What is a whole30 about?
That was more or less my reaction when I first heard of the whole30 through a blog. Curious as I am I went in search of the answer and soon found the website that houses all the whole30 secrets. I browsed around on the site, read a few stories and spend some time going through the posts on the forums. Along the way I got more and more enthusiastic. This made sense! I ordered the book ‘It starts with food‘ and not much later we did our first whole30. And since we have just completed our fourth it seemed like the perfect time to tell you what it is all about and why you should maybe consider doing one yourself.
If you’ve been reading my blog more often you might know I am not the glutenfree, sugarfree or alcohol free type of girl, but you don’t have to be to successfully finish a whole30. The reason we have done it now for the fourth time is the fact that our lifestyle is sometimes hard to combine with healthy eating and living. We have periods where the food is really bad and unhealthy and I can sometimes get completely fed up with that. The whole30 for me is the perffect way to step back in line, reset my mind and body and make a fresh start. The goal is eventually to keep on eating healthy food forever, but in reality that is sometimes really hard. But I have good hopes that we will succeed this time! “)
But anyway: what is a whole30?
According to the creators of the whole30, Dan and Melissa Hartwig, you can divide food simply into two groups. The one that makes you healthier and the ones that make you less healthy. That is not necessarily the same for everyone. All their theories are scientifically proven and if you want to know more about the whole science behind it I can definitely recommend to get the book It starts with food. It gives you all the details you never knew you wanted to have. I’m giving you the very simplified version here.
It is a known fact that – for instance – dairy can have a negative impact on allergies. In general there are several foodgroups that can have a response in your body and result in hormonal balance problems, systemic inflammation and digestive problems. That can result in nasty side effects like eczema, hay fever, restless leg syndrome or worse. To find out which foods you maybe should avoid going forward you first need to find out what does it for you. In order to do that you will have to eliminate all possible culpits for the next 30 days. That means you cannot eat the following:
- Sugar, artificial sweeteners or natural sweeteners (so also no honey)
- grains and pseudo grains like quinoa, buckwheat and such)
- Dairy, including goat and sheeps dairy
- You can only use healthy fats like coconut oil or olive oil. No sunfloweroil, nut oils and the like
‘So why can I not have any honey?’ is the question asked a lot. The reason is that you need to get rid of that sugar addiction. Added sweeteners, like stevia or honey, will still keep that sugar dragon alive. Despite the fact that it is natural sugar.
It doesn’t mean that you will have to stop eating those foods for the rest of your life. Maybe it turns out you’re quite ok with eating legumes or grains. That is entirely possible, but you won’t know until you’ve cut it all out.
The whole30 is not meant to lose weight. You will probably lose some, but the goal is health rather than weight. It is in no way restricting your calorie intake. As long as you eat whole foods within the allowed range of produce. You can eat as much as you want. And it is not – what a lot of people think – a no carbs diet. Because you are allowed to eat potatoes, sweet potatoes or cassave, which are all filled with carbs. In the end it’s not the idea to stuff yourself with potatoes every day. You can useit but within moderation. And if you know you have a potato problem maybe it’s best to limit it completely.
Paleo or no paleo??
The whole30 has a lot in common with the paleo principle and is in actual fact a more strict version of the paleo diet. But as Melissa and Dan will tell you. “We’re not concerned what our ancestors did or did not eat. It is all about which foods make you more or less healthy.”
Doing a whole30 is in essence quite simple. During 30 days you eat none of the above food and you avoid processed foods in general as much as possible, As you will find almost all processed foods have added sugar. Read your labels and you will find that it is hiding under many different names. I can still remember that very first trip to the supermarket with my whole30 shopping list and the frustration I felt after having gone through all my favorite brands… All had sugar added! Even the things that you won’t expect like sausage or stock cubes have added sugar. Ham, bacon! All added sugar! If you’re interested in that kind of thing, watch the documentary Fed Up. It’s alarming but interesting too. Read up on all the names sugar is hiding under. You’d be surprised at how many there are. Usually anything that ends with ‘ose’ is bad.
So what can you eat?
- All vegetables, including potato and sweet potato.
- Nuts and seeds (no peanuts)
- Meat, preferably grass fed and organic
- Fish of a sustainable source
I used to start by telling people all the things you can’t eat on the whole 30. These days I’d rather start with the things I cán eat and the reaction usually tends to be “O that is not so bad!” Untill I start telling them the things you can’t have… Haha.. There is also a vegetarian version of the whole30, but I’m sure you’ll understand that it will be hard to get enough calories in if you cannot have grains or legumes.
The first week is the hardest; you’ll suffer from sugar withdrawal symptoms. Headaches, tired, no energy at all and also the second week might be hard. It varies person to person. If you’ve been eating really healthy before starting it might not be so bad but if you’re diet prior to the whole30 consisted of coca cola and sugary treats you might be in for a nasty start. You will feel rather sick!
A steak for breakfast??
The food in general is completely fine and delicious with the exception of breakfast. That is – for me – a bit of a problem. The idea of using leftovers from dinner for breakfast is all good and well, but I just cannot stomach a steak or leftover veggies for breakfast. Just not my thing. So it ends up being eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. omelettes, fried eggs, scrambled eggs with lots of vegetables and some meat. But after 15 days of eggs I am totally fed up with them. So we had fruit for breakfast with nuts. And while really delicious, it is not entirely filling enough to take you through to the rest of the day. To compensate we usually had a really good lunch and a delicious and filling dinner too. You can have mayonaise as long as you make it yourself with olive oil. Use a mild one as other wise it will be inedible. My recipe for really quick mayonnaise comes in really handy here.! Still, no matter how well we eat during the whole30: after 30 days I’m usually really done with the whole thing.. I just want to have breakfast with yogurt and homemade granola.
And so what to do after those 30 days are over?
After those 30 days the idea is to slowly reintroduce certain foods back into your life. But slowly an with enough time to see how your body and mind react to those foods. It doesn’t matter with which food you start. As long as you don’t eat it all on day 1! What did I miss most? Was it the chickpeas in my hummus? If so, eat that first and than see what will happen. If it was something dairy, eat that first and again check what happens for a day or three. If nothing happens, it might be ok for you to eat that and you can move on to the next item.
if you experience heavy cramps or discomfort or whatever after eating that particular food you might want to go slow on that food. And of course you can still choose to eat it once in a while. I can’t imagine never eating anything with sugar again. Even though I know sugar is definitely not the healthiest food in the world, it is rather delicious so having the occasional treat is something I think should be an option. I just like baking too much to give that up. For me it is all about learning to control that sugar monster and eating it consciously. Plus if you know where it is all hiding in, you can skip the sugar loaded foods and just have the piece of homemade pie instead. Quality over quantity. I do pay much more attention to whatever they put in all those cans and pots. I try and eat fresh whole foods as much as possible. And if you do having the occassional slice of cake is really not such a drama. Unless you get violently ill after doing so, in which case you might want to reconsider. And having mountains of whipped cream every day might not be the best decision either.
All previous three times we did a whole30 we have not done the reintroduction very well. We did only finish the first whole30 completely. The other two where just a vague attempt and were abandoned after about two weeks into the program. You have to really want this. Because it does take time (chopping, chopping, chopping) and commitment.
Is it worth it?
I think it is. There is of course a valid reason why we are doing this now for the fourth time. I find it a good way to adapt our lifestyle and get back on track. I tend to lose quite a good amount of kilo’s (around 8 kilo on average) and it takes a long time after finishing before I go wrong again (and ultimately the idea is to not go wrong again at all!) It brought me the following advantages and results (in no particular order)
- I have a lot more energy than before
- My restless leg syndrome is gone
- My skin is brighter and less blotchy
- Less dark circles under my eyes
- I sleep much better than before
- I wake up every morning before the alarm goes off
- The nervepain I was having in my back because of a lipoma that is pressing into nerve endings is almost gone or at least bearable again. I have cancelled the operation to have it removed
- My knees have stopped hurting me!
- My stool is way better than before. I had a lot of constipation trouble before
- I have lost 7 kilo
- I have lost 17 centimeters in total
Wether the whole30 would be something for you I cannot tell you. It is working well for me and I think that it might not be the last one (but it will be for a long time!) The results cannot be denied and speak for themselves. And yes of course some things are probably also due to the losing weight fact but who caes. Some of my recipes and meals you can find under Paleo – whole30 recipes. Have any questions? Feel free to ask. If you want to know more about the whole30 it is a good idea to get the two books:
It starts with food – the scientific background and info of the program and how it all started
Whole30 program – the program laid out from A to Z. Including a timeline of what you can expect when you do the program. Plus it is filled with some really good recipes. or go to the whole30 website.