- whole foods
Diet fads are exhausting. There are all kinds of crazy eating plans, from the grapefruit diet to celebrity juicing plans to low carb or all lean protein diets. They promise everything from weight loss to clear skin and a better attitude. Most of them are garbage.
Separating what works from what doesn’t is important – and a great way to start to learn what your body really needs and why. At the core of most diets that improve health markers (not the ones used to help you lose 30-40 pounds while you sleep, or drop weight instantly…I can promise you those are bad for you) you’ll find high fiber content, smart lean protein choices, and little or no processed foods. In short, it’s clean eating on a whole foods diet, packaged in pretty wrapping and sold by another name. Buy the book, the tape, the specialized eating plan, and you’re just paying for packaging.
I hate fad diets. The Whole 30 is not a fad diet.
What is the Whole 30?
It’s time for a little gut-wrenching honesty. The Whole 30 isn’t a weight loss plan. I can’t say whether or not I lost any weight so far, or if I will at all. It’s not about that.
The Whole 30 is a whole foods eating plan that lasts 30 days. It’s built on a Paleo framework, and can technically be called an elimination diet. The goal of the Whole 30 is to help you see what foods irritate your body, what junk you’re addicted to (even if you consider yourself a healthy eater), and to help you make some smart changes to the way you eat.
The rules are simple. You eliminate the junk, ignore the scale, and focus on smart food choices. You also eliminate some food groups that hundreds of studies demonstrate can be difficult for a large number of people to digest. At the end of the 30-day period, you reintroduce everything slowly, to see if any of the foods you eliminated irritate your system, slow you down, or keep your body from performing its best.
Why 30 Days?
Although there are some people who eat this ways every day, I don’t. I wouldn’t advise you to, either. The Whole 30 eliminates whole categories of foods – some of which provide great health benefits, like milk products (think kefir and yogurt). It takes out all grains, legumes, and added sweeteners, too. Most people have trouble with at least one of these categories of food, but if you can digest them easily, they also provide significant health benefits. All things in moderation, as the saying goes.
30 days is enough time to see how your body would do without those foods, but it’s also not excessively difficult for most people to do. After all, it’s only 30 days.
There’s another trick to this, though. See, it’s not just 30 days. It is 30 days of a completely clean diet. You might spend 6 months trying to finish those 30 days, depending on how addicted to sugar, carbs, and other junk you are. Every time you break the diet, you start back at Day 1. After all, the only way to see if you’re sensitive to something is to remove it completely for enough time to get it out of your system and to gradually reintroduce it in a controlled manner.
My normal diet includes whole grains like oats and buckwheat (and the occasional pastry), some legumes and dairy, and a very little bit of honey and demerara or mascabado sugar. Even though I normally eat fairly “clean”, love fermented vegetables , and am a big fan of the Pegan (Paleo + vegan) diet, the Whole 30 is a big shift away from my normal eating patterns.
My husband is less of a fan of Paleo, loves chocolate bars and popsicles, and would make pizza and General Tso’s chicken into independent food groups. Earlier this year, he had some health issues. The doctor suggested that he eliminate legumes to improve his digestion, but the doctor also suggested that there might be something else that irritated his intestines. As a result, we looked for a good plan that we could follow easily and that would help us see how different foods affected him.
At the same time, a good friend of ours was doing the Whole 30. She told us how much better she felt, how much more energy she had, and why we should give it a go. I asked if an article on our experiences would be a good fit for the blog, and the rest is history.
By the way, this is our second attempt at the Whole 30. The first round, we quit after 15 days. Although it’s not difficult, it is difficult. I know that probably doesn’t make much sense to you right now, but once you’ve given the Whole 30 a try, you’ll understand what I mean…
Day 1: Everything is bread…and grains….and dairy… but at least my groceries were cheaper. Made a batch of chicken bone broth when I got home from the store. Good stuff!
Day 2: It’s not that bad. Great snack on the go – dehydrated sweet plantains chips. Filling, nutritious and Whole30 ok. J
Day 3: This was actually an easy day. I was expecting it to be tough, but it was easy as pie…pie. Flaky crusted, delicious apple pie… Ok. That daydream made it a little tough.
Day 4: Everything was fine until 7 PM, when my son insisted on popcorn. Homemade kettle corn, to be exact. Yeah… back to Day 1.
Day 5: Let’s call this Day 0, ok? I started the day wrong. We had gluten free pancakes for breakfast, but they had corn and rice in them… ouch.
Day 6: Back to the beginning. Again. But it’s not that bad. I’m craving bread, and sitting in a café staring at the baked goods while waiting for a client is NOT helping.
Day 7: Note to self. Do not eat out with friends on the Whole 30. Congrats, though. Made it through another day. I’ve been cranky all day, though. Not fun.
Day 8: Bass topped with sliced red and orange peppers and crusted in crushed dehydrated plantain, then baked in banana leaf for dinner. I could eat this every day!
Day 9: Experimenting with fish. Did you realize that red snapper marinated in coconut milk and topped off with curry powder, salt, and lime is phenomenally delicious, flaky, and soft? Yum!
Day 10: Wholesale store with the family. Would have been great if I hadn’t indulged in that sample chocolate…back to Day 1.
Day 11: Just a little pastry….the one in the window case looks soooo good. Raspberry and cream cheese in a crunchy flaky crust…but NO. Sticking to it this time!
Day 12: Hi. My name is Christina, and I’m a carb addict. You can keep the sugar, but can I please, please, please have just a tiny smidge of processed carbs? No? Fine. I’ll be grumpy all day.
Day 13: My mother-in-law said I’m losing weight. Cool. I’ve got more energy, that’s for sure!
Day 14: Braved another outing with friends, and it went well. The kids went wild, we sat and chatted, and the meal was 100% Whole30, with 0 added effort on our part. Cool. Making a note of that restaurant. We’ll have to go there again.
Day 15: The in-laws tried to tempt us with a little bread and cheese today. We survived, Whole 30 intact. It was pretty tough, though. I was craving pizza for hours.
Day 16: Feeling a bit heavy and sluggish today. I think it’s the weather. One thing’s for sure. I’m not hungry at all.
Day 17: Blueberries dusted with pure organic cacao = breakfast of champs. My energy is back, and I feel like I could run a marathon!
Day 18: Spent the day out. Finding Whole30-safe food was tough, but doable. Thank goodness for taco stands. We skipped the tortilla and had chopped beef with onions, lime, and homemade salsas. It was the perfect treat after a hard day’s work.
Day 19: My son had a doughnut for breakfast. The school requires that he eat before class, and we aren’t having him do the Whole 30 with us this round, so when there wasn’t time for breakfast in the morning, we stopped by the bakery on the way to school and he spoiled himself. He bought one for us, too. We didn’t give in to temptation – even though his cute 4-year-old face was pleading us to take just one bite. That was tough.
Day 20: Whole 30? What Whole 30 diet? Today was a breeze. I’m proud to say there’s fresh homemade chicken bone broth in the fridge again.
Day 21: I love cabbage. It’s heaven on a plate. Throw in a little pickled ginger, some cooked salmon, and a dash of coconut oil, and I’m over the moon.
Day 22: Hubby’s noticed a big change in his allergies. He’s breathing easier, and he’s got more energy. We had a delicious salad with tuna, chicken, carrots, shredded coconut, and mango for lunch. And we’re both getting used to this. He told me that he thinks we should eat more like this all the time. I agree.
Day 23: Went to the store. We ate a largely whole foods diet before the Whole 30, including yummy fermented vegetables, bone broth, and tons of fresh fruits and veggies. The difference that makes was even more obvious to me today. I looked at what other people were buying in line vs. what I bought – most orders were about 80% processed carbs and sugar-laden junk. Ouch.
Day 24: Movie night with the family. Homemade kettle corn again. I had a little, but hubby behaved. I’m back on Day 1, with a stomachache. Looks like corn and I might not be friends.
Day 25: Felt slow all day. Could be the weather – there’s a storm rolling in. Could also be yesterday’s corn (or today’s). We went out with the family tonight to a small restaurant. They didn’t have any juice, tea, or water. As a result, we both had sodas. Neither of us are big soda drinkers, so it was a bit of a system shock in general. We’re back to Day 1. The rest of the meal was Whole 30 ok, though. We didn’t overdo the indulgence.
Day 26: I could stay in bed for a week. Time to get back on track, though. Nighttime snack = kiwi and papaya.
Day 27: Made a chia tea to stave off hunger. Lots of fiber and healthy fats. It’s been a while since I was this hungry during the day – it seems like the better we eat, the less I crave junk.
Day 28: Almost 30 calendar days since we started this round, but we’re only on Day 3. It’s getting easier, though.
Day 29: Ok, I admit it. I’m grumpy and on edge today. Might be the food, might be the mood. We’ll see.
Day 30: Today was easy. Tomorrow might not be, but we’re sticking with it. It’s worth it.
30 days on (and off) the Whole 30… I’ve done what I needed to do for this article, but we’re sticking with the plan. We’re both feeling more energetic and healthier, despite our slip-ups. I’ve noticed some definite areas to watch on my end, like baked goods and dairy products. We’ve got a bakery on the corner by our house, and I love to bake, making it easy to overindulge in the not-so-occasional treat. The same goes for dairy products. Although we try to limit our intake, I quickly noticed how much yogurt, kefir, milk, butter, cream, and cheese we use. It’s time to cut back.
Now comes the fun part…only 25 days to go.
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