During my Whole30, a lot of people mentioned to me that they thought it was a really great idea, and that they’d love to do it themselves . . . BUT they didn’t have the willpower, wouldn’t be able to give up cheese, couldn’t drink coffee without milk, were way too addicted to sugar, etc.
That’s interesting, because I think all of those are reasons that people SHOULD do a Whole30! A month without cheese? Sure, a tough concept for some, but in the grand scheme of things, infinitely doable. Coffee? I’m a former latte-lover who always used to drink a big mug of half milk, half coffee, and I discovered I like mine better bulletproof (with coconut oil + ghee). You never know until you try it! And sugar addicts? This program is FOR YOU, I promise. If you think you can’t “slay the sugar dragon”, think again. You can do it, and you’ll feel better, lose more weight, have more energy, and fuel your body more efficiently when you do. Plus, why not prove to yourself that you CAN go without these things if you set your mind to it? It feels great to show yourself what you can do.
Yes, a Whole30 is hard. I tried to do one over the summer and failed miserably….I just couldn’t say no to all the delicious offerings at the family wedding I attended, I was traveling for one out of the four weeks, and I hadn’t built up enough of a support network or dug deeply enough into the resources available online. I didn’t beat myself up (too much) about falling off the Whole30 wagon, but I knew it was something I wanted to do, so I waited until the time was right and tried again.
This time, I made it. A week after the end of my January Whole30, I’m taking some time to reflect, and share some of what I’ve learned with you. And yes, I AM trying to convince you to do a Whole30 yourself! Not necessarily right now, with Valentine’s Day, so-and-so’s wedding, your birthday, or that big vacation around the corner, but when you’re ready. Here are some reasons I love the Whole30 and think you will, too.
A nutritional reset. Have you ever wondered how your body reacts to certain foods, but had a hard time really figuring it out? Do you wish you felt better overall? Are you suffering from mysterious headaches, digestive problems, or mood swings? Do you think you might have IBS? Are you nervous and stressed more than you’d like to be? It’s possible that your body is just reacting to your food. I used to wake up in the morning with a terrible “nervous stomach” during times of stress, and through the Whole30 I’ve learned that I need to avoid most dairy when I’m under pressure from difficult events in my life, and avoid overdoing it with dairy at all times. I used to think it might be my morning coffee that upset my stomach, but now I know it was all that milk I was pouring into it.
While I’d often wondered about dairy, I never thought I had a problem with gluten. Sure, I knew that gluten-laden foods made me gain weight and keep it on, but I never thought I had an actual intolerance. When you eat certain foods often, it’s hard to gauge your body’s reaction to them. You need to give your digestive system a “clean slate”, or about 30 days of avoiding common trigger foods, to really find out what you can and can’t tolerate. The first time I tried gluten after my Whole30 (some crostini with dinner and eggs on toast the next morning), I felt terrible! I felt like I was coming down with something like the flu, and my brain was in a total fog. I couldn’t concentrate, I was grumpy, and my stomach felt bloated and like it had a bunch of (angry) butterflies in it.
The Whole30 eliminates many foods that trigger unpleasant symptoms, but it also allows you to discover any “clean” foods that might still bother you. For example, I found out that eating too many bell peppers over the course of a day makes me bloated and gassy. If I hadn’t been in the midst of a Whole30, I wouldn’t have known if dairy, grains, or something else had triggered my discomfort, and probably wouldn’t have identified the true culprit.
Weight loss. I lost 12 pounds during my Whole30, without counting calories, restricting my portions, or going hungry. I just prepared healthy food according to the program guidelines, and ate until I felt full. Even though the program advises you to avoid snacking, I ate snacks whenever I felt like I needed them, and it didn’t seem to adversely affect my results. It’s refreshing to know that it’s possible to lose weight without feeling deprived.
If you’re interested in learning more about weight loss and the paleo lifestyle, check out these posts from Chris Kresser on tips for losing weight and why the paleo diet is one of the best ways to do it (spoiler alert: paleo foods are more satiating per calorie than the foods in many other diets).
Over the course of the Whole30, your body changes from burning sugar (which is in almost endless supply if you eat a lot of simple carbohydrates) to burning fat for energy. This is key for weight loss. If your body always has more sugar to burn, it won’t ever get around to whittling down your fat reserves.
By the end of the Whole30, I fit back into my favorite pair of jeans. In my opinion, fitting back into my clothes is way more rewarding than being able to eat cheese, drinking coffee with milk, or chowing down on spaghetti for dinner.
“Hangry?” Hungry + angry–this was pretty much my default state whenever it had been too long since my last meal or snack. When I felt hangry, I was ready to (and often did) devour any sweets and salty & fatty snacks I could get my hands on. While the Whole30 obviously won’t totally free you from hunger (although with good meal planning and prep it can come pretty close!), the character of your hunger will change. Instead of feeling desperately hangry, you’ll just know you need to eat. And trust me, hunger is much easier to deal with when your brain isn’t sending you panicked orders to feed it sugar RIGHT NOW. A calm hungry person is much more likely to choose a healthy meal or snack than someone who is SO PISSED AND COULD EAT ALL THE THINGS.
As a bonus, you’re also much less likely to get in fights with your loved ones and later realize that it was all because you were hungry.
Fruits & vegetables. Don’t think you won’t get to eat any carbs during your Whole30–you’ll be eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. I have often worried that I don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables; they are frequently replaced, at least partially, by grains, desserts, or dairy products. I loved incorporating more vegetables and fruits into my diet during my Whole30, and made a point to try cooking with some that I’d never tried before. Another benefit is that after giving up sweets, you’ll start to taste more of the natural sweetness in produce. So, the more you eat healthy food, the better that healthy food will taste!
Bragging rights. Okay, bragging is obnoxious. But what about bragging to yourself? Out of all the people I aim to please in my life, I think I’m the most difficult to satisfy. I knew I could do a Whole30 . . . or at least I thought I could–and it felt so good to prove myself right.
I haven’t historically been a person with great willpower. If the treats were there, I would eat them. If someone wanted to split dessert after an already indulgent dinner out, I was game. If no one took the chocolate away, I would finish it. If I made cookies, they were gone by the next day. But this past month, I sat next to my boyfriend on the couch while he ate my favorite chicken broccoli alfredo pizza (I might have freaked out a little–but I didn’t cave!). I sat at the table sociably while my friends enjoyed cake and ice cream at a birthday party. I chomped on steak and veggies at a dinner out while everyone else started with french fries and finished with rice pudding. I never thought I could do these things, and I’m so proud! Who knows what you can accomplish after you do ONE thing you thought you couldn’t do?!
Have you tried a Whole30 or something similar? Do you think you’d like to try one in the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts!