“You can think of the Whole30 like pushing the reset button with your health, habits, and relationship with food. For 30 days, you’ll eliminate the foods that scientific literature and our clinical experience have shown to be commonly problematic in one of four areas — cravings and habits, blood sugar regulation and hormones, digestion and immune system, and inflammation.”- Melissa Hartwig, founder of Whole30.
Whole30 focuses on eating whole, unprocessed foods and cutting out added sugars, grains, legumes, dairy, and processed foods from your diet for a period of 30 days. By following Whole30 guidelines—which include cutting out foods triggering inflammation and imbalances for 30 days—you can effectively rebound your relationship with food and reset your body. After eating clean for 30 days, you can continue with the program or slowly add restricted foods back into your diet. This way, you’ll be able to effectively identify which ones may be having subtle effects on your health.
My Whole30 experience
My husband discovered this program first in 2013. It was a time when he was working 24/7 shifts so would get some free days during the week. I came back from my German class to find him totally absorbed in a book. “I have found something that will change our life”, he said excited. When he briefly tried to explain the Whole30 program, I wasn’t very keen on it. I could only think about the things that we would not be allowed to eat, following the program. But once I read the book myself, I understood the reasoning behind eliminating certain food groups from our diet for a certain period. By the time I finished reading the book, I was eager to start the program.
The initial days of following the Whole30 program were hard on the body, as it went through withdrawal symptoms. But it was soon replaced with rewards like increased energy levels, better skin and hair and decreased cravings for sugar and junk food. I would feel very satisfied after having a Whole30 compliant meal. I felt so good following the program that I went with it much longer than 30 days. I and my husband have followed several Whole30 programs after that. Even when I am not on a Whole30 program, I cook Whole30 compliant food very often because it is filling and nutritious.
It might initially feel restricted not to be allowed to consume some of your favorite food items. It might take a few weeks to adjust to this new way of eating. You will find yourself referring to lists of Whole30 approved items and checking labels on every product. You will be shocked to see how many products contain added sugars and chemical that you have been consuming unknowingly. But you will ease into it sooner than you realize and won’t be needing lists and notes anymore. You will find new and innovative ways to create your own Whole30 approved meals. It’s a challenging but exciting journey which might get you hooked.
As much as I was amused about it back when my husband discovered it, it really did change our life. It changed the way I looked at certain food groups, and above all it made me creative. I discovered many of my now-favorite recipes while following Whole30. You will have a better chance of making it through if you keep this quote by Steve Jobs in mind, “Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity-not a threat.”
You will find some Whole30 recipes on my blog already. Over the course of next days I will be posting up more.
What You Can Eat on Whole30
- Vegetables, including potatoes
- Fruits (in limited quantity)
- Unprocessed (preferably grass fed/free range) meats
- Eggs (preferably from free range hens)
- Fats like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil and ghee
- Caffeine (sugar and dairy free)
What You Can’t Eat on Whole30
- Added Sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Legumes, peas and soy products
- Processed foods and foods with artificial additives
- French fries and potato chips
- Processed oils (sunflower oil, castor oil, soybean oil)
What I experienced following Whole30
- 15 days into the program I found myself having a clear skin, which was a dream come true. I have struggled with acne most of my life and reintroducing food after following this program made me find out that I am allergic to certain varieties of lentil. So, now I can steer clear of the things that don’t suit me.
- I felt very satisfied after having smaller portions of Whole30 compliant meals. This is something I would never have considered before following the program. A meal without rice or bread could never be fulfilling for me in my pre-Whole30 days.
- I had developed increased sensitivity for sweetness. Even some vegetable like paprika and onion would taste considerably sweet.
- I had also experienced better hair quality and my hair were falling less.
- Somewhere around midway into the programs those sudden cravings for sweets and my nighttime cravings for junk were gone like magic. I did not need a packet of chips to enjoy my favorite movie.
- My energy levels were consistent, which also led to less mood swings.
- A bonus was a flatter tummy as there was no bloating, yayyyyy!
Tips From my Experience
- Make a list of Whole30 non-approved items and carry it when going grocery shopping.
- Plan your meals ahead. This will save you time and increase your chances of sticking to the program.
- Before starting on the program, finish or discard all the items from your fridge or pantry which might trigger your cravings.
- Find a partner or friend who is willing to follow up on the program with you. It keeps the motivation. Telling your friends and family about you starting the program helps too.
- Avoid strenuous workouts or exercises in the initial days. Give your body some time to adjust.
- Do not be put off by the withdrawal symptoms that you might experience in the first few days. You will soon be rewarded with much more.
- Innovate, create and discover new recipes with the approved ingredients. You will be amazed how much there is to discover.
- Although snacking is discouraged in the program, there are times when you need something in between the meals. Keep some Whole30 approved snacks ready in the fridge for times like these.
- Always read the labels before buying products. Do not buy a product with an ingredient that you can’t identify as food/ are not aware of.
- Do not try to create desserts with approved items (like dates/raisins). If you do it, you would not be able to kill the sugar monster by starving it. One of the main benefits of this program is to free yourself from the cravings and recalibrate your sugar sensitivity.
- Prepare yourself for peer pressure and raised eyebrows. Not everyone will appreciate/encourage you following the program. But your wellbeing has priority over other people’s feelings.
- Be careful when eating out/ ordering at a restaurant. Following the program might limit your choices to eat out. Plan accordingly.
Disclaimer: Before starting any special diet, please consult your doctor.