Hey y'all! I did my first Whole 30 last March, and in a few short days I will be done with my second. I figured before I do a write-up of the current Whole 30, I'll provide you my thoughts from the first go around - I an already tell that they will be pretty different in terms of my attitudes and takeaways. I wrote this last March, and I'll do another write-up after this month is over. See below for my exhaustive thoughts from my first round of it!
Like all good ideas, the idea to embark on Whole 30 came about while procrastinating homework and lazily doing nothing on the couch with my college housemate. She mentioned the idea of doing Whole 30, to which I scoffed at. While I applauded her for wanting to take control of her health and challenge herself, I thought to myself, "How would I live without oatmeal, or greek yogurt, or peanut butter?" It wasn't even foods like chocolate, ice cream, or tortilla chips that made me anxious, it was other 'healthy' foods that weren't Whole 30 approved.
A few weeks later, the Whole 30 book arrived at our house for my housemate. Out of curiosity, I read sections of it, and I was intrigued by hype around Whole 30. After skimming the book, I turned to the internet to learn more about this "diet". I put that word in quotation marks because I hate that word - I like to think of it as a lifestyle change. Back to my Internet research: US News had ranked Whole 30 as one of the worst diets for people, stating that it is extremely restrictive, is not promising with its long-term results, and is generally difficult to follow. But at the same time, the co-creator, Melissa Hartwig, points out that Whole 30 isn't meant to be a long-term approach, but rather a thirty day reset. After reading this, and a plethora of personal accounts regarding the program, I thought to myself: I don't have a ton of social commitments in the next month, I'm bored and seeking a challenge, and I would be a good friend by doing this alongside my housemate so we could encourage one another.
I ultimately decided to do Whole 30 on a condition: I could have alcohol on special occasions. It was my senior year, and I wanted to drink and have fun at my sorority formal, on St. Patrick's Day, etc. without feeling restricted. My housemate was in complete agreement as well.
We started Whole 30 the first week of March, post our Caribbean Cruise for spring break. Looking back, this was a great time to do it - we felt bloated and greasy after eating boat food for a week and drinking our weight in margaritas. A day after we got back, we went to Costco, Trader Joe's, and Kroger to get our Whole 30 staples: lots of fish, bacon, all of the produce, nut pods, and compliant bars like Rx and Lara Bars for our busy class days. Also, before I go through my week-by-week experience I want to point out that I wasn't obsessive about following Whole 30. For example, I still had a campus meal plan and ate veggie bowls with meat from the dining hall without obsessing over what type of oil the food was cooked in.
Week 1: The first week honestly felt great. I felt the salt and alcohol leaving my body from spring break and was relieved to be fueling my body with a crap ton of vegetables. I made homemade Rx bars as a way to use up Egg White Protein I had bought from Trader Joe's earlier in the year, which were surprisingly good. The problem with this was that I would eat the bars as a "dessert" which is prohibited in the guidelines. To which I said, IDGAF. In order to keep a healthy mindset during Whole 30, I made allowances such as these. Overall, I did feel hungry more frequently during this first week. I started playing around with my carb vs. fat consumption to figure out what would keep me satiated.
Week 2: The second weekend, I did a ton of meal prep to get me through the week. I found that making 1-2 meals on Sunday, and then another 1-2 on Wednesday or Thursday was worked best for me on a college schedule. Between sharing a fridge with 6 other girls, and the amount a single person can eat, it was better for me to space out my meal prep. I also started eating more on campus this week, usually for lunch. My go-to options were omelettes or bowls with kale, protein, veggies, and seeds. This weekend was St. Patrick's Day, and when it came time to drink, I used Kombucha as my mixer of choice - and it was delicious! I had one slip up that week, where I had a few bites of a cupcake after my shenanigans from the holiday, to which I fessed up to my roommate. She admitted she ate queso that same day, and we both agreed to move on and just hop back on the wagon (which is a lot easier when you aren't drinking).
Week 3: I must admit, I began getting a bit bored of my spaghetti squash bake and eating meat all of the time. I did not really have many cravings - the only foods I really missed were chocolate, my Steaz iced tea (which has stevia so I couldn't have it), and the occasional margarita. But all in all, my cravings were not strong at all. In the Whole 30 book, it describes a cycle of ups and downs in the experience, with strong cravings and withering willpower. My path was unlike that in the book, which I attributed to my current eating habits which limited processed foods and grains. I found that I wasn't missing certain foods such as hummus and cheese as much as I thought I would. In fact, cutting out dairy made my skin look better, which I was surprised about because I had a very limited dairy consumption to begin with (think 1/4 c cheese 2-3x a week). I also felt less bloated, which is something I struggle with due to my IBS.
Week 4: The end was finally in sight! I was excited to introduce oats back into my diet, but I did feel like I could continue eating mostly according to the Whole 30 guidelines. I finally felt in the groove with eating on campus, meal prepping, and finding what foods kept me satiated. However, I was excited to go out to eat again and not worry about having Whole 30 compliant options always around.
- I did not weight myself before and after, because I don't weigh myself. I definitely felt leaner which I think was inevitable (thank you, cruise food) but overall felt less bloated and more lean.
- My skin felt like it was glowing, which I attribute to cutting dairy out.
- While I consider myself to be educated on reading food labels, the challenge reminded me of the importance of educating yourself on ingredients.
- I did not miss foods such as hummus, grains, or dairy.
Changes I've Made Since: I eat VERY limited amounts of non-cow cheese, beans and legumes, and grains. This has made me feel better overall and helps keep my IBS at bay. I try to limit my sugar intake, being more mindful of hidden sugars in things like almond butter, protein powder, etc. The process also helped me stop eating "fake" ingredients once and for all. I found that I didn't miss oats as much as I thought I would and don't eat them as frequently. In addition, peanut butter tends to disagree with my stomach unless it's organic. One of the biggest lessons Whole 30 taught me was how to eat a more diverse diet. I used to eat the same meals nearly every day, but with Whole 30 it was easy to get bored so I worked to switch things up through meal prep more frequently.
Would I do Whole 30 again? Probably not. I believe that the point of challenges such as this are to help instill permanent changes in a person's diet rather than "cleanse" the body only for you to return to prior eating habits. Perhaps down the line I would consider doing it again, maybe a few years down the line, but I think I've extracted as much as I could benefit from Whole 30 for now. If you're looking for a way to clean up your diet and just give yourself a challenge, this could be a fun project for you if you are a health geek like me!