I can hear it ringing in my head – the wise words of Melissa Hartwig, co-creator of The Whole30,
“It’s not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard.
Drinking your coffee black is. not. hard.”
Then there’s another voice… This time? My own.
“Alright MELISSA, but it IS hard! Give me back my sugar and grains!”
If you’ve ever completed a Whole30, you probably can relate to my struggle of starving the sugar dragon on a spiritual level. If you haven’t, you might be wondering “what the heck is Whole30 and why do people keep talking about it?” I’ve gotten this question so many times this month, so let’s dig right in!
(Literally, I’m dying for a cheeseburger)
The best short-version of my last 30 days comes straight from the source:
Founded by Melissa Hartwig (and Dallas Hartwig) in April 2009, the Whole30® is designed to change your life in 30 days. Think of it as a short-term nutrition reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.
In layman’s terms, Whole30 is an elimination diet designed to change our relationship with food. But, I’m hesitant to call it a diet, mainly because while you’re eliminating foods, it isn’t necessarily designed as a weight-loss plan. Sure, people have had tremendous results in regard to their weight upon completion, but the real value of the program is the reset – a jump start to a healthier relationship with foods.
People have been asking me “So, you eliminate foods… What can you eat?” Plot twist: Real, whole foods. Meat, seafood, eggs, veggies, (some) fruit, natural fats, herbs, spices, and seasonings. The less ingredients you can’t pronounce, the better. Actually, just the less the better in general. What are we cutting out, then? Oh yeah, that’s where the hard part comes in to play.
Whole30 is 30 days of going without: added sugar (real or artificial), alcohol (in any form, even for cooking), grains, legumes, dairy, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites, baked goods, junk foods, or treats made with “approved” ingredients.
So, yeah, maybe not “hard” but still pretty freaking tough. It is incredibly important to prepare yourself and not go in blind – I spent a few evenings building a meal plan and grocery lists, complete with “emergency foods” to keep on hand so I wasn’t tempted to slip up. I was ready to commit. (Or so I thought). The process was trying, and at moments I wanted to rip my hair out. But I spent
some a ton of time following along with the Whole30 Timeline – it was a great tool to keep me sane!
Oh, and if you prefer a more personalized version – I also live-tweeted my experience with #thisiswhole30. For the more humorous version (complete with gifs and slightly colorful language), click the tweet I have linked below! There’s a whole thread for your viewing pleasure.
starting #whole30 today, so I apologize in advance for the things I say when I’m hungry
— Dallas Ann (@miss_knierman) January 2, 2018
People have been asking me since Day 1, “What made you decide to do Whole30?” and “What do you hope to get out of it?” And I was never quite sure what to tell them. I was hoping for a reset, yes. To lose a little weight, sure. A jumpstart to get my butt in gear and take control of my health, absolutely.
But, while those were my intentions heading into (my first round of) Whole30, and I got them all – I never imagined the things I would gain, discover, and change in these 30 short days.
As it turns out, I’m a pretty good cook.
Restaurant options are (severely) limited during Whole30, something I had never taken into consideration before. Even more than that, so many of the things on the supermarket shelf that we take for granted as “healthy” … well, aren’t as “healthy” as we thought. Now, I’m not saying that buying a loaf of bread from the store is going to poison you, but Whole30 has taught me to be more conscious about what I’m put into my body. Have you ever picked up a packet of taco seasoning and read through the ingredients? *shudders* I made everything from taco seasoning to BBQ sauce to ranch dressing (thanks Whole Sisters!) I experimented with new recipes, and gained so much confidence in the kitchen.
Sure, not everything was a hit – sorry again about that meatloaf, LJ. But trying a new recipe and hearing, “Wow, this is really good. You should make it more often,” was a HUGE non-scale victory (NSV) for me.
Once you cut out added sugars, some strange things start happening.
The first few days, I had cravings like none other. Like, to the point it makes me nervous to ever have children for fear of gaining 100 pounds. I’m talking craving candy I don’t even like, y’all. But, once I got over the sugar hangover headaches – I started feeling the cravings decreasing, and rapidly. (I wish I could say the same about grains and cheese, but that took me a solid 4 weeks to get through.) Our Junior League president told me on Day 9 that by the end of the 30 days that even a sweet potato would taste sweet to me – HOLY COW, even with no butter it tastes like candy. It’s seriously bizarre.
Even more so than just the cravings, I noticed a huge improvement in other areas that I had no idea were being affected by sugar. I’ve never had a ton of trouble with my skin (I really lucked out there), but I have seen my complexion – and even my keratosis pilaris – improve by leaps and bounds. I’ve been getting to sleep easier and staying asleep sounder. I have more energy for my workouts, I even started going at 5:45am! I also feel like I have emerged from a serious brain fog I didn’t even realize I was in.
Whole30 “isn’t a diet”, but I’m pretty pleased with my weight loss results
Part of the journey is to not weigh yourself during the process, only before and after. I cheated a little and hopped on the scale today (Day 30) and was so unbelievably happy with my results – I’m down 10 lbs since New Years! I’m not to where I’d ultimately like to be yet, but my first milestone goal was 10 lbs, so it feels amazing to have been able to reach that goal in just 30 days. I know I probably won’t be down another 10 by the beginning of March, but Whole30 has been a fantastic way to build a foundation.
One of my favorite things about Whole30 and the weight that I’ve lost is not only that I worked my butt off for it, but also that it is attainable to keep off. By being more conscious of what I’m eating, I’ve had the energy to really give my workouts my all and I’ve averaged getting to the gym 5 days/week this month – even with traveling! The only downside is that I need to buy a new belt – a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
But, the biggest outcome wasn’t a physical one…
Last night, I was picking out clothes for work today and got a little brave. You see, two of the outfits I wore this past weekend in Orlando? They didn’t fit at the beginning of January. But the last weekend rolled around, and they both fit like a charm. (Talk about a major confidence boost!) So, last night, I started pulling clothes out of my wardrobe that have been a little snug recently.. Shirts and dresses and skirts are all now loose, that just a month ago didn’t fit or were a little tight. That’s a great feeling.
When I slipped on a workout tank that I bought my junior year of college (that was 4 years ago, mind you) only for it to fit better than it did back then – I couldn’t help but shed a few tears. Not because of the weight I lost, or that that all of a sudden I am defined by a different number than I was 30 days ago.
The past 30 days were all about committing to myself. And I did it.
Those tears I cried last night, sitting on our bedroom floor surrounded by a pile of clothes I had yanked out of the closet and my wardrobe, weren’t because I lost 10 pounds. Not even a little bit.
Those tears were the product of determination, grit, and commitment.
Sure, Whole30 has been an unbeatable way for me to get a jumpstart on eating healthy and taking control of my health and life, but it has been so more than that. It was proving to myself that I am strong, and capable of doing things that I put my mind to. It was the answer to the question my therapist always asks me, “What are you going to do for yourself this week?” It was about taking care of myself first.
It was about making a commitment to myself, and following through on that commitment.
They say that Whole30 will change your life…
I didn’t want to buy into that it would “change my life,” because I was afraid to be let down. I was nervous to throw myself into it, to allow myself to be vulnerable to the process. What it if didn’t work for me?
But, as the days turned into weeks, I saw first hand what taking care of yourself can do. I admit, there were two or three meals where I ate “as compliant as possible,” and promised not to beat myself up over it. And I still refuse to beat myself up over it. (My digestive system did enough of that for me.)
As I move forward, post-Whole30, I’m excited to (slowly!) reintegrate some of the foods I’ve been missing back into my diet – especially grains and dairy. But, I am consciously planning meals to keep approximately an 80/20 balance of whole foods in my daily life, mainly because I’m not willing to give up how great I’m feeling! My boyfriend is on board to eat healthy too, which is good since I do the cooking.
As much as I didn’t want to let myself really open up to the process, I am so, so thankful I did.
They say Whole30 will change your life… And I can confidently say that yes, yes it can.