This post may contain affiliate links and we will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on our link. Read the Disclosure Policy.
At age 24, a year out of college and well into “adult life,” my health was not where it should have been. Since sophomore year of college, I struggled with chronic tonsillitis, strep, and sinus issues. Like a bad boyfriend, it was time to kick the antibiotics to the curb and try something that was actually healthy for my body. Close friends and family who saw positive results when cutting dairy or wheat out of their diets were my inspiration. When the new year rolled around, (cliche, I know) I decided to make a lifestyle change and start fresh with a new diet.
What better time to test out the most popular elimination diet, Whole30?
What is Whole30 — and What are the Rules?
Whole30 is simple, really. You just eat things the way you would find them in their natural state. The intention is to take you back to the way things “used to be” when we didn’t jack our products full of chemicals and preservatives. Anything that could cause your body bloating or difficulty digesting according to the authors is off the list. Basically don’t eat dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, processed foods of any kind, and absolutely no alcohol for 30 days — which sounds like the worst; I’ll be the first to admit that I love coming home to my glass of chardonnay.
The first thing I did was ask my friend, who had completed the diet, for a grocery list (which can be found here).
The core of the diet is meat and veggies, with a few fruits and nuts here and there. Beyond that, the number one thing I ate was eggs. Whether breakfast lunch or dinner, eggs were without a doubt present. I made a breakfast casserole that lasted the whole first week! The recipe says to bake it in a casserole dish, but I didn’t have one — so I used a muffin tin and it worked like a charm. The little muffins were great to grab and go before work.
For lunch and dinner I ate chicken, roasted vegetables, and sweet potatoes. When I got tired of that, I tried dishes like these Whole30-approved sausages sautéed with vegetables, or delicious asian meatballs. You end up getting really creative with your seasoning and preparation to keep things interesting. I used an app called Nom Nom Paleo and a website called Stupid Easy Paleo (which both have extensive Whole30 sections), as well as the Whole30 Instagram page for fresh ideas and recipes.
Snacks were a constant in my life throughout the entire process. The Whole30 rules are not concerned with how much you eat but rather what you eat. So you better believe I had nuts, fruit, and raw vegetables at-hand at all times. Like I mentioned earlier, I was pretty much always hungry, but it felt like I was always eating, too.
If it weren’t for my prepped snacks and meals I would have died. Okay, that’s a little dramatic — but it was a huge life saver and the only way I got through the diet without cheating.
Because so many restaurants use dairy or sugar in their meals, eating out while doing Whole30 is one of the biggest challenges. I got used to starting my order with, “Okay, this is going to be a complicated order so please bear with me…” Needless to say, I only ate out when I absolutely had to and stuck to home-cooked meals on all other occasions.
How I Felt
As you can imagine, the first few weeks were the worst.
Two days in, I felt like I could do anything. I was on top of the world with all the motivation and none of the side effects. On day three, however, things started to go downhill. My body craved the food I had cut out and along with the cravings came headaches, mood swings, fatigue, and irritability — not to mention a constant hunger (that never really goes away BTW). This is the part of the diet where you just have to stick it out.
By day five, I had so much energy I didn’t know what to do with myself. And the best part — it wasn’t the jittery, short-lived energy you get from coffee. It was this smooth, steady, clear-thinking kind of energy that stays with you throughout the day with no crash. Falling asleep and waking up on time was easier than ever. I started waking up at 5:30 like a chipper old woman, ready for the day.
The bliss from the extra energy lasted until around week three, where I started having full-blown hallucinations of brownies and cupcakes floating through the air on a golden platter. It got to the point where even hearing about someone eating a piece of cake or cheese (I LOVE CHEESE) was satisfying in some way. Making it through the last two weeks was hard, but I felt so good and had come so far that it wasn’t worth it to throw it all away and indulge.
Why I Didn’t Cheat
While it was extremely tempting to use even the smallest amount of sugar, I knew in order to get the results I wanted, I had to stick to the rules. The diet lasts 30 days, and yes, that sounds like a long time, but it’s totally doable (and worth it) to stick to the plan. Throughout the process, I learned how to make food that would satisfy my needs and wants at the same time, rather than feeding my body empty calories. This is a lesson in good old fashioned discipline, folks. If you care enough about the results of the things you start, you will find a way to stick with it to the end.
I’ll get straight to the question you’re probably wondering about — did I lose weight? The answer is no, I did not lose weight on the Whole30 diet. I followed a workout plan throughout the duration of the diet (not something I would recommend), which included some heavy lifting that undoubtedly increased my muscle size and added some lbs to my overall weight. That being said, I did notice a big difference in the way my clothes fit. I had a flatter stomach and leaner-looking body.
Every person is different, and lots of factors are involved in whether or not your actual weight changes. Just because I didn’t lose weight doesn’t mean you won’t. A co-worker who also followed the diet lost 15 lbs!
My hair and skin got a major upgrade. I’ve always had pretty oily, acne-prone, combination skin. On the Whole30 diet, I noticed my acne cleared up and my oil levels were cut in half. My nails were stronger, my hair thicker and shinier. My digestive system thanked me (yes, I’m talking about poop). By eliminating foods that can be difficult to digest and adding greens, healthy fats and lots of fiber, I was more regular than ever. I used to have an upset stomach all the time, but on the Whole30 diet it all subsided.
So Would I Recommend Whole30?
I would recommend Whole30 to anyone who is serious about getting healthy and making a lifestyle change when it comes to their diet. It’s a great way to reset your eating habits and find out what foods have been negatively affecting you. When the 30 days are over, you’re able to slowly add foods back into your diet and decide what you will regularly consume and what is a once-in-a-blue-moon type of dish. The Whole30 diet is not hard to follow, but some planning and commitment is definitely required to follow through.
The No. 1 tip- if it isn’t something you really want, don’t do it. No one is going to stop you from cheating but you. Take a good look at your intentions behind starting it and make your choice from there. Good luck!