No sugar, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no alcohol.
Oh my goodness, I’m feeling another NOvember coming on and I’m not really sure I’m strong enough for this!
Oh and no baked goods… not even if it’s made with Whole30 compliant foods.
If you’ve never heard of the Whole30 program, the basic outline is that you eat only whole foods for 30 days. This allows your body to do a kind a reset, ridding itself of all the toxins and inflammation that has built up over years of less than stellar food choices.
Speaking of inflammation, apparently there are some whole foods that can cause inflammation too, like grains and legumes. So you cut them out for the 30 days as well.
The Whole30 is not about losing weight.
It’s about giving your body a bit of a reset by interupting bad habits, giving your digestive system a bit of a clean out and restoring a healthy metabolism.
My Whole30 Results
I approached this Whole30 experience with a healthy (?) measure of trepidation and nerves. While I had already proven to myself that I could cut out sugar and wheat, I was actually really nervous about how the Whole30 limits it even more.
No diary? That would mean no milk in my coffee, no cream in my scrambled eggs and definitely no yummy gooey cheese with my Friday night wine…
…and no Friday night wine. :-O
I had plans of embarking on the Whole30 straight after the Christmas holidays… but for some reason, I let fear get in the way. I thought I wasn’t going to be strong enough and that cutting out the diary in my diet was going to be my undoing. You see, I’ve tried to cut out dairy more than once before. And always, it was the desire for a milky coffee that would cause me to falter.
But, as is so often the case, the universe stepped in… and her name is Colleen.
Colleen is my work colleague and we’ve been friends ever since I started with this company 3 years ago. We were office neighbours for about a year, and we’d pop into each others office most days for a quick hello and catch up. We realised pretty early on that both of us struggled with our weight and regular exercise, but that we both also had a desire to improve ourselves through personal development. So we had this unspoken agreement that we would encourage each other with healthy eating and we were workout buddies for over a year too.
It was late January / early February this year that I told Colleen about my desire to do the Whole30, and after a little research of her own she was all on board to do it with me. A buddy to walk through this journey with me! And an accountability partner to keep me on the straight and narrow.
I was pretty keen to start sooner rather than later, but due to travel, holidays and conferences, the most logical start date would be the 1st March. I was a little bummed to have to wait, but delaying our start proved to be in both our favour and ultimately contributed to the success we’ve both had.
So how did it go?
Our 30 days was up last week and I’m very pleased to report that I got through it without too much angst and I didn’t slip up once.
Long story short… it went great! Both Colleen and I felt better for it, lost a couple of kilos and managed to get through the entire 30 days without any slip ups or melt downs. 😮
Here’s a couple of questions I’ve been asked about it:
Did you stick to plan? Yes! It took a little bit of adjusting to ensure that I didn’t mistakenly add some sauce to my dish that had sugar in it, or thicken a casserole with flour. But with a bit of time and preparation it was all totally doable.
Did you desperately miss anything? Kindof. But after all my worrying about how I’d cope without dairy, it was a relatively seamless transition for me. Sure, for that first week I really wanted that coffee with a bit of milk in it; but seriously Michelle, it’s 30 days, put your big girl pants on and either have a black coffee or water. Stop the freakin whining.
And, what a surprise, I got over it. Black coffee is fine, and plain old hot water is even better. By the end of the 30 days, I was used to not having it.
I’d still love a flat white though.
Did you have any cravings? Okay, let’s talk about cravings. Do you realise just how much cravings rule your life? They ruled mine. I didn’t realise just how much my cravings dictated so much of what I did (ate) while at the same time keeping me locked up in a prison of my own desires.
By the end of the first week my cravings had all but disappeared (helped a lot by the fact that I’d already reduced my sugar intake significantly) and I was free from the afternoon hangryness.
I can’t tell you how much that freedom is worth.
For me, it’s sooo worth the effort of being a bit disciplined for a mere 30 days and ridding myself of the misery of cravings. Cravings are a cruel and relentless master, and kindof a bitch.
Did you lose weight? Yes. A couple of kilos.
How did you feel? Good. I felt good within myself that I am finally taking control of my health and that it’s not nearly as difficult to do as I thought (especially when you don’t have to battle with cravings or hunger). I can’t say that I felt a huge surge of energy or slept heaps better or anything like that. I suppose, for me, it’s more that I didn’t feel bad. No sore tummy (except period pain, blergh) and no headaches.
Now that I’ve completed the Whole30, I thought I’d share some of the tips that I think made the most difference to my success.
Preparation is everything
I mean preparation in two ways:
1. Prepare by getting yourself used to the Whole30 for a couple of weeks, or even months beforehand.
As you know (because I’ve harped on about it here and here) I completed the month of November with no sugar and no wheat. I managed to keep that going until Christmas where I had a few treats and then for the first two months of this year I was still on very little sugar and wheat, only consuming it for treats. So for me, cutting out sugar and gluten on the Whole30 was not such a big deal. Dairy on the other hand, was more of a deal.
But I gotta say, I would much rather cut out one or two things from my diet at one time rather than a whole slew of yummies. Does that make sense? The only hard thing I had to deal with this month was dairy, not having any sugar or gluten was already kinda normal to me.
On the other hand, Colleen spent the month of February slowly getting rid of all the foods that are not allowed on the Whole30. Clearing her kitchen of all the restricted foods, getting used to cooking without some of her staples, and making whole food choices while eating out. She started eating more and more whole foods and by time March rolled around, she’d already been eating strictly Whole30 for a few days anyway.
2. Prepare to cook EVERY meal
Unless you cook every meal already (and I mean EVERY meal) then this program will probably take a fair bit of adjustment for you. It did for me. I cooked most meals in our house anyway, but I quickly learnt that I was going to have to cook EVERY meal in order to get through this successfully.
Colleen decided to plan her meals for each day of the week and then buy all the ingredients at her weekly shop. But within that week she could mix things up if she wanted to. For me, having lots of fruit, vegetables and meat in the house was enough for me to decide on the fly what to make for each meal.
Pro tip: if you’re not much of a cook, learn. There is so much tasty, fresh produce for you to enjoy and learning to cook will expand your selection in a huge way. I’m not the kind of person that can eat the same things over and over again, so it was important for me to learn some new recipes and get ideas from the internet.
I suspect that the benefits of accountability are a little bit dependant on personalities. Some people thrive with accountability while it makes others feel restricted. I’m the kind of person that benefits from accountability; not the judgemental type of accountability, just the accountability of having someone that is walking the same journey as you.
There were times when I’d had a stressful or frustrating day at work and I’d really want to say “stuff it!” and buy a bottle of wine and a bag of chippies on my way home. But knowing that I would need to confess that to Colleen, stopped me from doing it.
In making the decision not to break the plan there were a few emotions at play: 1. I didn’t want to disappoint Colleen (I’m a people-pleaser kind of personality) 2. I didn’t want to let her down because I felt like she needed me on this journey just as much as I needed her and 3. my pride was not going to let me be the one who caved in!
Be really sure you know what is and isn’t allowed. The Whole30 website has a ‘Can I have…?’ section which goes through all the questions they’ve been asked about which foods can and cannot be eaten during the challenge. Know this beforehand, because by the time you’ve got a bowl of delicious looking chia seed pudding in front of you it’s not gonna matter whether it’s on plan or not. Am I right?
The Whole30 program was designed by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig and they introduced it to the world in their book It Starts With Food. I read the book before starting the Whole30 and I high recommend it. The book gave me a really good understanding of why the program is designed the way that it is and why it’s so important to follow all the steps. The Whole30 challenge is not about losing weight, it’s about eating right. We have so many hang-ups around food and the Whole30 is about giving your body and your brain a chance to reset itself, and get back to healthy. You can get the book here.
Please note, that’s an affiliate link, so if you click on the link to Amazon and then buy the book, I will receive a small commission for it. But you will not pay any extra.
And get together a bunch of recipes that you’ve already checked out and possibly even practiced making. There are gazillions of specifically Whole30 recipes on the internet. Just google them, or my favorite thing is to look for recipes on pinterest. This doesn’t need to be boring or expensive.
Attitude towards the food
Whenever I go on a ‘diet’ it’s always about the foods that you can’t eat. That makes sense, of course, because it’s those foods that have got you into this pickle in the first place. But for this challenge I really tried to change my attitude towards the challenge itself and the food choices.
Sure, there’s lots of foods that you can’t eat on the Whole30, but soooo many delicious foods that you CAN eat, so enjoy!
Stop worrying that you’re eating too many potatoes, and enjoy them.
Feel like the one apple didn’t quite satisfy your hunger? Eat another one, and savour that juicy sweet crunch.
Love, love, love baked (roasted) pumpkin? Eat it every night girl, no one’s judging.
Don’t look at the Whole30 as 30 days of deprivation, but rather see it as 30 days of abundance, where you get to feed your body with all the nutritious, delicious foods that you know it needs and craves. Don’t deprive yourself. Don’t go hungry! Give yourself the gift of eating the best you’ve ever eaten and not being hungry the whole time.
Where to from here?
Well, the results of this Whole30 challenge have convinced me that this is the right path for me. Eating whole foods is good for me, and makes me feel good. I can’t deny it.
Do I still want sweet stuff? Hell yeah! I’d love a flat white and a pastry right now. Right now. But since it’s not right in front of me and the desire is not an overwhelming one… my scrambled eggs are satisfyingly yummy.
So for now, I’m going to eat as much Whole30 compliant as I can. Simply because it makes me feed good.
And I think I’ll do another Whole30 in May. This way of eating is just RIGHT for me.
Have you heard of the Whole30? Check out the details here if you want. Have you ever wanted to do it yourself?
Colleen is also writing about her Whole30 experience, go and check out her blog here.