I love food. Period. I feel very fortunate to have a healthy relationship with it. I don't have any food allergies, disordered eating habits, or even any real aversions to any kind of food. There isn't a food item I won't try or likely, enjoy. I do however, love a good challenge, especially when it comes to changing the way I think about what I'm putting in my body.
Enter Whole30. What started as a personal challenge to go "Sugar-Free For a Week" turned into a decision to try it out for a month. So, let's talk about it, because a lot of people have some seeeeerious opinions about "diets" or "eating habits" without really listening to the person who is trying it out.
What is Whole30?
According to Whole30.com, Whole30 (we'll call it W30 from now on) is a way to change the way you think and eat for 30 days. "Think of it as a short-term nutrition reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system." What could be wrong with that? The W30 theory is that many food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it.
Again, I don't have any stomach issues, I sleep like a baby each night, and don't have any food allergies. I do, however, tend to get a little off-balance from time to time and am easily convinced (by myself) that what I'm eating, seemingly healthy, or not, isn't thaaaat bad for me.
So I like to reset - which for me, is what Whole30 does. It puts things back into perspective for me and challenges me to think more. Am I reading the labels? Are the foods I'm eating truly, "whole"? Or are there 13+ ingredients on the label, half of which I can't pronounce? Am I drinking that coffee because I love the taste of the coffee? No, it's because I want the cream and sugar. When I do W30, I basically decide to take the plunge, and push the “reset” button with my metabolism and take a hard look at the food choices I made in the past and what I plan on doing with them in the future.
Okay, So What Do I Eat on W30?
Probably the first question I get when I tell people that I'm cutting out sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes for 30 days is, "Okay, well what CAN you eat then?" and my answer, well, a lot of things actually. Rather than think about the foods I CANT have, I try to think of W30 as a way to eat more fruits, vegetables, seafood, with the occasional red meat and a lot of eggs. HERE is my favorite Whole 30 Trader Joe's Grocery list and HERE is my favorite Whole Foods W30 compliant list.
If I had to break down my top W30 foods it would be:
1. More green veggies.. hellllllooooo Sweetgreen salads
2. Pasture Raised Eggs (see here why I only eat these kind)
3. Clementines & other citrus fruits
4. Plantain chips
5. RXBars (here's their Whole30 pack)
...And What Can't You Eat
Straight from the experts at Whole30.com here is the official list of no no's. "Omitting all of these foods and beverages 100% for 30 days will help you eliminate cravings, restore a healthy metabolism, heal the digestive tract, reduce systemic inflammation, and discover how these foods are truly impacting how you look, how you feel, and your quality of life."
- Do not consume added sugar, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date syrup, stevia, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, etc. Read your labels, because companies sneak sugar into products in ways you might not recognize.
- Do not consume alcohol, in any form, not even for cooking. (And ideally, no tobacco products of any sort, either.)
- Do not eat grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, sprouted grains, and all gluten-free pseudo-cereals like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn, and rice into our foods in the form of bran, germ, starch, and so on. Again, read your labels.
- Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter, either. This also includes all forms of soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).
- Do not eat dairy. This includes cow, goat, or sheep’s milk products like milk, cream, cheese, kefir, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, or frozen yogurt.
- Do not consume carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites. If these ingredients appear in any form on the label of your processed food or beverage, it’s out for the Whole30.
- Do not consume baked goods, junk foods, or treats with “approved” ingredients. Recreating or buying sweets, treats, and foods-with-no-brakes (even if the ingredients are technically compliant) is totally missing the point of the Whole30, and will compromise your life-changing results. These are the same foods that got you into health-trouble in the first place—and a pancake is still a pancake, even if it is made with coconut flour.
What Makes W30 So Hard?
HUMMUS guys. I missed it so much. Probably of all the foods, not having legumes when cooking for myself is a particular challenge. As someone who doesn't really drink soda (unless I'm getting fast food) or is a habitual coffee drinker (other than Colada Shop) cutting out the sugar wasn't really that hard. One exception though, I LOVE LOVE LOVE condiments and sauces and guess what, pretty much every condiment has sugar in it. Ketchup, Sriracha, Ranch, BBQ sauce, Honey mustard, tartar sauce, they all have sugar.
My affinity for hummus and sauces aside, eating out tends to be a bit of a challenge. If you're planning on going on a trip to Europe or long trip back home, don't do Whole30. Unless you really have the determination, it would just be far too hard. This is why a lot of people choose to do W30 in January. It can be a great way to kick off the new year, and rid your body of the holiday weight and poor decisions you may have made in the early winter months. Plus, many choose to participate in Dry January which leads me to the next topic of W30, alcohol...
So What About Alcohol?
This is where I chose to "opt-out" and no it has nothing to do with needing alcohol. I've gone weeks and months at a time without drinking alcohol and take no issue with cutting it out. However, I did my second round of Whole30 in July and much of my social life revolves around eating and drinking. So when I'm needing to be cautious about my food choices, simply opting out of alcohol didn't feel like something I wanted to do. Did I avoid mixed drinks? Yes, if I could help it. My intent was to have mostly clear, low sugar alcohols like vodka and gin. If I was a guest at an event where wine is served or a mixed drink is prepared for me, I wasn't necessarily going to turn it down. Overall, I did make an effort though to consume less alcohol during W30.
Why less? Well we all know what happens when we drink, and I know it's not just me here, we make poor choices, especially when it comes to food. What has been a great personal "challenge" of having alcohol while on W30 is coming home from an event or a bar and making the decision to pass on the pizza or Chinese food and go straight for the cold bowl of watermelon in the fridge or dried (sugar-free) mango. The next day I wake up feeling guilt-free and refreshed.
If you do decide to consume alcohol during W30, be prepared to get a little heat from the W30 pros, and (somewhat) rightfully so. They are doing it 100% and you're not. But, I think I'll keep my sanity and social life! #chinchin #thanks
Did I Lose Any Weight?
Of course I did. Do you even know how much gluten I eat on a regular basis? (Hint: I was on Buzzfeed for it lol.) So yes, I lost a few lbs' and this was pretty noticeable by week 2. I looked and felt lighter, my clothes fit better and yes, my skin was great too. Strangely enough, my fingernails grew a lot. I'm a fidgety nail-biter, and I didn't find myself doing that while on W30 for some reason. This was also the case a few years ago when I went vegan for a few months, but we'll talk about that some other time...
Will I Do It Again?
Easy answer. 100% yes. I'm not particularly sure when, but definitely in the near future. I've also considered doing small stints, like a Whole15 or 20. Just going long enough to feel refreshed and cleansed. Next year I will probably partake in Dry January along with my W30 just for kicks.
Have any of you done Whole 30 before? What did you like? What didn't you like? Will you do it again?