Today I’m going to share with you the results of my whole30 experiment, plus a bunch of other thoughts and things I learned along the way. I hope that this will encourage anyone who is thinking about it to consider giving it a try! And if you are planning your first whole30 and, like I was, are searching online for success stories and tips, I urge you to reach out to me and I will help as best I can! I want you to know up front that it was definitely not as scary or as hard as I expected it to be. Now for the rundown!
What my life used to be like:
So, I wasn’t a total mess. I didn’t have medical conditions or a lot of pain or anything like that. I also wasn’t really “overweight,” but I was about 10-15 pounds above what I consider to be my personal ideal weight, and what I weighed for many years prior to having kids. I didn’t hate my body but I could no longer fit into many of my clothes, which bothered me. I got headaches on a weekly basis and an energy slump every afternoon. Before bed each night I was just completely drained.
The way I was eating was out of control, and I knew it. During pregnancy and for many months afterward I ate whatever I wanted. That included a LOT of sweets. We are talking multiple per day. My meals also consisted of a lot of carbs and my veggies were limited. A typical day would start with coffee (+ cream and a bunch of sugar) and refrigerator oatmeal. I might have a snack of a granola bar or pretzels midmorning. For lunch I’d have leftovers, maybe something like spaghetti (or if no leftovers I’d have a sandwich), along with yogurt and fruit. As soon as I got home from work I’d look for a snack and if there was any chocolate to be found I’d eat it. Dinner was something easy and cheap – tacos, spaghetti, burgers, etc. – and we might have some fruit along with it but almost never a vegetable unless our parents were cooking for us. Thankfully I don’t drink soda, but I frequently enjoyed mochas from Starbucks.
I knew this way of eating was terrible for me and I could see myself continuing to gain weight unless I took action. I tried limiting my desserts to two a week, but I had a hard time with the indecision and didn’t really have any accountability. I tried counting calories, and those two things did help me lose a few pounds but I could tell I was still very much addicted to sugar.
How I found the Whole30:
I had heard of the whole30 off and on over the years through different blogs, but I was never in a place where I was mentally ready to take it on. In fact I would just glaze over it and think to myself that I’d never be able to do something like that. I don’t know what happened this time, but I had been thinking a lot about my health. I had begun running again, and the way I was eating was just weighing on me, yet I couldn’t seem to stop myself. Then I read this blog post and all of a sudden I was interested. I even bought the book It Starts With Food and as soon as I read the first few chapters I was sold.
During my Whole30 experience:
You can read my food diary updates, as well as how I felt each day here: week one / week two / week three / week 4. Basically though, the first couple weeks had some ups and downs, but the last two weeks were pretty much amazing. Although there was a lot of planning and prep at the beginning, I used the adrenaline of starting something new to get me through that. Then, because I was committed, I was able to make it through the day 10-12 slump and soon enough it was becoming second nature to me. Let me cover some details.
>My fried egg breakfasts with banana + fruit mix. I am planning on continuing to eat them as-is.
>Salads. Basically any kind: with taco meat, ground turkey + apples, shredded chicken, just strawberries, just tomatoes. Olive oil + balsamic vinegar (or a flavored balsamic like raspberry) is all the dressing I need, truly.
>Baked chicken tenders
What I missed:
>Dark chocolate. No amount of detoxing will kill my love for it.
>Coffee with cream + a little sugar. I still don’t love black coffee.
>Ice cream. I missed it more than any other treat, which surprised me. Maybe because it’s so hot outside.
>Socializing over food. July 4th was the HARDEST day for me by far. It was the only day we had a really big family gathering and all the typical summery foods were there in abundance and I could hardly have any of it. I also only went out to eat twice the entire time because there is so little I could have at most restaurants.
>Variety. I did learn to love many of the compliant meals, but sometimes I just wanted a little something different.
What I didn’t miss:
>Cheese. I thought this would be one of the harder things to give up! But no, I barely thought about it.
>Most grains. I love having eggs rather than oatmeal or bagels in the morning now. And for the most part I could really live without bread.
>A lot of things I just felt indifferent about. I didn’t particularly find myself fantasizing about yogurt or beans, but they are two things that I am planning on incorporating into my new diet for variety.
New foods I’ve fallen for:
>Broccoli. I liked it okay before, but now I’m obsessed.
>Coconut oil. It’s so good and healthy for cooking!
>Plain, cold-brewed coffee. I actually prefer it with coconut milk! Although I wouldn’t mind a little flavor to it, when I tried it sweetened it was too much for me.
>Steak. I can’t believe I used to claim to not like it!
>Salads as a meal. They never “counted” for me before, but now they are a go-to.
What I learned:
>How to cook fresh vegetables. Game changer.
>How to chop produce correctly. Anytime I had to prepare something for the first time I watched a “how to” YouTube video.
>That avocados don’t agree with me. I don’t like their taste, and they leave my stomach churning. It’s too bad, because they are a great healthy source of fat.
>To throw basically any kind of leftover meat & veggies or fruit on a salad, drizzle some olive oil + vinegar on top, and you have an easy, yummy meal.
>Sugar is in EVERYTHING.
>Broiling is not scary, it is super easy and awesome! I had never used the broiler on my oven before.
What went well:
I finished! I made it through all thirty days with no slips or cheats. I didn’t have any sugar cravings. I learned a lot about cooking and feeding my family healthy meals. Meredith’s sugar intake at home has also reduced dramatically. By the end I was able to throw together meals pretty easily without a lot of stress or preparation. I had the support of everyone around me and even encouraged several people to try their own whole30.
What could have gone better:
I ate a lot of fruit. More than was probably best. I have always been a fruit lover and I just let myself go in that area. I also allowed myself to snack since I am still exclusively breastfeeding, even though it was “healthy” snacking of nuts, dried fruit, and Larabars. Speaking of breastfeeding, my pumping output did decrease. Not dramatically, but noticeably. I don’t think I was able to eat enough carbs since I don’t like starchy veggies like sweet potato and squash. (Side note: white potatoes are now whole30 compliant! Not chips or fries though. That would have helped me, I think, but the announcement was just made last week.)
Now that I’ve finished my Whole30 experience:
Here is the best part. By the end of my thirty days I was feeling amazing!! No more headaches. Constant energy all day long with no crashes. Happy all the time. One week in and I could already fit in my pre-pregnancy clothes, and by the end they were even a little loose. Do you want to talk numbers? Okay!
Weight lost: 9 pounds
- arms – 0.25″
- thighs – 1.25″
- hips – 2.25″
- waist – 1.5″
- tummy – 2.25″
I decided to remove the before & after photos for modesty’s sake but email me if you’re really curious. I am definitely leaner, especially in my tummy, where my constant bloat and pooch are drastically reduced.
Since I finished whole30 a week ago I have followed the reintroduction schedule decently (although I haven’t been perfect by any means. I made cookies to boost lactation & have eaten too many of them. They worked though; just in time for Liam to catch a virus and cut way back on his nursing!). So far, this is what I’m thinking regarding the foods I’ve tried:
- Dairy: a little bit is fine, and I will probably keep having some cheese every now & then and cream in my coffee. Ice cream, though delicious, really bloats me so I will only indulge every once in awhile.
- Gluten: I’m more irritable when I’m eating a lot of gluten. I am also not sure, but it may be contributing to my headaches. This week I caught Liam’s virus and a terrible, constant headache has gone along with it, so I am not sure what is really the causing factor there. But I definitely want to limit.
- Other grains: I seem to be able to handle them well physically, but I still plan to limit them overall. (We are talking oats, rice, corn, etc.)
- Legumes: I actually haven’t really tried these yet. I suppose since I don’t miss them too much I’ll continue to limit them. I’m sure I’ll have beans every once in awhile though unless they do make me feel horrible when I get around to trying them.
So I am going to try my best to keep a clean diet. It won’t be totally paleo, but that will be my standard to return to if I notice things slippling. As far as sweets go, I’ll allow myself to have dark chocolate in moderation, and then if I want to splurge on a really delicious or really meaningful dessert, I will do so with no guilt, shame, or regrets.
This has also really gotten the ball rolling as far as healthy living, and I am excited to start my half marathon training at the beginning of August. Now that I have leaned out I want to get stronger and more in shape physically!
So, that’s my whole30 experience! Let me know in the comments if you have any more questions and I’ll be happy to answer. For anyone who encouraged me along the way: thank you!! It meant so much to me! And thanks for following me through this!