If you follow along on Instagram, then you know that I completed my very first Whole30 at the end of September. It was completely on a whim, but it was one of the best decisions I think I’ve ever made. I wanted to start a Whole30 on September 1st, but after starting and failing a Whole30 all in one day a couple years ago, I wanted to just “test the waters” and see if I could actually do one full day of eating only Whole30. Well, after 1 day of being Whole30 compliant, I couldn’t let that day go to waste, right? So at that point, I decided to just keep going.
Wait a second, though. Let me throw on the brakes. If you haven’t heard about the Whole30, you should read up on it here: Whole30.com
In summary, the Whole30 is consuming only whole foods for 30 days. There are many restrictions on the Whole30 and many, many foods that you can’t eat. You’re allowed no grains, no gluten, no added sugar, no sugar substitutes, no legumes, no alcohol, and no dairy and there are NO exceptions. The rules on the website are pretty clear, if you slip up, you start your 30 days over. Many complete the Whole30 with their end-game being weight loss, but there’s so much more that the Whole30 can do for you. Many have seen their blood sugars improve, their cholesterol numbers go down, sleep improve, acne clear up, depression or anxiety improve, and so much more.
The Whole30 can also help to manage autoimmune conditions and improve symptoms associated with those conditions. I, personally, have been diagnosed with endometriosis, so completing the Whole30 and teaching myself to eat cleaner is not only for improved body composition, it’s also to help to (hopefully) keep my endometriosis at bay as well.
So now that we got the “why” and the “what” out of the way, let me tell you about my Whole30 experience! (I know many of you have been requesting a blog post, so here it –finally—is!) It’s taken me so long to finally write this post because I feel like I have so much to say on this topic. I want my information to be organized and not overwhelming and I also want to make sure I touch on everything, too!
Like I said, I started the Whole30 on a whim, so my preparation time was minimal. I ate what I could in the house for the first couple of days before I had a day off of work to go grocery shopping. Once I went grocery shopping and once I ordered a few of the Whole30 compliant mayos and dressings and snacks off of Amazon, I felt so much more capable! (So, if you’re looking to complete a Whole30—I recommend planning on starting one. It obviously can be done on a whim, but it’s best to have your ducks in a row first!)
Prior to completing the Whole30, I would eat a handful of cookies just because, I’d grab fruit snacks to satisfy my sweet tooth after dinner, I’d buy lunch at work almost daily and those lunches included mashed potatoes with Swedish meatballs, grilled cheese, beer cheese soup, super nachos, cheesy ravioli with alfredo sauce, and you see my point. Dinners at home weren’t much better and breakfast was usually donuts someone brought into work, a Clif bar or a bowl of oatmeal. Basically all the carbs, all the dairy, and everything I don’t eat now. No wonder I was bloated, broke-out and felt horribly about myself.
Note: I was the only person in my house who ate strictly Whole30. I tried to recreate meals we would typically eat to make them Whole30, but I also didn’t mind adding a non-Whole30 element to the meal for Alea, Mckenna and Cory. This decision to eat Whole30 was my decision alone and I did not want to force my decision on them. That being said, I’ve heard from so many people that they “can’t” do a Whole30 because their husband doesn’t want to or because they have to cook for their kids. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not impossible and it’s really no excuse. (Sorry, that Whole30 tough love just comes out!) For example, I would make spaghetti for my family with Whole30 compliant spaghetti sauce and I’d serve mine on top of spaghetti squash or zoodles and I would make spaghetti noodles for Cory and the girls. Boiling noodles isn’t hard and really didn’t add any element of temptation for me. Or if we had tacos, I would eat mine in a taco salad and Cory would have his on a tortilla. Easy!
The Whole30 is NOT about chef-inspired fancy recipes that take 2 hours to cook and that include ingredients you have to go to 4 different grocery stores to find. Sure, you can find recipes like that, but just don’t bother. Easy was KEY for me and I would even keep a list of easy meals on hand that I could just whip up quickly or heat up in the microwave.
The first couple of days were easy. I was feeling great, I felt like I wasn’t starving, and my cravings were very minimal. I did feel hungry on my drives home from work so I would have a LaraBar or an RX bar during my 40ish minute commute and I’d be able to make it to dinner no problem.
The photo above is the day before I started the Whole30, Day 3 and Day 7! It’s amazing how eating the right foods can help to reduce that awful bloat and inflammation so much in just a few days!
Flash forward to Days 7-10 and I was dying for carbs and sugar. I felt sleepier and like I needed a little more coffee than usual to keep me going. Once I got past this hump, though, it was so much easier.
Around Day 25 or so, I started to think ahead to the end of my Whole30 and I was so incredibly nervous. I was reading everything I could about doing a reintroduction and reintroducing foods, but I didn’t really feel like I was ready to do those things. Why even bother when I was feeling so good, right? I did do a reintroduction, but it was very minimal and I only ate when I felt comfortable eating.
I followed the Whole30 Reintroduction outlined on the website, but only did one item per day and I felt like that was enough. Now I know that sugar wears me down and sometimes aggravates my GI system, gluten and legumes make me bloat like you wouldn’t believe, and dairy increases my cravings and makes me want to eat more and more. So yes, I try to avoid those foods as much as I can because they just don’t make me feel good and that to me just isn’t worth it.
I did not take measurements before starting the Whole30 and I that’s something that I really wish I would’ve done. I did take a photo the day before I started and that photo is what keeps me eating clean and healthy now. I really don’t want to get to that point again. I was 9 months postpartum in that photo, but it still is so hard to look at. I lost 8 pounds on the Whole30, but I know I lost inches and inches from my mid-section, arms, butt, and thighs. The before and after photo speaks for itself, really!
And it’s not even just a slimmer physique. My skin has improved tremendously, my sugar cravings are in check, I don’t feel like I have to snack and eat all of the time, I feel fuller longer after eating a meal, and I feel like my relationship with food has improved tenfold. And the improved relationship with food alone makes the Whole30 110% worth it to me.
What I am Doing Now:
Now, I eat Whole30 about 90% of the time with Mckenna’s birthday weekend being the exception. I did indulge in Cory’s homemade beer cheese soup, and I did have a slice or two of birthday cake. But you know what? That’s okay. Did I need those things to fully enjoy her first birthday? Absolutely not. Did I feel more involved in the party and more present when I was eating the same as everyone else, definitely. It was nice to just have a couple of days where I didn’t about every single ingredient in ever food I was consuming. You know?
That typically doesn’t bother me on a day-to-day basis, but sometimes it’s just nice to not have to think about it. When I’m not exercising “food freedom” like I described I find it very easy to “just say no” to foods that contain ingredients I know don’t work well for me or my body.
My Plan Moving Forward:
As far as what’s to come with my eating, I do plan to eat as Paleo as possible. Eating paleo is very similar to eating Whole30 where dairy, gluten, grains, and legumes are not allowed. However, they do allow a few natural sugars such as maple syrup, coconut sugar, and honey. That allows a little more flexibility and I’m able to eat a few Paleo goodies such as paleo pancakes, paleo baked goods, and those sorts of things. I also eat peanut butter here and there as well if it’s in my Perfect Bar or an ingredient in something else.
It does take a lot of preparation and I do meal plan and food prep for about 2-3 hours every weekend. It’s just become a natural part of my routine and I feel so much better starting my week knowing what we’re going to make for dinner every night, having a few of those dinners prepped, and having my lunches and snacks for the week prepped and ready to grab. It makes a world of difference and takes so much stress out of the equation.
I plan to have a few more posts in the future to help you out if you’re thinking about doing a Whole30 as well. I plan on writing a post sharing links to all of the recipes I used and also a few of our easy go-to meals that we turned to again and again. I also hope to share with you my shopping lists including brands that I’ve found to be Whole30 compliant and what stores to find them at. Let’s face it, those first couple of grocery trips were rough and time-consuming. It’s hard work to read all of those labels, so I’ll help take some of that grunt work off your shoulders and maybe make your Whole30 a little easier.
Have you ever done a Whole30 before? What was your experience?
If you have any questions about my experience with the Whole30, leave a comment below and I’ll respond as soon as I’m able!