I have always struggled with being “chubby” and with an unhealthy attachment to bread and bread-like foods. Carbs were my downfall. I didn’t ever really have problems with binge eating or an obsession with sweets (candy isn’t even really that interesting to me, and I wouldn’t mind never seeing another Sour Patch Kid or Rolo in my life), but I did struggle with my weight.
Low carb diets were the most successful for me, and I would lose about five pounds before getting sick and tired of counting and limiting and just being generally miserable. I would get cranky and start obsessing over all the food I knew I was “missing out on.” Then I would go off the diet, gain all the weight back (and then some), and feel awful about myself.
Eventually, low carb diets actually stopped working for me altogether and during my last attempt I didn’t even lose any weight. Not fair! I was miserable for weeks only to find out it was all for nothing.
Just Another Temporary Solution?
I don’t even remember how I found Whole30. I think I was having another mini breakdown about my inability to lose weight and keep it off, and was scouring the internet for another solution. When I saw it I thought, wow, looks super difficult. But I was sufficiently intrigued by all of the success stories and the fact that it seemed to make sense.
For a while I had thought I might have some sort of food sensitivity. I would have stomach pains several times a week and it had become the norm for me. I had chalked it up to just having a “sensitive stomach” and figured that carrying Tums in my purse was just going to be a lifelong burden.
Then I read about how Whole30 had changed so many peoples lives and “cured” so many health problems. I figured it was worth a shot. Sure, it was probably just another temporary solution, but I was kind of desperate. I began to do a little bit of skeptical research and made some plans to start my Whole30 the following week.
My First Whole30
I didn’t read “It Starts With Food
,” (Melissa and Dallas Hartwig’s guide to and explanation of Whole30) but I did do a bunch of reading online. I read every single free available resource I could find, printed out my shopping lists, and set out to prepare for a month of misery. I read about the potential withdrawals, the discouragement, and reasons others had failed. It made me a little scared, but I wanted to know what I was up against.
My first day was difficult, because I was not used to eating breakfast. I can’t remember what I ate that first day, but I do remember it was a struggle. I wasn’t even hungry. I stuck with it though and completed my first day.
I ran into a few surprises that first week. For one, I did not find it difficult. After the first day of not being hungry for breakfast, breakfast started to become a necessity. By body acclimated quickly, and I started to wake up in the morning, feeling alert and hungry for the first time in my life.
The second week rolled along, and I expected the worst. I had read the Whole30 timeline
and new that on day 10 I would most assuredly want to call it quits. Day 10 came along and I braced myself for failure. Well, it didn’t happen. I didn’t even have the slightest desire to eat a brownie or bite of bread. In fact, I felt great. I realized I hadn’t had a single stomach pain since day one.
I made it through my entire Whole30 without a single slip up. I really did feel amazing. Melissa and Dallas advise you not to do a Whole30 over a holiday, so I had scheduled my Whole30 to end right before Thanksgiving. But I was so encouraged and felt so great I decided that I would take some Thanksgiving Whole30 friendly dishes with me to our family gathering.
Life After Whole30
When I started to add food back in, I discovered that the source of my terrible stomach pains was in fact gluten. The pain returned with a vengeance and I started to experience terrible mood swings and crankiness in the extreme. It was awful but it was also amazing. For the first time I knew without a question the source of my stomach pains. In addition to that, I discovered that gluten affected my mood. Wow! This was some really valuable information.
So Christmas came along, and it’s that time of year that inspires many a New Years resolution (yes, I’m talking about overeating). It had been about a month since the end of my first Whole30 and I was becoming a little complacent. The holidays are a busy time and it’s easy to overdo it on party food and delicious pumpkin spiced chai lattes. A couple days after Christmas we left for a family vacation in Canada. Vacation is not a time to worry about the perils of gluten, I thought.
About halfway into the trip, I got sick. Like, terrible tummy sick. After three days of five-course meals, accompanied by wine pairings and followed by exquisite desserts, a traditional fondue dinner pushed me over the edge. It was time to rethink things again. For the remainder of the trip I played it a littler safer, but committed to another Whole30 once I returned.
Whole30, Round Two
This will be a piece of cake (not literally of course, cake is probably not a good analogy to use here actually). This is what I thought about my second Whole30. I was already a pro at this. My first Whole30 had gone through without a hitch. And now I actually NEEDED it.
The first week of my second Whole30 was pretty bad. I experienced nasty headaches nearly every day in the afternoon. I felt like I had brain fog in the morning and my grogginess was almost impossible to shake.
I added macadamia nuts into the mix and quickly discovered that any more than 1/4 cup gave me terrible stomach aches (WHAT? I thought the days of stomach aches were gone).
When day 10 rolled along I WAS ready to quit. This was not the Whole30 I knew. What happened this time? The only thing I could come up with was that I had so badly overloaded my system with rich, junky foods over the holidays that I was paying the price for my misdeeds.
Regardless of what the actual difference was, I made it through. I didn’t cheat, even though I wanted to. I didn’t quit even though it was much harder than the first time around.
And you know what? For the first time in a long time, someone told me that I looked better! I looked thinner! I felt better too. I didn’t experience the “tiger blood”
that some people talk about (at least I don’t think so), but I notice a difference. And I liked that difference.
What I Learned
I learned a lot of things over the course of the two Whole30s I’ve done. Here’s what I’d like to pass along to you all, if you’ve stuck around long enough to get to this part.
Whole30 is not a quick fix, temporary solution, fad diet, or weight loss solution
Whole30 is none of those things. It’s a lot better actually. It teaches you a lot about yourself and your body. I learned that gluten makes me sick and cranky. I learned that too many macadamia nuts will give me a stomach ache. I learned that eating breakfast in the morning actually helps me wake up earlier and go to bed earlier. I learned that a little bit of cheese won’t hurt me, and that I have no desire to add beans, corn, or rice back into my diet (even though they don’t affect me negatively, I don’t miss them at all!).
These are all things I’ve learned about myself, but you will probably learn different things about yourself. That’s what I like about Whole30. It’s kind of a journey of self-discovery. Not in a mystical, spirit-journey-into-the-desert kind of way, but you actually learn stuff about yourself through observation. It’s pretty cool to actually know the source of some of your aches, pains, and other quirks. It’s up to you to decide what to do with that knowledge.
Whole30 isn’t that hard
Yes, it can be difficult. But c’mon, relative to some other “diets” out there, it’s not that bad. You don’t have to drink only lemon juice and cayenne pepper for a week, take pregnancy hormones, or even count calories! Most of the time, the uncomfortableness is over after no longer than a couple of weeks. That’s really not that bad, all things considered. Yes, it takes some preparation and some determination, but I think it’s a small price to pay for the many benefits of doing a Whole30.
Whole30 has eliminated the need for me to ever diet again
I won’t ever need to diet again. I have found my ideal diet. And by diet, I mean the way I will eat for the rest of my life. Not the way I will eat for a month. It’s sustainable. I’ve developed a better relationship with food.
No, I will not be on a Whole30 for the rest of my life. I will eat cheese again. I will even eat bread occasionally (and experience the uncomfortable consequences). Sweets aren’t gone forever. But I now know how to limit those things. I also know that I don’t need those things. I know exactly how my body reacts to certain things, so I can weigh the benefits versus the drawbacks every time I eat something. I don’t know everything– I’m still learning. But I know I can always do another Whole30 to help myself get back on track if I need to (and I’m sure I will).