My sister suggested to my wife that we all do Whole 30 together. My sister had done it before, but we had never done Whole 30, so having someone along that knew the ropes seemed like a good idea.
We started May 29 – the day after Memorial Day (when we had walked the Bolder Boulder).
What is the Whole 30 Diet?
For a good overview of what the Whole 30 Diet is, check out the article In a NutShell: What is Whole 30?. Briefly, Whole 30 means:
Absolutely no alcohol, sugar (or sweeteners), dairy, legumes (including peanuts, peanut oil, soy, soybean oil), or grains (including corn, corn oil, and other corn products). No juice, or juicing. Nuts are allowed, but sparingly as accessories to meals. Additionally, you eat three (and only three!) meals a day, and you don’t sit down to a bowl of fruit for “dessert” (while fruit can be a part of the meal, the idea is to break some habits around snacking and desserts). Oh – and no stepping on the scale during the 30 days, either.
And – if you cheat at all – on accident or on purpose – you start over.
What it was like?
It’s truly a journey. And the book (which my sweet wife read completely, but I only read certain parts) really helps. It wasn’t until about day 10 that she told me how the book predicts the various “stages” you will go through, and it was uncanny how accurate they were!
For the first 5 days, I had a headache (which is unusual for me). Pretty much all day, every day. I did not reduce my calorie intake, and I had fasted from alcohol for longer periods recently, so I’m fairly confident it was sugar withdrawals. I suppose it is possible that it could have been something else. I intentionally did not take any pain reliever, I really wanted to get the full experience.
About days 4-7, I was cranky. “I’m going to kill somebody” kind of cranky. I was aware of it, so just tried to keep to myself as I worked through it.
About days 8-12, I found myself getting tired in the afternoon. (The book calls this phase “all I want to do is take a nap”). I still actually find that true sometimes, I suspect my carb intake could use some adjustment to get me in the proper zone.
Around day 14, we wondered why we were doing this, and thought we could bag out and get rid of all the feelings of crabbiness, being deprived, and tired.
Then, it happens.
And when it does, it’s wonderful. The book calls it “Tiger’s Blood”, as in you feel like you have tiger’s blood running through your veins.
We needed less sleep. We started getting about an hour more from each day, which was awesome.
And the sleep we got was better. Less tossing and turning, waking up less often during the night, and feeling more rested when we got up.
Our skin became clearer. (My wife and I both have since figured out that grains cause our skin to feel itchy!)
We had more energy. In general. Not “bouncing off the walls” energy, but the end result – between more energy, and needing less sleep, we felt like we were suddenly getting so much done!
I could think more clearly. Difficult mental exercises became clearer and easier.
Feeling this way made it far easier to stay dedicated to the plan. But, it was a true effort to make the choice. Every single day, there were temptations and challenges. And the book even predicts some of the thoughts that come to mind, like “surely 28 days is as good as 30 days?” (they are quite firm that it is not).
We did find it was easier to stay on track because we were firmly committed to doing the reintroduction. And if you think about the reintroduction as part of the diet, then really you’re eating Whole 30 for 44 days. And when you think about it that way, day 28 isn’t really as close to the end as it is if you think about the diet being only 30 days.
In addition to all those fabulous results, we also lost weight. (The book indicates that something like 94% of people who do Whole 30 lose weight). I lost 13 pounds, and my wife lost nearly 10. (Most people tell us we don’t have the weight to loose, but we knew the truth, and these results support it!)
The results make sense when you think about Whole 30 and compare it with other diet plans or strategies. It has a lot in common with The Zone / 40-30-30, it employs elements of Intermittent Fasting, and it is generally low glycemic (with some distinct exceptions, such as potatoes). At the end of the day, eating Whole 30 is very consistent with the way God intended us to eat.
Granted, the first 2-3 weeks were clearly creating a feeling of deprivation. To be honest though, after the initial timeframe passed we don’t feel deprived (for the most part!).
I have always had a weakness for bread, and I can truthfully say that it has not been an issue for me. When I do choose to eat off-plan, I do sometimes opt for bread – but I don’t go overboard, and I haven’t found that I crave it.
One of the reasons I describe Whole 30 as an elimination diet is because a significant point of this diet is to learn how different foods affect you. With that in mind, we took the reintroduction phase very seriously.
Over the course of about 2 weeks, you strategically reintroduce some of the food groups that you have eliminated.
For example, one day eat legumes – peanut butter on some apple slices as part of breakfast, soy sauce with your sashimi for lunch, and a side of black beans with your dinner. Then, for the next two days, eat Whole 30 compliant. By doing this, we were able to determine which foods affected us, and which did not. Surprisingly, nearly all of them did affect us in some undesirable way.
During reintroduction, you also split grains into two categories and reintroduce them separately: non-gluten containing grains, and gluten-containing grains. In this way, you can more easily identify if you have an issues with grains, or if it’s gluten.
The book suggests breaking a particular food into it’s own reintroduction if you have any suspicions about it. My wife decided that corn specifically may be an issue for her, so we did corn completely separate from all the other grains during reintroduction, and we are glad we did, because she was right.
If for no other reason than the amazing new food insights – even for people who are “food aware” – I strongly recommend trying the Whole 30 plan. Do it for 30 days, take the reintroduction seriously, and find out your unique reactions to different foods, and become aware of the prevalence of soy and sugar.
For our parts, we have decided to integrate Whole 30 into our lifestyles. While we aren’t committed to eating Whole 30 compliant for every meal every day, we are going to be intentional about eating Whole 30 compliant the majority of the time. Life throws enough circumstances each week that we will likely eat 2-3 meals per week that are not compliant, but that leaves 18-19 meals per week that are, and we expect the results to be worthwhile.
If you’re thinking of trying it out, check out the article [tips for following whole 30]. They are invaluable, and will ensure you the best chance of success!