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.
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!
How to Survive Whole30
Here’s what I learned over the course of those 30 days…
You Need a Buddy
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.
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 every day, 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
If 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 Cook
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.
I 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
When 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…Constantly
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
When 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
You 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
I 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 Willpower
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 8 pm, 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!
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?
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!
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!
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!
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.
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.