I Just Finished Whole30, Here's How It Went
For over two decades, I didn't really need to worry about what I ate.
I'd always been an athlete. Growing up, it was football from August until November. Then it was basketball from November until March. And then, it was basketball again - from March until July. We'd often play 100+ games over the course of a summer with practices, camps and open runs sprinkled in. A day rarely went by when I didn't get a workout in that would nearly kill me now.
That continued until I graduated high school, at which point it became basketball year round. During my first two years of college, it was non-stop basketball and/or conditioning. That burns a lot of calories, so when I went to the cafeteria (We can eat as much as we want? For [in my college mind] free?) I didn't really concern myself with making healthy choices.
Eventually, that ends. This will shock you but I did not end up playing in the NFL or the NBA. Scouts really missed on that one. Eventually, I was no longer playing a sport for large chunks of each day, which meant that my body was obviously not burning as many calories as it had been accustomed to.
Which led to a few years where I ended up in a place that wasn't ideal. It was never enough of an issue to really make me do something about it but it was definitely annoying. But over the past year, it moved beyond an annoyance. I didn't have as much energy as I should have, regardless of how much sleep I got. I was having headaches far too often. And I would consume food or drinks out of boredom, rather than necessity.
I decided to give Whole30 a shot.
I'd tried other eating plans but nothing really stuck. The Bulletproof Diet, The Slow Carb Diet, et cetera. What I liked about Whole30 was that there was no room for error. If you ate a single bean on Day 19, you start over.
So I bought the book and dove in. I thought to myself that while it wouldn't be easy in any capacity, it could be done and I'd likely be very happy with the results on Day 31.
Whole30 is pretty simple, you only eat whole foods for 30 days. There are no exceptions. The idea is that cutting out foods that are negative for your health, then slowly reintroducing them, can pinpoint food groups that your body isn't a big fan of.
The main groups you'll be giving up are sugar (in nearly everything in one form or another), dairy, grains, legumes and yes, alcohol. The biggest issue for me was sugar, the others I can do without relatively easily. But sugar, that was an issue. There are other (most) food groups you cannot have but those are the big ones.
You can eat all the meat, poultry and fish that you'd like. You can also have all the veggies you'd like, sans corn and peas. Brutally, those are my two favorite. And you can have unlimited fruit along with a few fats. It's pretty similar to the Paleo Diet.
For the coffee drinkers, you don't have to give it up! But you do have to drink it black.
There are no tracking calories. There are no points. There are no portion limits. Just eat the foods (and drink the drinks) you are supposed to and you're all good.
Oh, and no weighing yourself. This one was hard for me. As you see your body changing, it's natural to want to step on the scale. But if it's not the number you hoped for, it can be disappointing and throw you off track. So you cannot weigh yourself until the morning of Day 31.
Melissa Hartwig, the creator of Whole30, offers some advice for those of you looking to start your Whole30 journey.
"The struggle is a normal, necessary part of the process. Changing your food is hard. Changing your habits is even harder. Changing your relationship with food is the hardest part of all. The process requires struggle—it’s how you know you’re growing—but don’t make it harder than it has to be! There is no such thing as the 'perfect Whole30,' so if your beef isn’t grass-fed or your travel meal doesn’t look exactly like our meal template, don’t sweat it. Your only job is to stick to the Whole30 rules for 30 days, and some days, you’ll have to let good enough be good enough. When you do struggle, remember why you took on the program in the first place, and don’t be overwhelmed by the big picture—just focus on the next day, or the next meal. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and high-five yourself for the victories you’re achieving every day you’re on the program, no matter how small. Even tiny progress is progress."
And after a long, long month - Day 31 hit.
Remember, weight loss isn't the main goal of Whole30. But I was still anxious to step on the scale and see the results.
I lost a tick over 27 pounds. Which was awesome, for sure. But I was really hoping for an even 30, a pound per day. Even so, I ended up at a weight I hadn't seen since shortly after college probably. And I'm shooting to drop an additional 15 to get where I'd really like to be.
See below. On the left was me the day before I started Whole30. On the right, me on Day 30.
But there's more.
My blood pressure was 137/88 two days before I started Whole30. The day after I ended Whole30, it was 116/68. I'm waiting on the results of a few blood tests right now but I'm sure they will show vast improvements.
I didn't need a headache pill the entire 30 days. My stress melted away with each day. I slept better and realized I didn't need as much as I had previously. I was doing just fine on 6 1/2 - 7 1/2 hours of sleep, where I needed 8 to 8 1/2 before.
The only food group I had an issue with reintroducing was dairy, most notably straight up milk. I already knew that but it was good to confirm and even better to find out that none of the others gave me issues.
A few more things I'll mention - my skin looked better, my digestion was much improved, my workouts were much easier and as previously mentioned, my energy was vastly improved.
As for ongoing changes, portion sizes were an eye opener. I realized that I didn't need the portions I assumed I did. I ran just fine on smaller portions, even though portion size isn't really an issue on Whole30. This was a happy accident.
I also got back into the habit of having something for breakfast. Moving forward, hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter and fruit or even a protein shake will be a staple of my morning. The only exception will be the occasional intermittent fasting, which is a topic for a separate blog.
Prepping will also be more regular moving forward. Even if the actual act of prepping doesn't get done, going into each week with a plan for each meal will be done. And that makes a huge difference.
Overall, I can't recommend Whole30 enough. And while I probably won't do it again for a long time, it's not easy, I'll probably sneak in a Whole7 or Whole10 every now and then.
If you want to get started and give it a shot, this is the book you'll absolutely need. This book and this book will also be pretty helpful. And this Instagram page proved really helpful also. At the end of this blog, I'll list additional books that will help you.
As for what helped me - I have a few tips. First, I planned the entire 30 day meal plan before we started. Sure, a few things changed and we wanted to switch things up a bit by Week 3 but having a plan in place was a lifesaver.
Next, the mindset was big. I went into it not even considering the thought of not finishing. It was very similar to the days of being an athlete. You have to walk on to the field or into the gym without a shred of doubt of what the outcome will be - we're going to win and then we're going to go home. I was going to finish and then I was going to move on with my life. Because of this, there was never really a time where I thought "I think I might be done" to myself. It was always about the next day being closer to the finish line than the last.
Lastly, don't do it alone. I went through the process with Tina which made things much easier. Meals were planned and executed, along with meals being prepped as much as possible. As a side note, it helped us a lot to make extra at dinner and use the leftovers as lunch the next day.
But having someone to keep you accountable definitely helps. If you don't have someone, make it public. Post on social media and let your followers keep you accountable. You'll be less likely to quit knowing that everyone will realize you quit.
There's also a Whole30 app that will let you scan items in the store to see if they are compliant. This worked for around 75% of items scanned, which really helped. Just make sure you read the book also so you avoid the 'Sex With Your Pants On' trap. This is using compliant foods for non-compliant recipes, such as cookies, chips, pizza or pancakes. It's not only about what goes into your body, it's also important to break habits.
I'll mention a few more practical tips below.
1. Lara Bars helped quite a bit. Not as much for me, I don't really like dates, but Tina raved about them. Not all of them are compliant, so make sure you are sticking to the compliant ones. They do also sell mini versions of them as well, which I found helpful.
2. Eggs, all the time. You'll eat a lot of eggs. I hope you like eggs.
3. I wouldn't really try to eat out. You can have Chipotle, but only the Carnitas, lettuce and salsa. Everything else is a no go. I would get double meat in a to go bowl and tell them to load up on the lettuce at the end. Then flip it over and you have a salad.
The only other place we went to eat was CoreLife. And even there, it's slim pickings. You can create a Broth Bowl, load it with veggies, the steak and chicken broth. It has to be the chicken broth.
4. You can satisfy your sugar cravings with fruit. Apples and Bananas with cashew butter was a favorite, along with assorted berries. If you are breaking the habit of soda and water bores you to death, I really liked these and these. They were seriously life savers. And of course, all La Croix is also compliant for you crazies.
5. Primal Kitchen is very helpful. They have compliant oil, Greek dressing, Ranch dressing, Mayo and more. They even sell a ready to go Whole30 kit here. This is a very nice to have. And something that is a must have, Ghee. You can get this at Whole Foods or for a little cheaper on Amazon. You probably want to order two. And while we didn't try out this kit, others on the program rave about it. Also - You can find compliant bacon at Fresh Thyme and Whole Foods. It'll be marked as Paleo bacon. You are welcome.
I did want to highlight my favorite recipe. It's great to make for dinner and have plenty leftover for lunches. Lazy Meatballs. Below is a photo from our kitchen.
I also enjoyed being able to eat chicken wings. You can get normal wings from any grocery store and surprisingly, most hot sauces and even multiple buffalo sauces are compliant.
I'm going to send out an email with a few of my favorite recipes from Whole30, leaning toward recipes that feel less restrictive than you probably imagine. If you'd like those recipes, sign up for the email here.
I can say with a ton of confidence that after 30 days, you'll be really glad you followed through and finished. And if you go into it with all the tools listed earlier in this blog (I'll list them again below in order of importance), it'll probably be easier than you think. We went into it with only the main book and that's it - if I did it again, I'd have the entire library. It'd be well worth the $97.
Your total cost for this entire library of Whole30 books will be $97. Add that to the fact that you'll be giving up some food groups for a month and decide to commit.
When Day 31 hits, you'll be on top of the world.