We just completed our first Whole30, and it feels so good! For those unfamiliar with Whole30 it’s basically a body “reset” where you cut out the most common inflammatory/allergenic foods (dairy, soy, grains, legumes and sugar) from your diet and eat simply whole foods – fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, eggs. You strip your meals down to the basics in order to better understand how certain foods affect your body. The theory behind it is that your health and well-being starts with food, and therefore, your energy levels, digestive issues, even allergies etc. are all effects of (or at least are affected by) what you eat.
Before I get into how it all turned out for us. I wanted to address some of the concerns/judgements I received while doing this because in all likelihood, you’re thinking one of these things, too.
1. It’s too restrictive.
I find this one amusing because the same people who I’ve heard say this don’t find calorie counting or replacing meals with shakes and bars to be restrictive. How is eating real food too restrictive? You don’t have to count calories. You don’t even have to watch your fat intake. Within the framework of real food, you have the flexibility to eat pretty much whatever. It’s definitely a challenge to cut out the convenience foods many have come to rely upon, and I get that; but calling the Whole30 restrictive implies that you’d be deprived of something, and I really didn’t feel deprived. At all.
How did I deal with the restrictions? Well, first of all I never told myself it was too restrictive. But on top of that, I slowly weaned myself off my habits. I still cut all non-compliant foods out at day one, but I replaced them with compliant things until I could get over them. For example, prior to Whole30 I didn’t drink plain water. After nursing two babies, I was just tired of plain water, so I used flavored stevia in my water to make it less boring. Stevia is a Whole30 no-no, so on day one, I tried to drink my water plain. I didn’t like it. I actually felt like the lack o flavor was making me sick (how’s that for overly-dramatic?). Then I had the brilliant idea to put frozen berries in my water. Hallelujah! Frozen berries got me through the first week. The second week I moved on to iced peppermint tea. By the third week, my water was plain again, and it still is.
2. But brown rice/whole grains are healthy!
Sure, there are some health benefits to whole grains. There are also a rising number of people who are discovering they are sensitive to or cannot tolerate grains. Many people don’t realize they are sensitive until they cut them out of their diet. Are most people sensitive to grain? I’m not an expert, but I would venture to say, probably not. Most people can probably tolerate grains just fine. However, there’s no harm in cutting them out for 30 days just to see how your body reacts. Besides, there’s no arguing that vegetables are just way more nutrient dense.
How did I deal? This one was easier since I don’t really cook rice to begin with, but I did make quinoa on occasion and ate oatmeal frequently. In fact my breakfast almost every day was usually either oatmeal or yogurt. Surprisingly, I just didn’t miss them when I cut them out. I did do chia pudding (chia seeds soaked overnight in coconut milk) to replace my morning oatmeal/yogurt at first, but then I didn’t. I still haven’t gone back to eating oatmeal yet, but until there is more scientific evidence showing grain is bad for all people (as opposed to just those who are sensitive to it), then I wont rule it out completely.
3. I can’t live without xyz.
It’s only thirty days! I can assure you, you can survive for thirty days without that food item. If after the thirty days you’re still dying to have it, go for it. At least you tried.
How did I deal? I’ll be honest. I didn’t think I’d be able to live without ice cream. No joke. I ate ice cream almost everyday. I went dairy-free while nursing both my girls, and even then I still had ice cream almost everyday (coconut ice cream ftw!). The first few days of Whole30 I just moped around thinking about how my day didn’t feel complete without ice cream. It didn’t help that it was super hot that week. Even my husband was craving ice cream. Finally, his complaining got to me, and I pulled a mini SWYPO. I froze a couple of bananas and blended them into “ice cream.” I know that, technically, this isn’t allowed because it’s Whole30-ified ice cream, but after that one treat, I was good. For some reason, I didn’t need dessert after that. I don’t feel bad about it either. I feel like it’s better to “cheat” with a SWYPO than to cave into actual sugar.
4. I will not deprive myself of good food.
Okay, I get it. I really do. There are a lot of delicious items on the non-compliant list. I mean, cake. Enough said.
How did I deal? Easy, I just ate delicious food, too. Just because I was eating Whole30 didn’t mean my food had to be plain. When deciding what to cook, I found that it helped to focus on the ingredients we could haveratherthan dwelling on the items we couldn’t. I usually had Aldwin pick out whatever proteins he felt like having that week, then I looked up or thought up how to prepare it and what veggies to serve it with. I made sure everything we ate was well seasoned and flavorful. In fact, some of the things I cooked during the Whole30 are new favorites around here and will definitely be made again! Doing a Whole30 doesn’t mean you can’t eat good food. I does mean you can’t have cake for 30 days, though.
Some final thoughts.
Originally, I looked into and decided to try a Whole30 to help with my husband’s eczema. I figured I’d do it along with him because (1) I do all the cooking in the house anyway and (2) it wouldn’t hurt to kick my crazy sugar addiction or at least tone it down. In the end, Aldwin’s eczema didn’t improve at all, sadly. However, I did see a huge improvement in my sugar addiction, and while I wasn’t in it to lose weight, I did lose 6lbs. That was pretty shocking to me since I felt like I was eating way more than I normally did. I definitely was consuming way more animal protein than I’m used to.
Aside from pretty much eliminating my sugar cravings, the best benefit of the Whole30 is my increased energy levels. Prior to and during the Whole30, my 7 month old was not yet sleeping through the night. She was on this crazy schedule where she would wake up every three hours or so. That means, so would I. Multiple night wake ups does not a well-rested mama make. There were times when I would start nodding off while feeding her…in the middle of the day. Weirdly enough, a week or two into the challenge, I started noticing that I wasn’t tired in the middle of the day, even with my sleeping schedule not changing. Somehow, even though I was getting the same amount of sleep, my body was getting better rest than it was before.
So what now? I’m slowly going to start re-introducing some foods like whole grains and legumes to see how they affect our family and how we feel. I’m definitely going to be more cognizant of food additives and the ubiquitous sugar. For now, I’m moving forward with a philosophy of “real food” only and see where that takes us. If we need to back up and remove some things again, then that’s what we’ll do.
Also, if you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’ve already moved on to my next food challenge – 30 days of green smoothies! One green smoothie a day for 30 days. Doesn’t sound too hard, right?
Next up, I’ll be sharing some of our favorite, Whole30 compliant recipes!