Whole 30: My Experience and Suggestions

I’ve received a lot of questions lately about Whole 30 so I wanted to share my experience and advice in a post. A lot of information can be found on their website (whole30.com) but I’ll summarize it really quickly. The idea behind Whole 30 is that you only eat whole foods for 30 days in order to detox your body from all the garbage we eat on a regular basis. At the end of the 30 days you are supposed to slowly reintroduce the foods you cut out to find out what foods you are intolerant to or that is making you feel gross. What they mean by whole foods is only high quality meat, fruits, and veggies. This means no legumes, grains, sugar, alcohol, or dairy. They have more detail on their website but this is the general gist of the rules. They also have other rules like no stepping on the scale during this process. I did not follow this rule but I did follow the food regimine.

The reason behind me doing this was my health and fitness buddy, Michelle, wanted me to do it with her. Since I was in the process of losing weight, I thought why not. Now I have someone to hold me accountable for eating right and I have a set of rules. Plus I liked the idea of reintroducing food at the end. So I thought the worst that could happen was that I lose weight because there is no way I wouldn’t with how you have to eat on this diet. Not a bad worst case scenario. So on June 1st, we started Whole 30 together.

The first couple days were not too bad. The hardest part was planning ahead. I didn’t really know how to eat out in the beginning. I was also taking summer classes and working all at the same time. Trying to figure out what to bring and how much was difficult so I wouldn’t be stranded and hungry. The only other symptoms I had in the beginning were headaches due to the sugar withdrawal. I suspect for people eating really unhealthy to going to this diet would experience more detox symptoms but this was not the case for me.

About a week or so in I had gotten the hang of being able to eat out as well as understanding how to read nutrition labels. Out of everything that came from me doing Whole 30, this skill was by far the most valuable. My family especially can vouch for me. Whenever I go to the grocery store, it is now habit to read the ingredients in everything I buy. I feel like I now have the power to know exactly what I am putting into my body. However, around this time I started experiencing some negative symptoms. I would feel really light headed and nauseous. I felt like I couldn’t drink enough water. I would feel so sick I would just have to lay down. Anytime this happened, it would last for hours and sometimes until I went to bed. At the time, I didn’t know what was wrong. I now know that I wasn’t getting enough sugar and I was experiencing symptoms of low blood sugar. When I say this, I don’t mean processed sugar. I mean natural sugars like from fruit. You by no means need to eat processed sugar to prevent this from happening. I either just wasn’t eating enough calories or not eating enough fruit or a combo of both. Regardless, I kept getting sick and I didn’t know how to get better. I even went to concert with one of my friends and fainted. I tried going to the doctor. They couldn’t tell me either. But after reflection and logging these instances for months, I finally figured out it was just low blood sugar.

Nearing the end of the month, I had gotten used to eating that way. I was just bored of it and ready for the month to be over. I missed having the freedom of having a dessert or being able to go out to eat with friends. I felt as if I was waiting out a prison sentence. I just wanted it to be over.

On July 1st I was super excited. If you know me at all, you know sushi is my favorite food. On Whole 30 you can’t eat rice so I was missing my favorite meal. So some friends and I went out to a sushi restaurant to celebrate. I cannot tell you the kind of stomach pain I was in. When I got home, I had to go lay down for about an hour. In the days that followed, I went back to exactly how I was eating before Whole 30. I wasn’t eating bad before, but I definitely wasn’t eating great. The only thing that changed was that I felt free to eat more junk so I did. Even though I still continued to lose weight, I developed the habit of eating junk food more frequently. I was making better choices in the junk food I did decide to eat though because I understood how to read nutrition labels.

During that month, I lost ~12 lbs. This was consistent with the rate at which I was losing weight before. So I didn’t necessarily lose anymore weight than I would have lost had I continued what I was doing. Other than learning how to read nutrition labels, the only other significant benefit was that I learned that I was lactose intolerant.

The photo on the left was taken June 1st and the photo on the right was taken July 1st.

The photo on the left was taken June 1st and the photo on the right was taken July 1st.

Based on my experience, I would not recommend doing Whole 30 unless you are extremely committed and want to learn what foods you are intolerant to. It is so easy to mess up the reintroduction phase after the 30 days (I did) because by the end you may be over the whole thing. As a weight loss tool, this is not the one. It is not a maintainable diet plan and therefore is the reason why I wouldn’t suggest doing it. It is so easy to relapse and go back to eating junk food. My friend Michelle relapsed pretty hard after the 30 days. On top of that, the detoxification process can be really hard on your body as well. If you are looking to eat better, I’d recommend gradual, maintainable changes rather than jumping in to as extreme of a diet as this one.