Well guys, I completed Whole30. I’m pretty proud of myself. This is the first time I’ve truly eliminated trigger foods out of my diet for a significant period of time. You may remember I did a 3-day juice cleanse a couple months back, but even then I gave in and had regular food at dinner on that third day. I’m just not good at sticking to any sort of cleanse or elimination diet. The closest I’ve come was when I was nursing AW and he had a dairy sensitivity until he was about 5 months or so. I was pretty careful about avoiding dairy, but I definitely gave into cravings every now and then (and paid for it dearly with a very fussy baby). While it was relatively easy for me to avoid dairy during Whole30, eliminating all grains and sugar (including artificial and natural sweeteners) was definitely a challenge. I knew going in I was addicted to sugar, but what I didn’t realize was how much sugar I was actually eating in my regular diet. Sugar (or some sort of sweetener) is literally in EVERYTHING. It’s eye opening. Even if I stayed away from the obvious culprits like desserts, baked goods and packaged snacks, I would consume a lot of it in seemingly healthy things like condiments and dressings. Throw in my usual protein bars and granola and I was consuming so much added sugar without even eating what I would actually call a “sweet.” I can’t even tell you how many times during the last 30 days I would grab something, feeling pretty confident that it would be compliant, just to read the label and see that it did in fact have added sugar. This happened a lot with dressings and nut butters. Soy is another hidden culprit I had to be very careful about. Also hidden grains. I pretty much had to throw all packaged foods out because 99% of the time they had added sugar (coconut sugar, Stevia and honey were particularly sneaky, especially in so called “natural, no added sugar” foods and drinks), hidden grains or soy in them, if not all three.
Here are my final thoughts:
Was it hard? Honestly, not really. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The first week was a little rough as I came off my sugar addiction and learned how to get past cravings, especially after lunch and dinner, when I was so used to having a sweet treat. The main challenge for me was being a vegetarian. I think if I could have eaten meat it would have been so much easier. I struggled with finding vegetarian friendly, Whole30 compliant protein sources, and since protein is what truly fills you up, I felt like it was really necessary to include it at each meal. One can only eat so many eggs. I also got to where I was really craving protein and I could just tell my body was needing it. I ended up eating baked chicken a couple nights (I know…right?!) and not going to lie, it was good and I immediately felt better. Normally I eat beans and meat substitutes (soy and tempeh based) so I don’t have an issue getting protein, but neither were allowed on Whole30. The meal prep was the other challenge. It was so time consuming and involved a lot of cooking. I probably should have utilized the weekends more to prep for the entire upcoming week, but more often than not I found myself scrambling in the evenings trying to prep something for breakfast and lunch the next day.
How do I feel? I feel good. I can’t say I feel really different from before, but I don’t get those afternoon slumps like I used to, and my energy levels are good and I’m sleeping really well. Mentally I feel better, probably because I don’t have that sugar monster talking to me anymore. I find that I’m not stress eating and I don’t immediately crave something sweet as soon as I get a little anxious or frazzled. I didn’t feel the need to snack much in between meals either, when normally I am a grazer throughout the day. On the flipside, I was usually very hungry when meal time rolled around, but hungry for real food, not fillers. I got to where I was craving things like salads and hard boiled eggs, lol.
Did I lose weight? The short answer – no. My weight stayed pretty steady, maybe a pound less, but my weight tends to fluctuate by a few pounds anyways, depending on the time of month, or even week. The funny thing is that I ate around 200-300 MORE calories per day while on Whole30 as compared to before. You’re technically not supposed to calorie count or use My Fitness Pal while on Whole30, but I was legitimately curious how my calorie intake would stand up, so I still plugged everything in to my app. I definitely ate more, but I also ate better, cleaner food. This kind of goes to show that the type of calories you consume does matter and calories-in versus calories-out is not always the best way to judge weight loss. You’d think that by consuming an additional 200-300 calories per day, I would have gained weight. Instead I stayed stable. This was really eye opening for me. I still need to take some measurements to see if I lost any inches.
What did I miss most? An occasional glass of red wine. Some meals just aren’t complete without a glass of pinot;) This sounds weird, but I missed beans. I usually put chickpeas on my salads and I love to go to Moe’s and get a veggie bowl with black beans. I have beans with my dinner a lot too. Being a vegetarian, beans are a staple for me, and I missed them. I also missed Stevia in my coffee, my favorite protein bars and being able to go out for ice cream with my family on the weekends. Oh, and bagels on Saturday mornings.
What do I plan to splurge on first? Well I already had a few things yesterday and today like a cup of plain oatmeal for breakfast and sweetener in my coffee. I don’t even put a ton of sweetener in my morning cup (one packet of Stevia to be exact), but I really missed it during Whole30. I will also likely splurge on a Quest bar in the next day or so. I’m dying to try the new oatmeal chocolate chip flavor! It’s funny because I don’t really consider a packet of Stevia, plain oatmeal or a Quest bar “splurges” but they are a few of the things I’ve missed the most. There is also a good chance that I will visit my favorite frozen yogurt shop this weekend;) Oh, and duh, red wine is absolutely happening…like tonight.
What did I most enjoy eating? All.The.Salad. Seriously. I loved making huge salads, chock full of veggies, tuna or salmon, nuts, hard boiled eggs, diced avocado and whatever (Whole30 compliant) goodness I could find in the fridge or on my cafeteria salad bar. I would fill this massive Tupperware container with my goodies, add some EVOO and red wine vinegar and shake it like a Polaroid picture. It was always different (other than the avocado, which was always a staple) and always interesting and never got old. Also, All.The.Avocados. On average I ate about 2 avocados per day, pretty much with every meal. I never get tired of this healthy fat. I also really enjoyed my RX Bars, which I probably wouldn’t have ever tried if not for Whole30. They will continue to be a staple in our pantry. I enjoyed eating a variety of nut butters as well. Since peanuts are not allowed on Whole30, I ventured out and tried cashew butter (which I’m now addicted to) and I also ate a lot of almond butter and sunflower seed butter. I even made my own in the Vitamix a couple times.
When did I cheat/slip-up? I had a few inadvertent slip-ups that I didn’t realize until after I consumed them, like not realizing there was sugar in a salad dressing, coconut sugar in one of my almond butters and buckwheat in what I thought was a nut based granola. I knowingly cheated a couple of times too, like having dried cranberries on a salad, using soy sauce with dinner one night because I didn’t have the coconut aminos on me, having veggie sausage that had wheat germ in it, and a veggie burger than had quinoa in it (although this was technically allowed on the modified vegetarian plan). I cheated a little bit in the sense that it’s not recommended to recreate things (like making two ingredient pancakes with 1 egg and 1 banana), but I did it anyways a time or two, usually because I was in a pinch. I also ate way more fruit (fresh and dried) than recommended and didn’t always have a veggie with each meal. Again, I had some limitations since I’m a vegetarian, so I feel like I should give myself some leeway with fruit consumption. I also tried to make up my lack of veggies at the next meal, so if I didn’t have veggies at breakfast, I doubled up at lunch. I also took communion at church on Sunday’s, but you know, God > Whole30.
How will I phase back in? I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I am going to try really hard to follow the book’s “fast track” phase in version, which basically happens over the course of 10’ish days. I’ll introduce one new non-Whole30 food each day and assess how I feel. Yesterday was oatmeal and today was artificial sweetener (Stevia) and a little honey (in a salad dressing).
Will I stick to certain aspects Whole30 for the long-term? I’ve also been putting A LOT of thought in to this. I mean, I’d hate to just revert right back to my old ways, but I also want something I can live with. I definitely couldn’t do Whole30 for the rest of my life, nor would I want to, but I absolutely think I can and should keep a lot of the ideas in practice. My plan is to follow an 80/20 rule, which means I’ll eat Whole30 80% of the time and allow myself some treats 20% of the time. Basically this averages out to about 4 meals per week that aren’t Whole30 compliant, which I think is doable. I mean, again, Whole30 is not intended to be a lifelong commitment, and I think even following it 80% of the time will be somewhat of a challenge, so I’m not going to stress about it. Bottom line is that it did change my perspective and make me more conscious about what I am putting in my body, and I fully intend to follow what I learned as much as feasible.
Will I ever do this again? Yes. Ideally I’d like to do a round whenever I start to feel myself slipping back into old habits. Kind of like a reset of sorts. At a minimum I’d like to do it once each year. Or maybe I’ll be consistent with the 80/20 rule and won’t feel like I need to reset. I’ll just see how it goes.
Feel free to comment if you have any questions! Like I said, I did learn a lot from doing this. The book is super informative and a great resource.