My Whole30 experience
POSTED BY: Teresa Yockey on May 17, 2017, 9:50 a.m.
Have you ever wanted to do a nutrition-related reboot or re-set, where you re-focus on healthy eating? I did that recently when I decided to try the Whole30® program.
With Whole30, you go through a process of eliminating (and later re-adding) certain food groups in exchange for using other sources of nutrition to give your body energy. For example, many people eat a carbohydrate-heavy diet vs. feeding the body with healthy fats and protein.
Eating Whole30 you’re still getting carbs from fruits and vegetables you consume instead of the typical carbs many people eat and over-eat, like breads and grains.
Why I chose the Whole30 Program
I eat a pretty healthy diet already, but I still wanted to see if I could make tweaks to eat even more healthy. I also wondered if there were certain foods that could be having an adverse effect on me — or whether I’d become too used to consuming certain foods, like dairy. I’d heard about Whole30 from several people and decided to start the program Monday, March 6. As the name implies, I’d be on the program for 30 days and knew it would be an “all or nothing” commitment — meaning I had to stay with it for a month, or I would technically need to start over again if I slipped up. (I ended up staying on it for 32 days.)
Before doing this program, I wasn’t consuming a lot of processed foods in my diet or very often over-doing it with carbs, so the adjustment for me and my body wasn’t a huge change. I do think the degree of difficulty is determined by your eating habits as you begin the program. For me it was more of a tweak; however, for some people Whole30 is a whole new ballgame.
From my Whole30 research, I learned that people who try the program who aren’t eating very healthy may experience side effects from eliminating certain foods and carbs, including headaches and/or fatigue as the body adjusts to not relying on sugar and carbs for energy.
My Whole 30 experience
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Whole30 wasn’t that difficult for me and that it was easy to remain compliant. The foods I thought I would miss, like cutting out dairy and the occasional drinks out with friends, didn’t bother me much. I also gave up my morning ritual of eating high-protein Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. I didn’t miss those foods and likely won’t go back to eating dairy on a daily basis; now, my typical (and very enjoyable) breakfast is scrambled eggs with vegetables, like spinach and peppers. (Prior to Whole30 I would add cheese to my eggs, but I’m not doing that now.)
Another dairy-related change is how I now drink my coffee with almond milk and coconut milk. I mixed the two together (a personal preference thing) and I said goodbye to the sugar-free, dairy creamer I used in the past.
On Whole30, I switched to eating just three meals a day, when before I had 5-6 mini-meals. I found I liked this change, too, and think my body really adapted to it. I focused on having three larger meals with the right kind of nutrition, and they kept me fuller longer. Another benefit was not having to think so much about food throughout the day and what small meal I was going to eat next.
With this change, I’m sure I consumed the same if not more calories by eating bigger meals and more calorie-dense food, like healthy fats (e.g., coconut oil, coconut cream and olive oil). But I don’t know for certain, since I didn’t track calories.
While there are ways to enjoy packaged foods that are Whole30-compliant, for the most part I home-cooked everything. I did meal prep on Sundays, which became almost therapeutic for me. (Initially, I was worried I’d be spending too much time on this.) I found out that I liked being organized and having ready-made meals in the fridge. This saved me time and helped me to not grab something easy, but off-limits, like the protein bars I regularly consumed. Once I got my food prep system down, it was a piece of cake (though, not literally!).
Advice for anyone considering Whole30
Here’s what I’d say to women who are interested in trying this program:
- Do your research – Part 1. Whole30 is a dramatic shift from the way most people eat. Read one or more of the Whole30 books before to understand the commitment you’ll need to make. Evaluate your current eating habits; if they are way off track from being healthy, this program could be more of a challenge. If that’s the case, try eating more whole foods over a period of time and consider doing Whole30 later.
- Do your research – Part 2. As I mentioned, I knew a friend who tried the program and she shared her experience with me. I was a bit skeptical initially — thinking it wasn’t realistic to “never” again have certain foods — but her experience encouraged me to give it a try. If you don’t know anyone who’s tried the program, there are many articles online about people who have done Whole30.
- Let people know you’re doing it. However you want to communicate your Whole30 plans (in-person or online), doing so can help your success. I let my closest friends and family know my intentions but didn’t broadcast it on Facebook — although some people might want to share the news on social media to help them be more accountable.
- Set yourself up for success. Get your home and work environments set up in ways that helps you maintain your focus. Look at your calendar and see what you have coming up in the 30 days you’ll be on the program. If a vacation is scheduled, that wouldn’t make for a good time to start Whole30.
- Get your grocery shopping on! Be prepared to shop at least once a week. Fresh items don’t stay fresh long, and you may find yourself going to the store even more often than weekly. Also, you could end up spending more — especially if you buy organic fruit and vegetables or grass-fed beef.
- Read the labels. Even if you don’t depend on packaged foods, you may still find yourself consuming something with a label. Be sure to read it thoroughly, though, because there is sugar in almost everything! For example, I was trying to find a salsa I could add to eggs and baked potatoes. Finding one without sugar was very difficult, but I eventually found a brand at Sprouts. (I noticed some of the same brand’s varieties did have sugar. So buyer, beware!)
- If you need professional advice, get it. If you have diabetes or any medical concerns whatsoever, you will want to check with your doctor in advance before doing Whole30.
What about weight loss?
I lost five pounds and 1% body fat on my 32-day experiment. This was not a huge change for me, but I wasn’t doing it for weight-loss. I’m sure I took in more calories each day on Whole30 … so to still post a loss is a testament to what happens when you’re eating the right type of healthy, filling foods.
My plan going forward
Being 100% on Whole30 is a big commitment, and at times it can put constraints on your life, not to mention your social life. So, am I still following it? Yes, I am during the week. If I want to deviate at any time, I know I can. Will I do it again for another 30 days? Probably so. I think it’s a great way to do a re-set and to look deeper into your food habits and your relationship with food.
I cut out several foods on Whole30 and think I will keep eliminating them or at least not have them so often. I had cheese for the first time in 36 days (yes, I was counting!), and I found that I was a bit more congested and had a raspy throat after I ate it. And though I’m not lactose intolerant, I do think I have some reaction to dairy. If I’m not missing something and it doesn’t give me nutritional value, I won’t incorporate it back into my diet.
I hope reading about my experiment inspires you to make some new, healthy choices for your life!