If you have been following me on Instagram and have paid attention to my stories, you would know that I started my Whole 30 journey last month. As, I am now a proud graduate it was only natural for me to share my journey, my learnings and of course the results with you all.
I must admit that I started on this journey with a lot of trepidation. Diets have never interested me and the idea of restricting certain types of food has never compelled to the foodie in me. However, several of my friends tried this last year and they swore that it has completely changed their relationship with food.
This intrigued me, since the last three years, I have noticed that my stress eating habits had spiralled out of control and no amount of Crossfit, yoga, running and walking was helping me. I admitted to myself that no exercise can outdo a bad diet or like in my case a slightly bad diet.
As I said, I do not have a bad diet as such; thanks to my women-only fitness group, Crossfit box, an Instagram full of my athlete friends, health bloggers, coaches, yogis, bikini competitors and whatnots, I have managed to stay motivated with my workouts and 75% clean-eating. But despite all that I was not seeing the results, I was hoping for. I knew I needed to change something and re-visit my food habits. Enter Whole 30.
So, what is Whole 30?
Whole 30 is all about eating real food. The program was created by wife and husband duo, Mellisa (Hartwig) Urban and Dallas Hartwig in 2009. They are certified sports nutritionists who first co-authored the book “It Starts with Food” in which they argued that all our health problems start with food and hence having a healthier relationship with food can help us to manage most of the conditions or even break away from bad habits.
In the book (pictured above, yes I read it cover to cover), they clearly mention that Whole 30 should not be taken as a weight-loss diet, in fact, you should not even step on scale or measure yourself during the 30 days but really understand your relationship with food and how it might be affecting any issue you have.
Now, my research (before starting this) also threw many critics of the program calling it too extreme, likely to affect your social life and random and bizarre grouping of banned food. (more on that later, fact-checked here).
My friends who did this earlier swore that it has helped them re-define their food relationship, tame the sugar demon, manage stress and generally be happier. So, I weighed the pros and cons and as it is only for 30 days, I decided to give it a go.
One key criterion to do this program is you have to commit for the entire 30 days, so if have a little slip or cheat day, you need to start from square one. So yes, there is no half-ass(ing) this one. There is a line of tough love in the book, “Quitting heroin is hard, battling cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee, black, is.not.hard”. Making this line my mantra, I powered through.
What’s allowed and what’s not allowed in Whole 30?
The rule is to eat the above- mentioned items and food that are natural and unprocessed.
You can eat vegetables (even potatoes), meat, eggs, seafood, fruits, plenty of good fats from fruits, oils like olive, coconut, or avocado, nuts and seeds.
You can also eat ghee (clarified butter, as milk proteins, gets destroyed in the clarification process), coconut aminos, green beans, sugar snap peas, snow peas (as they are more of a pod than a bean), dates (exercise caution as they are high in calories) and vinegar.
You should completely avoid for 30 days the following things:
- Sugar and sweeteners. Including the “healthy” options like honey, coconut sugar, agave and jaggery.
- Alcohol (even for cooking) and tobacco.
- Grains and pseudo-grains like rice, wheat, oats, quinoa, corn, buckwheat etc.
- Legumes like kidney beans, lentils, peanuts (including peanut butter), chickpeas etc.
- Soya or soy forms like soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame and soy lecithin.
- Dairy including cheeses, yoghurt, creams etc.
- Carrageenan, MSG and Sulphites.
- Paleo treats even if the ingredients are Whole 30 complaint.
It is also advisable to not snack between meals if after a meal you feel like eating a sweet, ask yourself, should I rather eat another round of the meal? If the answer is yes, then eat another portion of the meal. If it no, then it is just a craving. Most cravings would pass within 3 minutes (this, in fact, is true, as I learnt).
My breakfast was mostly eggs, nuts, a teaspoon or two of nut butter with fruit. Dinner and lunch was mainly chicken or fish with plenty of vegetables. For snacks, if I had it was a fruit or a date. I took my coffee with almond milk or black.
That’s a hell-lot of Do’s and Don’ts is this even worth it?
ABSOLUTELY! I followed it to the T and I am so glad I did! In the Whole 30 book, the duo mentions that what we eat creates hormonal reactions which usually causes most of the conditions we have.
To reiterate, my goal was not just to lose weight, but deal with the larger issue of stress eating, mindless snack (especially on sugary stuff). I also wanted to deal with adult acne (I have been suffering from this for the last 2.5 years), PCOS, thyroid, dysmenorrhea. I suffer a bad case of period pain; often I have had to call work sick, not go to the gym and eat Ibuprofen 3 times a day. While regular exercise has helped, I still depend on painkillers.
Within 2-3 days, my skin started clearing (although it was hubby who mentioned it, I took it with a pinch of salt! but he was right), my periods went unnoticed, I felt energetic (for the most part), did not crave chocolates and did not use painkiller even for a day!
My clothes started fitting better, I hit several Personal Bests at Crossfit and I did lose weight. Overall, I lost 3.5 kgs and a whopping 9.5 inches. The weight loss might not sound big but the needle had not moved for me for over a year.
And what about my relationship with food and general happiness?
Once the first ten days were done, I felt better, happier and less anxious (the Tiger blood mentioned in the book is real).
The book mentions that on the tenth day, one would experience extreme tiredness. This was because the body experiences the worst of sugar withdrawal and the best way to combat this was to rest and sleep more.
I have certainly become a more mindful eater. I read labels carefully and “listen” to my hunger signals. If I am truly hungry I eat “whole food” instead of junk including the healthier ones like protein bars. I do not know if I have really defeated the sugar demon but at least I can manage it better.
My biggest win from this is my healthier relationship with food and not taking comfort in junk food/sweets, during stressful moments.