After some time researching and looking into the Whole30 program in March of 2018 my wife and I decided to do one. If you are unfamiliar with the Whole 30 I’ll let the program define itself, from the Whole30 Website
Co-founded by Melissa Hartwig Urban in April 2009, the Whole30® is designed to change your life in 30 days. Think of it as a short-term nutrition reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.
Let’s be honest, I’m as skeptical as anyone of a 30 day program that will change your life. And while I wouldn’t say my life was changed, certain parts of my life and thinking were changed for the better.
For 30 days Whole30 eliminates all the problem causing food groups (Dairy, Grains, Legumes, Added sugar, Alcohol, Carrageenan, MSG Sulfites (I.e. processed foods), and Junk food, (meaning you can’t recreate your favorite junk food with technically compliant ingredients.). A lot more information about the program itself can be found on the Whole30 website Several books written by the program creator are also available.
More than give you a run down of the program I want to give you my thoughts and reactions to the program almost a year later. If you haven’t figured it out yet I’m in no way a medical professional or a dietician, I’m just one of millions of average Whole30 alumni.
Before I list my primary takeaways from the experience itself, let me give you a few thoughts on starting the program if you’re considering it.
If you do a Whole30 my first suggestion is make sure your significant other is on board. I was ready before my wife and I’m very glad I waited till she was ready to take this on. A Whole30 is a team effort and you will get lots of eye rolls as you are on this journey, you need safe place in your own kitchen (where you’ll spend a lot of time of your going to be successful at this) with someone who is on your team.
Buy and instant pot and get this cookbook. This cookbook was not available when I did my Whole30 and I think it would’ve been a game changer
Trash the idea that certain foods can only be eaten at certain time of the day. This is a silly idea and on Whole30 when you find a compliant meal you like, I suggest you eat it often even if its steak for breakfast.
Whole30 did a lot of good things for me. Many of which weren’t really health related (several of them were)
Re-ignited my love for being in the kitchen - When I first started focusing on my overall health and wellness I discovered that nutrition was the foundation of the health and wellness pyramid. If I wanted to lose weight I needed to dial in my nutrition. At the time I had no idea what that would mean or how long it would take, but I knew it started in the kitchen. I learned to cook and really enjoyed it. Overtime however being in the kitchen became a lot more work and I lost my love for cooking. When you do a Whole30 you have no choice other than to cook. Thankfully more convince options are becoming available but that is fairly recent development. I started cooking again on Whole30 and really loved it. Learning basic cooking skills is essential to overall wellness.
Taught me to read labels - This is another essential principal of Whole30 that applies to living a life of wellness outside of Whole30. We are all pretty aware that food labeling in the United States is a pretty messed up process. There are all kinds of nasty things in the average grocery store food. If you purchase anything from the center isles of the grocery store, read the label and almost guaranteed you find all kinds of stuff you don’t recognize and can’t pronounce.
Part of reading labels is discovering how much sugar is in the food you are eating, and to put it plainly, sugar will kill you, or at least it will sabotage any of your health and wellness goals. Sugar is everywhere in industrialized food and it commonly makes it in under another name. I learned about many of the other names for sugar and how sugar substitutes are typically no better. I don’t want to take this too far, but the truth is, even natural sugar in high doses isn’t good for you. Take those Naked juices for instance, sure the sugar in that is all natural, but at the end of the day would you really be able to sit down and eat 5 apples, 12 mangos, 3 peaches, and 2 dozen grapes? No of course not, but liquify them and it’s good for you?
Helped me discover the connection between food and my brain One really helpful tactic in Whole30 that founder Melissa Urban Hartwig references is the idea of eating because you are bored, angry, sad, etc. She says if you aren’t willing to eat Salmon and Broccoli you aren’t hungry. I use this tactic with my daughter all the time. She tells me she’s hungry and I offer her an apple, if she refuses I can be pretty sure she isn’t really that hungry. Often times I was eating for reasons like stress, frustration, anger or boredom not because I was hungry.
Entrenched in my mind the fairly useless nature of the scale. While on Whole30 you aren’t supposed to step on a scale. Furthermore Whole30 is not about weight loss. I learned so much on Whole30 and my body composition changed, but I only lost a few pounds. While this one was already pretty certain for me, my Whole30 solidified my knowledge that while the scale is a useful tool, it’s not a great indicator of overall wellness.
Whole30’s aren’t easy. If you read much information about the Whole30 you’ll see one of the foundational concepts during your 30 days is to fight against the idea that this is hard. Hard and easy are not easily defined. And in some ways a Whole30 is hard, but it’s hard like training for a 5k is hard. It’s work, but there are harder things in life and in the grand scheme of things, not eating sugar for 30 days is very possible. While your Whole30 won’t be a walk in the park, it gets easier as you get in the routine. There is so much support and information available now that making your way through it won’t be as hard as you think. While normally I would avoid 30 day programs of any kind, I believe the Whole30 can truly change your nutritional thinking in 30 days and you will become better for it.