A Bonafide Review of the Whole30

Midlife Sentence - A Whole30 Recap

I’ll admit, when I posted my little rant earlier about a particular diet, I was a little overwrought. I don’t normally go in for drama, but it had been a trying couple of weeks. Now that we’re at the end of the Whole30 and I’ve had some crackers and calmed down, I thought some of you might like more of straightforward review.

… You know, in case you’re here for bonafide advice instead a load of nonsense.

We’ve done an elimination diet before – where you leave out most or all high-allergen foods for a while, then re-introduce them, one at a time, to isolate any food issues. We thought the Whole30 would be familiar territory.

It wasn’t.

Look, I’d done my homework. Kind of. I mean, I bought the book and looked stuff up online. The Whole30 is an elimination diet … on steroids. We’d give up dairy, grain (not just wheat, but non-gluten grains as well: oats, quinoa, corn, and rice), beans and legumes (Mike already has an allergy), alcohol, and sugar (including those complicated sounding ingredients on labels that are still just sugar), and also honey, nectar, cane juice, and artificial sweeteners as well.

And it’d be a month. That’s what was different this time. And any cheating, even by accident, sends you back to the beginning of the 30 days. Do not pass Go. Do not collect your 300 bucks.

This diet saga was inspired by a couple of things that are either too boring to mention or too gross to get into, so let’s just say we did it to say we did it and then tell you about it. Okay? Because we’re givers.

And we did get to talk about it. Often. That’s a natural byproduct of toting around your own salad dressing. You get looks. Then questions.

Then: “Wait, if you take out all that stuff, what’s left?”

Air. That’s what’s left, you say, with a dramatic sigh. And vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs. Maybe some seeds and nuts. And about as much dignity as you can muster, seeing as how you’re perpetually equipped with a squeeze bottle of homemade vinaigrette.

If this is the first you’ve heard of the Whole30, I know what you’re thinking, because that’s where we were once.

“Wait a minute … no cheese? No beer? No milk in my coffee? The hell you say.”

But there’s a methodology involved:

First thing you need to know: It’s better if you work your way up to it

The book says to clean your cupboards and fridge of anything tempting: cereal, crackers, yogurt, cheese, granola, peanut butter, bread. Replace that with produce and meat, stock up on oils and ghee (in place of butter), and all the culinary tools you’ll need for a month of preparing your own meals from scratch. Make out a meal plan. Buy one of those things that shred vegetables into spirals.

We … took another route. We mulled things over. There was a music festival the week of spring break. Perfect timing. The kids were gone, we’d taken time off. We’d have some reflection while eating from food trucks and drinking too much craft beer.

Did I mention no kids?

… Yeah, so we started the Whole30 with a fairly punishing hangover.

Next: Get Your Head in the Game

There were days at the beginning of the Whole30 that were easy. We were committed. We were making good choices. We had stomach aches from a week of taco trucks.

Then reality set in: No sweets, no crackers, no beer. No milk in my coffee. A birthday party for poor Mike with freeze-dried banana chips instead of cake. Bleh.

I couldn’t even sing the birthday song. I was too sad.

I’ve never been an emotional eater, but there were moments in those first few days of Whole30 when, drinking my morning coffee without milk, or facing an evening without beer, or cheese, I felt absolutely bereft.

There’s a Whole30 mantra for that feeling:

“It is not hard…. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.”

In other words: suck it up, buttercup.

But, still. No milk in my coffee.

Step Three: Get more in touch with your body than you thought possible

This next part gets into the TMI realm.

Drastic changes in one’s diet can wreak drastic changes elsewhere. Maybe it was a combination of introducing a whole lot more cruciferocity[1] into our diets, and the muscle strain from shoveling our gargantuan driveway during the Winter From Hell. Whatever it was, Mike started noticing some abdominal pain and a few, er, plumbing changes, if you get my drift.

Long story short: Mike plus Whole30, plus a possible residual hernia situation, plus maybe a smidgeon of poo-related hypochondria, equals colonoscopy. If you don’t know much about colonoscopy prepping, that’s a whole ‘nother post. The Whole30 adds layer of good fun to the colonoscopy scene. It can be done, but I’m not going to go there.

As it turns out everything’s hunky-dory with Mike’s colon. Thank you.

Anyway, I didn’t have plumbing problems, but I did have my issues (I always do).

Strenuous exercise during the Whole30 can be a big drag. I haven’t ever felt the desire to carbo-load prior to a long run, but it turns out I do need a certain blood-sugar level to feel appropriately energized, and on the Whole30, I couldn’t get there.

I had two half marathons that month, one at the end of the first week, and the other at the end of week three, and they were more tortuous than normal. My legs felt like noodles.

Then, a week or so after the program was over, I had another half marathon. This time I stopped for a little shot of Gatorade at every water stop – my normal hedge against bonking during a run.

Midlife Sentence - A Whole30 Recap
PSA, you cannot refuel during a long run with applesauce. Although, God knows I tried.

I felt AMAZING. With those little shots of sugar and electrolytes, after a low-carb month, I could run forever. I mean, I was still slow (It wasn’t like a miracle had happened or anything), but it didn’t suck. I’m Gatorade’s new unofficial spokesperson, you guys.

Step Four: Reap the Benefits

All right, this is where I stop bitching and start to sound like an evangelist. If you hate gushing, you may want to step out of the room.

I didn’t expect anything, really, beyond losing a couple pounds. But even for healthy people there’s an upside to eating nothing but veggies, fruits and meat for a whole month. I did lose weight (more on that in a minute), but also noticed a few other things:

  • Better sleep
  • Ninja focus
  • More and consistent energy, no afternoon slump
  • No more impulse to snack (after the first week or so)
  • Lower resting heart rate (don’t even know what that does for me, but seriously it was fun to track)
  • Hundreds … hundreds less spent on groceries and eating out (even with shopping for specialty items like vegetable spiral graters)

As for the weight loss – I’m down eleven pounds, and Mike close to twenty. That’s like a whole person.

Okay, maybe a preschool person. Or maybe not a person but a medium sized dog. A chubby corgi, maybe.

(Side note: I just looked up “how much does a bear cub weigh,” because I thought it’d sound better than a chubby corgi, and I must say, that has a lot to do with the kind of bear and the age of the bear. It’s not a very good comparison. We’re going to stick with the dog).

I was pretty healthy before starting this whole thing. I didn’t think I had much to gain, except an answer to travel GI issues, maybe. But once we got over dreaming about quiche, we felt awesome.

And the food – once we got over the lack of convenience approaching pioneer level – is good. I didn’t think I had enough sugar in my diet in the first place to have much of an impact on my palate, but in only a short time, things that weren’t normally sweet tasting …

Well you know, suddenly lettuce was yummy. Homemade sweet potato fries nearly knocked me down, they were so good.

There are a ton of resources on the internet for easy, Whole30 recipes, so I won’t get into any here, but I took a few pictures. Of course I did (click on them for details).


Step Six: Cope with the Lie

So, the Whole30 isn’t really just 30 days. Or it isn’t supposed to be. Afterward, on day 31, you’re not supposed to just go back to normal. That would rip some kind hole in the space/time continuum, or something.

There’s a recovery process, in which food is reintroduced a day at a time with a couple days after to assess the effects. This might take a couple of weeks or longer, depending upon how many of those days you decide devote to reintroducing beer (we had to be sure).

Ultimately, I think we’ve both decided to stick with some of the Whole30 basics, at least where it’s not terribly inconvenient. That means no added sugar or sweeteners, no grains, little dairy, or even (gasp) alcohol these days. I’m not concerned with losing another corgi, but I love the extra energy and the ninja focus. And the sleep.

Of course I won’t mind not being the person who brings her own salad dressing. And I will enjoy an adult beverage once in a while.

[1]  By the way, spell check tells me Cruciferocity is not a word. Well, it is now. It’s also my next band name.


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1 comment

  1. I loved this post! Woo hoo for completing Whole 30!!! You make me almost want to do it again….almost. I can’t believe you ran two half marathons while doing it too. Amazing. I would face plant for sure. All of your food looks so good too!