If you’ve been following me on Instagram stories, you may have seen that Derek and I have started Whole30 for the month of January. Whole30 is basically an elimination diet/detox, where you remove traditionally inflammatory/problem foods for 30 days – see how great you feel, then gradually reintroduce them. With the slow reintroduction, you can see if the reason you get headaches in the afternoon is really from dealing with contractors at work or because you ate a big ‘ole grilled cheese sandwich with a side of sugar for lunch.
On Whole30 you cannot have dairy (no milk, cheese, or butter), grain (say goodbye to corn, any and all bread, quinoa, rice, etc. but you can have potatoes), alcohol (no margs for a month), added sugar (and it is in ev.er.y.thing.), or legumes (no soy, peas, peanuts, etc. but green beans and snap peas are OK) MSG, sulfites, or “junk” food. The last one is a little weird considering everything they’ve already told you to eliminate, but the gist is – don’t go out and buy coconut flour and make yourself cookies and pass them off as OK because they don’t use regular flour. You can have coffee, but have to drink it black – which umm, no. I’m not a big coffee/caffeine drinker anyway because it makes me too hyper so when I have it it’s like a half-caf cup once a week. So, I’m just giving up coffee for the month too. Look at me, so responsible.
Derek and I don’t have any specific issues like re-occurring headaches, digestional issues or the like. And frankly, I am a little ball of energy so Whole30’s claim to raise my energy levels should be real interesting. If this is truly the case – pray for my husband.
We decided to start this diet because we wanted to re-train our brains to see food more as nutrition, than an activity to do when we’re bored. So on each day, I’m going to write out my unfiltered thoughts so that when I’m done, you all can laugh along, and also so that I have a journal of this experience.
Day 1 – I’m Awesome / Oh Crap
I can literally smell the Einstein bagels baking through the wall of the office lobby. That’s just mean. Also Whole30 not allowing soy/legumes is really stupid. What did peanuts ever do to anyone? Derek maybe we can just do Whole30 but still eat soy because this Whole30 compliant teriyaki sauce (coconut aminos) & Whole30 mayo are both terrible. (Derek said no.)
What I Ate: Daily Harvest smoothie, bowl of fruit the size of my head, sunflower seeds, two bananas, chicken, green beans, sweet potato. Panicked and made Whole30 approved deviled eggs using Whole30 mayo that someone recommended. Still unsure what I think that mayo tastes like – I think it’s when you accidentally open your mouth in the shower and get shampoo in it.
Day 2 – This Smoothie Tastes like Chalk
Second day of smoothies was not a winner. And it looked so good in the blender – what a shame. Maybe when I open my lunchbox there will be cheese in there instead of the fruit & chicken I packed. That would be a cool magic trick.
I’m supposed to feel hungover today but do not. Unsure how to feel about this – does this mean I’m super healthy and didn’t have much to detox? Or is it all going to hit me tomorrow?
What I Ate: chalk, grilled chicken, more fruit, pork chop, broccoli, sweet potato
Day 3 – Thank God For Bacon
Weekends are usually when we “treat” ourselves to going out to eat, so I was especially nervous for this. Let me just say, my scrambled eggs & compliant bacon weren’t as good as my Chick-fil-a biscuit, but they were still pretty darn good.
We also discovered DELICIOUS juice from Town Center Cold Pressed, a local restaurant. As Derek and I are chugging down our juices, I keep saying – there’s no way these taste this good and sweet without any sugar. So we look at the menu – it says “agave optional”. CRAPOLA. We called, yep – 1 oz of agave in every cup. *#%&@*! Spit the rest out and threw it away. Sad, sad times. Not starting over.
Day 4 – Maybe I’ll Make It
I’ve successfully made it through most of weekend 1! Today we went back to Town Center Cold Pressed and ordered juice – without agave. The guy says, “just so you know none of our juices have agave”. Umm – what? “That’s optional that you can add, but it isn’t in it automatically”. We get our agave-less juices, and they taste just like yesterdays. Pros – we have an extremely delicious juice option back on the table. Cons – we dumped out about $15 worth of juice yesterday. At least we didn’t cheat like we thought we did!
Day 5 – A Monday without Coffee or Snacks
According to the Whole30 calendar, I’m supposed to be really angry all day today – joy! Luckily I didn’t feel and of that and actually felt pretty normal.
Day 6 – I Want More Bacon
Last night we had stir fry which should have been good, but wasn’t – solely based on texture. All of the vegetables got soppy and mixed together into a weird colorful vegetable mush. Not going to make that mistake again – planning on breakfast for dinner tonight so I can have more of that bacon.
Today I also found out that I’ll be travelling for a week to Las Vegas during when I’m supposed to be doing my “reintroduction phase”. The reintroduction phase is a big part of Whole30 because after you’ve just spent 30 days detoxing, you slowly add back in each category. So one day you’ll add in dairy, then go back to eating Whole30 for two days to see how that dairy made you feel. Hopefully, you feel fine. Potentially, you feel like crap. It is going to be real tricky to keep Whole30 on the in between days, and risk feeling icky while at a work conference in Las Vegas. Yikes! Not sure how to plan for this and kind of makes me want to just quit now.
Day 7 – One Whole Week!
I honestly thought I would be a lot hungrier doing Whole30 than I am. I am an extremely picky eater (I am that person who orders chicken tenders at every restaurant) but this has forced me to try new things. Not saying I’m going to start eating weird creative foods everyday after this..
Something really exciting happened at work earlier this week which I would typically respond to with getting some yummy takeout for dinner or grabbing a hot chocolate as an afternoon pick-me-up, but I didn’t. Whole30 is helping show me that I don’t need “treats”. I also had my coat on, wallet in hand, ready to walk out the door to go get some more of that delicious TCCP juice, and decided – I’m not actually hungry, I don’t need this I just want it. So I sat back down. Baby steps!
Day 8 – Pretzel Dreams
Add this to the list of things I never thought I’d be dealing with.. Last night I dreamed that I cheated and ate a pretzel. But, I woke up and it was relieved that it was only a dream. Then I accidentally ate another pretzel. Thankfully, that was also a dream. That’s right folks, I had a dream, within a dream about accidentally eating pretzels. This is what my life has come to.
Day 9 – Hard
I’ll be the first to admit that Derek and I love our Friday traditions of getting Mi Hogar (our local Mexican) to cheers to the weekend. When we realized we couldn’t do that tonight, we weren’t thrilled. A rant ensued that went kind of like this… If some chips and queso and a marg brings me joy on a Friday night – shoot me. Some people are addicted to drugs. All I want is some queso. This was not a proud day.
Did you notice I stopped included “What I Ate”? That’s because a) you probably don’t care and b) it’s always grilled chicken. That’s all it is. Always. I’m going to turn into grilled chicken.
Day 10 & 11 – The Hardest Days
I’m combining these two because the sentiment is the same. This sucks. These days are notoriously the hardest days on Whole30 because you’ve gone through almost two weeks of the program, but haven’t seen any of the benefits yet. We’ve both watched as friends/coworkers ate cookies & bread, and had to turn it down and explain the program. When they asked “do you feel different?” we honestly had to say… no. Day 16 is allegedly when we’re supposed to start feeling good. We made some compliant mashed potatoes to make ourselves feel better and took Berkeley on lots of walks to avoid running to get cheat food.
Day 12 – Proud
I woke up today feeling really proud that we made it through the two hardest days. They say if you’re going to quit, you’re going to do it on Days 10 & 11, and with those days falling on a Saturday and Sunday, I think it made it even worse! Taking it one day at a time and finding that as time goes on these “healthy” foods actually taste REALLY good.
We broke the rules and stepped on the scale (with the promise that no matter what it said we wouldn’t quit) and I’ve lost 5 pounds and Derek has lost 12 (men are so lucky with weight loss). Pretty good for a little under two weeks. Whole30 isn’t a “diet” so weight loss isn’t the focus, but it’s a good bonus. Also unlike traditional diets, I can honestly say I haven’t felt hungry once while doing Whole30. Wishing for “better” food, of course. Wanting to eat in the afternoon out of boredom, yes at first – but that’s gotten a lot better. But never truly hungry!
Day 13 – New Stress Relief Techniques
I’m a little embarassed to admit this, but can guarantee I’m not the only one who does this so I will anyway. If Derek or I have a bad day at work, we typically “treat” ourselves to “something good” which means pizza, CookOut milkshakes, or japanese. Thirteen days into eating clean, I can objectively see that this is insane. I definitely used food as a stress reliever when crappy food is probably the last thing my body actually needs when not feeling great.
Well, today was one of those days. I have the beginnings of a cold, came home from work exhausted and had a long list of to-dos ahead of me for the night. Do you know how much it sucks to have a sore throat but not be able to have tea with honey? Tbqh, I ended up moping dramatically with a blanket on my head for about 15 minutes until Derek told me to go upstairs, take a hot shower, put on a Disney movie and a mask, and then do my work from bed. I gotta hand it to him, the man’s smart. I can’t necessarily say it felt as good as biting into a piece of cheese pizza, but it did the trick and calmed me down.
Day 14 – Two Weeks!
Today is two weeks in, and tomorrow we are halfway done. I’m both excited and totally. over. this. I’ve never eaten so many eggs in my life and might actually die if I eat another piece of grilled chicken or a single additional green bean. In two days we will allegedly start feeling “Tiger Blood” which is supposed to mean you wake up with more energy and want to go run marathons. This remains to be seen..
Days 15 -19 – Sick
Whelp, just when I was hitting what was supposed to be the “Tiger Blood” phase, I got a cold. Obviously, no one is feeling like a million bucks while they’re sick, so this was probably the hardest part of Whole30 for me. You’ve got a sore throat, but you can’t put honey in your tea, and all of your hard work is supposed to be paying off but you feel like crap. I really struggled on these days because I was already a little skeptical about the whole “Tiger Blood” thing. Of all the days, these were probably the ones I most wanted to quit!
Days 20-22 – Finally
Now that I’m finally out of the fog of my cold, I feel good. But, I can’t tell if it’s because I can finally breathe again, or because Whole30 is actually working. I will say I feel slimmer. I never really thought I felt bloated, but maybe I was because I do feel overall just “cleaner”. Still not sure if the hype is all worth it.
Day 23 – Reintroducing Soy
So if you know the Whole30 program, reintroduction isn’t supposed to happen until Day 31. Halfway through Whole30, I found out that I would be travelling for a work conference to Las Vegas for a week. The first day of the conference falls on Day 32, meaning my reintroduction phase would fall during my trip. The reintroduction phase is when you gradually add foods back, and find out what (if anything) made you feel crappy. Whole30 literally says don’t schedule anything too important during these days, because there’s a risk you won’t feel good. You’ve just spent 30 days eating clean, and now you’re going to test that. NOT exactly what I wanted to have happen while I was hours away from home on a work trip. I considered adding days onto my Whole30 to push the reintroduction phase until the week after, but with eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Las Vegas of all places, that looked to be basically impossible. I can’t cook in a hotel room, and I couldn’t find restaurants that offered Whole30 compliant options. So, we decided to start our Whole30 reintroduction a week early.
We started with adding teriyaki sauce back (has soy) for me to dip grilled chicken and shrimp into. Man oh man, did I miss teriyaki sauce. Anyone who says coconut aminos are just as good is lying to you. I still think eliminating soy/legumes on Whole30 is stupid, so I barely even considered this a reintroduction. But, technically it was.
Day 24 – Reintroducing Cheese & Bread
We should have split these up, but we didn’t. Friends invited us out for pizza, and I was coming from a meeting, so I had Derek order for me. I showed up to cheese fries & a margarita pizza. Whoops. I think the poor man was tired of this ridiculous diet I’d talked us into and was ready for some of the food he’d been missing. I asked if we were really doing this, he said yes, so I said screw it. I was proud of my restraint and only ate 4 fries, mentally patted myself on the back and told myself maybe I really had learned something from this. But, I chowed down my margarita pizza. Cheese & bread are my vices, so it was realllyyyyy good to have them back but I was also concerned about falling back down that rabbit hole.
I was ABSOLUTELY stuffed and couldn’t finish half of my food. The words “you may have to roll me out of here” were said. I was never overfull from Whole30 meals – full, but not overfull. I was surprised I could barely finish half but thought well maybe my stomach shrunk.
But then… two hours later – I was STARVING. Like I hadn’t even eaten dinner. That was a really weird feeling, because I never felt hungry with Whole30 dinners. Unsatisfied maybe (only because of cravings) but never hungry.
Day 25 – Yuck
I woke up on Day 26 feeling a little gross. Not gross enough to make me think I had any allergies or dietary issues with cheese or bread, but gross enough that I realized that maybe I had actually been feeling that “Tiger Blood” when I thought I wasn’t. It’s hard to describe, but that clear, clean feeling where you could just tell your body was a well oiled machine was gone.
Derek woke up feeling like he’d been hit by a truck. He looked at me and said “I don’t like not eating Whole30”. I agreed, and we were both a little stunned with ourselves. Wholeheartedly, I thought one of two things were going to happen with this. We were going to quit one week in, or if we did get to the end, we were going to be so enamored with the food we’d missed out on that someone would find us asleep in a pile of cheese bread and chocolate.
But losing that clear, clean feeling and having it replaced by a slightly discomfortable and meh feeling was enough. We decided that we would eat what we are calling “Dirty30” indefinitely. More on that in a bit.
Day 26 – Whole 30
During the reintroduction period they say when you reintroduce something, you should go back to Whole30 for two-three days to see how it affected you. I thought, that sounds like no fun, and didn’t plan on doing that. But, after the meh that was yesterday, we went back to Whole30 today. Who knew we would be excited for grilled chicken, green beans and potatoes for dinner. I did put a little pinch of cheese on my potato though..
Day 27 – Dirty 30
What’s “Dirty30” you ask? Well, it’s Whole30 with the addition of a few foods we know don’t irritate us, but without the foods that, for lack of a better term, trigger us. That means I can have yogurt with fruit and granola (dairy and grains), but can’t go back to morning bagels. I can have teriyaki sauce for my chicken, and a little pinch of cheese on my baked potato, but not the monstrosity that I used to create. It also means on weekends, special events, or dinners out with friends, we can have mexican. Or we can have pizza. Or alcohol. Or both. It’s unrealistic to think that we will be able to give these things up for the rest of our lives and we really don’t want to. But we also don’t want to feel like crap, so most of the time we are going to eat what we know makes us feel good. (And yes, pizza makes us feel good too – I should say makes our bodies feel good).
So, today instead of my usual Whole30 lunch, I had strawberries, blueberries, yogurt and granola. Man it was good! For dinner we had vegetable pasta with Whole30 compliant sauce, and you guessed it… a little pinch of mozzarella cheese. I CAN’T HELP IT OKAY. But I’m doing it in moderation, that’s what counts.
Day 28+ Food Freedom
Food Freedom is what Whole30 calls the days after your Whole30 and reintroduction period. It’s when you realize what does, and does not make you feel good, and you adjust your eating habits to suit. While we haven’t reintroduced everything back, we feel pretty good about where we are. I’m not missing alcohol, or coffee (I wasn’t really ever that much of a coffee drinker) and I’m not hankering for the leftover Christmas candy that I know is hidden in our guest closet. We’ve decided our “food freedom” is the ability to have some of those fun foods when we’re celebrating or being social, but recognizing that the rest of the time food is fuel, and we will thank ourselves for eating good foods.
Overall Thoughts / Things I Learned
Would I do Whole30 again? I’m not sure I would do it a second time (I think it would be harder since the newness would have worn off), but I’m glad I did it. Even if it was technically a Whole23.
I can’t say that I felt more energy, other than that maybe it was a little bit easier to roll out of bed in the morning. I think most of the energy that I found was “inner energy”. At the risk of sounding too crunchy, what I mean by that is that the days that I typically would have supplemented being tired with a coffee or something sugary to keep myself going, I had to find other ways to cope. In turn, this taught me that I wasn’t actually as tired as my brain was trying to convince me I was. Brain just wanted sugar.
The first takeaway for me was recognizing that I was a snacker. At my architecture office, there’s almost always SOMETHING in the coffee area to nibble on from reps or coworkers who brought in baked goods. Every once in a blue moon it is fruit, but mostly it is candy, baked goods, chips, and other not Whole30 things. The printer is also right. there. so everytime I’d pick something up off the printer, I’d take a gander at what was there, and take some back to my desk. I wasn’t hungry, I was bored. During the first week of Whole30 I felt myself walk up to that, and realize that I didn’t even know why I was doing it.
The second takeaway was that quantity/quality of calories matter, and you don’t have to limit yourself to lose weight. We’ve all seen those image graphics of what 300 calories of vegetables, soda, or donuts look like. We were eating SO much during Whole30 and were in no way counting calories. Out of curiosity we added up the calories of a few typical meals, and found out we couldn’t physically fit the same amount of calories of Whole30 food in us as our previous typical meals. Derek lost 15 pounds, and I lost 10. And we ate SO much.
But my biggest takeaway of all was when it clicked why the night we had pizza I was SO full and then two hours later SO hungry. I had always heard that carbs were “fast energy” but kind of thought that was a load of you know what and something only marathon runners worried about. But that night’s dinner really struck me and hit home that the meats, fruits, vegetables, etc. that I had been eating truly did give me energy for longer. On Whole30 I was eating less calories and feeling fuller longer.
Overall, I’m really proud of us. We stuck it out, and even though we didn’t officially finish Whole30, I think what we learned by starting the reintroduction early and eating that pizza was more valuable than the last 7 days of Whole30 would have been.
I hope this recap has been helpful for those of you who might have considered trying Whole30! It is certainly not easy, but for us it was really worthwhile to teach us things we wouldn’t have learned without it.