This program changed my entire perception of food, eating, and nutrition.
Here’s what happened…
Within the last year, I’ve gotten super into this whole health & wellness thing. Previously, I had always thought of myself as a healthy person. I ate my veggies, I didn’t smoke (anymore), I exercised fairly regularly, and I didn’t eat a ton of junk food (or so I thought). I was never expecting the results and knowledge I’d gained from Whole30®. But its impact on me was so great, I’m still thinking about it months later.
As Summer 2016 drew to a close, I needed a change. I’d spent months over-indulging in alcohol and decadent food with friends. It probably started with listening to the Ultimate Health podcast. This led me to an endless consumption of health and nutrition related articles and it all kind of spiraled from there. Somewhere along the line, Whole30® re-entered my brain. This wasn’t my first time hearing about it, but it was my first time seriously considering the program. I started researching information about it and decided to start with reading the book It Starts With Food, by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig. Read it! After starting the book, I decided I would do Whole30® in September. If I said I wasn’t scared or apprehensive, I’d be lying. I’d never followed any “diet” for 30 days. I was weary about telling people I was doing it because I knew it’d lock me in. I’m a competitive person (I don’t quit!) and I knew people would be watching me. But, I went for it.
Maybe this sounds like you: “2 P.M. = I need a nap”, “cravings rule my life”, “I can never lose weight!”, “If I have to count another calorie in this lifetime, I’m going to lose it”, “NOTHING EVER WORKS FOR ME!”, or “I can’t afford those fancy protein powders!”. You’re not alone! If any of this sound familiar, keep reading. After less than a week into the program, I had more energy. Yes, you can drink coffee, but no longer was I dependent on it in the afternoon in order to finish my workday. I had energy! Afternoons for me used to mean a Starbucks run or an occasional Diet Coke® in order to finish the workday, but caffeine pick-me-ups no longer felt like a necessity.
Another thing happened too. I wasn’t dreaming about sweets after finishing a meal. I used to crave chocolate like no one’s business after I ate my lunch. Come to find out, it’s a real problem for a lot of people. (It even coined the nickname “Sugar Dragon” in the Whole30® community.) Well, the Sugar Dragon was real for me, but it doesn’t rule my life anymore. I started finishing my meals satisfied. Food stopped taking over my thoughts and just became my nourishment.
I also got a lot less “hangry”. I stopped needing to eat every 2-3 hours. But my favorite part of this program? No calorie counting. That shit is hard, right? Not necessary here! I didn’t count a single calorie. I ate what I wanted (within the program guidelines, of course). I ate when I was hungry and I stopped when I was full. As the days went on, I even started eating less because I was so satisfied with what I was eating and that damn Sugar Dragon was gone.
After my 30 days were up, I measured myself and stepped onto the scale. Having not been overweight to begin with, but not necessarily a fitness fanatic either, I’d still managed to lose over 6 inches and 6.5 pounds! I couldn’t believe it.
Here’s the thing, you can’t go into Whole30® without reading a bit. There’s strict rules and program guidelines you must follow for the entire 30 days, or you have to go back to day one. In short, no grains, no alcohol, no sugar (natural or not), no legumes, no dairy, no artificial ingredients, and no baked goods that have been tailored to become Whole30® compliant. So, right now you’re probably thinking, “so…. what the hell do I eat?” Don’t worry, I’ll get there.
Be prepared. If you think you’re just going to wing this thing and succeed, you’re wrong my friend. Plan out your weekly menu, make a shopping list and have a game plan to succeed at every meal and everywhere you go. I meal planned for the week and stocked my fridge every Sunday. Breakfast was usually a couple of eggs with some avocado and Whole30® approved salsa. Lunch was generally leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Two of my favorite dinners during Whole30® were this Buffalo Chicken Casserole (I omitted the ranch seasoning due to laziness and it was still delicious!) and this savory, vegetable-packed Jalapeno Chili. Also, Pinterest is your BFF! I know you already knew that, but seriously. Endless Whole30® recipes live here, my friend. But make sure that the recipe title also reflects the ingredients. Just because a recipe claims to be “Whole30® Approved!”, doesn’t mean it is in fact!
In order to almost guarantee what’s going into your cart is compliant, stick to the outside of the store. Avoid the aisles. I promise you, even that “health food” aisle with the pretty packaging that you felt safe defaulting to, is not all that it’s cracked up to be. You can’t eat it, so just don’t even bother. Remember, real food. And real food doesn’t come from a box, does it? If you’re going to wander down the aisles, you need to read your labels! I couldn’t believe the amount of unnecessary ingredients there were added to our food, just to make it more favorable to our palates. If you’re unsure of what an ingredient is or if it’s acceptable, try doing a quick Google search. There’s a ton of informative blogs out there. But if you’re unable to find a definitive answer, I’d skip it altogether. No sense in taking the risk after all of the work you’ve already put in to follow the rules.
Along with the program guidelines, the Hartwigs break it all down for you on the Whole30® website with their shopping list and acceptable additives list. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be, use your resources!
What I Learned
If I had to give you only one reason on why you should try this, it’d be: empowerment. Educate yourself on the food you’re eating. Why was I even eating food with mystery ingredients in the first place? Because they had “14g of whole grains”? Yikes. Of course it’s not always going to be possible to know every single ingredient of every single thing on your plate 100% of the time, but you can make it happen for at least 30 days. From this process, I’m not only driven to maintain a healthier diet and lifestyle, but I have so much more knowledge about the food I’m consuming. Knowledge is power. (Yeah, I didn’t coin that.) You may not love the restrictions this program comes with, but I promise you, you won’t regret succumbing to them. It’s 30 days, you can do it.
Get started, here!
Please note, I am not a nutritionist (if you didn’t already know that!). This is simply my experience with the Whole30® program. Enjoy!