How I Survived my First Whole30 Experience

Let’s go back in time to the end of April. I had just celebrated my 29th birthday with lots of cocktails and dinners out on the town. Of course my birthday celebration was a ton of fun, but it left me feeling kinda icky. After too many months of dining out, drinking, and grabbing quick snacks (instead of eating real meals) I was run down, exhausted, bloated, and not feeling my best. I was ready for a change.casey-athleta-workout-leggings

I knew I wanted to feel better, but honestly I had no idea where to start. That’s when I started looking into Whole30. If you’re not familiar, then you can read more about it here. Essentially it’s 30 days where you cut out all processed foods. No dairy, no legumes, no whole grains (shocking..I know!), no alcohol, no sugar. Here’s a list of the official rules. If you accidentally consume any of the aforementioned, you start over back at day 1. While it may sound extreme, it’s really a way to “reset” your body and learn how to incorporate whole foods into your everyday life.

I’d seen other people complete the Whole30, but I honestly never thought I could do it. I figured I’d start and then quit after a few days. But I’m happy to report that I actually succeeded, and if I can do it…anyone can do it!All about Whole30

Here’s what I learned over the course of those 30 days…

You Need a Buddymike-finn-kitchen-whole30

I enlisted my husband, Finn, to do the Whole30 with me and let me just say that there is absolutely no way I would have made it without him. Having a buddy right there by your side is crucial. And if you live with someone (husband, partner, roommate), it’s a 100x easier to do it together. You can rid the house of everything that is non-compliant (a Whole30 term we used way too often), and stock up on approved food together.chop-peppers

Having someone to talk to about the process with was also amazing. We’d vent to one another about our cravings, discuss how we felt everyday, and grocery shop together side-by-side each week. So if you’re thinking about doing it, try not to go it alone!

Read the Book

fruit_bowl_aboveIf you’re serious about Whole30, then I definitely suggest you buy the book (It Starts with Food) and read it about a week before starting. (Pssst…this is in no way sponsored, at all. Whole30 has no clue who we are!) The book is chock full of information and will give you some context as to why certain foods are allowed and others are not. Every time I’d be tempted to eat something on the non-compliant list, I’d remember the information about why that particular food isn’t great for me and I’d feel a little bit better about passing.

Also, the internet will be your lifesaver! There are tons of Whole30 forums if you have any questions about things to buy or things to eat. Just type your question into google and you’re bound to find lots of great answers. And don’t forget to utilize Pinterest! I found some great recipes that way which kept our dinners interesting!

Be Prepared to Cookcutting-fruit-vegetables

I am not a cook. At all. Before Whole30, I’d often have dinners of yogurt, toast, or oatmeal (clearly…breakfast is my specialty). I never cooked anything else. I cooked more in the past 30 days than I have in my entire life. That is no exaggeration.

casey-kitchenI was always chopping and roasting some sort of vegetable, and would help Finn with our food prep on Sundays. While I still don’t love cooking (and I probably never will), I did learn a few cooking techniques and go-to recipes.

Over the course of our 30 days we ate out 1 time…at Whole Foods before seeing a movie (where we brought our own Kombucha & pistachios. Definitely not the same as buttery popcorn!). You will be preparing 99.9% of your meals at home, which means you will be cooking whether you like it or not.

Your Kitchen Will ALWAYS be Messy

chopping-peppersWhen you only use your kitchen a few nights a week, it’s easy to keep it pristine. Well…that pretty little kitchen was nowhere in sight during the month of May. When you have to eat 3 home cooked meals a day (per person), your kitchen is constantly in use. We ran our dishwasher at least once a day, and I felt like I was constantly washing dish towels and spraying down our countertops.

Get Ready to Grocery Shop…Constantlygrocery-store-costco-cart

When I wasn’t cooking or doing dishes, you could find me at the grocery store. Finn & I did a big grocery store trip every weekend, but midway through the week we would usually run out of fresh produce and need to go back for more. Between Trader Joe’s, Mariano’s, & Costco…we spent a lot on groceries this month.

Certain Foods Make Me Feel Yucky

breakfast-yogurt-coffeeWhen you’re eliminating so many foods from your diet, you’re able to take note of how your body feels when off of certain foods. I considered myself to be a healthy eater before doing Whole30. I don’t eat red meat or pork, and greek yogurt is one of my favorite foods. But after eating (& thriving) off of protein & vegetables for 30 days, I now realize that some of those “healthy” foods I ate before weren’t making me feel great. My morning greek yogurt and coffee with cream was upsetting my tummy. Those protein bars that I’d scarf down after workout class had way too many preservatives and sugar in them.

When we cleaned our fridge & pantry before starting, we threw out so many items that I never even realized were bad. It’s crazy how sugar is in everything…even things that aren’t sweet! This experience has made me much more aware of how food makes me feel, instead of just how it tastes.

I Was Never Hungry

frittata-recipeYou usually think of a “diet” and automatically assume you’ll be starving and depriving yourself. I never ever felt hungry during the month of May. Did I have cravings? Yes. But I was always eating lots of healthy food to keep me satiated.

One of the cool things about Whole30 is that it isn’t about counting calories or allowing yourself to only eat a certain amount of food. Instead you eat to give your body energy. I now view meals as fuel, instead of a treat and that is really freeing.

Structure Works for Me

casey-running-chicagoI really liked how black and white everything was over the 30 days. You eat lots of amazing healthy foods, and you’re not allowed to eat the other things whatsoever. There are no cheat days. There is no allowing yourself just 1 bite of this or that. It’s cut and dry. That structure made it really easy to say “no.”

I Have Willpoweryoga-casey-workout

I used to tell myself I wouldn’t drink during the week, and then I’d find myself agreeing to go to a happy hour. Or I’d tell myself I wouldn’t eat past 8pm, only to find myself sitting on the couch eating snacks and watching TV with my husband. I had good intentions, but my follow-through wasn’t there. Plus it can be extra hard when you get free lunch, snacks, fro yo, and lattes at work all day long. #torture

After following something for 30 days, I now know that I am capable of a lot more than I thought. I can follow a program and I can quit making excuses. I was crazy proud of myself for making it through and that gives me more confidence to make healthier choices moving forward. And if I can make it through this photo shoot without eating any of the props or sipping the wine…then I have some pretty damn good willpower if I do say so myself!

MY RESULTScasey-chicago-yoga-mat-athleta

So now what you really want to know…how much weight did I lose?! Well, I’ll first start off by saying that you are not allowed to weigh yourself at all over the course of the 30 days. Instead you’re supposed to focus on how good you feel and your “non-scale victories.” While it was hard not to hop on the scale, I understand why that’s a rule. If the numbers don’t budge, that can be discouraging and may make you want to quit. Plus, at the end of the day if you have more energy, clearer skin, and feel amazing…does that little number really matter? yoga-casey-chicago

But I will say that I did lose 6 lbs and I feel great. That might not sound like a lot, but my body composition changed so much…especially my stomach and chest. I wish I would have measured myself before, because I feel like I lost inches all over! Clothing that was a little tight is now loose on me, and that’s just about the best feeling ever. I also feel like I lost some fat that was hanging onto my stomach for far too long. It just feels a lot flatter and less bloated.

I really don’t want to dwell on the weight loss though, because the other victories are what I’m really excited about. I slept phenomenally well throughout the 30 days…like seriously would fall asleep in 5 minutes flat and wake up a couple of minutes before my alarm raring to go. I had sustained energy all day long…no afternoon slump. My skin was clear and my head was too. Overall I just felt great. That alone makes me want to give up sugar!

Now What?sweater-leggings-workout-casey

Navy Leggings // Gym Shoes // Comfiest Sweater Ever! // Workout Tank

So now what?! Well, Whole30 has a “re-introduction” phase where you slowly bring old foods back into your diet to see how they make you feel. I will say that I’m really looking forward to vanilla creamer in my morning coffee, along with some champagne on the weekends. Other than that…there’s not much that I just HAVE to have!leggings-workout-gym-shoes

I think I’ll do 80/20…where I follow a fruit/veggie/protein/healthy fats diet most of the time, and  then splurge about 20% of the time. We’ll see how it goes…I’m planning to just take it one day at a time.

This has turned into a novel all about myself, so I better wrap it up. I’m planning to write another post next week with grocery stores tips and some of our favorite recipes. Hopefully it will come in handy if you’re planning your own Whole30, or if you just want to add some healthy meals to your repertoire. Let me know if you have any other questions! I can always add some more blog posts about my experience if you’re interested! casey-yoga-chicago

So I’ll leave you with this. If you’re unhappy with the way you feel…only you can change that! You’re strong and you’re capable of a lot more than you may realize. casey_sig

  • H Buchanan

    Thank you for sharing! I’ve been reading the book and gearing up to start my first Whole 30 and I love hearing about other peoples experiences!

    • That is awesome! You are taking all the right first steps…read the book and get all prepped before day 1. So excited to hear how you like it!

  • Erin

    i did whole30 in january. and surprisingly i made it through the whole month because like you — I LOVED having my greek yogurt as my nightly treat. I need to get back into the whole no treat/snack thing at night. the thing i finally got past was not having to have something
    “breakfast”y for breakfast. i had sweet potatoes, chicken sausage and
    roasted veggies for breakfast, that really was delicious every morning.

    I definitely did feel that my stomach was a lot flatter after doing the whole30. it’s really hard to maintain the mentality of whole30 after just in the sense of oh but i want to try this. and traveling at least once or twice a month has wreaked havoc on my eating.. NEED TO GET BACK TO good fresh healthy foods!

    • Erin, we are on the same page! The 30-days of saying “no” isn’t that bad, but then after with travel, vacations, etc…it makes it a heck of a lot harder! For me, it’s good to know that now I know how good it feels to eat that way (and if I’m ever eating crap for too long!) I can jump back on for a week or so and feel better!

  • shawnna griffin

    hey girl- congrats on your experience! so cool! Keep up the good work!

  • Wow, well done you (and Finn!) for completing this challenge! It is truly inspiring! Food has been a major source of stress for me for the past few years because I have 3 kids and we have a pretty busy schedule, and as we all know, eating healthy is more work! And more expensive! 2 out of 3 of my kids have had some serious health challenges and after years of Dr’s appointments that gave me no insight into why my girls were sick all of the time, I turned to a naturopath for help, and big surprise, so many of my kids struggles came down to food.! Dairy for my middle daughter and gluten for the other, eliminating those things had a major positive impact on their overall health. It has really influenced the way we eat in our family. What I find hard is that food is such a central part of our culture, especially with kids. It’s manageable when we are at home, but parties, travel and school functions are hard! I have been learning a lot about the negative impact of sugar but also carbs, which the body turns into sugar. I am trying to be mindful about this when planning meals and making food choices. I find the relationship between what we eat and how we feel absolutely fascinating so thank you so much for sharing your experience and as, always for your honesty!

    • Kerri, wow I can’t even imagine having to consider so many differing diets and nutrition needs. It was hard enough with just two of us for 30 days. But you’re so right…it truly is crazy how food makes such a huge impact on how we feel! I too find it fascinating and will now be really thinking about the things I put into my body and how they in turn make me feel!

  • Pam

    Congrats on completing the challenge. I try to stay on the 80/20 rule. Like you I used to eat plain greek yogurt, but I have mostly cut out dairy completely and I do feel better. Thanks for sharing.

    • Happy to hear I’m not alone on my quest to cut out dairy. I do love me some cheese & yogurt though!

  • Kayla

    My husband and I did Whole30 in May, too! I feel like I could have written this post myself 😉 We are also going to try the 80/20 rule from now on. 30 days is just too long without wine or ice cream in my opinion 🙂 Looking forward to more posts on your experience! Congrats on successfully completing Whole30!

    • Totally agree with you Kayla! Good to challenge yourself for 30 days, but it’s a loooong time without an indulgence here and there. We’re happy to be back to adding in a few not-so-good-for-us items every now and then 🙂

  • Trang

    80/20 is the key to success! Along with regular exercise. So happy the weather is good now to get out and be active. I think aside from the ‘no alcohol’, the tough part for me would be eliminating grains. Come on, I’m Asian! Rice is a staple. LOL My rice cooker won’t know what to do if it doesn’t get used daily.

    • Literally laughing out loud over here, Trang! That is hilarious! And agree with you about the exercise outside…so much better to be out and about getting some sunshine while you run!