This past August I decided to take on Whole30. It had always been something that I had heard about and wanted to give my relationship with food a makeover. I was curious about food sensitivities and curious to see if a drastic change in diet would actually affect my weight and how I approach eating. I’ve made it past the 30 days and the reintro period and I wanted to share what I learned from the experience.
Water intake. I’ve always known I’ve had issues with water intake – I don’t drink enough. Not that I’m a soda drinker either – I just wasn’t drinking much of anything unless I was working out. Increased water intake wasn’t the original effects that I was hoping for, but one of the first I quickly realized. When I wanted to snack, I reached for water and waited 15mins – normally, the hunger passed. I felt like I went from zero to drinking an ocean’s worth in just two days. Took my body a bit to adapt (hello multiple bathroom trips through the night) but the benefits were noticed pretty quickly – I felt much more energetic and my habits quickly changed to reaching for water, not a snack.
Better understanding my hunger. I know I’m a snacker. And the office I work in has a lot of free snacks. I had to rethink picking up a snack while walking around the office – beside the fruit and some nuts, none were compliant anyways! I had to pack my own and since I had the Whole30 goal in mind, which helped me be more mindful of what I ate and when. As I expected, the first few days were a struggle (definitely warned my coworkers about the hangry), but once that hump was over, I felt much more in-tune with understanding eating (and drinking water) when I was hungry, not just to eat when I was bored.
Reinforced my love of cooking. I’ve been meal prepping for several years now, so I went in feeling pretty comfortable with this part of Whole30. It was fun to approach some favorite recipes and turning them into compliant options. My boyfriend loves to cook as well and he was so supportive on cooking compliant meals with me, even though he wasn’t doing Whole30. I get meal-prep happy and I’ll admit that I was ecstatic to have a reason to really hone in on that skillset. I bought TheWhole30 book and found that the lessons and recipes in there were suffice for me to get through and be inspired with my food the entire 30 days.
Results are real. Scale and non-scale victories are real with this program. I went in wanting to better understand my relationship with food and I can definitely say that I’m much more aware of what I put into my body and I understand the importance of good, healthy food – not just low calorie food. I was curious about food sensitivity, and I was pleased to find during my re-intro nothing too jarring, but made me realize I need to watch my dairy and gluten intake to make sure that I don’t go overboard. I feel more energetic and motivated to keep making healthy choices. The weight loss was particularly motivating! I just really liked how I felt on the program and I’ve already planned to do a round of Whole30 each year – if not more frequent!
It wasn’t hard. I’ve struggled with wording this section because based on what I heard this program was supposed to life changing, revolutionary, and really damn hard. I will be the first to say that it has completely changed my relationship with food, but it was no where near as hard I thought it would be. I wasn’t having manic desires to make my own Whole30-approved mayo or missing out on milestones because I was worried about finding appropriate things to eat out. There were hard moments of course, but overall, I felt like it went rather smoothly. I recognize that some of privileges may have affected my experience and I may take some heat for it. However, I wanted a record of my experience so I can compare results when ever I decide to do it again, so here’s the reasons what I didn’t find the program to be as outrageously difficult or life-altering as I had thought it would be.
My privileges included: lifestyle, support, location.
I live with a great roommate, have no kids, have a job that pays well, have the flexibility to cook as I need, live in a great neighborhood with lots of grocery options, and have a super supportive network who encouraged my Whole30 exploration. I clearly know that so many others who choose to do Whole30 may have a completely different set up (need to cook for an entire family, live far from an affordable grocery store, whatever it may be) and it makes feel like I cheated the system somehow. But it’s what it is and I know I was in a great place in my life to go for the lifestyle change. I know that in the future when I try Whole30 again it may not be the case, but I’m glad I had this positive experience to lean back on.
I had a strong in-person and personal network that helped me get through Whole30. In my office, there were others who had done Whole30 and we were able to share recipe ideas. We also had others on food journeys testing (cutting out gluten was a big one). My friends, boyfriend and roommate were also on board and really sensitive to my comfort when cooking and eating out. I assured them that I didn’t mind eating before meeting up and they were flexible on meeting places that I could find something to eat or had great tap water. I also was incredibly grateful that they understood my tolerance for bar-hopping was cut down and reassured it was fine for me slip out of gatherings as needed.
I live in San Francisco. If I had to pick a city to do Whole30, this would be the top of my list. Chain options like sweetgreen and local favorites like roam burger offer so many options for eating out and staying compliant. I also know I’m super fortunate to live within a 10min walk from both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. There’s a lot of people doing their own version of food exploration journeys here so I found it easy and comfortable to talk to the servers and chefs about my limitations. I know this is not the case for many others and I really recognize that this is a huge part of the reason I succeed in completing my 30 days.
After reviewing all of my personal notes while on the program, here’s a collection of my best pieces of advice for those looking to do Whole30:
Meal plans. Write down your meal plans for the week/next few days/whatever time frame makes sense for you. Meal prepping is not one size fits all – I personally prefer to meal prep about 3 days worth of food at a time, and leave some of my meals “unassembled” meaning that I can still have some flexibility and not eat the same thing for dinner for three nights. Don’t forget to meal plan your snacks!
Budget. I’ll be the first to admit I went overboard on buying food the first week (hello Whole Foods), spending more in those first 5 days in groceries that I normally spend in two weeks! I knew I had to change that. Keep your receipts or write down the cost of each meal you eat so you can have a true sense of the cost of food on this program and what’s worth the splurge and what you can live without.
Support. Be it virtual, in person, or something in between, you’re going to want to talk to someone about your experiences as they happen. Make sure you have that outlet!
Bars, bars, bars. We’re not talking the shot kind – we’re talking Whole30 approved kind. Stash some in your bags, desk, pockets, where ever to push you through. I kept a few in my work bag and they saved me – like when spontaneous gatherings happened after work and I need a bit of a boost to get to the event and mingle a bit before running home for my approved dinner. I really liked Lara Bars and Epic Bars.
Storage, storage, storage. Speaking of those bars, grab a few of them and some nuts and store them at your desk, in your car, in your bag, where ever you spend time. Sometimes you just need a quick nibble and don’t want drama to ensue to get your something compliant to eat. I had some almonds and bars at my work desk – perfect for those unexpected hangry moments. Truth – I’m still finding Lara bars that I’ve hidden enough I’m done with the program – oops!
You are in control. YOU made the decision to do Whole30 so YOU dictate what that means for you. You can read advice, suggestions, blogs, whatever, but ultimately you have to have your heart in it for yourself. No one is gonna stop or keep you on the program with your permission. Find your reason for trying it out and stick with it!
Let me know your Whole30 experience. Always happy to chat if you’re thinking of doing your own Whole30 experience.