Last November, I did some groceries shopping in a organic shop with a friend; we ended up talking about nutrition. My friend is really careful about what she eats, for health reasons. She mentioned the Whole30 for the first time.
Whole30, what’s that? 30 days when you cook “whole” meals, using proteins, veggies, fruits, and eliminate dairies, added sugars, alcohol, soy, grains, legumes. The idea is to eliminate anything that can be inflammatory, and most importantly, to observe in order to change one’s foods habits, in order to reach the “food freedom”. Day after day, you start to feel the “tiger blood”: a boundless energy. At the end of the 30 days, you slowly reintroduce the different groups of food, and you draw conclusion of all the things you’ve observed for the past month: what kind of food serves you? What should you limit?
That’s in theory. Then you have to actually do it.
As usual, I feel that I’m dragged into this by my friend (I know, I’m an adult and make my own decisions, but I’m also very susceptible). I want to try it! I’ve never done a diet in the sense of restriction, even if I’ve recently seen a nutrionist to change my way of eating, which ended up in me losing 25 lbs. Much needed after a few years of living in the US. That to say that’s I’m not completely a newbie in terms of paying attention to what to eat, but I’m still very curious of the Whole30 process. I also have my doubts… my friend is there to tell me how great she felts after her 3 Whole30. Yes. Three. I want to try. I just 30 days right?
This article is not there to promote the Whole30, it’s just the story of my experience.
I really like to write notes in this daily notebook, it was very useful to me
- Books. I decide to do the Whole30 in January, it seemed too complicated to start in December with the holidays. I’ve started to be interested in November, it lets me more than a month to get ready, which I do mostly by reading about it. I also buy a book of recipes Whole30 and a daily notebook. I like to keep a personal journal, I think it can be useful (and it will be).
- Be accountable. The program recommends us to share the news that we are doing the Whole30, in order to be accountable. I start to mention it to friends, who have different reactions:
– the super healthy who find it interesting to experiment like this, have thought about doing it as well, or who have already done it.
– the skeptics, among them a good friend of mine who tells me (as a joke) “see you in February if you don’t drink alcohol”.
– those who don’t care and don’t see the point (mostly French people): “it’s just a fad”
Slow-cooked Moroccan-Spices Shredded Beef
The Day D:
is it really on?
I decide to start the Whole30 on January the 2nd. We are coming back from New York the First, we will be on the train, and the fridge at home will be empty.
January the 2nd arrives, and we learn a great news: our green card application has been approved. We want to celebrate, it’s been months and a lot of stress! It’s such a relief. We need champagne and a good meal, with all the not-allowed food. Why not starting tomorrow… Finally, I tell myself that there will still be champagne in February. I’ll need to find other ways to congratulate/boost myself.
The first days are a mental struggle: I doubt my motivations, I think it’s stupid to do something that’s restrictive, I don’t see the point, and want to stop all the time. I see myself as someone moderate, anything that seems drastic is suspicious. BUT I also tell myself it lasts only for 30 days, and when I told a couple of friends that I want to quit, I’m told: “Already?! Don’t”. The recipes are good, the support is great, my friend keeps telling me it has helped her… I trust her and carry on.
Day 1: it’s a miracle when it’s over
Day 3: it’s a miracle when it’s over
Day 5 and I’m still doing it
I guess I’m really doing it
I get used to prep a snack box filled with fruits and dried apricots and bananas, macadamia nuts and almonds
The positive side of my Whole30
Reducing the added sugars
It’s not about making sugars your enemy, but to observe how you feel when you don’t take some. Whole30 doesn’t allow added sugars, whereas it’s natural (honey, maple syrup) or artificial sugars. I have surprisingly found this part not too difficult, probably because I don’t add sugar in my coffee, and we were allowed to eat fruits and dried fried: I had access to the sweet taste once in a while.
The 2 most interesting things were for me:
- to look for added sugars in any products. I read my labels and saw some added sugars in guacamole (!), sausages, broth, mustard…
- I like sweets, it’s almost automatic to me to end any meal with a sweet thing. I tried not to replace it with dried fruits too much.
Haricots/cashew/Apples + duck breasts
What I’ve missed the most:
I even dreamed about eating cheese!
To see that on the positive side: it has forced me to find other stuff to add in salads to enjoy them. Cheese was the go-to item to make anything tastes delish.
Socializing without alcohol
I’ve experimented with a dry month in July 2016. Once everyone around me knew about it, it wasn’t too hard, and it also made people question their own way of taking alcohol. There’s always the one friend who doesn’t care and pushed you to have a drink “Just one”. I decided to invite people over, so I’ll be in charge of cooking whatever I wanted.
Except for alcohol, eating with people, in a dinner party or at the restaurant presents its own challenge. There was that night in Chinatown after a show, I’ve eaten on my own before the play, and I just drank tea while people were stuffing themselves with dumplings… Going to the movies with no pop corn wasn’t fun. At least I was still allowed to smell it. My partner ate with me the Whole30 meals, but had a yogurt or chocolate for dessert. When we would go in a coffee shop, I had a plain black coffee and he would eat a delish pastry… What I told myself in that moment was that the satisfaction of reaching a higher goal felt better than to give in to a tiny pleasure. Scones or muffins won’t stop existing after the Whole30. The will power gets stronger over time.
And we bought an Instant Pot, to make things easier in the kitchen.
The less easy part:
meal planning and cooking (it’s time consuming)
I live with my husband, we don’t have kids, we like in the middle of a big city: we go out a lot, and for a long time I didn’t have more than 2 meals planned ahead. I hated grocery shopping. I’m glad I did some big diet changes before starting, otherwise it would have been complicated to jump right into this Whole30 madness. There’s so much to cook. It’s all the time. It never stops.
On the bright side: I’ve developed a bunch of new recipes. I didn’t “develop” them I just followed them, and now they can be a part of a new routine. I even planned for snacks! Yes, saying that is me begging for a medal. When the days are long, when I workout, take the T or my bike, have rendezvous at weird times, it was useful to have the proper snacks. I’ve discover planning.
What I liked less:
too much meat
I’m not a big meat eater, I went vegetarian for a while. Starting to eat a lot of meat felt backwards. The recipes were good, but it’s not a choice I want to make in the future. I like the combo lentils+beans to get my proteins.
A new way to do breakfast: herbs frittata, olives and avocado
Changing completely my breakfasts habits
Breakfast in France and in the US have nothing in common. I grew up eating tartines with jam, sometimes cereals. Eggs or anything savory are weird to me. Quiches is for dinner (and it’s not Whole30 approved anyway).
After a few days trying to adjust, I’ve started to enjoy making breakfasts in the morning. It was more creative than usual, and took me probably 10 to 15 minutes, i.e. 10-15 times more than the usual time. What was on the menu: a black coffee, a bowl of fresh fruits, leftovers or 2 scrambled eggs, a half-avocado. It was good.
Discovering new products
I watched a couple of Youtube videos of people recommending specific Whole30 products from Trader Joe’s. I bought some dried mangoes, dried bananas, cauliflower rice (I usually did it myself, but it was useful to have some help), ghee, bags of “slaw” made of kale and cabbage. I’ve also started to enjoy going grocery shopping because I was seing new stuff: usually I’m on automatic mode when I enter a supermarket, picking up what I know and need. I don’t browse and linger. Whole30 made things more fun!
Salad absolutely not seasonal: spinach, potatoes, strawberries, asparagus, Canadian bacon, avocado
What about the weight?
Whole30 isn’t a diet made to lose weight, you’re not supposed to weigh yourself. For those obsessed with the scale, it’s asked to use it only at the beginning and the end. Instead of focusing on a number, the focus is on “nsv” : les non-scale victories. The list can be long, and varies from person to person: physical victories (better sleep, better digestion, less bloating, more energy), psychological (more focus), and victories linked to the relationship with food: less dependent toward certains foods and alcohol, not using food for comfort/reward/motivation. Less cravings.
What’s my conclusion?
In an ideal world in which eating balanced, energizing food with moderation, while listening to the sensations of satiety and hunger would be easy, the Whole30 would have no meaning. But I don’t know for you, but excess, cravings, emotional food: it’s my reality. Not all the time, but some times.
The classic: salmon + cauliflower rice
I couldn’t finish the Whole30. On day 23, one week before the end, I had to fly to France to attend an unexpected funeral. Life took over, and the Whole30 was terminated before the Day 30. I can still draw some conclusions:
What was positive for me during this Whole30:
- The motto of theWhole30 is: it’s not a diet, it’s a reset. I liked this idea for 30 days.
- What I liked the most was to revisit my food habits. What’s automatic for me? And also, how can I stop using food for any kind of emotional support. The goal of the food freedom is great. I don’t know if I’m there yet, but I like the process.
- I loved to learn new recipes!
- I felt this boundless energy on week2: I slept better, I felt like I was invincible at the gym, I was super focused on my work: I felt good!
Breakfast: leftovers of shakshuka + avocado + pear
What I liked less about the Whole30:
- it’s not scientific, even though it pretends it is. There’s no science to back it up, let’s not pretend otherwise. It has been ranked among the worst diets in the USA from a study that came out at the beginning of January. It’s just 30 days, let’s not forget it.
- Some rules seem excessive and again, with no scientific background.
- The community is a great support, specially online, I liked following them on Instagram, but the whole thing has a cult-like feeling, and one of the founder has a guru halo.
I’m back in Boston, I’ve kept meal planning and I even did a few Whole30 recipes. We also celebrated the Chandeleur (crêpes day) and we went out on Saturday night.
I’m glad to have tried the Whole30 (more a Whole23 for me), more out of curiosity and just because I like trying out things that pay attention to my health.