A month ago I shared that I’d been trying a Whole30. My reasons were plentiful: breaking sugar addiction, evaluating my relationship with food and my food habits, getting healthy, etc.
Now, three weeks later, I’m ready to talk about takeaways.
My relationship with sugar hasn’t changed much. I had already been reading labels and eating low-sugar for a while before beginning my Whole30. The difference now is that I have even more control over my sugar impulses. Knowing certain things were totally off-limits for 30 days made it a lot easier for me to decide that I can have a single bite of the M&M monster cookie and be OK. My Whole30 “Food Freedom” means I can also decide that it’s totally worth it for me to take on the extra sugar and sluggishness that comes with indulging in two of those M&M monster cookies, like I did today. (Spoiler: I was wrong. It wasn’t worth it to have two, but both were tasty…)
More than anything on the sugar front, the natural sweetness of items like carrots and roasted zucchini is so much more apparent than it used to be. I taste the natural sugars in fruits I used to find too tart.
I’d also been moving away from excessive bread-type products in my pre-Whole30 life. I’d switched from loaves of bread to specific low carb tortillas I picked out with the help of my favorite YouTube food channel, Mind Over Munch. While I still like a good pastry, I found that saving my carb calories for other items is definitely worth it for me. In this sense, I redefined my relationship with pasta, rice, and most breads simply by realizing they aren’t important to me. (It’s OK if they are for you! This is just what I learned from my Whole30 journey.) On a side note, the discovery of cauliflower rice/riced cauliflower has been a game changer for me. It’s MUCH more expensive than real rice. But it’s super fast and super tasty. I do strongly disagree with anyone who thinks vegetable noodles are a substitute for pasta, though!
I was already low dairy due to my complete inability to use an entire half gallon of milk before it goes bad. Now I’ve moved away from the amount of cheese I was consuming. I know I have some mild dairy intolerance, so I really want to save that struggle for rare occasions with delicious ice cream rather than loading up on cheese dip, shredded cheese, blocks of cheese, etc. Let’s save the cheese indulgence for when it really counts.
I haven’t seen negative effects from adding soy back into my diet, but I have noted that my beloved peanut butter does not taste good to me anymore. I didn’t even like the mixed nut butter I used as a substitute during my 30 days. But afterward peanut butter is just…not good anymore. I used to have a spoonful of chunky peanut butter as a late night snack, but when I tried that the other day, I felt sick. I don’t know if it’s the sugar in it or some other additive, but I have been avoiding my peanut butter since ending my Whole30.
Since the Whole30 has you follow a meal template that’s largely protein and lots of vegetables, I’m very aware of the lack of vegetables in current meals now. I was at my parents’ house for dinner recently. They served grilled salmon, bread, and bruschetta (on more bread). I asked if I could make some green beans because I couldn’t handle my only vegetable being a scoop of bruschetta! (I also skipped out on all the bread, per my above takeaways.)
I’m also still naturally following the Whole30 template when I cook for myself. I’m less rigid about additives and added sugar in my ingredient labels, but nearly every meal I make for myself is Whole30 compliant. Furthermore, while I used to just heat up leftover chicken and call it dinner, now I make sure to add the carrots or vegetable item that will complete the meal.
I was thirsty all the time on the Whole30. I was tracking my water intake, and it was not at all difficult to get to the recommended water intake. Since moving out of the Whole30, I’ve tried to keep up that level of water intake, but it’s much harder for some reason. This is definitely one of those unexpected side effects. I have seen this mentioned on the forums, but I haven’t read up on why it happens.
Overall Food Health
I am more aware of my body’s response to foods, whether it be stomach upset or sluggishness. I identify not only the dreaded sluggish feeling that comes from some meals, but also identify what I ate that caused it. (Hint, it’s always sugar.) I don’t know that I ever got the famed “tiger blood” where you feel total mental acuity and energy. But I felt focused and well energized.
How Much Did I Lose?
I think this is what most people are looking for. Despite the repeated claims that Whole30 is not a weight loss program, many use it as such. And I won’t lie that weight loss was a hoped-for side effect.
Over the course of the Whole30 I lose 11.4 pounds. In addition, I lose 1.5 inches off my waist and 2 inches from my hips. You are not supposed to weigh yourself during the Whole30, nor are you supposed to track calories. But I logged my food in an app at the end of the day, and I could see that with the calories I was eating, the app estimated I would lose 1.5 pounds/week. Since the Whole30 is just over 4 weeks, I did lose more on the Whole30 than my app would expect from normal Calories In, Calories Out (CICO) tracking. However, I was coming off of an unhealthy vacation weekend with a good friend and a booze-filled funeral weekend when I started the Whole30. I believe those two factors could’ve contributed to bloat that inflated my starting weight. I’m not prepared to say that I lost more on the Whole30 than I would’ve with regular calorie counting.
I would do the Whole30 again. It’s a great way to evaluate what you’re putting into your body. I was shocked to discover how low of a priority food had been to me. By putting a lower value on food, I was feeding my body with more trash than I realized. I elevated the importance of food in my budget and for my body, which took some of the “chore” out of my much-hated grocery shopping. I learned to cook fun new foods (spaghetti squash!), started picking up whatever vegetables and fruit were on sale, and generally taught myself to skip the inner aisles of the grocery store.
That said, if you’re considering the Whole30 as a weight loss program, the Whole30 works best for abstainers. (See Gretchen Rubin’s discussion of abstainer vs. moderator.) I already know that I’m not much of a moderator. If you give me a pint of ice cream, I’ll eat the whole thing. To solve that lack of moderation, I don’t keep ice cream around. I abstain. The Whole30 didn’t force me to moderate my eating habits at all. It said I could have anything…within a list of foods. And that made it very simple for me. There were some rough points, going out to eat or eating with friends/family. But at home, it was so simple. Moderators (on the other hand) would probably be just as well served with a simple Calories In, Calories Out tracking model.
Have you done the Whole30? What did you learn?