I walk around assuming most people have some idea of what “Whole30” means when I rattle it off. Example: “Oh, I can’t have any of that. I’m doing the Whole30.”
But the confused looks tell me that the sensation that I thought swept the nation last year only swept through a few pockets of my people. So here it is in a nutshell:
No dairy. No grains. No soy. No sugar.
Do that for 30 days.
Ewww. What’s the point of that?
The point is to rid your body of its addictions or cravings or habits to things like sugar or carbs. Or that glass of wine. It’s also to establish healthy habits, reset your tastebuds and appetite, reduce inflammation in the body, and most importantly, introduce your body to a better source of energy: YOUR FAT.
When we feed ourselves sugar (and I’m not just talking about a Snickers bar – you’ll find sugar in everything) or carbs that break down into sugar, we’re telling our bodies that that’s the best place to get energy to burn. So our bodies wants it. Looks for it. Craves it. And we give in.
When you eliminate all that stuff, including fillers, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, you’re telling your body to basically get over it and find a better source. That source is your fat. So a nice by-product of this healthier way to live plan is that you lose fat and, with it, weight and inches.
There are lots of dos and don’ts. There are lots of rules but that’s the gist of it. And when I saw many of my friends “doing the Whole30” last year, I raised my glass of wine and said Cheers to you and your willpower! And thought, better you than me.
A year later and I was finally ready to battle my own demons and spend 30 days treating my body the way I should. And discovered a few surprising things along the way.
1. I don’t really eat much sugar in my diet. I can tell because I feel like I didn’t have to cut much out to go sugar free.
2. Even the smallest amount of sugar has an impact. Even though I didn’t eat much sugar before, cutting out the little that I did eat still affected me.
3. I can live without wine. Don’t get me wrong. I love my wine. But after a while, wine was because a habit for me. Not in a “I think I have a problem” way but in a “oh, it’s the end of the day and my reward is a glass of wine” kind of way. Even when I didn’t necessarily want a glass, I still felt I deserved one.
4. You can go to a bar and NOT drink. The first week on the plan I was invited out on a Friday night by a few friends. They ordered pretty cosmos and I asked for the fanciest glass of club soda. The bartender brought me club soda with lime and splash of cranberry and I did just fine.
5. Vegetables are pretty good if you know what to do with them. I learned that, like George H.W. Bush, I don’t really like broccoli. So I’m not gonna eat it if I don’t have to. But I do like zucchini when it’s cut like pasta.
6. Vegetables can make an acceptable substitute for pasta. I’m not saying don’t ever eat pasta again but if you’re looking to cut out some carbs, I actually learned to really like zoodles (zucchini noodles) and spaghetti squash.
7. I’m a pretty good cook. I knew I was decent in the kitchen and I’m definitely good at following recipes but I really was a damn good cook for the past 30 days. And I know because my son told me so. Every single day.
8. Have you seen what they put in our food? Life became so much easier (and scarier) when I stopped looking at carbs, fat, and calories and just started looking at ingredients.
9. There is sugar in everything. Is that an exaggeration? Yes, of course. But sugar is hiding in more places and in more forms that you could ever imagine. Some unexpected places I found it: pickles, chicken broth, deli meat, bacon, ketchup, soup, cough syrup, and so many other non-sweet foods.
10. There are a lot of chemicals in our food. I’m not anti-chemical by any means. The human body is ultimately made up of chemicals. But when you look at a label and don’t understand most of what’s in it (or why it’s in it), it’s time to rethink that purchase.
11. I can make my own mayonnaise and other things. To avoid most of these bad things, I made a lot of my own foods. Like breakfast sausage and mayonnaise and ranch dressing. And most of the time, I ended it by saying to myself, wow, that was pretty easy.
12. I’ll take fat over carbs any day. Hold on. I said ANY day, not EVERY day. Learning that fat isn’t the enemy is liberating. I learned to eat more good fats to keep full and satisfied.
13. Any diet that lets you eat steak can be all bad. Yes, you can eat steak. And baked potato WITH BUTTER (sort of). I really didn’t miss much but I did learn to appreciate good meat.
14. I like eggs. A lot. Some people get overwhelmed with the amount of eggs they eat on this plan. I loved it. Fried eggs for breakfast. Hard-boiled eggs with lunch. In fact, I could eat hard-boiled eggs anytime. They make me happy. As happy as eggs can make someone anyway.
15. It’s better with friends. For the month of January, I joined an online group of friends that were attempting to do the Whole30 as well. Some made it all 30 days. Some didn’t. Some stopped and started. But it was nice to have people to ask, answer, and support.
16. There are a lot of seltzers out there. Good thing it’s hip to drink things like LaCroix right now because it makes it easier and cheaper to find good seltzer. My personal favorite is grapefruit!
17. Thank God for the Larabar. Larabars are snack bars made entirely of fruit and nuts. So when I just needed something, I reached for the cherry pie Larabar and all was right with the world.
18. Cooking is time consuming. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. But I’m comparing that to the fact that I hardly spent any time in the kitchen before. Which led to a lot of pizza and takeout chinese.
19. I never knew how much I liked salads. When you leave all the good stuff off of salads, they’re boring. But when you get to add things like eggs, avocados, and bacon, it’s pretty freaking amazing.
20. It’s expensive to eat healthy. Even if you don’t buy organic everything, buying enough meat and fruits and nuts and veggies to keep us going for 3 meals a day got to be really expensive.
21. It’s more expensive to eat out. I had to keep reminding myself that what we spent for one night at sushi probably covered multiple meals at home.
22. Losing weight is hard. The goal of the plan is not to lose weight but everyone I know is expecting (hoping for) weight loss. I’m down about 5 pounds which is 5 pounds better than I was a month ago.
23. Changing your eating habits isn’t that hard. Because it’s not just about willpower. It’s about wanting your body to actually feel better. It’s about not feeling like you have to drag yourself through the day until you can have that glass of wine and crash into bed. And after you spend a few weeks eating the right way, you really won’t want to eat the wrong way anymore.
24. I still miss milk and sugar in my tea. To be fair, it was organic skim milk and Truvia but I still miss it. And if that little packet of sweetener is going to be my one vice as I return back to the land of regular eating, I’ll take it.
25. You CAN do it. The Whole30 book (which is a great read) tells you in the very beginning that making these changes isn’t hard. Losing a loved one is hard. Fighting cancer is hard. Eating better is something our bodies deserve and once you give in to it, you realize what you’ve been missing.
26. Don’t underestimate the power of modeling good behavior. While I posted a few pictures of some of my favorite meals on Instagram, I didn’t shout it from the mountaintops that I was doing the Whole30. Mainly, it was because I thought I’d fail. But also, because it was a private journey for me. And as a result, my husband and son joined in. My husband has never had lower blood sugar, my son lost 8 pounds, and more importantly, everyone feels good about the positive changes we’ve made.
Here’s the bad news. I’m going to Disney next week and taking a short cruise. If you know anything about cruises, it’s basically a floating excuse to eat. So we’ll be reintroduced to the real world pretty quickly. But I’m committed to enjoying life (and dessert once in a while) and still embracing a better way to eat.
I’m not expert but I am the ultimate skeptic. If I can do this thing for 30 days, so can you. I’m happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability but I highly recommend getting The Whole30 book (affiliate link) and learn more.