If you’ve heard of the Whole30 diet, you know it basically sounds like the worst thing ever. If you haven’t, below is the SparkNotes version.
For 30 days you eliminate the following from your diet and try not to die: gluten, dairy (more importantly cheese), legumes, soy, added sugar, and alcohol. In a nutshell, my diet of cheese pasta, Angry Orchard cider, pizza and all other things holy was out the window. Remind me why I did this again? Oh yes! Any Google search will lead you to millions of people ranting and raving about what Whole30 did for them, including but not limited to: weight loss, better sleep, clear skin, overall more energy, and improved digestion. The list really goes on. I am here to talk about the following:
- My personal Whole30
- What did this do for me plus a few tips
- A few of my favorite recipe staples (easy ones, promise)
My fiancé and I have been wanting to do Whole30 for some time now, but to be honest we literally couldn’t find a 30 day window where we were willing and able to give up booze. Long story short, we finally settled on a window that would allow us to be free from Whole30 just in time for Memorial Day weekend. #priorities
The rules here were pretty simple:
- Fruits, vegetables, and almost all protein are good to go
- If the label lists sugar anywhere in the ingredients, you can’t have it
- Don’t weigh yourself until after day 30
- Don’t cheat!
PREPARING FOR WHOLE30
The first thing I did before we started Whole30 to figure out a couple of recipes I already had in my weekly routines that would fit in with our new eating lifestyle. This turned out to be barely two things but it’s nice to know you always have a safe backup even that means you end up eating eggs and potatoes every damn day.
I spent more money on vegetables and healthy shit than I have in my entire life. It was bizarre. The most important part about preparing for this miserable month is your grocery shopping, because 95% of what is in your fridge and pantry isn’t going to fly. I found this amazing Trader Joe’s Whole30 shopping list and it saved my life on my first grocery run.
Here are my must haves to survive the 30 days:
- Tessemae’s Salad Dressing: Finding Whole30 compliant ranch was a high moment. BUY ALL THE DRESSINGS. They sell them at most grocery stores including Target.
- Olive Oil Spray: You can’t use Pam or really any non stick sprays because they contain soy, so stock up on olive oil (check the labels to be safe,). I literally went through an entire bottle each week. I accidentally cheated the first two days because I assumed the Trader Joe’s Coconut Oil spray was compliant but it actually contained soy. This was not worth starting over for.
- Olive Oil: While you’re at it, literally just buy an entire gallon of olive oil. I don’t know whether to be happy or horrified that we went through an entire gallon in 30 days.
- Lara Bars: Whole30 bloggers will judge you for this but they are compliant so BITE ME.
- La Croix: Get on the La Croix hype, otherwise you will be hate drinking straight water for 30 days
- Kombucha (GT’s Brand): Kombucha is an acquired taste that is worth acquiring. It’s essentially the only non-water beverage that’s allowed under the Whole30 rules. Some people make their own but I shamelessly dropped $3.50 a bottle. The rules on Kombucha are pretty hazy, so your safest bet is to exclusively buy GT’s brand, because all others list sugar in their ingredients.
There is this weird thing called the “Whole30 spirit” where you are told things like “don’t to eat Lara Bars for dessert because it’s feeding your mind as a supplement for a candy bar.” Or “don’t make two ingredient banana pancakes” (even though they are compliant) because pancakes “aren’t in the spirit of Whole30.” I DGAF about the spirit. If the ingredients were compliant, I ate it.
DAYS 1 – 7: Overall, Week 1 wasn’t as bad as expected. Most people experience an intense sugar detox but I only had a headache on day two. I was not prepared to meal prep and lived exclusively on a diet of eggs and some combination of sweet and red potatoes. Be prepared to wash SO MANY DISHES because literally everything requires cooking and it’s sort of the worst. Other than dishes, the food is filling and good. My digestive system was backed up for literally seven days which was mildly terrifying but it makes sense considering that before this I was literally alfredo sauce personified. On day six I went to Costco to buy dog food and oh my god I couldn’t have any fucking samples. That was the lowest point of week 1. I also learned that I have no life outside of drinking. Why can’t I go to brunch and happy hour? I have never been so bored on a weekend. I literally cleaned my entire house because I had nothing better to do. FML. On day seven, we discovered Kombucha. Kombucha CHANGED THE GAME. Even though it contains sugar and trace amounts of alcohol by nature, it’s compliant as long as it doesn’t list sugar in the ingredients. 10/10 recommend. It’s worth the $3 price tag and your sanity.
DAYS 8-14: After the first week, I felt like I was finally getting my bearings while simultaneously losing my mind. I reached a very depressing point in my life where I was excited to eat a fucking banana for dessert. That was what my life had come to, thrill over bananas. Week two was when I finally started cooking a little more in bulk so we had leftovers to get us through two days. During week two I also discovered spaghetti squash. Look, I’ll never accept zoodles as a legitimate pasta replacement BUT spaghetti squash is the closest you can get and it’s actually delicious. One day I bought $12 worth of spaghetti squash and had zero shame. I had become one of those pretentious grocery shoppers that incessantly reads labels and gets to the check out line with literally nothing but healthy shit. Whole30 rules tell you specifically not to weigh yourself but I did it anyways. At the end of week two, I had already lost seven pounds.
DAYS 15-21: Once you get over half way through, you start to kind of feel like your life is one long episode of Chopped and the random healthy items in your kitchen are your mystery basket. I knew that week three was going to be the most difficult because I had to go out of town for my sister’s college graduation. While my entire family was eating things like white cheddar popcorn, McDonalds, and candy bars on our road trip, I was eating bananas and Lara Bars. It was a sad weekend. Something I wasn’t prepared for was being judged for doing the Whole30. 90% of my family’s response when I told them I was doing it was, “Why???? You’re skinny.” For me, Whole30 is not about being thin or losing weight. At the end of the day, it’s about detoxing your body and remembering what it feels like to not be pumped full of processed food and sugar. Prepare to answer annoying questions and feel the need to defend your decision to more people than you think. In more exciting news, by the end of week three I was down 9.6 pounds.
Days 22-30: I finally got my shit together and meal prepped on Sunday. Breakfast and lunch was prepped and ready for the entire week and it was such a luxury, I totally recommend doing this from the start. The home stretch of Whole30 was the easiest. You already have your go to recipes figured out, you spend less at the store because you aren’t aimlessly buying things, and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We spent the entire week deciding what glorious meal we were going to treat ourselves to on Day 31 (Mod Pizza, because #pizzaislife).
RESULTS & TIPS
Before starting Whole30, my fiancé and I wanted to lose a few pounds and look good for summer. I knew a few friends who had done Whole30 before and went on to lose around ten pounds. After hearing that, we were sold. At the end of the 30 days, I had lost nine pounds, and my fiancé had lost eight. Disclaimer, while doing Whole30 we went to the gym four times a week so that’s worth taking into consideration.
Outside of the obvious weight loss, I had a lot more energy. I was finally making it through the day without feeling the need to lay down for a nap and waking up in the morning was a breeze once I hit week three. Working out was easier and way less of a chore. Finally, I also slept a lot better and rarely woke up in the middle of the night. The biggest shock about Whole30 is realizing the effect of what you eat and put into your body. It’s eye opening and I found myself wanting (for the most part, sometimes you gotta treat yo self) to stick to a paleo diet (at least on week days) after the 30 days.
A few tips if you plan on attempting Whole30:
- Google is your best friend. So many people have been through the process and there are SO many resources out there. My search feed was ridiculous after 30 days. The most important searches? Things like, “What can I order at Starbucks on Whole 30.” These searches will SAVE YOUR LIFE.
- Eating out: Eating out is the worst thing about Whole30 because there just aren’t many resources. This is where you should cut yourself some slack. Order as compliantly as possible but don’t stress about the small things like “what kind of oil did you fry these eggs in?” Trivial things like that won’t derail your Whole30. My tip? Go to Chipotle! The carnitas are compliant and you can have as much lettuce, guac, and salsa (no corn!) as your heart desires. (I obviously learned this from Google.)
- Tweak recipes to fit what you have already have. At the end of the day as long as you are compliant, don’t worry about following a recipe step for step. It’s super easy to sub things like olive and coconut oil. I will include some of my easy substitutions with the recipes below.
- Don’t be alarmed if your body does some weird things. Many people (myself included) report that Whole30 can mess with your cycle a little bit, but a quick Google search will let you know that you aren’t alone and this is in fact normal.
MY GO TO RECIPES
Now for the fun part! Below are a few of my favorites recipes and staples that we ate throughout Whole30.
Chicken Lettuce Wraps were one of the best and easiest recipes I used. I tweaked the recipe a little and subbed walnuts for water chestnuts, because who keeps water chestnuts lying around their kitchen? I also added a can of diced pineapple (double check labels for no added sugar) to my chicken mixture to add some sweetness. We paired these with basic baked sweet potato fries to complete our meal.
If you have seen sweet potato toast taking over your Pinterest/Instagram, let me tell you it’s the real deal! I had this for lunch every single day. My go to was toasted sweet potato, mashed avocado, and a sunny side up egg. Throw on some Everything but the Bagel seasoning from Trader Joe’s to top it off.
Hashes are super easy to customize to what you like. I used this recipe as a base but went off on my own and used a combo of sweet and red potatoes, spinach, garlic, avocado and sunny side up eggs. This was our default recipe when we had no protein left in the fridge.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, my favorite blog full of Whole30 approved recipes is Chrissa Benson’s Physical Kitchness.
If you have somehow stuck with me through this incredibly long post about going on a diet for 30 days, thank you! I hope this post can inspire you to take on Whole30 yourself, or just make an overall lifestyle change for the better. It’s not always about losing weight, but also feeling like your best self.