The Whole30

Today marks the 30th day of my Whole30!

What is Whole30 (and the Whole9)? The program's creators describe it this way: "Whole9’s original program designed to change your life in 30 days. Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation and put an end to unhealthy cravings, habits, and relationships with food." It's a free program (although there is a good "Success Guide") you can purchase on their site, which has a lot of helpful info.

Why I Did It

I chose to do it for a few reasons. One, while I was in Nicaragua a lot of my eating habits were disrupted - and that was a good thing! I may not have eaten super well there, but it at least broke my habits. However, when I returned I started to fall right back into them - lots of sugar, no cooking for myself, calorie counting, etc, and I didn't feel good about that. Also, a number of people at CrossFit have done the Whole30 (many of them more than once), and had positive experiences. Finally, ever since attending my first CrossFit class in November, I've totally fallen in love with the sport. I have so many goals I want to reach - consecutive toe to bars, one unassisted pull up, dead-lifting over 200#, getting my double unders down, and much more! - and I hoped that Whole30 might help me become more of the lean, mean, CrossFit machine I dream of becoming.

Some Thoughts On My Experience With Whole30:

* For me, I think the best part about Whole30 has been the change in my morning routine. I've always loved breakfast foods (in college I used to eat 6-9 donuts a day - true story), and I've always had carb-y sweet things in the morning. In fact, on day 3 or 4 of Whole30 I actually had a moment where I woke up and thought, "Why bother getting out of bed, I don't get to have donuts/scones etc" - yikes, hello sugar addiction! While on Whole30 I made eggs every morning for breakfast, usually scrambled with spinach and chorizo. On the few days I haven't been able to do this, I really miss the protein. So this is something I know I will keep doing, saying to myself, maybe you'll have a scone later, but you cannot start the day with inadequate protein and a sugar rush.

* For someone like me (like a lot of us) who will always be in recovery from a life time of disordered eating, Whole30 was a great way to help me break my addiction to counting calories, and the fear a lot of us have of eating fat.

* It wasn't as brutal as it seems. I had to cook and plan a little more, and it can definitely make socializing tough, but for the most part it wasn't as hard as I worried it would be. Well, until......

* One thing I didn't see mentioned but would tell any woman thinking of doing it, is be aware of where you are in your cycle. You do not want to try to battle with PMS cravings and emotions at the same time as you start the Whole30. I didn't have as many sweet cravings as I thought I would, but when PMS arrived in Week 3 I was a real brat. I got cranky and wanted to just roll around in a vat of donuts and eat them all until I died a sweet sweet maple frosted death. So, you know, maybe start the Whole30 right after your period or something.

* Other physical benefits. I was really "regular" if you know what I mean. Also, my skin got better, and zits cleared up.

* Not riding that damn sugar roller coaster was great - I realized that when I eat sugar I get hot all over and flush, how quickly I would crave more, etc. And, of course, realized that most of the time I craved sugar it was because I was bored, sad, stressed, or something else unrelated to actually enjoying the food I was eating.

* One hard part: as an ex-vegetarian (and ex-vegan) who still struggles with my love of meat, sometimes it was hard to eat so much meat. The Whole30 people really stress eating hormone free, grass fed meat, which is awesome, and I tried to buy mine local as well. But having meat twice a day every day (at minimum) was sometimes hard for me to get used to, and I think it will continue to feel that way. (They've recently come out with more resources for vegetarians who want to try Whole30, but I think that would be very very difficult.)

* I like that I became much more aware of food labels. Previously, I had just looked at them to check out calories (truth), but when I started looking to see if they included any of the dozens of forms of sugar, I started to quickly put anything down with more than a half dozen ingredients. This was cool. I would pick something up and think, I don't even know what half of this stuff is - I'm not putting this in my body! I liked that.

* Finally, although the Whole30 crew instructs you not to weigh yourself during Whole30 and warns against our dependence on the scale generally, for many people weight loss is a motivating factor. I won't lie - it was attractive to me as well. Some people have incredible weight loss, like 20 pounds or more in a month, and people have such incredible testimonies (the weight fell off, everything in my life improved!) that it's easy to get your hopes up that the Whole30 will basically fix everything in your life. Unsurprisingly, that wasn't my experience. Weight loss wise, I lost a few pounds in the first week and then just maintained there. I definitely felt less bloated and more firm within the first week, which was great, but I didn't have huge weight loss and I think that's for a few reasons:

(1) I did as they say, and didn't monitor calories at ALL, which I think is good, and the ONLY way to really break your sugar addiction (which I did - yay!), but I think that some people who lose a lot of weight "break the rules" and limit their food intake/calorie count.

(2) I ate a ton of nuts and dried fruit (they recommend limiting your fruit intake, which I finally did the last week, but otherwise I was like, forget it, it's fruit and I'm already monitoring so much.

(3) I was working on building back all the muscle I lost in Nicaragua, so in reality I probably lost more than a few pounds of fat, but I added muscle (which is what I wanted, but it doesn't translate to scale #s).

They recommend doing body measurements before you start and I really wish I had done that, because I think that progress would be more noteworthy than the scale. Also, lifting weights and changing my mindset via CrossFit has definitely given me a more "f the scale" attitude - I've been thinner in the past, but fatter, if that makes sense, and now I'm relatively heavier but leaner, etc.


Of course, the Whole30 site has a TON of good info (although it took me a while to find my way around, and, to be honest, I get sort of bored reading all the science stuff, or hearing people talk about how cave men ate, etc).

These aren't Whole30 specific sites, but a lot of them have done the Whole30 or are paleo (which is close to Whole30 but less strict. And people get really into "paleo treats" (like paleo "donuts" etc) that you are supposed to avoid during Whole30): The Clothes Make The Girl, TGIPaleo, A Girl Walks Into A Bar(Bell), Civilized Caveman Cooking.

Day 31:

Now what? This post does an excellent job outlining some of the challenges of finishing the Whole30. I have definitely had a lot of these thoughts; while I don't want to be Whole30 or Paleo forever, I will admit that I'm a little nervous about reintroducing stuff into my diet and losing all the (mainly mental) progress I have made. I love what they write about the tendency people have to get attached to a strict diet, and the importance of dealing with making your own choices, and living a healthy life. I think it's really important to trust yourself to make decisions, to not feel totally "all or nothing," or live in fear of "slipping." I also thought this post was great - if you find yourself having a nightmare about eating something "bad," it's time to reassess. I really appreciate that they address the fact that Whole30, as with any eating plan, can become unhealthy if taken to an extreme.

I will definitely continue eating protein packed breakfasts. I will continue to read labels, and throw back things that have lots of ingredients, and things I don't recognize. I will be mindful about seeing how my body responds to dairy, grains, and sugar. But, to be honest, I'm still not sure how Whole30 will change my eating habits in the long run - I'm certainly planning on eating donuts again at some point in my life! The creators of Whole30 suggest doing it a few times a year to "reset" and I really like that idea (OK, I'll admit it, I'm a crazy planner and already have a second round of Whole30 scheduled for July).

Anyways, I hope all this is helpful. If anyone has more questions, or comments about their experience with Whole30 I'd love to hear them!


lissymissy said...

Can I ask what made you stop eating vegetarian food? I have been vego for 2 years and I just recently felt like i needed to start eating fish so after a lot of thought, i did

Shorty said...

Sure! I was veggie for about 10 years, due to moral and ethical considerations. During that time I definitely wasn't a super healthy vegetarian - I was your normal somewhat unhealthy eater, just without meat. I never craved meat or missed it at all until about year 9 (when I was 25 or so). After craving it for a few months I finally thought, OK, I'll try it, and probably be so disgusted that I never crave it again. Well, I had some chicken and my body felt Great. I added meat back in then, but have never felt 100% ok with it emotionally or ethically. I used to just eat meat when I was out at restaurants etc, but then I thought, "Hey, you don't know where that meat comes from. If you're really going to be a meat eater, buy good meat, and learn to prepare it. Own up to what you're consuming." So that's what I'm trying to do!

Catherine said...

Through my work at a magazine, I got this book (Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat) and I'd be happy to mail it to you. It has tons of great information. Honestly, if you're interested, just email the address on my profile. :)

Thanks, as always, for sharing your journey!