Last November, on a whim, I decided to study up on the Whole30 and force my fiancee to experiment with this new diet starting in January.
I did a lot of reading – the book, the cookbook, reviews. You get the idea. The Whole30 promised a new philosophy on eating, better digestion, better skin, and some weight loss. Well, I won’t lie to you, the weight loss is what sold me. A diet where you can eat as much as you want, that requires no tracking, and promised healthy happy results? Sign me up.
I spent most of December indulging, thanks in part to the holiday spirit. The week after Christmas, Eric and I went a little overboard. There was pasta. There were tacos. There was meatloaf. We ate everything we knew we wouldn’t be able to have starting January 2. Was this the best tactic? Maybe not, but if I was going to go a month without cream in my coffee, BY GOD I WAS GOING OUT IN STYLE – WITH BAILEYS.
January 2 was my last day of vacation, and I spent it meal planning, grocery shopping, and prepping. I’d found several recipes in the main Whole30 book and corresponding cookbook. I shopped at the Buford Highway Farmers Market for my meats and veggies, Whole Foods for the weird stuff (ghee and coconut aminos anyone?), and Publix for a few canned goods like tomatoes.
That first week I chopped about a pound of celery, carrots and red peppers to snack on. Now, the Whole30 frowns on snacking, but I know my body, and I know if I get hangry, my body will betray me and turn against my friends. So – raw veggies were in my Week One playbook. Also in my playbook? Chili, sweet potatoes, a LOT of avocados (#basic), eggs, steak, salmon, and probably more. I always made enough to ensure I had leftovers for lunch, and I lost 3 lbs in the first week.
Oh. This is probably a good time to tell you that I broke some rules. Well. I broke a lot rules. I probably broke enough rules that one could say I probably shouldn’t claim to have done the Whole30 at all. And that would be totally fair. Here are 3 things I did right up front that would probably disqualify me from the Whole30 reunion tour:
- I weighed myself every Friday. Look – I had a dress fitting scheduled the second week on January and I had to make sure my body wasn’t reacting poorly to all of the extra protein and lack of everything else I always eat.
- I drank wine. Not every night, but certainly at least once a week.
- I built in several cheat days. The Whole30 recommends planning your attempt at the diet around your life – so don’t pick a month where you know you have a ton of happy hours or parties. That’s all well and good except with the wedding coming up, there is always something going on several times a week. I think I did pretty well scheduling only 3 cheat days. As noted above, I had wine a lot more than that, but food wise, I stayed on course except for the 3 special occasions:
- Christmas Dinner with my family;
- Our Wedding Celebration party in Louisville;
- The Hot Chocolate 5k.
So. The first week went swimmingly, and on Sunday I had my parents and family friends over for a belated Christmas dinner. I made mostly Whole30 compliant foods – a roast, smashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and a salad. I bought cheesecake for dessert and had a small bite.
The second week I took my meal planning to a new level, and even created a weekly spread just to track it in my bullet journal. Over the weekend, Eric smoked a port tenderloin for me and a ton of chicken breasts.I also made soup, shaksuka, steak and curry. Week 2 was definitely a “branch out and try to cook new cuisines if you’re going to survive this month” kind of a week. I think all of my recipes came from the Whole30 cookbook, and they were all AMAZING. Delicious and rich. I also lost another lb in week 2.
Week 3 I branched out into the world of Pinterest. I made some mouthwatering slow cooked buffalo chicken, fajitas, coconut chicken, more chili, a veggie hash with homemade meatballs, and some cheats for the Hot Chocolate 5k day.
Week 4 was the roughest week. Anytime you read about the Whole30, folks are going to tell you that it gets easier – and it did – until you hit a wall and you want to stop. I was tired, I didn’t want to meal plan. We had leftovers, Eric cooked another pork tenderloin to snack on for the week, and I bought more eggs, avocados, and sweet potatoes. But without meal planning, without having leftovers – there was barely anything to snack on. Cooking was a chore because I hadn’t prepared. We made it through and that weekend we had our Wedding Celebration party. To be honest, I didn’t cheat as much as I thought I would. I tasted the shrimp and grits, and ate plenty of raw oysters, but for the most part, we were too busy introducing ourselves to guests and spending time floating around the party to eat too much of what was offered. I made brunch the following day, and it was Whole30 compliant as well (minus the honey wheat cinnamon buns).
And then, there were 2 days left. And we didn’t grocery shop. If we stayed compliant, it’s only because we had nothing else in the house. We were basically done with it mentally after the party.
So, I’d say I’m a textbook example of what not to do. BUT. I will say that I got some really great benefits out of the experience.
- I lost 7 lbs total and have kept 5 off.
- I’ve found that dairy really does impact my sinuses and wheat really does impact my digestion.
- I had the burst of energy folks talk about starting week 2. I felt fantastic when I wasn’t cheating.
So. Where do we go from here? Eric loved that the diet required us to meal plan. We ate AMAZING food but it took a lot of work. It was impossible to eat out or enjoy a happy hour with friends, but we saved a ton of money by only sticking with our groceries. We would like to continue eating this way 80% of the time, and I’m okay with that too. I do feel like we eat a lot of meat on this diet, and I don’t know that I love that. I’m interested to see if I can find more vegetarian meals that are just as filling and flavorful.
Anyway, obviously I’m not a purist, but I do think this diet has some excellent benefits. I plan to take what I’ve learned about myself and my response to certain foods, and build healthier eating habits going forward. So 10/10 would (half-heartedly) try it again.