Whole30 is brilliant. Whole30 is stupid. Whole30 is going to change my life. Whole30 is making my life worse. Whole30 is something I can do ALL the time. Whole30 is cruel and unusual punishment. Whole30 should be required of everyone. Whole30 is complete utter BS.
I have deeply felt and believed every single one of these conflicting statements at some point in the past 30 days. I have been delighted, enraged, exhausted, and content. I have truly felt all the feels.
I originally started this 30 day journey due to some unexplained stomach pains, and bad habits formed during vacation. I wanted more energy and patience. I despise the words ‘cleanse’ and ‘detox’; however, I did need to reset my body and figure out what food (or food group) was making me feel lousy. I had my suspicions of dairy and peanuts, but wanted to be certain. These strong reasons were pretty much the only thing that got me through those 30 days. If I had weaker reasons, I’m not sure I would have prevailed.
It wasn’t pretty.
Week 1 So easy and I felt great. Plus I was pretty cocky. I figured since I’ve been gluten-free for 4 years that I wouldn’t experience as many negative effects as others. My meals didn’t seem all that different from what I normally eat besides the barely noticeable absence of cheese, chocolate, and peanut butter. (See full update here)
Week 2 I was so. darn. exhausted. I felt like I was pregnant even though I was not, and am not. That fatigue, that lack of desire to eat anything but knowing you have to for your health. That feeling like you have no control over your body. I could barely function by 2 pm. That 3 pm slump was taken to a whole new level of unproductiveness. This is when I learned my calorie intake was WAY too low and I needed more carbs. (See full update here)
Week 3 I started eating more carbs (primarily, potatoes and squash) as well as taking a daily B Complex vitamin. I may have stopped being a narcoleptic and reached normal levels of energy, but this was the week when I wanted to kill all the things; primarily, the creators of Whole30. I felt 21 days was more than enough of this restrictive crap. I can’t tell you exactly what I was missing out on though. I think it’s just the notion of restrictiveness that got to me. I felt empty, and worse off. I started to realize some of their arbitrary rules and finding a lot of holes in the Whole30 program that I hadn’t noticed before I started (more on this later.) I did not experience any of what was promised to me in terms of boundless amounts of energy (so called “tiger blood”), nor did I feel contentment. In fact, I was flat out resentful. My bathroom habits now sucked, I was bored of food, disgusted with meat, and really over the amount of time it required to prepare food and mess up my clean kitchen. (See more here)
Week 4 I made some adjustments and started taking a probiotic on day 25. Then I started to break out into a rash around my abdomen and legs. At first I thought it was a new food allergy, but after researching online, it looks identical to what’s called a “detox rash.” This rash—which often appears 2-3 weeks into a low-carb paleo diet, raw and/or vegan diet, or juice cleanse—is believed to be a good thing because it’s your body’s way of releasing toxins. When the bad bacteria in your gut dies off and is replaced with good bacteria, the matter in the bad bacteria needs to exit quickly. And since you can only poop and pee so many times a day, it looks for the nearest exit and makes its escape out your skin. It can last a few days or up to a few months. It is more common in people with an autoimmune disease, such as Celiac. Whomp whomp.
Days 24-27 were my absolute worst days on Whole30. The only thing that kept me going is knowing how very close I was to completion! I knew I’d be so mad at myself if I got past day 20 and then gave up. I also wanted to save face on social media. For reals.
PROS: My Final Stats & Non-Scale Victories
- #1 best one: My taste buds have reawakened. Everything tastes SO good!
- 4.8 lbs down
- More focused
- Clearer skin (though that’s not so true anymore thanks to this rash)
- I think my teeth might be whiter
- Fewer seasonal allergies
- More in-tuned with my body
- Less-ish bloat (I expected better results here but still an NSV)
- Shorter period (this may have been a fluke since it was one cycle but I’ll take it!)
- No need for toast with my dippy eggs
CONS: Failed Expectations
- #1 worst one: Taking a few steps back in my relationship with food. Triggering old eating disorder thoughts I had overcome years ago.
- NO TIGER BLOOD (in fact, mostly less energy than before)
- Inconsistent bathroom habits
- Sleeping less
- Still taking forever to fall asleep
- Still hitting ‘snooze’ button in the morning
- Itchy all over
- Rash on abdomen and legs
- Worse athletic performance (mostly because I’m so tired still)
3 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started
1. Whole30 can often be harder and/or produce more negative side effects in those who have an autoimmune disease or other pre-existing health condition.
This is in no way the fault of the authors, Dallas & Melissa Hartwig. I just skimmed through this section of the book thinking it wouldn’t be an issue for me.
2. There are arbitrary rules.
One of the things that made me most bitter throughout this was realizing how arbitrary some of their rules are. I wrote on a forum that it seemed the Hartwigs picked rules out of a hat, and someone commented that the authors have admitted they choose to restrict some foods and allow others “just because.” Grrrr. This undermines all their research.
I love that the main point behind Whole30 is to change your relationship with food (and thus eating paleo brownies can be a slippery slope to craving the “real” thing); however, Whole30 is inconsistent with what’s considered a forbidden paleo treat and what’s not. Slicing potatoes into skinny wedges, coating in healthy oil, and either sauteeing or baking, and then dipping into Whole30/paleo ketchup is perfectly acceptable. Oh yes, they are baked french fries by every definition. And if you’re a fry-aholic, you’re allowed—nay, encouraged—to maintain this carb habit for the sake of your energy upkeep. But blend up a frozen banana and some canned coconut milk for some nice cream, man, and you better pack your things up and mosey your sorry carb-loving ass back to Day 1 because you. blew. it.
3. This is probably the wrong program for anyone who used to have an eating disorder. (Definitely wrong for anyone who has one currently.)
What I was initially applauding this program for on Day 1, became my biggest issue by Day 16. In both the ‘Whole 30’ and ‘It Starts With Food’ the Hartwigs do their best to be lighthearted and even humorous in order to make the science-y information more palatable and easier to comprehend. I appreciate that; however, in a more sensitive light it can come off as food shaming, guilt-tripping, and even flippant at times.
It’s not so much that I’m offended by what they have to say. I mentally GET where they’re coming from. But, going back to our nice cream example, it made me feel like absolute crap that my desire for 100% HEALTHY FOOD was still being condemned. It reminded me of 7th-9th grade, freshman year of college, senior year of college, 4 months after my oldest was born, etc. where I’d basically starve and deprive myself in order to lose weight and feel in control again. I never thought I’d have to re-experience that crap again, and yet here I am.
The whole concept of avoiding SWYPO (aka healthy recreations using all whole30-approved ingredients of otherwise unhealthy food—nice cream, cauliflower-crust pizza, etc.) doesn’t create healthy habits for most people. This creates resentment and isolation because the creativity is taken out of ingredient combinations, and a thick layer of guilt is drizzled all over it. They claim that it’s a slippery slope and that it’s “sex with your pants on” (ugh! *shudder* I loath the SWYPO acronym. Loathe!) because it’s never as good as the real thing. I strongly beg to differ. In fact, I think they’re shooting themselves in the foot here, because then they’re denying my #1 BEST NSV is a factor—food suddenly tastes better than ever on Whole30.
Despite a few strong cons I have for the rules of this program, I still believe everyone should try Whole30 at least once. It’s a great way to connect with your body, and have a greater understanding and appreciation for what food can do for your health. Removing the man-made junk from our bodies, and allowing our organs to do their job without the inhibition of chemicals, toxins, and other questionable additives, is an experiment you owe to your future self.
I realize now that I probably should have just gone paleo so that the focus was on the INGREDIENTS and not the meal, but I think for those who find black-and-white rules easier to comprehend, this is the best option for starting a new healthy lifestyle.
Whole30 confirmed my original beliefs on nutrition were correct: 80-85% clean and 15-20% whatever is the most realistic way for people to lead a healthy lifestyle without deprivation or guilt.
Please know my mind was open, and I wasn’t looking to be smug about what I’ve been preaching the past 4+ years. If anything, having completed this 30-day experiment strengthens the foundation of my personal health choices, as well as the information, recommendations, and tips I share as a health and fitness professional. While our bodies are all different, and some may truly gain tiger blood after their Whole30 (jealous!), I feel more confident in sharing my nutritional recommendations than ever before.
PEACE OUT, WHOLE30!!!
I may visit you again in more do-able 7 or 14 day increments after the holidays or a vacation, but I can say, without hesitation, my body was NOT meant to sustain 30 days of this.
As for my final words to Whole30?
This animated GIF says it all: