Have you thought of attempting the Whole30 only to be overcome by dread? How on earth will I survive an entire month without sugar? Bread? PEANUT BUTTER?? I’m here to give you some encouragement, you can do this!
Melissa Hartwig, the co-founder of Whole30, is known for her saying that drinking your coffee black for a month is not difficult, quitting drugs or giving birth is difficult. While this is certainly true when put in context, I believe giving up all of the foods that encompass the Whole30 IS difficult for many people.
Finally self-diagnosing my food sensitivities has been one of the most challenging, but also one of the most empowering things I have done for myself.
One Skillet Chicken Sausage, Sweet Potato, Apple and Kale – A delicious Whole30 meal!
What is Whole30?
Whole30 is an elimination diet in which you remove wheat, all grains, processed sugars, processed foods of any kind, alcohol, dairy, soy and legumes from your diet for 30 days.
While I use the word “diet,” the founder of Whole30 never intended for it to be used as a dieting strategy. It is not meant to be used solely for weight loss, it is structured more for those who want to transform their health and wellness by removing foods from their diet that they are sensitive to.
It is important to note that over the course of the month, you are not allowed to step on the scale. A scale can be a very influential object in terms of weight loss. The Whole30 program is not meant to restrict your calories or change your exercise routine to influence your weight.
With that being said, I do know several people who have used it as a method of weight loss, and they have had overwhelming success doing so.
From the research I have done (I do not claim to be a nutritionist), living with undiagnosed food allergies can really wreck havoc on your body, to the point where it can cause weight gain, memory loss, fatigue inflammation, type 2 diabetes, and so much more.
Even if you think you are perfectly healthy and have no food sensitivities, you might be pleasantly surprised to find out that your asthma, acne or tinnitus disappear after eliminating your unknown problem food! Some people even credit Whole30 with improving their fertility! Now that is some powerful stuff.
Now, if attempting Whole30 sounds at all enticing, you should really go read It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. The book does an incredibly fantastic job of outlining the diet, providing recipe and meal ideas, diving into the science of food intolerances, and structuring a food reintroduction schedule.
Baked Chicken Fajitas – Also Whole30!
My Personal Whole30 Journey
Last September, I went down a rabbit hole of health and nutrition books. I read Wheat Belly, Grain Brain, It Starts With Food, Eat Dirt, The Bulletproof Diet, Four Hour Body, and so many more. Saying that I am a book nerd is a complete understatement. Anyway, I digress.
Wheat Belly and Grain Brain flipped a switch in my brain after reading them. I had suffered with headaches for YEARS! Nothing ever seemed to help them. It turns out, gluten was the cause of my suffering all along! Let me tell you, that was the most revolutionary moment of my life.
Finally, the fog had lifted from in front of me (literally…I had terrible brain fog as well)! I felt better than I ever had before, just weeks after removing it from my diet. If I could feel so much better after simply removing gluten, could I feel even better by attempting an elimination diet? It was after reading It Starts With Food that I decided to give it a shot.
In January of 2017, I attempted my first Whole30. I had high hopes, but was also incredibly nervous that I would slip up, accidentally ingest something and have to start over, or just realize I was not strong enough to follow through with it. I did struggle the first few weeks, especially with immense hunger.
Not being able to snack whenever the urge strikes can be like removing a security blanket from a child who is really too old to have one. At first, it makes you realize how much you depended on it for comfort, but after a while, you begin to realize how silly it was.
I thought I was in control of my food cravings, but it’s not until you take a step back that you realize they’ve been controlling you all along.
Luckily, my struggles quickly faded. After about two weeks, I really got into a groove and began to feel even more fantastic! It’s crazy how you can live with fatigue, bloating, brain fog and acne for so long that they are simply your normal.
Never in my years of visiting dermatologists (I struggled hardcore with cystic acne for many years), did they ever even mention that there might be a link between food and diet!
Towards the end of the month, I became both excited and somewhat dreadful of what the reintroduction process would be like. The point of an elimination diet is to slowly reintroduce different categories of food back into your diet, so you know how you react to individual foods.
If you begin day 31 with pizza and ice cream, and feel terrible the next day, how will you know whether it was the sugar, the wheat or the dairy? One step at a time is the best approach, even if it means waiting a little longer than you’d like to eat that precious fast food burger and fries.
I started by reintroducing several grains back (rice, quinoa, corn…) which did not go well. Just a few hours after consuming rice and corn, I felt absolutely horrible. My headaches, anxiety and brain fog all came back with a vengeance.
It turned out that what I chose to reintroduce first was actually the worst of my intolerances, other than gluten. It almost made me fearful of reintroducing anything else, but I was so eager to eat peanut butter that it didn’t stop me.
Luckily, the legume reintroduction went just fine. Dairy was so-so…I seem to do ok with cheese, but larger amounts of milk or ice cream are not good. Soy I generally avoid anyway for hormone reasons.
Sugar is sugar. A little here and there seems ok, but overall I try to avoid it on a daily basis. I’ve found that generally, the closer I stick to Whole30, the better I feel.
Super Fluffy Crustless Quiche – Yummy and compliant!
Life After Whole30
When I was just starting out on my Whole30 journey, one thing I had trouble finding information on is what happens after the 30 days are over? You hear about people’s reintroduction experiences, but what about after that?
How has the Whole30 impacted my overall outlook on food? How has my diet changed in a broad sense, independent of the fact that I now understand my food sensitivities?
Yes, now I follow a grain free diet because I know grains do not agree with me. However, independent of my newfangled grain free diet, the Whole30 has had a lasting impact on the food choices I make on a daily basis.
Now I am acutely aware of the impact that individual foods have on my body, so I can make an informed decision about whether indulging is worth the negative effects.
If I really want to eat a piece of delicious chocolate, I know that the sugar may make me crash, and the chocolate may give me a headache (I know, poor poor pitiful me…), but if I’m willing to make that sacrifice, I can eat that chocolate without any regret.
Along those lines, I now have a much better relationship with food. As I mentioned above, I have a much better handle on my food cravings. Am I actually hungry, or am I dreaming about ice cream because I had a bad day and feel that need for something comforting?
Being mindful about your food choices really helps to eliminate that food guilt related to bingeing on snacks and desserts. Yeah, of course sometimes I will still mindlessly eat half of a bag of chips, but overall this has reduced significantly. Sugar is such a difficult habit to break for people, that it feels so liberating to finally be free from its clutches.
I can confidently say that Whole30 has been one of the most positive decisions I have ever made in terms of my physical and mental health and wellness. Yes, you heard me right.
I believe the Whole30 has improved my mental health as well. Eliminating my problem foods has significantly reduced my anxiety and provided me with mental clarity that I’ve never experienced before.
It might be time for round two of my Whole30 experience. Maybe this upcoming time, I will document it here so all of you who are interested can join in with me. What do you say?
If you have a question or comment regarding any aspect of Whole30, please do not hesitate to leave a comment below or to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know if there is any additional Whole30 content you would like to see me publish!