I just finished my first Whole30 and the subsequent reintroduction period and found the whole experience to be rather fascinating. From noticing my sugar and emotional cravings, to watching them disappear, to my renewed outlook on health… this experience was a much needed life refresher for me.
A lot of self-reflection naturally came along with giving my body a break (from crap, from sugar, from processed food, from alcohol, from preservatives). This lead to my taking a lot of notes and photos, which resulted in this blog post. All of the photos here are the foods that I ate during this program, and there are a few before/after shots as well. 🙂
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to notice that many changes from doing the Whole30. I have always enjoyed eating healthy and having healthy habits, and I always tend to yo-yo between five to ten pounds.
But through the Whole30, I realized that there is a difference between “wanting to be healthy”, “needing to be healthy”, and “deserving to be healthy”. I always fell into the “want” or “need” category, but I now understand that I DESERVE to be healthy.
I deserve to feel amazing because of food, to choose the best foods for my body, and to treat my body right. This mindset has been a game changer for me.
What is the Whole30?
Basically you eat whole foods for 30 days. This involves cutting out grains, legumes, sugar, natural sweeteners, alcohol, legumes, dairy, processed foods, and any baked goods or junk food (whether these foods are Paleo or not).
I’m not going to lie, it was hard at times.
But if you focus on what you can have, instead of what you can’t, you realize how much delicious, nutritious foods you can actually eat. And how powerful a positive mindset can be. You CAN eat all sorts of meat, seafood, eggs, fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, and oils. This includes both regular potatoes and sweet potatoes, FYI.
If you are curious to read more on exactly what is and isn’t allowed on a Whole30, take a look at these two articles from the Whole30 website: Whole30 Step Two and The Official Can I Have Guide To The Whole30.
One more thing! You are not allowed to weigh or measure yourself during the Whole30. This really resonated with me because being healthy is way more than a number on a scale. I mean, if you lift weights or naturally have more muscle, you are going to weigh more anyways, even if you look slim. This is something that I learned a loooong time ago. And is the reason that I haven’t weighed myself in years.
WHY I decided to do a Whole30 in the first place:
There are two reasons why I decided to do a Whole30.
1) I wanted to get back on track with eating right. Ever since my wedding about 8 months ago, I have kind of been slacking… and I lost my drive to maintain healthy habits. My husband and I used to be strictly 80/20 Paleo… and around the holidays that went down to 60/40. And then we took off two weeks completely over Christmas. I was sick for the WHOLE month of December and felt like crap.
2) I wanted to see how my body reacts to different foods. I started eating Paleo because of my husband’s health issues, (I love it and that is why I continue to eat this way), but I have never done an elimination diet that involved reintroducing foods to see how my body responded to them. And I wanted a chance to do so.
Whole30 starter tips:
1) Grocery shopping isn’t that much more expensive than normal. My husband and I spent about $200-$220 a week on groceries. And since going out to eat and alcohol is cut out of the equation, you end up saving money. AND on the plus side, it’s actually easier to grocery shop than usual because you can skip half the store!
2) Check your labels! That “all natural bacon”, probably has added sugar in it. It’s actually remarkably hard to find bacon without added sugar in it.
- Pederson’s Natural Farms and Wellshire Farms were our go-to for bacon during this Whole30
- US Wellness Meats also has a ton of Whole30 meats to choose from
3) Buy fruits and veggies in bulk. These will be your go-to snacks. (Also, try dates and almond butter, yum!)
4) Prepping is key. I found that Sunday prep wasn’t my thing here. I preferred to double my dinners every night, and to eat those leftovers for lunch the next day.
5) Spices are so important! The more flavor, the more satisfied I feel… so gather up your cinnamon, fennel seeds, paprika, chili powder, and pepper… it will make your Whole30 way more interesting. 🙂
- Adding dried minced garlic and parsley to your scrambled eggs is AMAZING… this has been my best egg discovery!
6) Breakfast is tough. Maybe it’s just me, but eating eggs almost everyday isn’t my favorite. And I don’t like eating a lunch/dinner type meal in the morning. Adding fruit, bacon or sausage to your plate helps.
- Baking sweet potatoes and topping them with almond butter and chia seeds is SO surprisingly creamy.
- Also, Texanerin’s Homemade Paleo Breakfast Sausage is BOMB.
7) Look up fun recipes and try new foods. You certainly do not feel like you are limiting yourself when you have a list of fun recipes ready and waiting to be made.
- I forgot I was even following the Whole30 when I was eating this Whole30 Shepherd’s Pie or this Paleo 7 Layer Dip.
- I discovered that you can bake prosciutto to turn it into bacon bits! It’s so yummy sprinkled on top of eggs.
What I realized about food and my habits during the Whole30:
1) I don’t like cooking with coconut oil… and neither does my husband, he said it bothered him, and I felt the same way. Olive oil it is!
2) I have a lot more cravings than I thought I did. And all of them involve late night cravings for sweets/ chocolate. Week 1 was the hardest, but the cravings did eventually go away.
3) You can’t and shouldn’t always get what you want… re: cravings. This really sunk in for me around week 3. I realized that if you either take the time to sit and really make a conscious decision, or if you eat some fruit, you may not even want what you were craving anymore. For example, after eating half a grapefruit, I didn’t want chocolate anymore.
4) I was not incorporating fruits and veggies into my life nearly as much as I should have been.
5) I can’t digest ground pork. AT ALL. And neither can my husband.
How my body changed on the Whole30:
1) I didn’t plan on sharing before/after photos and am a bit embarrassed to show them BUT I found it really interesting. From the front, I don’t really look that different. But from the back! Wowzers, this Whole30 really changed my shape.
- I don’t know how much weight I lost because I don’t have a scale. Maybe 5 pounds. My husband lost 10 pounds; he weighed himself at the gym. However, the most important changes to my body were with how I felt.
2) I was so hydrated–and it felt great! I noticed this almost immediately.
3) I had WAY more energy… more energy to workout, more energy all day. It’s the same feeling that I had when I first went Paleo. When you realize how good you can feel, you start to wonder why you haven’t always eaten this way.
4) I was less “hungry” in general. Or at least my body didn’t express hunger in the same way. There was no desperate urge to eat, I just knew that my body needed energy.
- Note: Not feeing hungry can be dangerous. There were three days in a row during week 2 where I got light headed and nauseous, and then realized it had been 5 hours since I had eaten…
5) During week 2 I was VERY EMOTIONAL (has this happened to anyone else?!). There were 4 days where I felt like I could cry with the drop of a pin. I wasn’t even sad, I just wanted to cry. And this was not because I was PMSing. I have a theory that eating so clean affected my hormones. I have hormone issues as is, so I’m very curious as to what happened.
6) My skin was SO much softer than usual. I noticed this around day 10. I’ve always been jealous of how soft my mom and my sister’s skin is. It’s not that mine isn’t, it’s just not AS SOFT as theirs. I have spent so much money on lotions and sacylic acid lotions to try to make my skin softer and smoother. When really, the key is in my diet!
- Also, by the 4th week, my face was was ridiculously soft, in a way that lotion or money can’t buy!
7) Around week 2, I noticed that I had almost no plaque on my teeth! This is crazy to me because every time I go to the dentist (every 6 months), the dental hygienist asks “do you floss?”. It drives me nuts because I do and they never believe me. It’s amazing and it’s proof of how my diet has been affecting me.
8) By week 3, all the excess weight and inflammation melted off of my husband. He has an autoimmune disease and gets inflamed very easily with food. This whole “melting” off phenomenon didn’t really happen for me, but I noticed the most visual changes to my body around week 4.
9) I felt AMAZING. So good that I didn’t even realize that I was sick. I mentioned before that I was sick the WHOLE month of December. I had a head cold, a stomach bug, and then a cough and chest pain. But in January (while doing the Whole30), I felt fantastic! I still had chest pain, though, so I saw a doctor and he asked if I had a fever or any other symptoms and I said, “no, I feel amazing!” It turns out, that I had a fever, a red throat, swollen glands, and tracheobronchitis… and had NO idea bc I was feeling so good.
How my mindset changed during the Whole30:
1) By the third week, I stopped seeing the Whole30 as a guide to follow. I started to feel like this Whole30 was a gift that I was giving myself. It’s beautiful to think that you are worthy of such a gift… that your body deserves to be treated right and to be healthy. Everyone deserves that.
2) Realizing I deserve to be healthy, made me see working out in the same light.
- I wasn’t going to the gym because “I have to” or because I made it a goal to go 3 times a week. I was now going because my body deserves to be fit.
- I went to yoga for the first time in months. I listened to my breathing, connected to my body and spirit. And I’m not saying that in a cheesy way. I actually feel connected to myself for the first time in a long time.
3) I started seeing food as a way to show my body love and respect. My cravings no longer took over my thinking. And I found myself thinking how it’s not a loving gesture to be so careless with what food you put into your body. (Although balance is still important!)
The Hardest Part of Whole30:
1) Whole30 weekends are rough and a bit isolating. I just wanted a glass of red wine on a Friday night or to go to dinner with friends or to try the new local bakery. Heck, I even wanted to make some Paleo Banana bread with my left over bananas. I really appreciated and understood the meaning of balance through this program.
2) Breakfast is rough. Eggs just aren’t my favorite. But when you view meals as fuel to start your day, it isn’t so bad. And when you realize how long certain foods keep you fueled, you actually start to like it.
3) I missed baking, especially Paleo baking. To me, it is relaxing, almost like meditation to mix, stir, measure, pour. But I realized that I was doing it a bit too much before. Though a lot of it is for blogging purposes… cough… sure that’s it. 🙂
The reintroduction surprised me. I always thought that I was totally fine with certain foods and that I was cutting them out because my husband had to cut them out. I wrong.
My husband and I did one day of reintroduction and one or two days of Whole30 before the next reintroduction, in the following order:
1) Gluten-Free Grains
GF Oats– I personally felt fine with oats. My husband, on the other hand, acted like a kid that was just given a donut. He had SO much energy and then he crashed. And we didn’t put any sweetener in our oats.
White Rice– I felt like I got hit by a ton of bricks. Not only did I get uncomfortably full, but I felt tired immediately after eating it. So much so that I couldn’t get off the coach for 2 hours… During this time, I craved sweets. And then after 2 hours, boom, I was back to normal. Surprisingly enough, my husband felt no difference after eating rice.
Chickpeas- My husband and I felt absolutely no difference after eating hummus. This surprised me because I expected chickpeas to be an issue for at least one of us.
Beans- My husband and I both were very bloated and had slight discomfort in our stomachs after eating kidney beans and black beans. This discomfort went away quickly, but the bloating did not go away quickly. My husband and I kind of felt like we had fevers.
Quick side note: by this point in the reintroduction, my the skin on my body was no longer as soft as it had been. 🙁
3) Goat and Sheep Dairy
Goat Cheese– I didn’t feel any different from eating goat’s cheese, in fact I got a boost of energy after eating it. My husband, on the other hand, had a “red face” from eating goat cheese. Which happens every time his body can’t handle certain foods, which is typical for him with his auto-immune disease.
- Although, I accidentally bought a honey goat cheese that had extra ingredients that I suspect were the true culprits of my husbands reaction.
Sheep’s Cheese– I had a slight stomach ache from sheep’s cheese, but I didn’t notice any other physical changes. My husband thinks his body is able to tolerate it.
Note: over the next day or two, I did notice that I had cramps, and I think I may have some sort of malabsorption issue with dairy. My husband said the same thing.
4) Gluten Grains– I was expecting this to be the worst of the reintroductions.
Wheat Flour– Neither my husband or I felt any different after eating this. We were very hungry, very quickly after though.
Bread- We ate bread made of wheat, barley, millet, and spelt. I felt a bit uncomfortable, in a “I feel very full way”, even though I didn’t eat very much of it.
Beer- I didn’t notice any change in particular.
Note: As a whole, eating gluten made me feel more hungry than usual. I also felt blah. Not super tired, just not as energetic as I was used to on the Whole30. My husband and I had a harder time falling asleep, and our sleep quality wasn’t as good. My husband was also bloated for about 2 days.
Quick note: at this point in the reintroduction, my under-eye circles were dark, my face was no longer soft at all, and the skin on my body was EVEN less soft.
5) Cow’s Dairy
Cheddar, Mozzarella, and Cream– my husband and I surprisingly didn’t really feel any physical pains or changes immediately after eating these foods. But we did feel an overall feeling of discomfort for two days. We did both notice that our digestion was affected.
Note: I wonder if I was more sensitive at the beginning of the reintroduction then at the end. For example, I wonder if I did the order backwards would I have the same reaction? The reactions were less and less with each reintroduction.
I can confidently say that I would 100% do the Whole30 again. I will do sporadic week long intervals of it because I genuinely believe my body enjoyed eating this way and would benefit from regular breaks.
As a whole, I am more in control of my cravings and my sweet tooth. Wohoo!
Lastly, the most important thing that I have learned from the Whole30 is knowing that I deserve to be healthy. Having this mindset when it comes to food, working out, and habits has resulted in a much more realistic and loving approach to my health, which I have found to be incredibly motivating.
I’d be happy to compare notes, swap stories, or to help answer anyone’s questions regarding what the whole process was like. Comment, email, or message me on social media!