I’m on day 23 of my first Whole30 experience, and wanted to share my honest thoughts for any of you thinking about trying it. Here’s the short version of my Whole30 timeline: I hate parts of it, but I’m learning a lot. Oh, and I cheated on day 13.
When my boot camp instructor announced that our next food challenge was coming up, I was all in. I’m on a journey to lose 52 pounds of baby weight, gained after having 3 kids in 4 years, and I was ready to change my eating in a big way.
At first, I loved Whole30. Turns out, the plan of eating mostly meat and veggies was really on-par with the healthy eating I’d already adopted 12 weeks earlier. In the first few days, I was proud of my willpower. Even when our family was visiting for days 1 through 3, and we went to the beach bar. And this was ordered. (*Salivating*)
But, I stayed strong, ate my apple, and carne asada with salsa, and drank my water. I wanted a cocktail so badly, but I didn’t do it.
Things were going well for the first couple weeks. Making eggs every morning. Eating salads for lunch everyday. Snacks of apple with almonds or raw veggie slices. Healthy dinners with protein and veggies. It was all good!
Then reality set in.
Whole30 has lots of rules. They are good rules. But the list of what you can’t have is a lot longer than what you can. And with good reason. For example, sweets at breakfast, even fruit, are discouraged. Smoothies are not allowed, since the diet is founded on eating “whole” foods, not blended or juiced produce. Grains, dairy, alcohol are off-limits. (Of course, I expected this, but I tend to thrive when I have at least one cheat day per week where I can forget the rules. Not on Whole30. You go for the full 30 days.) You also can’t have any added chemicals. This rules out all refrigerated almond and coconut milks, which is what I normally put in my coffee. Oh, and no added sweeteners of any kind. Agave, honey, Stevia, sugar, coconut sugar, none of those are allowed. If there is a food that has “sugar” listed in the ingredients (like every salsa, bacon, deli meat on the market), it’s a no-go.
So what does this mean?
It means my morning coffee SUCKED.
As far as coffee add-in’s, one of the only things that’s allowed is coconut cream that comes in the can, because it tends to have no added chemicals. So my coffee didn’t taste the way I wanted it to. And that’s part of the exercise. Whole30 recommends that you use the 30 days to really think about why you’re drinking coffee in the first place. They say you should ask yourself, Do I need the caffeine, or am I really just looking for a sweet, hot drink as part of my morning ritual? Yep, that’s it. I wanted some hot, sweet comfort to center myself and start my day. And I wasn’t getting it.
Here’s the deal: I drink coffee because I really freaking like it. (Right?!?) Oh, and I have 3 young children. (‘Cause duh.)
I spent several days experimenting to try to find Whole30-approved coffee combos that weren’t awful. (Here’s my favorite: Blend 1 cup hot coffee with 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Pour into mug. Blend 2 tablespoons canned coconut cream with a few dashes of cinnamon. Stir into coffee mug. Reheat coffee mug for 30 seconds and enjoy!)
Still, nothing helped. Even with all my approved combos, I still had a rough time getting past the bitter coffee taste.
So eventually, after trying and trying, let me be totally honest… I was just over it.
It’s not that I couldn’t do it. I just didn’t want to anymore.
The bitter morning coffee, the only drinking water while out at dinner, I was starting to feel like I was punishing myself. And I didn’t like that.
Reality started setting in during week 2. My energy had gotten super-low, which is normal on Whole30 as your body readjusts to the change in diet. But 3 days later, I was still feeling not only tired, but bloated as well. (On a side note, another Whole30 rule is you can’t weigh yourself during the diet, so there’s no way to see if you’re really losing weight. In fact, the diet is not known for helping people lose weight, it’s really about changing your head. More on that later.)
I had zero cheats for 13 days.
Then, day 13 was a rough parenting day (isn’t that how every good story begins?), so the hubby and I booked a last-minute sitter and went to my favorite restaurant. It’s a swanky place on Tampa Bay, and I love their cocktail bar. After much thinking that day, I decided I would have a cocktail that night with dinner. I would stick to my Whole30 eating for the meal, but I would have a vodka soda (or 3) if I wanted them. I resolved that I wouldn’t punish myself, but I also wouldn’t be thoughtlessly consuming crap either. It worked out great!
The next morning, I made a tweak with the coffee too. I added some coconut sugar. (Gasp! Grimace!) It’s not Whole30-approved, but I decided that I was going to make this plan work for me. I’ve stuck completely to the food, but the coffee-my-way and occasional cocktail might still happen.
And here’s the difference: I’m still learning something. I’m aware of what I’m putting into my body, which means I’m not mindlessly consuming crap, or just snacking because I’m bored. Despite my tweaks, I still feel that Whole30 has taught me self-control, and to actually think about what I’m eating and drinking. (And yes, “tweaking” Whole30 means I’m not truly doing Whole30 anymore, I guess. The plan suggests that you go back to day 1 if you cheat in any way, but I’m just keepin’ on keepin’ on, my friend. My outlawed coconut sugar in the coffee and I are holdin’ true! #sorrynotsorry)
What I love about Whole30 is it’s made me enjoy food so much more. For example, I used to just scarf an apple in between meals because I was hungry. I ate it as quickly as possible because, the truth is, I didn’t really like it. But now, I enjoy that apple. I savor it. I look forward to its crunchy, cold, sweet, delicious goodness. Since I’m editing my eating, and no processed foods are allowed, the simple goodness of the most basic foods have become rewarding and filling on a level I never thought possible.
Whole30 isn’t really a diet. It’s a big mind exercise. How tough can you be? It’s a choice. You’re telling your brain not to find any comfort in food or drink for 30 days. Before this challenge, I never considered myself addicted to food in any way and was already eating quite healthily. But to go through all the emotional ups and downs you experience in 30 days, and not reach for food or drink… really does take a TON of willpower. The process of disassociating pleasure with food and drink was really a psychological exercise for me. I also couldn’t use food or drink as a stress release. And that was a huge change. (Hello, tough parenting days.)
For me, week 3 was a lot of self-reflecting. I started thinking about why I eat. It was almost like a silent therapy that I gave myself each day. (And each time I wanted ice cream, PDQ, pizza, sushi or a martini. It’s crazy how badly your mind will want certain things when you’re told you can’t have them.)
But in terms of the food, I haven’t given in. And I feel really, really great about that.
And you know what?
I also feel great about making the plan work for me. Yep. About putting coconut sugar in my coffee, and enjoying a cocktail while out to dinner with my husband.
Because I made the choice. And I gave myself permission to adapt it to work for me.
It’s not about deprivation.
It’s about loving myself enough to make great choices as often as I possibly can.
Because a disciplined, fit, clean-eating lifestyle is a natural outgrowth of loving myself, not loathing myself. (This isn’t to say that doing Whole30 means you’re punishing yourself! I think Whole30 is awesome, and I salute you!)
My point is, stand proud.
You may not ace the class, but you are participating and moving and doing something.
And that, my friend, is worth celebrating and being proud of.
Has anyone else tried Whole30? What was your experience?