It is 6:10am and I am drinking coffee again, with almond milk hazelnut creamer. It is JUST AS DELICIOUS as I remember. At the start of Whole30, I had a long list of ailments I was hoping to cure. The book implies you can fix almost anything by eating real foods, and I was skeptical but hopeful. The biggest change I can report is that I feel generally healthier. In the same way that after I eat five slices of pizza, I feel generally unhealthy; after doing Whole30, I feel generally healthy. Here's a breakdown of the ailments I was hoping to cure at the beginning, with the results after 30 days.
(the honest truth!)
Insomnia - stayed the same. Whole30 did not improve my sleep quality at all, which was disappointing to say the least. But, toward the end of Whole30 I decided to start taking a magnesium supplement to see if that helped and IT DID. For the past two years, my nightstand drawer has hosted a collection of sleeping pill bottles. If I’m struggling with allergies, I reach for Benadryl. If I have a headache, I grab a Tylenol PM. If I feel otherwise fine, I bounce back and forth between Zzzquil and Unisom. I don’t take one every night, but I take one most nights. If I don’t, I’m up tossing and turning and thinking about All The Things from roughly 2am-5am. I’ve tried Natural Calm in the past without success, but recently bought this magnesium supplement and it’s AMAZING. I take it 30-60 minutes before bed with a small snack, fall asleep quickly, and stay asleep all night.
Bloat - huge improvement. I lost 7 pounds during Whole30, which is way more than I expected. We didn’t own a scale prior to Whole30 so I bought one just for this. Brett and I weighed ourselves on Day 1 and Day 30; I lost 7 pounds and he lost 9. I can see this almost everywhere on me -- my stomach is flatter, my face looks less puffy, a few of my once too-tight shorts now fit perfectly. I don’t know how to better describe this, but for the past couple of years, I have felt constantly … bloated. At some point I think I gave up and assumed this is just what my body looks like after two kids. Turns out, no, this is just what my body looks like when I eat a lot of chips and ice cream.
Seasonal allergies - huge improvement. I had TERRIBLE allergies even up until the week before we started Whole30. Aside from a few random sneezes here and there, I haven’t had a single allergy attack the past 30 days.
Energy levels - moderate improvement. I have to be honest, I was feeling REALLY discouraged about this, because for the first 25 or so days, I did not feel a difference in my energy levels whatsoever. I felt less sluggish overall, but didn’t necessarily feel less tired. I tried to give myself grace in this area because I consumed significantly less caffeine on Whole30 and figured that might be working against any natural improvement. But, around the last few days, I definitely saw an uptick in energy levels, most noticeable in the afternoon (when I am typically the most tired).
Headaches - worse. I think cutting back on caffeine is to blame to this, but I'm not sure. I had way more headaches on Whole30 than I usually do, and was hoping Whole30 would cure me of headaches altogether. Enter: girl shrugging shoulders emoji here_____.
Mental clarity - huge improvement. This change also came toward the end, probably around the 20-day mark. I noticed that every day during naptime, when I usually plop in my bed with lunch to watch something on Netflix and/or scroll my phone, I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to get on my laptop and write, or work … or do something productive. Toward the end of Whole30, I’ve felt sharper, more focused, and more motivated. I’ve had an essay brewing in my head for a while and last week I finally sat down to get it out and dumped nearly 2,500 words in a few short sittings.
I dove into the Whole30 forums a lot to see what results others were having (or not having), and the one consistent message I found was that everyone's body reacts differently to Whole30 on a unique timetable. Some people start sleeping better at the end of the first week; others report higher energy on week two. I was feeling a bit discouraged halfway through because I didn't feel any of those things. I didn't feel bad, necessarily, but I didn't feel AMAZING either. Someone else reported feeling the same way and a Whole30 forum leader suggested she try sticking it out for 45 days to see if she just needs more time on the program.
I was like, lol I have a paper chain for when I can get my coffee creamer back so Ashlee OUT.
(key takeaways + what we plan to change moving forward)
We actually really love eating a big breakfast. I never thought I’d say this, but scrambled eggs and I are a pretty good match in the morning.
Meal planning is key. I cannot stress this enough: I never ever meal planned before Whole30. We generally bought the same items from the store each week, and I probably cooked, on average, 2-3 nights per week. The other nights we ate cereal for dinner, ordered takeout, or foraged through the freezer for frozen burritos, lasagnas, etc. Meal planning is a whole new world for me, but I gotta say: it's growing on me.
Cooking enough food for leftovers makes the mess worth it. On Whole30, we ate dinner leftovers for lunch almost every day, and both of us would like to keep that habit. Brett used to eat out 5x a week (!), and now he’s aiming to eat out 1x a week. I'm trying to cook bigger batches of food each night, and be mindful of our serving sizes so we can save enough for a second meal.
Speaking of the mess, splitting the cooking and cleaning really works for us. I think Brett cooked 2x total on Whole30. I was pretty exasperated at the end of week one; I was carrying the mental load of figuring out what was for dinner, plus the physical load of grocery shopping, prepping, and cooking. One night he asked, “What can I do to help?” and I said, “You can do ALL OF THE DISHES.” This was a really perfect trade-off for us; I cooked and he cleaned. I didn’t have to stress out about the mess I was making while preparing dinner because I knew at the end, someone else was going to clean it up.
Brett is done with soda. I am done with processed sweets. We both made small lists of personal things we’d like to change / give up / do better. All of it feels really doable after enduring such a strict regimen for 30 days.
Brand recognition is the gift that keeps on giving. We discovered a few "clean" brands/products on Whole30 that we plan to keep buying (Tessamae's, Primal, Epic). I also feel better equipped to walk through a grocery store knowing what to look for on an ingredient list. Knowledge is power.
We don't always need a grain with dinner. Prior to Whole30, we ate a LOT of rice and pasta. I like rice and pasta and have no plans to give those items up, but it's nice to know we can make filling meals without those things, too.
(from the kind people of Instagram):
1. What were your favorite savory / sweet snacks? Favorite savory snack: roasted almonds, applegate beef hot dog dipped in guac. Favorite sweet snack: Pressed by Kind bars, apples with cinnamon dipped in almond butter.
2. How hard is it, really? How hard is it mentally? For me, Whole30 was 100% mental. That was the hard part. It wasn’t hard to not eat certain foods, or to eat better foods; it was hard to go to the coffee shop and not order a bagel. It was hard to stand at the birthday party while everyone is eating homemade cupcakes and not reach for one. Being super mindful of every single thing you eat for 30 days (and thus, resisting temptation all around you) is the most challenging part.
3. Did you feel like you missed out on life events / social stuff? YES, yes, yes. Honestly, we were practically on house arrest while on Whole30 because it just wasn’t fun or enjoyable for us to attend social gatherings. We felt super high maintenance about the whole thing, like “sure, we can go to this BBQ, but we need to bring our own meat and our own ketchup and our own snacks and our own salad dressing.” Who wants to be those people? Not us. We actually picked our 30 days strategically because we didn't have very much on the calendar. That was a good decision, and I would take that into consideration again if we ever do Whole30 in the future.
4. Did Whole30 feel too extreme, or did you feel like it’s what you needed? For me, it was exactly what I needed. I cannot tell you how many Sunday nights I have said to myself: this week I am going to meal plan! This week I am going to be healthy! And then by Tuesday afternoon, I am stuffing my face with cheddar popcorn like oh well, I’ll try again next week. I really needed something concrete, with rules, to whip my butt into shape. Having said that, it IS extreme. But, the thing I really loved about Whole30 is they don't tell you how much to eat. It is all about quality and not about quantity. Whole30 is not a diet (they say that over and over again in the book). They don't tell you how many calories to consume each day, and they specifically ask you not to weigh yourself during the 30 days because they don't want weight loss to be your motivator. I found a ton of freedom in this, in knowing it wasn't about how much I was eating, but rather what I was eating.
5. What was your favorite and least favorite part of doing Whole30? Favorite part: discovering healthy new weeknight recipes that aren't intimidating. Least favorite part: all the damn dishes.
6. What surprised you the most? Reading the ingredient lists of foods I had previously deemed as “healthy” and realizing there are some weirdo things in them that I can barely pronounce. Also, realizing that there is sugar in EVERYTHING (meat, ketchup, marinara sauce, geeeeez).
7. What are your best Whole30 lazy tips? Trader Joe’s actually has a LOT of Whole30 ready-made compliant items. The chile lime chicken burgers and grass-fed beef roast were ridiculously easy meals! When in doubt, make a meat + a veggie and call it a day (add a baked potato if you're feeling fancy). I got a ton of ideas and grocery lists from Pinterest, like this one, this one, and this one.
8. How did Whole30 affect your grocery budget? I wish I had tracked this better. We spent a LOT of money on groceries, but we also didn’t really eat out (three trips to Chipotle in 30 days). Before Whole30, Brett was eating out 5 days a week for lunch, and we were probably eating out, on average, 3 nights a week? So, while our grocery bill definitely increased, our eating out budget definitely decreased. I think it probably evened out, mostly, but we spent WAY more money on groceries during Whole30 than we typically do. I also grocery shopped more often. We have a small kitchen, so we don't tend to buy a ton of stuff in bulk. Because we were eating more food from home, I felt like every 4-5 days, I needed to go to the store again.
9. Did your kids eat the same food as you? Did you modify meals for them? Did they try anything new that they really liked? Carson is a fantastic eater and usually eats exactly what we do. I think I noticed on Whole30 how much he likes meat (and potatoes!) which was fun to see, especially because he's so dang small. I am always looking for ways to help him get bigger, and I'm happy to know he can clear half a plate of beef by himself. He liked almost everything we served him while on Whole30. Everett on the other hand, is a super picky eater, and did not try anything we made (he never does). We offer him bites of everything we make each night, but he never touches it. He's got some sensory issues with food and it's an ongoing problem in our house; I didn't expect anything different from this.
10. Can I seriously do this? YES YOU CAN. Might I remind you, pre-Whole30 I was spending just about every afternoon standing in front of the fridge dipping animal crackers into an open can of rainbow chip frosting. Let that visual sink it. If I can do it, anyone can.
Anything else you want to know? Obviously I am not a Whole30 expert, but I'm happy to share about our experience!