Roughly sixty days ago our family began our first Whole30 nutrition challenge.
A few days later, I wrote about it here. I explained why we decided to give this a try and what hurdles we encountered right out of the gate (“The Worralls on Whole30”). Since then several of you have asked me how it’s going, so I’m here to give my long-anticipated dietary report.
If you aren’t familiar with the Whole30 plan, it begins with this key premise…that “The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy.” Those are your only two options. I used the book It Starts with Food (by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig) to guide us through the month, and it now lives on my kitchen counter. We’ve gotten to be very good friends.
Here’s how the Whole30 works. It asks you for one month of your life. One month to clean out your system. One month to do a complete nutritional reset. One month to eat only foods that promote healthy psychological and hormonal responses, only foods that support normal digestive function, and only foods that minimize inflammation. Practically speaking, that means eliminating all of the following from your diet: Sugar/Sweeteners, Grains/Gluten, Legumes, Alcohol, and Dairy.
And…we did it! For the most part.
True confessions. Daryl’s birthday was August 17, and we ate pizza and cake. There was also a friend’s birthday party and a restaurant visit or two where we just did the best we could. But we persevered, and we have found this Whole30 promise to be true: It does change the way you look at and think about food. It changes what you want to put into your body. It changes your taste and your tolerance for the “unhealthy stuff.”
The Whole30 made good on this promise as well: We do feel better. Peter’s stomach inflammation is greatly reduced. I no longer have my giant crashes in the late afternoon. My energy levels are more consistent and my thinking is more clear. (At least I think it is. Peter might beg to differ.) When he is eating clean, Daryl is more present and self-controlled. (And I can now often tell when he’s had something roguish to eat.) An unexpected benefit is that food just tastes better. (You should have heard the yummy noises the four of us made over a simple rotisserie chicken.) And the weight we’d tried for a long time to lose just disappeared–almost by accident.
Bottom line: we’re hooked. And we’re going to stick it out for the long haul—with a few simple modifications. After your official Whole30, the book gives you advice for reintroducing some foods—slowly and deliberately— and gauging your body’s response. We’ve reintroduced Greek yogurt. I’m back to putting cream in my coffee—still sans sweetener. We will occasionally enjoy a bit of gluten or sugar, but defining and sticking to “occasionally” is the key. (I should also say that we’re back to supplementing with Reliv products as well.)*
So, the question I’ve received most often has been this: Is it hard?
My answer has been, “Yes. And no.” Here are a few of my observations:
Eating out is hard. Sometimes impossible. At many restaurants—especially fast food establishments—there is nothing on the menu that we can eat. So we’ve learned to plan ahead more. We pack more lunches (and dinners, if necessary). And we eat out even less than we did before. (An added financial benefit.)
Cravings are hard. For the first two weeks, my craving for sugar was crazy. I knew I had a thing for sugar, so this didn’t surprise me too much. But pressing through those two weeks without ice cream or chocolate or a sweet Starbucks something from the drive thru was the hardest part of the whole month for me. That, and learning to drink my coffee black. Blah!
Social events are hard. While I’ve grown in my own ability to say “no” to the brownies our friends might bring to our house, I still usually cave when my kiddos are surrounded by chocolate-lipped friends and they look at me with such pitiful longing.
Grocery shopping is easy. Okay. Another true confession. I had already been using Peapod (a service that delivers your groceries to your door) for over a year when we started the Whole30, and this was perhaps my saving grace. It’s much easier to resist all the Ghirardelli’s milk chocolate chips when they aren’t staring me down, face-to-face.
Cooking is easy. I enjoy cooking, so before the Whole30 I would typically prepare recipes with a long list of ingredients several times each week. So compared to what I used to do, Whole30 recipes are simple. Just pick a protein, add some vegetables, cook in a healthy fat, and season with spices. We’ve tried many combinations of these basic four elements. We’ve like every one of them. And we’re not bored yet. (Though I know I will probably need to find some additional options soon.)
Re-training our kids was surprisingly easy. Amelia used to beg for candy several times a day. Of course, I said “no” most of the time. But I must have said “yes” enough to make it worth her while to plead. Now—two months in—she begs for frozen mango chunks and cashews. Daryl used to ask for McDonalds sometimes on the way home from school. Today he asked for a Starbucks “Protein Box.” And while the answer was still “no”—those things aren’t cheap—I like his new taste in fast food.
And that is, I think, the biggest payoff for me—knowing that I’m doing what I can to give my kids, my husband, and myself every edible advantage.
I know it isn’t the Holy Grail. And I know it isn’t for everyone. But if you’re thinking about trying your own Whole30, I would say, “Go for it!” I’m here to cheer you on.
*Our Reliv distributor is Kim. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like more information.
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