Is it too late to still be talking about New Year’s Resolutions? So sorry if so. I spent the large part of the new year participating in the Whole30 challenge with some other just as crazy friends of mine. Never heard about it? No worries I’ll fill you in.
Deciding to do the Whole30 largely grew from me challenging myself to:
- Kickstart some healthiness into my life (ie. move past the post holiday deliciousness buzz)
- Lose a few pounds or at least feel like I lose a few pounds (ie. read generic New Year’s weight loss resolution here)
- Get better sleep (ie. I have a terrible issue getting up in the mornings because of my love/hate relationship with the snooze button)
This idea largely started as that. A loose idea that I kinda, sorta, maybe thought I’d do after the New Year. I mentioned it to some friends and to my shock they were fully onboard to do it with me. Which in this case, the more truly makes it merrier. The challenge became real and we got started 30 days ago. Ready or not.
So what is the Whole30, anyway?
You may have heard something about it, but don’t know exactly what it is. The Whole30 is a 30 day eating challenge developed by Melissa Hartwig (find her on Instagram. She’s awesome to follow) as a new way to reexamine your relationship with food. My quick go-to explanation when people ask is that it’s like Paleo but harder. It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig breaks down the philosophy, thought-process and nutrition behind the Whole30 program. It really is a good, quick read that helped me understand the idea behind giving up 30 days.
The main idea is to completely reevaluate your relationship with food by committing 30 days to cleanse, detoxify, rid your body of addicting foods with little nutritional or health value. Plus, measure your attachment to food on a nutritional, but also emotional level. A lot of food now has sugars, preservatives and other not so healthy ingredients that aren’t ‘real’ and our body really doesn’t need or know how to process.
Melissa and the Whole30 team challenge you to show some love on your body with a 30 day reboot, so to speak. The book breaks down very effectively the reasons why they created the challenge the way it is and how some foods work and others don’t. Many people have shared fantastic results and great stories from engaging in healthy eating.
However. And this is a big however. This is a program built on pseudo-science at best. It is not proven as the cure-all for health, and while they make a lot of really good points that I agree and follow along with they also make some points I don’t. And that’s okay because perspective and speculation is important.
So let’s break it down. What are the rules?
- No sugars
- No alcohol
- No dairy
- No grains
- No legumes
So what can I eat? Fruits, vegetables, meats and spices mainly.
How did you hear about the Whole30?
My friend and coworker actually introduced me last year. She had done it before and I was amazed at the results she saw and became intrigued. I read the book and we did it together last spring before the summer season came. I’m competitive by nature so being a given a seemingly impossible challenge was right up my alley. It’s been fun becoming a pseudo-veteran of the Whole30 and I loved doing it a second time with new friends who had never tried it before.
So it sounds crazy, why would you do that?
You’re right. Looking back up at those rules makes it seem stupidly restrictive and impossible, but I promise it’s not. Yes, you’re grocery bill is going to be higher, yes, it’s hard to eat out and yes, social situations become way more difficult as you are super aware and conscious of what you are eating ALL THE TIME.
But that’s kinda the point.
If it were easy, everyone would do it (as the saying goes). The Whole30 is hard. But’s it’s also fun and extremely liberating. My first Whole30 was hard. This second Whole30 was hard.
Recognizing your attachment to certain kinds of foods and realizing how hard it is to not have them suddenly is hard. Getting frustratied in cooking and not having anything available is annoying. Having to explain to friends why you can’t eat, drink, be social like you ‘used to be’ is intimidating and embarrassing at times. In my first Whole30 I learned control, what were my major food weaknesses (all the dairy) and the social aspect of being a Whole30-er.
I became unafraid to speak up and say what I was doing and anticipate what situations I would be in. Why was I doing it? For me. For my body. For my health.
Whole30 sounds crazy upfront, I concede that. But when you think in the scope of 30 days, that’s nothing. It’s a rewarding accomplishment to make it to the end and to have the opportunity to really think about your day to day eating habits. Which this forces you to do.
What did you learn?
Let’s have some real talk. I went into this second Whole30 with a pretty bad attitude about it. I wasn’t committed and initially thought I’d “try” my best and just see what happened. I’d done it before, so I had nothing to prove this round. As you can guess, not the way to go about it. That was just setting myself up for failure. Luckily, the day before we were supposed to get started I had a change of heart and sat down to make a plan.
I don’t have a crazy success story to share here. My sleeping didn’t get that much better and as someone who gets routine migraines, those migraines continued to come. What I did gain was a greater feeling of self-confidence and noticeable weight loss not necessarily measured on a scale. It’s hard to describe how awesome it feels to have people let you know that you look good. That they can tell you’re doing something different. And that you can tell too just looking in the mirror.
What else did I learn?
Planning. Seriously, that’s the secret to being successful at this. I made weekly meal plans followed by a grocery list followed by a grocery store visit. Knowing what I was cooking each night was a huge relief as well as keeping snacks in reach. That meant having a healthy supply of produce and nuts available in the event of hunger.
Being open and honest about what you’re doing. I was the only person in my office going through the Whole30. Which in an office environment can be hard when someone brings in donuts, we go on a coffee run or go out to eat somewhere where I have limited options. However, in being honest and upfront they were able to be supportive and un-offended when I turned down food and declined an invite to lunch.
Be Social. Sure, it’s harder to go out to the bar or restaurant. Especially for me, when going out and paying for a meal means I should be able to get something I really want. But you know what? Friends are meeting for drinks? Go join them and order hot tea (did that). Friends want to meet up for dinner? Offer to host them at your place and introduce them to a Whole30 meal (did that too). You’re committed to the Whole30, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your life. Or else how are you going to make lasting eating changes when the Whole30 is over?
You don’t have to be perfect. It can be an overwhelming endeavor. Especially, when looking online and trying to get clarification on what is and isn’t Whole30 approved. You do the best you can and, trust me, that goes a long way. In just a couple of imperfect instances I can show some ‘mess-ups’ I had this round, but in no way do I feel that detracts from my success.
- My budget doesn’t allow for some of the nice, organic meats and unique spices listed. So was some of the ground beef and chicken broth I bought probably not technically Whole30 approved? Most definitely. But, I don’t let it bother me. I did what I could and moved forward.
- One weekend I went home and my parents decided to do the Whole30 challenge with me for the weekend. Super sweet of them and I love them for it. My mom made a vegetable soup that had corn and green beans it. Technically, not Whole30 (corn=grains, green beans=legumes) but I ate it anyway and it was delicious.
- I ordered a salad from Panera Bread and didn’t realize there was cheese on it. I picked around the cheese as best I can, but did I probably ingest some cheese. Yes. Did it matter in the grand scheme of things. Not really.
Embrace the challenge. I had so much fun this Whole30 and part of that was in planning new meals. I made an effort to cook a lot and be diverse in what I cooked. I tried some new meats outside of my cooking comfort zone (steak! pork!) and vegetables (butternuut squash, anyone?) and cooking techniques (pan-searing!). I found recipes online, in my awesome NomNom Paleo cookbook or adapted from recipes I already loved.
Here were a few of the online recipes I gave a go this time:
It was easier this time around. Which was encouraging because I realized that habits from my first Whole30 had carried over into my non-Whole30 life. My dairy intake was much lower, it wasn’t so hard to give up breads and grains, and my overall cravings were lessened. The whole process just seemed more natural.
I embraced salads and found joy in making them, eating them and ordering them (sans cheese) from restaurants. I’m not embracing a 100% Whole30 lifestyle moving forward, but am looking forward to further incorporation of a healthy lifestyle. In short, I’m pumped to have oatmeal for breakfast again, but will keep frittatas, sweet potatoes and salads in the cooking lineup.
I feel more confident, beautiful, lost a little weight and had fun cooking some meals and sharing them with others. I call it a success.
And you better believe I’m looking forward to a victory muffin and vanilla latte tomorrow.
Have you tried the Whole30 before? What was your experience? Share in the comments!
Read up on the Whole30 and if you’re up for the challenge, commit and do it. I’ll even do it with you.