Go ahead, roll your eyes and move on with your life if you're sick of hearing me talk about Whole30. I get it. It's a buzz kill to hear people rave about healthy habits when you're just trying get your Taco Tuesday on. No judgement here. BUT. If you're one of the many people who keep asking me about this magical reset button, keep reading.
For those who don't know, Whole30 is a diet where you avoid all grains, dairy, legumes, soy, sugar and alcohol for 30 days and try not to die. JK ... it's not that bad. Yes, you will lose weight while doing Whole30, but the main goal of the diet is to change your relationship with food and get in control of your cravings. Google and the Whole30 book are your best guides if you want to learn more, but I thought I'd share a little of my experience, first-hands tips and recipes I enjoy for anyone who is interested.
Don't do Whole30 until you're mentally ready. That's my opinion.
I heard about the diet a few years ago and thought it sounded absolutely impossible. I have a serious sweet tooth. I grew up with a grandmother who sliced strawberries for me to dip into mounds of pure granulated sugar. She was also the same person who introduced me to coffee around age eight ... never without heaping amounts of ~sugar~. I love the stuff. I also love carbs. Everything is better with bread, am I right? I reconsidered Whole30 in the last year, deciding I finally had the mental discipline to take on my sugar dragon. Matt, a Krispy Kreme enthusiast himself, agreed to suffer with me.
The first step is mental preparation. Look at it from a different perspective. You need to remind yourself that this is just going to be 30 days. People have endured much worse, for much longer. You will have cheeseburgers, croissants and beer again. You just won't have them for the next 30 days and that's OK, because when you do have those things, they'll be worth it.
Since the diet restricts you from eating out, be prepared to do A LOT of dishes and eat A LOT of leftovers. Matt and I don't have a dishwasher and I hate leftovers. Remind me how I was supposed to survive?
Before starting, we cleared our fridge and cabinets of anything we wouldn't be eating anymore. Matt built out a Google doc for weekly meal planning and thankfully took that anxiety-drenched situation off my plate. I had found plenty of meals to make, but it was so hard for me to decide on which recipes to start with, which to have on what nights, etc. I was facing meal-planning block. Matt grabbed the laptop from my hands and knocked out two weeks of planning in no time. This is why I keep him around.
Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Earth Fare and your local farmer's markets are excellent resources for items on your Whole30 shopping list. Some of my favorite Whole30-compliant brands are: EPIC, Barney Butter, Tessamae's All Natural, RxBar, Imagine Foods, Lenny Boy Brewing Kombucha (Charlotte local), Trader Joe's "Everything But The Bagel Seasoning" and LÄRABAR.
I noticed that it was helpful to start Whole30 during a time when we had been eating relatively healthy. AKA, try not to binge on pizza and beer leading up to Day 1 (I mean, no judgement, though). A lot of people complain of feeling horrible in the first week of the diet because of "withdrawal" from all the previously consumed "bad" food and drinks, but thankfully Matt and I never hit that wall.
Also, when picking out your 30-day window, choose wisely. Try to avoid doing Whole30 during special events/occasions or when you'll be traveling. It's not that it's impossible to follow the diet during holidays or vacay, but it's definitely a lot harder.
MY WHOLE30 EXPERIENCE
The first couple of days felt like a breeze ... for the most part. Coming off a healthy diet pre-Whole30, it was a smooth transition into eating according to the program. For me, it was fun to try new foods and find a new routine. Unfortunately, I don't like eggs (a big aspect of many Whole30 recipes), but I LOVE potatoes (another big Whole30 item), so I quickly found my go-to breakfast of chopped potatoes *fried in duck Fat*, a patty of pork and a handful of whichever fruit we brought home from the farmer's market that week. I also learned that the amount of dishes we were doing about doubled. Time to devise plans of getting that dishwasher ...
The most stressful part of the first week was the anxiety of possibly being in a situation where I couldn't eat anything. I learned it was wise to always arm myself with an emergency snack before I left the house. Sometimes I would eat it, sometimes I wouldn't, but just knowing that I wasn't going to starve made me feel so much better. Also, I realized how much more food I was eating compared to my pre-Whole30 diet. I always thought less food would be better for wanting to lose weight, but learned that my body had just been craving more of the right food. Whole foods. I also came to find that I didn't mind eating these leftovers, at all. You know how when you heat up leftovers and they don't exactly look or smell like they once did when it was freshly cooked? That's not the case with Whole30 leftovers. When I went to reheat it the next day, the food still retained its beauty and flavor because of how simple and fresh the ingredients were. Matt never once heard me complain about eating leftovers the entire 30 days, and that's a big deal for me on a diet when half of my meals were reheated.
As far as exercise, I continued my routine of going to the gym four to five times a week and noticed toward the middle of the 30 days I began to feel a new sense of energy during my work outs. Even when my alarm would go off at 5 a.m., I would be ready and willing (and almost excited) to jump out of bed and start my day. One of the weekends, Matt and I found a place to go hiking with our dog, and I remember never feeling tired and actually craving more activity. Extremely unlike me. For reference, I was the four-year-old in YMCA soccer that would stop running mid-way down the field, turn to my parents and say, "I'm done." This new-found energy felt GOOD.
Around Day 14 or so I lost count, which turned out to be a good thing. I knew my end date, but also knew I didn't need to remind myself all the time how many more days it would be until pizza was an option again. I picked up count around Day 22 because being in the 20s just felt so. damn. good. Day 30 came and went and I remember Matt and I didn't sway much from the diet for the first couple of days that passed. I kept eating potatoes like crazy and Matt hadn't put cheese or butter back in his eggs. Slowly, we incorporated foods back into our diet to test the waters and in turn, I learned that legumes and my stomach do not get along, something I wasn't expecting. I knew things like bread and sugar were bad for me, but beans?! This was harsh, but a great lesson learned. An even better lesson was how much more comfortable in my body I felt when I was consuming strictly nutritious foods. Gone were the days of feeling like a busted can of biscuits after a meal.
It's now been two months since I completed Whole30. Have I had cheeseburgers and pizza and all that yummy stuff again? Sure. But I know how my body is going to react to it and how much better I feel when I'm eating nutrient-dense foods. I'm definitely not perfect, though. I still have sugar cravings and am working on controlling them. Sometimes I have the doughnut(s), sometimes I say, "meh, not today." I'm still working on my finding my balance.
RECIPES I LOVE (and still use)
- Jalopeño Turkey Burgers
- Sheet Pan Poblano Chicken Fajitas
- Balsamic Roasted Pork chops (don't use the honey)
- Crock Pot Cuban Mojo Pork
- Sloppy Joes
- Chicken Piccata
- BBQ sauce (put a rack of ribs in the crock pot on LOW for 6-8 hours, then smother with this sauce)
- Crock Pot Creamy Southwest Chicken
- Avocado Tuna Salad
- Crock Pot Pork Carnitas
- You can find a lot of great recipes in the Whole30 Book, too!
- Chipotle is your SAVIOR! Here's what you can get: Salad. Carnitas and/or Chorizo. Salsa. Guacamole. That's it! And it's actually delicious. Ask for double meat if you're thinking it's not going to be enough food.
- If you live in Charlotte or some other place where the beautiful, creative salad company, CHOPT, exists, then that's safe, too! I suggest either using your own Whole30-compliant dressing or if you're a citrus lover like me, go for just lemon juice and olive oil.
- Invest in a food processor.
- MAKE THE MAYO. Seriously. Matt is a hardcore Duke's Mayonnaise guy, but even he'd say that making your own pretty much tops everything. And it's ridiculously easy.
- Meal plan and have back-up plans.
- Be sure you have enough Tupperware (and dish soap).
- Google is your best friend.
***Matt and I plan on doing another round of Whole30 soon, so if you're interested shoot me a message and maybe we can do it together!***