about 70 percent of the time—BUT was 100 percent happy with how I felt and how I saw my body transformed. So I feel inclined to share about my experience. And then maybe AFTER the holidays pass (because you’re going to want that apple pie. . .), you can consider whether the Whole30® is right for you.
Quick Note: I’m not in any way being coerced or paid by the creators of the Whole30® program. This is just a healthy-eating reflection from me to you.
What is the Whole30®?
Okay, if you haven’t heard of the Whole30®, let me give you a brief summary. The Whole30® isn’t a diet. Yes, you change your diet, but it’s designed to help reset your mental, physical, and emotional relationship with food. You eat food—real food—for 30 days. Many people call it “clean eating,” but here’s the basic rules straight from the Whole30® website:
“Eat moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed” (for the full “rules”, check out The Whole30® Program).
Why the Whole30®?
I’m a serial eater. I love food with a passion. But I’m NOT good at cutting out specific foods or being disciplined with portions over a long period of time. I struggle with moderation. At this stage of life, I’ve found no better way than the Whole30® to help my body feel better, to cut out bad snacking habits, and to slim down—especially after having a baby. And with the Whole30®, I know it’s not forever. I can do just about anything for 30 days.
What were my results?
I know each person chooses the Whole30® for different reasons. Some do it for immune or gut health. Others do it to help break unhealthy relationship with food (such as stress eating). My mom did it because she finds it decreases her arthritis inflammation. So I know the results depend a bit upon why you did it in the first place.
However, here’s what I’ve found personally:
- When on the Whole30®, I sleep better, have more energy, and generally feel good about myself.
- No, I never stop wishing for a piece of chocolate or a glass of wine when the kids are in bed. However, I do find satisfaction in not being dependent on things I would previously reach for to unwind or to destress.
- In terms of weight loss, I have experienced lost about 12 pounds over the 30 days. I definitely find that my clothes fit better—so much so that I even had to purchase a new pair of jeans!
- Now that I’m done with my 30 days, I do find myself thinking twice before eating most foods. No, I’m not eating 100% clean, but I have decided I can live without a few foods (like flavored coffee creamer, for one).
What are my tips and tricks?
- Choose your timing wisely. We began with our end date in mind, knowing that we wouldn’t want to have a restricted diet over the holidays. So we chose to end ours about a week before Thanksgiving, allowing us time to finish and to reintroduce a few non–Whole30® foods before any family feasts (to avoid tummy upset).
- Do your research. The Whole30® website is chock full of information, tips, tricks, forums, shopping lists, and so on. Do your reading ahead of time. Go grocery shopping before starting, because you will find that you may have to use different ingredients than what you’re used to or have in your cupboards.
- Plan out meals in advance (you can find a ton of recipes on Pinterest). I also found The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom to be a helpful book that also has some great basic recipes for salad dressings, sauces, breakfast foods, and main courses. Just keep in mind that the first time around, you will definitely spend more time meal planing and prepping than you have in the past.
- Focus more on what you CAN eat than what you CAN’T. No chocolate?!? No pasta?!? Say WHAT?!? Instead of complaining, discover some things you love that you CAN eat (say strawberries, sweet potatoes, or approved bacon), and focus on that. Fill your pantry or refrigerator with clean foods you love (and perhaps give away all the things that tempt you).
- Do it with someone else. Both times I have completed the Whole30®, I did it with my husband Ben. It was definitely easier having the accountability and knowing that I wouldn’t have to make a meal for me and a separate meal for my family.
I also want to mention that for the most part, I tried to cook the same thing for everyone—including our four boys—for dinner. We used it as an opportunity to help them eat healthier and introduce them to some new foods.
You don’t have to hate your life during the Whole30®. In fact, here are some of the food alternatives we’ve discovered that make the Whole30® much more bearable:
- nutpods Dairy Free Coffee Creamer Unsweetened (Variety 3-pack) – Whole30 Approved
- Almond butter (I get mine from Sam’s Club.)
- Larabar Gluten Free Bar, Apple Pie (Aldi also has an Elevate Apple Pie bar that’s comparable.)
- Primal Kitchen – Ranch, Avocado Oil-Based Dressing and Marinade, Whole30 and Paleo Approved (8 oz)
- Almond flour (I found a huge bag of at Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour at Sam’s Club for a great deal.)
- Sea-Salt, dry-roasted Cashews (great for when you need a small snack or some protein.)
If you have more questions about my experience with the Whole30® or want to share yours, please do NOT be shy but leave a message in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.