It’s been about a month since I completed the Whole30. I completed a Whole60, two Whole30’s back to back in May and June. I hesitated for a while about writing anything about it, because, that’s what I do, think about it over and over, and debate whether I should write about it. I am not natural writer in that way at all, but have been reading and researching much about blogging this summer, and one piece of advice everyone gives is just to keep writing and publishing content. That’s the only way to grow your following and readers. And once you have readers, people want to read what you have to write. That’s how it’s supposed to go. Sometimes though I think, who really cares about what I have to say?
A little about me for those that may not know… You can certainly read more about my nutrition journey here, but I’ve been following a Paleo lifestyle since January 2014, before that I was gluten and dairy free for 5 years. I arrived at this way of eating and lifestyle because of several symptoms I was experiencing due to my underactive thyroid. So I come to the Whole30 table extremely well versed in elimination of several food groups. Removing these food groups has proven to work for me and I feel so much better overall. You may ask, then why are you doing the Whole30 anyway? My main motivation for learning about the Whole30 is simply learning, to be honest. My passion about how the intersection of nutrition and lifestyle can help us feel better and heal ourselves from within is what drives my curiosity. I also still have a few nagging symptoms as a result of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and I was hopeful that the Whole30 might help with my energy levels, inconsistent mood issues, vitamin deficiencies, and remaining sugar cravings.
What is the Whole30 you may be asking? The Whole30 website is extremely thorough and gives a ton of information about the program. The two books that are available are also great too, It Starts With Food and The Whole 30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom. Basically, the premise is to eat real food (story of my life). I discuss this concept to anyone who will listen and haven’t consumed processed foods in years. And I am okay with it. I feel better when I eat real food: vegetables, fruit, sustainably sourced chicken, fish and meat, fats, and some nuts. So what’s out for a Whole30 then? Sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, carrageenan, MSG or sulfites, processed food, and no weighing yourself (I never weigh myself so that was not difficult). The others are really fine for me too, as that’s basically how I live my life. But my friends, I have to tell you even though I don’t eat processed food, sugar is in everything. Unfortunately. Sauces, dressings, sausage, just to name a few. The few things that do I eat that have labels on them had to be scrutinized. Items such as almond milk, mustard, macadamia nuts, and plantain chips.
Anywho, my experience with the Whole30… So I attempted my first Whole30 in January 2015. I started out the month doing another 21 Day Sugar Detox, just to reset everything after the holidays. At the same time, I started reading It Starts With Food and thought, “well I’m basically doing a Whole30 anyway, I might as well do it now.” Well, I wasn’t really. I couldn’t part with the half and half in my [organic, decaf] coffee, so I followed my usual paleo template during the month of January, trying to consciously keep sugar out of my diet, since that was the one sneaky thing that came back in over the holidays.
I didn’t even consider the Whole30 for February and thank goodness for that, because that month was just terrible for several reasons. We had a really, really long and snowy winter here in New England, and let’s just say February was a wash.
Two of my good friends were starting a Whole30 in March and I joined along. I had finished the book, which I highly recommend, by the way, and started my Whole30 journey. The first week I had full-fat coconut milk (the one from the can, which is suggested while on the Whole30) in my coffee, and it was not pleasant. I kept thinking, come on Jen, you can do it, you can do anything. Suck it up, have tea, anything… I did for about two weeks. I cannot even remember what I had that didn’t make the month 100% Whole30. The program, the way it’s written is meant for 30 full days. If you have a little slip, they really want you to start over because the only one you are slighting is yourself. It’s about you and feeling better in the end, which I do believe is a necessary component for the majority of people who participate in this program.
I remember thinking sometime in April, after some sugar cravings were still slightly knocking on my door, I’ll give it a shot in May. The weather was turning nicer, my mood was better and not so up and down (I think I have some Seasonal Affective issues). And so I did and succeeded. I was feeling so accomplished by the end of May that I continued through the month of June. I was challenged along the way for sure, but I did it. I joined the Whole30 Forum for additional support. When I started feeling the nagging bloating, I posted a few times and it was very helpful.
What I learned:
- I did it! I set a goal and accomplished it!
- Like I said earlier, sugar is in everything. It makes me feel like crap when it sneaks in, so I did feel better without it in sneaky places. Added bonus: sugar cravings are gone.
- I tuned in to mindless eating, especially at 8:00pm after the kids were in bed. Typically I am not hungry at this time unless I have exercised in the evening. I know that my body is getting ready to shut down for the night. It really made me listen to my body and avoid mindless eating during the one time during the day I may relax and watch a mindless television show. 😉
- This is pretty close to how I eat all time. I feel my best when only eating real food. The few things that tested me during the Whole30 were no sugar at all, limited snacking, and being sure to eat enough at meals. After so many years (in my 20’s) of calorie restriction, it is still challenging at times to be sure I eat enough at meals. (Whole30 focuses on filling your body with nutrient dense real food so there’s no need for snacking in between meals.)
- My body composition did not change AT ALL. Not one single bit. I actually developed a fair amount of bloating throughout the months of May and June, which was both puzzling and frustrating. (I later learned that I have a candida overgrowth. I saw a functional medicine practitioner in March and had a ton of blood work done. Candida was tested in April.)
- Super strict restriction beyond my normal paleo template, I believe, was too stressful for me at this particular time and hinted on the edge of obsessive/disordered eating. May and June, although nearing the end of school, are still pretty busy and stressful. In addition, there’s the usual stress of balancing my family, my job, and my wellness. I think my body was stressed to the max and therefore held on for dear life to the little bit of fat that may be hanging around my midsection. Also, for anyone that really knows me, knows how hard I am on myself on a good day. This is something I am working on continually. The last thing I need is additional negative energy in this area.
For anyone thinking about trying the Whole30 as a way to “reset” and get things back to clean slate, I do believe it is a good program for that. I also believe it is good for anyone who has some nagging or mysterious symptoms that they are unsure of such as fatigue, low energy, acne, stomach issues, etc. It is a great way to identify how your body feels when you eat real food (which most people do not do 100% of the time, and that is okay) and eliminate the most common troublesome food groups. The Whole30 encourages gradual re-introduction of the foods that were eliminated after completion of the 30 days to determine what may or may not work for you so you know which foods are troublesome. I would caution anyone who has issues with disordered eating or a fair amount of existing stress in their lives as it may bring up some sensitive issues or cause additional stress.
Finally, the underlying theme of the whole program, and life in general, is a gigantic balancing act between nutrition, lifestyle, stress management, movement, and sleep. In order to optimally feel good, all of those things have to be in balance. Yes, all of them. 😉 You have to live and be happy, and if that means having something that is not real food, or having a drink with friends, or staying up too late, then so be it. You have to do what is best for your body, which may be completely different from someone else’s body, and that is okay too. It is so important to be in tune with your body and how you feel. Many people may not make the connection with how they feel when they eat certain foods, or are in denial about things that make them feel not so great. We only have this one life, this one body, and balanced wellness including nutrient dense whole foods will help you feel your best, inside and out.
Thank you for letting me share my story. I would be happy to answer any questions at all if you have them about anything really: nutrition, paleo/primal lifestyles, Whole30, 21-Day Sugar Detox, movement, sleep, autoimmune diseases, Hashimoto’s, etc.
Have you completed a Whole30? What was your experience?
Until next time… In good health.