What I Learned from My Whole30 Experience

I first saw mention of Whole30 on Instagram as two bloggers I follow—Style Activist and Grit and Glamour—commenced the program a few months ago. From there I was led to the Grit and Glamour blog, where I read more about V’s experience with the program; what resonated with me most was that she too struggled with eczema issues and that Whole30 had helped tremendously with that. She also touted better rest and more energy—and as someone who almost always felt tired and drained, I was pretty much sold.

So what is Whole30? In a nutshell, it is a 30-day food program designed to detox your body, and help get rid of food cravings and addictions to things like sugar and processed foods. While on Whole30 you are encouraged to eat only “whole” foods that are produced in nature. The Whole9 way of eating—from which Whole30 is derived—has been likened to the paleo or “Caveman” diet, which consists of eating mainly proteins (meat and fish), fruits and veggies. I already maintain a pescatarian relationship with food (or a lacto-ovo vegetarian one, depending on who you’re talking to), meaning that I don’t consume any meat—just some fish and seafood, along with eggs, fruits, veggies, etc. While the two food lifestyles are very different, I’m no stranger to restricted eating, so again I figured—I can do this.

For the best level of detail about the Whole9 lifestyle and Whole30 program, I’d really recommend checking out the Whole9 website; having done it just once, I’m certainly not an expert. But here’s what you need to know for the purposes of this post: While on the Whole30 program I could NOT consume any sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes (this includes soy) or dairy. But I could enjoy as much meat (ha!), fruits, veggies and nuts as I wanted. After checking out the site’s resources on doing this program safely as a vegetarian and without soy, I got busy! 

And I loved the program. I won’t pretend it wasn’t difficult to have to pre-plan and cook every single meal at home because it was hard as hell, especially because The Kid would have nothing to do with this “crazy thing Mom was doing”, which meant preparing for two sets of meals per day. I won’t pretend it wasn’t difficult finding substitutes for the ridiculous amounts of food on our grocery store shelves that contain trace amounts of sugar, beans, peanuts or soy—because it was hard as hell. But I digress. There are, thankfully, tons of resources on how to remain compliant to the program, and they helped a ton.

Here’s what I gained:

Clear skin. My raised, itchy eczema patches had already begun to flatten and fade by day 4 of the program. The skin on my face developed the most awesome glow, and the skin on my body was ridiculously soft. It’s always soft because, you know, I’m a woman and I like moisturizers and things—but this was on a whole ‘nother level (pun intended).

Flatter stomach. Also by day 4, my tummy had already begun to flatten and to look and feel less bloated. This continued throughout the duration of the program.

Better rest/more energy. By day 5, I was sleeping literally like a rock. It seemed like my body started to regulate itself by the exact amount of rest I needed. Around 9:30 or 10pm every night, I would start to crash; my mind and body would seriously, just shut down on me and I had to sleep. The next morning, I was up at 6am like clockwork (and the kind of funny thing is that I couldn’t drag myself out of bed before 6am). I didn’t drink any coffee during the program because I do not enjoy the taste of black coffee at. all. Each morning I had 4 oz of Kombucha and a bag of Yogi perfect energy tea, and that was all I needed (if, in fact, I really need them either).

More dresses. Amazingly, by day 13, I was able to fit into dresses in my closet that I haven’t been able to wear for at least a year.

Here’s what I lost:

- 5 lbs.
- An inch off my waist
- 1.25 inches off my stomach
- 10 inches off each thigh (what the?! seriously??!!! awesome!)
- Cravings for sugar and coffee (my vices)
- 2 minutes from my mile, yay! I had kind of hit a wall with my running so it felt really really great to finish faster.

And probably most importantly, here’s what I learned:

Days 1-3 of the program basically suck, as your body adjusts to the new nutrients it is receiving. I was fairly ravenous for most of days 2-3 and had to eat about every 2 hours (which is not recommended—you want to get to the point where you’re having just three nutrient rich meals per day).

Dairy and/or soy seem to be big contributors to my issues with eczema. I’ve slowly introduced some dairy back into my diet in preparation for my trip to Europe (go to Italy and not eat pizza? Puh-lease), and since I have, my eczema has flared horribly, and my skin feels paper-thin again. Not so much fun, but I have prescriptions that help in the meantime.

Planning Whole30/Whole9 compliant meals is a HUGE part of the lifestyle. It’s really important to especially follow the travel tips and take your own food with you when traveling. I was headed into my last week of the Whole30 program when I went to Atlanta for Fro Fashion Week, and because I was running late for the airport I didn’t even have an opportunity to grab snacks. Then, there were only 2 things on the entire hotel menu that I could actually consume—one of which was kind of pricey—so I ate the other almost THE ENTIRE TIME I WAS IN ATLANTA. Not fun at all—not to mention, it wasn’t the most nutrient dense or filling dish so I was starving for most of the weekend. As much as I fought to hold out for the full 30 days, I ended up having a croissant with breakfast on our last day in Atlanta just to feel full. And then, after getting a spoiled fruit salad and having zero luck finding a trail mix that didn’t have peanuts or sugar in it at the airport—I finally broke down and ate a Kind bar, which is a healthy snack! But also a non-Whole30 compliant snack. So technically, my adventure ended at day 24, although I didn’t reintroduce any other non-compliant foods until after day 30.

So as I said, I actually loved being on the program. I felt amazing and my body responded really positively! After I return from Europe, I will be doing Whole30 again; and even after I’ve completed the 30 days, I will likely be cutting dairy from my diet indefinitely, as well as severely limiting pasta (another weakness) and grains. I found some amazing recipes while on the program as well so I can’t wait to try those! I wish I had taken more before/after style photos so I could share those with you guys, but I honestly wasn't sure if I would be sharing my experience at all. Next time!

Has anyone else tried the Whole30 program? What was your experience?