My Whole 30 Experience

By Erica Wennell, My Gut Instinct Board Member

Have you recently heard about people raving amount Whole 30(W30)? Does it sounds like they are part of secret club? What are they doing? Using 30 secret ingredients? These are all things I thought before giving it a try. I’ve dabbled in all the popular diets; Atkins, calorie counting, Paleo, and eating “clean”.  So I did what every normal American does; I bought the book on Amazon. I read the book start to finish in one weekend. BTW I love the tone that the author writes in; it’s a tough love approach! A few popular quotes are “quitting heroin is hard, battling cancer is hard, but drinking your coffee black is not hard. If you aren’t hungry enough to eat raw broccoli you aren’t hungry”. W30 is a 30 day nutrition reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings, and habits. Help to restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system. Most people do it to kick start some sort of weight loss journey. I’d put on a little weight since turning 30, getting married, and was tired of doing tons of cardio and counting calories.  What can’t you have duing Whole 30? Sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites aren’t allowed. I read this little list picked up the book, put it in a drawer, and went about my life. Two months later a girlfriend of mine whom has done W30 before asked me if I wanted to give it a try, which I did and here is my experience with it.

We made a private facebook group and added people who had done it before or would cheer us on. Having someone to do this with made all the difference. I had someone depending on me not to give up and there was someone I was depending on to stick it out with me. W30 requires a lot of cooking, shopping, and meal prep. This didn’t intimidate me as I love to cook. Amazon definitely helped. I was able to buy a ton of W30 approved foods such as, dressings, mayo, ghee, and marinades. Typical dressing are loaded with sugar and preservatives. I gave myself a few hours to wander around the grocery store and shop for approved foods. Sugar is in everything! I was shocked at how many meats have sugar listed as an ingredient. Before starting I cleaned out or hid anything I couldn’t eat. This is what I mostly ate throughout the month; eggs, lots of vegetables, meats, seafood, potatoes, and fruit. Growing up as an Atkins kid eating fruit and potatoes gave me a lot of anxiety. Any time I wanted to lose weight in the past I cut carbs and did cardio. This was a new approach, no counting anything just eating the approved foods. I made a huge frittata every Sunday for breakfast for the week. This was filling and I changed up the veggies and meat each time I made it. For lunch I had left overs or a large salad with protein. Dinner was a protein, lots of veggies, and sometimes a sweet potato. For snacks I had fruit or nuts. Sounds easy peasy right?

What was hard? I loved me some flavored coffee mate creamer and sugar in my coffee. And I love coffee. Or did I love the sugar that was in my coffee? Surprisingly drinking black coffee only took a few days to get used to. Here are a few coffee hacks. Buy the good stuff and get some nut pods. Nut pods are a W30 approved coffee creamer alternative or you could use unsweetened almond milk.  Not snacking was a little tough. I didn’t realize how many little pretzels I snacked on while making dinner. I tried to keep some cut up veggies on hand and a W30 ranch for after work if I felt picky. I always thought I ate a small amount of sugar; I don’t have a sweet tooth. But about day 4/5 of no sugar, hello sugar withdraws. I had a killer headache and was dragging. Lucky that didn’t last too long and I bounced back to feeling pretty normal. The first couple of weeks I had a hard time getting through any high intensity cardio classes at the gym. I felt light headed and woozy. Not sure what caused that. I shifted to lifting weights, doing light cardio, and yoga for the rest of W30. Cutting out alcohol was the thing I was most nervous about and least happy to admit. Alcohol is there to celebrate all of our achievements and console us when we’re feeling down. Once of the upsides of not drinking is I was up bright and early on all of my days off. And as a result of that I started working out on those early weekend mornings, something I had never had the energy to do previously. While I really didn’t have any cravings for alcohol or really felt the need to consume it, if anything I was just kind of bored. I did have very vivid dreams about drinking and would wake up in a panic that I had cheated on W30. It was a bit unsettling. Eating out was really tough!! I would eat something before going to dinner so that I wasn’t starving and impulsively eat something shouldn’t. Working in a sales department we are invited to a lot of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Eating beforehand definitely saved me in these situations.

A few months post W30 I’ve kept a lot of the habits I established during the month. I don’t eat grains with the exception of rice about once a month. I still drink my coffee black J Meal prepping for the week on Sundays has been my new ritual to end the weekend. I’ve laid off the alcohol. I’ve found other ways to reward myself for a job well done. Cutting out the nightly glasses of wine and sugar in my coffee has easily been over 500 calories a week! Lighting heavy weights and only doing cardio for 30 minutes 2-3 a week is my new work out routine. Gone are the days of hours of miserable cardio. This experience has shown me that body weight is much more about what you eat and less about how many calories can you burn in an hour. Trying to live forever on W30 would make for a pretty boring life, but I definitely learned I can survive for 30 days without treats. I’d recommend this program to anyone who is looking for a health reboot.

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