A few days into January I was texting my friend and dropped the fact that I was contemplating doing the Whole 30. I had seen quite a few articles flurried all over the internet about it’s benefits and how it can be a great program to use to start fresh and identify what foods might be making you feel gross on a day to day basis. I’m not normally a person who does food challenges and I’ve never been on a “diet” of any kind, but this year I definitely felt the need for a fresh start, and if food could help me feel better and get me out of my funk, then why not try it?
My friend asked what the challenge entailed and I laid out the details:
- No Grains
- No Dairy
- No Alcohol
- No Caffeine
- No Legumes (this includes peanuts)
- No Added Sugars
It is essentially the paleo diet, but with the added rule that you can’t make foods that are not Whole 30 using Whole 30 approved ingredients. This part of the challenge is supposed to help reformat your relationship with food, with the idea being that if you make banana and egg pancakes during the Whole 30, even though banana and eggs are both allowed, it won’t help you in the long run because you’ll just continue to crave pancakes and go back to eating them once the Whole 30 is over.
My friend, thankfully, said she was also interested and we decided to start it together, keeping each other in check by texting each other the details of our meals and snacks. I’ll go ahead and say right now that it wound up being about a Whole 25/30, because there were two weekends at the end of the month where I had social plans or didn’t have any paleo friendly lunch options while I was out running errands, and I just wasn’t that hard core about it. But I can still say the challenge was worth it for me and I learned more than I was expecting to about food and how it makes me feel. Here are some of the details:
Added Sugar is in Everything
The “no added sugar” rule basically means you can kiss store bought condiments and marinades goodbye. I wanted to make a beef ratatouille stew one day and the recipe called for tomato sauce, and shopping for that simple ingredient spiraled into me standing in the health food aisle of my grocery store reading labels on all the different tomato sauces for ten minutes until I found one that didn’t have added sugar in it. It’s tomato sauce! What the hell. I also failed at finding any chicken sausages that didn’t have at least some added sugars. I probably could have found some at Whole Foods, but I didn’t want to pay who-knows-how-much a pound for something as simple as chicken sausages. Which brings me to my next finding…
Whole Foods are Freaking Expensive
The problem with excluding grains and legumes from your diet is that these are usually the elements of a meal that make you feel full. Without them I was eating so. much. food. Like a massive plate of chicken sausage, peppers, onion, and potato hash was not even close to enough for dinner, and I would have to add an apple with about 1/2 a cup of cashew butter (which is da bomb by the way) on top of that, and sometimes still felt hungry and would have to eat more. The recipes I was making said they would serve 6-8, but wound up making about 2-3… liars! For the first few weeks it felt like I was going to the grocery store every other day, if not every day… because I was. I just kept eating all the food. I spent a little over $400 on groceries in January – close to $150 more than I usually spend, but it was worth it because…
Whole Foods Make you Glow from the Inside Out
You can probably attribute my amazing mood through January to a few different things (catching the “new year, new start” wave, coming to terms with the end of several relationships that had turned toxic, exercising 4 times a week, etc), but what I was eating definitely played a part. I used to feel bloated and uncomfortable a lot of the time after I ate, but had always attributed it to just being a part of eating. Because of this I usually ate small amounts frequently throughout the day and thought that was a normal eating style to have. I was a “grazer”. On the Whole 30, I still occasionally snacked, but I was also eating massive meals (ex: 2 potatoes worth of hash browns and 5 scrambled eggs, plus apple and cashew butter) that I never would have been able to stomach on my regular diet that contained grains (even when I tried to stay with only gluten free grains).
On top of feeling great, my skin (which I have historically been battling with) was flawless. Like literally. Flawless. Not one pimple. Not one clogged pore under the skin. I’ve been trying to unlock the mystery of why my face keeps breaking out for awhile now (I’ve written a post about it before), and I’ve found some things that have helped. I overhauled my skin care so it didn’t contain any fragrances or irritating ingredients, I tried avoiding gluten, then avoiding dairy, and with each adjustment my skin got slightly better. But there were always bouts of breakouts no matter what I did. I don’t know if it was just the longevity of going without gluten and dairy that helped my skin last month, or if it is a combination of that with no added sugars and caffeine, but my skin is on a whole new level now. The facialist I go to who is helping me fade my acne scars said I was glowing. GLOWING! Her word, not mine.
Why I’m Going (Sort of) Paleo In the Future
I can say after doing the Whole 30 that I, personally, don’t have any issues with legumes, at least not in moderation. Which is great because I love hummus and lentil soup. But remember those 5ish days I wasn’t Whole 30 compliant? Where I didn’t mind getting a sandwich over a salad because I was super hungry? Or I treat myself to the braised lamb gnocchi because it was restaurant week? Yea, I got at least one raging hormonal pimple within 24 hours. The kind that last a week and leave a mark whether you pick at them or not. So you can bet I’m sure as hell going to continue to avoid grains, dairy, excessive added sugars, and caffeine. I know, I was surprised by that last one too, but after going 30 days without caffeine, coffee now makes me so jittery I’m practically vibrating, and it totally throws off my sleeping schedule for the next week or so.
I’m not going to claim to be perfect, I might indulge in some veggie pizza with extra fried eggplant from time to time, because some things are worth a pimple or two. But I’m definitely going to be more conscious of what I’m eating and strive for a more paleo friendly lifestyle.
Have you guys tried the Whole 30? Gone paleo? How was your experience? Did you think it was worth it? Let me know in the comments!