Lessons Learned From Whole 30

Meet Rachel – my co-worker who began a journey with the ever-popular Whole 30 Diet.  If you are not familiar with Whole 30, it’s an elimination diet that promises life-changing results in as little as 30 days time.  The Whole 30 Diet calls for no dairy, no grains, no added sugar, no alcohol, and no legumes.  None.  At all.  For 30 days.  The idea is to then re-introduce potential problem-causing foods so that what you can eat is affecting you.  For more on Whole 30, check out their website at whole30.com.

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First a little about Rachel.  She’s an amazing single mother of three children who inspires me all the time with her talent, wit and positive attitude toward life.  Rachel and I both share a passion for food – especially farm-fresh food, farm-to-table cooking and restaurants and goal achievement through fitness and nutrition.  

Rachel and her boyfriend recently decided to try Whole 30 – beginning March 1st – and so I had the opportunity to interview her after 30 days on the program and 30 days following.  

Melissa:  What inspired you to try Whole 30?

Rachel:  My boyfriend was having frequent, almost debilitating heart burn and chest pain after eating certain foods. We weren’t sure of the cause, or if it was even food related. Maybe stress? We decided to try the Whole30 diet as a way to test if certain foods were the culprit.

Melissa:  What were the biggest changes you made going into Whole 30?

Rachel:  Knowing Whole30 was going to be a drastic shift in both how and what we ate, we started to eliminate, or at least cut down, on the toughest ones. I started drinking my coffee black, (no more cream and sugar!) and he cut back on sugar and bread products. When we implemented the Whole30 plan, we followed it as close to the letter as we could…with no cheats; even making all our own condiments and dressings. I’d love to say that starting early made the full month of Whole30 easier, but it was still an enormous adjustment.  The other huge adjustment was getting used to—and making time for—eating three meals a day. Both of us were used to eating maybe twice a day and skipping meals if our schedules were too busy.

Melissa:  What did you miss the most during the first 30 days?

Rachel:  Personally, I really missed sugar and chocolate. Like, REALLY missed them. In everything I read about the Whole30, people would say that those sugar cravings go away about the second week and then you never really think about sugar. That was a total lie. I thought about sugar every minute! My boyfriend missed bread the most; crunchy toast, bagels, and rolls. The other thing I missed was the convenience of the way I used to eat. On Whole30, there is no such thing as “convenient” food. You have to think about, shop for, prepare your meals and snacks, and bring them with you—at least if you want to follow the plan as it’s laid out.  Which was particularly challenging when I traveled for work. In my laptop carryon was an enormous bag of Whole30 approved protein bars, carrot sticks, pea pods, and cut fruit. It looked like I was traveling with a toddler again. 

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Melissa:  What were the biggest lessons you learned from Whole 30?

Rachel: 

  • That the foods that made us the sickest, were the ones we craved and missed the most. We discovered that gluten and oats really make my boyfriend sick, and that most of my previous diet consisted of sugar.
  • In the beginning, you can’t trust your body to tell you what it needs. You have to eat when you don’t feel hungry, or stop eating before you feel full, until your body adjusts to running on clean, healthy food. Both of us were not very hungry at the beginning of the program, but it’s imperative to not skip meals because your body needs the fuel, even if your stomach “feels” full.
  • There is sugar in everything. Absolutely everything. And it’s very often added into products, not because it’s needed, but because it makes people want to eat more. I am diligent about reading labels now and buying products that don’t contain added sugar. Except BBQ sauce. BBQ sauce definitely needs some sugar. 
  • That our food choices were really responsible for how poorly we had been feeling, when we were previously quick to chock it up to stress, lack of sleep, or a busy schedule. When we started eating three meals a day, primarily healthy meats, veggies, and fruits, we both felt better, had more energy as a whole, and our stomachs rarely hurt. 

Melissa:  Did you lose weight during Whole 30?

Rachel:  Yes. I think weight loss is an inevitable part of following the Whole30 plan, and was an ancillary benefit to why we began this journey. We each lost eight pounds, my boyfriend is now at his high school graduation weight! What I found interesting is that I still lost weight while eating the most food I’ve ever consumed in a month. When you eat food that your body can actually use, instead of the many empty carbs people typically put into it, you can eat a lot and still lose weight. 

Melissa:  What were the lasting changes you made since completing the Whole30?

Rachel:  I still drink my coffee black, preferring to use my sugar intake for a dessert once or twice a week. We also both eat three meals a day because that’s when we feel the best and it gives us the energy we need for the full day (not just until 3 pm, when we used to crash). My boyfriend has realized he needs to live a gluten-free life, which has been more of a mental challenge than anything. He admitted to me that didn’t believe that food (let alone gluten) would ever make him that sick, but after eating a few meals with gluten since our Whole30 ended, and enduring the ensuing sickness it provoked, he’s sold. (Plus we discovered his favorite pizza place has gluten free crust! SCORE!) We are almost two months post Whole30 and we’ve both kept the weight off, simply by continuing to eat healthy meals. It’s really changed our lives. 

Melissa:  What advice would you give someone contemplating this diet?

Rachel: 

  • Don’t do it for the sole purpose of losing weight. This is definitely not a weight loss plan. It’s all about understanding your body, what foods make it feel great, and what foods don’t. Then adjusting your diet to achieve optimal health for yourself. It’s different for everyone.
  • Make sure you have enough time to do the meal prep and research. If you want to be successful, do not underestimate the time required to plan, shop, cook, prep your meals and snacks. It’s a lot, but it’s completely worth it for the answers.
  • Go big, or go home. If you are going to go through Whole30, then do it all the way, just as they prescribe in the book. Don’t cheat. Don’t miss a day. Then you really will know a lot about yourself and how your body (and mind!) react to food choices and where your pitfalls are. Then you can make lasting changes. 

Melissa: Are you glad you did Whole 30?

Rachel:  Absolutely. The information you learn about yourself, your cravings, and what foods your body needs to work best is invaluable.  

*Note: It is recommended that you consult your physician before starting any diet, especially an elimination diet like Whole 30.  

Other Great Blogs

Speaking of my co-workers, let me introduce you to Tina Haupert, who writes the famous Carrots N Cake blog.  Tina and I worked together a few years ago, and I still love checking in with her daily.  One of my favorite posts lately?  Shorts That Don’t Suck!  Yes, Tina always knows the perfect topic for minds, bodies, and strong thighs like mine!  Here comes summer (finally) and if you are in the market for new shorts, be sure to read Tina’s recommendations.