Following a full winter season of indulging our taste buds, March found my husband and I wanting to clean up our diets once and for all. While we’re not total fast-food junkies, we sure do love our slice (or three) of pizza every now and again, and tend to rely on the convenience of takeout a little too often. Finally doing away with the “everything in moderation” approach—which was getting us nowhere—we vowed to eat nothing but meat, veggies, fruit, and nuts for a whole 30 days. If you can guess which “diet” I’m talking about, feel free to skip the next paragraph.
In case you haven’t heard of it, the Whole30 program was created in 2009 by a husband-and-wife team of sports nutritionists who set out to change the way we think about food. Since then, it’s been touted by tens of thousands across the globe as “a life-altering experience” in the journey to better health. The way it works? By eliminating everything we love about the good ol’ Western diet—dairy, sugar, alcohol, grains, beans, and most vegetable oils—with the exception of meat, for at least one month. This is meant to “reset” your hormones, get rid of pesky cravings, and establish balance in the body after a long period of less-than-healthy eating habits. Once the thirty days are up, you’re encouraged to “slowly” reintroduce the no-no foods one at at a time, evaluate how they make you feel, and decide from there what’s worth cutting out of your diet for good. Sound like fun?
The positive testimonials of Whole30 participants are all over the interwebs, but the program is definitely not for the faint of heart. The rules are very strict. If you slip up, you start over. No excuses.
Inspired by a friend’s success story, Scott and I agreed to take a stab at it. We were set to fly to Panama City for a family beach vacation exactly a month later, which made us even more eager to begin right away. (Hello, rockin’ beach bods!) So we jumped into our first Whole30 without a second thought, completely unprepared and unsuspecting of the challenges to come. The timing seemed perfect, and the novelty of our new diet made the first few days fly by with ease. That is, until we reached the middle of Week 1 and found ourselves running low on groceries, time, money, and patience.
On Day 4, after a hastily prepared dinner of baked cod and roasted Brussels sprouts, our short-lived healthy lifestyle went out the door with one defeated question: “You wanna share some Snickers ice cream?” Unfortunately for us, we had yet to throw out the leftover pint in our freezer from the week before. Rookie fail.
Four days of starving our cravings was all it took to render us desperate. Needless to say, the nutty ice cream tasted blissfully of freedom.
While I was glad to be eating normally again (avocado toast, dark chocolate, red wine!), I couldn’t shake the urge to give the Whole30 another chance. My curiosity got the best of me, and I bought the creators’ first book, It Starts With Food, to read on the beach (while hopefully sipping on a frozen piña colada). The nutrition nerd I am, I wanted to get a better understanding of their famous health philosophy before diving into the diet again—and I would dive in again. No going out without a fight.
The day before I began, I bought $150 worth of animal protein (chicken, salmon, steak, shrimp, burger patties, ground meat, eggs) and every kind of veggie you can imagine. If I was going to fail this time, it wouldn’t be because I wasn’t prepared. Within the first five days alone, I turned down my friends’ and family’s offers of deep dish pizza (twice), ice cold Prosecco, s’mores flavored donuts, my favorite hard cider, and fudge brownies topped with vanilla bean ice cream as if my life depended on it. (Okay, okay, the brownies and ice cream almost got me.) I traded in all of my usual comfort foods for lush green salads, roasted spaghetti squash, bunless burgers, veggie frittatas, and maybe a little too much fresh fruit. Things seemed to be going smoothly. I was cooking more, snacking less, getting back into my yoga routine. Until Day 8 hit me. The start of the second week.
I woke up that Monday morning completely unmotivated. As I poured my first cup of (sad) black coffee, I told myself there was no way I could possibly make it through another 22 days of 100% clean eating. It took every ounce of strength I had to resist throwing in the towel right then and rewarding my previous week’s efforts with a peanut butter bagel.
But I didn’t quit. Alas, I’m writing this blog post on the tenth day of my second Whole30 attempt. I’ve spent the last three days barely scraping by, begging my husband every evening to bring home a bottle of Champagne and a chocolate bar, and frankly, wondering if this whole thing is really worth it.
Yep, I admit it. I’m in a Whole30 rut.
Here’s the thing: No “switch” has been flipped yet in my body, so to speak. No “tiger blood,” no weight loss, no clearing of the skin. Not even my daily headaches have completely gone away, and I’m currently craving a creamy whole milk cappuccino. (It’s the simple things that you miss the most.) I’m a third of the way through the program, but perhaps ten days is simply not long enough to reap any of the visible health benefits. To that I say, phooey! Have I worked this hard for nothing?
I wish I was writing this blog post with a definitive opinion about the Whole30, but all I have is my own brief inconclusive experience. I guess only time will tell, if I can make it through the next 20 days. However, I’m dying to know from all of the devout Whole30-ers out there, is the end result really all it’s cracked up to be?
Because I’m about a hop and a skip away from diving into a bag of donut holes.
Photo by Jay Mantri.