My Whole30 Experience: Six Weeks Without Grains, Dairy, Sugar and Alcohol

This post originally appeared on www.food24.com 

A while ago I came across the Whole30 book and movement. I read the Kindle sample of the book and did some extra research on the internet. No one's Whole30 looks the same, but the key is to stick to the main principles as best you can. So what on earth is it?

Created by sports nutritionists Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, Whole30 calls for the elimination of grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar and alcohol for a period of 30 days. It's like Paleo, but a bit stricter than that. The only sugar that you're allowed to eat should come from fruit and you shouldn't stuff your face with it. You should also avoid avoid carrageenans, MSG, and sulfites. You're also dissuaded from recreating normal foods in a healthier manner e.g. you're not supposed to bake cookies using coconut flour or milkshakes using almond milk. You can eat as much as you want of the foods that are allowed, i.e. no calorie counting necessary. After 30 days you start to reintroduce certain foods selectively. When you start reintroducing you basically eat clean plus only the isolated food group for that day, i.e. on dairy day you're not allowed to mix in gluten or soy, otherwise you won't be able to distinguish which ingredient caused which reaction.

I've never really seen the point of going to such dietary extremes, but I then decided to try it and set myself a Whole30  personal challenge. Besides, if you never stop eating certain foods, you will never really know how certain foods affect you, right?

My Whole30 outline

Day 1 - 30: Clean eating

Day 31: Introduce legumes (in my case lead to constipation)

Day 32-33: Clean eating

Day 34: Introduce gluten-free grains (no notable effect)

Day 35-36: Clean eating

Day 37: Introduce dairy (in my case lead to diarrhoea and then to constipation; maybe I just went a bit overboard with the cheese and yoghurt?)

Day 38-39: Clean eating

Day 40: Introduce gluten (no notable effect)

Day 41-42: Clean eating

Example of meals

Breakfast

Coffee with almond milk

Almonds, raisins, banana, nut butter and a dash of almond milk in a bowl

Mid-morning

Diluted 100% fruit juice and some biltong (dried, cured meat)

Lunch

Hake and veggies

Dinner

Chicken, walnut, grape and rocket salad with homemade Whole30 approved mayonnaise

What I've learned (in general)

  • The beginning is hard. Two or three days in I was wondering why the heck I decided to do this stupid thing.

  • Going to the grocery store was torture, walking around with my can of tuna when other people are buying freshly baked baguettes and pushing around desserts in their trolleys.

  • Eating out was not impossible as there were still some options on the menu, but it takes a while to get used to your baked potato when the other guests are eating their pasta or sushi.

  • After the end of week one I felt some sense of achievement - only five more to go. But I can totally see how one can give up easily if there's no internal motivation to prove to yourself that you can and will stick to a/the goal, no matter what.

  • The food you eat matters. My energy levels and moods were definitely more stable during the period of clean eating. On the whole my demeanour felt more consistent.

  • Meal planning is very, very important if you want to take this seriously.

  • I think many of us know this, but food and eating is an extremely social activity. For many of us it has become second nature to meet for a chat over a cappuccino and cake or a glass of wine when we're having pizza.

What I found difficult

  • I am not the biggest meat or egg eater. It therefore made it a bit more challenging as I chose to limit my intake of some of the foods that I was allowed to eat. E.g. I don't like pork, I usually only eat red meat when I indulge in a hamburger and I only like eggs when they are baked into a pudding. My sister did her Whole30 as a pescatarian, eating no meat at all, so it can be done!

What I missed the most

  • Initially I really missed milk in my tea. In fact, I missed it so much that I quit drinking ceylon tea altogether during the experiment.

  • I missed bread, but when I eventually ate some toast and rusks it was quite a large anti-climax. The taste was less amazing than I remembered.

  • On the weekends I really wanted a G&T.

Some personal triumphs

  • I can now drink black coffee without thinking that it's the grossest thing in the world. Don't get me wrong, I still prefer my flat white, but I can take my coffee black and still kind of enjoy it.

  • I've realized that I don't need to eat bread every day. Previously in my life it was a non-negotiable, one of my meals had to include some form of white or brown stuff from the bakery.

My results

  • I've not lost weight, but I've definitely lost centimeters as my pants fit me better now.

  • My stomach is not as bloated as before.

  • My total cholesterol came down by 1.3.

  • Food has lost its power over me. I still like trying out new dishes and can appreciate quality ingredients, but I can actually walk past a piece of cake now and not feel like it's calling my name. In a sense I feel like I've gotten some of my ownership back as I can now choose what I eat without being hypnotised by a burger or manipulated by brie.

My six weeks are now over. How will I eat from here on onwards, you ask? That I still need to figure out. 

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