I recently completed 30 days of wholesome eating. No grains, no dairy, no added sugars or artificial sweeteners, no alcohol, no legumes, no soy, no MSGs. I know I usually find myself writing about DIY projects and home decor, but I am changing it up today in hopes that my story might encourage someone else to take charge of their health! I promise, you won’t regret it!
Why I Decided to Give Whole 30 a Shot
I am a big nerd. Yep. Health and nutrition are not new concepts to me. In fact, my world revolves around it. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Health Science, a Doctorate in Physical Therapy and I am a certified Personal Trainer. I have always been a firm believer that the foods we put into our bodies are truly medicine and can either move us towards illness or towards wellness. So what prompted me to take the plunge towards this “restrictive diet?”
In the last year, I started to notice some health changes with myself. I had put on about 10 pounds (which is a lot for my small frame!), my energy levels were poor (I would sit down on the couch for a second after work and would fall asleep immediately), I was moody (ask my husband!), headaches increased and my skin was SO broken out. I tell my patients all the time not to google their symptoms BUT I couldn’t help myself! I needed to get down to the bottom of this and research what was happening with me. First thing I decided to do was go off my birth control pills. I started taking them in my early twenties to reduce acne and they surprisingly stopped my migraines too. However, I had a feeling being on them for 10ish years was not doing good things for my body. Well let me tell you, I thought I was breaking out before…holy cow! My chin and jawline were covered. It was painful and embarrassing! I am 30. I should be worrying about anti-aging products, not acne medicine! I knew that breakouts in this area were related to hormones, which made all the sense in the world since I had stopped taking the pill. It was so tempting to just cave and get back on it, but I knew there had to be a way to truly heal my body instead of just covering it up with more hormones.
Enter Whole 30. I think God was trying to tell me something, because I had multiple people around me talking about it. I decided to start doing some research and figured WHY NOT? I mean, it is ONLY 30 days. I once gave up chocolate for an entire year as a New Years Resolution. If I did that, I can do anything for 30 days.
I bought the book, pinned a bunch of recipes on pinterest and somehow talked my husband into being my sidekick on this adventure.
Do I Have the Flu?
I knew the first week was going to be rough. I was purging my body of all the processed crap, sugar and just plain nastiness. Let me tell you, Day 1-4 were ROUGH STUFF. I ached, I was hungry, I was so tired, I was moody, my nose was running, my head hurt. Nothing sounded good to eat. I remember sitting at my table eating broccoli, making an awful “I hate veggies” face as I was chewing, and just praying this was going to get better. This was supposed to make me feel like a million bucks and I felt like straight poo. I think Tyler said “I’m hungry” AT LEAST 78 times a day. What the heck was I getting myself into?
Oh Hey Karissa, This is What You’re Supposed to Feel Like!
Welcome to Day 5. I woke up Monday morning, headache-less, and in an excellent mood. (I told you it was a Monday, right?!) I whipped up scrambled eggs, sugar free compliant bacon and sweet potato and apple hashbrowns. On my way into work, sipping on my coffee with a touch of almond milk, my mind was ready for the day. I don’t know if you would call it more clarity, better energy to take on the week…or just plain super powers…but I had kicked the “flu phase” and I was a different person.
With every single day that passed, I noticed myself feeling better and better. Cravings became less and less until they vanished, my headaches completely stopped, my pants started getting really baggy, I was suddenly in a good mood MOST of the time. I knew my taste buds were starting to change when I was able to chew my broccoli without making a weird face, HA. I stopped falling asleep on the couch as soon as I got home. I slept like a rock with my 70 lb pitbull spooning me at night. Yes, I still hit the snooze button, but when I am up I am awake. No more NEEDING coffee. I was motivated to get things done around the house on the weekends, instead of wanting to nap on the couch. I felt great working out and didn’t feel the need for pre-workouts or crazy supplements. My hair started growing like crazy. Another totally random bonus, my rook piercing FINALLY healed after 10 whole months. My body was starting to work in the way it was designed and I could totally tell a huge difference.
One of my favorite differences I noticed was the start/stop feature I had finally mastered regarding food. Did you know your hormones control this nifty concept? When we eat highly processed foods, excessive sweeteners and other junk foods, our hormones get out of whack causing us to over eat until we want to pop. We have no brake because our hormone loop is not getting the correct signal. Ya know, like when you sit down at the Mexican restaurant and tear through ALL the chips and queso, and then shove every bit of your burrito into your mouth even though you’re not even hungry at that point? Now, I can eat a meal and feel truly satisfied and have a very happy belly without feeling stuffed. My body knows when it is hungry and knows when it is full.
The Downsides…and the Silver Lining
Woah for the crazy amount of dishes in my sink. When cooking every single meal and not just dumping cereal out of a box…you tend to make a mess. We run the dishwasher constantly. I scrub pots and pans forever. BUT the really good thing is, I love spending more time with my husband at every meal (minus lunch at work). We get up together in the morning to cook and get home together at night to cook. We make a million grocery store trips together and get excited finding new compliant options. We’ve truly enjoyed this process and I couldn’t be happier he stuck with this with me.
The other downside I would say is cost. I have had so many people ask me if our grocery bill is higher. And yes, yes it is. HOWEVER, we choose to do our shopping at Whole Foods because they have a lot of high quality options and more choices when it comes to compliant foods. Could we shop at Kroger only? Yes. Would it be cheaper? Yes. Are you still going to spend more money at the grocery store? Probably. The other big factor to consider is how much you are saving by not eating out. For us…this is A LOT. Prior to Whole 30, we had gotten in the habit of eating out about 5-6 meals a week between grabbing lunch since I didn’t pack it, trying out new brunch spots or just being lazy and not cooking dinner. When I think about the money we SAVE doing this program we come out on top.
Healing my Skin
Here’s the honest part. My skin did not even remotely clear up for the first 25 or so days. I think the first two weeks, it actually got worse. I’ve heard and read that your skin goes through a “purge” phase and maybe this true…maybe it is not. Maybe my body was just rebelling. But all those victories I mentioned kept me going.
Day 30…and Beyond!
In all seriousness, the 30 days passed so quickly. I couldn’t believe when it was our last official day. I was a little nervous. I do better with strict rules and I was worried once those were lifted the little devil on my shoulder would hand me a big bowl of queso. Day 31, I got up and ate my normal complaint breakfast, then my compliant lunch and finished with compliant dinner. I didn’t crave anything off plan. I didn’t even want any of the foods they suggest for you to reintroduce slowly. I feel good. Really really good. I am not ready to add anything back into my diet for the time being. I am just coasting through feeling great about what I am putting into my body. I no longer have to worry about overeating, gaining weight, falling for the cookies in the break room, feeling sluggish, worrying if I am working off my calories, grazing in my pantry, energy crashes in the afternoons, hurting from a bloated or stuffed tummy, having to take pills for headaches, being in a BAD freaking mood, feeling guilt from what I just ate…I AM FREE.
Isn’t it ironic that the most “restrictive diet” I have ever tried has provided me the most freedom?
I have officially been eating Whole 30 compliant foods for 40 days. (Minus a paleo brownie this weekend for my Dad’s birthday. All compliant, just has a little coconut sugar to sweeten them.) I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. Maybe one day I’ll try to add some grains, but I am not there yet. I am down about 12lbs, my energy and clarity are better and my mood has improved significantly. I am happy to announce my skin is FINALLY clearing. Redness is down, bumps are disappearing, and my scars are healing up. Sometimes I think we need more than 30 days to really heal ourselves. When you think about it, I’ve treated my body this way for 30 years…what would make me think just 30 days would turn it completely around. So, I’ll keep fueling myself with good wholesome foods and know that I am doing what is best for my body.
Tips For Success
I have compiled a list of tips/tricks that may help you should you decide to take on this challenge! I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone wanting to take charge of their health!
- READ the book “It Starts With Food.” I don’t care that you aren’t a book person. Just DO IT. It really helps to understand WHY they want you to cut out certain food groups. For example, “I am not lactose intolerant, so why should I cut out dairy?” Dairy can be inflammatory to our systems and in my case, be part of the reason I suffer with adult acne! It helped me to stay away from certain foods when I knew the why behind it.
- PREP yourself. Do not skip or skimp on this part! Take at least a week before you take the plunge to pin recipes, jot down ideas, stock up on snacks for when you are in a pinch and get a general idea of what you can and cannot consume. Have plenty of options and make sure you are planning your meals consistent with your normal weekly schedule. Don’t plan to slave away in the kitchen over a gourmet meal when you get home from work at 8pm. Whip up some tuna with compliant mayo and take a chill pill. I know you want to star on Chopped, but save it for when you have the time!
- DON’T reinvent the wheel. Any recipe I tried that was off the wall, like soaking cashews and blending them into a sauce, turned out…weird. If it had a million strange ingredients, I wasn’t doing it. Grill meat, roast veggies, make some taters, scramble some eggs. Trust me on this one. Don’t fall for the Whole 30 Alfredo sauce. It will only leave you sad and wanting the real deal.
- HAVE snacks on hand at all times. They encourage you to get to a point where you are not snacking in between each meal and moving towards a three meal a day format. Just know this is not going to be possible at first, and some days it still isn’t. I like to workout and I want a little pick-me-up before I go. Apples with almond butter, RX bars, trail mix with cashews and raisins are all good options.
- CHANGE it up a bit. Let’s talk about a controversial topic…smoothies! They aren’t completely BANNED by Whole 30, but they suggest to limit their use. Reason is, they want you to chew your food as this creates a hormonal response necessary for feeling full. I get it but I need something quicker on my early mornings into work. I save smoothies for these few meals only and ensure I fill em with good fibrous fruits, greens and protein! My favorite compliant smoothie…frozen fruit, spinach, lots of pasteurized egg whites and blend! Don’t knock it till ya try it! TASTYYY.
- TAKE a probiotic. Although my stomach did not hurt once in the entire 30 days, eating new foods and cutting out old ones can make your plumbing a little…off. I started taking a probiotic around day 16 and have not had a single problem since.
- GET a buddy system going! I am SO happy that my husband was on board. We got to complain a lot together at the beginning and celebrate together the rest of the way. We cheered each other on, held each other accountable and got creative with new recipes together. It made the whole process so much easier, and with so much less temptation, with him on my side. Find a buddy!
- EAT out sometimes! It is okay! Research your favorite food places and figure out what is compliant. Our favorites are Zoe’s Kitchen, the buffet at Whole Foods and Longhorns. Read your ingredients and don’t be afraid to ask the staff to make changes. For example, at Longhorns we would get steak, broccoli and a baked potato. No butter or marinade on any of it and was GOOD! Enjoy a night off from cooking here and there…you will need it!
- GIVE your body time to change. I can’t believe the difference I have seen in my body and my physical and mental health since taking this plunge to healthier eating. Don’t get frustrated and throw in the towel when things get tough or you don’t feel good. Just know…its going to get better and I’m cheering for you!
Want to see some of my favorite recipes from this adventure? Scroll to the bottom of this page to click the link to my Pinterest. Happy Whole-30-ing my friends!