Confession. This girl loves food. A lot. And because of that, the Whole30 has been on my radar for a while now. I’ve read the books. I’ve watched friends go through it. And this month, I’m ready to check it off my to-do list.
First, let me give you a quick backstory to all of this—I swear it’s not happening on a whim. This past summer, I made a huge overhaul to my eating and fitness habits—sort of a final step in this crazy year of transformation—and dropped almost 25 pounds since June. While some of that definitely happened in the gym, they say 80 percent of the weight loss journey happens in the kitchen.
And it’s been incredibly true for me. So the Whole30 seemed like the perfect way to challenge myself even further.
But what the heck is the Whole30?
Some people call it a nutritional reset. Most of my family and friends call it a diet. But I’m categorizing it as a personal challenge in my health journey. If you follow the textbook definition of the Whole30, it’s a month of clean eating that puts the focus on meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables and some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. For 30 days, you completely cut out the following from your diet:
- Sugar in all forms, including real sugars such as honey and maple syrup, as well as artificial sweeteners like Splenda
- Grains such as wheat, oats, corn, and even quinoa and buckwheat
- Legumes like beans, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts
- Dairy in all its forms, from milk to cheese to yogurt
There’s a much more specific breakdown of the Whole30 program rules available on the official website. I’m embracing almost every single program guideline, minus the no alcohol clause. I am not cutting out alcohol during my Whole30 experience. See why I titled this blog post “my not-so-perfect Whole30?”
For reference, I’m a 2-3 drink per week sorta gal—usually wine or a vodka soda with lemon. I gave up beer, whiskey, and other favorites over the summer in favor of “lighter” drink options. Grabbing drinks after work is usually at the core of my social life and it’s a small weekly treat I enjoy. Sure, I might get a little flack over this and that’s okay.
What do you get out of it?
The Whole30 boasts a long list of health benefits, including weight loss, better sleep, mental clarity, fewer cravings, and even relief from more serious health issues like migraines, allergies, etc. Reading the testimonials, it’s easy to say the program has been transformative for a lot of people. But obviously, each individual had his or her own reason for jumping into this—myself included. Here are the top three reasons I’m doing this:
- Insight into my current eating habits and relationship with food—I’ve made progress, but how much?
- More confidence in the kitchen so I can finally stop relying on my “crutch recipes”
- Progress in my weight loss journey—losing a few pounds wouldn’t be too bad
So there’s all the context you probably need to at least begin understanding why I’m crazy enough to try something like this. I’m actually really excited to document this whole experience, so stay tuned for weekly updates through October.
What did the first week look like?
I started my Whole30 on Sunday, October 1. And overall? It was a pretty damn mellow experience. If you’ve peeked at the program timeline, the “typical” first week sounds terrifying. We’re talking exhaustion, major cravings, mood swings—essentially, a bodily detox. Besides some mild mental fogginess, I wasn’t feeling much different than my pre-Whole30 life. But the first week did bring some interesting trends and lessons learned:
1. The grocery store became my to-go destination. I made least four trips to the grocery store throughout the week, spending around $82.70 on food. This is a little more than I usually spend in an average week.
Luckily my pantry was already stocked with some essentials —olive oil, coconut oil, spices, etc. I also picked up some more pricey items that will last me the month—like bulk almonds, several pounds of chicken breast, and coconut flour—so I expect next week’s grocery bill to drop slightly.
2. I got more excited about snacks than a hungry toddler. Packing small snacks like Larabars made going about my day so much easier. Whether I’m at work or running around on a day off, I’m so bad about forgetting to eat at regular human times, which usually leaves me a hangry mess.
3. My self-control stops at mozzarella sticks. Friday night brought about my first Whole30 blunder after stuffing my face with fried cheese sticks while out to dinner with friends. There was a little guilt the next day, and while the program would recommend I start over, I decided to just embrace it and power through the next three weeks. Mistakes happen. I forgave myself and recommitted.
If you really want to know about the day-to-day Whole30 experience, keep scrolling for my daily recaps. But before you get too far, I want to point out again that my Whole30 experience has not been typical or perfect so far. And I’m going to be super honest about that. The comparisons I make are against the typical Whole30 experience outlined on the program’s official website, but obviously, it looks a little different for everyone. I also know that I’m not going to reap all the benefits of the program when I’m not totally cutting out alcohol and giving into cravings.
I started my Whole30 on Sunday, and of course, it turned out to be one of my busiest work days of the season with an all-day adoption event for the humane society. I fixed an egg and veggie scramble with coffee and half a banana for breakfast; snacked on a Cashew Cookie Larabar and cold brew later in the morning; and settled for a chicken salad I had prepped and packed for lunch. Dinner was a chicken burrito bowl with Mexican cauliflower rice and avocado lime sauce—with enough leftovers for lunches the next two days. Ending the day, I was definitely exhausted… but I’m going to attribute it to a 55-hour work week, and according to my Fitbit, the 17,000 steps I logged that afternoon. Somehow, making it through such a chaotic day without any slips left me with this odd sense of optimism for the next 29 days.
Today wasn’t hard because I couldn’t drink wine, today was hard because I couldn’t stay awake. I sipped on coffee and a green smoothie all morning, supplemented with a Coconut Cream Larabar. Lunch was a prepped chicken burrito bowl from yesterday, while I kept dinner simple with scrambled eggs, sausage, and some fruit. Overall? The day felt pretty damn easy—no major temptations or cravings. But even after plenty of food, coffee, and my first BBG workout, I just couldn’t shake the exhaustion. At the same time, I was coming off nine days of work and little sleep, which also doesn’t leave you feeling the best. Whole30 hangover? Or just a long fucking work week? It was impossible to tell, but I used it as an excuse to embrace my inner grandma and crawl into bed before 8:30 p.m.
Eight hours of solid sleep can do a girl good. In fact, it turned out that shitty sleep was at least 80 percent of my exhaustion issue. I blamed some lingering mental fog on the Whole30 hangover, but overall, today felt pretty damn good. Since I finally had a day off, I made a batch of chicken sausage frittata “muffins” for the rest of the week—adding in green bell pepper and white onion. And my goodness, they were delicious! I might have eaten four of them in one sitting. Lunch was a mixed green salad with chicken, tomato, red onion, and avocado with a complaint balsamic vinaigrette. I wrapped up the day with a homemade steak and potato dinner at my best friend’s place.
In all the research I did before starting this crazy journey, I expected the first two weeks of the Whole30 to be horrendous. The truth? Going into the fourth day, it felt lackluster. No monstrous cravings. No mood swings or hangover symptoms. Just a persistent mental fog that seemed to ease up slightly today. But I’m not going to complain; it was much more manageable than the ravenous food zombie I had expected to become. Today, I munched on my chicken sausage frittata muffins for breakfast and then navigated my first Whole30 meal out when I went to lunch with a co-worker. I snacked on apple chips through the afternoon and made another heaping chicken and mixed green salad for dinner.
My first thought today: “Am I doing this right?” At this point, my Whole30 was not a “textbook” experience. Evidently, the fifth day is usually tainted with a bad attitude and bitchy tendencies. But I breezed through my Thursday in a fairly good mood. Even the mental fog that lingered all week seemed to lift a bit I was up early for a radio show, and since I’m not a breakfast-at-the-crack-of-dawn sorta gal, I sipped on a compliant almond milk latte to start the day. My chicken sausage frittata muffins did just fine as a late breakfast, and then I settled for another chicken and mixed green salad for lunch. But dinner was my favorite today. I made sheet pan chili lime shrimp fajitas, swapping tortillas for romaine lettuce wrap and topping them off with Whole30 compliant salsa and cilantro.
Today taught me something important: My self-control stops at mozzarella sticks. Friday started out well enough. I sipped on my favorite green smoothie on the way to work—a combination of spinach, almond milk, banana, apple, and flaxseed. I packed a banana and salted almonds for snacks and heated up my leftover shrimp fajitas for lunch while I was at work. Seemed like an almost perfect day, right? Then dinner at Applebee’s happened. My chicken breast, onions, and mashed potatoes were compliant enough, but the three mozzarella sticks I stuffed in my mouth certainly were not.
Yup. I happily broke my Whole30 commitment for fried cheese. Now according to the book, this would mean starting over from the very beginning. But I decided to embrace my not-so-perfect Whole30 and finish out the three weeks to the best of my ability. Already the experience showed me that I was actually much further on my nutrition journey than I realized. And at the very least, the next three weeks would be a chance to explore new healthy recipes; get more comfortable in the kitchen; and maybe even get a little closer to my weight loss goals.
Waking up in the morning, I expected some sort of bodily backlash over my cheesy binge. But after a cup of coffee cured the morning grogginess, I couldn’t pinpoint any specific side effects. I grilled up a chicken sausage and three eggs for breakfast, plus my coffee and a side of strawberries. This week reminded me how thankful I am that I can drink my coffee black; I can’t imagine doing the Whole30 as a frappuccino addict. I also kept my water bottle within reach the entire day; somehow it seemed like drinking enough water would help flush out my system. Before lunch, I powered through a BBG workout and opted for a light lunch of almond, sweet potato crisps, and a banana. I ate dinner at a friend’s house, which was some amazing homemade fajitas that I made compliant by swapping tortillas for lettuce wraps and skipping cheese… my own personal attempt to repent.
Sunday marked my first full week of Whole30. Yes, I submitted to a cheesy craving and ate mozzarella sticks. Yes, I sipped on a drink or two during the week. And yes, I probably even got judged by some clean eating enthusiasts out there. It wasn’t exactly what I pictured a week ago, but considering the initial goals I set, it was exactly what I needed. I was NOT hungry when I woke up that morning, so I stuck with coffee and a banana while I planned out my meals for the second week. But when lunchtime finally arrived, I was in the kitchen making bunless turkey burgers and sweet potato “fries.” Dinner was super easy with compliant Italian sausage, potatoes, onions and bell pepper—thank goodness for sheet pan meals like this one. I even bulked up the recipe a bit to give me leftovers for lunch the next day.
I’ll be back next Monday with a second-week recap of my Whole30 experience. Until then… Have you tried something like the Whole30? I’d love to hear about your experience—or even questions you have about mine. Leave me a comment below or feel free to get in touch on Twitter and Instagram. Happy eating!