I Mostly Followed this Eating Program and I Mostly Loved It. My Review of the Whole30.
About a month and half ago, I realized that my relationship to cheese had gotten out of hand. I don’t eat a lot of meat, so I had been eating cheese as a convenient source of protein. At the time, I was eating a whole container of cottage cheese, a block of fresh mozzarella and a bag of parm crisps many days (insert wide-eyed emoji here). So, I decided to give up all cheese for Lent. I had also had my eye on the Whole30 as a roadmap for eliminating addictive / inflammatory foods for awhile. Many of my friends and colleagues had completed the program with positive results, but I had never tried it myself. I was eating a mostly Whole30 compliant diet anyway, save cheese, beans, quinoa and some wine, so I figured this was as good a time as any to give it a go.
The idea behind the Whole30 is to cut out craving-inducing and inflammation causing foods in order to learn about how these foods really affect your body (everyone is going to have a different experience) and to reset your physical and psychological relationship to them. The do not eat list is strict: no alcohol, no sugar, no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites and no junk food.
Here are the complete rules, if you are interested.
I recently completed* the program and am excited to share my observations with you. A reminder that I am not a nutritionist, so the below is simply a recount of my experiences and my opinion about them. I don’t think that this would be great program for breastfeeding mamas, but check with your nutritionist. Check with your doctor before starting any eating regimen.
Here’s what happened when I took on the Whole30:
I started eating exclusively whole, fresh, unprocessed foods.
I stopped snacking on unhealthy things (e.g. whole blocks of cheese).
I began eating more fish (in place of the cheese).
Within 3 days of starting the program, I felt much less bloated.
I cut my overall calorie intake (this is arguably the real key to weight loss, if that is your objective).
I became acutely aware of how certain foods affect my body (Dairy and gluten = bloating, Sugar and alcohol = headache).
I became acutely aware of how much sugar is in EVERYTHING - I found dressings, and almond milk to be the most difficult to avoid.
Because the program is so popular, there are a lot of resources for recipes, coaching and support to be found.
I felt great (and still do as I’ve continued on with a modified version of the program).
To be honest, I don’t weigh myself regularly, but I probably lost weight.
It’s very difficult to eat out or to be in social situations while following the program. You must basically prepare to cook at home and eat in for 30 days.
I also found it very difficult to go all in for 30 days. About 3 weeks in, I began to have intense cravings and feelings of guilt around food. This lead to a binge episode and I started to feel an unhealthy desire / shame cycle creep in. I spent the better part of the last decade developing a healthy relationship to food following a very unhealthy relationship that I had developed during my dance training and career. I am, therefore, extra sensitive to emotional triggers that affect eating habits. *I relaxed on the program rules around day 23. I did not start over as the program suggests. I feel zero guilt about this - I knew what was right for my body and mind and made modifications accordingly. That being said, I do intend to continue eating this way most of the time as I really do feel great.
My go-to evidence based wellness resource, the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, takes a critical view of the Whole30. They admit that the program is likely long enough to break unhealthy food habits, but raise concerns about the elimination of entire food groups and the lack of evidence of long term effects.
After completing even a modified version of the Whole30, I feel great. Namely, I feel that I have more energy and less cravings. I also feel much less bloated. I intend to continue eating this way most of the time. If you want to take on the Whole30 as is, I would recommend doing so with a nutritionist or physician as your guide.
Have you tried the Whole30? How was your experience?