So yes, this is going to be a post about my journey through whole 30. I recognize there are approximately 7 billion such blog posts, but this was a pretty radical 30 days for me, and I’m going to share it.
First of all, I jumped into this without reading much about it. My best friend and her partner decided to do it and I said, “well hell I’ll do that”! Then my daughter and her fiancé decided to join in, and I felt the strength of solidarity! I did the most basic of google searches and started my 30 days without much prep. Mistake. That being said, I did follow the plan to a T, from day one.
If you aren’t familiar with Whole 30, the basic rules are: no dairy, no sugar (of any kind, no natural sweeteners, no artificial sweeteners), no grains, and no alcohol. I went off the very basic principal of eating mostly veggies, a piece of protein roughly the size of my hand, and some fat at every meal. Three meals a day, no snacking (NO SNACKING!).
Because I started off without a cookbook, or much of a plan, I ate pretty simply. Chicken breast cooked with a little olive oil or coconut oil, seasonings (check that label for sugar!), steamed veggies (I started off with mostly broccoli, cauliflower, some beets and sweet potatoes). And avocados. ALL the avocados. I have never been a breakfast person so the hardest part the first couple of days was forcing myself to eat eggs every morning. A) I don’t like eggs that much and b) food before 10 am felt awful. But it was important to me to follow this plan as directed and breakfast was important.
There is a calendar online that gives you an idea of what to expect emotionally, each of the 30 days. It is pretty dead on. On day 4 I had the most epic of meltdowns, sobbing into my 17 year old sons shoulder after I got snippy with him “I’m sorry I got grouchy with you, this sugar withdrawal is making me so angry and SAD”.. to which he replied “how long does this stage last?” That wasn’t a great day.
By day 7 I just slept. Every moment I wasn’t cooking, eating, working, or at the gym I was asleep. For 48 hours. The sleepiness would continue for me most of this month.
The rest of the month was pretty uneventful but I learned a lot about my eating habits and found some really interesting results.
The most noticeable and shocking result for me was my moods leveled out. If you know me, you know I’m a very emotional person. Through the course of a day I can go from ecstatically happy and thankful, to very darkly depressed. Sometimes more than once. I would say I probably run towards a certain level of chronic depression, that I manage with sheer will and a deep fear of medications. (I do not advise treating depression this way, at all. See a doctor, use meds if they help you, I am a cautionary tale…). About 20 days into this experiment, I realized I hand’t had a crying jag in about a week. In fact, over the course of 30 days I had 2 meltdowns. I can’t even begin to tell you what a difference this was, going from having the SADS 3-4 days a week to twice in 30 days. That is the most astonishing, yet logically not surprising, effect.
The second most eye opening realization I had, was how much sugar I was actually ingesting in a single day. Now, I considered myself to be a fairly healthy eater. I eat pretty lean. I eat pretty healthy. But I was eating way, way, way too much sugar. Every morning at work I was having at least three cups of coffee, two creamers in each. Thats 30 grams of sugar, before I ever had a morsel of food. Add to that the 2-3 pieces of chocolate I was having at work every day (my boss keeps a bowl of mini snickers, rolos, etc. in her office), thats another 10 or so grams of sugar. Then there were the donuts, chips, cookies, etc. that were in the office almost constantly. A bite here and there never felt like a big deal, but it added up. In fact in the 1.5 years at my new job I gained 10 lbs despite working out more than I ever had. Cutting out sugar was by far the hardest part of this challenge, but the stabilization of my moods and the effects on my sleep patterns showed me how badly I needed to make this change.
I had no problem at all giving up dairy or grains. Neither of those are a big part of my diet. I do enjoy granola sometimes and I missed seeds and crunchy textures, and even the occasional piece of manchego. This was not a hardship for me at all.
The biggie: Alcohol. This is the one I was most worried about but was actually pretty easy to let go of. I would say my alcohol consumption amongst my friends group is pretty normal. A couple glasses of wine during the week. Cocktails or beers out with friends once or twice a week. A few fingers of bourbon with a movie on Saturday night. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Prior to Whole 30 I was tracking my calories. I always made sure that between my meals, and my workouts, I was leaving room for alcohol calories. How big of a difference could it make if I kept my calorie count low? Well, typing that out it sounds ludicrous. But thats how I was eating. Calories under 1000 per day, workouts shaving off another 200-300, and making that up with a couple glasses of whatever. So basically I was under eating, and making up most of my calorie count with sugar and alcohol. Geee, its hard to fathom why I’ve only continued to gain weight despite working out more and more and more.
Sadly, it took a 30 day reset, eating completely differently and cutting out the sources of my bad calories to make me see how UNHEALTHY I was being.
So one would make a conclusion that 30 days of eating really healthy, and cutting out sugar and booze that I’d drop 20 lbs and be back at my goal weight.
WRONG. So the result after 30 days was a 9 lb. weight drop and two inches off around my middle. Not bad.
For a little bit I felt pissed off, that after all that work the payoff felt so small. And then I started writing out my thoughts and taking a hard look at this journey as a whole, and the payoff hasn’t been in the numbers. Its in the way I feel.
I don’t want to murder anyone or cry myself silly all the time. I’ve identified something I was in massive denial of: my eating habits instilled in me as a pre-teen were still alive and well 3 decades later. Depriving my body of nutrients was not going to work in my 40s as it did in every other decade. My body is NOT having it. I have to change my approach to food. I have to fuel my body. I have to not be scared of food. I’ts neither a punishment, or a reward. It’s just fuel. The end. I can’t say I’m there. It’s hard to undo so many years of self abuse through diet, but it’s starting to shift. I see it and I feel it, and hopefully at some point my body will respond and learn to burn fat efficiently, we aren’t quite there yet.
Here are a few more notes from this experiment: My kitchen has been dirty for 30 days. Even if I do a deep clean, as soon as its time to prep the next meal/meals, its a mess again. By day 22 I gave up. Its just a total wreck.
During Whole 30 I kept going to the gym 4-5 days a week. Between that, food prep, clean up, grocery and actual eating, the only thing I had time for other than work was sleep. I slept a LOT. (side note, I sleep so much better now). I don’t know how people do this with small children or a social life or a partner. I had almost no time for any of that.
I’d like to continue to eat this way a majority of the time. The food prep, constant state of readiness to have meals to take to work, pre-work out fuel, post workout fuel, dinners… I think with time it will get easier. And knowing that here and there I can go out for tacos or pizza to break the monotony will help make it that much more achievable.
And dear lord, the occasional glass of wine with friends. THAT, I missed.