Our Experience With the Whole30
How one married couple navigated the strict rules of the Whole30 and what actually happened after 30 days. Delicious breakfasts, snacks, dinners, and meal plans are shared, along with an honest review and before and after results.
Towards the end of April, I announced we were doing a Whole30 in May and invited you all along for the ride. Many of you even joined up to do it with us. Today I am sharing our experiences, what we ate, and how we did.
To recap, here are the reasons we wanted to do this experiment:
- Troy and I felt a bit stuck with our health. I felt like I need a CTRL+ALT+DEL with my sugar cravings. I wanted to see if some recent headaches were related food or just seasonal allergies and/or my constantly out of alignment neck.
- I heard it could help with TMJ.
- Troy’s back and body always hurt. He has had a crappy back ever since I have known him and we’ve tried pretty much everything to improve things.
- Troy has always had a sensitive GI tract.
- Additionally, we were both exhausted all the time. There is something to be said for the fact that we have kids, Troy has a 60-mile commute, and I am a terrible sleeper who gets up at 5 am every single to work.
What Were My Expectations for My Own Outcomes:
- My assumption that I have zero food sensitivities would likely be confirmed.
- I would lose 1-3 pounds because that is always what happens when I cut out sugar. My focus was NOT to lose weight but I knew it would be a byproduct of the process.
- I would maybe have more energy.
- My breasts would grow a full cup size. (chalk it up to wishful thinking?)
- Pretty much nothing would change.
Surprise! I’m a unicorn with a goat stomach. I am that person who walks around eating whatever they want with zero repercussions. Sorry.
Taking things out of my diet and then adding them back in proved that nothing negatively impacts my system, and could I please have some hot sauce on top of it?
I did have a day with intense stomach cramps in the third week of the month, but that happened after I had a burger at a restaurant. Hard to pinpoint the cause of that, but I had beef at a few other points in the month and it was fine.
I lost a little bit more than I anticipated, but since it wasn’t the focus of why I was doing this Whole30 I’m not talking more about it. My goal in life is to be strong, healthy, and capable and I was all of those things before the Whole30 and after. A number on the scale doesn’t define how I feel.
And? I feel like a garden-boss, chicken crap-hauling, straw bale flinging badass.
The infamous energy boost and tiger blood that everyone talks about during the Whole30 seems to have bypassed me. Even once the sugar left my system I was exhausted all the time. But here is the thing, I’m always exhausted.
I sleep for shit and I never stop moving. Exhaustion is kind of a thing that goes hand in hand with both of those things. But being exhausted doesn’t impact my ability to accomplish things and I live my life in spite of it.
Pretty Much Nothing Would Change:
Whenever you read about someone doing a Whole30 they go on and on about how it gave them superpowers and blah, blah, blah. I had none of that.
But I can tell you it sure lit a fire under my ass when it comes to cooking. I stopped relying on the same few recipes we love, and I got more creative in the kitchen. I developed delicious, healthy, and compliant recipes out of a necessity.
It reignited my love of real food cooking and gave me so much inspiration for making and redoing some of our favorite meals. I truly had a wonderful 30 days of inspired cooking. I was never bored and my creativity was on fire.
For the (almost) 14 years we have been married, Troy has had health issues. Back pain, stomach pain, low energy, and the list goes on. For (almost) 14 years I have recommended cutting out a food group or doing an elimination diet. For (almost) 14 years, Troy has brushed that suggestion off.
Well, after (almost) 14 years, it turns out I may have been on to something. Overall, Troy’s health improved so much during the last month. I mean it is night and day difference.
He slept better, had a ton more energy (was up doing projects without being
nagged reminded), and lost a whopping 20 pounds. It is a good thing I wasn’t in this to lose weight because trying to go through that process with a male would have been super defeating. Guys can think about changing their eating and lose weight.
That being said, not all was right in Troy’s world. In the last week of the Whole30, he developed stomach cramping so intense at times that he pretty much just sat around looking miserable for two whole days.
He ended up having bloodwork drawn and we still basically don’t know what his deal is. Gallbladder? Ulcer? The jury is still out until the bloodwork comes back.
But Did You Miss (fill in food blank here):
The things you can’t have on the Whole30 is a long list. Instead of mourning those foods, I focused on what we could have. We stuck with veggies, meat, fruit, and eggs. For snacks I made lots of flavored nuts (snicker), some homemade Lara Bars, and apples with almond butter became a nightly treat.
We were never hungry. I never craved sugar or grains like I have with previous food challenges. That isn’t to say I didn’t want those things, but I never found myself fixating on them like in the past.
I had a love affair over the last 30 days with avocado. It got messy and awkward. I added a half of one to each breakfast and come lunch I was still pretty full. Yay for healthy fat!
I also was obsessed with and ate a ton of Cilantro Chimichurri on everything and had Encurtido on my plate at least once a day. I like spicy on my spicy. I may have been dropped as a child.
There were days when I was so tired that I actually drank caffeinated coffee. And this wasn’t during the early “detoxing days”. I’m talking like day 25. Caffeine and I are not friends, so to even drink it was kind of insane.
Black coffee is disgusting, but since we couldn’t have flavored creamer (even homemade sugar-free coffee creamer), I tracked down some Nut Pods and we used that. Let me tell you how fun it is to scream “do you have any NUT PODS” into a phone while the dairy manager at Safeway is trying not to giggle? For the record, my Pacific Northwest peeps, Fred Meyer has it. And Whole Foods, but that’s far away.
I eventually turned to homemade Cold Brew and that was so much better than trying to choke down black coffee.
The harder times were when we would go out with friends or family. I had to pack our own dressings and things like that. But here is the thing. We only had to do this for 30 days. For so many people with food allergies or sensitivities, that is a daily experience and hassle.
What Cheating Did We Do?
Whole30 requires you to abstain from alcohol of any kind, even vanilla extract. Well, we don’t drink so it’s not like we needed to flush that out of our system. I used some homemade vanilla extract from time to time (mainly for Mexican Hot Chocolate Lara Bars which could kind of be seen as a cheat in their own right), and a splash of cooking wine in some dish that I don’t even remember now.
My favorite garlic salt has rice powder in there (who knew?) but I continued to use that every morning on my eggs because I mean really. Chill.
I also perfected (and I mean peeeeeer-fected) a homemade Chex mix that was only cashews and almonds. It was freaking everything. But the Worcestershire I used does have molasses and (maybe?) sugar in it. Whatever, eating those nuts didn’t make me crave sweets at all.
That’s what she said.
We ran out of homemade ghee (I used this recipe) with a week to go. Whatever, I just used butter after that for cooking. And ghee can kiss my butt as a proper substitute for butter in making a cast iron skillet non-stick. That stuff is definitely a step down from butter for non-stick properties.
Also, I think in the first week we weren’t eating “compliant bacon”. It’s supposed to be sugar-free and all that, but I was using up what we had. Sugar-free bacon was a hard nut to crack and I tried different ones and did not like them all.
My favorite Whole30 compliant brand of bacon is Wellshire Farms, but it is only available at Whole Foods (a 45-minute one-way drive for me). US Wellness Meats and Butcher Box also have compliant bacon and they do home deliveries.
If we do this again, I doubt I will go to the trouble of hunting down sugar-free bacon. Have you seen a bacon label? Even those with sugar as an ingredient have less than 1 gram of sugar in them.
Where We Go From Here:
Overall because Troy feels so much better and I had so much fun cooking, we’re going to keep going with it. That suggestion actually came from Troy which was surprising to me.
We plan to eat two meals a day in the Whole30 mindset with some ingredients added back in (a bit of cheese on eggs for me!). And one meal per day that is more a freebie but still focused on being healthy.
Also? This last month taught me that a strict Paleo or Whole30 diet is too.much.effing.meat. I prefer meat as an accompaniment to my dish; not the main dish.
We invest in and pretty much only eat ethically raised meat in our house, but that gets really expensive if you’re eating a crap ton of meat all the time. I don’t care if you raise it yourself and know it had an amazing life (and one bad day), the planet cannot handle that much freaking meat consumption.
I’m excited to get back to a more balanced approach of: some meat, a shit ton of veg, and maybe some whole grains on the plate.
Errr, Um, Please Tell Me This Won’t Become a Whole30 Blog…($hit! Where is the x on this browser?)
Noooo, don’t you worry about that. But I have gone back and made notes in some of my favorite recipes to show how easy it is to adapt them to be Whole30 compliant. I even created a Whole30 category on my Recipe page so that you can find them all in one place.
Going forward I will be refocusing on healthy, easy, and family-friendly recipes. It is more of a recentering of my core food values than a paradigm shift. New recipes will have notes in there if they are Whole30 or may offer substitutions or suggestions to make it compliant. Some recipes might even have the terms “Whole30” or “Paleo” in the title.
When I was dairy-free while nursing Jack, and gluten-free while pregnant with Bennett, I used those terms to search for recipe options online. My intent on labeling recipes as I plan to do is simply to give people options if they’re looking for them.
If the labeling matters not to you, then just ignore it. But for those looking for delicious Whole30 recipes that are unfussy, affordable, and mind-blowingly delicious, I also have a place for you. It’s a big internet my friends.
So that’s it! It was a great month and something I’m really glad we did. You know I love a good challenge, especially when it comes to food. It helped Troy for the most part, and gave me a nice kick in the ass to recenter my real foods cooking love.
My guess is we’ll probably do another round in January, so if you’re thinking about trying it out, we’ll be here for you. It’s more fun to do it as a team!
And who knows, maybe Whole30 round 2 is when your boobs grow? Please?
If you joined us for the May challenge, how did it go? What was the hardest part for you? What was the easiest? What was the best thing you ate all month?
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Love reading this! Do you have plans to share the nut recipe soon? Sounds super good!!!!
Yes, eventually! My current list of things to share with everyone is so very very long (in a good way!).
I eat a lot of almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds as well as avocado, spinach, and artichokes. Even though it isn’t technically allowed, I also eat the Banza brand chickpea pasta because it has like 19 grams of protein. Additionally, I use a pea protein powder for shakes and homemade energy bars. Trader Joe’s just started selling these bars called Trail Nuggets that have pea flour in them, I’m slightly obsessed.
I’ve never heard of that brand but will need to check it out.
Are you near a Trader Joes? I saw they have come out with a frozen cauliflower gnocchi that are supposed to be pretty amazing.
I am lucky that I live between three Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods so I get to try new products on a fairly regular basis, however the vultures ascend on the stores and things get sold out in about 10 minutes. I heard about the gnocchi, if it’s anything like the frozen cauliflower rice it’s probably gone or there is a two bag limit. People were lining up outside Trader Joe’s at 7:30 in the morning just to buy bags of cauliflower rice when it first came out LOL.
I know you guys might not have the same products that we do on the East Coast but these are the bars that I was talking about:
I’ll look when I am there next week! Thanks for dropping the link.
I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and I follow something called the Primal Blueprint, it’s like Paleo but you are allowed to have some high-quality dairy (I would have murdered someone in the last two years if I couldn’t eat cheese). The hardest part in the beginning was relearning how to eat, especially in NY, land of pizza and convenience food. There were times when I ran into the supermarket during a lunch break and walked out with a 2 pack of hard boiled eggs and an apple because there was literally nothing else that I could grab and go that was Paleo-friendly. I have lost over 125lbs (and a large portion of my boobs) and kept most of it off until this past March when my boyfriend and I went to his firehouse installation dinner and I fell off the wagon so hard that it ran me over, backed up, and ran over me again. I gained 15 bastard pounds shoveling bread and dessert into my mouth but I am back on track as of June 1st and for me, primal/Paleo/whole30 has become such a normal way of eating that I’m not stressed this time around, it just takes a lot of patience, preparation, and perseverance. In regards to the too much meat, that’s how I feel about the keto diet, so much meat and cheese and no fruit? There is quite a bit of crossover between Paleo and vegan bc of the dairy restriction and there are so many amazing recipes out there that are meatless. I’m so glad you at least gave it a good try, a friend of mine tried to eat like me for a week and then cursed me out on my voicemail lol.
Karen, what non-meat protein sources are you finding that are allowed on Paleo?
Congrats on your weight loss and overcoming so many issues! I have friends with PCOS and it is not for the faint of heart.
Have y’all had your electrolytes checked? The keto flu, mainly sluggishness, can be helped by supplementing with salt, potassium, and magnesium.
How do you do that? Troy initially thought it was too much potassium because he was eating two bananas a day. And they have been known to hurt his stomach. Snowflake.
Hubby did Atkins in college and ended up in the ER with massive stomach pains and vomiting. The doctor accusing him of being on drugs until an intern asked about any new diet fads. He spent 3 days in the hospital getting his electrolytes all rebalanced. Electrolytes will punish you if you mess with them.
I’m picturing Ken being accused on being on drugs and I just can’t see it in my mind.
You can check them with a blood test. Couldn’t hurt to ask your doctor next time y’all get a check up. My hubby misses bananas so much. Now we eat all kinds of greens and pickles but, if I get a cramp during the night, I drink a Poweraid Zero. Not my favorite but with all the water I drink, and the peeing I do, electrolytes are lost more rapidly.
Do you like coconut water? They call it nature’s Gatorade because of all the potassium and electrolytes. It, of course, makes Troy’s stomach upset. Delicate little belly.
Also, have you seen these: https://www.traderjoes.com/digin/post/cauliflower-gnocchi
I do but there’s a lot of sugar that goes with it. I tried to get my hubby, who works outdoors, to drink it instead of other things but it had a laxative effect. People who work in the field are very attentive to what they eat in order not to have to poo in the woods. Those look yummy but the potato starch, cassava flour, and 16 net carbs make it an occasional treat. Believe me, there’s a lot I miss and a lot I don’t like about keto. But my blood work and weight say differently. I do find ways to work more veggies into my diet now and keep my protein portions in check because it’s moderate protein. I would have gone vegetarian with the occasional steak and burger if my hubby weren’t so picky. (Why is it always them with the issues?)
Yep, the laxative effect is why Troy can’t drink it!
My SIL is keto and said the same thing about the gnocchi. I figure a few thrown in with roasted veggies and chicken sausage on a sheet pan or (cough cough a skillet in a toaster oven) might be a fun cheat.
Big boobs are heavy. Perhaps Whole30 boobs are filled with helium. If that turns out to be do, please let us know ASAP. ????
Yes! Big boobs are heavy, they require ridiculously expensive bras if you want real support, they get in the way more ofen than not, and bigger boobs means more boob sweat.
I’ve always said there needs to be a boob donation program because I would happily donate!
I’ll trade you a cup size for 2 inches of height!
Ha! How many people would be floating in the air with helium boobs?
I’m in for January! Life should be less crazy then.
I’m not sure what the deal was, but I kept craving all the crap I was trying to avoid. I didnt cave until, but still.
I may have lost some weight, but not much.
Still exhausted. Never really felt “better,” but once I started adding crap back in, I for sure felt worse.
Oh dairy, how I wish we could be friends. It was the first thing I added back in and my body doesn’t like it.
I didn’t make it the entire 30 days, but I’m still glad I played along. I cooked foods I had forgotten we loved (meatza pie), and we ate more veggies.
I am so glad Troy is feeling better! That was our experience the first time we did a Whole30. Even though this time around wasn’t as life changing, it still was a good reminder that cooking with whole foods isn’t as difficult as I let myself believe.
And yes, we are starting to feel the same way about the ratio of meat to veggies.
I really wish we could lock down this exhaustion thing my friend. How is your hip?
I’m with you–TOO MUCH MEAT! I am doing my best to once again cut out processed foods (we did so well for so long and then life happened and I got lazy). The sugar though. UGH! It’s legal crack. And I love it. I’m trying to limit it to my best ability, but it’s a struggle. I attempted the Whole 30 a few years ago, and I just couldn’t handle the meat. I’ve always said that I could be a vegetarian with the exception of a juicy burger every now and then! I’ve always preferred side dishes to main courses for that reason. So, yeah. We’ll see if I can work on the sugar thing. Until then, I will work on focusing on REAL food as much as I can! 🙂
Troy had the hardest time with the loss of sugar. You should have heard the hilarious things he was saying he would do for a snickers in the first two weeks. I agree with you – legal crack!
I think a focus on real food is an awesome game plan.
“Whatever, eating those nuts didn’t make me crave sweets at all.
That’s what she said.”
seriously, can we be BFFs?!?!
Thanks for the write-up. I was going to join you for May but chickened out. June has already begun so that’s out…let’s see how July looks 😉
But really, I like hearing how people do this plan with real life scenarios. Will definitely keep reading for ideas.
Hee hee, I always wonder if people pick up on those things or just skim the text. Glad to see you got a nice giggle out of it.
Just put it off and do it with us in January!
Honestly I didn’t eat everything whole 30 compliant. I ate ice cream one day with the kiddos. And a few times I had some dark chocolate 🙂 overall I did my best at most times. I don’t have a scale at the house but I definitely did notice some weight loss. I feel so much better! Weight/extra fats has been an issue since the last baby was born.. so it is nice to slim down a bit and get started on getting back to my old self. I still have a ways to go but I don’t feel quite as dumpy!
I think the biggest thing I missed is pizza. But I too and going to keep going on eating this way because I want to get back to my old self..
Thanks for inspiring me to give it a try! ❤️
I’m of the mindset that doing your best is such an important thing. Even if you were balls to the wall insane about it I’m sure you got some benefit from at least trying it out. No shame in that my friend!
Pizza was our first non-Whole30 meal! 🙂
I don’t know how you did this! I just read the NOs and it just couldn’t happen in our house. My husband is Latin American and you can’t just NOT eat rice and beans. I even look forward to our Meatless Mondays when I conjure up something using legumes. All I have to say is: GOOD FOR YOU!! YOU DID IT!!! You’re a better person than I. ????