If you know me personally then you know that I have a lazy palate. Some of my favorite foods include Velveeta mac n’ cheese, Dominos pizza, Olive Garden breadsticks, and a good charcuterie board. I’m slowly learning to love cooking but I still prefer the convenience of fast food or takeaway over the alternative. Whole30 seems like a drastic shift but I’ll explain why it was needed.
After a few months of hibernation eating this past winter, my partner and I discussed trying Whole30 to get our bodies back on track. His biggest problem was beer and mine…was everything else haha. We had both been complaining for months about weight gain, sluggishness, or feeling achey all the time, so we finally decided to do something about it!
Over the last year I’ve been dealing with a lot of joint and mobility issues. I had spoken to my doctor previously about attempting an elimination diet. I think it’s very important to consult with a doctor before you just start cutting things out of your diet. There can be benefits you don’t even realize you’re getting by putting certain foods in your body. Believing my inflammation issues might be food-related, he agreed that since it was just for 30 days. The key would be the re-introduction phase post-Whole30, which would help us look at foods to pull back on or possibly cut out.
I am not going to talk about weight loss from Whole30, because that shouldn’t be your goal. Some people lose weight, others don’t, so please don’t be disappointed if your’e in the latter group. It should come as no surprise that due to the above mentioned eating habits, my weight has fluctuated for most of my life. I’m very open about my struggles, and I’ve spoken out on social media about my battle with body dysmorphia and going through ED recovery.
I’m not gonna spout some crap about how “feeling good is better than looking good” because I know we all roll our eyes at stuff like that. I learned a long time ago that looking at a number on a scale isn’t good for my mental health. When I’m at the doctor’s office I get weighed with my back to the scale so I don’t have to see the result. Even when I was at my smallest, that number was never low enough so I just avoid it.
However, if you’re not like me and weight loss is a huge motivator, do what you think is best, just don’t sacrifice your mental health for the sake of fitting into some swim suit. When I decided to do Whole30, a large part of the benefit came from me hoping it would help improve my relationship with food.
My goal for this post is to talk about how I felt each week, share some yummy recipes, and offer some tips for anyone thinking of giving Whole30 a shot!
What Is Whole30?
According to the website, Whole 30 is “a short-term nutrition reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.” A lot of participants report that by the end of Whole30 they have higher energy levels, better sleep, along with improved focus and mental clarity.
How do you get all of that? By avoiding these foods/additives for 30 days:
- Sugar, real or artificial
- Carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites
The first thing I did was prep my apartment for Whole30. Donate or toss any of the “off-limits” food so that you can avoid temptation.
Thankfully my roommate is currently on keto so, aside from dairy, most of our fridge food could be shared. I went through the pantry and got rid of A LOT of things (pretzels, chips, crackers, tortillas, biscuits etc) but it was a lot easier not having them around.
Proper planning and preparation is going to be the key to your success. Trust me, it will make or break your Whole30 experience. Pinterest was my best friend; a while ago I created a board for “Diet Fads” that had everything from 21 Day Fix, Paleo, Whole30 etc. Before you head to the grocery store, think about choosing recipes for your week so that you’re not looking at a bunch of vegetables trying to decide what to make that night.
If you’re wanting information on the diet and recipes all in one, then look at purchasing their book “The Whole30“. I stuck to Pinterest and Google searches but it would be nice to flip through a book and make something out of the ingredients in the fridge.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
Time to hit the grocery store! I know it’s more expensive but I really tried to stick to local farmers markets for produce and then Whole Foods or Trader Joes for the rest. It was much easier to find ingredients with no added sugar at both of these places. I tried our local Safeway and QFC but noticed shopping was taking so much longer because I spent more time hunting through items and reading labels only to realize I couldn’t have them.
Hold Yourself Accountable
This won’t be easy for some of you, and that’s okay too! There will be hard days where all you want is a giant cookie or a pack of Haribo gummy bears (my guilty pleasure). DON’T GIVE IN! This is a 30 day commitment to learning new recipes, helping your stomach, and clearing your mind.
Here are a few websites that I used pretty consistently to help me find things in grocery stores or
- Seriously, this site is what got me through it all!
- It Starts With Food
- Surviving Whole30
- The Ultimate Whole30 Recipes for Instant Pot
- The Ultimate Whole30 Trader Joe’s Shopping Guide
Here are a few things that I made sure were always in my home. They can be used across a ton of recipes and some of them I used almost every day!
- Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have a few sugar-free brands that I love
- Coconut Aminos
- Avocado Oil
- Sweet potatoes
- Fresh fruit
- I opted for blueberries, raspberries, watermelon, and of course peaches
- Bell peppers
- Nuts (cashews or almonds)
- Plantain chips
- Cauliflower gnocchi
Breakfast – I generally don’t like eggs so I found a billion and one ways to dress them up so it didn’t get monotonous.
- Breakfast potatoes
- Turkey apple sausage patties
- Roasted garlic chicken sausage
- Sweet potato toast
- Sausage hash brown egg bake
Lunch – I have never in my life felt full from a salad, regardless of how many proteins I put in it. I focused on loading my plates up with a little of everything to keep me full. Most of the time it was a salad and some leftovers of whatever I had for dinner the night before.
- Salads stocked with veggies & chicken
- Deli meat with nuts and fruit
- Leftovers from dinner the night before
Dinner – This is where I allowed myself more creativity in recipes. I tried new flavors or combinations that I wouldn’t have ever thought of!
- Jalapeño turkey burgers
- Sweet potato fries
- Steak bites with sweet potatoes
- Chicken pesto stuffed sweet potatoes
- Instant Pot cashew chicken
- Grilled pineapple chicken
Week 1 –
The first few days were rough, this is normal but it’s definitely not fun. While your body is detoxing from all the sugars it used to get, you’re left with headaches, fatigue, and lethargy, aka an awful “hangover”. I had an awful migraine for about 36 hours, no matter how much I ate or how much water I drank. What I did notice is that I felt constantly hungry; I was having big meals but without the meal fillers like bread or dairy, my stomach wanted more quicker than I was used to. I had to go to a work event at T-Mobile park; it was insanely difficult to truly support the Mariners and only be able to drink water at the ballpark.
Week 2 –
This was really difficult for me because I was traveling on business for half of the week. At the hotel I told them that I was lactose-intolerant to guarantee no milk or butter in my scrambled eggs, their bacon had sugar so I just had fresh fruit with them each morning. I made due with salads from Evergreens or Sweet Greens for lunch most days, but one day I treated myself to a burger from In N’ Out (protein style). Dinner was a bit trickier, most days I was in the hotel so I had a steak with steamed broccoli or a bun-less burger, that they grill cooked, and kept the tomato/lettuce/pickle on the side. Mentally, I still craved my comfort foods and I wanted a proper cuppa tea with milk like crazy but I made it through.
Week 3 –
Entering week 3 I was a little less apprehensive as I had been previous weeks but I was starting to get a bit bored. I’d completed it for 2 weeks, can’t I just call it a success for getting that far? I was beyond over having bacon and eggs every morning but was starting to get a bit lazier with my other meals too. Settling for cooking what was easy instead of what might satisfy my hunger or my tastebuds. I also started dreaming about food; I had a few crazy dreams involving various fruits, bacon, applesauce, and eggs…
Week 4 –
IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOOOOOWWWWNNNN! Finally in the last week of whole30, I made a final push to cook any recipes I wanted to recommend. I was really ready for it to be over and to not feel so restricted when I want to leave the house. This was honestly just an exhausting week between my multiple jobs and trying to find the time to experiment in the kitchen just wasn’t happening. My breakfasts were pretty simple, living off of pretty much fruit and the occasional breakfast meat. Lunches were meat and cheeses. Dinners were whatever leftovers were in the fridge. I was ready for it to be over!
This is the most crucial part of closing out whole30, reintroducing certain food groups back into your system to determine if you have a reaction. One at a time choose a food group to try, this will help you learn how each of them can affect your mood, sleep, mood, digestion, or overall health. Be sure to track you look and feel so you can compare what things were like without these foods. It should take you 2-4 weeks to go through this phase fully and just be mindful of what cravings can be triggered by other foods. The trick was to listen to my body and adjust accordingly!
Unless there is a clear health concern, I don’t think depriving our bodies of food long-term is healthy. I know for me it can lead back to toxic thoughts about my body and lead to a poor relationship with food.
This experience made me a better cook with a deeper appreciation for what I put into my body. I’m excited to continue cooking a lot of these recipes and while I may indulge in pizza or breadsticks every once in a while, I’m going to actively work on making better choices for my body and my mind.