My ears perk up whenever I hear about natural ways to mend health issues ever since I started having stomach problems a couple years ago. Recently I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about the Whole30, so I thought I’d do a little research on it, as well as share some insight from some girls I know who’ve tried the program.
The Whole30 is a program that is meant to change your life through the foods you eat – in 30 days. A “nutritional reset,” if you will. The program was created by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig of Whole9, and according to their site, is “designed to help you restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation and put an end to unhealthy cravings, habits, and relationships with food.”
What to Eat
The Whole30 focuses on a paleo-based diet. This means you’re free to eat meat, eggs, fish, lots of vegetables, a little fruit, and good fats from fruits/oils/nuts/seeds. Try to eat as much unprocessed food as possible, and for food that’s processed, make sure it’s filled with natural (and pronounceable) ingredients.
What Not to Eat
While the Whole30 focuses more on what to eat, here are some things to avoid: added sugar of any kind, alcohol/tobacco of any kind, grains, legumes, dairy, and white potatoes. It’s also extremely important to avoid carrageenan, MSG or sulfites – look out for these things on every food label. Lastly, do not try to “paleo-fy” dessert or junk food. In other words, don’t try to replicate unhealthy foods with healthy ingredients, making them “okay” to eat. According to their site, doing so “misses the point of the Whole30 entirely.”
It Starts With Food
It Starts With Food, by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig, is a book that outlines the Whole30 plan – a complete guide to the Whole30. It’s filled with success stories, easily-understandable scientific theories, shopping guides, meal plans, recipes, and a whole lot more (haha… no pun intended).
To hear some first-hand accounts, I turned to two of our very own FP girls: our PR assistant Naomi, who’s currently on day 22 out of 30, and our marketing coordinator Emily, who completed the program on April 30th.
1. Why did you decide to do The Whole 30?
N: I’ve always been a pretty clean eater and a regular exerciser, but my body wouldn’t let go of those extra pounds. I could feel them weighing on me as I tried to get into better shape and I was having a hard time feeling comfortable in summer clothes. I knew that to get into more difficult yoga poses and those tank tops, the pooch was going to have to go. I think I was always aware in the back of my mind what I had to do, but my self control would fall through and I would get so frustrated with myself. I was telling my Reiki practitioner about it and asking for her advice on how I could finally get ahold of myself. That’s when she recommended the book and the Whole30. I read it on vacation and put it into action as soon as I got home.
E: Remember in the movie Clueless when Cher describes the way she’s feeling as, “I had an overwhelming sense of ickiness?” That was how I felt. I was tired all of the time, and even though I hit the gym at least twice per week, I was still packing on the pounds. I spent pretty much the entire winter hibernating and buried under bulky sweaters, so I didn’t realize how bad things had gotten until I started breaking out my spring and summer clothes. Clearly, “red wine and pizza” Fridays and my 3:00 chocolate chip cookie snacks were, though delicious, having a major impact both my waistline and my energy level.
2. Can you describe your experience? How do you feel now compared to before you began?
N: I’ve been so happy with the Whole30. After the first week, it’s been a breeze. At first I wasn’t eating enough protein (I only eat fish and it’s a very protein-centric plan) or healthy fats. I felt really low energy, so I upped either one or the other at every meal, and it made a huge difference. You figure out what your body needs, and then your energy is high and cravings go away. The best part is that I get to eat a lot. I’m just eating exactly what my body needs, so it doesn’t pack on fat. In fact, I’ve lost some weight, and I feel more agile because of it. I also feel very clean and nourished overall. With all the vegetables and fruit I’m taking in, I can tell that the wide variety of nutrients and minerals has made an impact.
E: It took about a week for me to feel normal, but once I got going, I felt awesome. This website talks about the phases that you’ll go through, and it was dead on for me! I definitely want to do another one soon. When I began, I was feeling tired and heavy, but by the end, I felt AMAZING. I had so much more energy, I was sleeping better, and I was, on the whole, a LOT more cheerful!
3. What was or has been the hardest part of your experience?
N: The hardest part is the social aspect. It’s tough to go out and eat while you’re on the Whole30, and also you can’t drink. You just kind of have to suck it up if the Whole30 is something that matters to you. I try to find other ways to hang out with people – flea markets, evening runs, hiking – it works, but I KNOW one of the first things I’m going to do when it’s over is head out for drinks with friends!
E: My husband is the kind of guy who can eat whatever he wants and not gain an ounce, so watching him down half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s while I had to snack on kale chips was pretty tough. But, the social aspect was probably the biggest challenge. I’m not a big drinker, but I LOVE to go out to brunch with my friends on the weekends. A lot of people become shut-ins during the Whole 30, but I made it a point to try and incorporate the rules into my everyday life so that I could keep it up once the 30 days were over. A few people, also, assumed that I was pregnant because I didn’t drink wine at dinner, so that was awkward.
4. Have you had any learnings from this experience?
N: I’ve learned that I was using food in ways that weren’t good for me. Right in the beginning of my Whole30 my car got towed, and I wanted nothing more than a big sandwich with lots of bread. I wanted carbs to cope with my emotions. I was definitely a stress eater. I’m hoping that once the Whole30 is over, I’ll be able to acknowledge those stressful moments and realize that the desire to shove my face with food isn’t because I’m hungry, but because of the situation itself. I’ve also learned that you can go without something, no matter how tempting it looks. Just because everyone else is eating it, doesn’t mean you have to.
E: I learned to change my way of looking at food… and eating in general. Now I try to limit my servings of gluten and dairy to one of each per day. I haven’t banned chocolate, but I’m much more conscious of how much of it I eat and how I feel after I eat it. Over Memorial Day weekend, I fell into a lot of my old habits, and by Monday I was feeling super tired and cranky. I decided to eat as cleanly as possible this week to get myself back on track!
5. Do you have any tips for those wanting to try the Whole30?
E: Bananas + almond butter make a fantastic breakfast on the go, and poached eggs became my best friend! I bought poach pockets from Amazon and would cook a poached egg over spinach, avocado, tomato, and turkey bacon for dinner if I got home late from work. They’re quick, easy, and delicious! I’d also suggest that people don’t just “start it” randomly one day. Definitely give at least 48 hours to plan out meals for the first week and do some grocery shopping. Like everything else in life- it goes way smoother when you have a plan, haha.
I also have a friend, Lindsay, who just finished her first Whole30 round about two weeks ago, and recorded the whole experience here. I asked her a few questions about her experience, as well.
1. Can you share what a typical day’s worth of meals looked like for you on the Whole30?
A typical breakfast included a whole mess of greens like spinach or kale with two fried eggs on top. I would saute the greens with scallions and some garlic chives. I added red pepper to almost everything. I liked to snack on dates and nuts. I made a lot of my own curries for lunch with ground lamb and tons of veggies. I made this dessert thing out of bananas blended with coconut milk, almonds, some cinnamon and a dash of vanilla all frozen together. I made it a point to try 2-3 new recipes each week. Most of the recipes I used are on my Pinterest board.
2. Do you plan to continue eating a paleo-based diet?
I’m actually going to keep this up as much as possible. Over the weekend, I was traveling and attending a wedding. I ate it all; gluten, refined sugar, a lot of dairy. Tons of alcohol, obviously. I’m home now and I feel like CRAP. My skin is a mess again after it had cleared up nicely. I’m tired all the time.
3. Would you recommend the Whole30?
I would definitely recommend the Whole30 to anyone. It helped me have so much energy. I could feel my body just humming along very nicely. I was already eating gluten-free (with an occasional treat) but I learned that my sensitivities to dairy and sugar are quite bad as well, so it helps me make more informed choices.
Have you tried the Whole30? Share your experience below!