I will complete Whole30 this Sunday, and I’ll be completely honest here: WOW this was hard. I didn’t actually think I’d last longer than a few days, but here I am on Day 26 eating my chicken and vegetables, never craving Pad Thai more in my life. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my whole life revolves around food. I have a significantly better day at work when I like the lunch I brought, I never miss a meal, and I plan vacation destinations based on the local food scene. I am obsessed with pasta and chocolate, and so the no grains and no sugar thing was enough to frighten me from starting this thing for a good year.
But that being said, I am SO PROUD of myself! I went on a beach vacation back in March and so I spent the few months before that working out really hard and eating super clean. In typical Alexis-fashion, I undid all of that hard work the two months after vacation… eating every bowl of pasta in sight and treating myself to one too many cookies after dinner for good measure as I kept telling myself that it’s all about ~balance~. Nevertheless, I was starting to feel really bloated with low energy levels and so my Whole30 kickstart was spurred by my desire to make a change and get back to feeling good about my body and my health. And I’ve gotta say… feeling good has been my favorite Whole30 side effect.
Going into it, I had a few goals:
- Challenge myself
- Get uncomfortable
- Have less food waste
If any of you are thinking of trying Whole30 for the first time or the third time, here are a few of the things that I took away from the whole experience—good & bad:
Lifesaving Food Finds
- Coconut Aminos: the flavor-inducing, soy sauce substitute that you never knew you needed. Will continue to buy this delicious low-sodium lifesaver!
- Spaghetti Squash was a big savior for me because I normally eat so much pasta. It was a good substitute and easy to make. Zucchini noodles are nice too, but are a little bit harder to prepare in my mind. I know both my grocery stores—Trader Joe’s and Hyvee—offer them pre-made though, which is super helpful! Veggie-of-choice noodles and lemon shrimp or a homemade meat sauce (yes I said homemade… *rolling eyes*) were my go-to lunches!
- Trader Joe’s sundried tomatoes in olive oil is so beyond delicious. I put it over chicken and veggies, spaghetti squash, and basically anything that needed a little kick of flavor in a time crunch.
- Fruit. I know this isn’t a hidden grocery store gem, but I ate sooo much fruit. I know fruit has sugar too, but it’s what helped me through the ~dark days~. Keep some blueberries and raspberries tucked away in the fridge, because you’re gonna need them.
- Nutpods French Vanilla Creamer… oh my goodness. For those worried about the black coffee thing, fear not! This dairy free, sugar free companion is a little slice of morning heaven. (Or 2pm mid-day slump… I don’t judge!)
- Larabars. I am not a snacker and I’ve never liked granola bars. That being said, I will continue to keep Larabars nestled in my desk drawer for long days or keep a few in my travel bag for weekend adventures. They do have a lot of sugar though, so use them sparingly. More on this below.
The Good Stuff
DOUBLE TAKES IN THE MIRROR
I never realized how poorly I was feeling until I actually started feeling great. My energy levels have been higher than normal, I’ve been having a series of stellar hair days, and my pants do fit a whole lot better. It was so freeing to know that I can break nasty food habits like eating an office donut just because they’re sitting on the counter or resisting carbs/sugar/whatever the flavor of the day is just by being mentally tougher. If you know me at all, you know that I live life with the mentality, “I deserve it!” so this exercise pushed me very much outside of my comfort zone. It was so hard but so rewarding in the end knowing I set my mind to something and worked at it every single day.
And let’s not forget one of the best side effects from cutting sugar and carbs from your diet for 30 days: I look and feel fabulous. Something about the bounce of my hair and the bloat-less mornings had me feeling some type of way. Not enough to keep me from eating Thai food on Sunday night, but you get my point.
SAVE MONEY, EAT THE LEFT OVERS
I waste SO much food. I’m not proud of it… and so I made a conscious effort to decrease the amount of food I throw away or that goes bad before I can eat it. This meant buying less at the grocery store (which in turn ended up creating more stops for me in the long run, but that’s part of the game I guess), as well as resisting the urge to go pick up something else if I wasn’t feeling what was already in my fridge. However, because your options are semi-limited seeing that you can eat literally only vegetables and meat for lunches and dinner, I kinda felt like—am I going to eat what’s in here or go to the store and buy essentially the same thing? Save your money, eat the leftovers. And maybe treat yourself to a new pair of shoes as a reward? ...just me? Okay.
Black coffee isn’t that bad. I might even be a sophisticated black coffee gal now as a result of this whole thing. *flips hair* Add in a scoop of collagen peptides and a dash of cinnamon, and mm mmm! (But obvi, once my Nutpods arrived in the mail I was all aboard that train.)
The Bad Stuff
I truly didn’t realize how much sugar I was eating in a day until I had to read the labels of everything at the store. I used to think that just because I skipped dessert after dinner I was Miss Queen of Health, but oh no. Sugar is in everything. Sauces, dressings, meats(!!), granola… the list goes on. It’s definitely something I’m now more aware of for sure, and from the amazing way my body feels now that it’s weaned itself off of sugar, I’m much more inclined to eat more whole, natural foods. But not to the extent of making my sauces from scratch if ya know what I mean...
IT’S A LOT OF WORK… SERIOUSLY
Eating healthy takes a lot of work and can be kind of expensive. I mean, it’s just the simple truth. Those Instagram fit models who have 6 pack abs and chiseled arms? I can guarantee that it wasn’t easy getting that body and I can bet they’d all agree that it starts with food. It’s a lot of hard work eating only whole foods and in addition to having to buy only real foods at the grocery store… you also have to cook them! No more quick drive-thru runs at Jimmy John’s after yoga or boiling some pasta and throwing a quick sauce together. I had to prepare every meal and for my busy lifestyle, that meant prepping all those meals in advance. Ugh! I did end up saving some money by not eating out much during the month of June, but it probably all equaled out by having to double my groceries with all the healthy foods and snacks. Bottom line: really mentally prepare yourself for the work it takes. Plain and simple, you have to meal prep.
I do like having eggs for breakfast, but 30 days in a row? No thank you. I had tons of different varieties of eggs: over easy w/ hot sauce, veggie-filled omelettes, scrambled with salt and pepper, mixed into potato hash bowls, and good ole’ hard boiled eggs. But when you get sick of having eggs every morning (like me on Day 6), then try fruit, spinach smoothies, or chicken sausage. Or just go completely rogue and whip up some broccoli and chicken, because why not? It’s your life dangit, you make the rules!
EATING OUT? FORGET IT
If you’re going to do Whole30, choose a 30 day period that you can realistically resist eating out. I’m being honest when I say: you just… can’t. I ate out a total of 3 times this past month (this is MONUMENTAL for me people, considering I get Thai takeout normally once a week!). I went out to dinner while I was out of town one Friday night (I got a super micromanaged burger from this restaurant where we happened to know the owner for crying out loud: bunless, topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and cooked in olive oil—could I be any more high maintenance??), and then 1 chipotle salad for lunch using ingredients that I normally wouldn’t get but are Whole30 approved, as well as a basic yet manipulated salad from a bar and grill that had uncooked veggies on it. Ughhhhh. My point here is, it’s very hard to go to your favorite pasta and pizza joint and order a bunless burger. To make matters easiest, pick a month where you won’t have a ton of social gatherings or dinner parties. No one likes being the girl eating cauliflower and carrots during a party. *says the girl who stands exclusively at the dessert table*
My Tips for Success
FIND A FRIEND
I did Whole30 with my mom. If I didn’t have her a phone call or text message away, I can confidently say I would not have made it through. There were so many times I wanted to cave or just give up and I’d call her and she’d bring me back down to earth and remind me of how good it’ll feel once we’ve accomplished this goal we’d set. We shared recipes, sent pictures of good grocery store finds, and complained about the sugar-deprived headaches that arrived on Day 2. Don’t do it alone!
BE A SNACK QUEEN
Keep healthy snacks on hand, even if you’re not a snacker (I hardly ever snack- I have this thing where I starve myself between meals so that I can eat as much of my meal as possible so I can enjoy every last bite… totes healthy!), because there will undoubtedly be times where you look in the fridge come lunchtime and don’t want anything that’s in there. Or perhaps your sweet tooth just comes out of nowhere and demands some fresh fruit. Whatever it is, have healthy snacks on hand to curb those cravings and stick with your goal! My favorite snacks are mini sweet peppers, fruit, almonds, and… Larabars. Be hesitant to reach for the Larabars though, just because they do have a lot of sugar and aren’t a great meal substitute or post-meal sweet tooth savior. I did keep some on hand for the weekends I was traveling or nights I had to run errands after work. Apple Pie and Lemon are by far my favorite flavors!
Whole30 was a major challenge for me and to be honest, it wasn’t all that enjoyable… Eye-opening? Totally. Fun? No way. It is a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice. I feel super accomplished that I set my mind to a goal and achieved it, but would I rather feel normal with a bowl of delicious rigatoni & sausage pasta in front of me? Absolutely.
I mean, I now know how much sugar is in my ~organic~ maple and brown sugar oatmeal (13g), but I am still making myself a bowl Sunday morning topped with chia seeds, peanut butter, granola, and berries… and I could NOT be more excited!!! It’s been 30 days too long, my love.
Have you done Whole30 or are you thinking about trying it? I highly encourage anyone who’s interested in their health or simply looking for a challenge to give it a try. It’s an amazing experience but something you definitely have to prepare for, so just go into it with an open mind and hold yourself accountable throughout the process. Oh, and find a friend!
Because at the end of the day if we’re not challenging ourselves or getting a little uncomfortable every once in a while then are we really growing?
Cheers to trying things that *terrify* us and for finally getting to eat dark chocolate again! (and who am I kidding—pasta, pad thai, cookies, ice cream, buns on burgers, truffle fries, and any sauce I want! Is this Christmas morning?! Feels like it!!!)