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11 Things I Learned from the Whole30 Diet Challenge

Before I get into what I learned, I should probably give you a rundown of what is Whole 30 and why I did it.

What is the Whole30

The whole 30 involves spending 30 days eating a diet that is free from dairy, gluten, grains, sugar, alcohol, peanuts, legumes, soy. So you pretty much eat meat, vegetables, some fruit, coconut, and nuts.

There are some additional practices in how you approach your eating for the month, like limited snacking and sitting down for every meal.

 

Why I did the Whole30

My initial answer is I did it because my friend asked me to and I wanted to support her in it. However, that decision came secondary to the past year I’ve spent thinking about my eating habits.

I carb load and snack all day erry day. I know this isn’t a healthy way to treat my body but I’ve ignored this for many years.

As my own mother’s health is deteriorating I am becoming more anxious to protect myself from a similar road, and I know nutrition has to be a part of that.

 

What I ate on the Whole 30

 I kept track of how I was feeling each day and what I was eating. Here is a link to the meals I had for the 30 days.

 

How I felt doing the Whole30

I was excited for the first week but I didn’t feel ‘healthier’ at any point. In fact, my bowels were upset most of the month.

About 15 days in I got sick, my kids got sick, I was up many nights with them and became borderline miserable.

I wanted to quit from day 15-day 25. Every day I would talk myself into seeing it through, but the fatigue and head cold were really destroying my willpower.

I saw it through and by day 26 I was almost excited about the whole experience and could really envision how I could integrate whole30 into my everyday life.

Around day 12 I did notice something pretty great. I didn’t have the afternoon slump and I didn’t feel as groggy in the mornings. I think a big factor to this change is fueling up on proteins in the morning and avoiding the late-night snack.

 

My big takeaways from doing the Whole30

1. Protein for breakfast can change my whole day

One of the biggest changes to my diet in the whole 30 was my breakfast. I prefer sweet to savoury and bready to meaty when it comes to my first meal of the day. BUT as I just went through the motions and ate eggs with vegetables and meat, morning after morning, I came to see that the difference I felt for the rest of the day was worth it. I was less snacky and groggy.

This is something I have kept up with since I finished the Whole 30, and our regular waffle/pancake fest (which was at least a 3-4 times a week) is now a special thing for just weekends and I still try to make sure there is an egg with it too #gottahavemywaffles

 

2. Less snacking won’t leave me starving

This was a huge change I wouldn’t have chosen to make if not for the whole 30. I always thought snacking was so healthy for you and you can find my purse loaded with snacks anytime I’m away from my home.

As I fueled up on my meals I found I was less hungry for a snack. I’m no nutrition specialist but I think giving your body a break from being in constant digestion mode is a healthy thing. It would make sense to me that less snacking allows the digestive cycle to complete itself, instead of being constantly bombarded with food.

 

3. Protein snacks help prevent the crash and burn

When I did need a snack I was now limited to what I could have and I relied on handfuls of nuts or meat. Before I would snack on a granola bar, or apple, or muffin – something that would spike my blood sugar and make me feel even worse later.

I noticed a big difference in mood and satiety when sticking with a protein snack when I needed a snack.

 

4. Listening to my body for hunger and fullness cues is a skill I need to learn

This is something that is new to me. Over the past few years I’ve been trying to listen more to my body in terms of my moods, my cycle, where I’m tense and why. But I don’t think I’ve been listening to how much to eat to the point of relieving hunger but not overfilling myself

In the Whole 30 you can eat all you want during a meal because it is all healthy food. The goal is to eat enough to get  you to the next meal, without overdoing it. Turns out this is something I can’t do well and now, weeks after the Whole 30, I am still working on it.

 

5. I changed my routine when I gave up the late-night indulgences

Before the whole30 I had developed a solid nighttime ritual of netflix, a glass of wine and a little bowl of snacks – like potato chips, cheese and pickles.

Now without this ritual, I was getting restless and looking for new ways to unwind. Like, maybe eating a bowl of meatballs while watching Downton Abbey in a hot bath. Eventually, I just got sick of drinking tea and not being able to snack and I started going to bed earlier. I felt better for this change and I was much more pleasant in the morning. Now the wine and #platterofemotions are on reserve for special times….like Fridays.

 

6. It is possible to fall in love with vegetables when you put in the effort

Before the whole30 I would keep track of my meals for a few weeks and realize the stark absence of vegetables in my diet. I like vegetables but I had lost my oomph to put the work into them and make them something I would be excited to eat.

Over the month I really became inspired by vegetables and fell in love with them. I mean, waffles will always reserve the biggest space in my heart, but I’m making room for cauliflower and zucchini now too. 

It is worth spending the time to look up recipes and try new ways of prepping veggies to find new and delicious ways to enjoy them

 


7. The upfront cost of health is something to consider

Eating whole30 for a month shows the upfront cost of investing in your health. Like spending $19 on cashews instead of $7 on granola bars. Whole30 really relies on meat and nuts for protein and it can get really expensive. 

Part of me struggled with the cost of groceries for the month but I just kept reminding myself that this month was a luxury many can’t afford and I should be grateful for the chance to do it and be open to learning.

After finishing the month I want to keep eating whole30, but it will be a lot of working out how to budget everything into the family grocery money and deciding what is worth the investment. 

 

8. All or nothing change is what I needed to really commit to this 30 days

I had tried to change my eating habits over the past couple years but nothing lasted. Doing an intensive, nonnegotiable challenge like this was exactly what I needed.

I had to do it all or nothing to really pay attention to the habits and relationship I had made with food. I had to have no way out, and deny myself permission to let things slide (except for the gin my husband poured me on Day 24 after an epically painful day of parenting #noregrets)

 

9. I noticed how often I eat what I ‘feel like’ rather than what I have or what will make me healthier

During the month I ate a lot of foods I wasn’t excited about eating and maybe didn’t even really enjoy that much. (Probably how my kids feel about every dinner their mother makes them (eye roll)).

Buuuut eating for health helped me to see what an indulgent way of approaching food that ‘eat what I feel like’ mindset can be. 

I think it is probably a very modern practice of our culture to design a meal plan for the week based on what you enjoy or ‘feel like’ rather than what you have on hand. Not to say that food can be made into something enjoyable, no matter what it is, but more that we can’t really live our life ‘eating what we feel like’. 

 


10. Stress causes cravings, so I need some new coping strategies that aren’t food and drink

Since I became a mom I have relied on food/drink to be my reward for getting through the day. Becoming a mom really helped me understand how emotional eating can root itself into your lifestyle and thought processes.

As I tracked how I was feeling each day I noticed that I craved chocolate whenever something stressful was going on. Without the crutch of food I was having to work through my stressful days in other ways, like lots of prayer and ugly crying in the tub. Cue the meatballs and Downton Abbey!

 

11. There is no ‘perfect’ dietary solution, I need to decide for myself

About halfway through the month, I read an article picking apart the whole30. 

I was also reading through the whole30 book ‘It starts with food’ and felt like it found flaws with every food from the eliminated category – I didn’t see how I could ever eat them again!

Then someone told me all about keto (where you fuel your body on fat with limited carbs) and I wondered if this was a better way.

Then there is the paleo approach, and the vegans, and fermented foods only, and AIP which I ‘should’ do cause I have an autoimmune disease, and is atkins still a thing?

I got really overwhelmed with how many approaches seem to be ‘the answer’ to our modern health problems. As I phased out of the whole30 I decided to just really focus on eating less bread, more vegetables and protein with every meal and this is the only guideline my brain really has room for at this point.

 

All in all, I am so happy I did the whole30. I know it isn’t for everyone and that it is hard to make your permanent lifestyle but it helped me to stop and pay attention to my relationship with food.

It helped me to see what my habits were when I could no longer rely on them. It helped me to appreciate making food that will make me healthier in the long run.

 

Woman eating breakfast bowl with text overlay: 11 Things I Learned from the Whole30 Diet Challenge

 

 

 

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