Whole 30: What is it, and does it work?
Why is this here? Looking your best is in part finding clothes that fit. The other part is truly being fit. Living a healthy lifestyle plus dressing well is the ultimate combination.
You know those commercials on tv for Fiber One Brownies? The one where women’s eyeballs are popping out of their heads when they see a display of baked goods? Yeah. Early on in Whole 30 it’s a little like that. To put it in better perspective for you guys…
Two of us gals that lurk around the in the background here at Dappered.com (Sarah of Make It For Your Date fame, and Amber, graphics guru and Dappered Dating author) decided to put themselves up to the challenge of following the Whole 30 program for 30 days. If you haven’t heard of it, here’s what you can and can’t consume:
What’s not allowed for 30 days
- No booze. Hmm, ok.
- No added sugar. Well, we’ve been trying to cut back.
- No legumes. That cuts out soy. Getting a bit more difficult.
- No grains, even gluten free ones. Not even some Quinoa? Come on!
- No Dairy. Yes, there were tears in some Greek yogurt.
- No seed oils. The only exception is when you’re out to eat.
So what could we eat?
- Meat & eggs, preferably free-range, grass fed
- Healthy fats (like coconut, ghee, EVOO, avocado oil, and tallow if it’s from grass fed animals)
Yes, this program is based on the paleo philosophy. But it’s different too. It’s presented as an elimination diet. For 30 days you eat whole, clean foods. Eat 3 to 4 meals per day, depending on your activity level. Cut out snacking. Don’t start your day with coffee, although you can drink it with your breakfast (not on its own or as a lead up). No coffee after noon. (Did I just hear a collective groan?) Once you get through your 30 days you can slowly reintroduce the eliminated food groups one at a time. It’s very methodical, but by doing this you should be able to tell if a certain food group screws with your digestive system, or causes break outs, or brings back some joint pain or headaches that had gone away.
So, how’d it go?
A typical Whole 30 breakfast; lots of protein, healthy fats, and veggies
Sarah – Day one, easy peasy. Day two, HUNGRY (although I was eating plenty)! Day three, hating life. Day 3 was the hardest for me. I had some weird digestive revolt, and the thought of eggs or meat sickened me. So I had to make a green salad and load it up with nuts for breakfast. That actually did the trick though, and by lunch I was back on track. Days four and five I was just tired. I still worked out, still went about my day as usual, but I was dragging. By the end of the week, which went by surprisingly fast, I was starting to feel back to normal.
Amber – So, the great folks over at Whole30.com provide a daily email ($14.99), that gives a ton of information – what you might be feeling/experiencing each day, tips on how to overcome cravings, recipes, etc. A lot of the expectations and information seem to be geared toward someone who might be a regular junk food eater – carb flu, intense sugar cravings and major fatigue. Sarah and I already ate pretty healthy, with rare ventures into processed foods and sugar, so I didn’t experience everything the emails mentioned, though I could see how someone doing a complete overhaul of their diet would definitely feel the effects. My cravings were low, I didn’t miss wine as much as I thought (I was shocked); the only things I really dealt with was exploring the right portions (I was hungry!), and getting fatigued during the day. Day 3 I noticed myself getting a little edgy with my attitude, but nothing major enough to deter me from finishing. Tip: Start eliminating sugar and wheat earlier and you’ll have an easier time transitioning into the program.
Sarah – All the fatigue of the week before was seemingly gone. But during this time is when I started having weird food dreams, with ensuing guilt upon waking. (Thank god I wasn’t really eating those peanut m&m’s!) I noticed during workouts I was feeling the lactic burn much faster than normal. I was also REALLY thirsty, which through the magic of the google, I figured out was likely due to ketosis. Mental clarity really started to kick in. Even my husband made the comment that I seemed “brighter”. I asked him what he meant, and he said he couldn’t explain it. Was that a backward way of saying I was dim before? Hmmm…
Amber – I wasn’t normally a breakfast eater before starting Whole 30, coffee usually did the trick, so it has taken some time to get used to eating in the morning before my first cup of joe. I felt so much better this week, though! There was even a day where I felt like, and called myself multiple times, a “f*ing superhero”. I was unstoppable…until around 5pm, then I started to crash again. You win some, you lose some. I also noticed that during the day, I was incredibly clear headed, productive, and I had figured out better portion control (more fat! more meat! wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more), so wasn’t as hungry as the previous week. Even though I still got tired early in the evening, I could take on intense workouts and have the energy to complete them. I also had my first food dreams this week, which they say are normal. Who knew that you could feel so guilty in a dream for eating half a cookie!?
An easy Whole 30 lunch; turkey lettuce wraps, veggies and olives, guac & salsa topped with sunflower seeds
Sarah – By this week, I really had a handle on what and how much I should be eating at each meal to stay satiated between each (that’s a challenge at first). I was loading more healthy fats into my meals than ever before, but feeling great and continuing to drop body fat. Admittedly, I had moments of being that woman in the Fiber One commercials though. I would fixate on delicious temptations that would cross my path for a short while, but I was still easily able to resist. I mean, 3 weeks in there was NO WAY IN HELL I was giving up.
Amber – Like Sarah said, this week was definitely easier. I had a good handle on what was appropriate to eat, both dining out and at home. Meal preparation was becoming so much easier as well. I began exploring new recipes from various websites (theclothesmakethegirl.com was/is my favorite) and even picked up a couple new cookbooks. What I did began to notice, though, was that the habits that I had developed before the program were really starting to rear their ugly heads. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily craved anything, but would rather begin acting out of habit – ordering a glass of wine with dinner, asking friends if I could taste their dinner/dessert/drinks, picking up dark chocolate for an after dinner treat, etc. I had to catch myself multiple times, but felt fine in resisting once I was aware of it.
Sarah – The final week of my Whole 30 was fairly anticlimatic, but that was fine. The only thing I was still waiting on was Tiger Blood (more on that below). I did notice that my endurance during workouts had increased. During this week I really started to think about what my diet was going to look like past day 30. What foods did I want to try and add back in? Were there any foods crossed off my list forever? And how would I feel eating something off the plan for the first time?
Amber – This last week was probably the easiest. I went out of town to visit some family, and I knew exactly what to take with me for meals, and what to order when we went out. I did “cheat” and have a glass of wine on the last day…so, I did a Whole 29? It went to my head far faster than before. Buzz city! I have to say that I loved getting to this point (finishing the program, not the buzz). I feel like it was quite an accomplishment and it raised my confidence – I chose to do this for myself, and no one else, to better my life and health – that’s a powerful thing.
Here are some nuggets of wisdom that I learned from this experience:
- “Light tasting” olive oil is key!
- Italian seasonings (and bacon) make everything better.
- There’s nothing wrong with eating meat and potatoes (and veggies) every meal.
- Coffee can taste good dressed only in black.
- When you don’t drink or snack in the evenings, you can do more productive things, like exercise or, you know, laundry.
Fruit included WITH dinner, rather than as “dessert” (you’re trying to break that habit)
After Day 30
Sarah – So there’s this thing they talk about with Whole 30 that we referenced above: Tiger Blood. (Yes, that is a Charlie Sheen reference.) At some point, you’re supposed to feel it. Some people feel it in week 3, some week 4, and for some Tiger Blood is far too strong of a term. It actually took about 8 weeks, and going back on the program for a “Whole 14” for me to finally feel what I would categorize as “Tiger Blood”. But it only took a week or two into the initial program to notice dramatic improvements in joint and lower back pain, and in my digestive system. I can’t imagine going back to my dietary habits prior to Whole 30. It truly changed the way I see, think about, and consume food. And, it is now VERY easy to pinpoint if a food has a negative effect on my system. And some foods have surprised me (no more almond milk lattes, darn carrageenan).
Amber – I really loved this challenge. I feel like everyone should participate, if only to take on, and conquer, this very doable short-term goal. I learned great new ways of preparing food, flavors became more intense, nitrate and sugar-free bacon became my best friend, and my grill and I began what I hope is a long and mutually-beneficial relationship. Other than the occasional glass of wine (and maybe dark chocolate) thrown in, I don’t see any reason to go back to the way I was eating before. My energy is up, I’m sleeping better, and I can instantly tell when I’ve eaten something that my body doesn’t like anymore – it’s great encouragement to keep up these new habits. Oh, and I lost 10 lbs, that’s great motivation too.
For more information about the Whole 30, check out their website. Always consult your physician before drastically changing your diet, especially if you have conditions that require medical attention.