Here are my findings from my Whole 30, what I learned and what I’m going to do about it.
The day after Valentine’s Day I embarked on what I considered a pretty wild prospect: to abstain from eating anything containing soy, sugar, dairy, gluten, grain, or alcohol — for THIRTY DAYS. Since these ingredients are pretty prevalent in the average American diet, it was a bit of a challenge to keep those ingredients at bay.
What did I eat? Lots of meats, fish, eggs, nuts, vegetables, and fruits.
The diet, if you want to call it that, is considered “a nutrititional reset”, a chance to give your body a break from foods that might not agree with you. By eliminating most of the usual suspects of inflammation and food intolerance, you get a chance to see what “normal” is. During the reintroduction phase at the end of 30 days, you can find out if something really doesn’t agree with you.
I initially tried this program to see if I could troubleshoot my recurrent hip and leg pain. Many folks who’ve done a Whole 30 have seen remarkable results when they eliminated the foods that were causing them trouble.
My 30 days ended a little over a week ago. Here’s what I learned:
1. Paleo is not so very weird.
The Whole30 is a very strict paleo diet. Previously, I didn’t know much about paleo and just assumed it was weird. Eating along these guidelines, mainly animal protein, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, I found plenty of meals that were super satisfying — and not all that different from some of my favorite regular, run-of-the-mill meals.
While I ate larger portions of meat and fish than I normally do, I usually fill my plate with vegetables and fruits anyway. This wasn’t some crazy meal. It all looked fairly normal.
I realized that I had some misconceptions of what paleo was and therefore, had been fairly judgmental about it. I assumed folks were just gnawing on steaks. Paleo, eaten properly, is a great balance of produce and protein.
2. Regular meals are good for me.
I am a rule follower, generally speaking, so I stuck to the directions of the Whole30 diet. That included no snacking and making sure that I ate three meals a day. Sometimes, I really had to force myself to eat a meal. It showed me how often I skip meals or just snack my way through the day.
Making my favorite Skillet Eggs every morning was good for me.
Since I slept really well most nights and had no trouble getting up early without an alarm clock, I’m seeing that regular meals were good for me. And since I wasn’t snacking, I also didn’t eat something sugary right before bed. That helped me immensely.
If you missed the meal log, you can see what I ate everyday during my Whole 30.
3. Sugar is not my friend.
Since going back to all the regular foods, I’ve discovered that excess carbs, particularly sugar, make me drowsy. During my 30 days, I drank my coffee with coconut milk instead of my 3 teaspoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cream. I’ve given up that habit because I realize that it just doesn’t help my day very much.
I still crave sweets, so I’m still working through how to keep that in check. I don’t think sugar is the devil or anything like that. But, I realize that I need to enjoy it wisely. I’m on a mission to reduce our household sugar intake by making more juices, smoothies, fruit and nut bars, and other naturally-sweet treats.
(I also learned that turnips don’t agree with me. I never would have been able to narrow that down unless I’d been on this strict elimination diet, knowing exactly what was going into my body.)
4. My pain was not about food.
Some of you know that I had already been to my doctor on two occasions, trying to get help for the hip pain I’ve had since May of last year. By the end of Week 3 of the diet, my pain was getting worse, not better. I decided to try a chiropractor instead. He’s helped me tremendously.
Turns out I have all kinds of things to fix: dysfunctional sacroiliac joint, the beginnings of a hunchback, and the effects of my childhood scoliosis. After less than two weeks of treatment (adjustments, ice, stretching), my hip pain is in check, and the doctor is working on the scar tissue in my back and neck to reverse or diminish the hunchbackety-ness.
I’m so thankful that the pain was not food related. You know me. Food is a big deal in our family. I’m already juggling lots of different challenges; I really didn’t want to have to omit something from my diet.
5. Soy and sugar are in everything.
I already was on a rampage against soy; I think that it’s overused, too much of it is GMO-quality, and it messes with sex hormones. Since I spent more time reading labels, particularly at restaurants, I realized how much soy and sugar are in our diet. Not good.
I did not expect to see soy in canned tuna or sugar in bacon, two ingredients that I previously would have thought were devoid of “extras”. My eyes are a little more open to these ingredients in particular, and I’m hoping to avoid them where I can.
6. This was not a body improvement venture for me.
Since I was learning to avoid snacking, I ended up eating very full plates of food three times a day. My husband was taken aback at my large portions. While I did lose a few pounds during the 30 days, the inches did not come off. In fact, my clothes were at their most recent “tight” on Day 30. Since backing off the diet, my clothes have started to feel more comfortable. I haven’t really gained weight back, but it seems that what’s there has moved around a bit. I’m not sure.
7. I discovered some great flavor combinations.
I’ll confess, by Day 30, I was ready to be done. I clocked soooooooooo many hours in the kitchen during that month, it really took its toll on me. That said, I did discover some great flavor combinations, like Monkey Salad or my favorite salad with chicken, avocado, oranges, and cashews.
This diet is not deprivation, especially if you make an effort to be creative and are willing to spend a little on your base of ingredients to give yourself variety.
8. Friends can help carry the load.
The beauty of Facebook never ceases to amaze me. Thanks to some late-night networking, I found a great group of friends and acquaintances to give me support and guidance throughout my 30 days. Tsh, Mandi, Tricia, Anne, Sarah, Heidi, Rena, Stacy, and a host of others really helped me get a grip on the experience.
My husband was skeptical but completely supportive. He endured endless date nights at Chipotle since that was the only restaurant that was “easy” to eat at.
I couldn’t have done it without the help of friends.
9. I want to learn more.
I am not convinced that any food God made is inherently bad. Food products that scientists have made? That’s a different story. While I’m not ready to give up my baguette, cheese, and wine, I do see that my body benefitted from the experience. I was much more alert and didn’t need as much sleep.
My husband claims I also went to bed earlier instead of eating ice cream or making a late-night run to In-N-Out Burger (which I have been known to do). Maybe I was sleeping in a more productive window? Maybe I ate during better hours? Maybe there is something to avoiding the carbs?
I’m not really sure. I know that this diet was not sustainable for me long term due to the nature of my work, family, and budget. However, I’m going to try again later in the year and see if I can learn more about how food and my body agree.
Have you ever done a Whole 30?
What was your experience?