On April 9th, after procrastinating for a good week, I decided to start my first Whole30 (no processed foods, no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no sugar – and no cheating – for 30 days). I was scared to start… that’s a LOT of “off limits” foods!! Although I felt very healthy in the “not sick” sense of the word (still completely OTC and Rx free for 1.5 years thanks to my essential oils!), my hormones are out of whack (I just weaned my 26-month-old at the end of February), my skin is a mess, and I could stand to lose some significant poundage.
Restricting calories and counting points via WW had “worked” for me in the past, but when I last did it a year ago, I was disheartened by the amount of low fat, processed food they encourage. My favorite food: avocados, I had to use up a lot of points for eating, compared to aspartame-packed yogurts, zero point cool whip, and other processed “goodies” that I knew weren’t good for me. Canola oil spray and other unhealthy alternatives to good old Olive Oil were constantly suggested — because fat, even healthy, natural fat, was “bad”. I always found myself looking for low point food replacements to see what I could get away with eating without spending too many points, I was hungry and eating low point (processed) snacks between meals, my brain was fooled into believing healthy = low calorie / low fat, and my relationship with food remained the same. Ever since my first pregnancy I’ve had a sweet tooth, and since I could eat processed sugar-free sweets loaded with artificial sweeteners for little-to-no points, I craved more sweets. Diet soda, which I KNEW was awful for me, was zero point, so I drank that constantly.
I lost weight, but I never kept it off. Though my clothes fit better, I didn’t FEEL better. I still craved unhealthy foods. I didn’t LEARN anything.
I read the It Starts with Food book the last week in March and was immediately sold on this “non-diet” approach to healthy eating. I wasn’t interested in a weight loss shake or a pill or a program like that. I wanted a sustainable, more natural life change.
Thoughts as I was reading the book went something like this:
“No wonder I never feel full!”
“This is why my skin is a mess and I get hormonal headaches.”
“Aha! That’s why I crave sweets!”
And finally: “Duh. Of course it starts with food.”
I love that it’s not about a scale. In fact, a large part of the Whole30 is to NOT weigh or measure yourself throughout the 30 days. I also loved that it’s a “challenge”… it’s ONLY 30 days. You can do anything for 30 days. After the 30 days is done, you can slowly start reintroducing foods and see/feel how your body reacts.
And so I did. I went grocery shopping and bought new-to-me items like Coconut Aminos (a great soy sauce replacement), full fat coconut milk, avocado oil, and ghee (clarified butter). I ordered a spiralizer (this one is incredible; highly recommend it!). I bought a bunch of La Croix waters to replace my Cherry Coke Zero habit.
Day 1 was probably the hardest. If you mess up, you have to start your 30 days over, and on Day 1, you don’t have any time under your belt to keep you pushing on. But I made it through, and I was excited to keep going.
The “convenience factor” (really, the “INconvenience factor”) was by far the hardest thing for me to get used to during my first Whole30. When you’re used to being able to just grab a string cheese snack (no cheese allowed) or Ezekial toast with peanut butter (no bread or peanut products) as a easy breakfast, and suddenly have to prepare food for EVERY meal, it’s an eye-opener.
Speaking of snacks, that was a big change as well. I had always heard that eating 5 small meals a day was good for you, but Whole30 says NOT to snack. The book explains why it’s healthier to give your body time to fast between meals, so I stayed strict to the “no snacking” rule and let that happen. If I was hungry between meals, this let me know I didn’t eat enough in the prior meal. It took about a week for me to figure out that balance. I had some cashews and compliant Lara Bars in my purse in case I ever got stuck somewhere with only non-compliant options, but the only time I really needed them was when I was traveling later in the month (see below).
I also stayed away from fruits as “desserts”… meaning, I would eat strawberries on a salad, for example, but I wouldn’t finish off a meal with a “dessert” of strawberries. It’s psychological (again, thanks to the book for teaching me this!), and I didn’t want my body to crave sweets (even natural healthy sweets) after meals any more.
Within a week, I was starting to feel huge differences: zero hunger between meals (though, INTENSE, sudden hunger when it was time for the next meal), I actually felt full – and this happened faster and faster, and my skin was already starting to clear up. Meanwhile, we spent the weekends moving from our old rental to the house we just bought, which meant a lot of meal prep and bringing food along with me between houses. I wasn’t fully moved into my new kitchen yet, which posed a challenge as well (like eating gourmet-tasting, delicious food off not-so-fabulous paper plates — which you’ll notice in some of these pics).
The second week seemed easy. Monday through Friday was a breeze because I had a routine; the weekends were a little more of a challenge being home with the kids who basically live on variations of rice & beans (both of which I couldn’t have) and we were still back-and-forth between houses. I painted our entire basement over the weekend, which consisted of basically 10 hours of squats… and the next day I could barely walk because my quads were so sore. But my skin was clear and I was down a pant size, so that was cool!
I started to notice that I wasn’t using my essential oils as often… and when I WOULD use them, they’d work even better (which was a shocker since they already had already changed my life!). Prior to Whole30, I never left home without the Digestive Blend, for my tummy: I never knew when I’d get heartburn or nauseated or dreaded diarrhea. I also used the tension blend for headaches almost daily… I would get bad hormonal headaches monthly and this would help FAST, but I’d also get headaches just from staring at my computer screen all day. Shortly after starting Whole30 I noticed I wasn’t using these oils… my body was healing already! I still continued to use my seasonal allergy blend (Lavender + Lemon + Peppermint) every morning, and I swear it felt as though it was working even better than it had in the past… my body was responding to the oils better than it ever had before.
And then came week three. Days 19-23. I had been dreading these days from the beginning: I was traveling for work to Seattle which meant a full day of flying each way, catered lunches, dinners out… basically #Whole30Hell. There were candy dishes on my table all.day.long. during my meetings, margaritas with chips and salsa at dinner (see photo), and fresh-from-the-brewery Red Hook beer. I brought a cooler with food (hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken, pickles, avocado) along for the flights since I knew I’d be rushing for connections. I ordered poached eggs for breakfast every day to avoid canola/veggie oil on the griddles.
I ate fajitas without tortillas, shrimp cocktail without cocktail sauce, and even had a salad with no dressing when a restaurant had no vinegar (they had a balsamic glaze, made with sugar, which I caught right as I started to pour it… who has NO vinegar?!) and scraped bacon off another salad (I asked for no bacon) – wasting bacon since there’s a 99.9% chance it had sugar in it. Wasting bacon sucks. I drank ice water at the brewery, even with shaky nerves after doing a ropes course (that was WAY harder and scarier than it looks).
And when I finished kicking that trip’s ass, I felt incredibly accomplished and proud of myself… but I also felt “done”. I had built that week up so much in my head that I had forgotten that I still had another week left in my Whole30. I wasn’t hungry. Food didn’t seem appealing. I was over it. Luckily I also received the new Whole30 book in the mail and realized these feelings were pretty normal towards the end of Whole30. I realized I was bored with my food options and needed to switch things up. I tried some new recipes and easily made it through the last week.
The last week was so easy that I started to worry about reintroduction and began flip-flopping about whether I should just continue and make it a Whole60. I felt REALLY good. I was sleeping GREAT, my skin was clear, and I had dropped ANOTHER pant size. My shirts were all starting to get loose. My moods were more stable. I had more energy. And I was scared to stop. But, I longed for a glass of wine.
Day 31 I (finally) weighed myself and I think I stopped breathing for a good minute when I saw the number on the scale. It was exactly, on the dot, 20.0 pounds less than it was when I started. When I caught my breath, I measured myself: I lost 5″ from waist, 4″ from hips, 2” from chest, 3″ from each thigh, 1″ from each arm. Holy cow! I know it’s NOT about the numbers, but that was CRAZY!
I took “after” photos to compare to the “before” photos I had taken a month earlier and I was even more shocked. I looked so different! No, I’m not sharing them with the world. I’m not there yet. But I did share with a bunch of my mommy friends and everyone was impressed and encouraging
I went to a baby shower that same day. At the shower I ate cake. With icing. It was super yummy. I left some on my plate so I could say I didn’t finish it, but I over indulged for sure. Within 20 minutes my stomach start gurgling and feeling VERY upset. I had to pull out my digestive blend for the first time in weeks… it helped, but temporarily. Laura had to remind me to use small amounts, often. Which I did. We went to the Indianapolis Grand Prix next, to a fully-stocked suite. I drank water and nursed my sugar-induced upset stomach nearly the whole time. It was miserable.
I’ve learned SO much throughout the Whole30, but what I’m learning now that I’m done with the challenge and reintroducing foods again is almost more life-changing. My body can’t handle sugar like that. I don’t want to feel bad like that made me feel. Therefore, I don’t even WANT sugar. The candy dish at work, full of Kit Kats and Sour Patch Kids and Rolos – that’s been tempting me for 34+ days – no longer looks the least bit appetizing anymore. It almost makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it.
And so I plan to continue this way of life indefinitely. Because I’m officially done with the 30 days, I will experiment here and there with “worth it” foods (it would have to be SUPER delicious to be worth it), but otherwise, I’m starting to think this is how I’ll live (and eat) most of the time, from now on.
I’m finally the one in control. Food no longer controls me.
I’m also going to try to avoid the scale. That’s harder.
P.S. I’m down another 3 pounds in the last 4 days.
P.P.S. I LOVE the cookbook Well Fed (Paleo Recipes for People who Love to Eat). The photos alone sold me, but when I actually tried the recipes I was blown away. The Sunshine Sauce, the chicken thighs, the amazing Pad Thai. Yum yum yum! I need to buy the sequel next!