Sharing is caring, so here’s a glimpse into my thoughts post-Whole30. What I liked, what I didn’t, and some of my favorite Whole30-approved recipes to make!
It’s been a little while since I reached the end of my Whole30 journey. I needed more time to gather my thoughts before I could share my experience with you. Now, though, I feel ready.
Back in the beginning of August, I shared my intentions. For thirty days I would cut out all added sugar, dairy, legumes, grain, and alcohol. My diet was to consist of fruit, vegetables, and animal proteins like eggs, meat, poultry, and fish. Would this help me? Could I really commit? Or would I have a bad day and decide that, you know what, it had been a bad day and to hell with this insanity?
Let’s take it one step at a time.
While my diet was definitely more restricted, I wasn’t at a total loss for what to eat. One of the last chapters of It Starts With Food discusses how to do Whole30 for special diets, such as vegan or nightshade-free. All I could think when I read that was “man, I’m SO glad that’s not me.” My eating habits didn’t actually need to undergo such a drastic change to fit the program’s protocol.
Even though I already ate large quantities of produce, suddenly I was eating even more fruits and vegetables than before. Planning meals at the beginning of the week helped a lot, so that I didn’t just eat the same salad on repeat. And because I couldn’t have things like yogurt and oatmeal, breakfast tended to be more savory than usual.
Discovering new recipes and dishes that I could make was both challenging and enlightening. It forced me to be more creative in the kitchen so that I didn’t get bored of my meals. I even found some recipes that I still eat, even though I can have the non-Whole30-compliant versions.
Another thing that I really liked about doing Whole30 is that it reset my sweet tooth. Not that I was having candy or sugary foods anyway, but there was certainly plenty of baking going on in the kitchen and I was having at least a little of it all. Instead of having that piece of chocolate, though, I reached for a handful of nuts or baby carrots. My body seems to do better when I eat more healthy fats, and I continue to eat that way now. Incorporating more of these fats into meals also keeps me full for longer, and snacking only happens occasionally now.
In addition to paying more attention to what I was eating, Whole30 helped me become more aware of how I was eating. Meals used to be multitasking events in my day. Particularly during school or work, my attention was divided between whatever assignment had to be done and delivering food to my mouth without spilling. The Hartwigs emphasize the importance of spending even just 15 minutes simply eating at a table, putting down everything else and being fully present for your meal. Doing this significantly increased my relaxation and appreciation of the food that’s nourishing my body. I could concentrate better when returning to work afterward, because of this small break. Dedicating time for meals impacted me more than anything else.
Let me tell you, it’s hard. I literally went through a dozen eggs a week by myself, which I’ve never done before. Even switching up the ways they’re cooked, you can only eat eggs so many times before getting sick of them.
Mentally getting the hang of the Whole30 game plan is only part of the equation. Reading about the affects the dietary shift will have on your body does nothing to truly prepare you. For the first two and a half weeks or so, I felt tired, bloated, constipated, and a tad cranky to boot. It took (thankfully) only about a week to figure out how much to eat at meals so that I didn’t need to snack in between. The days that I didn’t get enough fuel, though, were not fun times to be around.
Complying with the fine print was, I think, the biggest challenge. Grocery shopping took way longer because I needed to scrutinize ingredient labels more than I usually did. Oftentimes I needed to search Google just to see if something was allowed on Whole30. Things like carageenans suddenly came to the forefront of my attention. There’s a list of Whole30-approved brands and products online, but many things aren’t at your average grocery store. I think it’s worth it to do your due diligence and read the labels. No reason to restrict yourself even more than necessary.
Socializing also got infinitely tougher. I’m already kind of an awkward person. Bringing my own food to lunch or dinner with people who didn’t know me too well certainly didn’t help my situation. Admittedly, I turned down a few outings purely because I wasn’t up for dealing with the questions people were sure to ask. Traveling to San Diego was easier than I anticipated, but it still wasn’t easy to say no to trying the local fare.
Truthfully, if I read all of this on someone else’s blog, I would most likely still do Whole30. The challenge it poses is too tempting for me to turn down. Now that I’ve been there, done that, there’s a different tune playing in my head.
August 31st was an exciting and proud day, marking the accomplishment of a big goal. Except it was tinged by unforeseen frustrations. My long struggle with digestive issues still persists. During the last week or so of the program there was some improvement, but I’m not totally sold that it’s attributable to this. That’s also exactly when the disruption of traveling ended, which in past experience is a period of relative ease for my body.
In the ensuing ten day reintroduction phase, I had high hopes of discovering a food intolerance. As much as it would stink, at least there would be a sustainable course of action for me to take, which is way better than where I’ve been at for the last several years. Those hopes came tumbling down almost immediately. Here’s a quick snapshot for you.
- Reintroduction Day 1: Eat legumes. Okay, let’s see…. what legumes do I have on hand? Obviously peanut butter (4 jars to be exact). Oh, and some frozen peas. Well, I guess that covers it.
- Proceeds to eat legumes at each meal that day.
- Reintroduction Days 2-3: Hmmm, nothing seems to hurt. Guess my body can tolerate legumes after all.
In case you missed it, I ate only two legumes as an intolerance test. Compared to the variety of legumes I actually eat, that’s nothing. Now, though, I have no idea how to pinpoint exactly which, if any, are the root of my problems, and it’s like that for every category that Whole30 eliminates. Unless I take out a list of foods and then bring each one back individually, this seems like a failed discovery process, putting me right back at square one.
What I disliked most, though, was the mental affect. One of the main tenets of Whole30 is that it helps you develop a healthier relationship to food. For some that may be true, but I went in the opposite direction. All of my former obsessive tendencies regarding everything I put into my body came back, rearing their ugly heads. It’s not surprising, what with all the minute details to keep track of. Then again, hindsight is 20/20.
The intense focus on labeling foods as either good or bad is enough to erase Whole30’s appeal for me. I do see the value in understanding how what we eat affects our bodies and applying that knowledge in dietary choices. If you have a legitimate intolerance, then certainly don’t eat that food. But the orthorexic tendencies the program seemed to encourage make me uncomfortable. Next time I want to get ‘back on track’, I’ll probably choose to do sugar detox instead, without depriving my body of the benefits of things like whole grains, legumes, and probiotic-filled yogurts.
Some favorite whole30 meals
- Tigernut Pancakes — I made these several times. You can easily change up the flavors just by substituting whatever spices you want!
- Chai Chia Rice Pudding by Addicted to Lovely– This totally made up for the lack of a hot bowl of oats in the morning.
- Kale Citrus Berry Salad— Fruity and light, this salad is a crowd-pleaser.
- Sunbutter Thai Cabbage Slaw— Good for the nut-free among us (and everyone else, if they’ll share).
- Spaghetti Squash Frittata by Fit Mitten Kitchen– I made some alterations to this, but it’s perfect for any meal, and makes good leftovers.
- Sweet Potato Protein Bowl by Fit Mitten Kitchen– Loved the simplicity of this breakfast bowl.
- Slow Cooker Matcha Coconut Curry— All right, so I didn’t make this while on Whole30, but it’s compliant and downright amazing, if I do say so myself.
- Balsamic Herbed Chicken— When there were busy weeks, this chicken is a lifesaver.
In the end, repeating Whole30 isn’t high (or even written) on my list of things to do. As always, though, it’s important to evaluate what works best for you, both mentally and physically. This is my experience with the program, and like I said, it definitely has its positives and negatives. If you’re thinking about doing a Whole30 journey of your own, do the research first. Get to know the why so that you can better understand the what and how. Good luck!
If you make any of these recipes, or have your own Whole30 experiences/thoughts/questions, I’d love to hear from you!