As I was explaining what the Whole30 is to my friend the other day, I realized how “cult-ish” the lifestyle change is. If you’ve never been enlightened as to what this thing “Whole30” actually is, here’s the extremely brief and general low down: it’s basically a program or cleanse, not a lifestyle and not a diet, which you complete for only 30 days (although if you’re really into it – you can stay on it for as long as you want!)
How my journey began. My mom is a huge healthy-eater and active-lifestyle type of person. She originally bought “It Starts With Food” for the family as a Christmas present for my family (who are all also healthy eaters and very active human beings). Her and I spent the majority of the next few days after Christmas excitedly reading it; anxious to get started on this thing called the “Whole30”. We have countless fitness and nutrition books casually laying around our house, but this one was new and somewhat different, not claiming to be a diet nor a lifestyle adjustment. Then what is it? And what makes this any different than all of those other books? As I’ve stated before, the Whole30 is a program, claiming that after 30 days you can live a healthier life. We accepted this challenge of “changing our lives” – as an entire family on January 1st, 2015. Later that afternoon, my two youngest sisters became frustrated that they couldn’t eat desserts, cereal, chocolate or cheese sticks (cheese sticks have always been the greatest snack at my house). They pitched to both of my parents that they were still growing and needed all of the aspects of the food pyramid. My mom agreed and let them off of the hook. Later in the first week, my dad and other, only slightly younger, sister also gave in; all that was left was my mom and me.
Fun fact: my mom and I are the most competitive members of my family. Although the bread and foods that the rest of my family was indulging in was off-limits to us, we both resisted the urge to cave in and break the Whole30 guidelines.
Here are the basic eating guidelines in cheat sheet form:
To be 100% honest, not eating grains for 30 days was the hardest part. During my first few days of the Whole30 I am convinced that I went through a physical withdrawal from my delicious breads, pastas, cereals, granolas, and let’s face it, all other types of grains as well. Two of my little sisters had the flu at the time so I legitimately thought I was contracting it as well; only my symptoms disappeared after about three days, whereas theirs obviously lingered on and ran their course. I had flu-like symptoms, REALLY strong cravings for grains and a constant headache after removing them from my diet. A few times I would wake up in the middle of the night, while dreaming about sourdough bread and frosted mini wheats, with their tastes in my mouth.
Although after talking to multiple other people, sugar seems to be the most common food that they crave. This includes desserts, sugary drinks, and literally sugar on fruits or whatever else people coat sugar with these days.
My all-time favorite Whole30 quote has to be “It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You won’t get any coddling, and you won’t get any sympathy for your ‘struggles’.” (See more at: http://whole30.com/2012/04/sometimes-it-is-hard/#sthash.X2J2dEIo.dpuf)
Okay so now that I’ve removed all of the good kinds of food, what is there left to eat??
The good stuff! Whenever you have to think is this Whole30 compliant? Just ask yourself if it had a barcode. Fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, fish and meat don’t exist in nature with barcodes. Chips, cheese, cupcakes, sugary cereals, chocolate cakes, english muffins and alcohol all 1. Don’t exist naturally – humans have to make them and 2. They all contain barcodes. This makes categorizes compliant and noncompliant foods a little bit easier, right?
So what exactly can I eat? Here are some examples of meals that are Whole30 compliant, delicious and easy to prepare. (If a college student-athlete can make these and complete her Division I training living only “off of the land” you surely can try to do the same!)
Here are a few ~*sample*~ meals. Please note that I ate a wide variety of different and healthy foods while completing my Whole30 and these few pictures, unfortunately, cannot depict them all.
Most of my breakfasts consisted of a bowl of fruit, a glass of orange juice (read the ingredients and make sure that only oranges were used to make the juice), vegetables (broccoli, spinach, celery, peppers, tomatoes, avocados), eggs (no butter and no cheese!), and on days with harder, more intense and demanding workouts, I would also and another protein like sausage, chicken, steak or fish (just read the labels and make sure there’s no added sugar – you’d honestly be surprised at how many meats are packaged with sugars).
Lunch and dinner are pretty interchangeable meals on the Whole30. Most of these meals consisted of a salad (with dark, leafy greens, spinach, zen mixes, kale, or multiple combinations of any of these) topped with vegetables and usually a protein egg, tuna, chicken, steak, salmon or other fish. If you quickly become sick of eating salads constantly, or if you decide to go out to dinner with your friends or family, the safest best is to always make, or order, a piece of meat with vegetables and water (or club soda if you want to change things up!)
Key things to look out for:
- If you have a salad, make sure the dressing doesn’t contain sugar – to be safe, I always used, and still only use olive oil and vinegar
- If you marinate meat or want to use sauce to put on top of anything, it also can’t contain any sugars (95% of BBQ sauces contain sugar – why else do you think it tastes so sweet?)
- No dairy; this means no cheese in your salad, on your vegetables, no milk (sadly for me, no chocolate milk after workouts)
- No grains; obviously no pasta, bread, granola, cereals, dinner rolls, croutons on your salad etc.
- Golden rule: Read the labels. If it lists sugar as one of the ingredients, you can wait 30 days to have it again. Trust me
- If you have to question yourself on whether something is compliant or not, ask yourself if it can be found in nature
Three reasons why I have gained a deep love for the Whole30:
- There are just so many benefits! I have keratosis pilaris or “chicken skin” on my arms and have tried so many different things to get rid of it, and nothing had worked until I was about halfway through my Whole30; they just disappeared! I slept so much more soundly while eating healthier. I was able to concentrate and focus for longer periods of time. I HAD SO MUCH ENERGY IT WAS CRAZY. Not in a bad way; I live a very busy life and I was able to complete all of my daily tasks and activities with great quality and without my usual afternoon power nap. Even though I never really had skin or acne problems, my face was completely clear (and I SWEAR it even glowed a little 🙂 ) Overall I just felt healthier and happier while eating on the Whole30. If this wasn’t enough to persuade you to look more into it, read some of these testimonials from other people who also absolutely LOVED their Whole30 experiences too.
- It has made me more aware of what I eat. After neurotically reading labels at every meal for an entire month I know know what foods are “Whole30 compliant” and what foods aren’t . Example: I like Chick-fil-a. I could still order the grilled chicken bites, with a side of fruit and water for a drink and still be obeying the Whole30 rules. And I’m 100% not lying when I say that to this day, whenever I go there with my friends to eat, this is still the meal that I order.
- Everyone that I’ve read about and talked to has lost weight. If this is your goal, the Whole30 is a surefire way to achieve it. I’m a relatively fit person with a medium-sized frame who eats healthy. I lost 12 pounds. Yep, not a typo, twelve pounds – it’s basically the weight of an infant human child. My mom and I are almost positive it was “bread-weight”. I kid you not when I say I eat a loaf every two to three days. Before my Whole30 I would have two to three slices of sourdough toast, for lunch I would eat two more slices on a sandwich, for a snack I would eat one or two more slices and for dinner I would either have bread and butter or another piece of toast. In an average day (pre-Whole30) I would consume roughly six to eight pieces of bread. After taking that away, yes, of course my body missed it and informed me of that by giving my shakes, sweats, headaches, fatigue and nausea.
P.S. I don’t mean to brag, but I did also influence two of my collegiate teammates to also give it a whirl!
Back to my story from the beginning of this post: The most challenging part was being away from my mom because the competition was no longer in sight. We did both manage to survive until the end of the thirty day period without eating or drinking anything that wasn’t Whole30 compliant. How she celebrated: getting drinks and eating non-compliant food with her friends the night the thirty days was up. How I celebrated: Getting blueberry french toast and a chocolate milkshake at a coffeeshop in CW the morning after the thirty days was up with my friend and teammate. How we both felt after eating things our body wasn’t used to: miserable, gross, slow, and sick. In the book it talks about how bad everyone feels after breaking their “fast”, of course neither of us believed the stories because what’s greater than grains, sugars, alcohol and fried foods?! We’re okay now, but both still eat foods and drinks that are healthier for our bodies, which just so happen to all be Whole30 compliant. Coincidence? I think not.
I don’t want to write for too long and bore all of you, however if you want to try out the Whole30, learn more about it, or want to know more about my personal Whole30 experiences, comment on this post and I’ll be happy to share more!
Last paragraph, I swear! If you’re too shy to comment, or don’t want to commit to giving up a mere 30 days of your long life to live a happier and healthier life, you should also check out the Whole30 books and website: “It Starts With Food” (this is the original and the book that got me hooked), “The Whole30” and whole30.com