I first learned about the Whole 30 Program in 2015 when my cousin Kelly tagged some Instagram photos with the hashtag Whole 30. I started investigating in December 2015 and then in February 2016, 30 days ago, I jumped on board.
Why Did I Do It?
After my mom died in June, I let everything slide. I started making bad food choices to soothe my grieving heart. I was drinking wine most days, not too much, but more than I ever had in my life. I didn’t even notice I was doing it at first. And then I did, but I didn’t care. In December, my cousin Kelly finished her second Whole 30 and I could tell it had changed her. Since we come from the same stock, a family plagued by common addictions: sugar, booze — all those familiar demons, I knew it wouldn’t hurt to try something different. On February 2nd, I landed at home from my final tour before a 5 month hiatus and flipped a switch inside that said: be better, eat better, get clean, get healthy.
I eat well for the most part, and I love good, simple foods. But I’ve never taken the time to examine what, how and why I eat what I eat (beyond the answers: because I’m hungry; because it’s what I’ve always eaten.) The Whole 30 Program says first and foremost to eat good food: more veggies, fruit, seafood, meat, healthy fats and eggs and to eliminate sugar (and booze), dairy, legumes and grains. Omitting grains and legumes sounded weird to me, but it’s only a 30 day program, and I I figured I could do anything for 30 days. I also believe in the saying: Don’t knock it ’til you try it. And so I tried it.
Who Joined Me
My friend, Carolyn, joined me in this challenge from four provinces away, and my husband, who is always on board with healthy living goals, gave me the thumbs up too. My sisters were into it, but weren’t prepared for the time consuming food-prep and mental space that was required. They both have small children and busy day jobs and I sort of sprung it on them overnight. Still, they have been supportive with my updates over the month, and that helped.
For the first seven days my mind was consumed with what I would eat and feed Brian. I scoured the internet for recipes, started following these Instagram feeds for ideas: Whole30, NomNomPaleo, Whole30Recipes, I got some ideas from my cousin Kelly and just played it safe. Easy, simple foods: Chicken with broccoli and potatoes. Eggs with sweet potatoes and avocado. Salmon, Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes. This made sense to me. I got a cold almost immediately (likely a combination of a number of things: finally decompressing after a stressful eight months, and throwing my diet out of whack) but otherwise I felt good. No cravings, no snacks, just good food.
Immediate results started to surface. Sleep came easier. My skin looked radiant (despite my cold.) My nails were growing at a wild rate, my hair was shinier than ever before. I’ve tested the no booze = good skin thing before so I knew this would happen again, but it didn’t take away from that tiny victory. Coffee became my favourite morning and afternoon ritual. I bought a Spiralizer (with which to noodle-fy zucchinis, squash, and potatoes) and should now have my own 2am infomercial to sell them. It’s my favourite kitchen toy. At day 15 I laughed at how long 15 days felt and couldn’t believe there were still 15 days to go. Another benefit of counting days as an adult, is how it makes time slow down. Running on a tread mill for 45 minutes is the only other place where I feel time isn’t getting the better of me. I enjoyed that feeling this month. I felt like a kid waiting for Christmas, except, I wasn’t waiting for presents, I was awaiting good, new habits at the finish line.
Grocery shopping became easier. I made a list that I kept on my phone and instead of reinventing the shopping wheel every week, I just consulted that list. You can see it here. My mind wasn’t fixated on food like it was in Week 1. I could work or hike or do my chores and not be worried that my meals would suffer. I started prepping foods in advance of needing them. This was game-changing. All my veggies were cleaned and chopped and waiting in tupperware, all my meals were planned in advance. I eliminated the need to occupy brain space with food-planning. It was a dream come true. Why haven’t I ever prepared food in this way before? I’m 35 years old, and I only just figured out how to simplify my life. Better late than never, I suppose. Writing back and forth with my buddy Carolyn was like therapy. She was so supportive and excited for my progress (and I, hers.) We could talk to each other about digestion and other things you wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about publicly. Also, we could see what was working for each other, and what wasn’t. She mailed me a jar of ghee to try, I sent her pictures of all my nice-looking meals. On Day 1, she asked me to send her my best “don’t do it” face and she made that photo her screensaver at work. She’s funny. I’m grateful for her ear and her thoughts.
I started reading labels more closely. What tomato sauces could I buy premade that had only real ingredients? Which hot sauce could I buy for Brian that had no added sugar? Were mustards Whole30 compliant? I discovered the joy that is “cauliflower rice” (throw cauliflower in a food processor until it’s the size of rice and use it as a base for a chicken stir fry and many more recipes in place of actual rice.) I spent more time in the kitchen this February than in my entire life. I made cooking playlists to keep me company while I cleaned and chopped, and found every small victory egged on my next day on this rigid diet. I discovered a new snack in a spoonful of almond butter on a banana, and approached apples and almonds with renewed respect. Not a chip was eaten (or craved) not a glass was wine or beer was sipped (or wanted.) I socialized and never felt left out of the fun when my friends reached for a beer or another fistful of bread. I worked out and felt strong. I spent more money on produce this month than last month and absolutely no money at the liquor store or eating out at restaurants.
My results after 30 days of clean eating, clean cooking, focused time in the kitchen and on my nutrition:
Clear, radiant skin
Crazy nail growth
Less back and hip pain when sleeping * huge personal gain*
Lost 10 lbs and I’m assuming 2 inches on my waist and hips since…
…I’m wearing my favourite jeans again
I have so much energy. And it’s not caffeine or sugar related. No more afternoon drag-iness.
No more post-wine drinking congestion. Something I was noticing more and more with each glass of red wine.
I got smug about the speed with which I can peel vegetables and caught my thumb knuckle with rapid force and drew lots of blood. That hurt and bled for a long time and is still healing.
I have dish-pan hands from doing more dishes than I ever have before in the last 30 days.
I spent a lot of money on good food this month. I know a lot of people would call that a drawback. Upon further investigation what I found is that I replaced wine, beer, restaurant and snack purchases with more protein and organic vegetables. It was a wash, is what I’m saying.
I learned that they are called Brussels sprouts not Brussel Sprouts. That blew my mind.
My Biggest Takeaway from This Experience
If you want to do anything to change the way you eat, and see big results: eat more vegetables, and eat less sugar. Try that for 30 days and see how you feel.
Should You Do A Whole 30?
If you’re interested in trying it, why not start today? What do you have to lose? It’s only 30 days, and it could change your life. It changed mine. You’re likely going to feel better at the end of it than you did at the beginning. It’s one of those things that you won’t know the benefits of until you try it for yourself. It’s not as hard as people think. I think it’s worth the effort.
A Few Favourite Resources for Whole 30 Compliant Recipes: