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!
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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