25. Whole 30

Last month I spent 30 days eating the “Whole30” plan. After the 30 days, I felt…well, we’ll get to that in a little bit.

A little background: Whole30 is a diet “lifestyle change” in which you eat healthy, whole foods (meats, vegetables, and fruits) in an effort to cleanse your gut, remove toxins from your body, and get rid of inflammation. The reason that I wanted to do this program is because I’ve talked to a bunch of people that had great results and was curious to see what mine might be. Additionally, I had started to develop what I lovingly refer to as my “beer bump”. I love drinking craft beers, which I know pack a lot of carbs and calories, but the taste is totally worth it to me. I thought if I could find a diet that would help flatten that beer bump and still allow me to indulge in the beer, that would make life deliciously wonderful for me. So I purchased the Whole30 book, borrowed the other one, recruited some friends do to it with me, and we started on January 2nd.

It’s probably not the best idea to start a “lifestyle change” the day after drinking heavily to celebrate the new year. Actually, that’s the best time to start! Although I woke up wanting something greasy rather than the healthy sweet potato hash breakfast I had planned for myself, as the day (and weeks) went on I found myself actually looking forward to the meals I had planned.

There is a Whole30 timeline that gives you an idea of what you can expect each day from this program. By day 3 I was expecting to feel some serious withdrawals from my sugary and salty snacks. But the withdrawals never came. On day 7 I did experience “kill all the things” (those are real, people!), but that only lasted days 7 and 8 and once it was over, that was it.

Here’s the part where I admit that I didn’t stick to this diet for the whole 30 (pun intended) days. This diet is so strict that it is nearly impossible to stick to it unless you are eating at home every meal, every day. With a trip to LA to visit family right in the middle of my plan, I had a feeling the wheels would come off a little bit. And they did, a little bit (the Sugar Dragon that they mention in the Whole30 book is terrifying. You should have seen me after a little birthday cupcake. I would haven eaten every sugary thing in sight!). But once I got back to Chicago, I was back on plan. And other than some accidental orders at a couple of restaurants, I think I can confidently say that I stuck to this diet 90%.

Here are the things that I learned while on this diet:

  1. I don’t eat *that* unhealthy. When you read the Whole30 books, it makes you feel like everything that is “off plan” is bad for you. Which isn’t necessarily true.
  2. The importance of reading your labels. You would be shocked (shocked!) at how many things are sold as “healthy” and “all natural” and there is nothing but junk in them. Now, I don’t think we need to go crazy and start making every single sauce, dip, and dressing from scratch, but I do think it’s important to know what you’re putting into your body.
  3. Speaking of…I actually enjoyed making my own sauces, dips, and dressings. I made homemade ketchup, ranch dressing, pasta sauce, and a delicious pomegranate vinaigrette. I also tried some new recipes that I probably wouldn’t have dared try before this diet (you guys, I roasted a chicken. And it was delicious!).
  4. It took me a while to get the hang of Sunday as “meal prep” days. I had convinced myself that I could whip up some homemade pasta sauce one night after work (I can’t) or that eating at 9pm after trying to make a delicious meal for 3 hours isn’t a terrible idea (it is). By the 4th week, I was a meal prepping machine. Just in time for the plan to be over, of course. But this meal prep is something that I’ve continued in my post-Whole30 life, and it’s been really helpful in normal life as well.
  5. The not drinking alcohol was a huge thing for me. Even if I was out late with friends (I sipped on club soda if we were out), I still felt refreshed and bright eyed when I woke up. I don’t think this means I will stop drinking completely, but it was helpful to know that with less drinking, I could still be a productive human the next day. (This makes me sound like I have a drinking problem. I don’t. But my friends and I do like to stay out until all hours of the night. Which still makes me sound like I have a drinking problem. I still don’t).

Here’s where I tell you about all of the amazing the results I had:

  1. [insert sound of crickets chirping]

Honestly, other than the 8 pound weight loss (which, yes, is a result, but I’m going to credit that to not drinking alcohol for 30 days), I never felt different. My sleep habits, skin, hair, nails, etc never changed. Except for the 2 days at the beginning of the program, I felt exactly the same on day 30 as I did on day 1. (I know what you Whole30-ers are thinking…it’s probably because I didn’t stick to the plan 100% for the 30 days. Which might be true. But after 30 days of better than normal eating, I still would have liked to see some better than normal results).

I will mention, however, that now that I’ve gotten better at eating/cooking Whole30, I might like to try it again while working out regularly. I was so concerned with having enough time to make all of my meals, that I didn’t schedule time to get to the gym. And maybe my Whole30 results would have been different if I was eating better AND working out at the same time. I did have one “Tiger Blood” day, which was also the same day that I went to a SoulCycle class with a couple of my besties. So I’m not sure if it was the Soul endorphins or the Whole30 but damn, that day felt good.

I never think it’s a bad idea to try to eat healthier. So that’s how I’ll look at this month – as the 30 days I spent eating healthier than I normally do. As for the amazing results that everyone raves about, you won’t find them here. But if you’ve done a Whole30 and had amazing results, I’d love to hear about it!