As of tomorrow, Jeremy & I will have completed our very first Whole30. The re-introduction process is slow, but today is our final day of super strict, read-every-label-or-start-over eating. Woo!
If you have never heard of the Whole30, it's a 30 day eating challenge that is "designed to change your life in 30 days." Basically, for the last 30 days we have eaten meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and eggs. And that's about it. No grains, dairy, legumes, or sugar of any kind (except fruit). As you are reading this, you likely have one of two responses. Either:
1. You've done this before or thought about doing it before and you are nodding your head in solidarity.
2. You think we are crazy.
I have considered myself a healthy eater for many years, and over the past few years of marriage, I have learned so much about how to eat and feed my family well with whole, real, delicious food. We hardly eat any processed food, limit our grains, and eat lots of produce and fresh foods. I have developed a serious interest in and affinity for cooking and spending time in the kitchen. But, I have always been really skeptical of the Whole30. I thought, "I already eat healthy enough. Why deprive myself of all of those things for 30 days?"
But I am really glad I did it.
I am writing this post mostly for my own benefit and the benefit of others who are planning to try the Whole30 program. I want to recap our adventure and share some of the tricks I learned along the way. (I'm sure I will have even more thoughts and reflections after we complete the re-introduction phase of this process. I will keep you posted!)
Let's start with the positive. Here are some of the benefits we experienced from doing the Whole30.
1. Energy and motivation. After I got past a few early days of exhaustion, I found that I had increased energy and alertness. I was accomplishing more and feeling overall more energetic and focused in my tasks. This is a huge benefit! While I can't say that I was never tired in the 30 days, I didn't get the draining afternoon lulls that follow grain and sugar filled meals.
2. My sugar cravings decreased. I may not eat bakery cakes, oreos, or Blue Bell ice cream very often, but I had become very dependent on the "healthier" versions of such treats. Almond flour cookies, coconut milk ice cream, and gluten free chocolate chip pancakes were regular treats in my weekly (ahem, daily) diet. My sweet tooth was the hardest to kick in the early days of Whole30, and I rolled my eyes that I couldn't even put honey in my wellness tea or have uncured bacon if it contained any maple syrup or cane sugar. But I'm happy to say that I don't have those same seemingly insatiable desires for just a bite of banana oat cookies that I once did. Although, I can guarantee, I will be making some coconut milk ice cream as soon as this is over.
3. We both slimmed down. I haven't weighed myself since the end of Whole30, but whether or not I've lost weight is not of huge significance to me. I look slimmer and I feel better. Jeremy's change was more noticeable than mine (isn't that always the way, though?), and he has definitely dropped a few pounds. Also, despite the fact that I have been inconsistent in working out this month, my muscle tone is more defined.
4. Overall feeling better. In addition to more energy, I just felt better overall. Better PMS symptoms (sorry, guys), fewer stomach aches. Also, I have been less stressed and overall just a little peppier.
5. I feel a sense of accomplishment. I didn't know if I could deprive myself of so many delicious things for 30 days...especially in the midst of business travel and appointments, but I did it! And I feel better for it! And I realized that food doesn't have as much power over me as it once did. I can say no...even to a fresh crab cake staring me in the face on the Florida coast that wouldn't have been that bad but still broke the rules. Yes, I did that. And I survived. If anything, this was a really good test of willpower. I feel like I won the game.
6. I learned new skills and developed new habits. I tried recipes I never would have tried. I learned to use ingredients I didn't usually use. I started cooking a big, healthy breakfast every single morning.
Now let's talk hard stuff. Here were the most challenging/frustrating things about the 30 days.
- Eating out and having to be that person. On week 2 of the challenge, I went on a work trip and I had to eat out every meal for 5 days straight...often at greasy spoon restaurants that I did not choose. I made it work, but there was some frustration at the hassle. Also, you know that person across from you at the restaurant who asks for every single thing to be customized? The "is there butter on that salmon? What oil do you use to cook the broccoli? Can I have that without soy?" girl. I was that girl.
- Having to carefully avoid things I know don't bother me. I haven't done whole30 before, but I have done similar, less strict versions of the paleo diet. I know that a little bit of grass fed butter or some honey in my tea or soybean oil on my Chipotle veggies isn't a big deal. So I had to curb the eye rolling and just suck it up and avoid those little, not such a big deal things. For the sake of the cause. It is also quite annoying to have to read every single label looking for small amounts of added sugar.
- My skin didn't really improve. I have struggled with not-awesome skin lately, and I was hoping 30 days of the cleanest possible eating would leave me with a glowing, blemish free complexion. Unfortunately, it seems, clean eating wasn't the ultimate solution to everything.
- HUNGRY. I feel like eating this way increases my metabolism almost too much. We found ourselves so hungry before meals...like we could barely wait to scarf down those vegetables and meat.
- Cost of food. We are budget people, and this month definitely stretched our budget. Partly because I was so concerned with feeding us well that I didn't pay as close of attention to money, but it's expensive when all you can eat is produce, meat, and nuts. Also, winter is a tough time of year because not very much produce is actually in season.
The truth is, I am so glad I finished the 30 days...despite the things listed above! Are our lives changed? I'm not sure about that, but they are certainly enhanced. I think this program really could change your life if you were starting from a more unhealthy place. But even as "healthy" eaters already, this program is definitely something I would recommend!
Tomorrow, I'll be back to talk about my food favorites from the month and share a few recipes.