I’m gonna be honest – I did NOT want to do Whole30. As the great Oprah Winfrey would say – I. LOVE. BREAD. Not to mention I started the month off sick, and the aspect of planning out Whole30 compliant meals and going grocery shopping seemed like more than I could handle at the time. But my entire family was doing it together, and my husband really wanted in on the action as well. So I sucked it up and made the commitment.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the wildly popular Whole30 diet, Whole30 is thirty days of eating food without any of the following:
- Added sugar, real or artificial
- Carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites
According to the Whole30 official rules, the diet should do the following:
Eliminate the most common craving-inducing, blood sugar disrupting, gut-damaging, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days. Let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. Push the reset button with your health, habits, and relationship with food, and the downstream physical and psychological effects of the food choices you’ve been making. Learn how the foods you’ve been eating are actually affecting your day-to-day life, long term health, body composition, and feelings around food.
Sounds great right? If you’re thinking of trying out Whole30, read on to find out how my thirty days on the program went.
What I Liked About the Program
- I felt good about what I was putting into my body. Daniel and I are so guilty of eating whatever is fast and convenient, no matter how unhealthy. I can’t tell you how many times we went through the Taco Bell drive-thru this year, or made quesadillas for dinner when we didn’t feel much like cooking. As much as we talked about eating healthier, the follow-through was just never there. On the Whole30 program, we were finally able to add the fruits and veggies into our daily habits like we had been wanting to do for so long, and we were cutting out all that greasy junk food that was making us feel so bad about ourselves.
- We saved money by not eating out all the time. On a normal week, Daniel and I would probably get fast food 1-3 times and dine at a restaurant at least once. Another indulgence of mine was Starbucks, which I usually got about 3 times a month. Add in all the extra sodas, alcohol, and ice cream runs, and the amount we were spending on food was getting pretty up there. Whole30 forced us to plan ahead and cook at home. We did get to go on a date night to Chipotle – you can get a compliant meal there of salad with carnitas, salsa, and guacamole!
- We both lost weight. Although this diet was not about shedding pounds, it was definitely a bonus perk! While I only lost 2-5 pounds, my husband lost more than 10! Whole30 specifies that you are only allowed to step on the scale at the very beginning and end of the program. Therefore, we were very pleasantly surprised when we weighed ourselves at the end of the month!
- We became more aware of what’s in the food we were eating. Before Whole30, I never once gave food labels a second glance. But grocery shopping during Whole30 meant pouring over every ingredient list. The first time I went grocery shopping during the program, I picked up a bag of chopped dates without checking the label. I mean, the bag clearly stated they were simply “chopped dates.” Nothing else. Why would I assume there would be anything else added? I got home and opened the bag to find my dates were coated in a suspicious white substance. I turned the bag over to look at the ingredient list and read “DATES, DEXTROSE.” I immediately thought “what in the heck is dextrose?” and proceeded to look it up on my phone. Guess what? It’s sweetener! For some odd reason, someone thought dates weren’t sweet enough and needed that extra sweetener. By the end of the program, I was an expert at picking out ingredients like soy, sugar, and wheat on labels. And believe me when I say, it’s in almost everything. Even in the foods you’d least expect.
- We discovered some great new healthy recipes. I have to admit that I’m guilty of making the same things over and over. I’m know what’s good, and I’m afraid of trying new recipes in case they’re not! Daniel and I were both pleasantly surprised by how many of the Whole30 meals we really, really liked. We liked them so much that I’m adding them to our rotation! Daniel’s favorite meal was this shrimp and sausage skillet, and my favorite was this recipe for Mexican Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. I also became more comfortable cooking without a recipe, which was something I NEVER did before!
What I Didn’t Like About the Program
- Meal planning took a lot of effort. Not only did it take some time to find recipes that were simple enough (I refused to cook any meals that required some specialty ingredient I would never use again), but I also had to plan for basically three meals a day, seven days a week. We used to get by on planning for just a couple meals a week (breakfast was cereal, lunch was some frozen microwavable thing, and of course eating out was always an option!)
- My skin got worse. Like way worse. I’ve always struggled with acne, but it’s been a little more under control over the last year or so. I was excited to see what Whole30 would do to my complexion since so many others had raved about their improved skin during the program. But a week in, I started getting massive, under-the-skin blemishes, which was super unusual for me. I read a couple of online forums of people who were having the same issues as I was, and they suggested that a few of the culprits might have been the nuts or the coconut milk.
- I felt like I was missing out. Probably my hardest day of Whole30 was when a coworker brought in that wonderful, glorious pink box of donuts. I watched, my heart breaking a little more as each and every coworker plucked one of those deep-fried beauties from the box. Another time during the program, I attended a bridal shower where they had a whole table full of all the desserts and pastries you could ever wish for. I “indulged” with a handful of cashews. I’m just gonna say it: Whole30 sucked a lot of the time. I had so many cravings for foods I couldn’t have, which is hard enough without having to be around others who get to have it.
- Certain foods were expensive. Like I mentioned before, I tried really hard not to use recipes that required me to purchase specialty items. But sometimes I gave in. I went to Whole Foods towards the beginning of the program to get just a few things like compliant ketchup and mayo, and I could not believe the prices. Larabars were also a pricier item that I purchased a couple of times, but I always tried to grab them when they were on sale.
- I didn’t get the amazing amount of energy the program promised. This may have been due to me being sick two separate times during the thirty days. Most people experience a lot a fatigue during the first week and a half, which I definitely felt. But after that, you are supposed to feel boundless energy. I experienced maybe two days of feeling not tired after the first 12 days (wouldn’t say “boundless energy”) and then BAM! I got sick again and have pretty much been feeling low energy ever since. Maybe I’ll have to try the program again sometime when it’s not flu season and see if I actually experience a change in my energy levels.
5 Must-Haves for Whole30
These are my top picks for foods that got me through the program. If you’re preparing to do Whole30, you’ll want to add these items to your pantry as well!
- Almond Butter – I definitely missed me some peanut butter throughout Whole30, but almond butter helped fill that void. When I really wanted something sweet after dinner, my go-to was half a banana with some almond butter spread.
- Kirkland Signature Low-Sodium Bacon – Being able to have bacon on a diet is pretty awesome. Believe it or not, Costco of all places was the only store I found that sold compliant bacon. Their Kirkland Signature Low Sodium Bacon has no added sugars. And it’s just as delicious. Of course, we didn’t overindulge on it, but we would have it on the weekends for breakfast or added a little crumbled to our brussel sprouts!
- Coconut Aminos Teriyaki Sauce – We found this sauce at Whole Foods, but you can also purchase a 2-pack here from Amazon. Made from the sap of coconut trees, this sauce is a great substitute for soy sauce without the soy. We often used this delicious sauce to marinate chicken. One of our favorite meals was diced chicken, bell pepper, onion and pineapple sautéed in Coconut Aminos – SO good!
- Larabars – These little bars of deliciousness were my favorite on-the-go snacks during the program. Not all Larabars are compliant – you can find the list of compliant flavors here. My three favorites were Apple Pie, Carrot Cake, and Coconut Crème Pie. You can find them at most grocery stores, or on Amazon here.
- Nutpods – One of my fist concerns before starting Whole30 was: can I have coffee?? Thankfully the answer was yes. I’ve been addicted to caffeine in the past – my vices used to be energy drinks and Diet Coke. Fortunately, I’ve moved away from those and mainly drink coffee now. I don’t overdo it – I normally only have one cup a day, two every once in a great while. But I do kind of rely on it to get me going in the mornings. However, I have to admit that I was not only loading up on the flavored creamer, but I was also adding a packet of Splenda to every cup 😬. So drinking coffee black was not going to work for me. I tried adding coconut milk at first, but it didn’t help much. I had a hard time even getting it down. Then I discovered Nutpods (you can find them on Amazon here). They’re not sweetened, but you can get a couple of different flavors (I like the Hazelnut). They make my coffee so much more enjoyable, and I think I’ll forgo the Splenda from now on.
Is Whole30 Right for You?
If you’re thinking about doing Whole30, just know that it takes a whole lot of will-power and commitment. Planning and prepping beforehand is key. If you experience digestive issues, it might be worth a try to help identify which foods are causing these issues.. Although I probably won’t do it again for a while, I really enjoyed the program just because it helped reset my eating habits. Are you thinking about doing Whole30? Be sure to comment below!