I’ve received a couple of questions about completing the Whole30, so I thought I’d share my thoughts since many of you may be doing a similar program or are considering doing one. I am going to break this post up into two since I have a lot to say about my experience.
I’m not going to spend much time describing what Whole30 is or get deep into the specifics since you can read about that online. In a nutshell, it’s a 30 day program during which you avoid specific food groups (such as sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes) in an effort to reset your health. The idea is that certain foods could be having a negative impact on your body – in ways you may not even realize. By removing these items for a month you are able to let your body heal and find relief from some of your ailments.
There are a lot of rules and many, many NOs (So.Many.Nos) so if you are considering the program you need to do your research before beginning.
To date, I have done three rounds of W30. My first was back in October and I recently did a 20 day restart. Everyone has their own reasons for doing the program and these could vary from losing weight to healing autoimmune disease.
Here’s what I was hoping to gain from completing the Whole30:
- More energy during the day and late afternoon to try to combat that afternoon slump.
- Faster recovery from workouts and training.
- Decrease inflammation (I have tendonitis in my toes and tend to get inflamed easily).
- Resolve thinning hair (thank you, post pardum).
- Better habits with food (less processed foods, sugar, and booze).
I planned to complete the program during October so it wouldn’t interfere with any holidays (priorities!). I would highly recommend this strategy to others.
Here’s a snapshot of what my meals looked like:
Breakfast: usually 2-3 eggs scrambled with olive oil or hard-boiled and a side of sautéed spinach and a few handfuls of cashews or almonds. Supplements + water.
Lunch: often a salad with grilled chicken, canned tuna, or salmon topped with as many vegetables as possible. I would also add avocado, sunflower seeds, olive oil and balsamic vinegar as dressing. I usually had some fruit on the side, like an apple or berries. Other days I would eat leftovers from dinner.
Dinner: usually chicken thighs or a turkey chili crock pot meal, broiled salmon with lemon, garlic and mustard drumsticks, roasted veggies, sweet potatoes or butternut squash. I would often make spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles as “pasta” on the side. Related note: this spiralizer is easily my favorite kitchen gadget (next to my Nutribullet, that is).
Snacks: most often eggs, nuts, Larabars, chia pudding, carrots or celery with dressing or nut butter, olives, pickled veggies. I also enjoyed plantain chips (Trader Joe’s makes my favorite), dates, dried fruit (with no added sugar), whole fruit (usually post workout).
Drinks: water, coffee (thank God), peppermint tea, seltzer water, tart cherry juice (after workouts), kombucha (LOVEEEE this one).
Overall, my feelings were similar to some the common ones listed on the W30 timeline, however, I experienced mine in a different order.
Here’s my week-by-week recap:
Week 1: I definitely had the So, what’s the big deal? mindset as described by many who start the program. I didn’t think it was very difficult to follow and not much different from what I was previously eating. However, I made a few switches. I drank coffee with full fat coconut milk rather than almond milk since most contain carrageenan (which isn’t allowed on the program). I used olive oil on my salads and coconut oil for cooking. I made a lot of the condiments in the W30 book to have on hand for dressings and dips.
I think the reason the first few days were such a breeze for me was because I was overly prepared. I spent a couple of weeks reading about the program, I purchased the book, and I made sure I had plenty of snacks and food on hand in case I needed them. Don’t catch me when I am hungry.
Noticeable improvements: I slept like a rock. I would fall asleep quickly and stay asleep until my alarm when off. I would get out of bed with a lot of energy, too. I had more drive during the day. And, I didn’t feel bloated after meals like I often do. I didn’t notice any change in my recovery time, but I did scale back my workouts since I wasn’t having as many carbs and just wanted to take it easy.
Week 2: I still sailed along with the program at this point. I started to recycle meals I knew would be easy and tasted good. I was a bit worried I would eat something by accident (I was having dreams about it) and I avoided going out for meals because I didn’t trust that all the ingredients would be safe.
Noticeable improvements: My sleep and energy levels were still great. I felt clear-headed and was able to focus more during the day (no fogginess). I noticed that my shins felt better and recovery times were improving, but I was still scaling back my workouts and doing more yoga. No effect on my hair still.
Week 3: Things changed a bit for me here. I was definitely feeling bored with meals and snacks. I was tired of all the preparation and was relying too much on eggs since they were an easy choice. I was starting to feel bloated and uncomfortable because I had increased my veggies so much. My digestion slowed and I began to get tired. I wanted wine badly. I was tired of not having All The Things. This was definitely the most challenging week for me. I was nearing the end of the program and feeling a bit negative about all the restrictions despite feeling physically great. Mostly, I just felt angry and annoyed. At. Everyone.
Tomorrow I will share a recap of my final week, my thoughts overall, and some tips for a successful Whole30!
Anyone doing the Whole30 right now?