Monday, October 2, 2017

The Whole Skinny on the Whole30

Well, it's October which means that our September Whole30 is finished!  All the angels sang alleluia and amen!  This was the first attempt Phil and I made with a Whole30 and I have a lot of thoughts about it.  Surprising ;)

If you are not familiar with the Whole30 diet, it's basically 30 days of no sugar, grains, gluten, dairy, alcohol, legumes (including peanuts) or preservatives.  There is a cult-like following of this 30 day cleanse/restart/elimination diet and many people are known to complete a Whole30 once or twice a year to reset their diets.  One of the biggest messages from the Whole30 book is that this is NOT a weight loss plan, it's a way to clean out your body and fill it with nutritious whole foods to figure out what food groups cause you issues when you add them back in.  It's not meant to be a way to eat for the rest of your life, it's a clean out, fresh start kinda thing.  The book focuses on NSV (Non Scale Victories) like feeling better, more energy, less bloated, sleeping better, cooking more, etc.

Truth be told, Phil and I had a summer filled with lots of bad eating choices.  A party here, a date night there, a BBQ here, a trip to the beach with junk food there and by the end of the summer we were kind of disgusted with ourselves.  I wanted to lose 15-20 pounds and Phil wanted to lose about 20-25.  We thought starting with the Whole30 would be a good way to reset our bad eating habits and point us on the right track.

I didn't buy the Whole30 cookbook because you can find so many Whole30 compliant recipes online and I followed a bunch of Whole30 social media sites.  But if you want to have an easy way to look up some food inspiration, and stay offline, then I might recommend getting the cookbook.

OK, so how was it?

The Beginning:

The first couple of days were easy for me.  I think I was just really ready to start this diet and we meal planned and grocery shopped and it was kind of fun.  It started to get hard around Day 4 and stayed that way until Day 11.  I made a note that Day 10 was the hardest for some reason.  Those first two weeks is when your body is really feeling the dietary changes and I think when we lost the most weight (you're not allowed to weigh yourself until the end of the Whole30).  I remember waking up starving at 5 am, and going to bed hungry too.  I probably wasn't eating enough, but it's not easy to snack when you can't eat much!  We still tried to exercise just as much as before, but our legs were super heavy and slow on runs and it just felt like our body was working too hard to keep itself alive and exercise was too much.  I ran less often and walked more, my runs were shorter and slower and I couldn't lift heavy weights.

The Middle:

After Day 11, we were kind of on a roll.  We tried a few new recipes every week, would cook breakfast and lunch for the week every Sunday, and exercise became easier.  I wasn't waking up starving and we felt great that we could eat some grilled chicken and roasted veggies and fell full for the rest of the night!  Our bodies finally figured it out.  I wasn't having many cravings and wasn't tempted to cheat at all , but then it all started to go down hill again.

The End:

I'm not sure why, but the last week felt soooo hard!  We were mentally done with this diet.  We were counting down the days until we could eat a piece of rice or cheese.  I had to bake muffins and cakes during this week for my son's birthday, and it took all my will power not to eat a little nibble of a warm muffin or stick my finger in the frosting for a taste.  I was able to get in some longer and faster runs though, which helped my mood.

The Good:

We did feel very good in our bodies.  Without knowing our weight, we could tell that our clothes fit better and we just felt lighter.  I remember on a run about halfway through, I realized my stomach was jiggling less.  I wear a Fitbit, and my resting heart rate dipped so much while I was on the Whole30.  I was always in the 64 range and went down to the 56 range, that was probably the best thing that allowed me to see my body was functioning better eating this way.

I also had no anxiety (maybe my heart rate being lowered is linked to that?) which was awesome.  I have known from experience that sugar makes me anxious, so this was a good way to keep it all in check.  We ate a lot more veggies than ever before and Phil was pleased to eat cauliflower rice and roasted cauliflower as sides.  Sometimes we would feel like maybe we were eating too much cauliflower rice, then realized how little calories it had and enjoyed it even more.  It wasn't hard to eat like this with a large family...I would just make dinners that they would like too but give them an added side if needed.  A lot of our dinners were meat and potatoes and veggies, so we all just ate the same thing.  If I made them pasta, we had zoodles, etc.  Easy peasy.  Once in a while I would feel we were spending more money on food, but because we weren't eating out or grabbing snacks (something I don't track financially well) we probably ended up saving money.  I was getting less sleep but better sleep, and a lot of mornings we woke up early and walked the dog which we used to only do on the weekends.  Oh and as for the weight loss?  Yeah, that's the part I always read for too.  Phil lost 19 pounds and I lost 15.

The Bad:

If you ever want a month to pass by slowly, do a Whole30.  September felt like the longest month of my life.  It was hard.  I was obsessed with food, what I could eat, what I couldn't eat.  At one point, I even called Declan "Gluten" because that's how much I was always thinking about being Whole30 compliant.  It took over my life.  I would get hangry before dinner a lot.  Mostly because I had worked out and then came home and had to cook a wholesome dinner from scratch which takes a while.  We did eat bunless burgers quite a few times because it was a fast meal.  Finally, because the weight loss was so fast, I find that I'm always chilly now.

The Ugly:

I became super judgmental about the food other people ate.  If one of my kids asked for a sugary desert, I told them sugar was poison.  If I saw an overweight person eating pizza, I wanted to enlighten them on why they should give up dairy and gluten and everything else to lose some weight.  It was bad.  I could also hear myself talking about the diet too much and had to work hard to stop myself from telling everyone that we were on this diet.  I feel like everyone who finds a diet that works for them, or picks up a new fitness routine can't shut up about it, and I turned into one of those annoying people.  It also (slightly) took it's toll on our marriage.  We couldn't really go on any dates because it was too hard to stay on plan, we didn't socialize because we knew we weren't fun to be around, and we were more snippy with each other.  We both REALLY missed the cream in our coffee and drinking coffee in the morning was just not enjoyable anymore.  All the simple food pleasures of our lives were gone and it left us unhappy.

Tips and Tricks:

Having a cup of hot tea every night helped me so much!  This apple spice tea was my go-to nightly choice, and during the day if I needed caffeine, this cinnamon tea is the best I've ever had.  Every single day I ate a Lara Bar before a workout and I think it gave me some great energy to get through.  We just got these Whole30 compliant protein bars (wish I had gotten them sooner!) and even though it's Day 32, I ate one for breakfast with a cup of the hot cinnamon tea because I actually like them!  Sparkling Polar water from a can (so much better freezing cold in a can!) was my daily treat as well.  I didn't overdo it on fruits and nuts, so those felt like a special treat too.  Fruit tasted so good and sweet on it's own.  One day I sauteed apples with cinnamon and cloves to serve with a pork roast, and I was near tears because they were so delicious without the normal sugar I add.  As far as workouts go, I was in pretty good fitness shape before I started, and I had to allow myself to not push it until I felt ready.  You really have to listen to your body.  

Would I do it again?

Meh,  I don't know.  I guess if I felt I really needed it again,  or wanted to drop weight before a big event, I would.  For now, I think we are going to just try an incorporate more of the Whole30 diet into our lives during the week and loosen up on weekends.  I did get a horrible stomach ache the night we ate pizza, chips and cake so that wasn't fun.  I kinda like that it made me sick because I know that food isn't the best for me, and I don't want to get so used to eating poorly that it doesn't make me sick, ya know?  I am very glad I proved to myself that I have willpower and can do hard things.  I have never lasted a whole month with a strict diet, I usually fail on my Lenten promises every year, and I had to pray for the strength to continue daily.  I am so weak.  My friend told me to offer up each day for somebody who needed prayers, and that really helped take the focus off of myself.   Alrighty, I think that's everything.  If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear them!  See ya in the combox :)


  1. I'm so impressed with your honest reflection here, Colleen! I think I would have been too prideful to admit the ugly, but I appreciate that you did it. And I'm amazed that you were able to do this at all when you're both working and school starting and everything! You're amazing, Colleen!

    I've been tempted for several years now to do a Whole 30, partly to lose weight and partly because I really like the idea of having a dietary re-set and flooding my system with more veggies and whole foods. But I haven't actually pulled the trigger for lots of various reasons. I was going to do it for Lent a couple of years ago, but right before Lent began I realized it would make me obsessive about food in an unhealthy way. My initial thinking was it's so extreme, it's penitential, right? But then a little voice stopped me and told me it wouldn't be the right thing for that Lent. Turns out God had a different Lent in store for me that year because I ended up with a surprise pregnancy and miscarriage. Anyway, what's stopping me now is I really don't like extreme mentalities and ideologies about food. It seems like everybody I know cutting out some food group and I'm so not into it. In fact, I'm on a personal quest to prove to myself that I can be healthy and fit and not cut out dairy, or gluten or, [fill in the blank]. I've done a few week long fasts from certain things, alcohol, sugar, etc., but mostly I'm aiming for moderation. So, as much as I'd love to lose 15 pounds (in a month!) like you did, Colleen, I think I'll stick to my game plan for now. :)

    1. It is very extreme and I am totally normally a moderator. Phil really needs to diet this way, and he helped me keep going. If I gain it all back because I eat pizza once a week, I'm gonna be so bummed.

  2. Oh, ps, I love Rx bars! I just wish they weren't so expensive!!

    1. Soooooo expensive but cheaper than a drive through coffee :)

  3. You look amazing! 15 pounds is a lot of weight, way to go!

    1. Thanks! Maybe I'll look as great as you one day!

  4. You look great, Colleen! I've done 2 Whole30s and have almost the exact feelings as you. Reading this nearly gave me PTSD, LOL.

    A couple thoughts. The second time I did it I actually gained weight. It's possible I wasn't as strict but I truly tried to be, so it's hard to remember. One (big huge) downside is that ai believe the W30 messed up my metabolism, big time. As in, once I stopped the first time I immediately started gaining weight (no matter what I ate) and even after the second time (approx 5 months later, I continued to gain weight. I *think* it may have been adrenal fatigue, so healing my body with good fats has helped, but it took me almost 5 years to figure out why and how. For the longest time I couldn't lose weight no matter what I did. Now I know how my body does lose weight, but it's still a big bummer that the W30 gave such short lived results. I will say that I know lots of people who have done it and only a couple of us have had this reaction, so I pray you don't!

    I mostly eat sugar-free now and it is a game-changer. I fell off the wagon last week and boy can I tell a difference.

    1. Oh no, you're scaring me! The whole time I was on the whole 30, I kept saying to Phil that I hope I didn't gain all the weight back as soon as I ate my first piece of pizza. I know maintaining is going to be the hardest part! We shall see what happens!

    2. I'm sorry, I totally didn't mean to scare you. Like I said, I don't think my experience was typical. You're normally very good at moderation, so I would guess you'll be just fine. ❤️

  5. I love Harney and Sons! I think their Hot Cinnamon Sunset is better than the Spice, it's a little harder to find. But yes, it's my "treat yourself" tea 😋.

    Way to do hard things and stick with it!

    1. Oooooh, that sounds good too...who knew I'd become a teatotler?

  6. Hi Gluten!
    so proud of you doing WHOLE 30. I am not that disciplined... or just scaredy cat to commit... Here I am as I eat this shake when I know I'd feel bad afterwards (not guilt bad, but sick bad!)
    we humans never learn

    1. I totally understand, I said I could NEVER do this and yet somehow I did! It's very satisfying to have stuck with it, but not so much that I think everyone should do it :)

  7. Congrats on doing this very hard diet and making it through to the end!!! And 15 pounds is awesome. I'm not sure I could do this and am always so impressed with people who do i!


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