The Whole 30 is a program (I hate to call it a diet), that is taking the countryside by storm. I was first introduced to the Whole 30 through some neighbors who were raving about their results. I hate to admit, but after being inundated with all the crazy diets and workout programs over the past few years, I was only half listening.
Then another of our neighbors tried it, and they were raving about it. Then another. I’m ashamed to admit, but I still wasn’t hearing what they had to say. Fortunately for me, my wife was paying attention. She came to me, and without hesitation, told me we were starting the Whole 30 that following Monday. Now I was listening.
What is this going to entail, I questioned my wife. She laid out the plan for me. No sugar, carbs, dairy, or legumes. No problem, I thought, as I shrugged off her statements. Then, as almost an after-thought, she mentioned, “Oh yeah, and no alcohol.” I hope I don’t sound like someone harboring a problem, but I enjoy an occasional adult beverage. I like a beer after mowing the lawn. Or a bourbon while reading the newspaper. (FYI…newspapers are still a “thing”.) To be honest, prior to starting the Whole 30, I probably hadn’t had alcohol for about three weeks. With that being said, being told I couldn’t, in the summer when beer tastes the best, was tough to handle.
My wife was all in, so I told her I was in, and was going along for the ride. I wasn’t really into it, but told myself it was only 30 days, so how hard could it be? We started the program.
I imagine the first few days were similar to two people trying to stop smoking at the same time. We were irritable, hungry, and experiencing irrational cravings. How are we ever going to make it 30 days? This is stupid and impossible. Why do people do this? It was rough. If you’re thinking about doing the Whole 30, be prepared to battle through the first few days as your body fights off years of poor eating and bad habits. Food isn’t going to taste very good, and my double-blind experiment proves that water is not as good as beer after mowing the lawn.
We trudged on, each fighting our own internal battles. But then things got better. A week went by and we were both noticing small changes. The cravings were disappearing, food was starting to taste better. We were enjoying the struggle together. We are doing this!
Then I had to travel for work. I was going to Kansas City, a place known for its ability to create the tastiest ribs in the world (debatable!!). It was only for one night, but the Royals were in town and I really wanted to go to the game. I was stressed the entire day, trying to create a way for my brain to be okay with the fact that I “earned” a cheat day. It was going to be a big, big test.
Fortunately, the weather did not cooperate, with the temperature dropping to the mid-40’s with off and on rain. I decided to pass on the game, and thought I had dodged a cravings-bullet. Sitting in the hotel room, with nothing to do but stare at reruns, my cravings were going crazy. I called my wife to tell her I was craving sugar. I wanted starbusts. And skittles. And skittles sandwiched between startbursts. It was crazy. My wife was able to talk me off the ledge, and I made it through the trip without cheating.
By the final week food was tasting great, we were feeling great, and life was good! Our taste buds were completely re-set. Fruit tasted amazing. I vividly remember coming home from work and grabbing some grapes my wife had sitting out, and after tasting how sweet and scrumptious they were, asking my wife what she had put on them. Absolutely. Nothing. That’s how great fruit tastes when we aren’t poisoning our taste buds with insane amounts of sugar.
In case you haven’t gathered by now, I am a fan of the Whole 30. At times it can be dauntingly difficult and downright frustrating. If you dig deep, power through the cravings, and break the 30 days into a “one day at a time” mantra, you can do it. It will get easier. Then it will get harder. You will ebb and flow through the 30 days, until it’s over. And, believe it or not, when it’s over, most of the food you were craving all month long won’t seem as appealing as they once did.
I highly recommend the Whole 30. As with all diet programs, it is always a good idea to seek approval from a physician prior to starting. There are plenty of Whole 30 reviews out there. You can read a few of them here, here and here.
As with most things in life, everyone’s experience will be different, but I wanted to share some of the results I had while on the Whole 30.
First, like most Americans in my age group (I’m 38), I am a little chubby. Not really fat, but somewhat fun-sized. In the 30 days of participating in the Whole 30, I lost 14 pounds. I went from 193 pounds to 179 pounds, which is amazing for me. I’m a moderately active guy, who eats reasonably well and have struggled to lose any weight over the years. Losing 14 pounds in 30 days while not starving myself is really, really astonishing.
I also slept like a rock. Really sound, deep sleep. Sleep so good that when I woke up in the morning, I was like, what just happened? If that was the only change from the Whole 30, that alone would have been worth it for me.
I also felt astoundingly good. Like, really, really good. I have struggled with stomach issues over the years, with borderline IBS. Issues to the point where I’ve had a colonoscopy to make sure everything was okay. Until trying the Whole 30, nothing has ever helped eliminate those issues. If you have similar stomach issues, you may want to try the Whole 30 to see if you have the same results. Maybe it will work for you, too!
Lastly, my overall energy level was pretty good. I’ve read other reviews where people talk about “tiger-blood” level of energy. While I didn’t have the same experience, what I did get was a very even energy level. I was no longer experiencing that afternoon energy drop. I felt good from the time I woke in the morning, until the time I passed out at night.
The Whole 30 isn’t what I would call “easy”, but the struggle is totally worth it. In a somewhat masochistic way, the difficulty adds to the fun of the journey. There are a few things that helped make the 30 days easier, and I’d like to share some of them with you.
First off, it was great to do this with my wife. Having a partner struggling along with you and giving support was essential in making it through the month. Most days were easy and there were no issues. However, there were times when she was craving something, or I was struggling to stay motivated, and we were able to lend an ear to help each other through the day. Having someone will be helpful. Partnering up and making it a team effort should help to ease some of the more difficult days. I also felt that if I failed, I would also fail my wife, so having that as a backstop helped, as well.
I would also recommend buying the Whole 30 cookbook. The book was full of great information and helped to let us know what was compliant, and why. Not only was it highly informative, the Whole 30 cookbook was full of tasty recipes. We tried an eclectic mix of recipes and can honestly say I was never disappointed. In fact, there were several occasions where I wasn’t looking forward to trying a dish, and ended up loving it. The Coconut Thai Soup was a perfect example of this. Full disclosure, there were a few recipes that were “just okay”. My wife wasn’t in love with the Chicken Cacciatore. She didn’t think it was horrible, just bland. I, on the other hand, devoured that one! If you’re interested, you can purchase the Whole 30 cookbook through Amazon by clicking The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom. If you do purchase, I would love to hear your thoughts on the cookbook!
My wife also took time each Sunday afternoon to make several dishes for us to use throughout the week. Her typical Sunday meal prep typically included tuna cakes, meatballs, and ranch dressing. By cooking the meat dishes ahead of time, it gave us a few options for a grab and go breakfast. There were countless days when I was running late getting out the door, and simply grabbed a tuna cake, a piece of fruit, and hit the road. Having these items ready gave me a foundation of starting each day with healthy, easily accessible food.
One of the complaints I’ve heard most often about the Whole 30 involves the cost. We ate a lot of meat, and let’s face it, meat can be expensive. Some of the increased cost however, is pure perception. We didn’t order delivery, or eat out for those 30 days which completely eliminated some of our expenses. We also, obviously, eliminated the foods most often found in the middle of grocery store. This is where a bulk of the highly processed, over-priced foods can be found. Also, instead of purchasing all of our groceries on Sunday, like we had in the past, we made two trips to the store each week. We planned our meals for the first three or four days and then made a second trip to finish out our meals for the week. By making two trips, and only buying what we needed for shorter periods of time, we ended up wasting less, and therefore saving money. This is a habit we’ll keep using, even though our Whole 30 has finished.
If you’re struggling with your diet, have an overall feeling of unwell, or just looking for something to help kick-start your journey to healthier living, I hope you will give the Whole 30 a chance. If you follow the guidelines set by the program and keep an open mind, you won’t be disappointed. It’s 30 days. 30. Days. Whole-y hell….
**If you have tried the Whole 30, I would love to hear about your experience. You can leave a comment below, or, if you’re a little shy, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org