I’ve made it through week one of Whole30! Technically I’m a few days into week two. This may seem like an easy accomplishment, but let me tell you, it’s not! I truly underestimated how much of a challenge this would be. I’m not even talking about the cravings (which have started to subside), but the preparations, the research, the constant label and ingredient checking…it’s work! There’s so much you are supposed to stay away from, and it seriously feels like the majority of these banned ingredients are in EVERYTHING. You don’t realize how many products have soy and some form of dairy, or how even the “all natural, no sugar added” products have honey (a no-no) or stevia (also a no-no) or maple syrup (again, a no-no). There was a paragraph in the official Whole30 book that talked about focusing more on the things you CAN have rather than the things you can’t have, and I do think that’s some really good advice. I found that when I tried to switch my focus to the former, I had a much more positive outlook on the plan. Speaking of the book, if you are considering trying Whole30, I highly recommend buying the book. It is super informative and helpful, and it includes tons of recipes and meal ideas. I find myself referring to it often. I’m going to post an update every week or so, but here are some initial thoughts…
Being a vegetarian. If I weren’t a vegetarian I totally feel like Whole30 would be a piece of cake. I mean, meat, potatoes and veggies are allowed (assuming they are prepared properly), and that’s a pretty well-rounded, balanced and filling meal. When you don’t have the meat component, it gets a little trickier and more limited. The Whole30 book does provide a slightly modified version for vegetarians and vegans, to make sure you get enough protein, but it’s still been a struggle to find permitted meat subs and vegetarian friendly protein sources. Soy is one of the no-no’s (dairy, sugar, artificial sweeteners, soy, grains, legumes and alcohol are the main no-no’s, just FYI), so this rules out most meat substitutes (ie. veggie burgers, mock chicken nuggets, pretty much anything from the Boca, Morningstar and Gardein lines, which I normally enjoy often). The vegetarian modification does allow some tofu (organic and minimally processed) and edamame, so I’m going to have to get creative with both. The vegetarian modification also allows small amounts of quinoa, but I’m really trying to limit that, as recommended. Dairy in the form of kefir or whole milk yogurt (organic and minimally processed) is allowed on the vegetarian modification, but I haven’t had any yet, and I really do prefer to avoid all dairy if possible. Basically the goal of the vegetarian plan is to follow the regular Whole 30 guidelines as closely as possible, but if you feel like you aren’t getting enough protein, you can add in a little of the above. I’m eating a decent amount of fish, nuts and seeds, plus some Whole30 approved bars, so I feel like I’m doing OK on the protein front, but not great. I’m struggling because I’m a little OCD and I really want to follow the more regimented plan to a T, but I also need to be careful that I’m fueling my body as needed, especially since I’m still working out.
What I’m eating. Chia seed pudding with almond butter and sliced banana, baked salmon over greens with roasted veggies, roasted sweet potatoes, a lot of eggs (scrambled, poached, hard boiled, fried, or in egg salad with approved mayo), tuna fish, avocado, all the fruit, acai bowls (careful when you order and be sure to request no honey or other sweetener, no granola), almond butter, cashew butter, raw nuts, RX bars, Lara bars, veggie based sausages, cauliflower “rice” (basically just cooked cauliflower that’s been processed into fine crumbles and used in place of rice in certain dishes), tons of spinach, huge salads with lots of veggies and some roasted fish and approved dressing, and I did make some Whole30 approved granola the other day that came out really good. I’m still drinking coffee every morning (caffeine is not prohibited on the plan), but I’m definitely missing my Stevia sweetener. I add a teaspoon of coconut oil and some coconut milk and it’s been doing the trick. I’m also drinking a ton of water, iced tea (unsweetened, of course) and the occasional kombucha, although I had a slip-up the other day and realized my kombucha had honey in it. Whoops. I’m also consuming a lot more fat than I’m used to, albeit all good fats, like coconut oil, coconut milk, salmon, avocado, nuts and nut butters. Whereas, before Whole30, 50-60% of my daily calories came from carbs, now that’s replaced with fats. This is somewhat stressing me out since I’ve gone so long with thinking too much fat is bad, but I’m really trying to trust the plan, and remind myself that these are all good, heart-healthy fats.
Where I’m struggling. Things like the above kombucha slip-up, where I don’t intentionally mean to cheat. Seriously though, there are so many forms of added sweetener, you have to read labels SO carefully. I also ate some almond butter that I later realized had coconut sugar in it. I have found that a lot of foods that you’d totally think would be compliant have some sort of ingredient that makes it a no-no. Soy is probably the biggest culprit, although I find a lot of so-called “sugar free” foods and drinks actually have honey, coconut sugar or artificial sweeteners in them. Same goes with dairy (including all forms of it, like whey and casein). Another rule I’ve been struggling with is the requirement to have veggies at every meal. For some reason I just can’t get into veggies at breakfast. I’ve always preferred my breakfast to be more on the sweet side rather than savory, and while I have no problem staying away from my preferred oatmeal or bagel and having a Lara bar and fruit instead, I just can’t get excited about roasted veggies in the a.m. The last two mornings I’ve made myself scrambled eggs over sautéed spinach with a side of roasted sweet potatoes and a link of veggie based sausage, so maybe I’m turning a corner here.
How I’m feeling. Honestly, about the same. Definitely not worse, but I can’t say I suddenly feel so much lighter, or cleaner, or healthier, or energetic, or anything like that. Maybe I could say that from a mental/emotional perspective I feel better, probably because I don’t feel so addicted to grains and sugar like I used to be. The book does repeatedly say that you don’t actually start to feel the real benefits until around day 15 (for the love…), so I guess it isn’t surprising that I’m not noticing much improvement yet. The book gives a really great day-to-day breakdown of how you will feel at different points throughout the 30 days, and so far it says I should have experienced days of feeling super motivated (mainly just day one, lol), hung-over, short-tempered, bloated, tired and lethargic, and I’ve definitely felt all of these things. Workouts have been a bit of a struggle as far as energy goes and I’ve had to scale back. Again, I know this is due to coming off the sugar high I’ve basically been on my whole life. I’m about to enter what the book calls the “hardest days” where I’ll be more likely to quit (days 10 and 11), so I’m definitely going to need to be mindful of this and prepared for these feelings.
What I miss the most. Honestly, just the convenience of grab n’ go snacks and quick meals, like my beloved Quest bars, cereal, yogurt with granola, string cheese, pretzels, etc. Whole30 requires a lot of planning, meal prep and cooking, and there are not many grab n’ go options unless it’s leftovers you can quickly heat up. Fruit is allowed, but it’s recommended to limit it and not eat it by itself. In fact, snacks in between your three main meals are discouraged (but not prohibited, especially if you are exercising, and assuming they are compliant of course). I also miss bread (especially a bagel in the morning) and ice cream. Oh, and wine. I don’t even drink a lot of wine in the first place, but some nights I really enjoy sitting down to dinner with a glass of good pinot noir.
I’ve included some helpful charts below that provide the basics of the plan, but again, the actual book is definitely worth buying. Even if you don’t want to commit to Whole30, it’s super informative and educational.