I completed my first Whole30 one week ago and today I’m ready to share my journey with you including before and after, my overall experience, advice for those thinking of embarking on Whole30 and more.
If you’re new here and haven’t been following along, please read these posts first to get an understanding of why I made the decision to do Whole30 and to see regular recaps where I shared what I was eating and how I was feeling.
I’m Doing My First Whole30
Recent Eats: My First Whole30 Days 1-4
Recent Eats: My First Whole30 Days 5-8
Recent Eats: My First Whole30 Days 9-12
Recent Eats: My First Whole30 Days 13-16 and Thoughts on a “Perfect” Whole30
Recent Eats: My First Whole30 Days 17-20
Recent Eats: My First Whole 30 Days 21-25
Recent Eats: My First Whole30 Days 26-30
So, let’s get started!
I had a really positive experience with Whole30 and it did “change my life” in several important ways.
When I shared with friends, family, clients and co-workers that I was doing Whole30 the overwhelming response was, “but you already eat so healthy.” I reminded them that my number one motivation for doing Whole30 was to try and find some relief for the eyelid dermatitis that I had been suffering with for over two years. On the other hand, my diet had gotten pretty heavy on the not so healthy stuff over the last few months and my “sugar dragon” as Whole30 likes to call it needed a serious taming.
I think that one of the reasons that I was able to enjoy a successful Whole30 is that I was ready on so many fronts. I was sick of dealing with my eyes and desperate for a solution and feeling not my best self after a very indulgent holiday season. The idea of giving up sugar, alcohol, grains, dairy, legumes, soy and processed foods for a month and focusing on eating real food sounded pretty amazing to me.
I will totally admit that I gave Paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free and other similar dietary preferences a little bit of a side eye before starting Whole30 but I’ve certainly changed my tune on that after spending 30 days focusing on eating high quality, nutritious, real foods.
Here are the transformations that I experienced during the Whole30.
My eyelid dermatitis completely cleared up for the first time in two years during the last 10ish days of the program.
I was pretty sad to see no improvement in my eyes for the first couple of weeks but I knew from reading the book that all hope was not lost and that some things take longer to heal and rid from your system than others. I was overjoyed when my eyes completely cleared up during the last 10 days of the program with all symptoms of redness, itching and flaking completely clear.
I’m still working through the re-introduction period so I’m not sure what the culprit is just yet but my initial thoughts are wine, legumes or gluten. Giving up red wine, peanut butter and sourdough bread all sound equally terrible so say a little prayer for me.
I felt like I was working with my body and not against it.
The nature of my schedule and lifestyle means early wake up calls, rushing around, a lot of physical activity and “being on.” Whole30 was a wonderful reminder of the importance of self-care.
- In regards to nutrition, it felt really good to focus on fueling my body with healthy, real food that I took the time to shop for and prepare myself.
- Cutting out wine meant developing healthier ways to decompress. I became one with kombucha, hot baths, hot tea and good books and I loved how it made me feel, both in the moment and the next morning. It feels really good to be clear.
- I got back on a better sleep cycle. I got back into a nightly routine that included prepping breakfast and coffee for the next day and then reading in bed. In addition to no wine I also did no melatonin during Whole30. The first five days or so were hard and I found it difficult to wind down and go to sleep at night but things improved after. The best benefit was sleeping through the night. I wake up almost every night around 3 or 4 a.m. and worry about everything in the world. Sleeping through the night was an incredible gift from Whole30.
- My energy was much steadier. I woke up easily and felt great all day long. No mid-afternoon slumps and I completely cut out all caffeine after noon and didn’t miss it at all! An afternoon latte was a pretty regular occurrence for me pre-Whole30.
The quality of my workouts improved and so did my mindset.
On one hand, my energy and motivation to workout on Whole30 was through the roof. I had a killer month in the gym where I saw strength gains, improvement in workout recovery and an overall appreciation for my body, what it’s capable of and how strong it is. On the other hand, I felt totally relaxed about my workouts and took more yoga and rest days than normal. I was able to focus on quality over quantity.
I found total freedom with food.
I think the initial thought of cutting out sugar, grains, dairy, alcohol and all the other things that are off-limits on Whole30 can feel a little restrictive but I took the program’s advice and instead focused on all of the the foods I could have. The very first “good food standard” outlined in It Starts with Food (the book about Whole30 by its founders) is that food should promote a healthy psychological response and to avoid “foods with no breaks.”
I found my options to be unlimited and I never felt restricted, hungry or bored. I followed program guidelines and didn’t count calories (something I never do anyway), didn’t weigh myself and ate whatever I wanted within program guidelines. I actually felt like I ate more on Whole30 than I did before and I felt about a million times better and experienced a huge reduction in overall bloating and water retention.
Now is a good time for before and after pictures.
Before and after from the front.
From the side.
From the back.
These photos are a great example of the power of clean eating and lifting. I actually didn’t lose weight during the Whole30 (maybe 1-2 pounds but depending on where I am in my cycle, how hydrated I am, etc. those are subject to change at any time) but my body composition did change. Most program participants lose a minimum of 6-10 pounds but weight loss was not my goal. A reduction in overall systemic inflammation and an increase in muscle was!
I felt so much less bloated during Whole30 and all of my clothes fit great! I never felt bloated or overly full after eating a meal and like I mentioned earlier, I truly felt like I ate even more than normal. And I worked out less than I normally do.
This is only the beginning of my strength training journey so I’ll keep sharing progress pics for you as I go. I think I did a good job on my own in January and I’m excited to see where I am after a few months of working with my trainer!
The biggest challenges of Whole30.
Whole30 was not without its challenges and here are some that I faced.
- It requires a lot of planning. Whole30 required a lot of planning in both prepping to start and staying on the program. I didn’t want to waste a bunch of food so I tried to use up off-plan ingredients and things I had on hand before starting. Once on the program I found that I was running to the store, prepping food and planning meals constantly.
- Giving up the idea that a perfect Whole30 was possible.
- Traveling is hard. I can’t stress enough the importance of packing your own food.
- There is sugar in EVERYTHING. Seriously, start reading your food labels. There is sugar in so many products that you would never imagine would need sugar added. Grocery shopping definitely took longer due to all the label reading.
- We spent so much money on food. I don’t think I ever walked out of Whole Food without spending at least $125. Related, we hardly ate out at all so it wasn’t so bad given the fact we were eating nearly every meal at home.
- We went through a lot of food. Again, I felt like I was constantly at the store restocking on Whole30 compliant foods, especially fruits and veggies.
- Most of our friends quit. We started with a group of 23 and ended with 3. This program will challenge you mentally and physically and it can be difficult to undo years of hard-wiring in our bodies and brains around food and social behaviors.
- My lack of enthusiasm over eggs and vegetables for breakfast. I don’t think my chia pudding and mashed sweet potatoes are exactly what the program founders had in mind for ideal breakfast options.
- Taming the sugar dragon. Man is mine ever powerful. I probably overdid it a little on the fruit and dried fruit but at least it wasn’t chocolate and cupcakes, right?
- The misconception around carbs. Even though I was eating Whole30, I was not eating low-carb. People just can’t seem to wrap their head’s around this (including some of my fellow Whole30ers who dropped out). I ate tons of more carb-dense vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash as well as fruits like dates, bananas and apples on Whole30.
My advice to those considering a Whole30.
- First and foremost is to read the book, It Starts with Food. I mean it. I think it’s key to understand the science behind Whole30 and what it has the power to do for your body. This was a tremendous help for me and I would even cue it up on Audible on days I was feeling a little “Whole30 is stupid, can’t I just have a glass of wine or one small piece of dark chocolate.” It always helped me get my head straight. It’s full of extremely interesting info. That said, it can be a little hard to get through (especially the science-based stuff in the beginning) so maybe consider listening to it rather than reading it if you need to.
- Get clear about your motivations to do the program. Are you looking to heal a health problem? Do you need to tame the sugar dragon? Are you seeking a healthier relationship with yourself? Do you need a kick start to lose weight? I highly recommend identifying why it is you want to do a Whole30 and it will help you stay committed. Knowing I was doing this to try to heal my body was very powerful.
- Commit with a partner or friend. My fiance and several close friends survived the Whole30 with me and it was so amazing to have their support. I can’t imagine doing it without having your spouse/partner along for the ride.
- Remember that it’s not “Whole rest of your life.” It’s just 30 days of your life. Then you re-introduce the foods you’ve eliminated back in and make decisions about how you’ll move forward with them based on they make you feel.
- What’s right for one is not right for everyone. This program is not a magical solution for everyone and what works for you post-program will be different than what works for others. Please read this piece from Whole30 founder Melissa Hartwig. The Whole30 is all about discovering what works for YOU and reconnecting to a body and mind that feels GOOD!
- Don’t eat the same thing every day. Many program participants who failed in our group were eating the same thing over and over. You will get bored!
- Save the common additives cheat sheet to your phone and take it with you everywhere!
- The beginning is the hardest. Read the Whole30 timeline and know that what you’re feeling is probably pretty normal.
- I think that Whole30 would be pretty difficult if you a) don’t know how to cook or b) really don’t enjoy cooking. I feel like my love for food and cooking made this whole thing much, much more manageable.
Final thoughts and next steps.
I am really happy that I decided to do Whole30 and I had a great experience with the program. I feel reconnected to my body and the way I fuel it in all the best ways and what a testament to the power of food to heal our bodies by the clearing that took place with my eyes. I’m currently about a week out of the program and I’m slowly working through the re-introduction process. I’ll be sure to write another post about this process in the coming months.
Did I love Whole30? YES! Do I think everyone should do Whole30? NO! Like I said in the advice section of this post, get clear about your motivations to Whole30 and only do it if it’s something that seems like a good option for you. It’s NOT a way to restrict or make yourself miserable but rather an amazing way to take the best care of yourself in regards to promoting healthy food relationships, proper hormone levels, a healthy gut and healing of systemic inflammation.
I will forever and always shout from the mountain tops that what works for one is not right for all so always remember to stay true to you.
I am happy to answer any and all questions about Whole30. And I’d love to hear experiences from fellow Whole30 program graduates.