I finally tried Whole30 and here’s what happened.
I had been meaning to do a round of Whole30 since the beginning of the year. (My Word of the Year was ‘ME’, after all!) But things kept coming up and it kept being ‘not a good time’. And I knew there would never be a perfect month to do it, so I took the plunge in May. And now I’m finally getting around to telling you about my Whole30 experience.
(I have a problem with procrastination when it comes to self care, if you can’t tell! 😉 )
What is Whole30?
If you don’t know about Whole30, I recommend reading the book (Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Healthy and Food Freedom) if you want to get all the science behind it. But the Whole30 website also has TONS of information and will be super helpful for getting started.
In short, though, Whole30 is a 30-day cleanse, of sorts, that eliminates common problem-causing foods. Some of these foods are typically considered healthy! But even some whole foods can cause cravings, disrupt blood sugar, damage the gut, and cause inflammation. So Whole30 cuts those out to let your body heal and recover from any possible issues you may be experiencing (with or without your knowledge).
Whole30 also serves as a 30-day reset that helps you take a step back and change your health habits and change your relationship with food. Whole30 fans (and the founder) call it life changing.
What You Can Eat on Whole30
Be sure to download the Whole30 Program Rules for full details!
Whole30 allows you to eat real, whole foods while on the program. This includes meat, seafood, eggs, many vegetables, some fruits, plenty of natural fats, herbs and spices, and seasonings. Unprocessed foods are best, but processed foods are allowed. Processed foods should have few ingredients, and they should all be pronounceable.
What You Can’t Eat on Whole30
The list of what you CAN’T eat on Whole30 is a bit longer. Again, you can download the Whole30 Program Rules for full details. But in short, you must avoid sugars & sweeteners (yes, even natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup), alcohol of any kind, grains, legumes (including ALL forms of soy), dairy (including non-cow forms), carrageenan, MSG, and sulfites.
Also, Whole30 guidelines say you should avoid any ‘copy-cat’ junk foods that use Whole30 approved ingredients. So those recipes you see for Whole30 compliant muffins and pancakes are OUT. This is because they defeat the whole purpose of Whole30.
Losing Weight on Whole30
I think its super important to be clear. Whole30 is NOT a weight loss program. In fact, one of the written rules is that you do NOT step on a scale or analyze body fat in any way while on the program. Whole30 is designed as a cleanse and a reset. However, many people experience weight loss as a result of Whole30.
Why I Did Whole30
Each year, I choose a word to focus on for the year. Sort of like the year’s theme. And this year, my word was ‘me’. I wanted to focus on taking better care of myself, working through my goals and ambitions, and basically figuring out what I want to do with my life.
Part of the ‘taking better care of myself’ part meant figuring out some skin health issues I’d been dealing with for years. I’d seen several doctors, and no one was able to really nail down what was causing this skin irritation. I did get some relief by following the recommendations of my newest family doctor, but the issues never resolved completely.
So I decided to do Whole30 and see if it had any affect at all. I thought perhaps it was something in my diet causing inflammation and irritation of my skin.
I also knew my eating habits had gotten really horrible. I was eating for comfort or out of boredom or just because it tasted good. And I wasn’t eating the healthiest foods. So I hoped Whole30 would help me break those habits.
My Whole30 Results
I’ll just cut the suspense and tell you. Whole30 did not change my skin issues.
But, it did change the way I felt overall. The biggest positive difference I felt was in my gut. I definitely felt less bloated and heavy in my belly. I’m pretty sure that was due to cutting out grains.
And Whole30 did help me change some eating habits. I noticed I wasn’t craving sweets and junk food as much anymore. But really, those types of foods generally always sound good because they taste good. It’s just a matter of choice whether or not you give in to temptation and eat them.
I also experienced some negative differences. Basically the whole time I was on Whole30, I felt tired. I needed more sleep than normal and felt lethargic all day. I felt depleted. I could barely get out of bed in time to get my kids to school, and there was no way I could do any real exercise. I was just SO TIRED. I really felt like I needed to eat, even when I wasn’t actually hungry. Maybe I did something incorrect in following the rules and guidelines. But my general feeling was not good.
The Whole30 website gives a timeline that describes how most people experience Whole30 day-by-day. And Days 6-7 are the “I just want to nap” phase. I never got out of that phase.
And I did lose weight. About 15 pounds, to be exact. Which was nice . But I gained about half of it back, as I expected I would. Because I know the reason I lost so much weight so quickly was because I cut out entire food groups that I had no intention of living without permanently.
My Final Thoughts on Whole30
Will I do Whole30 again? No, probably not. (Never say never, but I don’t see it happening.)
My lack of energy while on Whole30 just wasn’t worth any positive side effects. I’m able to get the positive changes I experienced without cutting out as many foods as Whole30 requires and still keep my energy. I felt like Whole30 was unnecessarily restrictive for me, and it was frustrating when it came to having friends over for dinner or going out to eat as a family.
Whole30 founder and hardcore advocates will tell you this is not excuse! That you can do anything for 30 days. That there are so many things in life that are actually hard, and eating healthy is not one of them. I agree! I’m not disputing that. But I stick to my philosophy that when eating healthy becomes unhealthy when it unnecessarily restrictive and steals your joy.
Even though I didn’t feel like my round of Whole30 was particularly successful, I wouldn’t necessarily discourage others from trying it. I think the intent behind Whole30 is good, and can work well for many people.
I do think it’s important, however, to go in knowing Whole30 isn’t magic. My expectations had been sort of built up by talking with others who claimed Whole30 was this amazing experience that left them feeling incredible. And I should have probably asked, “Then why just do it for 30 days?” Because if you feel that great while doing it, why wouldn’t that just be your lifestyle?
And for some people it is a lifestyle! Those are the people for whom I think Whole30 works well. And that might be you! So I wouldn’t discourage anyone from trying Whole30. If you want to try it, try it! It might change your life! At the very least, it’ll give your body a good break from processed foods. And that’s never a bad thing.