Written by Michelle Puncsak
You’ve probably heard about The Whole30 and shrugged it off as yet another diet to try out for a couple days and then put it on the shelf. As someone who has tried several different diets, I was intrigued by the success stories and before and afters I saw/read from people who had completed their Whole30, and was especially lured when some friends of mine did it as well.The first thing I had to learn was that Whole30 is not a diet.
So what is the Whole 30? In short(and I mean really Sparks Notes version here), The Whole30 is like eating Paleo but on crack. The rules are:
- No added sugar of any kind (this means honey and agave too)
- No grains (bread, rice, quinoa, pasta, corn, even oatmeal)
- No dairy
- No legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, etc.)
- Nothing processed (think crazy difficult to read and pronounce ingredients ending with -oly, -bate, -ite, etc.)
- No trying to recreate off-limits foods (aka cauliflower pizza, frozen banana “ice cream”, etc.)
- And the kicker, no alcohol
I have never stuck to a “diet”for no more than a couple of weeks at a time, I found it really hard to envision being committed to something so strict, so absolutely, for 30 days. No excuses, no slip ups, or you start over. It’s daunting and requires a lot of preparation, both mentally and logistically, but it is absolutely possible.
A big emphasis that the creators try to push is that it is not a diet, rather, it is the gateway to a lifestyle change. It helped me to look at it that way, big picture rather than short-term. This is to change not only your body and the way it functions, but to change your relationship with food. When I mentioned to people that I was doing the Whole30, they were often shocked, thought I was crazy, or showed pity when I explained what it entailed. I totally get it, it is extremely restrictive and a drastic change from my typical eating habits. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
So what was my Whole30 experience like? Full disclosure, there were a lot of ups and a lot of downs. During the first week alone, I attended a baby shower that was a 3-hour drive away (aka road trip snacks, as well as resisting all of the food I couldn’t eat and bringing alternatives without looking like a total douche) AND my mom’s retirement party where there was a taquero. I mean, I figured if I could make it past those two back-to-back events, I could certainly make it through 30 days. The longer I lasted, the less concerned I was about whether or not I could complete the full 3o days, and the more paranoid I got about hidden or missed ingredients that would mean my ruin. But I made it! To keep it short, here is a pros and cons list:
- Lost weight
- Saw a difference in my skin
- Had more consistent energy
- Learned about the food I consumed on a daily basis
- Found my control
- Increased/Regulated metabolism
- Found motivation
- Being social/going out with friends was difficult
- Late nights prepping meals
I would say that the pros outweighed the cons by far.
Yes, going out to eat or hanging out with friends was very difficult. I did not want to be that person at a restaurant asking what oil my boneless, skinless chicken breast was cooked it, or asking for olive oil and vinegar on the side, but can I read the labels first, please? I. Did. Not. Want. To. Be. That. Guy. So I wasn’t, and I didn’t really go out to eat (minus a few in n out runs, sans cheese, buns, spread, please). I also felt like a slave to meal prepping/shopping sometimes. All I wanted was my pillow, but not prepping meant not being prepared for success. I also experienced about a week or so where I felt especially emotional, which I later learned was due to my hormones adjusting to the food I was/wasn’t feeding it.
On the plus side, I did lose some weight (though the book stresses adamantly that the point is not weight loss) but not as much as I had hoped. At day 30, I had lost 7 pounds, which was a little disappointing for me, I will not lie. I understand that the focus of Whole30 is not weight loss, and that it takes more than 30 days to noticeably change your body composition, but I couldn’t help but feel frustrated. For 30 days, I was completely careful and aware of everything I ate, never straying off path. For 30 days, I had recommitted to working out 4-5 days a week. All for 7 measly pounds. But, I also feet that some of the other victories outweighed my lackluster weight loss. I also had finally achieved a quicker and more regular metabolism, something I had struggled with my entire life. That’s a big deal! I also discovered that I do actually have the self-control to overcome cravings and temptations, and that in that aspect, I was my own worst enemy. But the biggest benefit for me was motivation. Because I pretty much had no choice, I had to put my big girl pants on and overcome laziness and sloth and make sure that I did my shopping and cooked my next couple of meals or the run the risk of failure because I was simply unprepared. I became a much more productive human in those 30 days, as a side effect I got my ass back in the gym and was doing laundry while my meals cooked and all of that adult stuff. It felt good, despite how badly I wanted to lay in bed and watch Netflix after work, to have gotten so much done and be ready for the next day.
So why am I doing it again? Here I am, just shy of 2 months after having completed Whole30 and I am back to my old habits, and feeling really sluggish again. Though many of my meal prep choices have remained largely compliant, and I still make the effort to buy the best quality meats/produce, I have definitely fallen back into unhealthy habits and I don’t feel that my self-control is as present. I want to become stronger at this in the long-term, as I truly don’t aspire to be a 30 year-old who eats like a teenage garbage bag.
I also recently discovered that I have asthma. It’s not anything that has drastically affected my life or anything; I’ve never even had an asthma attack. But it was enough to land me at the doctor’s with the worst chest cold I’ve ever experienced. In fact, the doctor was really surprised that I had never been told that I have asthma. On the breathing tube strength tester thingy, I was barely blowing a 200 without hacking my brains out, meanwhile my 70 year old doctor was blowing way above 600. I was prescribed steroids to get my lung strength back and given an inhaler as well, which I really only need incase of bad coughs or an emergency. Except that today, I needed it for the first time at the gym. I have run here and there since completing Whole30, but today I could barely get 1 mile in without my chest feeling like it was one giant cramp. I wanted to believe that it wasn’t the asthma, but sure enough, 2 puffs of my inhaler later and the “cramp” was gone. I want to get my lung (and overall) strength back , and part of that means adopting healthier long-term habits, both my diet and regular exercise included.
I will begin round 2 of Whole30 on April 1st. I’m nervous, but I’m also excited and feel more prepared this time around. I look forward to making better choices for myself, and while it is only one small step in the grand scheme of things, it is one step in the right direction.