Why secretly? I'm not really sure. I tend to get obsessive about things like this, and I think I was afraid that if I told people I was doing it I wouldn't be able to talk about anything else. And let's be honest, the only thing worse than someone not eating carbs for 30 days is having to listen to them talk about not eating carbs for 30 days.
So why kind-of-secretly? Well, the day before I started I found out that one of my friends was currently doing Whole30 and, naturally, I immedietely yelled "OMG I'M STARTING IT TOMORROW!"
And then we all watched my "secret" fly out the window.
But look, other than that episode, I tried to be cool about it. Or at least as cool as I could possibly be (which is not that cool at all but I'm trying my best okay?) while also explaining to people why I wasn't drinking. And honestly? I think not making it a big deal actually helped me get through it in some weird way.
I know there are a million and one Whole30 recaps out there (for real. I relied on them pretty heavily), but I think everyone's experience is different so I thought sharing mine could be helpful.
This is pretty long, so if you need a tl;dr, here it is:
- Overall, I felt consistently good!
- I ate more vegetables
- Got a little more creative in the kitchen
- Proved to myself that I could stick to something like this
- Slept better + no crashes during the day
- It was easy to get bored
- I found myself being pretty anti-social
- SO MUCH MEAT
- My workouts sucked
- I missed wine
- I didn't feel AS awesome as I thought I would
- I maybe gained weight?
BUT MANSEE, WHY DID YOU DO THIS??
Solid question. I don't really have a specific reason why I decided to do this. About a year ago I attempted Whole30 and, due to a myriad of reasons, gave up around day 10. I didn't really feel that bad about it, and at that time decided it just wasn't for me. But over the past few months, I've gone through some career and life changes, and found myself thinking and worrying about a lot of things that I thought were out of my control which was making me feel absolutely crazy. Somewhere along the line I decided I needed to bring a little more control back into my life and decided this was the way to do it.
While this is meant to be more health-focused, the only health-related issue I was curious about was my daily headache problem. I figured if I found out they were caused by something I was eating, that would be an easy fix (second spoiler alert: still headache-y).
Other than that, my main goals were:
- Reset/eat more vegetables
- Stop eating sugar every day
- Challenge myself in the kitchen/cook new things!
It was definitely a challenge and I managed to drive myself into a new state of crazy a few times, but I don't regret it!
GREAT, SO LET'S BREAK THIS DOWN
Okay, so by now I assume most people know what Whole30 is but if you don't this is a good little crash course.
Essentially, you cut out a whole bunch of foods for 30 days to kind of reset your body. Then you slowly reintroduce (spoiler alert: I failed at this) these foods to see if your body reacts negatively to anything. It's meant for people who maybe think they have some allergies and/or intolerances to certain food but can't really pinpoint the real issue.
If there is one thing you take from this, let it be this: PREPARE YOURSELF. Everyone's body reacts differently to diet changes, but mentally I think we're more similar than we think. It's hard to break habits, and if you don't plan ahead it'll be far too easy to revert back to your old ways - especially in those first few days.
The biggest mistake I made was thinking I needed to eat a ton of meat to be full. I eat everything, but by nature gravitate towards a more seafood and vegetable-heavy diet (especially as I get older). I like meat and happily eat it, just not all the time. So adding so much more meat into my diet ended up making me feel kind of gross, so much so that I actually ate barely any the last few days. However, if you're someone who really enjoys eating meat with every meal then you'll definitely have an easier time.
As mentioned above, one of my main goals was to eat more vegetables. I already eat a good amount, but I really wanted MORE. I especially wanted to force myself to cook vegetables in new and interesting ways, as I tend to get in ruts and do the same thing over and over again (strange for a food blogger, I know!).
SO WHAT DID YOU EAT?!
I ate a lot of great meals + some really random things, but here are a few examples:
- Sauted kale (or any type of greens), chicken sausage, fried egg
- Scrambled eggs with hot sauce and avocado
- Frittatas (minus the cheese!)
- Huge salads
- Roasted sweet potato rounds topped with chicken salad
- Soup (like this spicy roasted cauliflower one)
- Roasted chicken + vegetables
- Pan-seared steak + roasted potatoes
- Salmon and kale salad (<--I did version of that without the cheese, and usually made a more compliant dressing)
- Cauliflower fried rice
- Ratatouille (recipe coming soon-ish!)
(Cooking for one = a whole lot of leftovers.)
As you can see, there was nothing really special. I had the time to cook so I just made sure to keep ingredients on hand so I would always have something at my fingertips when I got hungry. And even though I didn't end up making a ton of new, fancy recipes I did spend A LOT of time looking for inspiration. I was (and still am) pretty obsessed with the Whole30 Recipes IG and found a lot of fun stuff through that.
In general, I found that I could tweak a lot of my normal recipes and make them Whole30 compliant, so that worked out really well. If you're not comfortable in the kitchen, I would suggest spending some time each weekend making a plan. Pick a few recipes you want to try, make a big trip to the store and do some meal prep to get you started. This is especially important if you work in an office and need to take lunch/snacks with you.
Speaking of snacks! I found that I actually didn't feel as snack-y as usual while on Whole30, but it's definitely a good idea to keep some things on hand. I relied on raw vegetables + a dip like this green onion one (<-- SO GOOD!) and hard boiled eggs.
To be fair, it was easier for me because I could avoid the temptation. I didn't have to go out a ton for like work events or anything so I was rarely surrounded by food I couldn't eat. The downside was that I was really anti-social during this time, and while I'm normally a big fan of me-time, I did miss going out a little. When I did go out, I made it work though - and that's how I found myself drinking a kombucha at bar ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The only time I almost broke was when I went apple picking with my friends and couldn't eat or drink all the apple goodies. Was it a bummer? Yes. Was it the end of the world? Nope. But you best believe I'm going to lose my mind next time I go apple picking - those warm apple cider donuts are MINE.
The only other challenge I came across was (wait for it) THIS BLOG! About 90% of the food I cooked was Whole30 compliant, but I had a few things I wanted to work on that weren't. For instance, after I came back from apple picking with 20 lbs of apples it felt necessary to bake a pie. I mean, duh. So I did. And then I immediately froze it. Womp womp. I was also sharing recipes that I had cooked weeks before so having to write about them and look at the photos was like a punch in the gut...but obviously not that big of a deal.
HOW DID/DO YOU FEEL?
I just spit up a thousand words about Whole30, but what I can't really put into words is how I feel about it. SO WEIRD.
During the 30 days I was all over the place. Some days I felt seriously awesome, and others I felt kind of gross. They have this "official timeline" that will give you a sense of how you'll feel day to day, and week to week. I read it no less than 25 times before starting to prepare myself, but my experience was much less dramatic. I didn't get super cranky, I never wanted to hurt anyone and I never had "boundless" energy.
With that said, I DID notice that I slept better at night and never felt like I needed a nap in the middle of the day. My skin definitely looked better and I, overall, just felt....good. There's really no other way to describe it. I didn't feel like a super hero or anything, but I felt GOOD.
Whole30 is not meant to be a weight loss solution, but many people do end up dropping a few pounds. This was NOT the case for me, and while I didn't go into it wanting to lose a bunch a weight I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little annoyed. In fact, on some days I actually felt like I had GAINED weight?? On top of that, my workouts were so bad! While I had good energy levels throughout the day, I could barely get through a workout (A lot of people say their workouts get better with Whole 30. Leave it to me to ruin that) without feeling like I was going to die.
So that was the physical stuff. Like I said earlier, a lot of this is mental which is a whole other beast. When you're used to eating a certain way, it can be hard to change that. So even if your body is feeling/looking better and you KNOW that is because you haven't had pasta or dairy or sugar in a couple of weeks, mentally you might still struggle with making good decisions.
Like most things, it gets easier as time goes on, but as this program was never meant to be something you do for life I actually found that I never truly adjusted to it...if that makes sense? I think it was easy enough to follow because I knew it would be over soon enough. That's key, guys. Whenever you feel like you want to give up just remember that it isn't forever! The food will still be there when you're done! I promise!
Lastly, I should mention that I completely failed at the reintroduction phase. If you do it correctly, this ends up being more of a Whole40. I meant to do it, but then accidentally-on-purpose went out to dinner and ate all the chips and salsa and drank all the margaritas. WHOOPS.
SO WILL YOU DO IT AGAIN?
Yea, I think so. Maybe not for 30 days since I don't have any allergies or intolerances, but I wouldn't mind a quick Whole 15 if I feel like I need it.
At the end of the day, I totally get why people love this program and I think it has some really, really good benefits if you do it correctly. It's not perfect for me, but I could see myself dabbling back in from time to time when I want the challenge/find myself turning into a sugar monster again.
MANSEE, YOU HAVE TO STOP. THIS IS SO LONG.
I know, I'm sorry! I don't know what happened, but I just couldn't stop myself. HALP.
If there's anything I didn't cover here, or if you have a question about something specific just let me know and I'll shoot you an answer!