Today marks the 30th day of my experience with the Whole30. You may be wondering what in the world that is. You can learn more about it at whole30.com. It is an elimination diet. For 30 days you eat meat, fruits, vegetables, and nuts/seeds only….no sugar of any kind, dairy, grains, or legumes. There are only certain kinds of fat you can use to cook your food. At the end of the 30 days you add the eliminated items back in one at a time to see how your body reacts. Multiple testimonies on the site share cures of everything from hives to improvement of symptoms of autoimmune diseases and so much more.
Why do this? My husband has had joint pain in various locations of his body for the last 2 years. He’s tried physical therapy, rest and medication to no avail. As I age and my hormones change, I have symptoms I would like to see disappear. After reading the book, It Starts with Food, we decided to try this approach to see if our health issues would improve.
Here is what I learned from the experience:
- Mini sweet peppers with guacamole is one of the best snacks on the planet.
- Ghee is clarified butter (and it’s way expensive), but yummy on eggs and sweet potatoes.
- Eating only whole foods takes a LOT of time. Meal planning took 1-2 hours (this would reduce over time as you built up several recipes), shopping took longer because we were looking for unfamiliar ingredients, and we visited four different stores each week (Kroger, Aldi, Bloomingfoods, and Sam’s), plus visits to the Farmer’s Market. The prep for pretty much only lunches and condiments took 2-3 hours plus clean-up once a week. I had only been to Aldi once before, and appreciate their low prices on produce, some of which is organic!
- I used to take 2 teaspoons of sugar plus flavored cream in my coffee a few years ago. I got myself down to only half and half before the Whole30. I learned I simply do not enjoy coffee black. I tried all month, and it was just gross. Tea is still only so-so to me without sugar. I was really disappointed my taste buds wouldn’t adjust on this one.
- So much of the way we eat is about habit. I rarely missed foods I couldn’t eat until the weekend, a holiday, or other special occasion. Our eating habits before the Whole30 were always worse on the weekends, kind of intentionally. I need to create less excuses to eat unhealthy, although I’m hoping to enjoy pizza and frozen yogurt once in a while again.
- Yes, food costs more eating this way. However, I think we spent about the same amount of money on food as normal, and ate much better quality foods (we did more organic and grassfed meats). We ate out way less, because hey, there weren’t that many places we could eat. FYI, Longhorn Steakhouse was extremely accommodating to our needs, and Chipotle is super easy to eat at on this diet.
- The choices you make definitely influence those around you for better or worse. We had a few other people join us on this journey. Our boys both tried a lot of the foods we ate and liked them, sometimes a lot. Our oldest would even ask to try occasionally. Don’t underestimate the power of your influence. If you know someone who needs to do something like this, then offer to do it with him/her. I don’t think the two of us would have been nearly as successful doing it on our own.
- There were a lot of things we couldn’t eat mainly because of the sugar content. Sugar in so many foods is absolutely unnecessary. So many dressings and condiments have sugar, but taste great without it. Sweet potatoes don’t have to have brown sugar to taste good. Mix in some unsweetened applesauce and cinnamon, and you’re good to go.
- The food we eat definitely affects our bodies. My skin was much clearer, as was my husband’s.
- You can eat fat and lose weight. I lost about 7 pounds and my husband lost 9. These are actually pretty low results in comparison to many other people, but neither of us did this to lose weight…that wasn’t our main issue.
- Food is very social. It was hard to get together with people during this time. Our parents didn’t want to have us over, because they didn’t know how to cook for us. We brought some of our own food to some things, like the Labor Day cookout. It’s a little awkward doing that. Plus, it’s hard just to go grab a bite to eat with a friend. We hesitated to have people over, because we feared they would think what we were eating might be weird (the foods really aren’t weird, the prep is just different).
- Everything we ate was delicious, with the exception of one salad I threw together with leftovers. I would 100% eat like this most of the time if it wasn’t for the prep and inconvenience. Our goal will be to eat paleo several meals a week, but maybe not all.
- We add a lot of items to our food that aren’t necessary. I haven’t missed cheese at all on salads, and I thought I would. Almonds work great in place of croutons. I actually learned to eat some salads without dressing. A friend had told me she learned to do this, and I thought that sounded crazy, but it’s doable!
- I have more will power than I thought possible. We stuck with the diet with two exceptions. One day, I did make a frozen strawberry, banana, and coconut milk ice cream type mixture in the Nutribullet. I found out afterwards this is technically not permissible, even though the ingredients are all approved. They don’t want you to mimic sweets. However, my son ended up eating it all after I took a couple of bites then got up to answer the doorbell. The 60 seconds of bliss was nice while it lasted. Oh, and once we needed unsweetened coconut for a recipe, but I went to two stores and couldn’t find any. We only had two days left, so we used the sweetened. Shame on us. Just being real here.
- We did a couple of things that really helped us stick with this. First of all, we started incorporating some paleo recipes into our routine before we started the Whole30. This made it less overwhelming. Also, we took recipes we normally use and adapted them. For example, we made chili. Instead of macaroni noodles like we would usually include, we julienned a zucchini and used it as noodles. I used a recipe for homemade chili seasoning instead of a packet. It was delicious. We made chicken fajitas and just put it over Bibb lettuce instead of using a tortilla.
- Scarcity gives you greater appreciation. When you have to make your own dressings, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce, you better believe you don’t want to waste a drop. You also tend to not throw much food away, because you plan well and you work hard for what you make!
- We make a lot of excuses for ourselves. We often say, “I could never,” yet how do we know, because we haven’t even tried! I grew up on Spaghettios, yet I managed to pull this off.
- Everyone reacts differently during the 30 days. Some get flu-like symptoms the first week, but we didn’t. We both experienced profound tiredness on days 6 and 7, though.
- This helped me understand better why we eat. Food is fuel. However, it is also social. Sweets are not the enemy, but our attitude towards them and use of them can be.
- Encouragement is so critical. I really appreciated people who checked in with us and made positive comments to us.
Conclusion: Unfortunately, this experience did not help the joint pain my husband was having, which was the main reason for doing this. Neither of us had increased energy. Some of my symptoms were better, but did not disappear entirely. However, I learned so much, as you can see. I also feel at peace that at least we tried to improve things naturally, and now we know foods are not the issue for us.
If you have questions, please let me know in the comments section. I’m happy to try to help. If you made it to the end of this very long post, thanks for reading!!!!
Oh, and if you do this with someone, you might just end up with some lovely flowers to show for your efforts! Thanks, J!