Guys, I think I have found a solution to all my food problems!
Granted, among the numerous other personal issues I have plastered all over this website ( 😉 ), food has always been a relatively minor problem for me. A pain in the ass, but not a major pain in the ass. It’s not like I never make bad food choices, but I don’t struggle psychologically with food nearly to the degree that many others do. The pain in the ass thing for me is that I have terrible horrible very bad genes when it comes to food. Type 2 diabetes runs in my family, and while I have never been overweight, I still have PCOS and insulin resistance and my blood sugars have hovered at borderline diabetic levels at several points in my life.
With running + trying to keep my stress levels down + a mostly low-carb diet + meds, I have been able to keep my blood sugars in a normal range for a while now. But I still wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. I felt like my energy levels were not as high as I would ideally like and I would still crash like crazy after many meals. Eating would literally make me fall asleep, when it’s supposed to do the opposite by giving you energy.
Then on a random late-night Pinterest binge, I stumbled upon a blog post written by someone who had just completed the Whole30 with great results. I was intrigued enough to investigate it further.
Just in case you have never heard of the Whole30, it’s a 30-day program developed by two nutritionists, during which you only eat whole foods and give up most processed foods. For 30 days, you avoid anything that might potentially be unhealthy, and then after the 30 days, you reintroduce the forbidden food groups one at a time, so you can observe what effects they have on you.
The basic rules are pretty simple. You eat three meals a day and a big chunk of each meal consists of protein. You are allowed to eat meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and some fats. You avoid any real or artificial sweeteners, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, certain additives, and any baked goods or junk foods even if made from otherwise approved ingredients.
I did some googling and reading and found that there are a whole lot of people out there who have tried this program with amazeballs results, such as achieving a healthier relationship with food, getting rid of carb and sugar cravings, improving sleep and energy levels, and healing from various food and lifestyle-related illnesses.
This is the book that explains the science behind the Whole30 recommendations*:
This is the book that gives you all the practical guidance you need to carry out the program*:
All of this got me wondering if this diet might address some of the food-related issues I was still having. Would it be possible for me to actually feel nourished after eating a meal and not like I’d been run over by a truck?
So of course I had to try it and I roped The Huz into doing it with me! And while we were both a little bit skeptical and we are still not convinced it’s a cure-all for anything and everything that has ever ailed you, we both agree that the changes we noticed in just 30 days were nothing short of pretty darn awesome.
And whenever I find a solution that works, I want to share it with you, my dear reader. 🙂
Here are the 12 awesome things that happened when we did the Whole30:
1. We Slept Better
One of the biggest reasons I was interested in trying the Whole30 was the promise of better sleep. And the Whole30 delivered on its promise!
First of all, my typically up until the wee hours insomniac husband started going to bed around the same time I did, which made me happy, because I like someone to keep me warm at night. 🙂
Second, the Whole30 took care of my own sleep problems too. I’ve never had problems falling asleep at night. But if anything – and I mean anything – would wake me up in the middle of the night, I would have a hell of a time falling back asleep. And the vast majority of nights, the anything happens. With three kids, the chances are that at least one of them will need something in the course of a night. And if not, then for sure I’ll need to get up to pee. Or there will be a loud thunder storm. Or the neighbor’s dogs will go berserk. Or something.
And the Whole30 does not have the power to stop these anythings from happening. But the Whole30 DOES help me go BACK to sleep. No more tossing and turning and waiting to go back to sleep. Something wakes me up, I deal with it, I put my head back on the pillow, and HOLY MOLY, I go right back to sleep!
This little sleep problem of mine was fixed within a few days of starting the Whole30.
2. I Had More Energy
Perhaps thanks to better sleep, perhaps due to other healthy changes in my body, I definitely felt like I had more energy overall. I also felt like I crashed much less after meals (woohoo!).
I still don’t feel like I have quite as much energy as I would like. I still get the afternoon “OMG, I have to have a nap right this second” slump some days. And the Whole30 also doesn’t offer a cure for the “I stayed up way too late bingeing on the 100 on a work night” hangover. 😉 But still, I will give the Whole30 credit for a significant improvement.
The Huz will not join me on this one, however. Did you notice the subheading says I had more energy – not we? The Huz feels like he has been having less energy since starting the Whole30. But we have diagnosed this as being due to him cutting out Diet Coke and drinking about a 10th of the caffeine he did prior to the Whole30. So his lack of energy really just means that he’s not buzzing about until 2am on a caffeine high and he’s going to bed with his wife like he should.
3. We Felt Better
This one is the hardest to explain, but… We. Just. Felt. Better. Still do as a matter of fact. It’s like we feel lighter somehow. Not in the sense of losing weight, but in the sense of feeling less bloated, less foggy, less achey. Like we have a spring in our step even though we are exhausted working parents in our forties.
4. Our Food Cravings Went Away
Another big promise the Whole30 makes is to rid you of food cravings once and for all. And you know what? I can’t quite believe it myself, but the program delivered on this one as well. It seems like some unattainable fantasy I came up with on a cake high, but this ACTUALLY happened.
At some point over the course of the month, we noticed that our brains and bodies were starting to behave like they should. We would feel hungry slightly before our regular meal times, we would eat until we were not hungry any more, and then we would be fine until the next meal time.
Can you imagine eating lunch and then not craving to eat anything else until dinner? What about eating dinner and being able to watch TV afterwards without the munchies?
No uncontrollable cravings. No urge to call for a pizza. No rummaging through the kitchen cabinets for that last half bag of potato chips. No reaching for just one more piece of candy when it’s really the 147th.
5. We Proved To Ourselves That We Are Capable Of Cooking All Meals At Home
Before we started the Whole30, I wasn’t actually that concerned about giving up all processed foods. I was already eating a fairly clean low-carb diet with some occasional junk thrown in as treats. What worried me most was being organized enough to always have fresh groceries on hand and finding the time to prepare all the meals from scratch. We have been pretty much in survival mode since we added twins to our family of three more than four years ago. (I even wrote a post about Survival Mode Meal Planning!) For the past few years, we have been barely keeping up with household tasks and at least a couple of times a week the hands have been thrown up in the air in surrender and take-out has been called to rescue when we just didn’t have the gumption to produce another home-cooked meal.
But during the Whole30, we totally surprised ourselves and showed ourselves that we are very capable of cooking at home. As a matter of fact, we didn’t eat out for the entire month and cooked three meals a day at home the whole entire time. That’s 90 meals in a row! Woohoo for us! (Can you tell I’m just a little bit excited about this one? 🙂 )
Sure, there were a couple of times when we scrambled. There were a couple of times we found ourselves starving at dinner time with no plans and nothing prepared. But we hustled and muddled through. And I guess we are officially out of survival mode now. 🙂
Related: Everything We Ate During Our Whole30
6. We Proved That You Can Be An Athlete Without Processed Carbs
I’m a runner and the Huz does quite a bit of physical labor working on our fixer-upper. I was running 35 miles per week during the Whole30, including long runs of 12+ miles. The Huz a) used a jack-hammer and b) carried rocks. Don’t ask why he had to do this, but just know that these were strenuous activities with lots of sweat and cursing. 😉
And I can tell you we didn’t have any issues keeping up with our regular levels of physical activity. We didn’t need pasta or bread or Gatorade to fuel ourselves.
7. We Discovered That Eating Only Whole Foods Can Be Enjoyable
Usually when people “go on a diet” you would expect them to be counting days until the diet is over, struggle a good bit, and be super relieved when it’s over. Well, amazingly enough, our experience with the Whole30 wasn’t like that at all.
We kept track for the first week or so. We knew exactly how many days we had already “been on it”. The Huz felt pretty terrible from the caffeine withdrawal.
But after a week or so, we just kinda stopped thinking about it and lost track. The food tasted delicious. Our bodies felt good. Our bellies were full. There was no struggle. There was no need for willpower or convincing ourselves to keep going. The last day actually kind of sneaked up on us, as in “Hey, hasn’t it been about a month already? Aren’t we supposed to weigh ourselves now?”
8. We Discovered That Eating Only Whole Foods Doesn’t Mean Giving Up Comfort Food
Now, some people say that you shouldn’t use food as a source of comfort. I say that I don’t care what they think. I do find yummy food at the end of a stressful day a comfort and something I enjoy in life. During the Whole30, we ate simple, tasty meals, prepared with healthy whole ingredients. And almost every meal turned out to be extremely delicious and what I would consider comfort food.
Food does not have to be loaded with artificial sweeteners, empty carbs, and unhealthy fats in order to be a source of comfort and enjoyment.
9. We Lost Weight Without Trying
Our motivation for doing the Whole30 was not weight loss. I was already toward the lower end of a healthy range, and while the Huz thought he could stand to lose a few pounds, he wasn’t overweight either. We were more interested in the results related to energy levels and overall better feelings. So during our Whole30, we just focused on eating three protein-rich meals a day + maybe one snack and only using the approved ingredients. We totally ignored all the advice about meal templates and portion sizes. At each meal, we just ate as much as we felt like eating, which usually translated to the two of us splitting between us the recipes that were designed to serve four. Let’s just say we didn’t go hungry or feel deprived during the Whole30.
But we STILL lost weight. I lost five pounds and the Huz lost six. With what felt like zero effort.
10. We Are Happier Looking In The Mirror
Aside from losing weight, we both felt like we lost some flab. When we catch a glimpse in the mirror, there’s just a bit more toned muscle and a tad less plumpiness going on. Can’t complain about that. 🙂
11. Our Awareness Of Processed Food Ingredients Increased
In order to follow the Whole30 rules in terms of approved ingredients, we had to examine food labels a lot more carefully than before. And it was very eye-opening. Who knew that sugar could be one of the ingredients in canned diced tomatoes? Or that the rotisserie chicken I’d been topping my salads with since forever was laced with carrageenan?
12. Our Perception Of What Is Healthy Food Changed
I would say that the most significant and life-altering result of doing the Whole30 was that our perception of what is healthy food changed fairly drastically. We know now, without a shadow of a doubt, how to eat if we want to feel our best. Any nutrients we used to get from grains and dairy we can get from meat and vegetables without the potential side effects. And we can say unequivocally that we felt much better physically without grains, dairy, and all the artificial crap.
At the same time, I still stand behind most of what I said in this article and believe that eating mostly healthy most of the time is good enough. I think trying to achieve food perfection is just as futile as trying to achieve perfection in any other area of life.
When we do venture out to a restaurant again, we are not going to quiz the waiters about whether they use olive oil or canola oil or whether there is sugar in the tomato sauce. We’ll just enjoy our meal.
Inevitably, the day will come when we decide that treating ourselves with ice cream or fresh mozzarella or just-baked bread is worth the consequences.
My beloved Saturday night cocktails will eventually make a come-back too.
But these will be not-too-frequent special occasions and our home kitchen will remain a mostly Whole30 cooking zone for the foreseeable future.
Because we love the simplicity and ease of eating whole foods.
Because we love how good we are feeling.
Because right now, we are feeling way too good to kill the good feelings with an overload of junk. It’s been more than a week since we officially completed the Whole30 and we have been in no hurry to reintroduce any of the forbidden food groups. We just don’t miss them nearly as much as we thought we would!
What do you think about all this? Have you tried the Whole30 or are you thinking about trying it? I would love to hear from you in the comments below. 🙂
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