I am the first to admit I suffer from shiny object syndrome. I get bored fairly easily and so while Michelle Bridge’s 12 week body transformation had worked for a number of years, it had lost it’s appeal (and let’s not even get into her recent ads about people growing their own stuff being freaks – what the?). I was really struggling to get my eating (and drinking) in the right place and to find the right balance with exercise. I’d beat myself for not exercising 6 times a week – by not doing anything. Exercise had also become more social for me – walking a couple of times a week with different friends – which was far more interesting than just the gym. But then I’d feel like I was’;t doing enough and my weight wasn’t shifting.
I’d looked into the Whole30 earlier in the year but to be honest it all seemed too hard. No grains, sugar, dairy or alcohol for 30 days. It didn’t really sit right with the food lover in me and I have always subscribed to everything in moderation. It wasn’t until I heard one of the founders of the Whole30, Melissa Hartwig on my favourite Being Boss podcast (and learning that the podcast hosts Emily and Kathleen had both done Whole 30s) that I reconsidered giving it a go. I quizzed one friend that had done it, starting reading up and read the first book Melissa and Dallas Hartwig wrote called It Starts with Food. It was interesting to think about how our diet has changed and that perhaps especially as we get older, there might be some things that our bodies find harder to deal with. I’m no scientist, but a lot of their ideas made sense.
On the flip side, I really wasn’t keen on another “fad” diet or eating style. However, what I did like about the Whole 30 was that it is very much about giving up these things for 30 days and then reintroducing them and working out what works for you. I also liked that the focus was on 3 solid healthy meals a day, cutting the snacks and most importantly not replacing one less than healthy item with something made with supposedly more healthy items. If I’m going to eat cake, I want cake. If not, I’m happy to go without it.
For me, giving up alcohol was a big deal. Simon works in a tasting room, many of our friends work in wine, I live in a region that is sustained on wine production but I combined my Whole30 with the Ocsober fundraising challenge so it was a little easier. Looking back, I am surprised I took friends wine tasting, had friends come for dinner and celebrated our anniversary – without a drop!
In the weeks leading up to doing my Whole30, I started to eat as compliant with the Whole30 as I could – which made starting much easier. Day 1 was after we’d been out with friends for a 16 course, wine fuelled degustation at one of the Barossa’s best restaurants. I’d tasted the most amazing food, was still full and so it made it easier to start. I’d also prepped a few things like making my own whole egg mayo (so easy with a stick blender I will keep doing it – recipe here), as well as some other sauces. I’d also shopped and planned out a menu.
I’d signed up to a daily email from the Whole 30 which had lots of great tips and advice and it was motivating to click the – yep, I did it link each day. They have a pretty strong – if you slip up, go back to the beginning approach, so I was determined to stick with it.
They also have a bit of a “tough love” approach – this isn’t hard – fighting illness is hard etc etc. And to be honest, I had to agree. I focused on what I was eating (rather than what I was missing) and I gave myself challenges to come up with new tasty meals. Yes, I missed a glass of wine and there were times where I thought it would be easier to make a sandwich or a bowl of cereal but overall it wasn’t too hard. There is a Whole30 timeline on the website and I have to say it was pretty spot-on.
In the first week, I realised my bacon and cold meat weren’t really complaint (they are pretty strict on sulphites, sugar, additives etc) so I ended up eating a lot of chicken, mince and smoked salmon. Surprisingly, I didn’t get sick of eggs. I bought a new non-stick pan before I started and it was definitely my new best friend. While I like to think I’m fairly health conscious, and in recent years had done away with most processed, low-fat food, I was still amazed to realise the things that did contain additives that we could just as easily make at home. I made taco seasoning that the boys declared was the “best ever”. I started cooking with fat (olive oil, ghee or clarified butter) and I wasn’t hungry because I was eating a decent meal.
There is a lot on the various Whole30 Facebook pages and forums about how much time food prep takes on the Whole30. Given we were already pretty well eating food from scratch, it didn’t make much difference – and I have to say, it did get me thinking about the modern diet and sadly how much is pre-packaged. I decided during the whole30 if there ever came a time (and I’m not talking a few busy days here and there), that I didn’t have time to prepare a meal and sit down and eat it, something was definitely wrong with our lifestyle.
For me, one of the biggest challenges was having food prepped if I was going out, and it’s made me think more about having things like poached chicken, tuna, salmon or beef rissoles in the freezer if I do need something on the run. Improbably ate more nuts, date based bars and fruit for this reason.
Day 30 was last Sunday and it was also the day I helped run the major fundraiser for my son’s Kindy. I decided I would finish the day with some bubbles because for me, my Whole30 experience was more than just one day. In the last week I’ve had a couple of ice creams, some naan bread, put milk in my tea and had pasta. Given that I didn’t have any major health concerns before the Whole30, introducing these hasn’t been a big deal. That said, I proved I was happy to go without a lot of these things, so I see them being special occasion food. If I’m going to eat bread, it will be the once a week freshly made artisan loaf from the Farmer’s Market. Same for cheese – it has to be good. I’ll probably have a wine most days but I’ll go back to a chocolate as a special occasion rather than picking one up every time I shop. I’ve come to love my black coffee but I missed my morning tea with milk, so that will come back in some days.
Over the 30 days, I lost about 3 kilos and about 2 per cent body fat. But the big change was my shape. Most people I saw commented and most thought I’d lost more than I did. I lost about 6cm off my bust, 3 cm each of my waist and hips and a couple of centimetres off my arms and thighs.
The Whole 30 “rule” is that you don’t weigh yourself. I broke that rule and was happy to see how my weight (and body fat) fluctuated over the course of the month. But I can see why you perhaps shouldn’t be weighing yourself – especially as for some people, it might take a little longer for the benefits to come.
I definitely enjoyed more energy but I still probably wasn’t sleeping as much as they recommend, which was worse during the period where I found myself swapping the habit of an afternoon snack when the boys came home, for a coffee. And because I had so much energy, I found myself a little wound up at nights. So this month, while I’m aiming to continue to eat Whole30 most of the time, I am going to aim for more sleep and more exercise. I’ve got a new gym program to balance out my walking days and I’m trying to just focus on enjoying it instead of getting annoyed if I don’t hit 6 sessions.
Would I recommend Whole30? Definitely – if for no other reason that giving your body a change of scenery and forcing you to be more mindful about what you eat and drink.
Would i do it again? I’m not sure. As I’ve said, I didn’t really miss anything on a daily basis so I’m happy to continue to eat a diet based on lots of vegetables, fish, meat and eggs and some fruit and nuts plus lots of healthy fats. But there may well come a time, particularly after holidays or travel where sticking with the Whole30 – for a week or even the full 30 days is the right thing to do.